Extraordinary Rendition Report Finds More Than 50 Nations Involved In Global Torture Scheme February 5, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, George W. Bush, Human Rights, Torture.
Tags: Bush Administration Torture, Bush Extraordinary Rendition, Bush torture, cia, counterterrorism, extraordinary rendition, joshua hersh, Obama Extraordinary Rendition, obama torture, prisons, roger hollander, Secret CIA Prisons, torture, war on terror, World News
1 comment so far
Roger’s note: the following article on the Bush/Obama torture regime uses the words “mistake” and “blunder” to describe the infamous barbarism. Next time you are about to get a traffic ticket or are charged with robbing a bank, tell the judge it was just a mistake or a blunder, and you are certain to be excused. After all, if government officials can “mistakenly” violate constitutional and international law, you certainly should be able to do the same for “minor” offenses.
Posted: 02/04/2013 11:14 pm EST | Updated: 02/05/2013 9:26 am EST
WASHINGTON — The U.S. counterterrorism practice known as extraordinary rendition, in which suspects were quietly moved to secret prisons abroad and often tortured, involved the participation of more than 50 nations, according to a new report to be released Tuesday by the Open Society Foundations.
The OSF report, which offers the first wholesale public accounting of the top-secret program, puts the number of governments that either hosted CIA “black sites,” interrogated or tortured prisoners sent by the U.S., or otherwise collaborated in the program at 54. The report also identifies by name 136 prisoners who were at some point subjected to extraordinary rendition.
The number of nations and the names of those detained provide a stark tally of a program that was expanded widely — critics say recklessly — by the George W. Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and has been heavily condemned in the years since. In December, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, condemned the CIA’s detention and interrogation efforts as “terrible mistakes.”
Although Bush administration officials said they never intentionally sent terrorism suspects abroad in order to be tortured, the countries where the prisoners seemed to end up — Egypt, Libya and Syria, among others — were known to utilize coercive interrogation techniques.
Extraordinary rendition was also a factor in one of the greatest intelligence blunders of the Bush years. Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a Libyan national and top al Qaeda operative who was detained in Pakistan in late 2001, was later sent by the U.S. to Egypt. There, under the threat of torture, he alleged that Saddam Hussein had trained al Qaeda in biological and chemical warfare. He later withdrew the claim, but not before the U.S. invaded Iraq in part based on his faulty testimony.
When he came into office, President Barack Obama pledged to end the U.S. government’s use of torture and issued an executive order closing the CIA’s secret prisons around the world.
But Obama did not fully end the practice of rendition, which permits the U.S. to circumvent any due process obligations for terrorism suspects. Instead, the administration said it was relying on the less certain “diplomatic assurances” of host countries that they would not torture suspects sent to them for pretrial detention.
This decision, the OSF report concludes, was tantamount to continuing the program, since in the absence of any public accounting, it was impossible to measure the accuracy of those “assurances.”
Without any public government records to read, Amrit Singh, the OSF’s top legal analyst for national security and counterterrorism and the new report’s author, turned to news reports, the investigations of a global network of human rights organizations, and the proceedings of a handful of foreign courts that have investigated their own countries’ practices.
What Singh saw was a hasty global effort, spearheaded by the United States in the months after 9/11, to bypass longstanding legal structures in order to confront the emerging threat of international terrorism.
Singh condemned the consequences of that effort in the report’s introduction. “By enlisting the participation of dozens of foreign governments in these violations, the United States further undermined longstanding human rights protections enshrined in international law — including, in particular, the norm against torture,” she wrote.
“Responsibility for this damage does not lie solely with the United States,” Singh added, “but also with the numerous foreign governments without whose participation secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations could not have been carried out.”
The list of those nations includes a range of American allies (Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany) and familiar Middle Eastern partners in the messy fight against radical Islam (Jordan, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates). Their alleged levels of participation vary widely, from countries like Poland, which agreed to host CIA black-site prisons, to nations like Portugal and Finland, which merely allowed their airspace and airports to be used for rendition flights.
A few of the nations involved, such as Australia and Sweden, have begun a process of public accounting and compensation for their roles in the process. Others, including Italy and Macedonia, have recently become embroiled in trials of local officials and CIA agents in absentia over their actions.
CIA Torture Whistleblower Sentenced to 30 Months January 26, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Torture.
Tags: Bush torture, CIA torture, jacob chamberlain, john kiriakou, obama administration, Ralph Nader, ray mcgovern, roger hollander, torture, waterboarding, whistleblower
1 comment so far
Sentencing exemplifies the ‘second McCarthy era’ against US whistleblowers by the Obama administration
CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison on Friday for what critics of his prosecution are calling trumped-up charges by the Department of Justice for his exposure of the spy agency’s torture program established by the former Bush administration.
