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The Torture Chronicle December 24, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
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Roger’s note: Here it is Christmas Eve, 2012, and I am posting yet another article on torture.  Our shameless president may have chosen to “look forward, not backwards” when it comes to prosecuting those responsible for these high crimes.  I for one cannot forget them, nor can I forget the fact that the United States government continues to sow death and destruction around the globe.

By (about the author)
OpEdNews Op Eds 12/23/2012 at 19:46:40

A classified Senate Intelligence Committee report shows the futility of “enhanced interrogation techniques.” 

If there is one word missing from the United States government’s post-9/11 lexicon it is “accountability.” While perfectly legal though illicit sexual encounters apparently continue to rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors, leading to resignations, no one has been punished for malfeasance, torture, secret prisons, or extraordinary renditions.

Indeed, the Obama administration stated in 2009 that it would not punish CIA torturers because it prefers to “look forward and not back,” a decision not to prosecute that was recently confirmed by Attorney General Eric Holder in two cases involving the deaths of detainees after particularly brutal Agency interrogations. What the White House decision almost certainly means is that the president would prefer to avoid a tussle with the Republicans in congress over national security that would inevitably reveal a great deal of dirty laundry belonging to both parties.

The bipartisan willingness to avoid confrontation over possible war crimes makes the recently completed 6,000 page long Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture an extraordinary document. Though it is still classified and might well never see the light of day even in any sanitized or bowdlerized form, its principal conclusions have been leaking out in the media over the past two weeks. It directly addresses the principal argument that has been made by Bush administration devotees and continues to be advanced regarding the CIA torture agenda:  that vital information obtained by “enhanced interrogation techniques” led to the killing of Osama bin Laden. According to the report, no information obtained by torture was critical to the eventual assassination of the al-Qaeda leader, nor has it been found to be an indispensable element in any of the other terrorism cases that were examined by the Senate committee.

What exactly does that mean? It means that torture, far from being an essential tool in the counter-terrorism effort, has not provided information that could not be obtained elsewhere and using less coercive methods. Senator Diane Feinstein, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee and has had access to the entire classified document, elaborated, explaining that the investigation carried out by the Senate included every detainee held by CIA, examining “the conditions under which they were detained, how they were interrogated, the intelligence they actually provided and the accuracy or inaccuracy of CIA descriptions about the program to the White House, Department of Justice, Congress and others.” It “uncovers startling details about the CIA detention and interrogation program…” The report has 35,000 footnotes and investigators perused 6 million pages of official records, which is why it has taken more than two years to produce.

The Senate inquiry’s conclusions inevitably lead to the assumption that there has been a whole lot of lying and obfuscation going on in connection with the so-called war on terror. To recap major developments, 9/11 unleashed a counter-offensive by the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center (CTC), which was at the time headed by Cofer “the gloves come off” Black. Secret prisons were established in Europe and Asia, torture was used extensively in the interrogation of suspects, and some detainees were shipped off to friendly intelligence services in places like Egypt for even more aggressive questioning. This was referred to as rendition. Some suspects were snatched off the streets in European and Asian cities before being rendered.

The Justice Department gave its approval for the harsh interrogation techniques in a notorious secret memo drafted by John Yoo and Jay Bybee in 2005 only months after a 2004 public statement in which the selfsame Justice Department declared that torture would not be acceptable. On October 5, 2007, President George W. Bush restated the official position, “This government does not torture people. We stick to U.S. law and our international obligations.”  But he also contradicted himself, elaborating that his administration’s interrogation methods included questioning carried out by “highly-trained professionals.” He explained, “When we find somebody who may have information regarding an attack on America, and you bet we’re going to detain them, you bet we’re going to question them. The American people expect us to find out information, this actionable intelligence, so we can help protect them. That’s our job.”

Since that time the issue of torture itself has become an ideological abstraction, with the neoconservatives, many Republicans, and even some conservative Democrats reflexively supporting it. It has also frequently been debated in the intelligence community. There are undeniably some who believe that all terrorist suspects should be tortured even unto death to tell what they know, but an increasing number of former intelligence officers have expressed doubts over the efficacy of the procedure, a conclusion that is now supported by the Senate findings.

To cite one example of what torture can produce, prominent al-Qaeda figure Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, commonly referred to as KSM, was arrested in 2003 in Pakistan was reportedly water-boarded 183 times and “broken” by his CIA interrogators. He subsequently confessed to being involved in virtually every terrorist act carried out in the previous 20 years, including 9/11, the beheading of journalist Daniel Pearl, and the bombing of the destroyer USS Cole. He clearly was not actually involved in many of the incidents, but he was willing to admit to anything.

There are also other good reasons to oppose torture and torture by proxy through CIA rendition. Most people and governments worldwide believe that torture is immoral, a view that is generally shared by most Americans. Legally there is also a long tradition condemning torture. German and Japanese officers were executed after the Second World War for torturing prisoners and the principle was firmly established that torture, specifically including waterboarding, is a war crime. The US is signatory to the UN’s anti-torture convention, and both the United States Code and specific acts of congress require prosecution of any government employee engaging in such activity. In practical terms, torture also opens up a door that should never be opened by anyone who genuinely cares about US soldiers, diplomats, and intelligence officers stationed at their peril around the world. To put it succinctly, if we do it to them, they will do it to us.

Mistakes are inevitable when one accepts that it is okay to break the rules in favor of more coercive interrogation. To cite one example of how intelligence operations can go wrong, on December 13, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the United States kidnapped German citizen Khaled el-Masri and he was taken to an airport where he was “Severely beaten, sodomized, shackled and hooded” before being sent on to Afghanistan for more of the same. It turned out to be a case of mistaken identity while subsequent attempts to obtain recompense through the US courts were blocked by the Obama administration, which claimed state secrets privilege.

Another well-documented rendition case, of Canadian citizen Maher Arar, consigned an innocent man to torture in Syria. Yet another rendition, of Milan-based Muslim cleric Abu Omar turned into a prime example of an intelligence operation designed by Monty Python, employing a cast of hundreds at a cost of many millions of dollars. It continues to play out in the Italian courts. Abu Omar was tortured in Egypt and eventually released when it turned out that he had no information of value.

Torture advocates have assiduously cultivated a number of myths, most prominent of which is the “ticking time bomb.” This is a particular favorite of the redoubtable Alan Dershowitz and a number of prominent neocons. It goes like this — a terrorist is captured who has knowledge of an impending attack on a major civilian target, but he won’t cooperate. How to get the information?  Simple. Get an accommodating judge to issue a legal finding that enables you to torture him until he talks, thereby saving lives of innocent civilians.

The only problem with the Dershowitz narrative is that there has never been an actual ticking time bomb. No terrorist has ever been captured, subjected to torture, and provided information that foiled an attack, not even in Israel where routine torture of suspected terrorists captured in flagrante used to be the case (but is now illegal). Advocating a policy of torture, with all that entails, based on a “what if” is fighting evil with more evil, not a solution.

Torture brutalizes and degrades the individual carrying it out, the organization he or she represents, and the government that approves of the practice. The Senate committee report should finally put paid to the arguments being made that it is a reliable interrogation tool, but there still remains the question of accountability. A recent book by Jose A. Rodriguez, who approved and oversaw the CIA torture regime while he served as head of the Counter Terrorism Center and later as Deputy Director of the Clandestine Services, demonstrates that there are still zealots who believe in “extreme measures” in spite of any evidence presented to the contrary. The book is entitled “Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions after 9/11 Saved American Lives.” Well, apparently that is just not true and perhaps Jose owes the surviving victims of “hard measures” an apology.

 

http://www.councilforthenationalinterest.org

Philip Giraldi is the executive director of the Council for the National  Interest and a recognized authority on international security and  counterterrorism issues. He is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer who served eighteen years overseas in Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain. Mr.  Giraldi was awarded an MA and PhD from the University of London in  European History and holds a Bachelor of Arts with Honors from the  University of Chicago. He speaks Spanish, Italian, German, and Turkish. His columns on terrorism, intelligence, and security issues regularly appear in The American Conservative magazine, Huffington Post, and antiwar.com. He has written op-ed pieces for the Hearst Newspaper chain, has  appeared on “Good Morning America,” MSNBC, National Public Radio, and  local affiliates of ABC television. He has been a keynote speaker at the Petroleum Industry Security Council annual meeting, has spoken twice at the American Conservative Union’s annual CPAC convention in Washington, and has addressed several World Affairs Council affiliates. He has been interviewed by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the British  Broadcasting Corporation, Britain’s Independent Television Network, FOX  News, Polish National Television, Croatian National Television,  al-Jazeera, al-Arabiya, 60 Minutes, and other international and domestic broadcasters.

Accountability for Bush’s Torture November 30, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Human Rights, Torture.
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Roger’s note: the United States government has a long history of disgraceful behavior, and the Bush/Cheney torture regime is one of the most heinous.  We need to be constantly reminded, and we need to acknowledge that the Obama government’s disregard of its constitutional obligation to prosecute constitutes legal and moral complicity.

By (about the author)
OpEdNews Op Eds 11/29/2012 at 20:45:34

opednews.com

In June 2004, in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal,    a notorious memo from August 2002 was leaked . It was written by John Yoo, a lawyer in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and it claimed to redefine torture and to authorize its use on prisoners seized in the “war on terror.” I had no idea at the time that its influence would prove to be so long-lasting.
Ten years and four months since it was first issued, that memo — one of two issued on the same day that will forever be known as the “torture memos” — is still protecting the senior Bush administration officials who commissioned it (as well as Yoo and his boss, Jay S. Bybee, who signed it).

Those officials include George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, and their senior lawyers, Alberto Gonzales and David Addington. None of them should be immune from prosecution, because torture is illegal under U.S. domestic law and is prohibited under the terms of the UN Convention Against Torture, which the United States, under Ronald Reagan, signed in 1988 and ratified in 1994. As Article 2.2 states, unequivocally, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

However, the architects of the torture program didn’t care, and still don’t care, because for them the disgraceful memos written by Yoo were designed to be a “golden shield,” a guarantee that, whatever they did, they were covered, because they had legal advice telling them that torture was not torture.

Barack Obama came into office promising to ban the use of torture. His administration released the second Yoo and Bybee “torture memo” and three later “torture memos” from 2005 as part of a court case in April 2009. That, however, was the end of the Obama administration’s flirtation with accountability. In court, every avenue that lawyers have tried to open up has been aggressively shut down by the government, citing the “state secrets doctrine,” another “golden shield” for torturers, which prohibits the discussion of anything the government doesn’t want discussed, for spurious reasons of national security.

The only other opportunity to stop the rot came three years ago, when an internal DoJ ethics investigation concluded, after several years of diligent work, that Yoo and Bybee were guilty of “professional misconduct” when they wrote and signed the memos. That could have led to their being disbarred, which would have been inconvenient for a law professor at UC Berkeley (Yoo) and a judge in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Bybee). It also might well have set off ripples that would have led to Bush and Cheney and their lawyers.

