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Spanish Judge Reopens Guantánamo Torture Probe January 15, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Torture.
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Published on Sunday, January 15, 2012 by Common Dreams

Also: British authorities launch a probe into CIA renditions to Libya

– Common Dreams staff

Just days after the 10th anniversary of the Guantánamo, the notorious prison remains in the news. On Thursday, Witness Against Torture led 40 people who were arrested protesting outside of Obama’s White House protesting Guantánamo and indefinite detention.

Members of the group “Witness Against Torture” dressed in orange prison jump suits protest against the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. January 10, 2012. REUTERS/Larry Downing 

Now a Spanish judge has re-launched an investigation into the alleged torture of detainees held at the U.S. detention center.

* * *

UPDATE: The Associated Press is reporting:

Russia Assails US over Guantanamo Prison

MOSCOW  — Russia’s Foreign Ministry has accused the U.S. of breaking international law by keeping terror suspects in indefinite custody without trial at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

In a statement posted on its website Sunday, the ministry said the prison at the U.S. Navy base in eastern Cuba represents a “flagrant violation of international law.”

The Foreign Ministry also criticized the National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama on Dec. 31, which includes a provision allowing indefinite military detention without trial. The ministry claimed the act contradicts U.S. obligations under international humanitarian law.

Russia in the past has reacted angrily to the accusations of human rights breaches that the U.S. State Department has leveled at it in its annual reports.

* * *

Carol Rosenberg of the McClatchy Newspapers writes:

A Spanish judge on Friday re-launched an investigation into the alleged torture of detainees held at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, one day after a British authorities launched a probe into CIA renditions to Libya.

The twin developments demonstrated that while the Obama administration has stuck to its promise not to investigate whether Bush administration officials acted illegally by authorizing the use of harsh interrogation techniques, other countries are still interested in determining whether Bush-era anti-terror practices violated international law.

In Madrid, Judge Pablo Rafael Ruz Gutierrez handed down a 19-page decision Friday in which he said he would seek additional information – medical data, a translation of a Human Rights Watch report, elaboration on material made public by WikiLeaks, and testimony from three senior U.S. military officers who served at Guantanamo – in the case of four released Guantanamo captives who allege they were humiliated and subjected to torture while in U.S. custody. […]

In London, the Crown Prosecution Service and Scotland Yard said Thursday that they would investigate allegations of British involvement in the Bush-era “extraordinary rendition” program, specifically whether British intelligence had a hand in delivering two Libyan opponents of Col. Moammar Gadhafi to Libyan jails, where they were tortured by Gadhafi’s secret police.

Scotland Yard agreed to go forward on that probe while dropping another involving the interrogation in Morocco of former Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed. British human rights activists had sought to hold British intelligence responsible for Mohamed’s treatment in Morocco – he called it torture, and the investigators said there was no reason to doubt his account. But they found “it is not possible to bring criminal charges against an identifiable individual.”

These crimes are universal crimes and it’s very clear that until the United States holds to account those responsible for these crimes, other judicial actors in other countries are going to press for accountability.International human rights groups have turned to the European courts after losing successive efforts to bring cases in U.S. courts, which typically invoked the states secret doctrine to get lawsuits dismissed not on the merits but as a national security necessity.

“In the globalized world in which we live, justice processes are going to go forward,” said James Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, a legal advocacy group founded by investor George Soros. “These crimes are universal crimes and it’s very clear that until the United States holds to account those responsible for these crimes, other judicial actors in other countries are going to press for accountability.”

Goldston said international investigations were necessary because the United States has heeded President Barack Obama’s call to look forward, not back.

“There’s no accountability process,” he said. “There’re no court proceedings. There’re no truth commissions. There’s even less appetite today than there was three years ago.”

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Welcome to Boston, Mr. Rumsfeld. You Are Under Arrest. September 23, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Iraq and Afghanistan, Torture.
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http://www.opednews.com/articles/1/Welcome-to-Boston-Mr-Rum-by-Ralph-Lopez-110920-706.html

September 23, 2011

By Ralph Lopez

(about the author)
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been stripped of legal immunityfor acts of torture against US citizens authorized while he was in office.   The 7th Circuit made the ruling in the case of two American contractors who were tortured by the US military in Iraq after uncovering a smuggling ring within an Iraqi security company.  The company was under contract to the Department of Defense.   The company was assisting Iraqi insurgent groups in the “mass acquisition” of American weapons.  The ruling comes as Rumsfeld begins his book tour with a visit to Boston on Monday, September 26, and as new, uncensored photos of Abu Ghraib spark fresh outrage across Internet.  Awareness is growing that Bush-era crimes went far beyond mere waterboarding.

Torture Room, Abu Ghraib

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters in 2004of photos withheld by the Defense Department from Abu Ghraib, “The American public needs to understand, we’re talking about rape and murder here…We’re not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience. We’re talking about rape and murder and some very serious charges.”  And journalist Seymour Hersh says: “boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has.”

Rumsfeld resigned days before a criminal complaintwas filed in Germany in which the American general who commanded the military police battalion at Abu Ghraib had promised to testify.  General Janis Karpinski in an interview with Salon.comwas asked: “Do you feel like Rumsfeld is at the heart of all of this and should be held completely accountable for what happened [at Abu Ghraib]?”

Karpinski answered: “Yes, absolutely.”  In the criminal complaint filed in Germany against Rumsfeld, Karpinski submitted 17 pages of testimonyand offered to appear before the German prosecutor as a witness.  Congressman Kendrick Meek of Florida, who participated in the hearings on Abu Ghraib, said of Rumsfeld: “There was no way Rumsfeld didn’t know what was going on. He’s a guy who wants to know everything.”

And Major General Antonio Taguba, who led the official Army investigation into Abu Ghraib, said in his report:

“there is no longer any doubt as to whether the [Bush] administration has committed war crimes. The only question is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”

Abu Ghraib Prisoner Smeared with Feces

In a puzzling and incriminating move, Camp Cropper base commander General John Gardner ordered Nathan Ertel released on May 17, 2006, while keeping Donald Vance in detention for another two months of torture.  By ordering the release of one man but not the other, Gardner revealed awareness of the situation but prolonged it at the same time.

It is unlikely that Gardner could act alone in a situation as sensitive as the illegal detention and torture of two Americans confirmed by the FBI to be working undercover in the national interest, to prevent American weapons and munitions from reaching the hands of insurgents, for the sole purpose of using them to kill American troops.  Vance and Ertel suggest he was acting on orders from the highest political level.

The forms of torture employed against the Americans included “techniques” which crop up frequently in descriptions of Iraqi and Afghan prisoner abuse at Bagram, Guantanamo, and Abu Ghraib.  They included “walling,” where the head is slammed repeatedly into a concrete wall, sleep deprivation to the point of psychosis by use of round-the-clock bright lights and harsh music at ear-splitting volume, in total isolation, for days, weeks or months at a time, and intolerable cold.

The 7th Circuit ruling is the latest in a growing number of legal actions involving hundreds of former prisoners and torture victims filed in courts around the world.  Criminal complaints have been filed against Rumsfeld and other Bush administration officials in Germany, France, and Spain.  Former President Bush recently curbed travel to Switzerlanddue to fear of arrest following criminal complaints lodged in Geneva.  “He’s avoiding the handcuffs,” Reed Brody, counsel for Human Rights Watch, told Reuters.  And this month Canadian citizens forced Bush to cancel an invitation-only appearance in Toronto.

And the Mayor of London threatened Bush with arrest for war crimes earlier this year should he ever set foot in his city, saying that were heto land in London to “flog his memoirs,” that “the real trouble — from the Bush point of view — is that he might never see Texas again.”

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Chief-of-Staff Col. Lawrence Wilkerson surmised on MSNBCearlier this year that soon, Saudi Arabia and Israel will be “the only two countries Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest will travel too.”

Abu Ghraib: Dog Bites

What would seem to make Rumsfeld’s situation more precarious is the number of credible former officials and military officers who seem to be eager to testify against him, such as Col. Wilkerson and General Janis Karpinsky.

In a signed declaration in support of torture plaintiffs in a civil suit naming Rumsfeld in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, Col. Wilkerson, one of Rumsfeld’s most vociferous critics,  stated:“I am willing to testify in person regarding the  content of this declaration, should that be necessary.”  That declaration, among other things, affirmed that a documentary on the chilling murder of a 22-year-old Afghan farmer and taxi driver in Afghanistan was “accurate.”  Wilkerson said earlier this yearthat in that case, and in the case of another murder at Bagram at about the same time, “authorization for the abuse went to the very top of the United States government.”

Dilawar

The young farmer’s name was Dilawar.  The New York Times reported on May 20, 2005:

“Four days before [his death,] on the eve of the Muslim holiday of Id al-Fitr, Mr. Dilawar set out from his tiny village of Yakubi in a prized new possession, a used Toyota sedan that his family bought for him a few weeks earlier to drive as a taxi.
On the day that he disappeared, Mr. Dilawar’s mother had asked him to gather his three sisters from their nearby villages and bring them home for the holiday. However, he needed gas money and decided instead to drive to the provincial capital, Khost, about 45 minutes away, to look for fares.”

Dilawar’s misfortune was to drive past the gate of an American base which had been hit by a rocket attack that morning.  Dilawar and his fares were arrested at a checkpoint by a warlord, who was later suspected of mounting the rocket attack himself, and then turning over randam captures like Dilawar in order to win trust.

The UK Guardian reports:

“Guards at Bagram routinely kneed prisoners in their thighs — a blow called a “peroneal strike”…Whenever a guard did this to Dilawar, he would cry out, “Allah! Allah!” Some guards apparently found this amusing, and would strike him repeatedly to show off the behavior to buddies.
One military policeman told investigators, “Everybody heard him cry out and thought it was funny. … It went on over a 24-hour period, and I would think that it was over 100 strikes.””

The New York Times reported that on the last day of his life, four days after he was arrested:

“Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into Mr. Dilawar’s face.
“Come on, drink!” the interpreter said Specialist Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. “Drink!”

At the interrogators’ behest, a guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.

“Leave him up,” one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying.”

The next time the prison medic saw Dilawar a few hours later, he was dead, his head lolled to one side and his body beginning to stiffen.  A coroner would testify that his legs “had basically been pulpified.”The Army coroner, Maj. Elizabeth Rouse, said: “I’ve seen similar injuries in an individual run over by a bus.” She testified that had he lived, Dilawar’s legs would have had to be amputated.

Despite the military’s false statement that Dilawar’s death was the result of “natural causes,” Maj. Rouse marked the death certificate as a “homicide” and arranged for the certificate to be delivered to the family.  The military was forced to retract the statement when a reporter for the New York Times, Carlotta Gall, tracked down Dilawar’s family in Afghanistan and was given a folded piece of paper by Dilawar’s brother.  It was the death certificate, which he couldn’t read, because it was in English.

The practice of forcing prisoners to stand for long periods of time, links Dilawar’s treatment to a memo which bears Rumsfeld’s own handwriting on that particular subject.  Obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request, the memo may show how fairly benign-sounding authorizations for clear circumventions of the Geneva Conventions may have translated into gruesome practice on the battlefield.

The memo, which addresses keeping prisoners “standing” for up to four hours, is annotated with a note initialed by Rumsfeld reading: “”I stand for 8–10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?”  Not mentioned in writing anywhere is anything about accomplishing this by chaining prisoners to the ceiling.  There is evidence that, unable to support his weight on tiptoe for the days on end he was chained to the ceiling, Dilawars arms dislocated, and they flapped around uselessly when he was taken down for interrogation.  The National Catholic Reporter writes “They flapped like a bird’s broken wings”

Contradicting, on the record, a February 2003 statement by Rumsfeld’s top commander in Afghanistan at the time, General Daniel McNeill, that “we are not chaining people to the ceilings,” is Spc. Willie Brand, the only soldier disciplined in the death of Dilawar, with a reduction in rank.  Told of McNeill’s statement, Brand told Scott Pelley on 60 Minutes: “Well, he’s lying.”  Brand said of his punishment: “I didn’t understand how they could do this after they had trained you to do this stuff and they turn around and say you’ve been bad”

Exhibit: Dilawar Death Certificate marked “homicide”

Exhibit: Rumsfeld Memo: “I stand 8-10 hours a day.  Why only 4 hours?”