In a letter urging President Barack Obama to pardon the whistleblower, several high profile civil rights defenders including Ralph Nader and retired CIA officer Raymond McGovern stated:
[Kiriakou] is an anti-torture whistleblower who spoke out against torture because he believed it violated his oath to the Constitution. He never tortured anyone, yet he is the only individual to be prosecuted in relation to the torture program of the past decade. [...]
The interrogators who tortured prisoners, the officials who gave the orders, the attorneys who authored the torture memos, and the CIA officers who destroyed the interrogation tapes have not been held professionally accountable.
Please, Mr. President, do not allow your legacy to be one where only the whistleblower goes to prison.
“He [was] prosecuted not by the Bush administration but by Obama’s,” added Robert Shetterly, an artist and activist who pointed to the fact that President Obama has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other presidents combined, despite pledges during his first presidential campaign to protect whistleblowers.
“The CIA leadership was furious that I blew the whistle on torture and the Justice Department never stopped investigating me…” – John Kiriakou
Such protections, then Senator Obama said, were vital “to maintain integrity in government.”
In October, Kiriakou was charged by the DoJ for violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) for releasing the name of an officer implicated in a CIA torture program to the media. Federal prosecutors had originally charged Kiriakou for violations against the Espionage Act—which held a sentence of up to 35 years—but a plea agreement saw those charges lessened.
Kiriakou was the first employee of the CIA to publicly acknowledge and describe details of the torture program that thrived under the Bush administration.
“There is a legal definition of whistleblower and I meet that legal definition,” Kiriakou told Firedoglake in an interview Thursday.
I was the first person to acknowledge that the CIA was using waterboarding against al Qaeda prisoners. I said in 2007 that I regarded waterboarding as torture and I also said that it was not the result of rogue CIA officers but that it was official US government policy. So, that’s whistleblowing. That’s the definition of whistleblowing. [...]
The CIA leadership was furious that I blew the whistle on torture and the Justice Department never stopped investigating me from December 2007…They found their opportunity and threw in a bunch of trumped up charges they knew they could bargain away and finally found something with which to prosecute me. [...]
I don’t think I am overstating this when I say I feel like we’re entering a second McCarthy era where the Justice Department uses the law as a fist or as a hammer not just to try and convict people but to ruin them personally and professionally because they don’t like where they stand on different issues… they can convict anybody of anything if they put their minds to it.
On the eve of the sentencing, Americans Who Tell the Truth and the Government Accountability Project unveiled a portrait of Kiriakou by Shetterly, the latest in the AWTT portrait series. Kiriakou was heralded for his opposition to “this country’s flagrant use of torture and its attempt to justify that use.”
High v. low-level leaking July 21, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice.
Tags: bradlel manning, Bush torture, court martial, Criminal Justice, glenn greenwald, john kiriakou, kevin gosztola, national security, roger hollander, torture, whistle-blowers, whistleblowers, wikileaks
Friday, Jul 20, 2012 07:18 AM EST, www.salon.com
Today brings more high-level classified disclosures from an administration fixated on punishing whistleblowers
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted out of a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md., Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011, after a military hearing that will determine if he should face court-martial for his alleged role in the WikiLeaks classified leaks case went on recess for the day. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)(Credit: AP)
The Obama administration’s war on whistlebowers continues unabated this week on two fronts. First, several hearings were held in the court-martial prosecution of Bradley Manning, during which military prosecutors argued that evidence that Manning’s alleged leaks did no harm to national security, as well as evidence of his inhumane pre-trial detention conditions, should both be completely suppressed (in contrast to most American media outlets, which have ignored the proceedings entirely, Firedoglake’s superb young writer, Kevin Gosztola, is providing typically comprehensive coverage). Meanwhile, in a federal court in Virginia this morning, former CIA official John Kiriakou is seeking dismissal of most of the criminal charges brought against him by the DOJ for allegedly leaking details of the Bush era torture program; Kiriakou is claiming he is the victim of vindictive prosecution (as former NSA official Thomas Drake, who himself was prosecuted (unsuccessfully) by the Obama DOJ for whistleblowing, put it this morning: “Commit torture: receive exec branch/DoJ protection. Whistleblow on torture w/lawful disclosures: become criminal defendant like John Kiriakou” [Twitter typos corrected]).