However, at the last minute a long-time DoJ fixer, David Margolis, was allowed to override the report’s conclusions, claiming that both men were guilty only of “poor judgment,” which, he alleged, was understandable in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and which carried no sanctions whatsoever.

Thwarted in the United States, those seeking accountability have had to seek it elsewhere: in Spain; in Poland, where one of the CIA’s “black sites” was located; and in Italy, where 23 Americans — 22 CIA agents and an Air Force colonel — were convicted in November 2009, in a ruling that was upheld on appeal in September this year, of kidnapping an Egyptian cleric, Abu Omar, and rendering him to Egypt, where he was tortured.

The United States has refused to extradite any of the men and women convicted in Italy, but the ruling is a reminder that not everyone around the world believes in Yoo’s and Bybee’s “golden shield.”

Moreover, although senior Bush administration officials — Bush and Cheney themselves and Donald Rumsfeld — have so far evaded accountability, their ability to travel the world freely has been hampered by their actions. In February 2011, for example, Bush called off a visit to Switzerland when he was notified that lawyers — at the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights — had prepared a massive torture indictment that was to be presented to the Swiss government the moment he landed in the country.

The former president was told that foreign countries might take their responsibilities under the UN Convention Against Torture more seriously than America has and arrest him on the basis that his home country had failed to act on the clear evidence that he had authorized torture, which he had actually boasted about in his memoir, Decision Points, published in November 2010.

Most recently, lawyers seeking accountability have tried pursuing Bush in Canada. Last September, prior to a visit by the former president, CCR and the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) submitted a 69-page draft indictment to Attorney General Robert Nicholson, along with more than 4,000 pages of supporting material setting forth the case against Bush for torture.

When that was turned down, the lawyers launched a private prosecution in Provincial Court in Surrey, British Columbia, on behalf of four Guantanamo prisoners — Hassan bin Attash, Sami el-Hajj, Muhammed Khan Tumani, and Murat Kurnaz (all released, with the exception of bin Attash) — on the day of Bush’s arrival in Canada.

That avenue also led nowhere because the attorney general of British Columbia swiftly intervened to shut down the prosecution. Undeterred, however, CCR and CCIJ last week tried a new approach on behalf of those four men who, as Katherine Gallagher of CCR explained in the Guardian, “are all survivors of the systematic torture program the Bush administration authorized and carried out in locations including Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantánamo, and numerous prisons and CIA “black sites’ around the world.”

“Between them,” she added, “they have been beaten; hung from walls or ceilings; deprived of sleep, food, and water; and subjected to freezing temperatures and other forms of torture and abuse while held in U.S. custody.”

The new approach taken by the lawyers was to file a complaint with the UN Committee Against Torture, in which the four men “are asking one question: how can the man responsible for ordering these heinous crimes openly enter a country that has pledged to prosecute all torturers regardless of their position and not face legal action?”

As Gallagher explained, “Canada should have investigated these crimes. The responsibility to do so is embedded in its domestic criminal code that explicitly authorizes the government to prosecute torture occurring outside Canadian borders. There is no reason it cannot apply to former heads of state, and indeed, the convention has been found to apply to such figures including Hissène Habré [the former president of Chad] and Augusto Pinochet.”

That is true, and it will be interesting to see how the UN Committee Against Torture responds. Probably the “golden shield” will not need to be invoked once more by the United States, as the Canadian government evidently has no wish to annoy its neighbor. Moreover, it has its own appalling track record when it comes to preserving human rights in the “war on terror,” as the cases of Omar Khadr in Guantanamo, and Mahar Arar and others who were tortured in Syria demonstrate. However, the submission is to be commended for reminding people that great crimes — committed by the most senior U.S. officials and their lawyers — still remain unpunished, and that that is a situation that ought to be considered a major disgrace rather than something to be brushed aside.

The Lawless Roads: America’s Ever-Expanding Torture Matrix April 8, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Torture.
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, www.opednews.com, April 8, 2012

In two brief posts over the past week, Scott Horton at Harper’s gives us a harrowing sketch of the entrenchment and ever-spreading expansion  of the Torture Matrix that now sits enthroned at the very heart of the  American state. This entrenchment and expansion has been carried out —  enthusiastically, energetically, relentlessly — by the current  president of the United States: a progressive Democrat and recipient of  the Nobel Peace Prize.
Horton notes the uncovering of the Zelikow Memo, written by one of the chief factotums of the Bush Administration,  Philip Zelikow. While serving as a State Department lawyer in 2006,  Zelikow wrote a legal brief that demolished the written-to-order  “torture memos” by White House lawyers, which sanctioned the widespread  use of torture techniques that were — and still are — clearly war  crimes. As Horton points out, the Zelikow memo did not even address the most brutal tortures instigated by the Bush administration, but confined  itself to the so-called “torture lite” methods (many of which are still  in use today). Yet even here, Zelikow clearly demonstrated “that the use of these techniques would constitute prosecutable felonies — war  crimes.” The existence of the Zelikow memo proves that there was indeed  official recognition throughout the highest reaches of government that  war crimes were being committed at the order of the White House and the  intelligence agencies. Horton goes on:

“In order for a prosecution to succeed, a  prosecutor would have to show that the accused understood that what he  was doing was a crime. In United States v. Altstoetter, a case in which  government lawyers were prosecuted for their role in, among other  things, providing a legal pretext for the torture and mistreatment of  prisoners, the court fashioned a similar rule, saying that the law  requires “proof before conviction that the accused knew or should have  known that in matters of international concern he was guilty of  participation in a nationally organized system of injustice and  persecution shocking to the moral sense of mankind, and that he knew or  should have known that he would be subject to punishment if caught.”The Zelikow memo satisfies both of these elements — it makes clear that the  techniques the Justice Department endorsed constituted criminal conduct, and it applied the “shock the conscience” test of American  constitutional law to help reach that conclusion. It could therefore be  introduced as Exhibit A by prosecutors bringing future charges.”

Horton also provides a succinct background to the other “torture  memos” that Bush attorneys wrote in support of the criminal operation — a perpetrators’ paper trail that is actually much more extensive than  is usually known.
This memo has been in the possession of the  Obama Administration since its first day in office. It was in the  possession of the special prosecutor that Obama’s Justice Department  appointed to look into the torture system — a special prosecutor who  found that there was nothing to prosecute. Horton writes:

“Spencer Ackerman, whose persistence is to be credited for the publication of Zelikow’s memo, astutely pressed its author to answer this question: Why, in light of Zelikow’s findings,  did the special prosecutor appointed by Eric Holder to investigate the  legality of CIA interrogation techniques fail to bring charges?”‘I don’t know why Mr. Durham came to the conclusions he did,’ Zelikow says, referring to the Justice Department  special prosecutor for the CIA torture inquiry, John Durham. ‘I’m not  impugning them, I just literally don’t know why, because he never  published any details about either the factual analysis or legal  analysis that led to those conclusions.'”

To reiterate: one of the chief insiders of the right-wing Republican  Bush White House believes that the war crimes ordered by the Bush White  House deserve prosecution. The chief insiders of the progressive  Democratic Obama White House believe these war crimes should not be  prosecuted.
Then again, why should Barack Obama want to prosecute torture — when he is successfully arguing for it to be applied not  only to the American population at large? In another post, Horton writes of Obama’s great success at the Supreme Court: the ruling that allows all Americans to be strip-searched when taken into custody  for even the most minor infractions. The purpose of this, as Horton  points out, is clearly to humiliate and “break” the citizen — who is,  you might recall, entirely innocent in the eyes of the law at that  point. In fact, as Horton notes, the U.S. military itself recognizes the strip search as a torture technique that American pilots might face if  captured by heinous rogue states. Horton:

“…the Supreme Court has decided on the  claim of Albert Florence, a man apprehended for the well-known offense  of traveling in an automobile while being black. Florence was hustled  off to jail over a couple of bench warrants involving minor fines that  had in fact been paid — evidence of which he produced to unimpressed  police officers. He was then twice subjected to humiliating strip  searches involving the inspection of body cavities. Florence sued,  arguing that this process violated his rights.
“There is very  little doubt under the law about the right of prison authorities to  subject a person convicted or suspected of a serious crime to conduct a  strip search before introducing someone to the general prison  population. But does the right to conduct a strip search outweigh the  right to dignity and bodily integrity of a person who committed no crime whatsoever, who is apprehended based on a false suspicion that he  hadn’t discharged a petty fine — for walking a dog without a leash, say,  or turning a car from the wrong lane? Yes. In a 5-4 decision, the Court  backed the position advocated by President Obama’s Justice Department,  upholding the power of jailers against the interests of innocent  citizens. As Justice Anthony Kennedy reasons in his majority opinion (in terms that would be familiar to anyone who has lived in a police  state), who is to say that innocent citizens are really innocent? ‘[P]eople detained for minor offenses,’ he writes, ‘can turn out to be  the most devious and dangerous criminals.’ ….
“The decision  reflects the elevation of the prison industry’s interest in maintaining  order in its facilities above the interests of individuals. And it does  so by systematically misunderstanding the reasons behind strip searches. Kennedy insists that they are all done for the aim of fostering order,  and he backs up this position with exemplary bits of pretzel logic. For  instance, he suggests that a person stopped for failing to yield at an  intersection may well have heroin taped to his scrotum, and may attempt  to bring it into the prison to which he is taken. In advancing such  rationales, the Court ignores the darker truth about strip searches:  they are employed for the conscious humiliation and psychological  preparation of prisoners, as part of a practice designed to break them  down and render them submissive.
“Just as the Florence decision  was being prepared, the Department of Defense released a previously  classified training manual used to prepare American pilots for  resistance to foreign governments that might use illegal and immoral  techniques to render them cooperative. Key in this manual are the  precise practices highlighted in Florence. Body-cavity searches are  performed, it explains, to make the prisoner ‘feel uncomfortable and  degraded.’ Forced nudity and invasion of the body make the prisoner feel helpless, by removing all items that provide the prisoner with  psychological support. In other words, the strip search is an essential  step in efforts to destroy an individual’s sense of self-confidence,  well-being, and even his or her identity. The value of this tool has  been recognized by authoritarian governments around the world, and now,  thanks to the Roberts Court, it will belong to the standard jailhouse  repertoire in the United States.”

