Monday, February 25, 2013

Serious Questions About Wikileaks’ Release of Purported Guantanamo SOP (Updated)

On October 25, 2012, Wikileaks began to release what they indicated would be “more than 100 classified or otherwise restricted files from the United States Department of Defense covering the rules and procedures for detainees in U.S. military custody.” They labeled the release “The Detainee Policies.”

One of the first documents released was of the purported 2002 Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). According to the accompanying press release, this was “the foundation document for Guantanamo Bay (‘Camp Delta’).” Julian Assange is quoted in the press release as saying, “This document is of significant historical importance…. how is it that WikiLeaks has now published three years of Guantanamo Bay operating procedures, but the rest of the world’s press combined has published none?”

Assange, who has been fighting extradition to Sweden, and currently resides under asylum protection at the Ecuadoran embassy in London, also challenged the press and the public to read and analyze the documents. “Publicize your findings,” he asked.

But over three months later, there has been essentially zero analysis. Even though the Wikileaks “Detainee Policies” release had extensive world-wide coverage in the press and blogosphere, outside of a few tweets, there’s been practically no follow-up investigation of these documents.

The non-coverage after the initial release is in itself astounding, but even more surprising is the fact that when examined some of the documents appear to be problematic and of doubtful provenance. (In addition, strangely, the documents do not allow cut and paste commands to accurately reproduce text, which is not typical of Wikileaks documents.)

Sadly – since a good deal of reporters, myself included, have come to rely on the accuracy of what Wikileaks has posted over the years – an examination of the Camp Delta 2002 SOP raises serious reasons as to whether it is a reliable document. At best it is a very corrupted draft of an authentic document. At worst, it is a sloppy forgery.

In addition, there are further questions about other documents released as part of “The Detainee Policies,” as well questions as to whether Wikileaks personnel understood the material they were releasing. In the past, Wikileaks has used the resources of major media like the New York Times, the UK Guardian, El Pais, etc., and independent authoritative analysts, like Andy Worthington, for outside analytic assistance.

Wikileaks has been under significant economic and legal pressure from the US government and its corporate and other governmental allies, and it is no secret that the organization operates under serious constraints as a result. According to the organization, “An extrajudicial blockade imposed by VISA, MasterCard, PayPal, Bank of America, and Western Union that is designed to destroy WikiLeaks has been in place since December 2010.”

Whatever Wikileaks has accomplished in other document releases and analysis, the failure to accurately report or vet the “Detainee Policies” documents, by either Wikileaks or the world press and blogging community, calls into dire question the accuracy of a good deal of what passes for reporting by media outlets and commentators.

The only expert I could find who had anything to say about the Camp Delta SOP document was Almerindo Ojeda, who posted a link to the purported “Standing [sic] Operating Procedures” at the website for the Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas (CSHRA), along with his caveats on the document. Ojeda’s own independent analysis largely concurred with my own.

What Did Wikileaks Release?

We cannot know the source of the documents Wikileaks released. So any analysis of the documents must rely on a close textual perusal of the documents themselves. And thanks to Wikileaks, who released the 2003 and 2004 Camp Delta SOPs a few years ago, we can contrast and compare very similar documents.

The “2002” Camp Delta SOP does not look like other DoD documents of this type. It has no markings regarding its classification status, for instance. The formatting is often erratic, with whole paragraphs published with centered rather than justified or left aligned text. There is a good deal of missing, mispaginated, and misordered text. A number of pages begin with text that does not follow logically from the preceding page.

There’s no doubt we are not looking at the SOP itself, even if we were to grant it was a genuine document. The Wikileaks document is not presented in the discrete pages of an actual document, but as a long running text document, as if from a word processor, with headings within the text indicating what page number out of 48 supposed pages a given block of text represents.

In addition, the page headers do not appear at the top or bottom of actual pages, but are interspersed within the text. The text itself does not go beyond "Page 47 of 48". The Wikileaks description of the document itself at the home page for the "Detention Poliicies" states that the document has 33 pages.

What Wikileaks calls the "Main [2002] SOP for Camp Delta, Guantanamo” states on its first page that it is a revision dated November 11, 2002. The subsequent SOP for Camp Delta is dated March 23, 2003, approximately five and one-half months later. That SOP, according to its text, was "reorganized" from the previous SOP, so it could consolidate "all aspects of detention and security operations" so the SOP could be "more efficient for its intended users."

Indeed, the new Wikileaks release of the purported 2002 Camp Delta SOP refers to separate SOPs for relating to detainee matters in relation to the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as one for the "Use of IRF". IRF refers to "Internal Reaction Force," which according to this latest Wikileaks release is a 24 hour force available for "possible emergency response situations." Over the years, the IRF teams have been implicated in brutal beatings of prisoners and violent cell extractions.

The Wikileaks press release for the Detention Policies states, "The ’Detainee Policies’ provide a more complete understanding of the instructions given to captors as well as the ’rights’ afforded to detainees." It also asks "lawyers, NGOs, human rights activists and the public to mine the ’Detainee Policies’" and "to research and compare the different generations of SOPs and FRAGOs to help us better understand the evolution in these policies and why they have occurred."

Unfortunately, at least in the case of the purported 2002 Camp Delta SOP, it is unclear just what this document represents. Was it a faulty reconstruction of the original document, a draft of the SOP, a forgery based on some knowledge of the material? We can't know.

Another problem with the initial analysis by Wikileaks concerns unfamiliarity with the larger world of relevant documents on interrogation. For instance, in their press release, Wikileaks touts one document as revealing “a formal policy of terrorising detainees during interrogations.” This 13-page interrogation policy document from 2005 describes interrogation policies "that apply to... all personnel in the Multi-National Force–Iraq (MNF–I). Wikileaks points out as examples of “exploitative techniques” the use of "'approved' 'interrogation approaches'" such as "Emotional Love Approach" and "Fear Up (Harsh)."

While it is interesting to see that these interrogation techniques were applicable to the MNF-I, they are not, as the press release implies, new or unique "interrogation approaches," but are drawn from the Army Field Manual (AFM) for Intelligence Interrogation in use at that time. That particular version of the AFM came out in 1992. The two "approaches" remain in the current AMF as well, which was significantly updated in September 2006.

While Wikileaks may be wrong about the significance of discovering the use of Fear Up and other problematic techniques, the organization is correct that these are abusive techniques. In fact, such techniques in use by the Department of Defense’s interrogation manual only got worse after it was updated, with the addition of techniques of sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation that were not allowed in the earlier AFM, nor indeed, in the MNF-I document Wikileaks released. They are, however, allowed by the current Obama administration.

Wikileaks Responds

Only days after making the analysis above, I wrote to Wikileaks spokesman, Kristinn Hrafnsson.

