Obama’s response to Honduran election disappoints December 5, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Latin America, Barack Obama, Foreign Policy, Honduras.
Tags: roger hollander, Latin America, democracy, human rights, human rights violations, obama administration, latin america politics, zelaya, Honduras, honduras coup, honduras military, honduras election, honduras repression, honduras resistance, honduras dictatorship, ana perez, porfirio lobo
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As a result, Washington continued to send development and military aid to the country weeks after the military installed the dictatorship.
Then the Obama administration appeared to have brokered a deal to reinstate Zelaya, but when the de facto government declined to follow through, Obama let it slide.
Zelaya and his supporters boycotted the presidential election on Nov. 29. When Porfirio Lobo, one of the wealthiest men in the country, was declared the winner, many Latin American countries refused to recognize the results. And with good reason: There were massive reports of human rights violations before and on election day, in a country under a state of emergency and with the ousted president under siege in the Brazilian Embassy in the Honduran capital.
But the Obama administration called the election “a step forward.”
This looks and smells like traditional U.S. policy toward Latin America. It is a policy that traditionally supports power-hungry elites that control most of the wealth at the expense of the majority of the population.
For decades, Washington has carried out this policy by supporting repressive governments, taking the side of the wealthy in civil wars and rubber-stamping elections marred by rampant civil and human rights violations, repression of the press and military intimidation.
The administration’s approach to the Honduran crisis is not the only disappointing policy direction Obama has taken when it comes to Latin America.
He has maintained the draconian embargo on Cuba, criticized progressive governments in Latin America and cemented ties with the repressive government in Colombia.
But his weak response to the Honduran coup is his worst move yet in the hemisphere, and the Honduran people are paying the price.
The day before the elections, more than 50 heavily armed soldiers and police officers ransacked the office of COMAL (Alternative Community Marketing Network). That’s a network of women who are small farmers. Their crime? Educating local peasants about the current political crisis in Honduras.
On the day of the election, more than 500 unarmed protesters staged a peaceful sit-in in front of tanks and troops — and were attacked with water cannons and gas.
Rule by gunpoint is not democracy — nor is it a step forward.
Ana C. Perez is executive director of the San Francisco-based Central American Resources Center. She wrote this for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues.
–McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 4, 2009 A15
Spoiling Manuel Zelaya’s Homecoming September 23, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Honduras, Latin America.
Tags: foreign policy, hillary clinton, Honduras, honduras army, honduras coup, honduras dictatorship, honduras military, honduras repression, human rights, human rights violations, Latin America, latin america politics, mark weisbrot, mejias, oas, Obama, obama administration, roger hollander, zelaya
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Now that Manuel Zelaya has returned to Honduras, the coup government – after first denying that he was there – has unleashed a wave of repression to prevent people from gathering support for their elected president.
This is how US secretary of state Hillary Clinton described the first phase of this new repression Monday night in a press conference: “I think that the government imposed a curfew, we just learned, to try to get people off the streets so that there couldn’t be unforeseen developments.”
But the developments that this dictatorship is trying to repress are very much foreseen. A completely peaceful crowd of thousands surrounded the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, where Zelaya has taken refuge, to greet their president. The military then used the curfew as an excuse to tear-gas, beat and arrest the crowd until there was nothing left. There are reports of scores wounded and three dead. The dictatorship has cut off electricity and water to the embassy and cut electricity to what little is left of the independent media, as well as some neighbourhoods.
This is how the dictatorship has been operating. It has a very brutal but simple strategy.
The strategy goes like this: they control the national media, which has been deployed to convince about 30-40% of the population that their elected president is an agent of a foreign government who seeks to turn the country into a socialist prison. However, that still leaves the majority, who have managed to find access to other information.
The strategy for dealing with them has been to try to render them powerless – through thousands of arrests, beatings and even some selective killings. This has been documented, reported and denounced by major human rights organisations throughout the world: Amnesty International, the Centre for Justice and International Law, Human Rights Watch, the Inter American Commission on Human Rights and others.
One important actor, the only major country to maintain an ambassador in Honduras throughout the dictatorship, has maintained a deafening silence about this repression: the US government. The Obama administration has not uttered one word about the massive human rights violations in Honduras.
This silence by itself tells you all you need to know about what this administration has really been trying to accomplish in the nearly three months since the Honduran military squelched democracy. The Obama team understands exactly how the coup government is maintaining its grip on power through violence and repression. And Barack Obama, along with his secretary of state, has shown no intention of undermining this strategy.
In fact, Zelaya has been to Washington six times since he was overthrown, but not once did he get a meeting with Obama. Why is that? Most likely because Obama does not want to send the “wrong” signal to the dictatorship, ie that the lip service that he has paid to Zelaya’s restoration should be taken seriously.
These signals are important, because the Honduran dictatorship is digging in its heels on the bet that they don’t have to take any pressure from Washington seriously. They have billions of dollars of assets in the US, which could be frozen or seized. But the dictatorship, for now, trusts that the Obama team is not going to do anything to hurt their allies.
Luz Mejias, the head of the Organisation of American States’ Inter-American Human Rights Commission, had a different view of the dictatorship’s curfew from that of Hillary Clinton. She called it “a clear violation of human rights and legal norms” and said that those who ordered these measures should be charged under international criminal law.
What possible excuse can the military have for breaking up this peaceful gathering, or can Clinton have for supporting the army’s violence? There was no way that this crowd was a threat to the Brazilian embassy – quite the contrary. If anything it was protecting the embassy. That is one reason why the military attacked the crowd.
On 11 August, 16 members of the US Congress sent a letter to Obama urging him to “publicly denounce the use of violence and repression of peaceful protesters, the murder of peaceful political organisers and all forms of censorship and intimidation directed at media outlets.” They are still waiting for an answer.
Some might recall what happened to Bill Clinton when his administration sent mixed signals to the dictatorship in Haiti in 1994. Clinton had called for the dictator Raul Cedras to step down so that the democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide could be restored. But Cedras was convinced – partly because of contradictory statements from administration officials like Brian Latell of the CIA – that Clinton was not serious.
Even after Jimmy Carter, Colin Powell and then-senator Sam Nunn were sent to Haiti to try to persuade Cedras to leave before a promised US invasion, the dictator still did not believe it. In September 1994, Clinton sent 20,000 troops to topple the dictatorship and restore the elected president (who ironically was overthrown again in 2004, in a US-instigated coup).
By now, the coup government in Honduras has even less reason than the 1994 Haitian dictatorship to believe that the Obama team will do anything serious to remove it from power.
What a horrible, ugly message the Obama administration is sending to the democracies of Latin America, and to people who aspire to democracy everywhere.
Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), in Washington, DC.
Clinton, Speak Clearly Now to Avoid a Massacre in Honduras September 22, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Honduras, Latin America.
Tags: arias, feminist resistance, hillary clinton, Honduras, honduras army, honduras coup, honduras feminists, honduras human rights, honduras military, honduras protests, human rights, human rights violations, International law, manuel zelaya, micheletti, romeo velasquez, tegucigalpa, zelaya
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|Written by Laura Carlsen|
|Tuesday, 22 September 2009|
|Source: Americas MexicoBlog
This is an urgent plea to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: Immediately condemn the violence unleashed against the Honduran people by the de facto regime and take every peaceful measure possible to avoid a bloodbath in that country.
The coup has deployed the police and Armed Forces to the Brazilian Embassy and launched a violent attack on the thousands of protesters gathered there to support President Manuel Zelaya. The repression has resulted in scores of citizens wounded and taken prisoners, and unconfirmed reports of two dead. The euphoria that erupted in Honduras yesterday with the appearance of the democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya in Tegucigalpa has rapidly changed to terror as the huge demonstration finds itself under siege.
The Armed Forces took over the dispatch center of the electricity system this morning and cut off the circuits that supply electricity to independent media, particularly television’s Channel 36 and Radio Globo—the most important outlets for information not controlled by the regime. Many cell phones are blocked, and all national airports have been closed to prevent the arrival of international diplomats and reporters.
Observers fear that the coup is planning to order the armed forces to storm the Brazilian embassy. Such a blatantly illegal and violent act would convert the Honduran crisis into an international crisis of unprecedented proportions. The coup has cut off electricity to the embassy where President Zelaya is protected, and the embassy is operating on an independent generator.
In a live interview at 9:30 this morning EDT, President Zelaya called on the entire international community to condemn the repression. He stated that he is safe for the moment, accompanied by embassy personnel and women resistors who managed to take refuge in the Embassy.
“There is a regimen of terror in the country that should be attended to by the international community,” he stated. When questioned about the possible siege of the embassy, Zelaya urged the international community to “act with firmness so the regime will not carry out this terrible crime.”
Meanwhile, coup leader Roberto Micheletti denied his responsibility for the failure of the San Jose pact and called for the immediate arrest of President Zelaya. Head of the Armed Forces Gen. Romeo Velasquez stated that the army will continue to comply with orders from the coup.