To reiterate: the Obama Administration vigorously defended the  introduction of this authoritarian practice into every place of  incarceration in the United States. The fact that this draconian  stricture will fall most heavily on African-Americans cut no ice with  the historic, epoch-shaking first minority president in American  history. (But why should it? By almost every measure — employment,  housing, wealth, poverty programs, community support, voting rights,  civil rights, etc. — African-Americans have been sent reeling backwards by the policies of the Obama Administration.)
Obama has  adamantly refused to prosecute clear, credible and copious allegations  of war crimes by his predecessor. He is now applying acknowledged  torture techniques to the general American population. And as William  Blum reminds us in his latest “Anti-Empire Report,” Obama is still  carrying out torture on a massive, systematic scale in the gulag he  commands — despite the pervasive progressive myth that he has formally  ended “torture” in the American system. Blum:

“…the executive order concerning torture, issued January 22, 2009 — ‘Executive Order 13491 — Ensuring Lawful Interrogations’ — leaves loopholes, such as being applicable only ‘in any armed conflict.’ Thus, torture by Americans outside  environments of ‘armed conflict,’ which is where much torture in the  world happens anyway, is not prohibited. And what about torture in a ‘counter-terrorism’ environment?
“One of Mr. Obama’s orders  required the CIA to use only the interrogation methods outlined in a  revised Army Field Manual. However, using the Army Field Manual as a  guide to prisoner treatment and interrogation still allows solitary  confinement, perceptual or sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, the  induction of fear and hopelessness, mind-altering drugs, environmental  manipulation such as temperature and perhaps noise, and possibly stress  positions and sensory overload. …

“Just as no one in the Bush  and Obama administrations has been punished in any way for war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and the other countries they waged illegal war  against, no one has been punished for torture. And, it could be added,  no American bankster has been punished for their indispensable role in  the world-wide financial torture. What a marvelously forgiving land is  America. This, however, does not apply to Julian Assange and Bradley  Manning. …
“I’d like at this point to remind my dear readers of  the words of the ‘Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,’ which was drafted by the United  Nations in 1984, came into force in 1987, and ratified by the United  States in 1994. Article 2, section 2 of the Convention states: ‘No  exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency,  may be invoked as a justification of torture.’
Such marvelously  clear, unequivocal, and principled language, to set a single standard  for a world that makes it increasingly difficult for one to feel proud  of humanity. We cannot slide back.”

No exceptions whatsoever — not even an eternal “War on  Terror.” This is indeed clear language — and it is indisputably the law of the land, as the constitutional law professor in the White House  well knows. But this no longer means anything. As we noted here a couple of years ago, in an excerpt from a “conversation during Civil War”:

“But in days past, I was a lawyer. Yes, a lawyer, can you believe it? It seems ” ridiculous now, doesn’t it? An  orderly system meant to govern human society, to establish justice, to  advance the progress and enlightenment of the human race. Yet that  system, that civil cosmos — to which I was so passionately committed —  embraced and protected the most wretched evils, entrenched the powerful  in their unjust privilege, oppressed the poor and weak most relentlessly and wickedly, yet at every step — at every step — sang hosannas to  itself as some kind of divinity. The ‘Law’ — oh, what a hush of  reverence surrounded that word, how deeply that reverence and respect  penetrated the heart. Well, my heart, anyway. But in these last few years we have seen — in intense, concentrated, microscopic view —  the truth about the law, a truth which too often escaped us in the slow  unrolling of peacetime. The truth that there is no law, no Platonic Form out there to which we give paltry representation. There is only power:  power in conflict with power, power seeking to drive out power, to  establish its dominance, maintain its privilege. Power … acquiesces to law — sometimes — but it never, never bows to it. Power goes along with the law when it is convenient to do so, when it is not too restrictive, when it demands little more than the occasional sacrifice — for the  powerful are certainly not above throwing one of their own to the mob  when circumstances require. But when it comes to the crisis, power  shreds the law like a filthy rag and has its own way. And then you see  that the law is nothing but a rag, to be torn and patched and fitted to  power’s aims. The worst atrocities I have seen or heard of in this war  have been committed wholly and completely under the law. This thing I  held in such reverence was, is, nothing but a scrap soaked with blood  and sh*t.”

Or, pertaining more directly to the case at hand, and under-girding some of Blum’s points, including his insights on rendition, is a piece I wrote in 2011:

“There is of course a myth that Barack  Obama has ‘ended’ the practice of torture. This is not even remotely  true. For one thing, as we have often noted here, the Army Field Manual  that Obama has adopted as his interrogation standard permits many  practices that any rational person would consider torture. For another, we have no way of verifying what techniques are actually  being used by the government’s innumerable ‘security’ and intelligence  agencies, by the covert units of the military — and by other entities  whose very existence is still unknown. These agencies are almost  entirely self-policed; they investigate themselves, they report on  themselves to the toothless Congressional ‘oversight’ committees; we  simply have to take these organizations — whose entire raison d’etre is deceit, deception, lawlessness and subterfuge — at their word. And  of course, we have no way of knowing what is being done in the torture  chambers of foreign lands where the United States often ‘outsources’ its captives, including American citizens.
“Finally, even if the  comforting bedtime story of Obama’s ban of torture techniques in  interrogation were true, there remains his ardent championing of the  right to seize anyone on earth — without a warrant, without producing  any evidence whatsoever of wrongdoing — and hold them indefinitely,  often for years on end, in a legal limbo, with no inherent rights  whatsoever, beyond whatever narrowly constricted, ever-changing, legally baseless and often farcical ‘hearings’ and tribunals the captors deign  to allow them. Incarceration under these conditions is itself an  horrendous act of torture, no matter what else might happen to the  captive. Yet Obama has actively, avidly applied this torture, and has  gone to court numerous times to defend this torture, and to expand the  use of this torture …

“….Murder, cowardice, torture,  dishonor: these are fruits — and the distinguishing characteristics —  of the militarized society. What Americans once would not do even to  Nazis with the blood of millions on their hands, they now do routinely  to weak and wretched captives seized on little or no evidence of  wrongdoing at all. We are deep in the darkness, and hurtling deeper,  headlong, all the time.”

Obama Justice Department indicts ex-CIA agent for exposing torture April 8, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Torture, War on Terror.
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, www.opednews.com, April 8, 2012

Thursday’s indictment of John Kiriakou for exposing CIA torture of  detainees confirms yet again that the Obama administration is continuing and deepening the crimes carried out by the Bush White House. Kiriakou, a CIA agent for 14 years, is being prosecuted for speaking to two  journalists about the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah.

In December  2007, he appeared in an ABC News interview, becoming the first CIA  official to confirm the use of waterboarding of so-called “enemy  combatants” and to describe the practice as torture. It is now known  that Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in the space of one month while  being held in a series of CIA “black sites” from Thailand to Poland to  Diego Garcia.

Zubaydah, severely wounded when he was captured by  US and Pakistani intelligence agents, had already been suffering the  effects of a shrapnel wound to the head he received during the  CIA-backed war in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Under US control, he was  beaten, placed in extreme temperatures, and subjected to music played at debilitating volumes, sexual humiliation and sleep deprivation.

His interrogators also locked him for protracted periods in a small box,  where he was forced to crouch in complete darkness, while the stressful  position caused his wounds to open up and bleed.

At some point during this ordeal, the CIA removed Zubaydah’s left eye.

Zubaydah’s torture was overseen in detail by the top officials of the US government, from President George W. Bush and Vice  President Dick Cheney on down.

Bush publicly described Zubaydah  as Al Qaeda’s chief of operations, in charge of “plotting and planning  death and destruction on the United States.” He was charged not only  with planning 9/11, but with involvement in virtually every other crime  attributed to Al Qaeda.

In September of last year, in response to habeas corpus filings by Zubaydah’s attorneys demanding justification  for his continued imprisonment at the US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay,  Cuba, the government formally recanted these charges. It acknowledged  that Zubaydah had no “direct role in or advance knowledge of the  terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001,” and had not been a “member” of Al Qaeda or even “formally” identified with the organization.

Yet, after a decade of imprisonment and torture, the government refuses to  either try or release him. He is one of those designated by the Obama  administration to be detained indefinitely without charges.

The  reasons are clear. There appears to be no evidence against him, and his  case raises a whole range of crimes by government officials, including  torture and the CIA’s destruction of videotapes recording his  interrogation sessions, carried out in defiance of court demands that  they be produced.

Nor have any of those responsible for the  torture of Zubaydah and countless others been brought to justice. This  includes not just the CIA torturers, but Bush, Cheney, former CIA  Director George Tenet, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza  Rice, and ex-Justice Department officials like Jay Bybee, and John Yoo,  who drafted the memos arguing that torture was legal.

The Obama  administration has protected all of these individuals, repeatedly  intervening in court and invoking “state secrets” to quash cases brought by torture victims.

While refusing to either try or release the  victim of torture, Zubaydah, or to prosecute those responsible for the  crimes committed against him, the Obama administration is prosecuting  Kiriakou for daring to publicly expose these crimes, threatening him  with up to 45 years in prison.

It is not an accident that the  indictment of Kiriakou comes just a day after the Pentagon’s formal  presentation of capital charges against Khalid Sheik  Mohammed — waterboarded 183 times — and four others alleged to be part of  the 9/11 conspiracy. It is a means of intimidating the attorneys of the  defendants. The government wants to preclude any disruption of its  rigged military commission at Guantanamo with charges of torture.

More fundamentally, the prosecution of Kiriakou is part of a policy of state secrecy and repression that pervades the US government under Obama, who came into office promising “the most transparent administration in  history.” This marks the sixth government whistleblower to be charged by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act, twice as many such  prosecutions as have been brought by all preceding administrations  combined. Prominent among them is Private Bradley Manning, who is  alleged to have leaked documents exposing US war crimes to WikiLeaks. He has been held under conditions tantamount to torture and faces a  possible death penalty.

In all of these cases, the World War  I-era Espionage Act is being used to punish not spying on behalf of a  foreign government, but exposing the US government’s own crimes to the  American people. The utter lawlessness of US foreign policy goes hand-in-hand with the collapse of democracy at home.

These cases make  clear that it is the American working people whom the government views  as its most dangerous enemy. It is determined to keep them in the dark  as it systematically erects the framework for a police-state  dictatorship.

Over the last few months, Obama has signed into law legislation granting himself the power to condemn alleged enemies of  the state to indefinite military detention without charges or trials,  and his attorney general, Eric Holder, has publicly asserted the “right” of the president to order the assassination of American citizens  alleged to be involved in “hostilities” towards the US government.

After more than three years in office, it is abundantly clear that the Obama  administration has substantially escalated the crimes carried out by its predecessor, both in terms of militarism abroad and state repression at home. These crimes were not the outcome of some specific right-wing  ideology of the Bush White House, but rather the response of the US  ruling elite to the decline in the global position of American  capitalism and the growth of social inequality at home, which has  increasingly rendered democratic methods of rule untenable.

The  repressive measures being implemented by the government are targeted  first and foremost at an anticipated eruption of mass popular struggles  against the policies of the ruling class and the conditions being  created by the crisis of the capitalist system

Ten Years of Guantanamo: One of the Prison’s First Detainees Breaks His Silence January 10, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture, War on Terror.
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Tuesday 10 January 2012
by: Jason Leopold, Truthout         | Interview

David Hicks, author of “Guantanamo: My Journey.” (Image: Random House Australia)

To mark the tenth anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo Bay prison to house “war on terror” detainees captured after 9/11, Truthout will republish a handful of exclusive reports by Jason Leopold about the facility.

This exclsuive interview with former Guantanamo detainee David Hicks was originally published on Truthout on February 16, 2011.