Dilawar’s daughter and her grandfather

Binyam, Genital-Slicing

Binyam Mohamed was seized by the Pakistani Forces in April 2002 and turned over to the Americans for a $5,000 bounty.  He was held for more than five years without charge or trial in Bagram Air Force Base, Guantánamo Bay, and third country “black” sites.

“They cut off my clothes with some kind of doctor’s scalpel. I was naked. I tried to put on a brave face. But maybe I was going to be raped. Maybe they’d electrocute me. Maybe castrate me…
One of them took my penis in his hand and began to make cuts. He did it once, and they stood still for maybe a minute, watching my reaction. I was in agony. They must have done this 20 to 30 times, in maybe two hours. There was blood all over. “I told you I was going to teach you who’s the man,” [one] eventually said.

They cut all over my private parts. One of them said it would be better just to cut it off, as I would only breed terrorists. I asked for a doctor.”

I was in Morocco for 18 months. Once they began this, they would do it to me about once a month. One time I asked a guard: “What’s the point of this? I’ve got nothing I can say to them. I’ve told them everything I possibly could.”

“As far as I know, it’s just to degrade you. So when you leave here, you’ll have these scars and you’ll never forget. So you’ll always fear doing anything but what the US wants.”

Later, when a US airplane picked me up the following January, a female MP took pictures. She was one of the few Americans who ever showed me any sympathy. When she saw the injuries I had she gasped. They treated me and took more photos when I was in Kabul. Someone told me this was “to show Washington it’s healing”.

The obvious question for any prosecutor in Binyam’s case is: Who does “Washington” refer to?  Rumsfeld?  Cheney?  Is it not in the national interest to uncover these most depraved of sadists at the highest level?  US Judge Gladys Kessler, in her findings on Binyam made in relation to a Guantanamo prisoner’s petition, found Binyam exceedingly credible.  She wrote:

“His genitals were mutilated. He was deprived of sleep and food. He was summarily transported from one foreign prison to another. Captors held him in stress positions for days at a time. He was forced to listen to piercingly loud music and the screams of other prisoners while locked in a pitch-black cell. All the while, he was forced to inculpate himself and others in plots to imperil Americans. The government does not dispute this evidence.”

Obama: Torturers’ Last Defense

The prospect of Rumsfeld in a courtroom cannot possibly be relished by the Obama administration, which has now cast itself as the last and staunchest defender of the embattled former officials, including John Yoo, Alberto Gonzalez, Judge Jay Bybee, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, and others.  The administration employed an unprecedented twisting of arms in order to keep evidence in a lawsuit which Binyam had filedin the UK suppressed, threatening an end of cooperation between the British MI5 and the CIA.  This even though the British judges whose hand was forced puzzled that the evidence “contained “no disclosure of sensitive intelligence matters.”  The judges suggested another reason for the secrecy requested by the Obama administration, that it might be “politically embarrassing.”

The Obama Justice Department’s active involvement in seeking the dismissal of the cases is by choice, as the statutory obligation of the US Attorney General to defend cases against public officials ends the day they leave office.  Indeed, the real significance of recent court decisions, the one by the 7th Circuit and yet another against Rumsfeld in a DC federal court, may be the clarification the common misconception that high officials are forever immune for crimes committed while in office, in the name of the state.  The misconception persists despite just a moment of thought telling one that if this were true, Hermann Goering, Augusto Pinochet, and Charles Taylor would never have been arrested, for they were all in office at the time they ordered atrocities, and they all invoked national security.

Andy Worthington writes that:

“As it happens, one of the confessions that was tortured out of Binyam is so ludicrous that it was soon dropped…The US authorities insisted that Padilla and Binyam had dinner with various high-up members of al-Qaeda the night before Padilla was to fly off to America. According to their theory the dinner party had to have been on the evening of 3 April in Karachi … Binyam was  meant to have dined with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Sheikh al-Libi, Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Jose Padilla.” What made the scenario “absurd,” as [Binyam’s lawyer] pointed out, was that “two of the conspirators were already in U.S. custody at the time — Abu Zubaydah was seized six days before, on 28 March 2002, and al-Libi had been held since November 2001.””

The charges against Binyam were dropped, after the prosecutor, Lieutenant Colonel Darrel Vandeveld, resigned. He told the BBC later that he had concerns at the repeated suppression of evidence that could prove prisoners’ innocence.

The litany of tortures alleged against Rumsfeld in the military prisons he ran could go on for some time.  The new photographic images from Abu Ghraib make it hard to conceive of how the methods of torture and dehumanization could have possibly served a national purpose.

The approved use of attack dogs, sexual humiliation, forced masturbation, and treatments which plumb the depths of human depravity are either documented in Rumsfeld’s own memos, or credibly reported on.

The UK Guardian writes:

The techniques devised in the system, called R2I – resistance to interrogation – match the crude exploitation and abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad.

One former British special forces officer who returned last week from Iraq, said: “It was clear from discussions with US private contractors in Iraq that the prison guards were using R2I techniques, but they didn’t know what they were doing.””

Torture Now Aimed at Americans, Programs Designed to Obtain False Confessions, Not Intelligence

The worst of the worst is that Rumsfeld’s logic strikes directly at the foundations of our democracy and the legitimacy of the War on Terror.  The torture methods studied and adopted by the Bush administration were not new, but adopted from the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape program (SERE) which is taught to elite military units.  The program was developed during the Cold War, in response to North Korean, Chinese, and Soviet Bloc torture methods.  But the aim of those methods was never to obtain intelligence, but to elicit false confessions.  The Bush administration asked the military to “reverse engineer” the methods, i.e. figure out how to break down resistance to false confessions.

In the 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee reportwhich indicted high-level Bush administration officials, including Rumsfeld, as bearing major responsibility for the torture at Abu Gharib, Guantanamo, and Bagram, the Committee said:

“SERE instructors explained “Biderman’s Principles” — which were based on coercive methods used by the Chinese Communist dictatorship to elicit false confessions from U.S. POWs during the Korean War — and left with GTMO personnel a chart of those coercive techniques.”

The Biderman Principles were based on the work of Air Force Psychiatrist Albert Biderman, who wrote the landmark “Communist Attempts to Elecit False Confessions from Air Force Prisoners of War,” on which SERE resistance was based.  Biderman wrote:

“The experiences of American Air Force prisoners of war in Korea who were pressured for false confessions, enabled us to compile an outline of methods of eliciting compliance, not much different, it turned out, from those reported by persons held by Communists of other nations.  I have prepared a chart showing a condensed version of this outline.”

The chart is a how-to for communist torturers interested only in false confessions for propaganda purposes, not intelligence.  It was the manual for, in Biderman’s words, “brainwashing.”  In the reference for Principle Number 7, “Degradation,” the chart explains:

“Makes Costs of Resistance Appear More Damaging to Self-Esteem than Capitulation; Reduces Prisoner to “Animal Level…Personal Hygiene Prevented; Filthy, Infested Surroundings; Demeaning Punishments; Insults and Taunts; Denial of Privacy”

Appallingly, this could explain that even photos such as those of feces-smeared prisoners at Abu Ghraib might not, as we would hope, be only the individual work of particularly demented guards, but part of systematic degradation authorized at the highest levels.

Exhibit: Abu Ghraib, Female POW

This could go far toward explaining why the Bush administration seemed so tone-deaf to intelligence professionals, including legendary CIA Director William Colby, who essentially told them they were doing it all wrong.  A startling level of consensus existed within the intelligence community that the way to produce good intelligence was to gain the trust of prisoners and to prove everything they had been told by their recruiters, about the cruelty and degeneracy of America, to be wrong.

But why would the administration care about what worked to produce intelligence, if the goal was never intelligence in the first place?  What the Ponzi scheme of either innocent men or low-level operatives incriminating each other  DID accomplish, was produce a framework of rapid successes and trophies in the new War on Terror.

And now, American contractors Vance and Ertel show, unless there are prosecutions, the law has effectively changed and they can do it to Americans. Jane Mayer in the New Yorker describes a new regime for prisoners which has become coldly methodical, quoting a report issued by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, titled “Secret Detentions and Illegal Transfers of Detainees.”  In the report on the CIA paramilitary Special Activities Division detainees were “taken to their cells by strong people who wore black outfits, masks that covered their whole faces, and dark visors over their eyes.”

Mayer writes that a former member of a C.I.A. transport team has described the “takeout” of prisoners as:

“a carefully choreographed twenty-minute routine, during which a suspect was hog-tied, stripped naked, photographed, hooded, sedated with anal suppositories, placed in diapers, and transported by plane to a secret location.”

A person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry, referring to cavity searches and the frequent use of suppositories, likened the treatment to “sodomy.” He said, “It was used to absolutely strip the detainee of any dignity. It breaks down someone’s sense of impenetrability.”

Of course we have seen these images before, in the trial balloon treatment of Jose Padilla, the first American citizen arrested and declared “enemy combatant” in the first undeclared war without end.  The designation placed Padilla outside of his Bill of Rights as an American citizen even though he was arrested on American soil.  Padilla was kept in isolation and tortured for nearly 4 years before being released to a civilian trial, at which point according to his lawyer he was useless in his own defense, and exhibited fear and mistrust of everyone, complete docility, and a range of nervous facial tics.

Jose Padilla in Military Custody

Rumsfeld’s avuncular “golly-gee, gee-whiz”  performances in public are legendary.  Randall M. Schmidt, the Air Force Lieutenant General appointed by the Army to investigate abuses at Guantanamo, and who recommended holding Rumsfeld protege and close associate General Geoffrey Miller “accountable” as the commander of Guantanamo, watched Rumsfeld’s performance before a House Committee with some interest. “He was going, “My God! Did I authorize putting a bra and underwear on this guy’s head and telling him all his buddies knew he was a homosexual?’ ”

But General Taguba said of Rumsfeld: “Rummy did what we called “case law’ policy — verbal and not in writing. What he’s really saying is that if this decision comes back to haunt me I’ll deny it.”

Taguba went on: “Rumsfeld is very perceptive and has a mind like a steel trap. There’s no way he’s suffering from C.R.S.–Can’t Remember sh*t.”

Miller was the general deployed by Rumsfeld to “Gitmo-ize” Abu Ghraib in 2003 after Rumsfeld had determined they were being too “soft” on prisoners.  He said famously in one memo “you have to treat them like dogs.”  General Karpinski questioned the fall of Charles Graner and Lyndie England as the main focus of low-level “bad apple” abuse in the Abu Ghraib investigations.  “Did Lyndie England deploy with a dog leash?” she asks.

Exhibit: Dog deployed at Abu Ghraib, mentally-ill prisoner

Abu Ghraib prisoner in “restraint” chair, screaming “Allah!!”

Rumsfeld’s worry now is the doctrine of Universal Jurisdiction, as well as ordinary common law.  The veil of immunity stripped in civil cases would seem to free the hand of any prosecutor who determines there is sufficient evidence that a crime has been committed based on available evidence.  A grand jury’s bar for opening a prosecution is minimal.  It has been said “a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich.”  Rumsfeld, and the evidence against him, would certainly seem to pass this test.

The name Dilawar translates to English roughly as “Braveheart.”  Let us pray he had one to endure the manner of his death.  But the more spiritual may believe that somehow it had a purpose, to shock the world and begin the toppling of unimaginable evil among us.  Dilawar represented the poorest of the poor and most powerless, wanting only to pick up his three sisters, as his mother had told him to, for the holiday.  The question now is whether Americans will finally draw a line, as the case against Rumsfeld falls into place and becomes legally bulletproof.  Andy Worthington noted that the case for prosecutors became rock solid when Susan Crawford, senior Pentagon official overseeing the Military Commissions at Guantánamo — told Bob Woodward that the Bush administration had “met the legal definition of torture.”

As Rumsfeld continues his book tour and people like Dilawar are remembered, it is not beyond the pale that an ambitious prosecutor, whether local, state, or federal, might sense the advantage.  It is perhaps unlikely, but not inconceivable, that upon landing at Logan International Airport on Wed., Sept. 21st, or similarly anywhere he travels thereafter, Rumsfeld could be greeted with the words such as: “Welcome to Boston, Mr. Secretary.  You are under arrest.”

Take action — click here to contact your local newspaper or congress people:
Prosecute Rumsfeld NOW for torture!