I told Hrafnsson the 2002 Camp Delta SOP was “a mish-mash, a cut-and-paste nightmare that makes little sense. It cannot be, in this form, the SOP Wikileaks claims it to be. Perhaps it was a part of a former draft, but it is so mixed up, I wonder about even that. Much of the document, perhaps as much as half, consists of out of order sequences of text, in addition to numerous instances of missing text. I have wondered whether someone saw the original SOP and tried, miserably, to reconstruct it. I've even wondered if it is a forgery. For instance, it has a section on "Familiarization" that has no parallel in any other US DoD SOP that I can find. DoD just does not speak of the matters in that section in that way. In addition, I note that this 2002 purported Camp Delta SOP document is the draft that apparently was used for the supposed [Iraq-based] Camp Bucca draft SOP in 2004.”

The draft Camp Bucca document is another hodge-podge with all the same typographical and text problems as the 2002 Camp Delta SOP, except possibly worse, as the document confuses the two very different detention environments. For instance, on page 13, under “Detainee Tracking,” which begins its item list with number four (where are 1-3?), the document advises that “an overnight stay at GTMO… must be updated in the Camp Bucca Detainee Database…”

Three pages later, the Camp Bucca SOP advises that in case the Camp Command Center is moved due to an emergency,  the “JDOG Commander and JTF-GTMO Commander will be notified….”

I asked Hrafnsson if “ Wikileaks vetted the 2002 SOP in any way, and whether it stands by the characterization of it in the press release as ‘the foundation document for Guantanamo Bay’ and as the actual 2002 Camp Delta SOP.”

I also noted that in the press release Wikileaks represented the documents as "classified or otherwise restricted", but told Hrafnsson that DODD 2310.1 on Enemy Prisoners of War has been available online for years, including in the format (but oddly, not the font) Wikileaks presented it. “So this one document, at least, is not classified or restricted,” I wrote to the Wikileaks spokesperson, “and I wonder if you can comment on that.”

Hrafnsson’s reply on October 28 was quite brief, only two sentences.

“The doc is marked ‘rev’ - under revision. We are certain this is an authentic document from the US Military,” the Wikileaks spokesman wrote.

Interestingly, the document’s date of “revision,” November 11, 2002, is the same date given for the first known release of the Standard Operating Procedures for Guantanamo’s Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT). Important on its own account, it is worth comparing the 2002 Camp Delta SOP with how a vetted, actual DOD SOP looks, an SOP released on the same day. (Note, the BSCT SOP uses the phrase “Standard Operating Procedures,” while the 2002 Camp Delta SOP uses “Standing Operating Procedure.” The swap of the word “Standard” for the very rarely used “Standing” is itself indicative of something strange going on, and the later previously published Camp Delta SOPs all use the term “Standard Operating Procedure.”)

[Update, 2/2613, 6pm PST - After I received Hrafnsson's reply, I wrote back the next day:
Hi Kristinn,

Thanks for getting back to me. I understand that you are certain of the authenticity of the document as from the U.S. military. But does Wikileaks still stand by the characterization of this document as the actual, “foundational” Camp Delta SOP, i.e,, not a draft or something else?

In addition, you did not respond to the second question, where I asked whether Wikileaks still stood by its characterization of the release of DODD 2310.1 on Enemy Prisoners of War as either a previously “classified” or “restricted” document. Is that still your position?

Thanks, Jeff
Kristinn never bothered to reply, or chose not to, for reasons of his own.]

DoD Responds

On Monday, February 21, after about two weeks of waiting, Jose Ruiz, a spokesperson for US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), Guantanamo's parent military command, answered my query for DoD feedback regarding the authenticity of the Wikileaks 2002 Camp Delta document.

"We do not comment on documents published by Wikileaks,” Ruiz wrote in an email.

“In addressing your request, we attempted to verify whether or not a 2002 Camp Delta SOPs ever existed, and if so, whether portions of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) were releasable.

“We can confirm that SOPs existed for every facility utilized by JTF-GTMO to house detainees. All such prior and present SOPs were developed and implemented to ensure task force detention operations are conducted in a safe, humane, legal and transparent manner.  For security reasons, we do not discuss specific details related to detention operation procedures or release documents containing specific details related to those procedures."

I take this to mean there was an SOP earlier than the 2003 SOP currently in the public domain, but due to DoD’s vagueness, that’s still only an educated guess.

SOUTHCOM may not comment on Wikileaks documents now, but that wasn’t always the case. It is instructive to compare Ruiz’s comments to what was said about earlier Wikileaks releases.

Back in November 2007, Wikileaks had posted the 2003 Camp Delta SOP, the first of their Guantanamo SOP releases. At that time, according to an article in the Miami Herald, “military spokesmen… confirmed the March 2003 policy manual was authentic, [but] they cited security needs at the remote Navy base in Cuba in declining to confirm specifics.”

CSHRA Analysis

The website for The Guantánamo Testimonials Project at the Center for the Study of Human Rights in America at UC Davis, which has published numerous documents and testimonies involved in the Guantanamo torture scandal, indicated that as a result of the irregularities in the 2002 SOP, it would “suspend judgement as to the reliability of this document as a source of testimony.”

The website states:
On October 25, 2012, Wikileaks released a Camp Delta Standing [sic] Operating Procedures for 2002 (click here). The document released differed sharply, however, from the earlier standard operating procedures it released. Both in form and in content. First, the released document has egregious spelling, grammar, and formatting errors. The former can be found even in titles (cf. "Famaliarazation" instead of "Familiarization"). Second, the document seems to have material simply deleted (as opposed to redacted) from it. To give an example, Page 13 of 48 introduced a section "b" for which no section "a" was previously introduced. Mentioned in this section "b" are a number of steps which start at "4" and go through "9". But no mention can be found of any prior steps 1, 2, 3. Along the same lines, page 13 of 48 concludes with a "Section 18. MILITARY POLICE BLOTTER". But no section prior to 18 can be found in the document— let alone seventeen such sections. Page 14 of 18 then continues with step 10 as if the aforementioned Section 18 was never mentioned.

As to content, the document has only 33 pages—which is an order of magnitude smaller than the previously released standard operating procedures for Camp Delta. And the omissions from the document are puzzling. There is almost no mention, for example, of forced cell extractions and how to carry them out (as we find in other SOPs). There are passing references to IRFs (§3009) and how to shackle prisoners in them (§4005.6.c), but nothing about how to approach the cells. Or why. Interestingly, it mentions at §3009 the existence of an IRF-specific SOP. Along similar lines, there is no mention of the initial period of solitary confinement "to prolong the stress of capture" (as we find in other SOPs). Or of the linguistic policies that other SOPs lay down carefully (the use of "self harm gesture" instead of "suicide", for example. Or of "voluntary total fasting" instead of "hunger strike"). There is also no mention of terrorism or the war on terror as a justification for the base.
In the Wikileaks press release accompanying the Detainee Policies documents, Assange wrote, “Guantanamo Bay has become the symbol for systematised human rights abuse in the West with good reason.” And indeed it has.