David Hicks was the Australian drifter who, years before 9/11, converted to Islam, changed his name to Muhammed Dawood and ended up at training camps in Afghanistan the US government said was linked to al-Qaeda.

Hicks was picked up at a taxi stand by the Northern Alliance in November 2001 and sold to US forces for about $1,500. Hicks was detainee 002, the second person processed into Guantanamo on January 11, 2002, the day the facility opened. He is one of the small group of detainees who challenged President George W. Bush’s November 13, 2001 executive order authorizing indefinite detention, which led to a landmark 2004 Supreme Court case, Rasul v. Bush, in which the High-Court said detainees have the right to habeas corpus.

Hicks spent five-and-a-half years at Guantanamo, where he was tortured. In 2007, he agreed to plead guilty to a charge of providing material support for terrorism in order to finally be freed from Guantanamo. In October 2010, he published a memoir, “Guantanamo: My Journey.” The book is unavailable in the United States and is not available for sale on Amazon or other online booksellers to US readers.

This is his first interview Hicks gave following his release from the “least worst place” on earth.

Please click here to read the main story about David Hicks, which includes exclusive interviews with former Guantanamo guards who he interacted with, one of whom was barred from reenlistment in the Army reserves for speaking to Truthout about his experience.

Truthout: Can you describe for me what you felt, emotionally, as you were writing the book and having to relive the torture you were subjected to?

David Hicks: At times I wrote as a third person, as if I was writing a chronological research report as part of my day job. At other times I had moments of vivid clarity. I would stop typing, sit back, and stare into nothing. The smells, sounds, the feeling of actually being there came flooding back as if had been transported to the camps of Guantanamo, clearly remembering what it was like to have actually been there.

TO: Solitary confinement appears to be among the worst of all the terrible experiences prisoners faced at Guantanamo. Can you explain what it does to you in a way that Americans, with no experience of such things, can understand what such isolation, especially with no knowledge of how long it will last, does to a person?

DH: Solitary and indefinite detention are two different things and are devastating when combined. Isolation has a powerful impact on the mind, especially when coupled with incommunicado detention as in GTMO. Everything outside the four walls is quickly forgotten. With no mental stimulation the mind becomes confused and dull. That state of mind is an advantage to interrogators who manipulate every aspect of your environment. They create a new world reality. Time ceases to exist. Talking becomes difficult, so when conversations do take place, you cannot form words or think. Even when hostility is not present such as during a visit with a lawyer or International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visit, coherent sentences become elusive and huge mental blanks become common, as though you are forgetting the very act of speaking. Everything you think and know is dictated by the interrogators. You become fully dependent with a childlike reliance on your captors. They pull you apart and put you back together, dismantling into smaller pieces each time, until you become something different, their creation, when eventually reassembled. Indefinite detention is draining and cruel. Only after five and a half years when I had been promised a date of release did the intense battle with insanity subside, and that I started to feel a little more normal again. I finally had some certainty and felt a glimmer of control return. I began to remember that another world existed and could once again dream about what that world used to feel like. Indefinite detention is draining because you are taken prisoner and thrown into a cage. No reason is given or any relevant information or explanation offered. There are no accusations, no court rooms or judges. Nobody informs “you will be here for X amount of time.” It’s an impossible situation to accept and every minute is spent silently asking and hoping, “this cannot last forever, I will have to be released soon‚”. But when the mind is so desperate, when you are on your last legs, you can’t let go of the thought that you could be released any moment, even if all seems lost and hopeless. In a strange way it is one of those things the mind latches onto for a source of strength, a reason to keep going: false hopes and dreams are better than nothing.

TO: What do you believe gave you the strength to survive in such terrible conditions? Have you sought medical or psychological help since returning? If so, has it helped you?

DH: I survived because I had no choice, as many of us may unfortunately experience at some time in our lives. It was a psychological battle, a serious and dangerous one. It was a constant struggle not to lose my sanity and go mad. It would have been so easy just to let go: it offered the only escape. I have attended regular counseling since being released. It has helped but the passing of time has been just as helpful. Being exposed to such a consuming environment for five and a half years leaves a stain that cannot be removed overnight. It will take longer to reverse the consequences but even so, some experiences, especially one so prolonged, can never be entirely forgotten. I shudder to think what state of mind those who are still detained in GTMO must be in, and wonder how damaged they will be upon release. If they are released. At the time of writing, the US government is seriously considering enacting indefinite detention into law. It is hard to comprehend that they will effectively sentence someone to life in prison, without ever being charged, accused of breaking a law, or not even being told why they are being held. As with medical experimentation, indefinite detention on its own is a form of torture which causes mental anguish.

TO: At what moment in your mind did you begin to realize or understand that you were being tortured?

DH: I was beaten by US forces the first time I saw them and realized straight away that torture was going to be a reality, it was very scary. As I say in my book, I could not help thinking of the saying, “like trying to get blood from a stone,” and I was afraid of becoming that stone.

TO: What do you think makes a human being torture another human being?

DH: In Guantanamo torture was driven by anger and frustration. It seemed like a mad fruitless quest to pin crimes on detainees, to extract false confessions, and produce so-called intelligence of value. The guards were desensitized and detainees de-humanized. Soldiers were not allowed to engage us in conversation. They were told to address us by number only and not by name. They were constantly drilled with propaganda about how much we supposedly hated them and wanted them dead and how much they needed to hate us. On occasion, when some groups of soldiers jogged around the camp perimeters I heard them sing lyrics such as, ‘you hate us and we hate you.’ One time in the privacy of Camp Echo a male soldier broke down when we were alone repeating, “what have I become?‚” after having arrived from an interrogation of a detainee in another camp.

TO: Can you describe for me the facial expressions of the interrogators and /or the guards as you were being abused? How did they react to your pain?

DH: Usually the guards seemed cold and indifferent. They deployed a “just doing my job‚” attitude, such as when they chained me to the floor in stress positions or made me sleep directly on a metal or concrete floor in a very cold air-conditioned room in only a pair of shorts. However some soldiers displayed discomfort and embarrassment. Usually guards were only used to restrain detainees, move them about, or help in the back ground with equipment. It was the interrogators who did the dirty work, expressing, hatred and frustration. At times soldiers did participate directly in beatings however, such the beatings I received before I arrived in GTMO (in Afghanistan, in transit, or when I was rendered to the two ships). These soldiers made a sport of it.

TO: Did any US soldier or any US official present at Guantanamo during your interrogations ever speak out about your torture or the torture of other detainees?

DH: If you mean protest during the act of torture, never. Many soldiers in private however apologized for what their government was doing to us and emphasized that not all Americans were like that or agreed with such treatment.

TO: Were you ever interrogated by anyone from the CIA?

DH: Some interrogators stated which agencies they represented, some didn’t, while others lied about who they worked for. To the best of my knowledge I was seen by the CIA, FBI, US military intelligence, MI5 from the UK, ASIO and the AFP from Australia. There were other organizations working in GTMO, some I had never heard of before.

TO: In your book you write: “These beatings and other activities were systematic and ordered from above, not the result of low- ranking MPs looking for ways to have some fun.” Did anyone ever state who from above ordered the beatings?

DH: The soldiers were very open about where their orders came from and interrogators never allowed us to forget that they controlled every aspect of our lives; whether it was torturing us, allowing us a shower, clothing, or a letter from home. Then there were examples such as when General [Geoffrey] Miller took over camp procedures in early 2003. He unleashed a new wave of interrogation techniques upon us. Each new General, and wave of interrogators who were accompanied by experts from various professions, brought newly signed orders from Department of Justice employees allowing ever harsher techniques.

TO: Have you read the torture memos written by former Justice Department attorneys John Yoo and Jay Bybee? Were you ever subjected to torture techniques described in those memos?

DH: I have read them but it was some time ago and I cannot currently recollect all that they contained. Some of the techniques I was subjected to from the memos was being chained to the floor, known as “stress positions.” Sleep deprivation was an everyday occurrence during all of the years I spent in GTMO. Noise manipulation also happened often depending on what camp I was in. They used chainsaw motors and loud music in Camp Delta. They used temperature extremes on me, which meant subjecting me to the freezing cold because they knew I have a low tolerance to the cold. Sensory deprivation, prolonged isolation and other psychological manipulation techniques were also used on me (injecting me with substances, giving me cold and sometimes green food such as eggs, putting cameras up on the ceiling). They also used techniques that exploited my fears.

TO: You write that at Camp Echo that guards were placed to observe you constantly and that they wrote notes about your every behavior. Did you ever ask these guards what their instructions were, or if they knew what their superiors did with these notes? Did they ever tell you?

DH: We were observed in all camps. Guards always carried a pen and note book having been ordered to write down everything we did, including the trivial such as what we did to pass the time and what we spoke about when other detainees were around. They even recorded how we went to the bathroom, i.e. did we shield ourselves from neighboring detainees or guards and if so, how? Nothing went un-noted. This information was combined with personality traits learnt from interrogations, ranging from how we spoke to how we responded to the so called “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The end result was the US government compiling files on each of us, including a micro level psychoanalysis. They knew our likes and dislikes, fears and weaknesses. These files were then used against us in interrogation and in daily camp life. It was about crushing and defeating us, to make us become so desperate that we would do and agree to anything to escape. Collecting this information and what they used it for was no secret and some guards explained this program when in private. In Camp Echo guards who sat outside our cages staring at us twenty four hours a day had to write what we were doing every fifteen minutes night and day. The interrogation rooms of Camp Delta had an entire wall as a one way observation glass. Behind these walls sat teams of so-called experts: Intelligence officers, behavioral scientists, psychologists; people who made conclusions upon which they decided what techniques were to be employed. By this I mean what programs the detainee would be subjected to in his cage such as sleep deprivation, noise or food ‚Äòmanipulation‚Äô. There was no shortage of ideas, resources, expertise, or personnel. A lot of effort went into these customized interrogations. Nothing was private. We were violated internally, psychologically, spiritually. They probed and tinkered in recesses so deep; parts of ourselves we are not conscious of or in touch with in our daily lives and may not even connect with and discover in our lifetimes.

TO: Did you ever meet separately with a psychologist or psychiatrist when at Guantanamo, for ostensibly psychological reasons, either a psychological test or assessment, or for supposed treatment of any sort?

DH: No, but they did approach me occasionally during the last year or so I spent in GTMO to see if I would talk and cooperate. Apart from their contributions in interrogations they were always lurking in the back ground, waiting to “help a detainee,” but to really act as another prong to interrogation. If a detainee even whispered for such medical intervention a “mental health expert,” would appear with a pocket of unknown medication and a long list of probing questions. They were not there to help, but to harm. We knew this and so I always refused to speak with them when they offered. If I did speak with them, such as the period when I eventually, after two years, had limited access to a lawyer for example, the questions would have been centered on how I intended to defend myself and any court actions I was considering. All they wanted was information, or to find a new way to defeat you.

TO: Were psychologists and/or medical professionals present at all interrogations? Were the interrogations ever stopped to check your heart rate and/or pulse?