But the worst part of this whistleblower war, beyond the obvious threats it poses to transparency and a free press, is how purely selective it is. Just as Lynndie England went to prison for her detainee abuse while Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and John Yoo went on lucrative book tours for theirs, it is only low- to mid-level leakers who are punished by the Obama DOJ, and then only for the crime of embarrassing the U.S. Government rather than glorifying it. High-level Obama administration leakers disclose classified information at will, without the slightest fear of punishment. One can pick up a newspaper or listen to a television news broadcast almost every day and find examples of leaks from Obama’s high-level officials far more serious than those allegedly committed by the Bradley Mannings and Thomas Drakes of the world. From today’s New York Times article on Syria:
In Washington, a senior American official who is tracking Syria closely said Thursday that American intelligence reports had concluded that Syrian forces were moving some parts of their chemical weapons arsenal to safeguard it from falling into rebel hands, not to use it. “They’re moving it to defend it in some of the most contested areas,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the classified intelligence reports.
Quoting classified American intelligence reports on Syria to The New York Times is a more serious leak than any of those serving as the basis for the multiple espionage prosecutions brought by the Obama DOJ. The difference is that this is a “senior official” rather than a low-level one, and it’s not done with the intent to expose high-level corruption, deceit or illegality. Therefore, like all the other high-level crimes shielded from accountability by the Obama administration, it will be protected. Therein lies the clear lesson about the real purpose of the Obama war on whistleblowers.
* * * * *
New York Times columnist David Brooks carefully cultivates a centrist demeanor on domestic political questions, but on foreign policy, the former Weekly Standard writer and full-fledged Iraq War advocate is as neoconservative as it gets. Today, following in the footsteps of the progressive Center for American Progress, Brooks devotes his column to hailing the grand success of President Obama’s foreign policy. Entitled “Where Obama Shines,” the column argues: “it should be noted that Barack Obama has been a good foreign policy president.” Deeming this record “impressive,” he gushes: “Obama has moved more aggressively both to defeat enemies and to champion democracy. He has demonstrated that talk of American decline is hooey. The U.S. is still responsible for maintaining global order, for keeping people, goods and ideas moving freely.” Brooks concludes:
And, partly as a result of his efforts, the world of foreign affairs is relatively uncontentious right now. Foreign policy is not a hot campaign issue. Mitt Romney is having a great deal of trouble identifying profound disagreements. If that’s not a sign of success, I don’t know what is.
Again we see a prime legacy of the Obama presidency: the transformation of what had been contentious disputes into harmonious bipartisan consensus. And we also see again that one of the biggest myths of American political discourse is that bipartisanship is so terribly and tragically rare.
Glenn Greenwald (email: GGreenwald@salon.com) is a former Constitutional and civil rights litigator and is the author of three New York Times Bestselling books: two on the Bush administration’s executive power and foreign policy abuses, and his latest book, With Liberty and Justice for Some, an indictment of America’s two-tiered system of justice. Greenwald was named by The Atlantic as one of the 25 most influential political commentators in the nation. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism, and is the winner of the 2010 Online Journalism Association Award for his investigative work on the arrest and oppressive detention of Bradley Manning.
Tags: abu graib, bagram, Baltazar Garzon, Bush torture, doj, geneva conventions, Guantanamo, guantanamo abuse, guantanamo black shirts, Hamed Abderraman Ahmed, irf, Jamiel Abdelatif al Banna, jeremy scahill, judge garzon, justice department, Lhacen Ikassrien, nuremberg, Obama, omar deghayes, roger hollander, rule of law, spanish investigation, spanish judge, torture, torture techniques, u.s. atrocities
add a comment
While Obama and the US Congress refuse to hold Bush-era torturers accountable, a Spanish judge fights for accountability and uncovers more US atrocities.
On Friday, I wrote a piece for AlterNet on how the Obama administration is continuing to use a notorious military police unit at Guantanamo that regularly brutalizes unarmed prisoners, despite Obama’s pledge to uphold the Geneva Convention. This force officially known as the Immediate Reaction Force (IRF) has been labelled the “Extreme Repression Force” by Gitmo prisoners. Its members were also characterized as the “Black Shirts of Guantanamo” by human rights lawyer Michael Ratner. The IRF force is “an extrajudicial terror squad that has regularly brutalized prisoners outside of the interrogation room, gang beating them, forcing their heads into toilets, breaking bones, gouging their eyes, squeezing their testicles, urinating on a prisoner’s head, banging their heads on concrete floors and hog-tying them – sometimes leaving prisoners tied in excruciating positions for hours on end.”