I cannot fault the intentions behind the motivations of Assange and his co-thinkers to expose the massive human rights and civil liberties abuses of the United States government. This article is not meant as a critique of Wikileaks in general, or of other releases put out by that organization, or even of the Detainee Policies release as a whole, which I have not analyzed fully in depth. It may be that there are other significant problems, or even useful findings in these documents that have not been discovered yet.

Every organization makes errors from time to time, and media organizations routinely have to issue corrections for such errors. At times, such errors have been colossal, or misinformation in mainstream media publications has testified to a close relationship with the government itself.

Something strange happened with the release of the Detainee Policies. The purported 2002 Camp Delta SOP is only the most egregious example. The strangeness is not only with Wikileaks, but even more with a press and blogging world that is too often incurious, aloof, willing to believe what is written down and unwilling to dig hard to find out what is really going on.

Cross-posted at Firedoglake/MyFDL

Friday, February 22, 2013

Davis and Evans a long time ago...

Was there ever a greater pairing than Miles Davis and Bill Evans on "Blue in Green"? The piece was written by Evans (though Davis was initially credited with it). The video by Christopher Coltrane is evocative. Sit back and enjoy, smoke a virtual cigar and drink that tumbler of Islay.

When I listen to this, I can almost believe there is such a thing as hope or truth. Certainly there is love.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

DHS says FBI "possibly funded" Terrorist Group

It was most surprising to come across the following entry at the website for the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses for Terrorism (known by the acronym START), which is run by the Department of Homeland Security out of the University of Maryland. According to DHS, START is one of their "centers of excellence," an academic center sponsored by the DHS's Science and Technology Directorate.

The webpage concerns the "Terrorist Organization Profile" for the Secret Army Organization, a right-wing terrorist group in the early 1970s, a group START writes was "possibly funded by the FBI." [You may have to go through a menu and look up SAO by name to get to the appropriate webpage.]

According to START, "The Secret Army Organization (SAO), a right-wing militant group based in San Diego, was active from 1969 to 1972. They targeted individuals and groups who spoke out against the Vietnam War, especially those who organized public demonstrations and distributed anti-war literature."

Indeed, if we could turn the clock back to June 1975, we would read an article in the New York Times, "A.C.L.U. Says F.B.I. Funded 'Army' to Terrorize Antiwar Protesters."

According to the Times, the ACLU compiled a 5,000 page report on the SAO, a group of former Minutemen and other right-wingers and violent home-grown fascists, for the benefit of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, "alleging the Federal Bureau of Intelligence recruited a band of right-wing terrorists and supplied them with money and weapons to attack young antiwar demonstrators."

But that's not all, the SAO engaged in bombing and attempted assassination, and guess whose house the weapons turned up in? But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's let the DHS's "Center of Excellence" inform us of this important episode in our history, which came, by the way, after the FBI claimed they had stopped their Cointelpro program of disruption of the Left.

Assassination Attempt, FBI Agent Hides the Weapon

From START's SAO webpage:
The report also stated that the SAO planned to kidnap and murder protestors of the 1972 Republican National Convention, which was to be held in San Diego before being relocated to Miami Beach. An assassination attempt of Dr. Peter Bohmer, professor at San Diego State University, and Paula Tharp, reporter for the San Diego Street Journal, brought about the arrests of several SAO members who later acknowledge an FBI connection. During the investigation, the gun used in the assassination attempt was found in the home of FBI agent Steven Christiansen, who was subsequently identified as a SAO contact. In 1973, Godfrey, testifying as an FBI informant, claimed he received up to $20,000 in weapons and a $250 per month income from the FBI to recruit new SAO members and provide information to agents. He also testified to the criminal acts of several SAO operatives, including fellow leader Jerry Lynn Davis. Official statements from the FBI claimed no involvement with the SAO, and no agents were prosecuted.
The story of the SAO is a forgotten piece of contemporary history that is directly relevant to a number of current issues, including the prosecution of the bogus "war on terror," and the FBI's role in it; the debates about government participation in and legalization of assassination of its own citizens; and government surveillance of and attacks upon dissent in this country.

It also could be considered a prime example of the historical amnesia that plagues our times, an amnesia hastened by disinterest by the major media, cheered on by government agencies none too interested in accountability for government overreach or even criminality.

Links to the President

According to the Ann Arbor Sun at the time, the ACLU tagged the SAO as "an interagency apparatus organized 'at the direction of Richard M. Nixon.'"

Reportedly the link to Nixon came via Watergate burglar White House "plumbers" operative Donald Segretti, who affidavits claimed had given funds and military hardware to SAO to disrupt the 1972 GOP convention in San Diego. (The convention was subsequently moved to Miami Beach.)

But it was the FBI who seems to have been operationally in charge.

From the Sun: "SAO operative Jerry Lynn Davis, who once participated in the CIA's Bay of Pigs invasion, revealed that [admitted FBI informant Howard Barry] Godfrey had regularly supplied the SAO with money and weapons on behalf of the FBI."

A newspaper office was attacked. A car firebombed. Informants infiltrated, while meetings were monitored. There were plans to poison the punch at antiwar meetings. A theater was bombed. Bulletins were published on "how to make booby traps, how to use ammonium nitrate in high explosives," And then, there was the assassination plot, or rather plots, as the SAO bungled one assassination attempt after another to kill a left-wing professor at San Diego State.

How It Went Down, and the Cover-up

A 1973 article by Richard Popkin at Ramparts described the threats and the attack, when an SAO hitman with a FBI-paid driver tried to kill an American college professor on January 6, 1972, solely because of his political views and activism.

But first, we should realize this was not the first of the assassination plans. An Associated Press article at the time described another failed plot that had yet another FBI informant, Gilbert Romero, and a San Diego undercover cop kidnapping Peter Bohmer and taking him to Tijuana, and setting him up to be killed by Mexican police. The New York Times wrote that the ACLU report included testimony from a FBI informant, John Raspberry, who said in the winter of 1971-72, the FBI approached him to kill Bohmer. For some reason, the attack never took place.

According to Popkin, Godfrey "was assigned to [FBI] agent Steve Christianson, to whom he reported verbally every day, Godfrey was to work on the militant right wing, and was paid two hundred fifty dollars per month by the FBI."

Popkin continued, "Apparently, Godfrey himself was among the more dangerous elements in the SAO, and [FBI] agent Christianson among the more dangerous eminences grises of the operation.... Godfrey admitted that he had driven the car from which another SAO member, George Hoover, had fired into Bohmer's house, wounding Paula Tharp. Subsequently, he had taken the weapon to Christianson, who had hidden it for six months. (This was evidently insufficient grounds for the FBI to take disciplinary action against agent Christianson. He continued as Godfrey's contact until the bombing of the Guild Theatre, at which point he was removed by L. Patrick Gray himself...)"