DH: The major physical beatings I endured occurred in Afghanistan, during transportation and en-route to GTMO. During those sessions, one was around 10 hours, my vital signs were checked often. In GTMO medical personnel were not in the same room as me during actual interrogations but from my understanding they were monitoring my interrogations from behind the one way glass in Camp Delta. For other detainees, such as those being shocked or water boarded, medical personnel were present, or if drugs were being administrated during interrogation as I describe in my book when they extracted false confessions from one of the UK detainees. They were present when I was injected in the spine, but that experience is one that I don’t like to talk about.

TO: Have your attorneys tried to get a copy of your medical records?

DH: Yes, but with no luck. We gave up thinking me might be allowed to see them long ago. Even upon return to Australian where I was forced to spend the first seven months in isolated detention as part of the agreement to get out of GTMO. My family requested an independent blood test be taken on my return to Australia. They were refused without an excuse. It was nearly eight months since GTMO and about a year since being given medication before I was allowed to have my first blood test. I was informed that too much time had passed to see what I had been given.

TO: During your interrogations, did the interrogators ever ask you questions about Iraq ?

DH: No, the policy of incommunicado was strictly enforced, for years we knew absolutely nothing about the outside world. We weren’t even meant to know the time of day, let alone our location, especially any news. The first time I learnt about the war in Iraq was the end of 2003. A guard was kind enough to allow me to read his copy of FHM magazine and it contained an article about the US invasion, otherwise I would not have known. Rumors of a war in Iraq did not begin to circulate amongst the detainees until 2004 and was viewed with skepticism by most. The military did not inform us officially of the Iraq invasion until late 2006 by placing large posters of Saddam hanging from a noose around the camps with slogans splashed across the front like, “this could be you.” It was only then that detainees believed that the war had taken place.

TO: You have written eloquently of your terrible experience with what you say was medical experimentation, calling it the worst and darkest of your experiences there. Have you talked with any other detainees about whether they had similar experiences? How do you think about it now?

DH: When I was injected in the back of the neck I was being held in isolation, so I was unable to discuss what had happened with other detainees. A year passed before I was eventually able to see and communicate with fellow detainees, and I am unable to remember today if I discussed that particular personal experience with them. We did discuss medical experimentation in general however. A detainee with UK citizenship described being injected daily, resulting in one of his testicles becoming swollen and racked with pain. Along with these daily injections he was subjected to mind games by interrogators, medical personnel, and guards whom worked as a team. Under these conditions they were able to extract written false confessions from him. How I experienced the injection at the base of my neck is described in detail in my book. In a nutshell, I felt my soul had been violated. That is just one experience I had with medication. There were many pills and injections, plus constant blood tests over the years. Everybody regardless of their citizenship should acknowledge that medical experimentation, whether on human beings or animals, is unacceptable. As with animals, we were held as prisoners when these procedures were forced upon us against our will. And as with animals, we were voiceless.

TO: Did any interrogator or other official working for the US government ever use the word “torture” or “experiment” as you were being interrogated?

DH: I don’t remember the word torture being used but there were many ways to imply it. After a torture session for example an interrogator would just say, “the treatment you have recently endured can always be repeated,” and threats were often made referring to past treatment or what was happening to other detainees. Guards often alluded to GTMO as being a big laboratory where we were subjected to their government’s well-honed techniques. I remember in the early days while being held aboard a US ship when a soldier said, “be strong man no matter what they do to you, just keep your head in God man,”. It didn’t leave me with much confidence.

TO: Did you ever sign any document stating that you consented to the medications/injections you received? Did anyone ever ask you to sign such a document?

DH: I had two surgeries while in GTMO. One was for a double hernia, while the other was to remove painful golf ball size lumps on my chest. The cause of the lumps or what they were was never explained to me but research since my release indicates that it was either the mediations I was forced to take or the extreme stress levels may have been responsible. On the two occasions I was operated on I was asked to sign a consent form, which I did. However my permission was not sought nor had I any choice when it came to being forced fed tablets, or the numerous injections that we were all given. Many blood tests were also taken consistently over the years I was detained.

TO: How typical was it, do you think, that interrogators attempted to get prisoners to become agents for their government?

DH: Interrogators attempted to bribe detainees with food, bed sheets, toilet paper and other “luxuries‚” to become spies and to give information about other detainees. On occasion some detainees in GTMO became so drained and broken that they would succumb to the temptation. Interrogators tried everything to make detainees “confess,” including being asked to lie via imagination or simply to agree to an interrogator’s theories. Interrogators became desperate with the passing of time to find and pin actual crimes on detainees, and paper trails have shown they were willing to manipulate evidence in their favor. There was one time in 2003 when we were all asked if we would work for the US government performing secret operations off the island, somewhere abroad. Nearly every detainee laughed at this question and word quickly spread so we knew we weren’t alone. Apparently the proposition was a part of their profiling system. Interrogators worked around the clock to break us. Once broken, detainees were asked to agree to anything by interrogators, to repeat after them, to sign confessions, to be false witnesses, or to sow discord amongst detainees.

TO: When did you become aware that journalists were writing about torture at Guantanamo and at prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan?

DH: Not until the photos from Abu Ghraib in Iraq had become public. I found the public debate interesting. At first it was, “are they being tortured or not.” Then once torture was confirmed, the debate evolved to, “is it acceptable, is it justified, is it legal?” I am surprised by how many people still try to justify torture and support it as government policy, as an extra “necessary” tool to tackle terrorism.

TO: Do you know if any prisoners ever died at Guantanamo while you were there?

DH: Four died during my time in Guantanamo.

TO: Have you heard about the three prisoners who allegedly committed suicide in June 2006? Do you know anything about them? Do you believe they committed suicide?

DH: Suicide is possible in that situation, but evidence has emerged in various forms and from various sources suggesting foul play. Some witnesses are soldiers and have said that they believe that the detainees were “accidentally‚” killed during an interrogation at a secret camp on the island called “Camp No‚” as in no, it doesn’t exist. It seems they pushed their dangerous techniques too far. The fact that the organs were removed from the bodies so that an independent autopsy could not be carried out raises more questions than answers. This topic is covered in detail in my book with researched references pointing to foul play.

TO: Did you ever interact with Shaker Aamer, the last British resident still held at Guantanamo?

DH: I saw him on the odd occasion over the years and exchanged greetings, otherwise I never had the chance to talk or interact with him. The military has often kept him separated from other detainees and I believe subjected him to horrific treatment. When I left GTMO in early 2007 I knew that he was being held in isolation in Camp Echo because that is where I was. Whenever I saw him he always looked so skinny, weak, and tired. I cannot understand why they continue to hold him and the nearly two hundred men still detained there.

TO: Were dogs ever used to invoke fear in you? You describe the use of chainsaws in your book. What was the purpose of this?

DH: Not personally, dogs were mainly used against detainees known to have a fear of them. Our individual fears and weaknesses were used against us as customized interrogations. The chainsaw engines kept at full revs were used as part of their noise manipulation program. It prevented detainees from communicating with each other, prevented sleep, and basically drove us mad.

TO: Can you tell me whether you have any flashbacks and if so what triggers it? When that happens, what do you start to feel?

DH: Day time flashbacks consist of those moments of vivid clarity as I described previously, but it is the dreams that are the worst. I see myself having to begin the long process of imprisonment again accompanied with vivid feelings of hopelessness and no knowledge of the future or how long it will last. The other dreams consist of gruesome medical experimentations too horrible to describe. Losing my personality, my identity, memories and self is much more frightening to me than any physical harm. It is these dreams that are the most common and terrifying.

TO: Do you remember former Guantanamo guards Brandon Neely and Albert Melise?

DH: Unfortunately, I don’t remember Neely from Camp X-ray, it was a very confusing time for me. We established contact last year, but I became aware of Neely some time ago when he flew to the UK and publicly met some of the former UK detainees. He apologized for what he and his government had done. He is a brave man and I admire his courage and moral values so it was an honor to speak with him. I remember the polite and respectful soldiers, and the bad, but especially the good men and women I spent time with privately, such as in Camp Echo. One of those good men is Albert Melise who made contact with me to apologize, to offer help, and to see if I was alright. I remember him well because he did what he could in that controlled high security environment to help slow the deterioration of my sanity for the few months I spent with him. He is another brave man that I respect and admire, to add his voice to the growing number of witnesses that are coming forward to publicly share the truth and expose that shameful time in our history. Melise did a lot to help me in those dark times, and it was a joy to hear his voice that first time as a free man. I hope to gather enough funds so I can fly these two men to Australia to thank them personally and show my gratitude for their friendship and trust. I’d like to show them my hospitality and my country, and to show them how much I appreciate their past kindness and current bravery. Neely and Melise were not alone in covertly showing humanity to myself and other detainees whenever they had the opportunity. A handshake, an apology (though that responsibility shouldn’t have to have been shouldered by them), even a simple hello and a smile goes a long way in an environment drowning in hostility and hatred. There were other soldiers who helped me in their own way and apologized for what was happening when no one else was around. As bad as that place was, and some of the people who worked there, they were all human and there is good in all of us. A good percentage of the soldiers were very young and most were only reservists who had never expected to be deployed. It was always interesting to watch the shock on their faces when they first entered the camps, a scene they had often seen only in old war movies and the realization that their government “did torture.” Some of these poor souls suffered greatly as they experienced the “other” America and struggled to carry out questionable orders. It is not just the tortured who suffer.

TO: What do you think should happen, if anything, to the individuals who tortured you and the government officials who sanctioned it?

DH: As for the soldiers I don’t think “following orders” is an excuse. Interrogators should be disciplined and charged if found to have acted illegally. All medical personnel who participated in interrogations, whether doctors, nurses, corpsman, psychologists and psychiatrists should be investigated and banned from practicing, even if they only gave advice or kept silent if aware of what was happening. I also think that the highest ranking military officials, politicians, and lawyers who created and supported the system need to go in front of an international court.

But these are not the only issues. GTMO should be closed, torture abolished, military commissions scrapped, renditions ceased, indefinite detention should be a thing of the past, and people (including children) should no longer be made to “disappear” into unknown black site prisons.

Justice is coming slowly however. Former Guantanamo soldiers, translators, FBI and other US employees, even prosecutors, have gone public to expose the truth of GTMO and many documents have made it into the public realm. Spain and Germany had begun the process of prosecuting former president Bush and members of his regime but after being pressured by the US they dropped the proceedings. The latest country said to be exploring the possibility of prosecuting US officials is Poland for the US using its soil in its rendition program. Last year Italy convicted 26 CIA agents in absentia for their involvement in kidnapping an Italian citizen and then dumping him in the woods near his home in the middle of the night a year later. The former UK detainees were recently paid just over a million pounds each in compensation and the Australian government has just paid compensation to the other Australian who was held in GTMO after being tortured in Egypt. In both instances these men were required to drop their court cases against the state. Wikileaks has been another vehicle shedding light on what took place at GTMO and beyond, exposing those responsible for illegal acts. Sometime this year about thirteen hundred diplomatic cables are to be released concerning Australia. I have been told to look out for information concerning my case. Especially cables that talk about the treatment I was receiving, and who was involved with the political interference and creation of the plea deal that I was forced to sign if I was ever to come home. I will be watching with great interest once all that information comes to light.