Luz Mejias, president of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, noted in an interview this morning that the Commission is receiving “very serious reports of violations of human rights” by the Armed Forces. “We must establish the responsibility of each and every individual who issued these orders to repress protesters… The situation is very grave.” She called for the restitution of constitutional order “because only the restoration of constitutional order will guarantee that the human rights of all Honduras are respected,” and urged the return to power of the constitutional president “who has been received with violent repression.” Mejias noted that the curfew, now extended to 6 p.m., is a clear violation of human rights and legal norms and affirmed that the individuals who ordered these measures must be charged under international criminal law.
Faced with what many see as an imminent threat of siege on the embassy, Mejias noted, “If they forcibly enter the embassy, it will be a violation not only of human rights but of international law. Embassies are impenetrable and immune under the Treaty of Vienna… The Brazilian State would be in a very complicated situation. We hope that will not happen.” She called for respect for the right to demonstrate and stated that the presence of the constitutional president in Honduras should be seen as an opportunity to enter into a dialogue that fully respects the human rights of Hondurans and assigns responsibility for the serious violations taking place under the coup.
The coup’s actions over the past 24 hours violate international law and the basic principles of U.S. foreign policy. Sec. of State Clinton and President Obama must speak out to condemn these measures, which include:
Women’s organizations are once again playing a major role in the resistance. One of the leaders of Feminists in Resistance who we worked closely with on the women’s delegation last August and whose name I will omit sent this missive just moments ago:
“Early this morning, military forces attacked those of us outside the Brazilian Embassy. There are no words to describe the brutality of the attack—they chased us, threw bombs, beat us and now are hunting down everyone who took refuge in the surrounding area. There are 65 of us, mostly women and children here; we are under siege, our telephones are tapped, there is a squad three houses away and they are making rounds searching for signs of life to burst in. We have very little water and no food, the tear gas has permeated the atmosphere and our eyes and noses are irritated. Some of the women have been taken prisoners and according to the last communication they have been taken to a stadium called Chochi Sosa. The electricity went back on recently and so we are able to send this e-mail. We can hear the military movements outside, the cars, helicopters, bombs, shots, clashing of metal, stomping of boots, sirens and in a cruel joke on all Honduran citizens they are playing the national anthem at full volume over and over.
“We call for support for all the people who are being protected by Feminists in Resistance and for the compañeras who are doing everything possible to get us humanitarian aid despite the fact that the armed forces won’t let anyone through, not with medicines or food or anything. We’re completely isolated; we want everyone to contribute by denouncing the violation of basic human rights being perpetrated by the military forces of the de facto regime.”
Sec. of State Hillary Clinton cannot call herself an international advocate of women’s rights while ignoring the plight of these Honduran women who are a worldwide inspiration for feminist organizing in the fight for democracy. She cannot call herself a representative of U.S. values abroad while turning a blind eye to the brutality and illegality of a coup regime crazed by power and isolated among governments for its lack of respect for the rule of law.
Clinton continues to make statements divorced from the current dire reality in Honduras. In a meeting yesterday with President Oscar Arias she stated, “…we have certainly communicated very directly our expectation that there will be order and no provocation on either side. This is not just a one-sided request. It goes to both sides. Both sides have supporters who need to be restrained and careful in their actions in the days ahead.” Today the reality is that the Armed Forces under the coup regime are carrying out not just a “provocation” but a brutal attack on protesters. Yet the images, the testimonies and the news reports are still being ignored by the U.S. government.
The U.S. government must issue a firm statement in defense of human rights and the strongest possible message to the coup to desist in its attack on the Honduran people and the constitutional order.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, aclu, bagram, baltasar garzon, bush six, david hicks, eric holder, force feeding, force feeding torture, geoffrey miller, Guantanamo, guantanamo black shirts, Guantanamo detainees, guantanamo prisoners, guantanamo terror squad, human rights, human rights violations, irf, jeremy scahill, Obama, omar deghayes, scott horton, sean baker, spanish justices, torture, torture techniques, torture videos, waterboarding
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The ‘Black Shirts’ of Guantanamo routinely terrorize prisoners, breaking bones, gouging eyes, squeezing testicles, and ‘dousing’ them with chemicals.
As the Obama administration continues to fight the release of some 2,000 photos that graphically document U.S. military abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, an ongoing Spanish investigation is adding harrowing details to the ever-emerging portrait of the torture inside and outside Guantánamo. Among them: “blows to [the] testicles;” “detention underground in total darkness for three weeks with deprivation of food and sleep;” being “inoculated … through injection with ‘a disease for dog cysts;’” the smearing of feces on prisoners; and waterboarding. 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.
More significantly, however, the investigation could for the first time place an intense focus on a notorious, but seldom discussed, thug squad deployed by the U.S. military to retaliate with excessive violence to the slightest resistance by prisoners at Guantánamo.
The force is officially known as the the Immediate Reaction Force or Emergency Reaction Force, but inside the walls of Guantánamo, it is known to the prisoners as the Extreme Repression Force. Despite President Barack Obama’s publicized pledge to close the prison camp and end torture — and analysis from human rights lawyers who call these forces’ actions illegal — IRFs remain very much active at Guantánamo.
IRF: An Extrajudicial Terror Squad
The existence of these forces has been documented since the early days of Guantánamo, but it has rarely been mentioned in the U.S. media or in congressional inquiries into torture. On paper, IRF teams are made up of five military police officers who are on constant stand-by to respond to emergencies. “The IRF team is intended to be used primarily as a forced-extraction team, specializing in the extraction of a detainee who is combative, resistive, or if the possibility of a weapon is in the cell at the time of the extraction,” according to a declassified copy of the Standard Operating Procedures for Camp Delta at Guantánamo. The document was signed on March 27, 2003, by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the man credited with eventually “Gitmoizing” Abu Ghraib and other U.S.-run prisons and who reportedly ordered subordinates to treat prisoners “like dogs.” Gen. Miller ran Guantánamo from November 2002 until August 2003 before moving to Iraq in 2004.
When an IRF team is called in, its members are dressed in full riot gear, which some prisoners and their attorneys have compared to “Darth Vader” suits. Each officer is assigned a body part of the prisoner to restrain: head, right arm, left arm, left leg, right leg. According to the SOP memo, the teams are to give verbal warnings to prisoners before storming the cell: “Prior to the use of the IRF team, an interpreter will be used to tell the detainee of the discipline measures to be taken against him and ask whether he intends to resist. Regardless of his answer, his recent behavior and demeanor should be taken into account in determining the validity of his answer.”The IRF team is authorized to spray the detainee in the face with mace twice before entering the cell.
According to Gen. Miller’s memo: “The physical security of U.S. forces and detainees in U.S. care is paramount. Use the minimum force necessary for mission accomplishment and force protection … Use of the IRF team and levels of force are not to be used as a method of punishment.”
But human rights lawyers, former prisoners and former IRF team members with extensive experience at Guantánamo paint a very different picture of the role these teams played. “They are the Black Shirts of Guantánamo,” says Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has represented the most Guantánamo prisoners. “IRFs can’t be separated from torture. They are a part of the brutalization of humans treated as less than human.”
Clive Stafford Smith, who has represented 50 Guantánamo prisoners, including 31 still imprisoned there, has seen the IRF teams up close. “They’re goons,” he says. “They’ve played a huge role.”
While much of the “torture debate” has emphasized the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” defined by the twisted legal framework of the Office of Legal Council memos, IRF teams in effect operate at Guantánamo as 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.
The IRF teams “were fully approved at the highest levels [of the Bush administration], including the Secretary of Defense and with outside consultation of the Justice Department,” says Scott Horton, one of the leading experts on U.S. Military and Constitutional law. This force “was designed to disabuse the prisoners of any idea that they would be free from physical assault while in U.S. custody,” he says. “They were trained to brutally punish prisoners in a brief period of time, and ridiculous pretexts were taken to justify” the beatings.
So notorious are these teams that a new lexicon was created and used by prisoners and guards alike to describe the beatings: IRF-ing prisoners or to be IRF-ed.
Former Guantánamo Army Chaplain James Yee, who witnessed IRFings, described “the seemingly harmless behaviors that brought it on [like] not responding when a guard spoke.” Yee said he believed that during daily cell sweeps, guards would intentionally do invasive searches of the Muslim prisoners’ “private areas” and Korans to “rile the detainees,” saying it “seemed like harassment for the sake of harassment, and the prisoners fought it. Those who did were always IRFed.”
“I’ll put it like this,” Stafford Smith says. “My clients are afraid of them.”
“Up to 15 people attempted to commit suicide at Camp Delta due to the abuses of the IRF officials,” according to the Spanish investigation. Combined with other documentation, including prisoner testimony and legal memos, the IRF teams appear to be one of the most significant forces in the abuse of prisoners at Guantánamo, worthy of an investigation by U.S. prosecutors in and of themselves.
The IRF-ing of Omar Deghayes
Perhaps the worst abuses in the Spanish case involve Omar Deghayes, whose torture began long before he reached Guantánamo, and intensified upon his arrival.
A Libyan citizen who had lived in Britain since 1986, in the late 1990s, Deghayes was a law student when he traveled to Afghanistan, “for the simple reason that he is a Muslim and he wanted to see what it was like,” according to his lawyer, Stafford Smith. While there, he met and married an Afghan woman with whom he had a son.
After 9/11, Deghayes was detained in Lahore, Pakistan, for a month, where he allegedly was subjected to “systematic beatings” and “electric shocks done with a tool that looked like a small gun.”