There has been very little public attention focused on this force. But, as I noted in my story, this unit could potentially be subjected to legal scrutiny, even if the Congress and Justice Department refuse to do their jobs. That’s because one of the men brutalized by this force is a primary figure in the (largely ignored by the US media) Spanish investigation-a British resident named Omar Deghayes. (See my article, “Little Known Military Thug Squad Still Brutalizing Prisoners at Gitmo Under Obama,” for more on this story.)
Deghayes’s torture, including under the IRF Teams at Guantanamo, was highlighted in Spanish Judge Balthazar Garzon’s criminal investigation into the US torture program. A total of five Spanish citizens or residents were held by the US at Guantanamo. Testimony of four of those men is cited by the Spanish investigators. In addition to Deghayes, the men are: Hamed Abderraman Ahmed, Lahcen Ikassrien and Jamiel Abdulatif Al Banna. (An English translation of the Spanish writ was recently released by the Center for Constitutional Rights and can be accessed here.)
All of the victims cited in the Spanish investigation were moved to various locations where they were allegedly tortured before ultimately being transferred to Guantanamo where the torture continued and intensified. The torture, according to the Spanish investigation, “all” occurred “under the authority of American military personnel” and was sometimes conducted in the presence of medical professionals.
The Spanish writ does not name specific defendants or suspects in its investigation, but rather seeks to investigate the role of those who planned, coordinated and implemented the torture of its citizens and residents. “This systematic plan may point to the existence of a coordinated action for the commission of a multiplicity of torture crimes… a plan that would seem to approximate an official level and that, therefore, would give rise to criminal liability for the various schemes of committing, ordering, designing, and authorizing this systematic plan of torture.” On April 29, Garzon gave the green light to the investigation citing Spain’s Universal Jurisdiction law.
While Deghayes’s case appears to include the most extreme case of torture among the five cited by the Spanish investigation, the others contain some pretty gut-wrenching stories. According to the Spanish investigation,
Hamed Abderraman Ahmed was captured in November 2001 in Pakistan and was handed over to the US military in Kandahar, Afghanistan two months later and was then taken to Guantanamo in January 2002. At Camp X-Ray, he was confined to a metal mesh “chicken wire” cell that exposed him to the extreme heat of the Caribbean sun and “left him little more than a half-meter by half-meter of space to move in.” Additionally, the cells were lit with electric lights around the clock, which “produced vision and sleep disorders.” For over a year, he says he and other prisoners were allowed to leave their cells for two 15-minute periods a week. Ahmed also says the US constantly blared “American patriotic songs.” Ahmed was released to Spanish custody by the US in February 2004 and was acquitted by Spain’s Supreme Court.
Lhacen Ikassrien, who is a Moroccan citizen and a 13 year resident of Spain was taken from Afghanistan to Guantanamo in February 2002. He claims US personnel “never explained to him why he had been deprived of freedom.” At Guantanamo, Ikassrien claims he “Received blows to his testicles,” according to the Spanish investigation. “He relates that they inoculated him through injection with ‘a disease for dog cysts.’” Ikassrien and other former prisoners claim the US prison authorities “introduced into the cell very cold air and chemical substances that affected his breathing and joints.” Ikassrien was handed over to Spain in July 2005 and was also acquitted.
A Palestinian citizen, Jamiel Abdelatif al Banna was taken by the US military in Gambia in November 2002 and was ultimately transferred to Guantanamo in January 2003 where he remained until December 2007. Before arriving at Guantanamo, al Banna says US personnel took him to Afghanistan for a brief period where he was kept “underground in total darkness for three weeks with deprivation of food and sleep, and, forced him to witness torture carried out on other prisoners in Afghanistan,” according to the Spanish investigation. He also “received strong blows to the head with a loss of consciousness.”
Once he arrived at Guantanamo, al Banna was “under a regimen of total isolation for one year, permanently bound with shackles.” During his time at Guantanamo, he was “subjected to some one thousand interrogations in sessions lasting from 2-10 hours per day.” He was also “held by shackles on the hands and feet (wrists and ankles), in forced positions, seated on the floor with his body doubled forward and with pressure from the interrogators on his back to increase the pain until it made him scream and rendered him unable to stand upright on his feet for several hours afterwards.” Al Banna was also “subjected to threats of death by poisoning or by drowning in the sea.” Like Ikassrien, al Banna described chemicals placed in his environment that caused “coughing fits and respiratory problems.” His mesh wired cell allegedly “produced asthenopia (eyestrain) in him and in other prisoners, to the point of rendering him incapable of reading.” Al Banna also describes being attacked by the Immediate Reaction Force teams. “In one of these attacks, Al Banna suffered injuries to the ring finger of his right hand, left side of his forehead and the back part of his left knee,” according to the investigation.