TO: Is there anything the US government or the Australian government told you that you can never speak about?

There was a one year gag order upon my release and I had to sign a plea agreement that said I had never been mistreated by US officials or their employees while in US detention. I am also not allowed to challenge or “collaterally attack‚” my conviction, seek compensation or other remedies, or sue anyone for my illegal imprisonment and treatment. I have been advised that no court would uphold the plea agreement.

TO: There aren’t many Caucasians at Guantanamo? How were you treated by the other detainees? And now that you’ve been released, how have you been treated by the public?

DH: There weren’t many Caucasians at GTMO but I wasn’t the only one. Before the release of detainees began there must have been close to forty European citizens spread between eight or nine western European countries. Usually most detainees treated each other the same regardless of their geo-political or cultural background. The Australian public has been wonderful; very welcoming, glad to see me home and very helpful. I often have people approach me to say hello.

TO: How did you and your wife Aloysia meet?

DH: Aloysia has been involved in human rights activism for years and in her efforts for social justice became involved in the Australian campaign to see me released from Guantanamo bay. Over the years she came to know my dad quite well, and he played a part in our relationship.

TO: You have a long life ahead of you. What would you like to accomplish? What are your hopes and dreams?

DH: When I was released I wondered if refugees newly arrived in a country felt similar. I had to begin a new life from the beginning, from collecting a set of identification papers to such privileges as a vehicle license and obtaining a Medicare card. Despite long term plans such as owning a home I have been taking a day at a time, receiving treatment for physical and mental injuries, finding employment and working, and when I get the chance or in the mood fishing or socializing. Writing my book for two years took up a lot of my time, as does keeping abreast of all the continuous developments regarding GTMO, the so-called war on terror and its related policies, and those whose lives (detained or not) they continue to effect, including my own. Life is very busy for me. Finding the love of my life has been my biggest accomplishment, of course! And then writing my book. Otherwise there is a lot of work left to do and in the years to come I will continue to rebuild my life, seek normality, and to live in peace with the hardships of the past far behind me.

Obama Team Feared Coup If He Prosecuted War Crimes September 7, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice.
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Roger’s note: This article should be on the front page of every newspaper in every city in the country.  It explains not only the Obama Administration’s failure to uphold the Constitution by prosecuting the known war criminals of the Bush/Cheney Administration, but it in effect explains the entire Obama presidency.  If only a nutcase conspiracy theorist would suggest that there was seriours consideration at the highest levels about the “clear and present danger” of a coup d’etat against the democratically elected president of the United States, then I suppose the Dean of the University of California School of Law is a nutcase.  Note the cruel irony of the notion that Obama chickened out on prosecution because he feared the Republican would obstruct.

By Andrew Krieg

www.opednews.com, September 7, 2011

Christopher Edley, Jr.

President-elect Obama’s advisors feared in 2008 that authorities would oust him in a coup and that Republicans would block his policy agenda if he prosecuted Bush-era war crimes, according to a law school dean who served as one of Obama’s top transition advisers.

University of California at Berkeley Law School Dean Christopher Edley, Jr., above, the sixth highest-ranking member of the 2008 post-election transition team preparing Obama’s administration, revealed the team’s thinking on Sept. 2 in moderating a forum on 9/11 held by his law school (also known as Boalt Hall). Edley was seeking to explain Obama’s “look forward” policy on suspected Bush-era law-breaking that the president-elect announced on a TV talk show in January 2009.

But Edley’s rationale implies that Obama, or at least his team, feared the military/national security forces that the president is supposed be commanding — and that Republicans have intimidated him right from the start of his presidency even after voters in 2008 rejected Republicans by the largest combined presidential-congressional mandate in recent U.S. history.

Edley responded to my request for additional information by providing a description of the transition team’s fears. Edley said that transition officials, not Obama, agreed that he faced the possibility of a coup.

I’m grateful, of course, that this eminent scholar took time on short notice to describe such important decision-making. But I have two blunt reactions that frame the details below:

Our country has a long history that the President is the boss, not the military or the covert agencies. President Eisenhower stood up for this principle time and again, including in his Farewell Address in 1961 warning of the dangers of the “military-industrial complex.” So did President Truman when he fired the popular General MacArthur over different strategies for the Korean War. As for Republicans, the Democratic President Johnson knew enough not to treat them any better than his friends — whom he treated terribly many times.

Second, shouldn’t such an important matter have been revealed long ago? The mainstream news organizations, courts and Congress are supposed to be ferreting out this kind of information.

Here, it took an anti-war activist asking the right question during Q&A at a law school forum to bring the tale to light. I suppose that’s inspirational in a sense: Perhaps it’s like a destitute blind person stumbling on a bag of money and finally, with the help of kind strangers, being able to afford an eye operation. But is this really the best procedure?

You be the judge.

First, we summarize below what happened. Those interested in more historical background and related controversies can find them on the longer version of this column cross-posted today on the website of the Justice Integrity Project, the non-partisan legal reform group I lead.

 John Yoo

Overview

Longtime peace advocate Susan Harman, a Californian, elicited Edley’s opinions during Q&A at the Boalt Hall forum, which was organized by the school’s Miller Institute for Global Challenges and the Law. Boalt Hall’s faculty includes Professor John C. Yoo, above, a former Justice Department attorney with stellar career credentials but a notorious reputation for his legal justifications for waterboarding terror suspects and similar Executive Branch abuses.

Harman shared her observations Friday by email and Google Groups with our Justice Integrity Project and others. David Swanson, the prominent antiwar activist, wrote a blog  noting that accountability under the law was a top concern of Obama supporters, as illustrated by the incoming administration’s own 2008 poll of supporter suggestions.

Around that time, I published my first blogs in a series of Huffington Post and OpEd News columns. The first chronicled my fond hopes for Obama, with a scoop about “Why the President “Stepped Out’ During His Inaugural Parade.”  Next was a call for the new administration to “Probe the Past to Protect the Future.” Finally, and more ominously, came my reports on the huge scandals involving the Bush Justice Department’s frame-up of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, his state’s most important Democrat. His persecution, like those of many other Bush-Rove political victims, continues under the Obama Justice Department.

Summing Up

With this context, last Friday’s Boalt Hall forum provides vital new insight on why the White House and Justice Department have been so disappointing in responding to public demands for accountability for  injustices, particularly for clear-cut cases during the Bush administration that carry fingerprints of malefactors such as Rove and Yoo.

Let’s start with Harman’s account below of her comments during the audience Q&A segment at Boalt Hall’s forum Sept. 2:

I said I was overwhelmed by the surreality of Yoo being on the law faculty . . . when he was singlehandedly responsible for the three worst policies of the Bush Administration. They all burbled about academic freedom and the McCarthy era, and said it isn’t their job to prosecute him. Duh.

Dean Chris Edley volunteered that he’d been party to very high level discussions during Obama’s transition about prosecuting the criminals. He said they decided against it. I asked why. Two reasons: 1) it was thought that the CIA, NSA, and military would revolt, and 2) it was thought the Repugnants would retaliate by blocking every piece of legislation they tried to move (which, of course, they’ve done anyhow).

I wrote Edley to confirm Harman’s quotations, which he did. Edley, dean of the law school since 2004, also sent me links to his statements on the Yoo appointment here and earlier here.  And, he amplified with six bulletin-points, primarily about the Obama transition process and academic freedom for professors.

Regarding the transition, he wrote:

I never discussed these matters with the President Elect; the summary offered by one of the senior national security folks was, “We don’t want to engage in a witch hunt,” to which I replied, “Neither do I, but I also care about the Rule of Law and, whether or not there ultimately are prosecutions, the question of whether laws were broken and where the lines should be drawn deserve to be aired”; that discussion as a whole was brief.  

Also:

My point about politics is simple and non-controversial to people trained in law. I was not referring to politics trumping Law in the sense of President Nixon thinking he could do anything he wanted with respect to the Watergate scandal. I was referring to what every first year law student learns about prosecutorial discretion and the political accountability of prosecutors, which the “system” assumes will be a check on prosecutorial abuses more often than a source of them. 

Regarding Yoo’s invitation to return to Boalt Hall as a faculty member after his work in the Bush Justice Department, Edley wrote:

A frustrating thing to me about these discussions is that non-academics don’t seem particularly to appreciate the fragility and importance of academic freedom.  A university isn’t equipped or competent to do a factual investigation of what took place at DOJ or in secret White House meetings. Nor should it make judgments about what faculty do outside of their professorial duties when there is no evident impermissible impact on their teaching. (For Professor Yoo, there is none.)  The right forum investigating and punishing alleged crimes is in the criminal justice system, not a research university. Our job is already tough enough.

Finally, another frustrating thing is that advocates are often fierce in their belief that they know what the law is, and they know when someone else’s view is extreme. Your typical law professor is, I think, far more humble. We tend to see multiple sides to important issues, and lots of gray. Even if we are convinced of something, we work hard to understand the counterarguments, just to be sure. If there aren’t any, then MAYBE one could characterize the other position as extreme. My guess is that Professor Yoo’s constitutional theories and statutory interpretation would win at least three votes among current justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. I don’t like it, but that’s my reading of the case law. Does 3 out of 9 make it extreme?  If so, then a lot of my heroes are or were “extreme.”

Much as I appreciate his efforts to provide these expert, behind-the-scenes insights, I’m afraid I’m more comfortable with a few basic rules:

First, the U.S. president should be a fearless leader who enforces our laws with a passion for justice, to the best of his ability. Many in the justice system — both intrepid government agents and taxpayer-protecting whistleblowers alike — are risking their health, money and even lives on a frequent basis. Why shouldn’t those at the top?

Second, as one who works a block from the site on Pennsylvania Avenue where Lincoln’s assassins planned their crime (where the Newseum is now located), I’d suggest that any conspirators against today’s elected leadership should be prepared to pay a similar and rapid price to the hangman; Third, academic freedom is a fine goal, but so is freedom from torture and freedom from being falsely imprisoned for political reasons.

Knowing the law constitutes the basic tool of every lawyer. But working for what the law  should be  is an even higher calling for our lawyers and top office-holders. And in a democracy, I’m not the first to stress that our highest office does not go by the title Senator, Justice or even President. Instead, it’s “Citizen.”

Andrew Kreig is executive director of the Justice Integrity Project, a Washington, DC-based non-profit organization focused on reforming abusive federal investigative procedures. 

He is an attorney, non-profit executive and investigative journalist.  

As President and CEO of the Wireless Communications Association International from 1996 until 2008, Kreig led its evolution into the premier worldwide advocate for high-capacity wireless services. Previously, he authored some two thousand bylined news and magazine articles, plus the pioneering 1987 book “Spiked: How Chain Management Corrupted America’s Oldest Newspaper.” The book documented unethical practices within the news media, including misleading applications by prominent news industry executives to win coveted Pulitzer Prizes. 