He was then transferred to Islamabad, Pakistan,where he claims he was interrogated by both U.S. and British personnel. There, the torture continued; in a March 2005 memo written by a lawyer who later visited Deghayes at Guantánamo, he described a particularly ghoulish incident:
“One day they took me to a room that had very large snakes in glass boxes. The room was all painted black-and-white, with dim lights. They threatened to leave me there and let the snakes out with me in the room. This really got to me, as there were such sick people that they must have had this room specially made.”
Deghayes was eventually moved to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, where he was beaten and “kept nude, as part of the process of humiliation due to his religion.” U.S. personnel placed Deghayes “inside a closed box with a lock and limited air.” He also described seeing U.S. guards sodomize an African prisoner and alleged guards “forced petrol and benzene up the anuses of the prisoners.”
“The camp looked like the Nazi camps that I saw in films,” Deghayes said.
When Deghayes finally arrived at Guantánamo in September 2002, he found himself the target of the feared IRF teams.
“The IRF team sprayed Mr. Deghayes with mace; they threw him in the air and let him fall on his face … ” according to the Spanish investigation. Deghayes says he also endured a “sexual attack.” In March 2004, after being “sprayed in the eyes with mace,” Deghayes says authorities refused to provide him with medical attention, causing him to permanently lose sight in his right eye. Stafford Smith described the incident:
“They brought their pepper spray and held him down. They held both of his eyes open and sprayed it into his eyes and later took a towel soaked in pepper spray and rubbed it in his eyes.
“Omar could not see from either eye for two weeks, but he gradually got sight back in one eye.
“He’s totally blind in the right eye. I can report that his right eye is all white and milky — he can’t see out of it because he has been blinded by the U.S. in Guantánamo.”
In fact, Stafford Smith says his blindness was caused by a combination of the pepper spray and the fact that an IRF team member pushed his finger into Deghayes’ eye.
The Spanish investigation into Deghayes’ torture draws much from the March 2005 memo, which described several acts of abuse of Deghayes at the hands of the IRF teams. (The memo refers to IRF by its alternative acronym ERF):
ERF-ing Omar — The Feces Incident
On one of the ERF-ing incidents where Omar was abused, the officer in charge himself came into the cell with the feces of another prisoners [sic] and smeared it onto Omar’s face. While some prisoners had thrown feces at the abusive guards, Omar had always emphatically refused to sink to this level. The experience was one of the most disgusting in Omar’s life.
ERF-ing Omar — The Toilet Incident
In April or May 2004, when the Guantánamo administration insisted on taking Omar’s English-language Quran, he objected. The ERF team came into Omar’s cell and put him in shackles. He was not resisting. They then put his head in the toilet, pressed his face into the water. They repeatedly flushed it.
ERF-ing Omar — The Beating
In one ERF-ing incident, Omar was shackled by three American soldiers in their black Darth Vader Star Wars uniforms. The first was going to punch Omar, but before he could, the second kneed Omar in the nose, trying to break it. The third queried this, and the second said, “If his nose is broken, that’s good. We want to break his ******* nose.” The third soldier then took him to hospital.
ERF-ing Omar — The Drowning
The ERF team came into the cell with a water hose under very high pressure. He was totally shackled, and they would hold his head fixed still. They would force water up his nose until he was suffocating and would scream for them to stop. This was done with medical staff present, and they would join in. Omar is particularly affected by the fact that there was one nurse who “had been very beautiful and kind” to him to [sic] took part in the process. This happened three times.
ERF-ing Omar — Tango Block
Omar was out on the Tango block rec yard when 15 ERF soldiers came, with two other soldiers in the towers, armed with guns. They grabbed him (and others) and sprayed him.
They then pulled him up into the air and slammed his face down, on the left side, on the concrete. They had someone from the hospital there, and she just watched. She then came up to him and asked whether he was OK. He was taken off to isolation after that.
A medical examination cited in the Spanish investigation confirmed that Deghayes suffered from blindness of the right eye, fracture of the nasal bone and fracture of the right index finger, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder and “profound” depression.
At the Pentagon, an official paper trail should exist that documents the IRF-ing of Deghayes. What’s more, according to Gen. Miller’s SOP memo, all of the actions of the IRF teams were to be videotaped as well.
After a prisoner was IRF-ed, “The medical personnel on site will conduct a medical evaluation of the detainee to check for any injuries sustained during the IRF,” and, “all IRF Team members are required to submit sworn statements.” These statements, reports and video were “to be kept as evidence.”
As of early 2005, there were reportedly 500 hours of video; the ACLU attempted to force their release, but they never have been produced.
“Where are those tapes?” asks CCR President Michael Ratner. In some cases, the answer may well be that they never existed or no longer do. “When an IRFing took place a camera was supposed to be present to capture the IRFing,” said Army Spec. Brandon Neely, who was on one of the first IRF teams at Guantánamo. “Every time I witnessed an IRFing a camera was present, but one of two things would happen: (1) the camera would never be turned on, or (2) the camera would be on, but pointed straight at the ground.”
Neeley recently gave testimony to the University of California, Davis’ Guantánamo Testimonials Project. He also described one IRF-ing where the video of the incident was destroyed.
Regarding the videos, Stafford Smith says, “There are some things I can’t talk about, but I will confirm there is photographic evidence. I am absolutely confident that if all of the photographs were revealed to the world, they would provide irrefutable physical evidence that the prisoners had been” abused by the IRFs.
As for the “sworn statements” by IRF team members, a review of hundreds of pages of declassified incident reports reveals an almost robotic uniformity in the handwritten accounts, overwhelmingly composed of succinct portrayals of operations that went off without a hitch. Almost all of them contain the phrases “minimum amount of force necessary” and the prisoner “received medical attention and evaluation” before being returned.
“All internal investigations of Gitmo so far have completely whitewashed the IRF process,” says Horton. “They did so for obvious reasons.”
“The IRF program was supported by advice secured from the Justice Department suggesting that insubordinate behavior could be cited to justify a departure from guidelines against physical force. It has a conspiratorial odor to it,” says Horton. “In fact the use of IRFs was illegal, a violation of Common Article 3 [of the Geneva Convention] and a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which forbids the use of unnecessary force against prisoners.”
While Spain will probably pursue the role the IRF teams played in the torture of its citizens or residents, its scope goes far beyond those specific incidents.
“I have seen detainees IRF’ed while they were praying, or for refusing medication.”
Deghayes’ treatment at the hands of the feared IRF teams mirrors that of several other released Guantánamo prisoners.
David Hicks, an Australian citizen held at Guantánamo, said in a sworn affidavit, “I have witnessed the activities of the [IRF], which consists of a squad of soldiers that enter a detainee’s cell and brutalize him with the aid of an attack dog … I have seen detainees suffer serious injuries as a result of being IRF’ed. I have seen detainees IRF’ed while they were praying, or for refusing medication.”
Binyam Mohamed, released in February, has also described an IRF assault: “They nearly broke my back. The guy on top was twisting me one way, the guys on my legs the other. They marched me out of the cell to the fingerprint room, still cuffed. I clenched my fists behind me so they couldn’t take [finger]prints, so they tried to take them by force. The guy at my head sticks his fingers up my nose and wrenches my head back, jerking it around by the nostrils. Then he put his fingers in my eyes. It felt as if he was trying to gouge them out. Another guy was punching my ribs, and another was squeezing my testicles. Finally, I couldn’t take it any more. I let them take the prints.”
A report prepared by British human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce, documents the alleged abuse of a Bahraini citizen, Jumah al Dousari by an IRF team. Before being taken to Guantánamo, al Dousari was widely known to be “mentally ill.” On one occasion, the IRF Team was called into his cell after al Dousari allegedly insulted a female soldier. Another prisoner who witnessed the incident described what happened:
“There were usually five people on an ERF team. On this occasion there were eight of them. When Jumah saw them coming, he realized something was wrong and was lying on the floor with his head in his hands. If you’re on the floor with your hands on your head, then you would hope that all they would do would be to come in and put the chains on you. That is what they’re supposed to do.
“The first man is meant to go in with a shield. On this occasion, the man with the shield threw the shield away, took his helmet off, when the door was unlocked ran in and did a knee drop onto Jumah’s back just between his shoulder blades with his full weight. He must have been about 240 pounds in weight. His name was Smith. He was a sergeant E-5. Once he had done that, the others came in and were punching and kicking Jumah. While they were doing that the female officer then came in and was kicking his stomach. Jumah had had an operation and had metal rods in his stomach clamped together in the operation.
“The officer Smith was the MP sergeant who was punching him. He grabbed his head with one hand and with the other hand punched him repeatedly in the face. His nose was broken. He pushed his face, and he smashed it into the concrete floor. All of this should be on video. There was blood everywhere. When they took him out, they hosed the cell down and the water ran red with blood. We all saw it.”
Force Feeding as a Form of Torture
The IRF teams were also used to force-feed hunger-striking prisoners at Guantánamo, including in August 2005. Deghayes was among the hunger strikers, writing in a letter, “I am slowly dying in this solitary prison cell, I have no rights, no hope. So why not take my destiny into my own hands, and die for a principle?”