The START page on SAO commented dryly on the aftermath of the botched assassination. "The SAO became inactive after the assassination case drew much public attention to the group's operations," DHS's Center for Excellence reports. "The testimony of Godfrey against SAO members resulted in prison terms for a significant portion of the San Diego group. Of course, if the SAO was actually FBI-run, the notoriety drawn to the case would have been the impetus to dissolve the group."

No kidding?

Bohmer's Story

I think it's appropriate to give the last words here to Peter Bohmer himself, who survived the attack and while he lost his job at San Diego State, the victim of a witchhunt, went on to join the faculty at Evergreen at Evergreen State College in Washington.
A few words about CoIntelpro before I come back to my story. It is short for counterintelligence program. Cointlepro was/is a program coordinated by the FBI to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize” individuals and groups.... Although Cointelpro officially ended in 1971, it has continued although in a somewhat less extreme form without the name up to September 11th 2001. Since then we are going backwards towards more police powers, infiltration and framing of activists....

Although no group I worked in San Diego planned or carried out any violent actions, and many groups were purely educational; 20 people I knew in these groups turned out to be police or FBI agents or informers, many worked for both. They worked hard to cause divisions among individuals and groups. Some but not all were provocateurs.... the FBI visited my employer, SDSU to get me fired, they visited landlords where I lived to get us evicted. They opened my mail, and monitored my checking accounts. We got anonymous phone calls about people being agents who I am sure weren’t....

FBI sponsored groups did firebombings, slashed tires of my cars, continual death threats, put out a wanted poster on me distributed in San Diego in 1971. The Secret Army Organization or (SAO) a group financed from FBI funds and led by an FBI informant, shot into a collective I lived in with the bullet permanently injuring a member of the collective, Paula Tharp in January 1972.

Howard Barry Godfrey, a well-paid FBI informant and head of the Secret Army Organization (SAO) admitted almost a year later in court to driving the car the night of the shooting but claimed another SAO member did the actual shooting. After the shooting into my house, other FBI agents in San Diego covered up the crime and hid the evidence such as the gun used in the shooting. The head of the FBI in LA, working with SD FBI, at this time was Richard W. Held who has been involved in the cases against many activists and political prisoners such as Judi Bari, Leonard Peltier and Geronimo Pratt.

After the shooting, threats and harassment continued. After the Secret Army Organization began threatening liberals as well as radicals and bombed a pornography theater where some police were present, the San Diego police demanded that the FBI reveal their informants in the SAO and the SAO were arrested in the summer of 1972 on numerous charges. Government lawyers hired by the FBI claimed various privileges such as not having to reveal much of the behavior because of security concerns. The full FBI involvement in this attempted murder didn’t come out although one FBI agent was forced to resign. Godfrey, the FBI informant and provocateur in the Secret Army Organization (SAO) didn’t go to prison although two other members of the SAO did.

As I read this many thoughts come to mind: about the Occupy protests last year, the monitoring of antiwar and peace groups, arrests of activists at the political conventions, the legitimization of state assassination by President Obama, the consolidation of ever-greater power in the hands of the FBI.

What came to mind for you? Will this important episode from history simply drop back into the abyss of forgotten American memories?

I'd like to know what happened to that ACLU report and what action (if any) the Senate Intelligence Committee took on it. I intend to find out.

Cross-posted from Firedoglake/MyFDL

Doug Valentine: Meditations on Christopher Dorner

Slaves to the System
Meditations on Christopher Dorner

by Douglas Valentine

[posted by permission of the author, originally posted at Counterpunch]

The death by fire of Christopher Dorner evoked a rush of memories dating back to September 1971, when, in the wake of the Attica Prison Massacre, I began making plans to migrate from New York State to California.

At age 21, I had no master plan, other than to get far away from where I was, a college drop-out working for a tree company in the suburban town where I was born and raised. Pleasantville. Irony intended.

I hadn’t been “political” during the Vietnam War. In that phase of my misspent youth, I was occupied with sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. I went to one anti-war demonstration in Poughkeepsie. The organizers bused us over from New Paltz. All I remember is dropping out of the parade and hitching back home after an angry guy on the curb spat at me.

A few years later, sitting over my untouched bacon and eggs in the local P’ville diner, reading the Daily News account of Attica, I found I wasn’t hungry anymore. Coming on top of the slaughter of millions of Vietnamese halfway around the world, it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. It seemed like the war had come full circle and was now at home, where it belonged. Time to enlist.

Maybe Christopher Dorner felt something similar.

My buddy Mike wanted to teach tennis in Southern Cal and by September 1972 we were driving cross country in my blue, three-speed-on-the-column Rambler, purchased for $600 from a little old guy my father knew named Terwilliger, a barnstormer who’d flown some of the first bi-planes around the country at the beginning of the 20th Century.

I mention old Terwilliger to emphasize how time flies, and how easily we forget. The powers that be count on it.

Mike and I camped along the way. We got as far as Shamrock, TX, where we had a car accident at 2:00 am on Route 66 while tripping on LSD. That’s a story in itself. Anyway, we couldn’t find a service station to fix the water pump, the only part of the car that needed fixing. We had long hair and the grease monkeys in the Panhandle didn’t lend screwdrivers to our kind.

I sold the car for $10 and the tape deck for $20 and we hitched the rest of the way, stopping in the Grand Canyon for a few days, where a degenerate hippie ripped off our stash while we were skinny dipping in the Havasu.

The hippie scene was extinct by 1972. Heroin was becoming the drug de jour. “Grow up. Turn off. Sell out.” That was the mantra, much like today.

We got to Southern Cal and lo and behold, Mike’s sister wasn’t expecting me. No room for Dougie. I sat on their front door step, with $40 in my wallet, wondering what the fuck. And at that moment Tommy Henschel pulled up in his VW, got out, and said, “Hi!”

Tommy had gone to high school with Mike and me. He’d fled the draft to Alberta and knew we were heading out West and drove down to meet us, all very impromptu. Tommy and I got an apartment in Anaheim and jobs at a sheet metal factory where I met a Chicano guy named Danny who’d just done five years for a marijuana importation from Mexico bust.

Tommy soon retreated from sooty Orange County to pristine Canada, and Danny and I hitched to Eureka to get a job on a fishing boat, but it was December and no jobs were available, just lots of rain. We were broke and sang for our supper at the local Salvation Army. On Christmas Eve we hitched down to San Francisco and spent Christmas Day with his grandmother, feasting on homemade tacos. She was a full blooded Apache Indian, then in her 80’s, who’d run a brothel in San Francisco at one time.