Listed in numerous Who’s Who volumes for more than a dozen years, he has lectured on five continents about communications issues and has been active in civic affairs in Washington.  He holds degrees from Yale Law School and University of Chicago School of Law.  His previous employers include the Hartford Courant, Connecticut General Assembly Speaker Irving Stolberg, Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf in Boston and the global law firm Latham & Watkins.

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Justice Dept. Gives Torture a Pass July 21, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
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Published on Wednesday, July 20, 2011 by OtherWords

What will we say when other governments follow our example by providing immunity from prosecution to torturers?

  by  Peter Weiss

The Romans had an expression for it: “Nulla poena sine lege,” no punishment without a law. But people sometimes forget that the opposite is also true: Without punishment for offenders, a law itself can die.

The Justice Department recently announced that, of the 101 cases involving alleged illegal treatment of post-9/11 detainees by the CIA and its contractors, 99 were being closed. The remaining two, which involved deaths in custody, would continue to be investigated.

The decision to drop virtually all these cases is based on a policy promulgated by Attorney General Eric Holder shortly after he took office. Reiterating this policy on June 30, Holder wrote that the Justice Department “would not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees.”

This refers to the infamous “torture memos” provided in 2002 to Alberto Gonzales while he was White House counsel by John Yoo, then Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Jay Bybee, who was Assistant Attorney General and now serves as a judge on the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. These memos, which sanctioned virtually all forms of “enhanced interrogation” (or torture, in common parlance), were withdrawn as legally deficient by Jack Goldsmith, President George W. Bush’s head of the Office of Legal Counsel, and specifically disavowed later by President Barack Obama himself.Creative Commons image by the US Dept. of Agricultureholder

Holder’s recent move is completely consistent with Obama’s insistence on looking “forward, not back” when it comes to accountability for torture. Prosecuting most of these cases would require seriously examining the perpetrators’ faith that the Yoo memos acted as a “golden shield,” as one Bush administration official called them. But the law says that this defense, “the defense of superior orders,” doesn’t work when the act in question is palpably or manifestly illegal.

It didn’t work for Lt. William Calley when he and his platoon killed over 300 women, children, and elderly men in the village of My Lai during the Vietnam War. It didn’t work for Lynndie England, the hapless army reservist convicted of torturing and abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib.

And it didn’t work for most of the defendants at Nuremberg.

Why should it now work for CIA agents and others who relied “in good faith” on the torture memos? The journalist Christopher Hitchens was himself waterboarded by Special Forces soldiers to help him decide whether it was torture. His conclusion: “If waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.” Indeed, since the Spanish inquisition, waterboarding has never been considered anything other than torture, and in this century torture is absolutely forbidden under both domestic and international law.

And waterboarding is only one of several torture techniques used by U.S. personnel in the years following 9/11, including prolonged sleep deprivation, shackling in stress positions, and exposure to extreme cold and heat. All of these have been largely or completely abandoned under the Obama administration. But what lesson are we to draw from the fact that no prosecutions have been started, nor are likely to start, against those who authorized and practiced them? What will we say when other governments follow our example by providing immunity from prosecution to torturers on the basis of phony, made-to-order legal memos?

June 30, 2011 will go down as a dark day in the annals of the struggle against torture.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

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Peter Weiss

Peter Weiss is a vice president of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

US Calls Mount to Investigate Bush Era Officials for Torture July 12, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, Human Rights, Torture.
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Published on Tuesday, July 12, 2011 by Inter Press Service

  by Naseema Noor

WASHINGTON – Senior officials under the former George W. Bush administration knowingly authorized the torture of terrorism suspects held under United States custody, a Human Right Watch (HRW) report released here Tuesday revealed.

Titled “Getting Away with Torture”, the 107-page report presents a plethora of evidence that HRW says warrants criminal investigations against former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director George Tenet and Bush himself, among others. (photo:  pantagrapher)

Titled “Getting Away with Torture”, the 107-page report presents a plethora of evidence that HRW says warrants criminal investigations against former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director George Tenet and Bush himself, among others.

Newly de-classified memos, transcriptions of congressional hearings, and other sources indicate that Bush officials authorized the use of interrogation techniques almost universally considered torture – such as waterboarding – as well as the operation of covert CIA prisons abroad and the rendition of detainees to other countries where they were subsequently tortured.

HRW also criticized the United States under the current Barack Obama administration for failing to meets it obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Torture to investigate acts of torture and other inhumane treatment.

“President Obama has defended the decision not to prosecute officials in his predecessor’s administration by arguing that the country needs ‘to look forward, not backward,'” said HRW executive director Kenneth Roth. “[He] has treated torture as an unfortunate policy choice rather than a crime.”

To date, both the Bush and Obama administrations have successfully prevented courts from reviewing the merits of torture allegations in civil lawsuits by arguing that the cases involve sensitive information, which, if revealed, might endanger national security.

Last year, Bush defended the use of waterboarding on the grounds that the Justice Department deemed it legal. In 2002, lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel had drafted memos approving the legality of a list of abusive interrogation techniques, including waterboarding. However, HRW documents evidence that shows senior administration officials pressured the politically-appointed lawyers to write these legal justifications.

“Senior Bush officials shouldn’t be allowed to shape and hand-pick legal advice and then hide behind it as if were autonomously delivered,” Roth said.

HRW further recommends that Congress establish an independent, nonpartisan commission to examine the mistreatment of detainees in U.S. custody since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and compensate victims of torture, as required by the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

“Without [a commission], torture very much remains within the toolbox of accepted policies. People are not going to back away from it until there is accountability,” Karen Greenberg, executive director of New York University’s Center on Law and Security and author of “The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo’s First 100 Days”, told IPS.

In 2009, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder appointed a special prosecutor to investigate detainee abuse, but limited the mandate to only “unauthorized” acts, which effectively excluded violations like waterboarding and forcing prisoners to maintain stress positions that were approved by the Bush administration.

But on Jun. 30 of this year, the Justice Department announced that it would continue probing only two of nearly 100 allegations of torture. The open cases involve the deaths of two men – Manadel al-Jamadi, an Iraqi, and Gul Rahman, an Afghan – in CIA custody.

Human and civil rights group criticized the narrow scope of the torture investigations, while HRW said they failed to address the systematic character of the abuses.

“The U.S. government’s pattern of abuse across several countries did not result from acts of individuals who broke the rules,” Roth said. “It resulted from decisions made by senior U.S. officials to bend, ignore, or cast aside the rules.” If the U.S. does not pursue criminal investigations, HRW is urging other countries to exercise universal jurisdiction under international law and prosecute the aforementioned officials.

A number of former detainees have already taken this step by filing criminal complaints in courts outside of the U.S.

In February 2011, alleged victims of torture living in Switzerland planned to file a suit against Bush, causing him to cancel his trip there.

Another investigation is underway in Spain, where the Center for Constitutional Rights and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights requested a subpoena for a former commander of the Abu Ghraib prison to explain his role in the alleged torture of four detainees.

Washington’s failure to investigate its own citizens for abuses like torture ultimately undercuts its efforts to hold other governments accountable for human rights violations, according to HRW.

“The U.S. is right to call for justice when serious international crimes are committed in places like Darfur, Libya, and Sri Lanka, but there should be no double standards,” Roth said.

“When the U.S. government shields its own officials from investigation and prosecution, it makes it easier for others to dismiss global efforts to bring violators of serious crimes to justice,” he added.

Failing to prosecute ultimately sends the message that “if you are powerful, you can get away with even torture,” Greenberg said.

Copyright © 2011 IPS-Inter Press Service

A Memo on Torture to John Yoo June 2, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Torture.
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Published on Thursday, June 2, 2011 by The Guardian/UK

The former Bush administration official continues to defend the indefensible: his authorization of a disastrous policy of abuse

 

Whether torture helped lead to the killing of Osama bin Laden or not, the beating of John Yoo’s tell-tale heart has compelled him to speak. His preemptive rush, in a recent op-ed article for the Wall Street Journal, to vindicate the Bush administration’s torture policies that he and Jay Bybee created betrays his guilt for approving one of the most reprehensible policies in US history – a policy of systematic torture that not only failed to provide actionable intelligence, but undermined the security of the United States.

In the infamous torture memos of 2002, Yoo and Bybee, authorized “enhanced interrogation” techniques (EITs), acts previously recognized by the US as torture – and the same torture methods used on US soldiers to obtain false confessions during the Korean war. In 131 pages of memos, the two justice department legal counsels redefined torture in a manner that required medical monitoring of all EITs, but failed to provide any meaningful provisions to detect medical evidence of torture as defined by them. Moreover, their “good faith” defence against criminal liability for torture rested on two presumptions, that interrogators would not exceed the severe physical and severe and prolonged mental pain thresholds for torture as defined by Yoo and Bybee, and, even if they did, that it would not constitute torture unless these physical and psychological harms were the precise objectives of the interrogators.

For more than 20 years, I have been documenting medical evidence of torture and testifying as a medical expert in courts of law. As the principle author of the UN Manual on the Effective Investigation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the Istanbul Protocol), I am well aware of the international standards of assessing medical evidence of torture. I have served as a public member of US human rights delegations and criticized other governments for the very practices that John Yoo authorized and continues to defend. Over the past several years, I have been called upon to serve as a medical expert in a number of Guantánamo cases and have evaluated, at first hand, the physical and psychological evidence of torture alleged by detainees.

In each of the cases that I have evaluated, the physical and psychological evidence of torture is consistent with the UN Convention Against Torture’s definition of torture – as well as Yoo and Bybee’s definition of torture. In some cases, Yoo’s condition of “specific intent” to commit acts of torture is clear from declassified interrogation logs, which reveal systematic and prolonged efforts to induce psychological states of debility, dependence and dread, euphemistically referred to as ”ego down”, ”futility” and ”fear up harsh.”. The fact that Yoo and Bybee raised the thresholds for physical and mental pain of torture without any provisions to assess possible evidence of torture suggests criminal negligence and possibly the intent to commit and conceal a systematic policy of torture.

Former assistant attorney general Yoo not only wants to conceal the evidence of the torture that he authorized; he wants us to believe that his torture policy was useful in fighting terrorism. Unfortunately, he fails to mention any of the negative consequences of the policies. For starters, the US invasion of Iraq was justified, in part, on the basis of the false confession of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi who, under pain of torture, confessed to knowledge of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Torture not only aided in the justification of the Iraq war, which resulted in more than 4,000 US casualties, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi casualties, and costs in excess of $1tn; the subsequent occupation served as the primary recruiting tool for al-Qaida in Iraq.

US torture practices have also jeopardized the effective legal prosecutions of suspected terrorists, which has led, in part, to the Obama administration being forced to revert to holding the trials of the alleged 9/11 conspirators in military tribunals rather than civilian courts; torture has also placed US soldiers at greater risk of harm, and undermined the capacity for the US to hold other countries accountable for human rights abuses.