While the U.S. government portrayed a situation where the hunger strikers were being given medical attention, lawyers for some of the men claim that the tubes used to force feed them were “the thickness of a finger” and “were viewed by the detainees as objects of torture.”
According to attorney Julia Tarver, one of her clients, Yousef al-Shehri, had a tube inserted with “one [IRF member] holding his chin while the other held him back by his hair, and a medical staff member forcibly inserted the tube in his nose and down his throat” and into his stomach. “No anesthesia or sedative was provided to alleviate the obvious trauma of the procedure.” Tarver said this method caused al-Shehri and others to vomit “substantial amounts of blood.”
This was painful enough, but al-Shehri, described the removal of the tubes as “unbearable,” causing him to pass out from the pain.
According to Tarver, “Nasal gastric (NG) tubes [were removed] by placing a foot on one end of the tube and yanking the detainee’s head back by his hair, causing the tube to be painfully ejected from the detainee’s nose. Then, in front of the Guantanamo physicians … the guards took NG tubes from one detainee, and with no sanitization whatsoever, reinserted it into the nose of a different detainee. When these tubes were reinserted, the detainees could see the blood and stomach bile from the other detainees remaining on the tubes.” Medical staff, according to Tarver, made no effort to intervene. This was one of many incidents where IRF teams facilitated such force-feeding.
Aside from hunger strikes, other forms of resistance were met with brutal reprisal. Tarek Dergoul, a prisoner interviewed by Human Rights Watch, described how IRF teams beat him because he “often refused to cooperate with cell searches during prayer time. One reason was that they would abuse the Quran. Another was that the guards deliberately felt up my private parts under the guise of searching me.”
Dergoul said, “If I refused a cell search, MPs would call the Extreme Reaction Force, who came in riot gear with plastic shields and pepper spray. The Extreme Reaction Force entered the cell, ran in and pinned me down after spraying me with pepper spray and attacked me. The pepper spray caused me to vomit on several occasions. They poked their fingers in my eyes, banged my head on the floor and kicked and punched me and tied me up like a beast. They often forced my head into the toilet.”
Jamal al-Harith claims he was beaten by a five-man IRF team for refusing an injection: “I was terrified of what they were going to do. I had seen victims of [IRF] being paraded in front of my cell. They were battered and bruised into submission. It was a horrible sight and a frequent sight. … They were really gung-ho, hyped up and aggressive. One of them attacked me really hard and left me with a deep red mark from my backbone down to my knee. I thought I was bleeding, but it was just really bad bruising.”
The IRF-ing of Army Sgt. 1st Class Sean Baker
Ironically, perhaps the most well-publicized case of abuse by this force was not inflicted on a Guantanamo prisoner, but on an active-duty U.S. soldier and Gulf War veteran.
In January 2003, Sgt. Sean Baker was ordered to participate in an IRF training drill at Guantánamo where he would play the role of an uncooperative prisoner. Sgt. Baker says he was ordered by his superior to take off his military uniform and put on an orange jumpsuit like those worn by prisoners. He was told to yell out the code word “red” if the situation became unbearable, or he wanted his fellow soldiers to stop.
According to sworn statements, upon entering his cell, IRF members thought they were restraining an actual prisoner. As Sgt. Baker later described:
They grabbed my arms, my legs, twisted me up and, unfortunately, one of the individuals got up on my back from behind and put pressure down on me while I was face down. Then he — the same individual — reached around and began to choke me and press my head down against the steel floor. After several seconds, 20 to 30 seconds, it seemed like an eternity because I couldn’t breathe. When I couldn’t breathe, I began to panic and I gave the code word I was supposed to give to stop the exercise, which was ‘red.’ … That individual slammed my head against the floor and continued to choke me. Somehow I got enough air. I muttered out: ‘I’m a U.S. soldier. I’m a U.S. soldier.’
Sgt. Baker said his head was slammed once more, and after groaning “I’m a U.S. soldier” one more time, “I heard them say, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa,’ you know, like … he was telling the other guy to stop.”
According to CBS:
Bloodied and disoriented, Baker somehow made it back to his unit, and his first thought was to get hold of the videotape. “I said, ‘Go get the tape,’ ” recalls Baker. ” ‘They’ve got a tape. Go get the tape.’ My squad leader went to get the tape.”
Every extraction drill at Guantanamo was routinely videotaped, and the tape of this drill would show what happened. But Baker says his squad leader came back and said, “There is no tape.”
The New York Times later reported that the military “says it can’t find a videotape that is believed to have been made of the incident.” Baker was soon diagnosed with traumatic brain injury. He began suffering seizures, sometimes 10 to 12 per day.
“This was just one typical incident, and Baker was recognizable as an American,” says Horton. “But it gives a good flavor of what the Gitmo detainees went through, which was generally worse.”
IRF-ing Continues Under Obama
On Jan. 7, 2009, a prisoner named Yasin Ismael threw a shoe in frustration at the inside of a cage to which he had been confined. The guards accused Ismael of attacking them and called in an IRF team.
According to his attorneys, “The team shackled him, and he put up no resistance. They then beat him. They blocked his nose and mouth until he felt that he would suffocate and hit him repeatedly in the ribs and head. They then took him back to his cell. As he was being taken back, a guard urinated on his head. Mr. Ismael was badly injured, and his ear started to bleed, leaving a large stain on his pillow.”
Less than two weeks later, on Jan. 22, newly inaugurated President Obama issued an executive order requiring the closure of Guantánamo within a year and also ordered a review of the status of the prisoners held there, requiring “humane standards of confinement” in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.
But one month later, the Center for Constitutional Rights released a report titled “Conditions of Confinement at Guantánamo: Still In Violation of the Law,” which found that abuses continued. In fact, one Guantanamo lawyer, Ahmed Ghappour, said that his clients were reporting “a ramping up in abuse” since Obama was elected, including “beatings, the dislocation of limbs, spraying of pepper spray into closed cells, applying pepper spray to toilet paper and over-force feeding detainees who are on hunger strike,” according to Reuters.
“Certainly in my experience there have been many, many more reported incidents of abuse since the inauguration,” Ghappour said.
While the dominant media coverage of the U.S. torture apparatus has portrayed these tactics as part of a “Bush era” system that Obama has now ended, when it comes to the IRF teams, that is simply not true. “[D]etainees live in constant fear of physical violence. Frequent attacks by IRF teams heighten this anxiety and reinforce that violence can be inflicted by the guards at any moment for any perceived infraction, or sometimes without provocation or explanation,” according to CCR.
In early February 2009, at least 16 men were on hunger strike at Guantanamo’s Camp 6 and refused to leave their cells for “force feeding.” IRF teams violently extracted them from their cells with the “men being dragged, beaten and stepped on, and their arms and fingers twisted painfully.” Tubes were then forced down their noses, which one prisoner described as “torture, torture, torture.”
In April, Mohammad al-Qurani, a 21-year-old Guantánamo prisoner from Chad managed to call Al-Jazeera and described a recent beating: “This treatment started about 20 days before Obama came into power, and since then I’ve been subjected to it almost every day,” he said. “Since Obama took charge, he has not shown us that anything will change.”
Describing a specific incident, which took place after change in the U.S. administration, al-Qurani said he had refused to leave his cell because they were “not granting me my rights,” such as being able to walk around, interact with other inmates and have “normal food.”
A group of six soldiers wearing protective gear and helmets entered his cell, accompanied by one soldier carrying a camera and one with tear gas, he said.
“They had a thick rubber or plastic baton they beat me with. They emptied out about two canisters of tear gas on me,” he told Al-Jazeera.
“After I stopped talking, and tears were flowing from my eyes, I could hardly see or breathe.
“They then beat me again to the ground, one of them held my head and beat it against the ground. I started screaming to his senior ‘see what he’s doing, see what he’s doing’ [but] his senior started laughing and said ‘he’s doing his job.’”
In another incident after Obama’s inauguration, prisoner Khan Tumani began smearing excrement on the walls of his cell to protest his treatment. According to his lawyer, when he “did not clean up the excrement, a large IRF team of 10 guards was ordered to his cell and beat him severely. The guards sprayed so much tear gas or other noxious substance after the beating that it made at least one of the guards vomit. Mr. Khan Tumani’s skin was still red and burning from the gas days later.”
The CCR has called on the Obama administration to immediately end the use of the IRF teams at Guantánamo. Horton, meanwhile, says “detainees should be entitled to compensation for injuries they suffered.”
As the abuse continues at Guantánamo, and powerful congressional leaders from both parties and the White House fiercely resist the appointment of an independent special prosecutor, the sad fact is that the best chance for justice for the victims of U.S. torture may well be an ocean away in Madrid, Spain.
“The Obama administration should not need pressure from abroad to uphold our own laws and initiate a criminal investigation in the U.S.,” says Vince Warren, CCR’s executive director. “I hope the Spanish cases will impress on the president and Attorney General Eric Holder how seriously the rest of the world takes these crimes and show them the issue will not go away.”