Click here to see the most recent messages sent to congressional reps and local newspapers

Massachusetts District Attorneys Who Can Indict Rumsfeld, Please Email them this post and call them.SAMPLE INDICTMENT
LEGAL BACKGROUND

RELEVANT US CODE:

a. Conspiracy to torture in violation of the U.S. Code, in both Title 18, Section 2340

b. Conspiracy to commit war crimes including torture, cruel or inhuman treatment, murder, mutilation or maiming and intentionally causing serious bodily injury in violation of Title 18, Section 2441

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley:
email:  Email address removed

One Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108 -1518
Phone: (617) 727-2200 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (617) 727-2200     end_of_the_skype_highlighting

//

And Gov. Duval Patrick has an obligation to order the state police to do the same: CONTACT FORM

Local District Attorneys
Berkshire County: District Attorney David F. Capeless
Elected November 2006
OFFICE ADDRESS:     P.O. Box 973
888 Purchase Street
New Bedford, MA 02741
PHONE:     (508) 997-0711 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (508) 997-0711     end_of_the_skype_highlighting
FAX:     (508) 997-0396
INTERNET ADDRESS:     http://www.bristolda.com

Bristol County     District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter
Appointed March 2004
Elected November 2004
OFFICE ADDRESS:     7 North Street
P.O. Box 1969
Pittsfield, MA 01202-1969
PHONE:     (413) 443-5951 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (413) 443-5951     end_of_the_skype_highlighting
FAX:     (413) 499-6349
Internet Address:     http://www.mass.gov/…

Cape & Islands     District Attorney Michael O’Keefe
Elected November 2002
OFFICE ADDRESS:     P.O.Box 455
3231 Main Street
Barnstable, MA 02630
PHONE:     (508) 362-8113 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (508) 362-8113     end_of_the_skype_highlighting
FAX:     (508) 362-8221
INTERNET ADDRESS:     http://www.mass.gov/…

Essex County: District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett
Elected November 2002
OFFICE ADDRESS:     Ten Federal Street
Salem, MA 01970
PHONE:     (978) 745-6610 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (978) 745-6610     end_of_the_skype_highlighting
FAX:     (978) 741-4971
INTERNET ADDRESS:     http://www.mass.gov/…

Hampden     District Attorney Mark Mastroianni
Elected 2010
OFFICE ADDRESS:     Hall of Justice
50 State Street
Springfield, MA 01103
PHONE:     (413) 747-1000 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (413) 747-1000     end_of_the_skype_highlighting
FAX:     (413) 781-4745

Middlesex County: District Attorney Gerard T. Leone, Jr.
Elected November 2006
OFFICE ADDRESS:     15 Commonwealth Avenue
Woburn, MA 01801
PHONE:     (781) 897-8300 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (781) 897-8300     end_of_the_skype_highlighting
FAX:     ((781) 897-8301
INTERNET ADDRESS:     http://www.middlesexda.com

Norfolk     District Attorney Michael Morrissey
Elected 2010
OFFICE ADDRESS:     45 Shawmut Ave.
Canton, MA 02021
PHONE:     (781) 830-4800 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (781) 830-4800     end_of_the_skype_highlighting
FAX:     (781) 830-4801
INTERNET ADDRESS:     http://www.mass.gov/…

Northwestern     District Attorney David Sullivan
Elected 2010
HAMPSHIRE OFFICE ADDRESS:     One Gleason Plaza
Northampton, MA 01060
PHONE:     (413) 586-9225 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (413) 586-9225     end_of_the_skype_highlighting
FAX:     (413) 584-3635
FRANKLIN OFFICE ADDRESS:     13 Conway Street
Greenfield, MA 01301
PHONE:     (413) 774-3186 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (413) 774-3186     end_of_the_skype_highlighting
FAX:     (413) 773-3278
WEBSITE:
Northwestern     http://www.mass.gov/…

< a href=”http://media.fastclick.net/w/click.here?sid=48406&m=6&c=1&#8243; target=”_blank”><img src=”http://media.fastclick.net/w/get.media?sid=48406&m=6&tp=8&d=s&c=1&#8243; width=300 height=250 border=1></Plymouth     District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz
Appointed November 2001
Elected November 2002
OFFICE ADDRESS:     32 Belmont Street
Brockton, MA 02303
PHONE:     (508) 584-8120 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (508) 584-8120     end_of_the_skype_highlighting
FAX:     (508) 586-3578
INTERNET ADDRESS:     http://www.mass.gov/…

Suffolk County:     District Attorney Daniel F. Conley
Appointed January 2002
Elected November 2002
OFFICE ADDRESS:     One Bulfinch Place
Boston, MA 02114
PHONE:     (617) 619-4000 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (617) 619-4000     end_of_the_skype_highlighting
FAX:     (617) 619-4009
INTERNET ADDRESS:     http://www.mass.gov/…

Worcester     District Attorney Joseph D. Early, Jr.
Elected November 2006
OFFICE ADDRESS:     Courthouse – Room 220
2 Main Street
Worcester, MA 01608
PHONE:     (508) 755-8601 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (508) 755-8601     end_of_the_skype_highlighting
FAX:     (508) 831-9899
INTERNET ADDRESS:     http://www.worcesterda.com

The Real Roots of the CIA’s Rendition and Black Sites Program February 17, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Torture.
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(Roger’s note: too many innocents believe that the moral decline in the US began with the Bush Administration.  Setting aside minor defects in the American character as evidenced by such peccadilloes as genocide against the Native population and the slavery of Africans, we see in this article posted below that the illegal clandestine machinations of the CIA go back at least until the early 1950s.  The Office of Strategic Services [OSS], the CIA’s forerunner, was formed in 1942 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Precisely when it began its criminal activities is up for interpretation, although we know that under the leader ship of Allen Dulles [1953-1961], the CIA’s first civilian Director, the Agency was active in overthrowing democratic regimes in Guatemala and Bolivia.  Dulles and his brother John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, were both rabid anti-Communists.  The latter had advocated using the atomic bomb to “rescue” the French Army in Vietnam where it was trapped at Dien Bien Phu, only to be overrode by Eisenhower.

 

If one is to take seriously Harry Truman’s dictum, “the buck stops here,” then we can justifiably say that every president at least beginning with Eisenhower can be held responsible for the torture and murder carried out by the CIA: that would be Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, George Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush, and last but not least, Barack Obama.)

Wednesday 17 February 2010

by: H.P. Albarelli Jr. and Jeffrey Kaye, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

 

photo
(Image: Troy Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: ArtMakesMeSmile, DecadeNull, LoveMissB)

On Tuesday, February 10, the British High Court finally released a “seven-paragraph court document showing that MI5 officers were involved in the ill-treatment of a British resident, Binyam Mohamed.” The document is itself a summary of 42 classified CIA documents given to the British in 2002. The US government has threatened the British government that the US-British intelligence relationship could be damaged if this material were released. The revelations regarding Mohamed’s torture, which include documentation of the fact the US conducted “continuous sleep deprivation” under threats of harm, rendition, or being “disappeared,” were criticized by the British court as being “at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities,” and in violation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

The Mohamed case is the most prominent of a number of cases that have come to public attention. While the timeline of Mohamed’s torture places the implementation of the Bush administration’s so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” many months prior to their questionable legal justification in the August 1, 2002, Jay Bybee memo to the CIA, the use of torture and rendition has a much earlier provenance. Over the past decade, many Americans have been shocked and disturbed about the CIA’s secret program of rendition and torture carried out in numerous secret sites (dubbed “black sites” by the CIA) around the globe. The dimensions of this program for the most part are still classified “Eyes Only” in the intelligence community, but the program’s roots can be clearly discovered in the early 1950’s with the CIA’s Artichoke Project. Perhaps the best and strangest case illustrating this can be found in the agency’s own files. This is the so-called “Lyle O. Kelly case.” The facts of this case are drawn from declassified government documents.

An Early Example of Torture and Rendition: “The Kelly Case”

In late January 1952, Morse Allen, a CIA Security Office official, was summoned to the office of his superior, security deputy chief Robert L. Bannerman, where he met with another agency official to discuss what Bannerman initially introduced as “the Kelly case.” Wrote Allen, in a subsequent memorandum for his files, the official “explained in substance the Kelly case as follows: “Kelly, (whose real name is Dimitrov), is a 29-year-old Bulgarian and was the head of a small political party based in Greece and ostentively [sic] working for Bulgarian independence.” The official described Dimitrov [whose first name was Dimitre] to Allen as “being young, ambitious, bright … a sort of a ‘man-on-a-horse’ type but a typical Balkan politician.”

The official continued explaining to Allen that months earlier CIA field operatives discovered that Dimitrov was seriously considering becoming a double agent for the French Intelligence Service. “Accordingly,” states the memo, “a plot was rigged in which [Dimitrov] was told he was going to be assassinated and as a protective he was placed in custody of the Greek Police.” Successfully duped, Dimitrov was then thrown into prison. There he was subjected to interrogation and torture, and he witnessed the brutal torture of other persons the CIA had induced authorities to imprison. Greek intelligence and law enforcement agencies were especially barbaric in their methods. Highly respected Operation Gladio historian Daniele Ganser describes the treatment of prisoners: “Their toes and fingernails were torn out. Their feet were beaten with sticks, until the skin came off and their bones were broken. Sharp objects were shoved into their vaginas. Filthy rags, often soaked in urine, and sometimes excrement, were pushed down their throats to throttle them, tubes were inserted into their anus and water driven in under very high pressure, and electro shocks were applied to their heads.”

According to Allen’s memo, after holding Dimitrov for six months the Greek authorities decided he was no more than “a nuisance” and they told the CIA “to take him back.” Because the agency was unable to dispose of Dimitrov in Greece, the memo states, the CIA flew him to a secret interrogation center at Fort Clayton in Panama. In the 1950’s, Fort Clayton, along with nearby sister installations Forts Amador and Gulick, the initial homes of the Army’s notorious School of the Americas, served as a secret prison and interrogation centers for double agents and others kidnapped and spirited out of Europe and other locations. Beginning in 1951, Fort Amador, and reportedly Fort Gulick, were extensively used by the Army and the CIA as a secret experimental site for developing behavior modification techniques and a wide range of drugs, including “truth drugs,” mescaline, LSD and heroin. Former CIA officials have also long claimed that Forts Clayton and Amador in the 1950’s hosted a number of secret Army assassination teams that operated throughout North and South America, Europe and Southeast Asia.

There in Panama, Dimitrov was again aggressively interrogated, and then confined as “a psychopathic patient” to a high-security hospital ward at Fort Clayton. Allen’s memo makes a point of stating: “[Dimitrov] is not a psychopathic personality.”

The Artichoke Treatment

This remarkable summary brought the official to the purpose of his meeting with CIA security official Morse Allen. After months of confinement in Panama, Dimitrov had become a serious problem for the agency and the military officials holding him in the hospital. Dimitrov had become increasingly angry and bitter about his treatment and he was insisting that he be released immediately. Dimitrov, through his strong intellect and observation powers, was also witnessing a great deal of Project Artichoke activity and on occasion would engage military and agency officials in unauthorized conversations. The official explained to Allen that the CIA could release Dimitrov to the custody of a friend of his in Venezuela, but was prone not to because Dimitrov was now judged to have become extremely hostile toward the CIA. “Hence,” explained the official, “[CIA] is considering an ‘Artichoke’ approach to [Dimitrov] to see if it would be possible to re-orient [Dimitrov] favorably toward us.”

Wrote Allen in his subsequent summary memorandum: “This [Artichoke] operation, which will necessarily involve the use of drugs is being considered by OPC with a possibility that Dr. Ecke and Mike Gladych will carry out the operation presumably at the military hospital in Panama. Also involved in this would be a Bulgarian interpreter who is a consultant to this Agency since neither Ecke nor Gladych speak Bulgarian.” Allen noted in his memo that security chief Bannerman “pointed out” that this type of operation could “only be carried out” with his or his superior’s (security chief Sheffield Edwards) authorization, and “that under no circumstances whatsoever, could anyone but an authorized M.D. administer drugs to any subject of this Agency of any type.” (The “Dr. Ecke” mentioned above was Dr. Robert S. Ecke of Brooklyn, New York, and Eliot, Maine, where he died in 2001. “Mike Gladych,” according to former CIA officials, was a decorated wartime pilot who after the war became “deeply involved in black market trafficking in Europe and the US,” and then in the early 1950’s was recruited to join a “newly composed Artichoke Team operating out of Washington, DC.”)