The reason why torture is universally prohibited in international and domestic law the world over, however, is not because it is ineffective or counterproductive (though it is). Torture has been universally prohibited because in the aftermath of the second world war, the nations of the world agreed, under the leadership of the United States, that respect for basic human dignity required the absolute prohibition of torture under any circumstance.

The acts of torture that John Yoo and other Bush administration officials so proudly defend are nothing less than war crimes that, in the absence of accountability, continue to undermine the United States’ claim to respect the rule of law.

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

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Vincent Iacopino

Vincent Iacopino is senior medical adviser to Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and adjunct professor of medicine with the University of Minnesota medical school. Vincent has participated in health and human rights research, investigations and advocacy for 18 years, and is a senior research fellow at the Human Rights Centre of the University of California, Berkeley

Torture May Have Slowed Hunt For Bin Laden, Not Hastened It May 6, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture, War on Terror.
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Dan Froomkin, www.huffingtonpost.com, May 6, 2011

Torture apologists are reaching precisely the wrong conclusion from the back-story of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, say experienced interrogators and intelligence professionals.

Defenders of the Bush administration’s interrogation policies have claimed vindication from reports that bin Laden was tracked down in small part due to information received from brutalized detainees some six to eight years ago.

But that sequence of events — even if true — doesn’t demonstrate the effectiveness of torture, these experts say. Rather, it indicates bin Laden could have been caught much earlier had those detainees been interrogated properly.

“I think that without a doubt, torture and enhanced interrogation techniques slowed down the hunt for bin Laden,” said an Air Force interrogator who goes by the pseudonym Matthew Alexander and located Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, in 2006.

It now appears likely that several detainees had information about a key al Qaeda courier — information that might have led authorities directly to bin Laden years ago. But subjected to physical and psychological brutality, “they gave us the bare minimum amount of information they could get away with to get the pain to stop, or to mislead us,” Alexander told The Huffington Post.

“We know that they didn’t give us everything, because they didn’t provide the real name, or the location, or somebody else who would know that information,” he said.

In a 2006 study by the National Defense Intelligence College, trained interrogators found that traditional, rapport-based interviewing approaches are extremely effective with even the most hardened detainees, whereas coercion consistently builds resistance and resentment.

“Had we handled some of these sources from the beginning, I would like to think that there’s a good chance that we would have gotten this information or other information,” said Steven Kleinman, a longtime military intelligence officerwho has extensively researched, practiced and taught interrogation techniques.

“By making a detainee less likely to provide information, and making the information he does provide harder to evaluate, they hindered what we needed to accomplish,” said Glenn L. Carle, a retired CIA officer who oversaw the interrogation of a high-level detainee in 2002.

But the discovery and killing of bin Laden was enough for defenders of the Bush administration to declare that their policies had been vindicated.

Liz Cheney, daughter of the former vice president, quickly issued a statement declaring that she was “grateful to the men and women of America’s intelligence services who, through their interrogation of high-value detainees, developed the information that apparently led us to bin Laden.”

John Yoo, the lead author of the “Torture Memos,” wrote in the Wall Street Journal that bin Laden’s death “vindicates the Bush administration, whose intelligence architecture marked the path to bin Laden’s door.”

Former Bush secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld declared that “the information that came from those individuals was critically important.”

The Obama White House pushed back against that conclusion this week.

“The bottom line is this: If we had some kind of smoking-gun intelligence from waterboarding in 2003, we would have taken out Osama bin Laden in 2003,” Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council, told The New York Times.

Chronological detailsof the hunt for bin Laden remain murky, but piecing together various statements from administration and intelligence officials, it appears the first step may have been the CIA learning the nickname of an al Qaeda courier — Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — from several detainees picked up after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Then, in 2003, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the 9/11 mastermind, was captured, beaten, slammed into walls, shackled in stress positions and made to feel like he was drowning 183 times in a month. When asked about al-Kuwaiti, however, KSM denied that the he had anything to do with al Qaeda.

In 2004, officials detained a man named Hassan Ghul and brought him to one of the CIA’s black sites, where he identified al-Kuwaiti as a key courier.

A third detainee, Abu Faraj al-Libi, was arrested in 2005 and under CIA interrogation apparently denied knowing al-Kuwaiti at all.

Once the courier’s real name was established — about four years ago, and by other means — intelligence analysts stayed on the lookout for him. After he was picked up on a monitored phone call last year, he ultimately led authorities to bin Laden.

The link between the Bush-era interrogation regime and bin Laden’s killing, then, appears tenuous — especially since two of the three detainees in question apparently provided deceptive information about the courier even after being interrogated under durress.

“It simply strains credulity to suggest that a piece of information that may or may not have been gathered eight years ago somehow directly led to a successful mission on Sunday. That’s just not the case,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

But for Alexander, Kleinman and others, the key takeaway is not just that the torture didn’t work, but that it was actually counterproductive.

“The question is: What else did KSM have?” Alexander asked. And he’s pretty sure he knows the answer: KSM knew the courier’s real name, “or he knew who else knew his real name, or he knew how to find him — and he didn’t give any of that information,” Alexander said.

Alexander’s book, “Kill or Capture,” chronicles how the non-coercive interrogation of a dedicated al Qaeda member led to Zarqawi’s capture.

“I’m 100 percent confident that a good interrogator would have gotten additional leads” from KSM, Alexander said.

“Interrogation is all about getting access to someone’s uncorrupted memory,” explained Kleinman, who as an Air Force reserve colonel in Iraq in 2003 famously tried, but failed, to stop the rampant, systemic abuse of detainees there. “And you can’t get access to someone’s uncorrupted memory by applying psychological, physical or emotional force.”

Quite to the contrary, coercion is known to harden resistance. “It makes an individual hate you and find any way in their mind to fight back,” and it inhibits their recall, Kleinman said. Far preferable, he said, is a “more thoughtful, culturally-enlightened, science-based approach.”

“I never saw enhanced interrogation techniques work in Iraq; I never saw even harsh techniques work in Iraq,” Alexander said. “In every case I saw them slow us down, and they were always counterproductive to trying to get people to cooperate.”

Carle, who was not a trained interrogator, said he came to recognize that interrogation was a lot like something he did know how to do: manage intelligence assets in the field.

“Perverse and imbalanced as the relationship is between interrogator and detainee, it’s nonetheless a human relationship, and building upon that, manipulating the person, dealing straight with the person, simply coming to understand the person and vice versa, one can move forward,” he told reporters on a conference call Thursday.

Carle’s upcoming book, “The Interrogator,” chronicles his growing doubts about his orders from his superiors.

“The methods that I was urged to embrace, I found first-hand — putting aside the moral and legal issues, which we really cannot put aside — from a practical and a tactical and a strategic sense and a moral and legal one, the methods are counterproductive,” he said.

“They do not work,” he added. “They cause retrograde motion from what you’re seeking to accomplish. They increase resentment, not cooperation. They increase the difficulty in assessing what information you do hear is valid. They increase the likelihood that you will be given disinformation and have opposition from the person that you’re interrogating, across the board.”

Carle said the detainee he worked with regressed when coerced. “All it did was increase resentment and misery,” he said.

Larry Wilkerson, chief of staff under former secretary of state Colin Powell, said, “I’d be naive if I said it never worked,” referring to enhanced interrogation techniques.

“Of course, occasionally it works, Wilkerson said. “But most of the time, what torture is useful for is confessions. It’s not good for getting actionable intelligence.”

Experts agree that torture is particularly good at one thing: eliciting false confessions.

Bush-era interrogation techniques, were modeled after methods used by Chinese Communists to extract confessions from captured U.S. servicemen that they could then use for propaganda during the Korean War.

“Somehow our government decided that … these were effective means of obtaining information,” Carle said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

At a hearing in Guantanamo, several years after being waterboarded, KSM described how he would lie — specifically about bin Laden’s whereabouts — just to make the torture stop. “I make up stories,” Mohammed said. “Where is he? I don’t know. Then, he torture me,” KSM said of an interrogator. “Then I said, ‘Yes, he is in this area.'”

There are many other reasons to be skeptical of the argument that torture can lead to actionable intelligence, and specifically that enhanced interrogation led investigators to bin Laden.

Many of the positive accomplishments once cited in defense of enhanced interrogation have since been debunked.

And though its defenders are now trying to talk up the significance of the earlier intelligence, around the time of al-Libi’s interrogation, the CIA was not stepping up the hunt for bin Laden. Instead, it was closing down the unit that had been dedicated to hunting bin Laden and his top lieutenants.

This new scenario hardly supports a defense of torture on the grounds that it’s appropriate in “ticking time bomb” scenarios, Alexander said. “Show me an interrogator who says that eight years is a good result.”

The interrogation experts also noted the significant role Yoo, Rumsfeld and former Vice President Cheney each played in opening the door to controversial interrogation practices.

Wilkerson has long argued that there is ample evidence showing that “the Office of the Vice President bears responsibility for creating an environment conducive to the acts of torture and murder committed by U.S. forces in the war on terror.”

Yoo wrote several memos that explicitly sanctioned measures that many have deemed constitute torture, and the memo from Rumsfeld authorizing the use of stress positions, hooding and dogs was widely seen as a sign to the troops that the “gloves could come off.”

“These guys are trying to save their reputations, for one thing,” Alexander said. “They have, from the beginning, been trying to prevent an investigation into war crimes.”

“They don’t want to talk about the long term consequences that cost the lives of Americans,” Alexander added. The way the U.S. treated its prisoners “was al-Qaeda’s number-one recruiting tool and brought in thousands of foreign fighters who killed American soldiers,” Alexander said. “And who want to live with that on their conscience?”

From Bush himself on down, the defenders of his interrogation regime have long insisted that it never amounted to torture. But waterboarding, the single most controversial aspect of Bush’s interrogation regime, has been an archetypal form of torture dating back to the Spanish Inquisition. It involves strapping someone to a board and simulating drowning them. The U.S. government has historically considered it a war crime.

One can quibble over the proper term for some of the other tactics employed with official sanction, including forced nudity, isolation, bombardment with noise and light, deprivation of food, forced standing, repeated beatings, applications of cold water, the use of dogs, slamming prisoners into walls, shackling them in stress positions and keeping them awake for as long as 180 hours. But they comprise violations of human dignity, as codified by the United Nations — and championed by the U.S. government — ever since World War II.

Many have argued that whether torture works or not is irrelevant — that it is flatly illegal, immoral, and contrary to core American principles — and that even if it were effective, it would still be anathema.

But that torture is unparalleled in its ability to obtain intelligence is the central argument of its defenders. To concede that torture doesn’t work — as Alexander, Kleinman and Carle, among others, say — would be to forfeit the whole game. It would be admitting that cruelty was both the means and the end.

And so the debate goes on.

This article has been updated to include more information on waterboarding and historical background on other interrogation techniques.

* * * * * *Dan Froomkin is senior Washington correspondent for The Huffington Post. You can send him an email, bookmark his page, subscribe to his RSS feed, follow him on Twitter, friend him on Facebook, and/or become a fan and get email alerts when he writes.

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