Anatomy of Bush’s Torture ‘Paradigm’ April 16, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Torture.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, against all enemies, al-Qaeda, Alberto Gonzales, andrew card, anti-torture, carl levin, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, david addington, detainee abuse, Dick Cheney, doj, donald rumsfeld, enhanced interrogation, eric holder, executive order, geneva conventions, George Bush, george tenet, habaes corpus, human rights, human rights violations, international red cross, iraq detaines, jack goldsmith, james schlesinger, John Ashcroft, John McCain, John Walker Lindh, john yoo, justice department, military commissions, office legal counsel, olc, prisoners of war, radack, ray mcgovern, ricardo sanchez, richard clarke, richard myers, roger hollander, senate armed services, special prosecutor, steven bradbury, suspected terrorists, Taliban, torture, torture memos, torture techniques, waterboarding, william j. haynes
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www.consortiumnewscom, April 14, 2009
The prose of the recently leaked report of the International Committee of the Red Cross on torture seems colorless. It is at the same time obscene — almost pornographic.
The 41-page ICRC report depicts scenes of prisoners forced to remain naked for long periods, sometimes in the presence of women, often with their hands shackled over their heads in “stress positions” as they are left to soil themselves.
The report’s images of sadism also include prisoners slammed against walls, locked in tiny boxes, and strapped to a bench and subjected to the drowning sensation of waterboarding.
How could it be that we Americans tolerate the kind of leaders who would subject others to systematic torture — yes, that’s what the official report of the international body charged with monitoring the Geneva agreements on the treatment of prisoners concludes — torture.
Over the past week I have been asked to explain how this could have happened; who authorized the torture in our name? The Red Cross report lacks the earmarks of rogues or “rotten apples” at the bottom of some barrel.
This is what I have been telling those who ask:
Rather than Harry Truman’s famous motto on his Oval Office desk, “The Buck Stops Here,” this was a case of “The Buck Starts Here.” President George W. Bush set the tone and created the framework, with strong support from Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
The first hints of what was in store came from the President himself in the White House bunker late on Sept. 11, 2001, at a meeting with his closest national security advisers after his TV address to the nation about the terrorist attacks that morning.
The vengeful bunker mentality prevailing at that meeting comes through clearly in the report of one of the participants, Richard Clarke in his book, Against All Enemies. Describing the President as confident, determined, forceful, Clarke provides the following account of what President Bush said:
“We are at war.… Nothing else matters. … Any barriers in your way, they’re gone.”
When, later in the discussion, Secretary Rumsfeld noted that international law allowed the use of force only to prevent future attacks and not for retribution, Bush nearly bit his head off.
“No,” the President yelled in the narrow conference room, “I don’t care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass.”
‘Taking the Gloves Off’
In the weeks that followed, the air in Washington hung heavy with demons of retribution. Afghanistan was invaded in October 2001, and during a prisoner uprising on Nov. 25, a CIA officer was killed there.
A young American citizen, John Walker Lindh, was discovered among the prisoners in the area. There was not the slightest evidence that Lindh had anything to do with the killing.
But documents show that U.S. Joint Special Operations troops were told that the office of the Defense Secretary’s counsel (William J. Haynes II, was Pentagon general counsel at the time) had authorized an Army intelligence officer “to take the gloves off and ask whatever he wanted” of Lindh.
Despite urgent intervention by Justice Department ethics attorney Jesselyn Radack, Lindh was not properly read his rights. Instead, the FBI agent on the scene ad-libbed in an offhand way, “You have the right to an attorney. But there are no attorneys here in Afghanistan.”
Lindh had been seriously wounded in the leg. Despite that, U.S. troops put a hood over him, stripped him naked, duct-taped him to a stretcher for days in an unheated and unlit shipping container, and threatened him with death.
Parts of his humiliating ordeal were captured on film (a practice that became tragically familiar with the photos of Abu Ghraib).
In her book, Canary in the Coalmine: Blowing the Whistle in the Case of John Walker Lindh, attorney Radack comments that official documents pertaining to this case provide “the earliest known evidence that the Bush Administration was willing to push the envelope on how far it could go to extract information from suspected terrorists.”
(Because she protested, Radack was fired as Justice Department legal ethics advisor, put under criminal investigation, and even added to the “no-fly” list.)
End-Run Around Geneva
But the Bush administration was just getting started.
On Jan. 18, 2002, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales advised the President that the Justice Department had issued a formal legal opinion concluding that the Geneva Convention III on the Treatment of Prisoners of War (GPW) does not apply with respect to al Qaeda.
Gonzales added that he understood that Bush had “decided that GPW does not apply and, accordingly, that al Qaeda and Taliban detainees are not prisoners of war under the GPW.”
On Jan. 19, 2002, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld told combat commanders that the President had “determined that al-Qaeda and Taliban individuals under the control of the Department of Defense are not entitled to prisoner of war status for purposes of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.”
Secretary of State Colin Powell asked the President to reconsider his decision and to conclude, instead, that the GPW does apply to both al Qaeda and the Taliban. But Powell’s protest was couched in bureaucratic politeness, rather than in anger and outrage. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Cowardice in the Time of Torture.”]
The next step took the form of the fateful memorandum of Jan. 25, 2002, signed by Alberto Gonzales but drafted by counsel to the Vice President David Addington. That memo outlined for the President “the ramifications of your decision and the Secretary’s [Powell’s] request for reconsideration.”
It described a “new paradigm” that, the writers claimed “renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners, and renders quaint some of its provisions.”
Gonzales and Addington urged the President to disregard Powell’s misgivings and move ahead. But they cloaked their argument in lawyerly language that obscured what was to come.
The lawyers argued that it was “appropriate” and “consistent with military necessity” to waive Geneva regarding the treatment of al Qaeda and Taliban detainees, but they inserted assurances that the prisoners would be treated “humanely” and “in a manner consistent with the principles of GPW.”
Brushing aside Powell’s objections, President Bush adopted the Gonzales/Addington language and signed a memorandum to that effect on Feb. 7, 2002. The memo went to Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Powell, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Attorney General John Ashcroft, Chief of Staff to the President Andrew Card, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Condoleezza Rice, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers.
The memo amounted to an executive order, although it was not labeled as such. In it, the President alludes fulsomely to Justice Department opinions and recommendations, as well as “facts” supplied by the Defense Department.
Bush then takes clear responsibility for the decision to spurn Geneva: “I determine that common Article 3 of Geneva does not apply to either al Qaeda or Taliban detainees. … I determine that Taliban detainees … do not qualify as prisoners of war under Article 4 of Geneva … and that al Qaeda detainees also do not qualify as prisoners of war.”
The Feb. 7, 2002, memo bears the Orwellian title “Humane Treatment of al Qaeda and Taliban Detainees.” In it, Bush lifts verbatim the language from the Gonzales/Addington memo of Jan. 25, 2002, and makes it his own.
Bush claimed, for example, “the war against terrorism ushers in a new paradigm [that] requires new thinking in the law of war.”
Bush then tries to square a circle, directing (twice in the two-page memo) that “detainees be treated humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of GPW.”
The smoking-gun memorandum of Feb. 7, 2002, was released to the media, together with other documents, by Gonzales on June 22, 2004, but it did not receive the attention it deserved until recently.
On Dec. 11, 2008, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, and Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, ranking members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released, without dissent, the summary of their committee’s report on the abuse of detainees.
The report’s first subhead was: Presidential Order Opens Door to Considering Aggressive Techniques, and the first words of the first sentence of the first paragraph were, “On Feb. 7, 2002, President Bush signed a memorandum stating…”
Referring to the “President’s order,” the first paragraph adds that “the decision to replace well-established military doctrine, i.e., legal compliance with the Geneva Conventions, with a policy subject to interpretation, impacted the treatment of detainees.”
“Conclusion Number One” of the Senate Armed Services Committee report states: “Following the President’s determination [of Feb. 7, 2002], techniques such as waterboarding, nudity, and stress positions … were authorized for use in interrogations of detainees in U.S. custody.”
Once Bush had opened the door with his Feb. 7, 2002, memo, other actions followed to implement the President’s “new paradigm.”
White House lawyers worked with Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo of the Office of Legal Counsel to develop constitutional theories about expansive presidential powers that effectively let Bush operate beyond the law.
The OLC traditionally is the office that tells presidents the limits of their constitutional authorities. However, in this case, Yoo collaborated with Gonzales, Addington and other White House lawyers in hammering out arguments that the administration could use to implement harsh interrogations of al Qaeda suspects.
On Aug. 1, 2002, Yoo and his OLC superior, Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, issued an opinion that so narrowly defined “torture” that it cleared the way for a variety of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” including waterboarding, which creates a near-drowning experience.
As the legal framework for Bush’s torture policies took shape, senior officers and lower-level participants in the interrogations understood that the basis for the newly permitted harsh tactics stemmed from a presidential decision.
In a report on Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses, former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger indicated that Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top commander in Iraq, instituted a “dozen interrogation methods beyond” the Army’s standard practice under the Geneva Convention.
Sanchez said he based his decision on “the President’s memorandum,” which he said allowed for “additional, tougher measures” against detainees, according to the Schlesinger report.
An FBI e-mail of May 22, 2004, from a senior FBI agent in Iraq stated that President Bush had signed an Executive Order approving the use of military dogs, sleep deprivation and other tactics to intimidate Iraqi detainees.
The FBI official sought guidance in confronting an unwelcome dilemma. He asked if FBI personnel in Iraq were required to report the U.S. military’s harsh interrogation of detainees when such treatment violated Bureau standards but fit within the guidelines of a presidential Executive Order.