Allen also wrote that Bannerman was concerned that the military hospital at Fort Clayton may not approve of or permit an Artichoke operation to be conducted on the ward within which Dimitrov was being held, thus necessitating the movement of Dimitrov to another location in Panama. Lastly, Bannerman stated to the official and Allen that “[the CIA’s Office of] Security [through its Artichoke Committee] would have to be cognizant” of the operation, and may even want to “run the operation themselves since this type of work is one which Security handles for the Agency. Here it is interesting to note that among the many members of the agency’s Artichoke Committee in 1952 was Dr. Frank Olson, who would about a year later be murdered in New York City.

Morse Allen concluded his memo: “While the [Artichoke] technique that Ecke and Gladych are considering for use in this case is not known to the writer [Allen], the writer believes the approach will be made through the standard narco-hypnosis technique. Re-conditioning and re-orientating an individual in such a matter, in the opinion of the writer, cannot be accomplished easily and will require a great deal of time…. It is also believed that with our present knowledge, we would have no absolute guarantee that the subject in this case would maintain a positive friendly attitude toward us even though there is apparently a successful response to the treatment. The writer did not suggest to [Bannerman and the CIA official] that perhaps a total amnesia could be created by a series of electro shocks, but merely indicated that amnesia under drug treatments was not certain.” Interesting also is that Allen noted in his memo, about thirty days prior to his meeting, an official in the CIA’s Technical Services Division, Walter Driscoll, discussed “the Kelly case” with him. No details of that discussion were provided.

About a month later, according to former CIA officials, after Artichoke Committee approval to subject Dimitrov to Artichoke techniques, a high-ranking CIA official objected to treating Dimitrov in such a manner. That objection delayed application of the techniques for about “three weeks.” In March 1952, according to the same former officials, Dimitrov was “successfully given the Artichoke treatment in Panama for a period of about five weeks.”

In late 1956, the CIA brought Dimitrov, at his request, to the United States. Apparently, the Agency felt comfortable enough with Dimitrov’s diminished hostility and anger to agree to bring him to America from Athens, where he had returned for undetermined reasons. CIA files state, “The Agency made no further operation use of Dimitrov after he came to the United States, however, former CIA officials dispute this and relate that Dimitrov was “used on occasion for sensitive jobs.”

This, however, was not the end of Dimitre Dimitrov’s story.

After being relocated to the United States, Dimitrov either remained bitter or resumed his bitterness toward the CIA. In June 1960, he contacted the CIA’s Domestic Contact Division and requested financial assistance for himself and additional covert support and assistance for activities against Bulgaria. In 1961, he contacted an editor at Parade, a Sunday newspaper magazine then with reported strong ties to the CIA, with the intention of telling his story. A Parade editor contacted the CIA and was informed, according to CIA documents, that Dimitrov was “an imposter” who was “disreputable, unreliable, and full of wild stories about the CIA.”

About ten years after the JFK assassination, Dimitrov, operating sometimes under the aliases Lyle Kelly, James Adams, General Dimitre Dimitrov and Donald A. Donaldson, informed a number of people that he had information about who ordered the murder of JFK and who had committed the act. Reportedly, he had encountered the assassins while he had been imprisoned in Panama. He also told several people that he knew about military snipers who had murdered Martin Luther King. In 1977, Dimitrov actually met with US Sen. Frank Church, head of a Senate Committee investigating the CIA, and President Gerald Ford to share his information. Dimitrov said after the meeting that Ford had asked him to keep the information confidential until he could verify a number of facts. Immediately following the March 29, 1977, death of Lee Harvey Oswald’s friend George de Mohrenschildt, Dimitrov became extremely frightened and contacted a reporter with a foreign television station who either mistakenly, or intentionally, revealed Dimitrov’s name publicly on American television. Not long after this, Dimitrov disappeared in Europe where he had fled. He has never been seen or heard from since. Former CIA officials say privately, “Dimitrov was murdered” and “His body will never be found.”

A 1977 memorandum written, before Dimitrov’s disappearance, by an attorney in the CIA’s General Counsel’s Office, A. R. Cinquegrana, states: “[It appears] to me that the nature of the Agency’s treatment of Dimitrov might be something which should be brought to the attention of appropriate officials both within and outside the Agency. The fact that he is still active and is making allegations connected with the Kennedy assassination may add yet another dimension to this story.”

Binyam Mohamed’s Torture

Dimtrov’s story takes on added significance when one considers the latest stories of the unraveling torture conspiracy and operations conducted by the American CIA and Department of Defense, in conjunction with their British allied organizations, and a host of other governments, including Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, Poland and numerous others. After a series of exposures during the 1970’s, many assumed the worst excesses of the Cold War torture research program, and its implementation in programs such as the CIA’s Operation Phoenix in Vietnam were a fixture of the past. However, subsequent revelations, e.g. the appearance of a US-sponsored torture manual for use in Latin America in the 1980’s, including documentation of torture by US forces in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan, demonstrate that a direct line exists between the torture and rendition programs of the past and the practices of the present day. Recently, articles have detailed how the 2006 rewrite of the Army Field Manual allowed for use of ongoing isolation, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, induction of fear and the use of drugs that cause temporary derangement of the senses.

The Binyam Mohamed story is unfortunately not unique, but it does demonstrate that the implementation of a SERE-derived experimental torture program began months before it was given legal cover by the memos written by John Yoo and Jay Bybee. Other stories, for instance of “War on Terror” captives being drugged and tortured, have been related by the prisoners themselves, by their attorneys, and by US and international rights agencies, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, whose report on the torture of CIA “high-value detainees” was leaked to Mark Danner of the New York Review of Books.

While Binyam in many ways had a very different personal background than Dimitrov, like the Bulgarian political leader, he was rendered to a US foreign ally for torture. He was drugged. He was considered unreliable and a “disposal” problem for US leaders, who kept secret the actual treatment they endured. Both were victims of a torture program run by the CIA. Both were sent from their foreign torturer back to US custody, where they endured intense psychological torture.

Binyam Mohamed was arrested in Pakistan in April 2002, where his torture, as evidenced by the latest UK court release, was supervised by US agents. This torture was akin to the treatment meted out to Abu Zubaydah. Binyam was subsequently sent to Morocco in July 2002, where he was hideously tortured for 18 months, including a period where multiple scalpel cuts were made to his penis, and a hot stinging fluid poured on the wounds in an attempt to get him to confess to a false “dirty bomb” plot. (The US only dropped the bombing claims in October 2008.) At one point, a British informer was used to try to “turn” Mohamed into an informant for the US or Britain, just as the Artichoke treatment was used to “re-orient” Dimitrov in a pro-US direction. Mohamed also indicated that he had been drugged repeatedly.

In January 2004, Binyam Mohamed was flown to a CIA “black” site in Afghanistan, the infamous “Dark Prison.” Mohamed is one of five plaintiffs in an ACLU suit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan Inc., which ran the aircraft for the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” program. According to an ACLU account:

In US custody, Mohamed was fed meals of raw rice, beans and bread sparingly and irregularly. He was kept in almost complete darkness for 23 hours a day and made to stay awake for days at a time by loud music and other frightening and irritating recordings, including the sounds of “ghost laughter,” thunder, aircraft taking off and the screams of women and children.

Interrogations took place on almost a daily basis. As part of the interrogation process, he was shown pictures of Afghanis and Pakistanis and was interrogated about the story behind each picture. Although Mohamed knew none of the persons pictured, he would invent stories about them so as to avoid further torture. In May 2004, Mohamed was allowed outside for five minutes. It was the first time he had seen the sun in two years.

Amazingly, this was not the end of Mohamed’s ordeal. From the Dark Prison he was sent to Bagram prison, and then later to Guantanamo. In August 2007, the British government petitioned the US for release of their subject. Eighteen months later, and after being subjected to more abuse at Guantanamo, he was finally able to leave US custody and return to Britain.

The Use of Drugs in Torture by the United States

The allegations of drugging by Mohamed and other prisoners are redolent of the use of hallucinogenic and other powerful mind-altering drugs by the US in its Artichoke, MK-ULTRA and other programs. A recent account, by Joby Warrick of The Washington Post, described some of these allegations of drugging of “detainees.” The Post article subsequently led to an ongoing DoD Inspector General investigation into Possible Use of Mind Altering Substances by DoD Personnel during Interrogations of Detainees and/or Prisoners Captured during the War on Terror (D2007-DINT01-0092.005) “to determine if DoD personnel conducted, facilitated, or otherwise supported interrogations of detainees and /or prisoners using the threat or administration of mind altering drugs.” According to his attorney’s filings in the Jose Padilla case, Padilla, who was also originally implicated in the “dirty bomb” so-called plot with Binyam Mohamed, was forced to take LSD or other powerful drugs while held in solitary confinement in the Navy brig in South Carolina.

Another former Guantanamo prisoner, Mamdouh Habib, an Egyptian-born Australian Muslim released in 2005, has consistently told his tale of being subjected to electroshock, beatings and drugging while in US custody.

The CIA has been accused of involvement in continuing interrogation experimentation upon prisoners. The recent release of the previously censored summary of Mohamed’s treatment in Pakistan notes that “The effects of the sleep deprivation were carefully observed.” As Stephen Soldz notes in an article on the British court revelations, “Why were these effects being ‘carefully observed’ unless to determine their effectiveness in order to see whether they should be inflicted upon others? That is, the observations were designed to generate knowledge that could be generalized to other prisoners. The seeking of “generalizable knowledge” is the official definition of “research,” raising the question of whether the CIA conducted illegal research upon Binyan Mohamed.” The role of doctors, psychologists and other medical professionals in the CIA/DoD torture program has been condemned by a number of individuals in their respective fields, and by organizations such as Center for Constitutional Rights and Physicians for Human Rights.

Most recently, in an important article by Scott Horton at Harpers, the reexamination of the evidence in the supposed 2006 suicides of three prisoners at Guantanamo pointed to the possibility that the prisoners were killed in a previously unknown black site prison on the Guantanamo base – “Camp No” – run by the CIA or Joint Special Operations Command. This raises the question of why they were taken off site at all. One prisoner, 22-year-old Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, had needle marks on both of his arms. The marks were notably not documented in the US military’s autopsy report.

Where Do We Go From Here?

The tale of Dmitri Dimitrov documents the existence of a US-run torture and rendition program decades before the post-9/11 scandals of the Bush administration. Both the CIA and the Department of Defense have been implicated in both the research and implementation of torture for much of post-World War II US history. And yet, aside from the famous Church and Pike Congressional investigations of the 1970’s, and the hearings and report from the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2008-09 on detainee abuse, the perpetrators of these crimes have gone unpunished. The current administration of President Barack Obama has clearly stated that it had little appetite to “look backwards” and seek accountability for the abuses of the past. Yet these abuses are never really “past,” as the suffering of the victims and their families continues into the present. Additionally, the practice of torture, or use of “cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment” of prisoners has not ended, and the same generals, colonels, admirals and intelligence agency bureaucrats and politicians who have been linked to past programs are free to research or implement ongoing abuse of prisoners and experimentation.

This country needs a clear and definite accounting of its past and present use of torture. Like a universal acid, torture breaks down the sinews of its victims, and in the process, the links between people and their government are transformed into the naked exercise of pure sadistic power of rulers over the ruled. The very purpose of civilization is atomized in the process. We need a full, open and thorough public investigation into the entire history of the torture program, with full power to subpoena, and to refer those who shall be held accountable for prosecution under the due process of law.

Binyam Mohamed: A Shameful Cover-Up February 10, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Britain, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
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Published on Wednesday, February 10, 2010 by The Guardian/UKby Clive Stafford Smith

In a scathing judgment running to 84 pages, the court of appeal has slapped the government down in the case of Binyam Mohamed. As many will recall, Mohamed was seized by the Pakistanis in April 2002, turned over to the Americans for a $5,000 bounty, abused for three months, rendered to Morocco, tortured with razor blades to the genitals, rendered on to the “Dark Prison” in Kabul, tortured some more, and then held for five years without charge or trial in Bagram Air Force Base and Guantánamo Bay. The verdict of the court – comprised of three of the country’s most senior judges – underlines the shameful way in which, in this case and beyond, our political leaders have placed their own desire to suppress embarrassing revelations above the welfare of citizens.