Danny got busted on Christmas Day night for pulling a knife on a cop, and I fell in with a bunch of transients who introduced me to some street people down on Market Street who knew how to hustle the system in San Francisco in December 1972. It was easy. You got on Welfare. They gave you money for rent and food stamps and, as a bonus, Medical scripts that got you uppers and downers from participating physicians. Mine was from Argentina. You could sell the pharmaceuticals for extra cash or eat them yourself.

Thus began life in North Beach in 1973. I moved into the New Rex Hotel on Broadway with aspirations of infiltrating the City Lights Book crowd. You could see Brautigan sipping espresso at Enrico’s, and Bob Kaufman racing around in a psychotic haze, pan-handling and eating crumbs off tables in cafes. But I never got in with them. Instead I started hanging out with the barkers and strippers. I made friends with Sam, an old black heroin addict and B&E man. I let him use my room and in return he protected me from the predators. I made friends with a big armed Jewish guy from NYC who hired himself as a bodyguard for serious drug buyers who came into town to cop quantity. Sonny, a former jazz drummer who’d been given electric shock, lived down the hall and so did Jesse, who’d spent 15 years walking the Big Yard at San Quentin

The New Rex was populated with alcoholic ex-cons, transients, glue-sniffing transvestites, promiscuous gays (this was before AIDs), outpatients like Sonny from local mental facilities living on SSI (these folks were ripped-off by the predators minutes after cashing their monthly check), and black guys who rotated in and out of jail and aspired to make an easy living off the steady stream of white suburban girls that came into town in pretty skirts, went dancing at the black clubs, and sometimes ended up hooked on smack and turning tricks.

There was an opportunity to commit some new felony on every street corner. It was enticing. Sam introduced me to his fence, Billy Justice, who liked me because I could hustle pool and quote poetry. Late one night we were walking home from a pool hall on Mission Street and crossed paths with an old guy dressed in a trench coat, wearing a fedora. He pulled out an envelope and opened it up under a street light. Diamonds sparkled. But Billy demurred, as none were large enough to invest in.

The cops were totally corrupt. One night they raided the New Rex, kicking in doors, stealing anything of value, passing whatever drugs they found to their drug dealing relatives for re-sale. I made friends with a big Samoan guy (no shit, this is true) who played pool at a place on upper Grant. One night we’re out riding around in his car and he gets pulled over. The cops tell me to get lost. A few days later I see the Samoan again. It was a stolen car but the cops let him go in exchange for the quantity of heroin they removed from the trunk. (They couldn’t make the car seizure and grab the junk.) Business as usual.

I hope there is a spiritual statute of limitations for some of the things I got involved in. I’ll leave all that to your imagination. The point is that Christopher Dorner wasn’t even born in 1973.

Where did he come from? What on earth made him join the Navy and the LAPD? Like Glen Ford at Black Agenda says, he bought the bill of goods. It’s easy, enticing. The powers that be (Left and Right) spend billions twisting and mutating our warped attitudes to exactly that end.

There were black cops in San Francisco in 1973, yes indeed. One of them even called me a nigger while I was being booked. Me, a good-looking white guy!

I’d gotten in a street fight with two undercover SF detectives. I wound up facedown, handcuffed on the sidewalk in front of the New Rex, my head in a puddle of Colt 45 and broken glass. All I could see was the jack boots of a motorcycle cop. The cop held my glasses in his hand in front of my eyes. “Are these yours?” he inquired. I replied in the affirmative, at which point he stomped on them.

Milton, the black guy I was arrested with, was freaking out in the paddy wagon on the way to the booking station. “They’re going to take me into an alley and shoot me in the head,” he kept shouting.

“Oh shut up,” I said with studied insensitivity, “You’re not George Jackson.”

Back then George Jackson was fresh in peoples’ minds. There was a different collective consciousness, which was fading fast into PTSD too.

Like Milton, who was wanted on a few warrants, I was never jailed for political crimes, although it’s hard in America to distinguish a political crime from some other kind of crime, especially if you’re black and or poor.

Likewise, it’s almost impossible to categorize the many and varied punishments doled out by the Left (represented by MSNBC, The Nation, Mother Jones) and Right (Fox KKK News, CNN, The NY Times) branches of the capitalist system for being black or poor and committing “economic” crimes.

Some things never change. Everyone individually has to learn for himself, if you ever learn at all, what your enlightened elders knew – which is why I doubt that in the black hole of historical truth that characterizes today’s poisonous political climate, many readers have ever even heard of George Jackson.

I’m sure Chris Dorner (who was frequently and snidely referred to as a “wannabe martyr” in the days leading up to his incineration) never heard of Jackson, a full-fledged martyr.

Jackson, notably, was shot and killed in a botched prison escape in August 1971.

Jackson was not an aberration in 1971, like Dorner was in 2013. Convicted of robbing a gas station at age 18, he was sent to San Quentin, a cornerstone of the American prison gulag. He didn’t adjust well and got involved in repeated attacks on corrupt guards and white racist prisoners. Facing life in a cage, he studied the Viet Cong, whose tactics he adopted. He converted to Marxism and co-founded a black power group in 1966. Placed in solitary for being overly-aggressive, he wrote revolutionary letters that were compiled into a book and earned him fame and the love of white, mostly French, intellectuals.

After being transferred to Soledad, he became increasingly desperate. Lifting a page from the VC terror manual, he advocated “selective retaliatory violence” against corrupt guards and white racist inmates.

Things got wild. In August 1970 his younger brother, seeking to free George and several other black prisoners, took several hostages at the Marin County courthouse. Four people were killed during the getaway, and Angela Davis was tried and acquitted for murder. It was said she had given the younger Jackson his guns.

The Davis trial was quite the cause célèbre and fashion statement.

A year later, in August 1971, a month before the Attica Massacre, George Jackson pulled a gun – perhaps delivered to him by his lawyer – and, referencing Ho Chi Minh, freed a number of fellow prisoners, and took a few guards and white prisoners as hostages. Four guards and two of the hostages were later found dead in his cell. Jackson escaped to the prison yard where he was allegedly shot and killed, in what several white intellectuals, and Jim Jones of the infamous Jonestown commune in Guyana, believed was a political assassination.

A lot of blacks doubted that the true story of George Jackson’s demise was told. Official accounts of what happens in prisons and jails are as reliable as a politician’s promises or the opinions of Glen Beck or David Corn. It’s still Left or Right capitalism – Coke or Pepsi.

Individual cases like Dorner’s or Jackson’s, where it’s impossible to understand the motive, are easily exploitable and an endless source of hype for the Left and Right pundit classes in their endless quest to shape public attitudes and sell subscriptions. It’s certainly true that the American slave state persists thanks to this relentless anvil chorus, as both sides have an equal stake in perpetuating the underclass. (It’s also true that the slave state exists largely under the guise of a war on drugs – and that blacks bear the brunt.)