In sum, abundant evidence indicates that the torture techniques applied in the jail cells and interrogation chambers — the “alternative set of procedures” about which Bush boasted publicly on Sept. 6, 2006 — resulted directly from Bush’s Feb. 7, 2002, memo and implementing actions by his administration.
Interrogators also were egged on by comments from Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld regarding the “tough” treatments they favored.
One fig leaf left covering the otherwise exposed role of Bush and his top aides remains the clever inclusion of the word “humane” in the memo that made possible what the International Committee of the Red Cross condemned as “inhuman” treatment of terror suspects in U.S. custody.
There’s also the-Justice-Department-told-me-it-was-legal excuse, though the evidence is now clear that the Bush administration essentially stage-managed the Yoo-Bybee opinions.
For instance, when the Yoo-Bybee opinions were withdrawn by Bybee’s OLC successor, Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith, Addington and other administration officials successfully pressured Goldsmith to resign and then welcomed a new OLC chief, Steven Bradbury, who reinstated the key opinions in May 2005.
And – as the evidence built of illegal torture in 2006 – the Bush administration pushed the “Military Commissions Act” through the Republican-controlled Congress with phrasing that granted a degree of retroactive immunity.
The law states that “no person may invoke the Geneva Conventions or any protocols thereto in any habeas corpus or other civil action or proceeding to which the United States, or a current or former officer, employee, member of the Armed Forces, or other agent of the United States is a party as a source of rights in any court of the United States or its States or territories.”
That provision was interpreted as a broad amnesty for U.S. officials, including President Bush and other senior executives who may have authorized torture, murder or other violations of human rights.
The law also granted Bush the authority “to interpret the meaning and the application of the Geneva Conventions.” [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Shame on Us All.”]
However, there remain legal questions about whether the law’s language would prevent prosecutions under pre-existing anti-torture laws.
The sudden appearance of the damning report by the International Committee of the Red Cross, initially given to the CIA’s acting general counsel on Feb. 14, 2007, greatly complicates any rotten-apples-at-the-bottom-of-the-barrel-type disingenuousness.
In a departure from the usual diplomatic parlance, the ICRC minces not a word in referring to those who authorized torture. In the report itself, the Red Cross calls on current U.S. authorities “to punish the perpetrators, where appropriate, to prevent such abuses from happening again.”
What do you suppose is holding Attorney General Eric Holder back from appointing an independent prosecutor to investigate, with a view toward rubbing out, once and for all, this shameful stain on our collective conscience?
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. An Army officer and CIA analyst for almost 30 years, he now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.
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Jeremy Scahill on Iraq and Mercenaries April 2, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
Tags: roger hollander, Iraq war, human rights, amy goodman, human rights violations, Iraq occupation, Blackwater, bush foreign policy, hillary clinton, mercenaries, jeremy scahill, dyncorp, obama administration, war profiteers, xe, triple canopy, kbr, baghdad embassy, pinochet military officer, el salvador mercenaries, iraq slave labor, blackwater lawsuit, susan burke, burke o'neil, center for constitutional rights, nisoor square masacre, blackwater snipers, Adil Abdul-Mahdi
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(Roger’s note: these are excerpts from Amy Goodman’s interview with investigative journalist, Jeremy Scahill, on DemocracyNow!, April 2, 2009)
AMY GOODMAN: The Obama administration has confirmed it’s hired the mercenary firm Triple Canopy to take over Blackwater’s contract to protect US diplomats in Iraq. Part of the firm’s job will be to protect the “monstrous” US embassy in Baghdad. Blackwater, now known as Xe, that’s “zee,” lost its State Department contract in Iraq after the Iraqi government refused to grant the company a new license because of the September 2007 Nisoor Square massacre, when Blackwater guards killed seventeen Iraqi civilians.
Meanwhile, independent journalist Jeremy Scahill has just revealed that the Obama administration is also using Triple Canopy to protect US diplomats in Israel. Jeremy’s article, called “Obama’s Blackwater?” appears on alternet.org. He’s the author of the bestselling book Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, Democracy Now! correspondent, here in our firehouse studio.
Welcome to Democracy Now!
AMY GOODMAN: So, what have you learned, Jeremy?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, I’m starting to call a series of pieces I’m doing “Operation Rebranded,” because what we’re seeing unfold with the Obama administration’s foreign policy is basically continuing many of the worst parts of Bush’s foreign policy and sort of repackaging these policies. So, for instance, the Obama administration has dropped the use of the term “global war on terrorism” and uses phrases like “contingency operations” to describe the US occupation of Iraq. The latest news we have is that the Obama’s administration has decided on its mercenary firm of choice. Clearly, Obama did not want to continue at least a public relationship with Blackwater.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what have you learned, Jeremy?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, I’m starting to call a series of pieces I’m doing “Operation Rebranded,” because what we’re seeing unfold with the Obama administration’s foreign policy is basically continuing many of the worst parts of Bush’s foreign policy and sort of repackaging these policies. So, for instance, the Obama administration has dropped the use of the term “global war on terrorism” and uses phrases like “contingency operations” to describe the US occupation of Iraq. The latest news we have is that the Obama’s administration has decided on its mercenary firm of choice. Clearly, Obama did not want to continue at least a public relationship with Blackwater…
Triple Canopy also, though, did a very lucrative business servicing other war contractors like KBR, and Triple Canopy was also known for being the company that brought in the largest number of so-called third country nationals, non-Iraqis, non-Americans. They hired, for instance, former Salvadoran commandos who were veterans of the bloody counterinsurgency war in El Salvador that took the lives of 75,000 Salvadorans, minimum. Chileans—they used the same recruiter, Jose Miguel Pizarro Ovalle, that Blackwater used when they hired Chileans. This was a former Pinochet military officer.
And this company has been around, you know, for five or six years. The Obama administration has hired them in Iraq, and many of the Blackwater guys are believed to be jumping over to Triple Canopy to continue working on in Iraq. Obama, though, is keeping Blackwater on, and the State Department has not ruled out that they’re going to stay on for much longer, the aviation division of Blackwater in Iraq, and also Blackwater is on the US government payroll in Afghanistan, also working for the Drug Enforcement Agency…
I think that the Obama administration should be required to explain to US taxpayers, particularly with the atrocious human rights abuses that we’ve been seeing in Israel, why he’s using a US mercenary company to protect US officials when they potentially come in contact with civilians. And we’ve seen how deadly that’s been in Iraq. And before May 7th, his administration should be required to explain to the American people why he and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are continuing the Bush administration’s policy of using deadly paramilitary forces in Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: The alternative?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, I mean, the alternative, as Representative Jan Schakowsky has said, is to not use these companies, to ban their use in the war zone and to scale down the scope of what you classify as civilians or diplomats in Iraq. I have long said that I think the Obama administration should destroy that monstrous US embassy that was built in part on slave labor in Iraq. I think that they should pitch a tent in the backyard of the Polish embassy and call it a day and pay reparations to the Iraqi people. Now, call me naive or call me silly, but the fact of the matter is, this is a—it remains an illegal occupation of Iraq, that’s destroyed the lives of millions of Iraqis, and the Obama administration should not have a policy that necessitates using mercenaries.
AMY GOODMAN: I was quoting you with the term you used, the “monstrous” US embassy in Baghdad. How big is it? Why do you say “monstrous”?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, this is the size of Vatican City. And the Vatican has embassies in other countries around the world. I mean, this is a massive small city within Baghdad itself.
AMY GOODMAN: The largest US embassy in the world?
JEREMY SCAHILL: It’s the largest US embassy in world history, and there are already some 1,200 employees that are operating out of this embassy. And according to a recent Government Accountability Office report that I reviewed, the Obama administration is very likely to increase its use of private military companies like Triple Canopy. This is going to be a very lucrative arrangement for these companies. So concerned is the Government Accountability Office with this trend, that they’re actually asking Congress to inquire with the Obama administration as to what they intend to if five years from now they have not reduced their reliance on mercenary companies.
Obama has now made Afghanistan and the occupation there, where there are maybe 78,000 troops, US troops, by next year, along with all the contractors, and the occupation of Iraq—he’s made these two wars his war. And so, the honeymoon should be over now. Barack Obama needs to be held accountable for wars that he is continuing and aggressively escalating.
AMY GOODMAN: We don’t have much time, but I wanted to ask you about this latest lawsuit.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Right, well, Blackwater has been sued repeatedly over the course of the past couple of years, But really, over the past month by Susan Burke of the law firm Burke O’Neil, who works for the Center for Constitutional Rights, she’s sued them for the killing of an Iraqi bodyguard to the vice president of Iraq, Adil Abdul-Mahdi. She’s suing them over the Nisoor Square massacre. And just yesterday, she filed a lawsuit against Blackwater for an incident in February of 2007 that you’ve reported on on this show, where three Iraqi security guards working for an Iraqi media network were allegedly killed by Blackwater snipers. She filed the lawsuit on behalf of their estates, their families. And really, Susan Burke has said that the Blackwater empire is responsible for so much death and destruction in Iraq that she’s looking to sue them in any way she can.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Jeremy, I want to thank you for being with us. We’ll link to your article on our website at democracynow.org. Your article appeared at alternet.org. Jeremy Scahill, award-winning investigative journalist, author of the New York Times bestseller, Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.