With Mohamed’s torture now established as a judicial fact, the judges queried what reason there could be to cover up the now-notorious “seven paragraphs”? This summary was removed from the original opinion when the government cried national security. The material is important – it adds direct evidence that the Americans wrote down their torture tactics, and that a British agent knew Mohamed was being abused before he flew to Pakistan to join the interrogation – but represents only a few crumbs of the overall criminal enterprise.

Yet two years into the litigation, the foreign secretary, David Miliband, still argued that a court would be “irresponsible” to reveal the material – strong language when aimed by the diplomatic service at the judicial branch.

“No advantage is achieved by bandying deprecatory epithets,” the judges replied, before passing out a few polite insults themselves. The foreign secretary’s continued intransigence was “irrational” and lacking in “commonsense.” With the original high court judges, that makes five independent members of the judiciary against one US-dependent politician.

So what is truly at stake here? At its most significant level, the decision focused on a legacy of the “war on terror” that is more bitter even than abusing prisoners: the conflation of national security with political embarrassment. The fact of torture is horrific; but the concerted effort of British and American officials to cover up the torturers’ crimes is far more insidious. How can we learn from history, and avoid repeating mistakes, if we do not know what that history is?

This is a high-profile example of a national disease. Because we fear for our safety and cherish our privacy, politicians argue that we will lose both if we do not sacrifice our right to free speech, our “right to know”. We should, in other words, simply trust them.

This is the path that British politicians have been treading all too frequently. Nobody would have known that three Labour MPs committed expense fraud, or that scores of others spent money on the ethical equivalent of a duck pond, if we were only allowed to see the redacted version of the MPs expenses. The claim in that case was “privacy”.

The seven paragraphs should rate little more than a footnote in the full story, yet that is a tale that remains untold. The court tells us that a “vast body” of government reports about Mohamed’s abuse remain secret. I was in Washington last week reviewing a similarly “vast body” of evidence indicating British complicity in the abuse of another Guantánamo prisoner, Shaker Aamer. Not a word of that has been revealed, again on grounds of national security.

Since I am not as temperate as a judge, I would not characterise the arguments made by Miliband as “irrational”: after beginning with the term “foolish,” I fear I would descend to epithets unfit to print in this publication. Suppressing any evidence of government criminality on grounds of national security sets a very dangerous precedent. As the saying goes, those who would sacrifice their freedoms to ensure their safety deserve neither – and can expect to lose both.

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of defendants facing the death penalty in the USA
 

Binyam Mohamed: read the secret torture evidence

The government has published the seven paragraphs about the treatment of Binyam Mohamed after a ruling in the court of appeal

Binyam Mohamed in London on 17 August 2009 after his release from Guantánamo BayBinyam Mohamed in London on 17 August 2009 after his release from Guantánamo Bay. Photograph: Shaun Curry/AFP/Getty Images

Here are the seven paragraphs that were blanked out in earlier proceedings:

It was reported that a new series of interviews was conducted by the United States authorities prior to 17 May 2002 as part of a new strategy designed by an expert interviewer.

v) It was reported that at some stage during that further interview process by the United States authorities, BM had been intentionally subjected to continuous sleep deprivation. The effects of the sleep deprivation were carefully observed.

vi) It was reported that combined with the sleep deprivation, threats and inducements were made to him. His fears of being removed from United States custody and “disappearing” were played upon.

vii) It was reported that the stress brought about by these deliberate tactics was increased by him being shackled in his interviews

viii) It was clear not only from the reports of the content of the interviews but also from the report that he was being kept under self-harm observation, that the interviews were having a marked effect upon him and causing him significant mental stress and suffering.

ix) We regret to have to conclude that the reports provide to the SyS [security services] made clear to anyone reading them that BM was being subjected to the treatment that we have described and the effect upon him of that intentional treatment.

x) The treatment reported, if had been administered on behalf of the United Kingdom, would clearly have been in breach of the undertakings given by the United Kingdom in 1972. Although it is not necessary for us to categorise the treatment reported, it could readily be contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities.

Read David Miliband’s statement on the appeal ruling

Blistering Indictment Leveled Against Obama Over His Handling of Bush-Era War Crimes December 12, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Torture.
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Saturday 12 December 2009

by: Jason Leopold, t r u t h o u t | Report

During his 36-minute speech upon accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway Thursday, President Barack Obama explained to an audience of 1,000 how the United States has a “moral and strategic interest” in abiding by a code of conduct when waging war – even one that pits the US against a “vicious adversary that abides by no rules.”

“That is what makes us different from those whom we fight,” Obama said. “That is a source of our strength. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America’s commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions. We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. And we honor those ideals by upholding them not just when it is easy, but when it is hard.”

Obama’s high-minded declaration, made on the 61st anniversary of Human Rights Day, rings hollow in light of fresh reports that his administration continues to operate secret prisons in Afghanistan where detainees have been tortured and where human rights organizations such as the International Committee for the Red Cross are refused access to the prisoners.

Obama has substituted words for action on issues surrounding torture since his first days in office nearly one year ago. Last June, on the 25th anniversary of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Obama said the US government “must stand against torture wherever it takes place” and that his administration “is committed to taking concrete actions against torture and to address the needs of its victims.”

But it’s clear that his pledge does not apply to torture committed by Bush administration officials.

That’s the point the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) made shortly after Obama’s acceptance speech. Officials from the civil rights organization issued a withering indictment of the Obama administration’s handling of clear-cut cases of war crimes they say were committed by former Bush officials who the Obama administration not only refuses to prosecute but has gone to extraordinary lengths to cover up.

“We’re increasingly disappointed and alarmed by the current administration’s stance on accountability for torture,” said Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, during a conference call with reporters. “On every front, the [Obama] administration is actively obstructing accountability. This administration is shielding Bush administration officials from civil liability, criminal investigation and even public scrutiny for their role in authorizing torture.”

Before leaving office, Dick Cheney said he approved waterboarding on at least three “high value” detainees and the “enhanced interrogation” of 33 other prisoners. President Bush made a somewhat vaguer acknowledgement of authorizing these techniques.

The ACLU and other civil rights groups said Bush and Cheney’s comments amounted to an admission of war crimes.

Under the Convention Against Torture, the clear record that the Bush administration used waterboarding and other brutal techniques to extract information from detainees should have triggered the United States to conduct a full investigation and to prosecute the offenders. In the case of the US’s refusal to do so, other nations would be obligated to act under the principle of universality.

But Jaffer said that while “the Bush administration constructed a legal framework for torture, now the Obama administration is constructing a legal framework for impunity.”

Defending John Yoo

Indeed, last week, Obama’s Justice Department asked a federal appeals court to dismiss a lawsuit filed against torture memo author John Yoo by Jose Padilla, a US citizen who was arrested in 2002 for allegedly planning to detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb” and detained in a Navy brig on US soil for three years as an enemy combatant, where he says he was tortured as a direct result of Yoo’s legal authorization.

The Obama administration argued, in a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, that DOJ lawyers who advise on torture or other human rights abuses are entitled to absolute immunity from lawsuits.

“The Holder Justice Department insists that they are absolutely not responsible, and that they are free to act according to a far lower standard of conduct than that which governs Americans generally,” wrote Scott Horton, a human rights attorney and constitutional expert in a column published on the Harper’s web site. “Indeed, this has emerged as a sort of ignoble mantra for the Justice Department, uniting both the Bush and Obama administrations.”

Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley said the Obama administration “has gutted the hard-fought victories in Nuremberg where lawyers and judges were often guilty of war crimes in their legal advice and opinions.”

“If successful in [the Padilla] case, the Obama Administration will succeed in returning the world to the rules leading to the war crimes at Nuremberg,” Turley said. “Quite a legacy for the world’s newest Nobel Peace Prize winner.”

What’s remarkable about the Obama Justice Department’s amicus brief in the Padilla case is that it didn’t need to be filed to begin with. Yoo hired a private defense attorney, albeit one who is paid for with taxpayer dollars, earlier this year when the Justice Department backed out of representing Yoo due to undisclosed conflicts.

Suicides

In court papers filed last week, the Obama administration took a hard line in another case, arguing that a Supreme Court ruling that gave detainees the right to challenge their indefinite imprisonment doesn’t apply to the cases of Yasser Al-Zahrani and Salah Al-Salami, two Guantanamo prisoners who committed suicide in June 2006.

The fathers of the men, who were never charged with a crime, sued Bush administration Defense Department officials in federal court, arguing that the torture their sons endured drove them to hang themselves on June 10, 2006 after being detained for four years.

But the Obama administration said in a legal brief that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 stripped the courts of jurisdiction to hear lawsuits that challenged the “detention, transfer, treatment or conditions of confinement” of “enemy combatants.”

Moreover, in court papers filed in June, the Obama administration said, “Judicial intrusion into this politically sensitive area by creating a damages remedy for detainees could subvert these military and diplomatic efforts and lead to ’embarrassment of our government abroad.'”

Besides, the Obama administration said, just as John Yoo is entitled to absolute immunity, Defense Department officials are entitled to “qualified immunity” because the “Fifth and Eighth Amendments do not extend to Guantánamo Bay detainees.”

Earlier this week, a report prepared by the Seton Hall University School of Law Center for Policy & Research called into question the veracity of the government’s official version of the deaths of the two men and that of a third prisoner, who was also found hanging in his cell on June 10, 2006. The government attributed the suicides to “asymmetrical warfare.”

“Both the time and exact manner of the deaths remain uncertain, and the presence of rags stuffed in the detainees‘ throats is unexplained,” the report said.

CIA Renditions and State Secrets

The Obama administration has also mounted an aggressive defense of the Bush administration in another high-profile case, this one related to a lawsuit filed in 2007 against Jeppesen DataPlan, a subsidiary of Boeing. Jeppesen DataPlan is accused of knowingly flying people kidnapped by the CIA to secret overseas prisons where they were brutally tortured during the course of their interrogations.

The Bush administration invoked the state secrets privilege, arguing that national security would be threatened if the lawsuit moved forward, and urged a federal court to throw out the suit. The Bush administration had previously used the privilege as a means to conceal evidence of government misconduct and illegality, critics charged. Still, the judge in the Jeppesen case threw out the lawsuit. The ACLU, which filed the complaint on behalf of five former Guantanamo Bay prisoners, appealed the decision.

Last February, less than a month after Obama was sworn into office and after promising to break free from the abuses committed by the Bush administration, Obama’s Justice Department shocked civil liberties and human rights advocates when attorneys appeared in federal court in San Francisco and invoked the same state secrets privilege that Bush used to keep the Jeppesen case from moving forward.

Even the judge was baffled. She asked a Justice Department attorney if the change in leadership would lead to a change in the administration’s legal position with regard to state secrets, but the answer was a resounding “no.”

An appellate court ultimately ruled in April that the case could move forward. The panel noted that state secrets can only be cited with regard to specific evidence, and not used as a means to dismiss an entire lawsuit. Justice Department attorneys will be back in court Tuesday to appeal the decision, once again asserting state secrets to try and have the case dismissed.

Sen. Russ Feingold, (D-Wisconsin), who heads a subcommittee on the Constitution, said Obama’s use of state secrets during his first 100 days in office was “troubling” and earned the president a “D” for the way in which his administration has handled civil liberties lawsuits filed against the Bush administration, including the Jepessen lawsuit.

Going a step further, the Obama administration has tried to block Binyam Mohamed, one of the victims named in Jeppesen lawsuit, from obtaining documentary evidence to support his claims that he was tortured while in US custody and that the British government was complicit.

In a legal brief, the ACLU said Mohamed was beaten so severely on numerous occasions that he routinely lost consciousness, and during one gruesome torture session “a scalpel was used to make incisions all over his body, including his penis, after which a hot stinging liquid was poured into his open wounds.”

The Obama White House, repeating threats first leveled by the Bush administration, told British government officials that intelligence sharing between the US and Britain would cease if seven redacted paragraphs contained in secret US documents related to allegations about Mohamed’s torture were made public by a British High Court.

Those threats were reiterated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the CIA and Obama’s National Security Adviser James Jones, according to British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

“The United States Government’s position is that, if the redacted paragraphs are made public, then the United States will re-evaluate its intelligence-sharing relationship with the United Kingdom with the real risk that it would reduce the intelligence it provided,” the High Court wrote in a ruling in February when it agreed to keep the paragraphs blacked out. “There is a real risk, if we restored the redacted paragraphs, the United States Government, by its review of the shared intelligence arrangements, could inflict on the citizens of the United Kingdom a very considerable increase in the dangers they face at a time when a serious terrorist threat still pertains.”