Dorner probably never thought deeply about the context in which he was operating. He certainly had an inkling, based on his personal situation. But he was no more involved in the Civil Rights Movement than Barack Obama who, in a speech today (February 15) urged blacks to abandon their evil ways, stop having unprotected sex, get married (no hint that half of white American marriages end in divorce) send their kids to good schools that don’t exist (as opposed to the prep-prison schools that do exist), buy nice houses with money they can never save, and most of all, to get good jobs that also don’t exist.

And never will exist in a capitalist system. No mention on Obama’s part that capitalism relies on a poor class of exploited workers and under-employment to keep wages low. Obama can’t challenge the system, any more than Chris Matthews or Al Sharpton or Glen Greenwald, all of whom profit from it.

If only Dorner had known the history, which in 1974, wasn’t history at all.

I got out of jail and thanks to a quirk in the justice system was able to continue in my pursuits. By 1974, I was living on Stockton Street in a quaint apartment with a girlfriend who had a steady job. I ventured over to North Beach daily and was there in May 1974 when one of the scion’s of the American media, William Hearst, was underwriting the delivery of boxes of food to the area’s hungry underclasses.

Hearst was not doing this out of the goodness of his black heart. A black guy named Donald Defreeze and his gang, the Symbionese Liberation Army, had kidnapped Heart’s 19 year old daughter Patty and were holding her hostage. Defreeze demanded that Hearst feed every needy Californian, and Big Daddy quick as a flash sent trucks into the city. I wandered over and got a box off the back of a truck parked on Broadway. Among the items was a canned ham. The food lasted a few days. It was not a long term solution. And poor Donald Defreeze didn’t know what to do next.

Meanwhile Patty, aka Tania, went over to the dark side and in April 1974 participated in a bank robbery in San Francisco. People weren’t quite sure what to make of that! Had she been brainwashed? Or had she been restored to sanity…..

The SLA was accused of a number of murderous crimes and in May the gang was cornered in a house. A Dorner-style a shootout ensued and, back to the future, the authorities set the house on fire. The gang members probably committed suicide rather than burn. His family didn’t believe the corpse identified as Defreeze’s was actually his.

There was more disbelief than what surrounded the media accounts of Jackson and Attica (but not Jonestown), given that Defreeze was a graduate cum laud from Vacaville – the same institution that produced electric Sonny at the New Rex.

Defreeze’s mentor at Vacaville, Colston Westbrook, was a certified CIA psywar expert. He’d been an adviser to the Korean CIA and CIA agent Lon Nol in Cambodia. From 1966 until 1969 Westbrook reportedly worked (undercover as an employee of Pacific Architects and Engineers) as an adviser to the Vietnamese Police Special Branch. In 1970 he returned to the US and got a job at the University of California at Berkeley.

According to venerable Mae Brussell, Westbrook’s control officer was William Herrmann, who was connected to the Stanford Research Institute, RAND Corporation, and Hoover Center on Violence. In his capacity as an adviser to Governor Ronald Reagan, Herrmann put together a CIA-style pacification plan for California at the UCLA Center for Study and Prevention of Violence. As part of this pacification plan Westbrook, a black man, was assigned the task of forming a black cultural association at the Vacaville Medical Facility. Although ostensibly fostering black pride, Westbrook was in truth conducting an experimental behavior modification program. Westbrook’s job, claims Brussell, was to program, MKULTRA style, unstable black persons, drawn from California prisons, to assassinate black community leaders.

Westbrook designed the SLA’s logo (a seven-headed cobra), gave Defreeze his African name (Cinque), and set Cinque and his gang on their Phoenix flight to cremation, care of the Los Angeles SWAT Team, the FBI, and U.S. Treasury agents.

I left the Left Coast days after that event and took a bus back East. I got a job with a tree service, working for low wages, and picked up where I’d left off. What else can you do? A life of crime is only feasible in a capitalist system if you wear a white collar.

Some things never change.

When I was in jail in San Francisco, there were, in the block of cells I was in, 26 black guys, me and another white guy (whose girlfriend had turned him in for stealing her jewelry) and a Chinese guy who fell off a top bunk, split his skull wide open, and died from the fall.

Today there are more blacks in prison than were enslaved in 1850.

Many more are in the military and law enforcement, shoring up the system that enslaves all the poor.

I ask you, What do you make of that?


DOUGLAS VALENTINE is the author of five books, including The Phoenix Program and The Strength of the Wolf, which are available at his websites and

Oliver Arts and Open Press recently published Doug's first book of poems, A Crow's Dream, which is available at the following website:

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Retired Gitmo Psychologist Makes the Short List for University Job: Students and Faculty Protest Ties to Torture

A number of students, faculty and staff at the University of Missouri (MU) are protesting the selection of a controversial psychologist linked to torture at the US detention facility at Guantanamo as a finalist for a top slot at Mizzou.

Dr. Larry James, who is currently dean of the professional psychology program at Wright State University in Ohio made the selection committee's short list for the position of division executive director at the university's College of Education.

According to the school prospectus, the division consists of nine graduate academic programs with 60 faculty and 29 professional staff members.

James is a retired Army psychologist who was senior psychologist on the Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT) at Guantanamo in early 2003. In 2010, the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) helped file a licensing complaint against James in Ohio, alleging numerous instances of misconduct and ethical violations related to his work at Guantanamo. (A similar, less detailed summary of the case against James was put together by Center for Constitutional Rights in relation to another licensing case in a different state.)

"Fixing Hell?"

James claims he was sent to Guantanamo to "fix" problems with interrogation abuse, and that, moreover, he succeeded in doing just that. His book, Fixing Hell: An Army Psychologist Confronts Abu Ghraib was published with a forward by well-known psychologist and former American Psychological Association president Philip Zimbardo, who praises James highly. (James was Chief Psychologist at Abu Ghraib in 2004.)

According to a February 5 article in the Missourian, James told a public forum called by MU's School of Education that he lacked the authority to stop the abuse he witnessed at Guantanamo. Nevertheless, he also has reportedly said, "The work I did there literally changed and outlawed all of those abusive tactics."

But a 2008 investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) totally contradicts James's contention. According to the SASC, during the period of James' first assignment at Guantanamo "the incidents [of abuse] occurring during the spring of 2003 [during James' tenure] signif[ied] a consistent problem at GTMO."

The "incidents" included cases of forced "compulsive exercise" and sexual humiliation. One interrogator performed a lap dance on a detainee "making sexual affiliated movements with her chest and pelvis while... speaking sexually oriented sentences."

Another "incident" involved a female interrogator wiping what the detainee was led to believe was menstrual blood on his face and forehead.