Judge Garzon says the treatment of these men, combined with recently declassified US documents show “an approved systematic plan of torture and ill-treatment on persons deprived of their freedom without any charge and without the basic rights of all detainees as set out and required by applicable international treaties.”
Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights has said it “is conceivable that arrest warrants have already been issued or will be soon. Indictments will almost surely follow. The torture team’s travel options are narrowing.”
The Torture Time Bomb October 18, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in George W. Bush, Political Commentary.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, Bush torture, CIA torture, Colin Powell and torture, Condoleezza Rice and torture, Congress and torture, George Tenet and torture, Guantanamo, interrogation, John Ascroft and torture, military and torture, Pentagon and torture, torture investigation, torture techniques, White House and torture
add a comment
October 18, 2008
Philippe Sands, The Guardian UK
New material received by the Senate armed services committee link discussions of torture techniques directly to the White House. (Photo: clintonfein.com)
The Bush administration’s approval of the abuse of detainees is a toxic legacy for the next US president.
As the US presidential election reaches a climax against the background of the financial crisis, another silent, dark, time bomb of an issue hangs over the two candidates: torture. For now, there seems to be a shared desire not to delve too deeply into the circumstances in which the Bush administration allowed the US military and the CIA to embrace abusive techniques of interrogation – including waterboarding, in the case of the CIA – which violate the Geneva conventions and the 1984 UN torture convention.
The torture issue’s cancerous consequences go deep, and will cause headaches for the next president. New evidence has emerged in Congressional inquiries that throw more light on the extent to which early knowledge and approval of the abuse went to the highest levels. What does a country do when compelling evidence shows its leaders have authorised international crimes?
For three years I have followed a trail which leads unambiguously to the conclusion that the real bad eggs were not Lyndie England or others on the ground in Abu Ghraib, but the most senior officials in the White House, the Pentagon and the department of justice. Over recent months, Congress has been looking into the role of senior officials involved in the development of interrogation rules. These have attracted relatively scant attention; little by little, however, senators and congressmen have uncovered the outlines of a potentially far-reaching criminal conspiracy.
The first hearings were convened before the judiciary committee of the House of Representatives, at the instance of its chairman, Congressman John Conyers, apparently off the back of my book Torture Team. Parallel hearings have been held before the Senate armed services committee.
The evidence that has emerged is potentially devastating. It confirms, for instance, that the search for new interrogation techniques for use at Guantánamo began not with the local military but in the offices of Donald Rumsfeld and his chief lawyer, Jim Haynes. It shows that when the career military expressed objections on legal grounds, Haynes intervened to stop the normal process of review. And it shows a previously unknown interplay between the department of defence and the CIA: a visit to Guantánamo in September 2002 by the administration’s most senior lawyers was followed days later by a senior CIA lawyer, to brief on the new techniques. “If someone dies while aggressive techniques are being used,” he explained, “the backlash of attention would be severely detrimental.”
Last month the Senate armed services committee received new material from Condoleezza Rice, the first cabinet-level official to confirm high-level involvement in discussions on interrogation techniques. “I participated in a number of meetings in 2002 and 2003 … at which issues relating to detainees in US custody, including interrogation issues, were discussed,” she said. Those present at such meetings included Rumsfeld, attorney general John Ashcroft, Colin Powell, Paul Wolfowitz and CIA director George Tenet. The meetings, which concerned the CIA programme, “occurred inside the White House”. Rice confirmed she was aware of the existence of, but did not read, the justice department legal advice of August 1 2002 that abandoned the international definition of torture and replaced it with a definition drawn from a US Medicare statute.
Buried away in this testimony lies the most dangerous material of all: evidence which may establish that abuses on detainees in Iraq in September 2003, in the period perhaps including the events at Abu Ghraib, were the result of decisions taken at the highest levels of the administration. The administration has long proclaimed it did not allow aggressive interrogations in Iraq, since the Geneva conventions applied. Last month we learned this was false: not everyone had protection under Geneva. If you were considered to be a terrorist, you had no protection at all. A senior US intelligence officer visited Iraq in September 2003. He witnessed abusive interrogation techniques that violated Geneva and complained. The response? He was told the techniques “were pre-approved by DoD GC or higher”. DoD GC is the general counsel at the department of defence, Jim Haynes. Who could be higher? His boss: Rumsfeld.
I have testified before Congress on these issues, and have been asked if there should be criminal investigations and prosecutions. At the very least, the next US president must ensure the full facts are established. It will then be for others to decide what follows. But if the US doesn’t get its own house in order and restore its reputation for the rule of law, others will surely step in.