The Obama White House actually issued a statement after the High Court ruling thanking the British government “for its continued commitment to protect sensitive national security information” and added that the order would “preserve the long-standing intelligence sharing relationship that enables both countries to protect their citizens.”

It’s unclear why the Obama administration believed national security would be at risk if details of Mohamed’s torture were released. That’s the realization a two-judge panel arrived at when it decided last October to reverse its earlier decision, ruling that the paragraphs at issue should be disclosed because there was a “compelling public interest” and “for reasons of democratic accountability and the rule of law.”

The High Court found that there was insufficient evidence to support White House claims that intelligence sharing between the US and Britain would be endangered because there wasn’t an “explicit statement of consequences [of disclosure by the Court] by the Obama Administration.”

Most notably, however, the judges concluded that the seven paragraphs in question had nothing to do with “secret intelligence” as the Obama administration had claimed. Rather, they were related to the culpability of British intelligence agents in Mohamed’s torture.

Following the High Court’s reversal, The New York Times published a scathing editorial attacking the Obama administration’s hard-line position in the Mohamed case, saying, “The Obama administration has clung for so long to the Bush administration’s expansive claims of national security and executive power that it is in danger of turning President George W. Bush’s cover-up of abuses committed in the name of fighting terrorism into President Barack Obama’s cover-up.”

Mohamed was freed in February after being imprisoned for seven years, and was sent back to Britain. Terrorism-related charges against him were dropped last year when his attorneys sued to gain access to more than three dozen secret documents.

Torture Photos

Obama also reversed a commitment he made earlier this year to release photos of US soldiers torturing and abusing prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama said his decision stemmed from his personal review of the photos and his concern that their release would endanger American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the reversal came after several weeks of mounting accusations portraying him as weak on national security.

It became clear that the president had succumbed to a propaganda barrage unleashed by former Bush administration officials, their congressional allies, the right-wing news media and holdovers that retain key jobs under Obama.

His administration decided to fight an appeals court order to the Supreme Court that it originally said it would honor, while his appointees personally worked with lawmakers in Congress to pass legislation that would authorize the secretary of defense to circumvent the Freedom of Information Act and keep the photographs under wraps.

The legislation was passed in November and Obama swiftly signed it into law. By blocking the release of photographs, Obama essentially killed any meaningful chance of opening the door to an investigation of the senior Pentagon and Bush administration officials responsible for implementing the policies that directly led to the abuses captured in the images.

Obama’s decision to fight to conceal the photos marked an about-face on the open-government policies that he proclaimed during his second day in office.

On January 21, President Obama signed an executive order instructing all federal agencies and departments to “adopt a presumption in favor” of Freedom of Information Act requests and promised to make the federal government more transparent.

“The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears,” Obama’s order said. “In responding to requests under the FOIA, executive branch agencies should act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizing that such agencies are servants of the public.”

But the ACLU pointed out Thursday that it has seen a limited impact from that sweeping executive order.

“We have not seen the presumption translated into the release of more information,” Jaffer said. “There are several cases [in] which we are just at a loss to understand why the information we are requesting is still being withheld.” This information includes documents related to the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program and transcripts of Combatant Status Review Tribunals in which detainees “describe the abuse they suffered at the hands of their CIA interrogators.”

Obama and Congress

In April, a set of legal memoranda written by Yoo and former OLC heads Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury were released. The memos authorized the CIA to implement a list of torture techniques to be used against so-called “high-value” prisoners, including beatings, waterboarding, sleep deprivation, placing insects inside a confinement box to induce fear, exposing detainees to extreme heat and cold, and shackling prisoners to the ceilings of their prison cells or in other painful “stress positions.” The release prompted renewed pressure on members of Congress to investigate the Bush-era abuses.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and his counterpart in the House, Rep. John Conyers, floated competing proposals early in the year for a 9/11-style “truth commission” and a blue-ribbon investigative panel to look into the circumstances that led the Bush administration to formulate a policy of torture.

Obama signaled that he was open to the idea of a “truth commission,” but said he was concerned “about this getting so politicized that we cannot function effectively, and it hampers our ability to carry out critical national security operations.”

Yet he immediately shifted his stance after Republicans pilloried him in numerous op-ed columns in major publications and on cable news programs for backtracking on early promises to “look forward” instead of backwards.

That led Obama to call lawmakers to the White House for a closed-door meeting in late April to talk them out of moving forward with independent investigations. The president even discouraged oversight hearings into the Bush administration’s use of torture.

Underscoring Obama’s position on the issue, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters at the time, “The president determined the concept didn’t seem altogether workable in this case.”

“The last few days might be evidence of why something like this might just become a political back and forth,” Gibbs said.

While Republicans criticized the idea, Democrats weren’t eager to get behind the plan either, and it was scrapped as lawmakers said they were forced to deal with more pressing issues like the economy and health care.

Upcoming Hearings on Torture?

However, according to Christopher Anders, the ACLU’s senior legislative counsel, Leahy and Conyers have both said they intend to hold hearings next year once a long-awaited report by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) is released that delves into Yoo, Bybee and Bradbury’s legal work surrounding torture.

Leahy and Conyers “said a number of times that they would have hearings when the OPR report comes out,” Anders said in an interview. “It would be a big surprise if they didn’t conduct hearings. We fully expect them to hold hearings.”

Anders added that while there is a time and place for independent commissions, the issue of torture is really a matter for Congress to probe.

“These are the hard issues that Congress should really be tackling” Anders said. “It’s squarely under their jurisdiction.”

Spokespeople for Conyers and Leahy did not return calls or respond to e-mails seeking comment.

Additional Revelations

Much of what the public knows thus far about the Bush administration’s torture policies is due to the ACLU Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the government. Since 2004, the organization has obtained more than 100,000 pages of documents that show the Bush White House signed off on and authorized torture against detainees at Guantanamo Bay and at prisons in Iraq.

Several weeks ago, the organization obtained hundreds of new documents, one of which was a one-page questionnaire, apparently from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, that asked (presumably inquiring of the CIA), “How close is each technique to the ‘rack and screw?'”

The rack and screw is a medieval torture device. As Alex Abdo, a legal fellow with the ACLU, pointed out in an interview, “Anytime you need to ask a question like that it is deeply disturbing and shows you’ve strayed from constitutional norms.

“You’re asking a question as to whether the conduct you’re about to authorize relates to rack and screw, and that in and of itself should be evidence enough that you’re going too far. It never should get to that point.”

But the release of these explosive documents, as well as others that showed the Bush White House was deeply involved in discussions surrounding the destruction of 92 torture tapes, was met with absolute silence by Congress and the White House.

The ACLU said that as much as the Obama administration may hope that additional revelations related to the Bush administration’s policy of torture will slip underneath the radar, numerous documents expected to be released in the weeks and months ahead will ensure the issue remains front and center for years to come, and calls for accountability will continue.

“The lesson that this is giving to the rest of the world is that countries do not have to be accountable for their actions even when torture and abuse occurs,” the ACLU’s Anders said. “That’s going to make it much more difficult for the United States to push other countries on human rights issues across the board, and it’s going to make it much easier for other countries to shirk their own duties to bring accountability for their own actions in the past.”

Still, that didn’t stop Obama from lecturing the Oslo audience about the importance of upholding human rights.

Jaffer said there is “an obvious tension on what the president is saying on the commitment to human rights and the work we’re doing here in the United States to actually hold people accountable for the violations of both domestic and international law.”

“A lot of what was authorized by senior Bush administration officials was illegal not only under international law but domestic law as well,” Jaffer said. “Many of the methods that were approved by CIA and [Department of Defense] interrogators had previously been described by multiple US administrations as war crimes and some of them have been prosecuted as war crimes.

“Waterboarding in particular is something that has been prosecuted as a war crime before September 11. And yet we are not holding people accountable for having used those techniques, authorized those techniques. Increasingly, we’re frustrated by the gap between the Obama administration’s rhetoric on accountability and reality. We see the Obama administration actively obstructing accountability on every front.”

Ministers Must Explain Destruction of ‘Torture Flight’ Papers, Says Panel of MPs August 9, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Britain, Criminal Justice.
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Published on Sunday, August 9, 2009 by The Observer/UK

Foreign affairs select committee calls for disclosure on why Diego Garcia documents have vanished

by Mark Townsend

Ministers must explain why crucial documents relating to CIA “torture flights” that stopped on sovereign British territory were destroyed, a panel of MPs has said.

[Britain's Foreign Minister David Miliband looks on ahead of an European Union Foreign Ministers meeting on Iran in Corfu June 28, 2009. (REUTERS/Yiorgos Karahalis/Files)]Britain’s Foreign Minister David Miliband looks on ahead of an European Union Foreign Ministers meeting on Iran in Corfu June 28, 2009. (REUTERS/Yiorgos Karahalis/Files)

A damning appraisal by the influential foreign affairs select committee on Britain’s role in the rendition of terror suspects and alleged complicity of torture condemns the government’s lack of transparency on vital areas of concern.In particular, the MPs, in a report released today, call for an explanation for the missing papers, which might explain the role of Diego Garcia, the British overseas territory, in the US’s “extraordinary rendition” programme. The report says: “We recommend that the government discloses how, why and by whom the records relating to flights through Diego Garcia since the start of 2002 were destroyed.”

Foreign secretary David Miliband admitted 18 months ago that two US planes refuelled on the Indian Ocean island. The committee now wants a detailed account of the record-keeping and disposal policy regarding flights through the territory and “elsewhere through UK airspace”.

It also criticises the government’s inability to offer assurances that ships anchored outside Diego Garcia’s waters were not involved in the rendition programme. “The government must address the use of UK airspace for empty flights that may be part of a rendition circuit,” says the report.

Amnesty International said the MPs’ verdict underlined the need for a full, independent inquiry into the UK’s involvement in “war on terror” and human rights abuses.

The committee also voiced disquiet over claims that British intelligence officers were complicit in the torture of detainees held overseas. According to documents revealed by the high court last month, an MI5 officer visited Morocco three times during the time British resident Binyam Mohamed claims he was secretly interrogated and tortured there.

Of concern to the foreign affairs committee were claims relating to the involvement of the British security services and the practices of Pakistan’s ISI intelligence officers, who are known to routinely condone torture.

Details of the investigations the government has carried out into any of the claims should be made public, according to MPs. Mike Gapes, chairman of the committee, said it was time ministers also disclosed the guidance given at the time to intelligence officers interviewing suspects.

He said details of people captured by UK forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and placed in US custody should be divulged as part of a drive to improve transparency. The committee report notes: “We conclude that the potential treatment of detainees transferred by UK forces to the Afghan authorities gives cause for concern, given that there is credible evidence that torture and other abuses occur within the Afghani criminal justice system.”

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2009

The NYT Sums up Obama’s Civil Liberties Record in One Paragraph May 16, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties.
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Among progressives, Democrats, liberals, Obama supporters and the like, there seems to be some debate about the extent to which Obama deserves criticisms for what he has done thus far in the realm of civil liberties, restoration of Constitutional principles, and reversing the severe imbalance between “security” and liberties — major planks of his two-year-long campaign and among the most frequent weapons used to criticize the Bush presidency.  On that topic, here is the first paragraph of this New York Times article this morning by David Sanger, summing everything up:

President Obama’s decisions this week to retain important elements of the Bush-era system for trying terrorism suspects and to block the release of pictures showing abuse of American-held prisoners abroad are the most graphic examples yet of how he has backtracked, in substantial if often nuanced ways, from the approach to national security that he preached as a candidate, and even from his first days in the Oval Office.

Here’s how the NYT describes the article on its front page:

The opening paragraph of this Washington Post article today says much the same thing: 

As a candidate for president, Barack Obama offered himself as a clear alternative to Bush-era anti-terrorism policies. Governing has proven muddier.

Both articles quote the hardest-core Bush supporters as heaping praise on Obama for what he has done in the area of “national security,” terrorism and civil liberties (“Pete Wehner, a member of Karl Rove’s staff in the Bush White House [and a current National Review writer] applauded several of Mr. Obama’s decisions this week”).  Indeed, all week long, and even before that, the greatest enthusiasm for Obama’s decisions on so-called “terrorism policies” and civil liberties (with some important exceptions) has been found in the pages of The Weekly Standard and National Review.