The report notes no evidence of any disciplinary action for these forms of physical and psychological abuse. A memo written at the time, "Historic Look at Inappropriate Interrogation Techniques Used at GTMO," cited interrogator use of yelling, loud music and strobe lights on detainees, while other documents note use of forced shaving, sensory deprivation and "implied death threats."

The anonymous author(s) of the "Historic Look" memo criticized those in charge of interrogations, and all but accused them of lying. "Despite these revelations by interrogators, the supervisory chain of command reports that these techniques are not used," the report said.

In his 2008 book, Fixing Hell, James said that he witnessed an interrogation, which is also described in the IHRC report: A detainee was "forced into pink women's panties, lipstick and a wig ... then pinned ... to the floor in an effort 'to outfit him with the matching pink nightgown.'"

James admittedly did not intervene to stop this interrogation, but instead poured himself a cup of coffee and, in his own words, "watched the episode play out, hoping it would take a better turn and not wanting to interfere without good reason, even if this was a terrible scene."

According to his narrative, James ultimately was forced to intervene "several minutes later" after he determined "Someone is gonna get hurt" (italics in original). Nevertheless, James never mentioned problems with the interrogation or the use of sexual humiliation to the interrogator, nor did he mention reporting or disciplining him.

According to a story by Associated Press, James told those who attended a public meeting in Columbia, Missouri on February 5, "I was sent to Guantanamo not to aid these CIA operatives, but to teach these young men and women, how do you sit down and interview someone without any abusive practices whatsoever.... That's what my mission was."


The selection of James as one of two finalists for the College of Education position has led to demonstrations on campus, news conferences, public meetings to defuse the controversy and a letter from more than 30 faculty and staff protesting any hiring of James.

The letter to University of Missouri Chancellor Brady Deaton states, "[James'] possible appointment raises unresolved and extremely controversial issues. An ethical and moral cloud hangs over Dr. James's work and reputation, and, if he assumed a high-profile post here, that cloud would hang over MU, generally."

On February 1, according to the student newspaper, The Maneater, "About 30 students and Columbia residents marched from the Islamic Center of Central Missouri to Hill Hall" on the MU campus to protest the selection of James as a semi-finalist for the position.

Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation Coordinator Jeff Stack reportedly organized the protest.
"This decision is obscene to us as people of good will in our society," Stack told the crowd. "We are standing with the people who have been oppressed. We are not standing with the torturers."

The Barbara Peterson, director of strategic communications at MU's College of Education, told Truthout that College of Education Dean Daniel Clay had read James' book, Fixing Hell, and "all the documents" from the complaints against him.

According to the Associated Press, Clay stated James "was selected ... as a finalist because the search committee believed his leadership and management experiences aligned well with the minimum and desired qualifications for the position."

The Maneater quoted Clay's comments about the charges against James:

I felt strongly that in the interest of fairness and transparency that, um, you know, we can't discriminate against an individual based on unfounded allegations.... " As much as, uh, the thoughts of this turned my stomach and may turn yours, um, the reality is that he's not been, uh, indicted or found guilty of any ethics or, uh, legal or, uh, licensing board violations through this process.

James told AP that he was innocent of all the allegations, and called "the continued scrutiny of his military record 'an old story.'"

"Why do these people continue to try a decorated, disabled military veteran?" James said. "They cannot produce a patient, a prisoner, a government official or any official document that shows I have harmed any person."

Truthout asked the head of the School of Education Selection Committee, Dr. Michael Pullis, to respond to questions, but he referred all inquiries to Peterson. Pullis, who also is listed in the University of Missouri's Grants Manual Handbook as the official in charge of research grants, did not return further requests for comment.

Interestingly, MU is a recipient of millions of dollars of Department of Defense research grants, like a $5.3 million grant in November 2011 to evaluate combat casualty care.

On February 6, the St. Louis chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) held a news conference at MU's Student Center. According to an account in the Missourian, other groups present included "the MU Muslim Students Organization, the Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation and concerned MU faculty members."

CAIR-St. Louis executive director, Faizan Syed, told the audience, "Mizzou has a high standard of ethics, and his possible hiring would put a black tarnish on that." He indicated CAIR intends to further organize faculty and students at other University of Missouri campuses across the state to oppose any James hiring.
According to the Missourian, "A CAIR petition opposing James' hiring had 289 signatures [as of Wednesday evening], but the organization will not present the petition to university officials until it reaches 1,000 signatures, Syed said."

James and the Rendition of Children

The IHRC report highlighted James' role as the leader of a military team sent to Afghanistan in early spring 2003 to render three young teenage boys from Bagram to Guantanamo. According to IHRC, James supervised the forceful and arbitrary detention of the Afghan boys, "transported thousands of miles away from their families and denied them access to counsel."

An April 2011 Truthout story described numerous media reports about the bereft parents, who were never informed by James or any US personnel that their children had been taken into custody, much less whisked off to Guantanamo.

The children told news media after their release they had not seen or heard from their families for many months after they were seized. They complained of homesickness during their incarceration. Though the UK Telegraph quoted one 15-year-old prisoner (some reports said he was 13) as praising the soldiers who watched over him; he also was critical of US authorities for not notifying his parents for ten months of his incarceration, even though he says he gave the Red Cross letters from the first months of his incarceration.
"They stole 14 months of my life and my family's life. I was entirely innocent - just a poor boy looking for work," the young teen said.

The families by most accounts were desperate to find out what happened to their children. No US authority or the Red Cross informed them about the fate of their sons for many months. James never raises the issue of the boys' parents in his book.

According to a February 2004 story in The Washington Post, Nayatullah, "an illiterate farmer of about 60," traveled to work sites throughout his area, asking if anyone had seen his son. No one had. "Finally I thought he must be dead," the father said.

Another boy's mother spoke through a translator to a Guardian UK correspondent about how she suffered not knowing her son's fate. She cried "every night thinking about my son."

"'I prayed to God, I asked, 'Where is my son?' she continued. 'He was just a boy, much too young to disappear on his own.'"

The family and other villagers looked high and low for the boy. Family members and friends went to Bagram, Logar and Gardez to ask the Americans about their son's whereabouts, but "no one knew about him." His father sold his land to acquire the several thousand dollars it took to fund the search for his son. It took the family seven months before they found out where their son was held.

At last, with no explanation or apology, the boys were released in January 2004. James had left Guantanamo after May 2003, but in his book, he wrote proudly of his work with the child detainees. "This is how my country handles prisoners," he said. "It's not all about abuse. We can take juveniles like that and send them home better than we found them."

As for the boys, for whom no evidence of terrorism was ever described or revealed, James still referred to them in his book as "far from innocent" and "teenage terrorists." Still, the psychologist in James also noted that the boys were terribly traumatized, ""not only terrified, but also disheveled and lost."