Obama’s Blackwater? Chicago Mercenary Firm Gets Millions for Private “Security” in Israel and Iraq April 2, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: afghanistan occupation, Afghanistan War, baghdad embassy, big boy rules, Blackwater, cia, contra death squads, disappearances, dybcorp, hillary clinton, human rights, human rights violations, Iraq occupation, Iraq war, israel mercenaries, jeremy scahill, latin america mercenaries, mercenaries, obama administration, obama's blackwater, paramilitaries, pinochet, private armies, private contractors war, roger hollander, steve fainaru, torture, triple canopy, war profiteers, xe
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Federal records obtained by AlterNet reveal a multi-million dollar contract for a private U.S. paramilitary force operating out of Jerusalem.
On the campaign trail, Barack Obama’s advisers said he “can’t rule out [and] won’t rule out” using mercenary forces, like Blackwater. Now, it appears that the Obama administration has decided on its hired guns of choice: Triple Canopy, a Chicago company now based in Virginia. It may not have Blackwater’s thuggish reputation, but Triple Canopy has its own bloody history in Iraq and a record of hiring mercenaries from countries with atrocious human rights records. What’s more, Obama is not just using the company in Iraq, but also as a U.S.-government funded private security force in Israel/Palestine, operating out of Jerusalem.
Beginning May 7th, Triple Canopy will officially take over Xe/Blackwater’s mega-contract with the U.S. State Department for guarding occupation officials in Iraq. It’s sure to be a lucrative deal: Obama’s Iraq plan will inevitably rely on an increased use of private contractors, including an army of mercenaries to protect his surge of diplomats operating out of the monstrous U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
The Iraq contract may come as no surprise. But according to federal contract records obtained by AlterNet, the Obama administration has also paid Triple Canopy millions of dollars to provide “security services” in Israel. In February and March, the Obama administration awarded a “delivery order” to Triple Canopy worth $5.5 million under State Department contract SAQMPD05F5528, which is labeled “PROTECTIVE SERVICES–ISRAEL.” According to one government document, the contract is scheduled to run until September 2012. (Another document says September 2009.) The contract is classified as “SECURITY GUARDS AND PATROL SERVICES” in Israel. The total value of the contract was listed at $41,556,969.72. According to a January 2009 State Department document obtained by AlterNet labeled “Sensitive But Unclassified,” the Triple Canopy contract is based out of Jerusalem.
According to federal records, the original arrangement with Triple Canopy in Israel appears to date back to at least September 2005 and has been renewed every year since. The company is operating under the State Department’s Worldwide Personal Protection Program (WPPS), which provides for private security/military companies to operate on the U.S. government payroll in countries such as Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, and Israel. Triple Canopy, according to an internal State Department report, also worked under the program in Haiti, though that task order is now listed as “closed.” In State Department documents the WPPS program is described as a government initiative to protect U.S. officials as well as “certain foreign government high level officials whenever the need arises.” The State Department spent some $2 billion on the WPPS program from 2005-2008.
Triple Canopy’s Growing Footprint in Iraq
Triple Canopy is hardly new to the Iraq occupation. Founded in Chicago in 2003 by “U.S. Army Special Forces veterans,” the company won its first Iraq contract in 2004. In 2005, with its business expanding, Triple Canopy relocated its corporate headquarters from Obama’s home state to Herndon, Virginia, placing it much closer to the center of U.S. war contracting. (On several U.S. government contracts, however, including the Israel security contracts, its Lincolnshire, Illinois address is still used.)
Along with Blackwater and DynCorp, Triple Canopy has had armed operatives deployed in Iraq on a major U.S. government contract since the early stages of the occupation. At one point during this arrangement, Blackwater was responsible for Baghdad (the largest share of the work), DynCorp covered northern Iraq and Triple Canopy southern Iraq. Triple Canopy also worked for KBR and other corporations. As of 2007, Triple Canopy had about 2,000 operatives in Iraq, but only 257 on the State Department contract. However, its new contract, which takes effect May 7, will greatly expand Triple Canopy’s government presence in Iraq. (Meanwhile, Blackwater is scheduled to continue to work in Iraq under Obama through its aviation division and in Afghanistan, where it has security and counter-narcotics contracts. It also holds millions of dollars in other U.S. government contracts around the world and in the U.S. In February alone, the Obama administration paid Blackwater nearly $70 million in security contracts.) The Obama administration may have traded Blackwater for Triple Canopy in Iraq, but it is likely that some of Blackwater’s operatives, too, will simply jump over to Triple Canopy to keep working as armed security guards for occupation officials.
Like Blackwater, Triple Canopy has had its share of bloody incidents, among them allegations that operatives have gone on missions where they shot at civilian vehicles, including one after a briefing where a team leader cocked his M-4 and said to his men, “I want to kill somebody today. … Because I’m going on vacation tomorrow.” (The man in question denied any wrongdoing). While Triple Canopy fired some employees for not reporting shooting incidents in Iraq, none have been criminally prosecuted in Iraq or the U.S. (For a full report on this and other incidents involving Triple Canopy, check out the great work of Washington Post foreign correspondent Steve Fainaru, author of Big Boy Rules.)
Also like Blackwater, Triple Canopy has hired mercenaries from countries with atrocious human rights records and histories of violent counter-insurgencies. Among them: Peru, Chile, Colombia and El Salvador. In fact, in Iraq, Triple Canopy hired far more “Third Country Nationals” than Blackwater and DynCorp and has used more TCNs than US citizens or Iraqis. As I reported in my book, Triple Canopy used the same Chilean recruiter (who served in Augusto Pinochet’s military) Blackwater used when it hired Chilean forces, including some “seasoned veterans” of the Pinochet era. In El Salvador, the company reportedly used “a U.S.-trained former paratrooper and officer of the Salvadoran special forces during the country’s civil war” where the U.S. backed a brutal right wing dictatorship in a war that took the lives of some 75,000 Salvadorans. A Triple Canopy spokesperson reportedly said of the Salvadorans, “They’ve got the right background for the type of work we are doing.” A Triple Canopy subsidiary in Latin America has also reportedly used a former CIA base in Lepaterique, Honduras as a training center. In the 1980s, the facility was used by the CIA and Argentinian military intelligence in training Contra death squads to attack Nicaragua. The base also served as the headquarters for the notorious Battalion 316, a CIA-trained Honduran military unit responsible for torture and disappearances.
There is also cause for concern about Triple Canopy’s attitude towards accountability for its forces in Iraq, particularly in light of new rules which, on paper, give Iraqi courts jurisdiction over contractor crimes. Blackwater has, at times, conspired with the U.S. State Department to whisk its forces out of Iraq when they are facing potential prosecution for alleged crimes committed in the country, as in the case of a drunken Blackwater operative who was alleged to have shot and killed a bodyguard to Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdel-Mahdi on Christmas Eve 2006.
According to one Triple Canopy operative, “We were always told, from the very beginning, if for some reason something happened and the Iraqis were trying to prosecute us, they would put you in the back of a car and sneak you out of the country in the middle of the night.” Another Triple Canopy operative said U.S. contractors had their own motto: “What happens here today, stays here today.”
The use of mercenaries by Hillary Clinton’s State Department stands in stark contrast to her co-sponsorship as a Senator of a bill last year that sought to ban the use of such companies in U.S. war zones, specifically Iraq. Last February Clinton said, “The time to show these contractors the door is long past due.” Now, Clinton will be relying on these hired guns for protecting her and her staff in various countries.
It’s hardly a surprise that Obama is continuing the use of mercenaries in Iraq and beyond (Triple Canopy itself maintains offices in Abu Dhabi, Nigeria, Peru, Jordan and Uganda); nevertheless, members of Congress — whose actions when Bush deployed these private armies were too little, too late — have a responsibility to investigate his use of companies whose profits are intimately linked to a continuation of war. Moreover, Obama’s choice of this particular company should be investigated, both by the House and Senate, before May 7th when Obama’s mercenaries become the official paramilitary force in Iraq. As for Triple Canopy’s role in Israel, Obama’s administration should explain exactly what these forces are doing on the U.S. government payroll.
Villagers Tell of Israeli ‘War Crimes’ January 18, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: B'Tselem, Fida Qishta, gaza, geneva conventions, human rights, human rights violations, israel, khusa'a, peter beaumont, red cross, roger hollander, United Nations, War Crimes, white phosphorus
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In testimony collected from residents of the village of Khuza’a by the Observer, it is claimed that Israeli soldiers entering the village:
- attempted to bulldoze houses with civilians inside;
- killed civilians trying to escape under the protection of white flags;
- opened fire on an ambulance attempting to reach the wounded;
- used indiscriminate force in a civilian area and fired white phosphorus shells.
If the allegations are upheld, all the incidents would constitute breaches of the Geneva conventions.
The denunciations over what happened in Khuza’a follow repeated claims of possible human rights violations from the Red Cross, the UN and human rights organisations.
The Israeli army announced yesterday that it was investigating “at the highest level” five other attacks against civilians in Gaza, involving two UN facilities and a hospital. It added that in all cases initial investigations suggested soldiers were responding to fire. “These claims of war crimes are not supported by the slightest piece of evidence,” said Yigal Palmor, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman.