Can anyone deny what the NYT and Post are pointing out today?  This is what happened this week alone in the realm of Obama’s approach to “national security” and civil liberties:

Monday – Obama administration’s letter to Britian threatening to cut off intelligence-sharing if British courts reveal the details of how we tortured British resident Binyam Mohamed;

Tuesday – Promoted to military commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChyrstal, who was deeply involved in some of the worst abuses of the Bush era;

Wednesday – Announced he was reversing himself and would try to conceal photographic evidence showing widespread detainee abuse — despite the rulings from two separate courts (four federal judges unanimously) that the law compels their disclosure;

Friday –  Unveiled his plan to preserve a modified system of military commissions for trying Guantanamo detainees, rather than using our extant-judicial processes for doing so.

It’s not the fault of civil libertarians that Obama did all of those things, just in this week alone.  These are the very policies — along with things like the claimed power to abduct and imprison people indefinitely with no charges of any kind and the use of the “state secrets privilege” to deny torture and spying victims a day in court — that caused such extreme anger and criticisms toward the Bush presidency.

What would it say about a person who spent the last seven years vehemently criticizing those policies to suddenly decide that the same policies were perfectly fine or not particularly bothersome when Obama adopts them?  How could that be justified?  What should one say about a person who vehemently objected to X when Bush did it, but then suddenly found ways to defend or mitigate X when Obama does it?  Just re-read that first paragraph from the NYT article today. What should a rational person say in response to what it describes?

It is absolutely true that there have been some important steps Obama has taken in the right direction that George Bush and John McCain would never have entertained, including banning interrogation techniques outside of the Army Field Manual, barring CIA secret prisons, guaranteeing International Red Cross access to all detainees, and releasing numerous Bush era OLC memos.  He deserves praise for those decisions and has received it here.   But other than the OLC memos, those steps all came in the very first week of his presidency in largely symbolic form.  At the time, in the first week, I wrote that Obama’s first-week executive orders “meet or actually exceed even the most optimistic expectations of civil libertarians for what he could or would do quickly,” but:

This is why the understandable enthusiasm (which I definitely share) over Obama’s pleasantly unexpected commitment in the first few hours of his presidency to take politically difficult steps in the civil liberties and accountability realms should be tempered somewhat.  There is going to be very concerted pressure exerted on him by establishment guardians such as Hiatt (and the Brookings Institution, Jack Goldsmith and friends), to say nothing of hard-line factions within the intelligence community and its various allies, for Obama to take subsequent steps that would eviscerate much of this progress, that render these initial rollbacks largely empty, symbolic gestures. Whether these steps, impressive as they are, will be symbolic measures designed to placate certain factions, or whether they represent a genuine commitment on Obama’s part, remains to be seen. Much of it will depend on how much political pressure is exerted and from what sides.

Obama deserves real praise for devoting the first few days of his presidency to these vital steps — and doing so without there being much of a political benefit and with some real political risk.  That’s genuinely encouraging. But ongoing vigilance is necessary, to counter-balance the Fred Hiatts, Brookings Institutions and other national security state fanatics, to ensure that these initial steps aren’t undermined.

Since that first week, Obama has engaged in one action after the next to preserve many of the key prongs, and the essential architecture, of the Bush/Cheney abuses of executive power and civil liberties.  That’s just factually true.  What’s the point of closing Guantanamo if we’re going to continue to keep people indefinitely in cages with no trial in Bagram, or if we simply transport a modified version of Guantanamo justice to the U.S.?  How can a President who repeatedly promised vast transparency embrace the most extremist Bush/Cheney secrecy powers?   How can a person who campaigned on the vow to end “Scooter Libby justice” and restore the rule of law take one extreme step after the next to shield from judicial scrutiny some of the most serious, brutal and highest-level crimes of the last eight years?

It’s certainly true that there are other issues besides civil liberties and national security policies that are important.  The fact that he’s been horrible in these areas doesn’t mean he hasn’t been good in others.  One can argue, if one likes, that these civil liberties issues don’t really matter (a representative of Center for American Progress joined with two conservatives to claim exactly that yesterday on CNN), or one can argue that all that matters is that we fix the banking crisis and implement a new health care policy.  But I never heard any Bush critics — not one — say anything like that when these issues were front and center in the case against the Bush presidency.

Nobody who spent the last many years devoting themselves to opposing Bush/Cheney abuses of executive power and civil liberties wanted to have to do the same in an Obama presidency.  If you doubt that, just look at how intense was the celebratory praise directed at Obama from those factions in the first week.  But unless the opposition of the last eight years was really just a cynical means for opportunistically weakening and demonizing Republican opponents rather than opposing policies that one genuinely found dangerous and wrong, then the actions of Obama are leaving no other choice but to object and object strenuously.  As the first paragraph of today’s NYT article put it, this week alone provided “the most graphic examples yet of how [Obama] has backtracked, in substantial if often nuanced ways, from the approach to national security that he preached as a candidate, and even from his first days in the Oval Office.”  If nothing else, refraining from objecting will ensure that this continues further and further.

* * * * *

Yesterday morning, I was on WNYC’s The Takeway discussing (briefly) the issue of Obama’s military commissions and, more extensively, drug policy and decriminalization in Portugal.  That can be heard here.

UPDATE:  The Wall St. Journal Editorial Page today:

President Obama’s endorsements of Bush-Cheney antiterror policies are by now routine . . . . Mr. Obama deserves credit for accepting that the civilian courts are largely unsuited for the realities of the war on terror. He has now decided to preserve a tribunal process that will be identical in every material way to the one favored by Dick Cheney . . . Meanwhile, friends should keep certain newspaper editors away from sharp objects. Their champion has repudiated them once again.

Meanwhile, Law Professor Julian Ku notes that Obama Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal spent years arguing that military commissions generally (not merely Bush’s specific version) were oppressive and un-American (h/t).  But now, thanks to Obama’s embrace of them, Katyal is going to have to defend Obama’s military commissions in court from challenge by the ACLU and other groups.  At least Katyal has the excuse that defending exactly that which he spent years excoriating is his job.  Obama supporters who are doing the same don’t have that excuse.

UPDATE II:  Illustrating the irrationality that is used, Obama defenders are making the following two arguments to justify what he did on military commissions:

(1) Obama had no choice because he can’t obtain convictions of accused terrorists in civilian courts because so much of the evidence was obtained by Bush’s torture and thus can’t be used;

(2) Obama’s military commissions are better than Bush’s because Obama’s commissions won’t allow evidence obtained by torture.

Aren’t those two propositions completely contradictory?  If Obama’s military commissions (like civilian courts and courts-martial) won’t allow evidence obtained via torture, then why can’t he use our normal court system to try accused terrorists?

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “How Would a Patriot Act?,” a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, “A Tragic Legacy“, examines the Bush legacy.

Obama’s Latest Effort to Conceal Evidence of Bush Era Crimes May 14, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Torture.
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by Glenn Greenwald

It’s difficult to react much to Obama’s complete reversal today of his own prior decision to release photographs depicting extreme detainee abuse by the United States.  He’s left no doubt that this is what he does:  ever since he was inaugurated, Obama has taken one extreme step after the next to keep concealed both the details and the evidence of Bush’s crimes, including rendition, torture and warrantless eavesdropping.  The ACLU’s Amrit Singh — who litigated the thus-far-successful FOIA lawsuit to compel disclosure of these photographs — is exactly right:

The reversal is another indication of a continuance of the Bush administration policies under the Obama administration.  President Obama’s promise of accountability is meaningless, this is inconsistent with his promise of transparency, it violates the government’s commitment to the court. People need to examine these abusive photographs, but also the government officials need to be held accountable.

Andrew Sullivan, one of Obama’s earliest and most enthusiastic supporters, wrote of today’s photograph-concealment decision and yesterday’s story of Obama’s pressuring Britain to conceal evidence of Binyam Mohamed’s torture:

Slowly but surely, Obama is owning the cover-up of his predecessors’ war crimes. But covering up war crimes, refusing to prosecute them, promoting those associated with them, and suppressing evidence of them are themselves violations of Geneva and the UN Convention. So Cheney begins to successfully coopt his successor. . .

From extending and deepening the war in Afghanistan, to suppressing evidence of rampant and widespread abuse and torture of prisoners under Bush, to thuggishly threatening the British with intelligence cut-off if they reveal the brutal torture inflicted on Binyam Mohamed, Obama now has new cheer-leaders: Bill Kristol, Michael Goldfarb and Max Boot. . . .

Those of us who held out hope that the Obama administration would not be actively covering up the brutal torture of a Gitmo prisoner who was subject to abuse in several countries must now concede the obvious. They’re covering it up – in such a crude and obvious fashion that it is actually a crime in Britain.

John Aravosis said Obama’s logic was “a bit Bushian.”  Steve Hynd observes that “Obama Trades Our Principles For Cheneyism.”  TPM decalres:  “Obama falls back on Bushisms.”  Dan Froomkin writes:  “Obama Joins the Cover-Up.”  I’ll just note a few points for now about Obama’s efforts to keep these photographs concealed:

(1) Think about what Obama’s rationale would justify.  Obama’s claim — that release of the photographs “would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger” — means we should conceal or even outright lie about all the bad things we do that might reflect poorly on us.  For instance, if an Obama bombing raid slaughters civilians in Afghanistan (as has happened several times already), then, by this reasoning, we ought to lie about what happened and conceal the evidence depicting what was done — as the Bush administration did — because release of such evidence would “would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.”  Indeed, evidence of our killing civilians in Afghanistan inflames anti-American sentiment far more than these photographs would.  Isn’t it better to hide the evidence showing the bad things we do?

Apparently, the proper reaction to heinous acts by our political leaders is not to hold them accountable but, instead, to hide evidence of what they did.  That’s the warped mentality Obama is endorsing today, and has been endorsing since January 20.

(2) How can anyone who supports what Obama is doing here complain about the CIA’s destruction of their torture videos?  The torture videos, like the torture photos, would, if released, generate anti-American sentiment and make us look bad.  By Obama’s reasoning, didn’t the CIA do exactly the right thing by destroying them?

(3) This is just another manifestation of the generalized Beltway religion that we should suppress and ignore the heinous acts our government committed and to which we acquiesced, because if we just agree to forget about all of it, then we can blissfully pretend that it never happened and avoid doing anything about it.

(4) Obama’s claim that he has to hide this evidence to protect our soldiers is the sort of crass, self-serving exploitation of “The Troops” which was the rancid hallmark of Bush/Cheney rhetoric.  Everyone knows what the real effect of these photographs would be:  they would highlight just how brutal and criminal was our treatment of detainees in our custody, and further underscore how amoral and lawless are Obama’s calls that we Look To the Future, Not the Past.  Manifestly, that is why they’re being suppressed.

(5) For all of you defend-Obama-at-all-cost cheerleaders who are about to descend into my comment section and other online venues to explain how Obama did the right thing because of National Security, I have this question:  if you actually want to argue that concealing these photographs is the right thing to do, then you must have been criticizing Obama when, two weeks ago, he announced that he would release them.  Otherwise, it’s pretty clear that you don’t have any actual beliefs other than:  “I support what Obama does because it’s Obama who does it.”   So for those arguing today that concealing these photographs is the right thing to do:  were you criticizing Obama two weeks ago for announcing he would release these photographs?

Also, the OLC torture memos released several weeks ago surely increased anti-American sentiment.  Indeed, those on the Right who objected to the release of those memos cited exactly that argument.  How can anyone cheer on Obama’s decision today to conceal these photographs while also cheering on his decision to release the OLC memos?  Those who have any intellectual coherence would have to oppose both or support both.   Those two decisions only have one fact in common: Obama made them.  Thus, the only way to cheer on both decisions is to be guided by the modified Nixonian mantra: what Obama does is right because Obama does it.

Also, during the Bush years, were you — along with Bill Kristol and National Review — attacking the ACLU and Congressional Democrats for demanding that the Bush administration stop concealing evidence of its torture, on the ground that disclosure of such evidence would harm America’s national security?  Were you defending Bush then for doing what Obama is doing now?

(6) If these photographs don’t shed any new light on what our Government did — if all they do is replicate what we already know from the Abu Ghraib photographs — then how can it possibly be the case that they will do any damage?  To argue that they will harm how we are perceived is, necessarily, to acknowledge that they reveal new information that is not already widely known.