James wrote they were "the most fragile - psychologically, medically and academically - children I had ever met." Even so, he saw them also as a "case study" for his "softer" style of interrogation - "exactly the kind of prisoners I needed to test my philosophy on interrogation."

Asked about the actions of James in the matter of the rendition of the teenaged boys, and the failure to notify the parents, Dr. Pullis would not respond.

According to an Open Letter to the American Psychological Association by two psychologists - Trudy Bond and Steven Reisner - the APA dismissed without investigation a 2007 ethics complaint by Bond against James which highlighted the rendition of the boys and the failure to notify the parents.

James has also been the subject of license board complaints in Ohio and Louisiana. His BSCT associate, Dr. John Leso was the subject of a licensing complaint in New York State, and Dr. James Mitchell, one of the chief architects of the CIA's "enhanced interrogation techniques," faced a similar complaint in Texas. All of these complaints were dismissed by state boards for one reason or another.

Bond and Reisner have called for APA to conduct "a full review of the practices of the APA ethics office with regard to the investigation and adjudication of cases alleging torture, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment."

Forgotten in all the controversy, Matthew Burns of the University of Minnesota, the other finalist for the division executive director position, quietly interviewed for the job last week on the MU campus. No decision on the final selection is expected until early March.

This story includes in part reporting that was used in a previous Truthout story.

Copyright, Reprinted with permission (Original URL)

[Update, 2/15/13: According to an article in the Missourian, the University of Missouri decided to put a halt on the hiring of someone new to fill the division executive director job "at this time."

Here's what Dean Clay had to say about the decision, according to a copy of his letter to faculty and professional staff, reprinted in the Missourian:
After receiving the recommendations from the search committee regarding the search for a new division executive director (DED), along with input received from other stakeholders, I have decided to not fill the position at this time.
The article explains, "According to a memo from Education Dean Daniel Clay, Mike Pullis will serve as interim director when John Wedman retires Feb. 28. He will continue in that interim role until another individual is selected.

"Wedman will continue in a part-time role throughout the next year to help facilitate the transition."

It looks like both James and Burns are out, but this may also be a strategy to let the whole controversy die out, and perhaps James might be considered again. In any case, the issue of accountability for those who served in senior roles in interrogations or forming interrogation policy was certainly brought to the forefront once again by this controversy.]

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

New Report Delivers Unprecedented Account of CIA Torture Program

The following is a press release from the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) announcing the release of a key new report, "Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition." The PDF of the report can be downloaded here.

I haven't read the full report yet, but have seen news reports, as the New York Times with Scott Shane's article, Report Says 54 Countries Helped C.I.A. After 9/11.
WASHINGTON — Some 54 countries helped facilitate the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret detention, rendition and interrogation program in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to a new human rights report that documents broad international involvement in the American campaign against Al Qaeda.

The report, to be made public Tuesday by the Open Society Justice Initiative, a rights advocacy group, is the most detailed external account of other countries’ assistance to the United States, including things like permitting the C.I.A. to run secret interrogation prisons on their soil and allowing the agency to use their airports for refueling while moving prisoners around the world.

The report identifies 136 people who had been held or transferred by the C.I.A., the largest list compiled to date, and describes what is known about when and where they were held. It adds new detail to what is known about the handling of both dedicated Qaeda operatives and innocent people caught up by accident in the global machinery of counterterrorism.
Here is OSJI's press release in full:
February 5, 2013

NEW YORK -- More than 50 countries have been implicated in kidnapping, detention, and torture as part of the CIA’s secret detention and extraordinary rendition programs, said the Open Society Justice Initiative today in a report that provides the most comprehensive documentation to date of the human rights abuses associated with the intelligence agency’s post-September 11, 2001, counterterror operations.

The report, “Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition,” identifies for the first time a total of 136 named victims and describes the complicity of 54 foreign governments in these operations. Extraordinary rendition refers to the transfer — without legal process — of a detainee to the custody of a foreign government for purposes of detention and interrogation.

On the eve of confirmation hearings for John Brennan as CIA director and while a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report on CIA detention and interrogation remains secret, the report underscores the U.S. government’s failure to confront the legacy of abuses committed in the name of counterterrorism.

“The time has come for the U.S. and its partner governments to own up to the truth and secure accountability for the abuses committed around the world as part of these CIA programs,” said Amrit Singh, senior legal officer at the Open Society Justice Initiative and author of the report. “ The taint of torture and other abuses associated with these programs will continue to cling to the U.S. and its collaborators as long as they hide behind a veil of secrecy and refuse to hold their officials accountable.”

Based on public sources, the report catalogs how a wide range of governments—ranging from Iceland and Australia to Morocco and Thailand—reportedly enabled secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations in various ways, including by hosting CIA prisons, by assisting in the capture and transport of detainees, and by permitting the use of domestic airspace for secret flights.

“By apparently co-opting as many as 54 foreign governments in these illegal operations, the U.S. undermined longstanding human rights protections enshrined in international law, including, in particular, the norm against torture,” said Singh. “Leaving aside the damage to its moral standing, the U.S. has exposed itself to liability and censure worldwide.”

The report describes the status of litigation arising in many of these countries as a result of their involvement in CIA secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations.

In December 2012, the European Court of Human Rights held that Macedonia violated Khaled El-Masri’s rights in a joint CIA-Macedonia extraordinary rendition operation and found that the CIA’s treatment of him amounted to torture. Italy’s courts have convicted U.S. officials involved in the extraordinary rendition of Egyptian national, Abu Omar.

Other legal challenges to secret detention and extraordinary rendition are pending before the European Court of Human Rights against Poland, Lithuania, Romania, and Italy; against Djibouti before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights; and against domestic authorities or officials in Egypt, Hong Kong, Italy, and the U.K.

The report collates details of 136 reported cases — there may be more that have not yet been documented. It includes the story of Wesam Abdulrahman Ahmed al-Deemawi, who was seized in Iran and held for 77 days in the CIA’s “Dark Prison” in Afghanistan. He was later transferred to Bagram where he was held for 40 days and subjected to sleep deprivation, hung from the ceiling by his arms in the “strappado” position, threatened by dogs, made to watch torture videos, and subjected to sounds of electric sawing accompanied by cries of pain.

The Obama administration has not definitively repudiated extraordinary rendition. In 2009, President Obama issued an executive order disavowing torture and closing secret CIA detention sites, but the order was reportedly crafted to allow short-term, transitory detention prior to transferring detainees to countries for interrogation or trial. Current policies and practices with respect to extraordinary rendition remain secret.

Open Society's work on national security and counterterrorism issues includes investigating and combating human rights violations around the world. In the U.S., we support work to promote national security policies that respect human rights, civil liberties, and the rule of law.

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