Concern over what occurred in the village of Khuza’a in the early hours of Tuesday was first raised by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. Although an Israeli military spokesman said he had “no information that this alleged incident took place”, witness statements collected by the Observer are consistent and match testimony gathered by B’Tselem.
There is also strong visible evidence that Khuza’a came under a sustained attack from tanks and bulldozers that smashed some buildings to pieces.
Pictures taken by photographer Bruno Stevens in the aftermath show heavy damage – and still burning phosphorus. “What I can tell you is that many, many houses were shelled and that they used white phosphorus,” said Stevens yesterday, one of the first western journalists to get into Gaza. “It appears to have been indiscriminate.” Stevens added that homes near the village that had not been hit by shell fire had been set on fire.
The village of Khuza’a is around 500 metres from the border with Israel. According to B’Tselem, its field researcher in Gaza was contacted last Tuesday by resident Munir Shafik al-Najar, who said that Israeli bulldozers had begun destroying homes at 2.30am.
When Rawhiya al-Najar, aged 50, stepped out of her house waving a white flag, so that the rest of the family could leave the house, she was allegedly shot by Israeli soldiers nearby.
The second alleged incident was on Tuesday afternoon, when Israeli troops ordered 30 residents to leave their homes and walk to a school in the village centre. After travelling 20 metres, troops fired on the group, allegedly killing three.
Further detailed accounts of what occurred were supplied in interviews given to a Palestinian researcher who has been working for the Observer, following the decision by Israel to ban foreign media from the Gaza Strip. Iman al-Najar, 29, said she watched as bulldozers started to destroy neighbours’ homes and saw terrified villagers flee from their houses as masonry collapsed.
“By 6am the tanks and bulldozers had reached our house,” Iman recalled. “We went on the roofs and tried to show we were civilians with white flags. Everyone was carrying a white flag. We told them we are civilians. We don’t have any weapons. The soldiers started to destroy the houses even if the people were in them.” Describing the death of Rawhiya, Iman says they were ordered by Israeli soldiers to move to the centre of the town. As they did, Israeli troops opened fire. Rawhiya was at the front of the group, says Iman.
Marwan Abu Raeda, 40, a paramedic working for the Nasser hospital in Khan Younis, said: “At 8am we received a phone call from Khuza’a. They told us about the injured woman. I went immediately. I was 60 or 70 metres away from the injured woman when the Israeli forces started to shoot at me.” As he drove into another street, he came under fire again. Twelve hours later, when Rawhiya was finally reached, she was dead.
Iman said she ended up in an area of rubble where a large group of people had sought cover in a deep hole among the debris of demolished houses. It is then, she says, that bulldozers began to push the rubble from each side. “They wanted to bury us alive,” she said.
UN watchdog condemns war on Gaza January 12, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: al-jazeera, gaza, hamas, human rights council, human rights violations, israel, Palestine, Palestinians, roger hollander, un
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http://www.aljazeera.net , January 12, 2009
A resolution condemning Israel’s military offensive in Gaza has been adopted by the UN Human Rights Council.
The non-binding resolution said the assault, which has now entered its third week and killed more than 900 Palestinians, had “resulted in massive violations of human rights of the Palestinian people”.
The resolution called for an immediate end to the firing of rockets from the Palestinian factions into Israel.
Israel dismissed the resolution as one-sided.
Fewer states than expected supported Monday’s resolution, which passed by 33 votes to one, with 13 abstentions.
The UN rights body, meeting in Geneva, accused Israel of systematically destroying the Palestinian infrastructure and of targeting civilians as well as medical facilities.
All European Union countries abstained and Canada voted against the resolution.
At least 4,000 Palestinians have been wounded since Israel launched its offensive on December 27 after a ceasefire with Hamas, which rules the territory, ended on December 19.
Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera: “In the end they [the UN] passed the resolution, it was not unanimous. I would not say it was that heated, at the end of the day there were still differences of opinion.
“Many states praised the Palestinian delegation for the flexibility they had shown in the negotiations, but they could not quite reach a consensus,” he said.
Who’s at Fault for Harsh Antiterror Tactics? December 9, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in George W. Bush, Human Rights, Iraq and Afghanistan, Political Commentary.
Tags: Afghanistan, ashcroft, body cavity, Civil Rights, detainee mistreatment, dragnet, fbi, federal agents, human rights, human rights violations, Immigration, iqbal, Iraq, justice, mueler, muslim, pakistan, pakistani, prison guards, roger hollander, solitary confinement, strip search, supreme court, terrorism, war on terror, warren richey
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The Supreme Court is deciding whether to hold cabinet-level officials such as former Attorney General John Ashcroft legally accountable for the administration’s controversial tactics in the war on terror. (Photo: Getty Images)
Tuesday 09 December 2008, www.truthout.org
by: Warren Richey, The Christian Science Monitor
The US Supreme Court will decide whether senior Bush administration officials were responsible for detainee mistreatment after 9/11.
Washington – The US Supreme Court this week takes up a case examining whether cabinet-level officials in the Bush White House can be held legally accountable for the administration’s controversial tactics in the war on terror.
At issue is an attempt to force former Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI director Robert Mueller to stand trial with federal agents, prison guards, and their supervisors. They are all named in a lawsuit filed by a Pakistani man who was held as a terror suspect for five months in solitary confinement in a US prison although there was no evidence connecting him to terrorism.
The case is set for oral argument on Wednesday.
Javaid Iqbal was among hundreds of Middle Eastern and South Asian Muslims who were swept up in a massive government dragnet in the New York City area in the weeks and months after the Sept. 11 attacks. Most of the men were arrested on valid immigration-related charges. But instead of being housed in an immigration detention center to await deportation, some of the men – including Mr. Iqbal – were taken to a maximum security section of a federal prison in Brooklyn.
Iqbal’s lawsuit alleges that he was subjected to “brutal mistreatment and discrimination” by federal officials who arbitrarily classified him as a Sept. 11 suspect “of high interest” to the FBI solely because he was a Muslim from Pakistan.
Many of Iqbal’s claims are consistent with the findings of an April 2003 report by the Department of Justice’s Inspector General. The report criticized officials for establishing a system that punished detainees and treated them as guilty until proven innocent. The report said many Muslim men were held under harsh conditions on baseless leads that the FBI took months to investigate and disprove.
The suit alleges systematic mistreatment, including being held 23 hours a day in a solitary confinement cell with the windows painted over and the lights always on. Iqbal was given minimal bedding. The air conditioning was run in the winter, the heat turned on in the summer. He was subjected to daily strip and body-cavity searches. The guards once forced him to submit to three consecutive body-cavity searches in a row while still in the same room. When he protested a fourth search, he was punched and kicked by the guards, the suit alleges. By the time he was released, he’d lost 40 pounds.
Lawyers for Mr. Ashcroft and Mr. Mueller are challenging their inclusion in the lawsuit, saying they had no personal involvement in the alleged mistreatment and no knowledge of Iqbal.
Iqbal’s lawyers say that Ashcroft was a “principal architect” of the harsh detention policy and that Mueller was instrumental in adopting and carrying out the policy.
”The policy of holding post-September 11th detainees in highly restrictive conditions of confinement until they were ‘cleared’ by the FBI was approved by defendants Ashcroft and Mueller,” Iqbal’s lawsuit says.
Ashcroft and others “knew of, condoned, and willfully and maliciously agreed to subject [Iqbal and others] to these conditions of confinement as a matter of policy, solely on account of their religion, race, and/or national origin and for no legitimate penological interest,” the suit says.
A federal judge refused to throw out the suit against Ashcroft and Mueller. On appeal, a panel of the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York also refused to remove them from the case.
”It is plausible to believe that senior officials of the Department of Justice would be aware of policies concerning the detention of those arrested by federal officers in the New York City area in the aftermath of 9/11 and would know about, condone, or otherwise have personal involvement in the implementation of those policies,” the appeals court panel said.
Solicitor General Gregory Garre is asking the Supreme Court to reverse that decision. He argues that Iqbal’s lawyers have not presented enough specific evidence linking Ashcroft and Mueller to Iqbal’s plight.
The case involves highly generalized and speculative allegations against Ashcroft and Mueller that are insufficient to overcome the officials’ qualified immunity, Mr. Garre says in his brief to the court. “A complaint must allege sufficient facts to cross the line between possibility and plausibility,” he writes.
Iqbal’s lawyer, Alexander Reinert of New York, says the Justice Department is seeking to put plaintiffs’ lawyers in a no-win situation, a Catch-22. In the Iqbal case, the government possesses almost all the evidence about the origin and development of the Brooklyn detention policy, he says, yet government lawyers argue that unless Iqbal can cite that evidence in his initial complaint, the suit against Ashcroft and Mueller must be dismissed regardless of what that evidence might reveal about Ashcroft’s and Mueller’s involvement or lack of involvement.
Mr. Reinert says the Iqbal lawsuit contains specific enough evidence to give government officials fair notice and to demonstrate the plausibility of Iqbal’s case.
”This case is really about access to court and access to justice,” Reinert says. “It is about the ability of plaintiffs who have suffered from government misconduct to get into court.”
The case is Ashcroft v. Iqbal (07-1015). A decision is expected by June.