(7) We are supposed to have what is called Open Government in the United States.  The actions of our government — and the evidence documenting it — is presumptively available to the public.  Only an authoritarian would argue that evidence of government actions should be kept secret in the absence of a compelling reason to release it.  

The presumption is the opposite:  documents in the government’s possession relating to what it does is presumptively public in the absence of compelling reasons to keep it concealed.  That the documents reflect poorly on the government is not such a reason to keep them concealed.  If it were, then it would always be preferable to have political leaders cover-up their crimes on the ground that disclosing them would reflect poorly on the U.S. and spur anti-American sentiment.  Open government is necessary precisely because only transparency deters political leaders from doing heinous acts in the first place.

 

UPDATE:  Here (.pdf) is the letter the DOJ sent to the court this afternoon, advising the judge that they changed their minds “at the highest levels of Government” and would not, as previously promised, release the photographs, but instead would attempt to appeal the Second Circuit’s decision compelling their release to the Roberts Supreme Court.

 

UPDATE II:  In comments, Paul Daniel Ash addresses the Obama supporters who are defending Obama’s decision to keep these photographs concealed on the ground that “no good would come” from disclosure:

I’m pretty jaded, but even I’m outraged and saddened by the number of voices being raised in this comment thread supporting the decision to conceal these photos.

“No good will come?” Would we even have had an Abu Ghraib scandal without the pictures of bloody prisoners and men cowering in front of dogs? “No good?” Is there or is there not an active debate in this country about whether or not torture is acceptable? “No good?” Did a United States Senator not say just today, in the Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts, that torture techniques have been used for the past five centuries because “apparently they work?” 

“No good will come?”

Indeed, it’s pretty hard to believe that the people who are arguing that “no good will come” from release of these photos either (a) lived through the impact of the Abu Ghraib photos and/or (b) are living through the “torture debate” we are now having. 

Photographs convey the reality of things in a way that mere words cannot.  They prevent people who want to deny what was done the ability to do so.  They force citizens to face what their country did and what they are now justifying and advocating.  They impede the ability of political leaders to use euphemisms to obscure the truth.  They show in graphic detail what the effects are of sanctioning torture policies.  They prove that this was about more than “dunking three terrorists into water.”  They highlight the fact that no decent person believes that this should all just be forgotten and its victims told that they have no right to have accountability.  That’s precisely why the photographs are being suppressed:  because of how much good they would do.

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “How Would a Patriot Act?,” a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, “A Tragic Legacy“, examines the Bush legacy.

Obama administration threatens Britain to keep torture evidence concealed May 12, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Foreign Policy, Torture, Uncategorized.
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May 12, 2009 10:36 EDT

Glenn Greenwald, www.salon.com

Ever since he was released from Guantanamo in February after six years of due-process-less detention and brutal torture, Binyam Mohamed has been attempting to obtain justice for what was done to him.  But his torturers have been continuously protected, and Mohamed’s quest for a day in court repeatedly thwarted, by one individual:  Barack Obama.  Today, there is new and graphic evidence of just how far the Obama administration is going to prevent evidence of the Bush administration’s torture program from becoming public.

In February, Obama’s DOJ demanded dismissal of Mohamed’s lawsuit against the company which helped “render” him to be tortured on the ground that national security would be harmed if the lawsuit continued.  Then, after a British High Court ruled that there was credible evidence that Mohamed was subjected to brutal torture and was entitled to obtain evidence in the possession of the British government which detailed the CIA’s treatment of Mohamed, and after a formal police inquiry began into allegations that British agents collaborated in his torture, the British government cited threats from the U.S. government that it would no longer engage in intelligence-sharing with Britain — i.e., it would no longer pass on information about terrorist threats aimed at British citizens — if the British court disclosed the facts of Mohamed’s torture. 

As I wrote about in February, those threats from the U.S. caused the British High Court to reverse itself and rule that, in light of these threats from the U.S., it would keep seven paragraphs detailing Mohamed’s torture concealed.  From the British court’s ruling:

The United States Government’s position is that, if the redacted paragraphs are made public, then the United States will re-evaluate its intelligence-sharing relationship with the United Kingdom with the real risk that it would reduce the intelligence it provided (para. 62) . . . . [and] there is a real risk, if we restored the redacted paragraphs, the United States Government, by its review of the shared intelligence arrangements, could inflict on the citizens of the United Kingdom a very considerable increase in the dangers they face at a time when a serious terrorist threat still pertains (para. 106).

Just think how despicable that threat is:  if your court describes the torture to which one of your residents was subjected while in U.S. custody, we will withhold information from you that could enable you to break up terrorist plots aimed at your citizens.

In the aftermath of that ruling, there was some dispute about whether the Obama administration had really issued this threat to Britain or whether it was merely a residual threat from the Bush administration.  But in the wake of a recent motion by Mohamed’s lawyer to the British court for re-consideration of its ruling, in response to which the British government submitted the written threats from the Obama administration, there can now be no doubt not only that Obama made these threats to Britain, but did so in a remarkably extreme and heavy-handed manner.

The Washington Times‘ Eli Lake reported this morning that “the Obama administration [said] it may curtail Anglo-American intelligence sharing if the British High Court discloses new details of the treatment of a former Guantanamo detainee.”  Last month, when I interviewed Mohamed’s lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, he made clear just how grave of an act — a crime — such threats are, but nonetheless expressed hope that the Obama administration would repudiate those threats:

On the other hand, it is clear that there has now been a threat, and indeed the judges say eight times in the latest opinion, that the British government was threatened with sanctions if they were to release evidence of torture. And this needs to be put into perspective. Actually covering up evidence of torture is a criminal offense for which you can go to prison here in Britain, and I imagine in the US but I’m not quite sure about that. And the idea that the British government would conspire with the US or be threatened by the US to do this is again an independent violation of the law. . . .

The British courts are saying that the British government relied on President Obama’s view that this material about torture shouldn’t be released to the public. It became clear to us in Britain that actually President Obama had never made that decision and that the British government had somewhat misrepresented his position to the courts. And what I thought was only fair and appropriate was for President Obama to make a decision himself: Do you, President Obama, I voted for you and I think he’s a good man, do you really, really tell your officials to cover up evidence of torture committed by US personnel?

That question about Obama’s intentions — along with Obama’s decision last month to release the 4 OLC torture memos — is what led Smith to make his motion for the British High Court to re-consider its ruling that it would not make the torture details public:  namely, he wanted definitive evidence one way or the other as to whether Obama really was issuing these threats to the British government.

That definitive evidence came, and it leaves no doubt that these threats to the British government are now being issued every bit as emphatically from Obama.  I’ve obtained a copy of the letter excerpts submitted to the British court (.pdf – see pages 6-9), submitted by the British Government to prove that the U.S., under Obama, is continuing to make these threats.  Here are key excerpts from the Obama administration’s letter; just marvel at what the U.S. is saying to Britian:

In other words:  if you let your courts describe how we tortured Mohamed — even if your laws compel such disclosure — we may purposely leave your citizens vulnerable to future terrorist attacks by withholding information we obtain about terrorist plots.  Smith re-iterated to Lake what he told me last month:  that the Obama administration’s actions in issuing these threats in order to hide  evidence of torture is itself a criminal act:

“What they are doing is twisting the arm of the British to keep evidence of torture committed by American officials secret,” said Mr. Smith, a U.S. citizen. “I had high hopes for the Obama administration. I voted for the guy, and one hopes the new administration would not continue to cover up evidence of criminal activity.”

The Metropolitan Police of London is investigating whether Mr. Mohamed was tortured when he was in American custody.

Mr. Smith said that by attempting to keep evidence of Mr. Mohamed’s “abuse” secret, the U.S. official who communicated the threats to the British Foreign Office was in breach of British law, specifically the International Criminal Court Act of 2001.

“The U.S. is committing a criminal offense in Britain by seeking to conceal this information. What the Obama administration did is not just ill-advised, it is illegal,” he said.

Independently, Article 9 of the Convention Against Torture requires that “States Parties shall afford one another the greatest measure of assistance in connection with civil proceedings brought in respect of any of the offences referred to in article 4, including the supply of all evidence at their disposal necessary for the proceedings.”  If the U.S. were a country that adhered to its treaty obligations — rather than systematically ignored them whenever the mood struck — that, too, would be significant.

The principal issue here is that the Obama administration is not merely failing to investigate (let alone prosecute) acts of high-level criminality by U.S. government officials.  Far worse, ever since he was inaugurated, Obama has engaged in one extraordinary legal maneuver after the next to block American courts from ruling on the legality of those actions.  He has now extended his Bush-protecting conduct to the international realm, as he re-iterates Bush’s threats that we will purposely leave British citizens more vulnerable to terrorist attacks if their courts rule that, under their laws, their citizens are entitled to know what was done to Binyam Mohamed.  

Here is what the British High Court said when reversing its decision to disclose the evidence in light of these threats from the U.S. government (click to enlarge):

I believe their error was in conceiving of the United States as a country “governed by the rule of law.”

Federal Court to Obama DOJ: ‘State Secrets’ Excuse is Bogus, Torture Victims’ Lawsuit Can Proceed April 28, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
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 jeppesen-supports-torture

Posted by Liliana Segura, AlterNet at 1:39 PM on April 28, 2009, www.alternet.org

In a crucial defeat for the Obama administration, an ACLU lawsuit on behalf of five victims of extraordinary rendition will move forward.

In February, lawyers for the Obama administration dismayed many of his supporters by attempting to block a lawsuit on behalf of five victims of  extraordinary rendition on the same bogus “state secrets” grounds so often invoked by his predecessor.

“This case cannot be litigated,” Department of Justice lawyer Douglas Letter argued at the time. “The judges shouldn’t play with fire in this national security situation.”

This claim, a throwback to the shameless secrecy and fearmongering of the Bush era, was devastating to those who had hoped that the Obama presidency would mark a shift towards seeking justice for the countless men wrongfully swept up in the early days of the so-called “war on terror” — and accountability for those who sanctioned their torture.

As I explained at the time:

 

 

The case was Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen Dataplan, a lawsuit originally brought in 2007 by the ACLU on behalf of five victims of extraordinary rendition, the notorious CIA program in which terror suspects are kidnapped, thrown on a plane and flown to another country to be tortured and interrogated.

Jeppesen Dataplan, a subsidiary of Boeing, is said to have provided the logistical support for the rendition of all five plaintiffs, among them, Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian national who, in July 2002, was taken from Pakistan to Morocco, where for 18 months he was imprisoned and brutally tortured, including being cut with razorblades on his testicles. Mohamed was later sent to Guantanamo Bay, where he supposedly awaits imminent plans for his release. He has never stood trial.

 

 

Two weeks later — and seven years after his initial capture — Binyam Mohamed was finally released.

 

 

“The very people who I had hoped would come to my rescue, I later realized, had allied themselves with my abusers,” he said in a statement released upon his arrival to Britain.

 

 

Likewise, the same administration many hoped would finally allow torture victims to have their day in court instead has followed the Bush administration’s footsteps by seeking to block their lawsuits.

Today, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit came down on the side of Mohamed and his fellow plaintiffs, ruling that the ACLU case against Jeppesen Dataplan can move forward.

“The Executive’s national security prerogatives are not the only weighty constitutional values at stake,” the court concluded, quoting the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark opinion in Boumediene v. Bush that security depends on the “freedom from arbitrary and unlawful restraint and the personal liberty that is secured by adhering to the separation of powers.”

 

 

According to the court’s decision, the government can only use the state secrets privilege with respect to specific evidence, not to throw out the lawsuit itself.

In a statement released today by the ACLU, staff attorney Ben Wizner, who argued the case for the plaintiffs, said, “This historic decision marks the beginning, not the end, of this litigation. Our clients, who are among the hundreds of victims of torture under the Bush administration, have waited for years just to get a foot in the courthouse door. Now, at long last, they will have their day in court. Today’s ruling demolishes once and for all the legal fiction, advanced by the Bush administration and continued by the Obama administration, that facts known throughout the world could be deemed ‘secrets’ in a court of law.”

“I am happy to hear this news,” said Bisher Al-Rawi, a plaintiff in this case who was released from Guantánamo last year without ever having been charged with a crime. “We have made a huge step forward in our quest for justice.”

 

 

The ACLU has more.