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Three-Fifths of an Attorney General Declares POWs “Non-Persons” July 24, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
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Roger’s note: Congratulations.  Barak Obama and Eric Holder, with the essential contribution of George Bush, have managed to score a trifecta: a policy and implementation at Guantanamo Bay that is all three, Orwellian, Kafkaesque and Lewis Carroll at the same time.  Torture, indefinite detention, and people who are not persons.  “Execution first, then the trial” shouted the Queen.

And by the way, the three fifths of a person of African slaves that was in the original constitution is even worse than it appears at face value.  Slaves would have been better off if not considered as persons at all.  The southern states lobbied for three fifths so that their slaves would be counted in the census, which in turn determined their level of representation in the House of Representative.  More slaves on the roll via the three fifths gave the southern state more political clout with which to defend slavery.  Thus, being counted as less than fully human was a double whammy against the slaves.  Kafka would have loved it.

 

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Protestors gathered in New York City’s Time Square in April of 2013 to raise awareness of detainee hunger strikes and indefinite imprisonment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. (Photo: flickr / cc /Jordan P)

 

Hand it to President Obama for appointing Eric Holder the first African American Attorney General in US history. Then try to fathom that after generations of civil and human rights work by African Americans — whom the US Constitution once called “3/5 of a person” — it is Holder who declared some brown skinned prisoners of war to be “non-persons.” The men are held outside the law by the US at Guantánamo Bay.

Attorneys for the POWs have asked for an order that would allow group prayers during the holy month of Ramadan, but Holder’s Justice Dept. has formally replied that the men aren’t entitled to relief under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) because the Supreme Court has not found that Guantánamo’s prisoners “are ‘persons’ to whom RFRA applies.”

Holder calls the men “unprivileged enemy belligerents detained overseas during a period of ongoing hostilities.” Calling them prisoners of war would require respecting their human rights.

Cori Crider, an attorney with the legal charity Reprieve who represents some of the men, said in a statement, “I fail to see how the President can stand up and claim Guantánamo is a scandal while his lawyers call detainees non-persons in court. If the President is serious about closing this prison, he could start by recognizing that its inmates are people — most of whom have been cleared by his own Government.”

According to AG Holder, US Appeals Court rulings mean Guantánamo’s POWs — whom he calls “nonresident aliens outside the US sovereign territory” — are “not protected ‘person[s].’” In the infamous Hobby Lobby case Holder argues, the Supreme Court refused to say that the word “‘person’ as used in RFRA includes a nonresident alien outside sovereign United States territory.”

Even if RFRA applied to the POWs, Holder claims, the law “cannot overcome the judicial presumption against extraterritorial application of statutes.” Translation: US Law doesn’t apply at Gitmo, or, the reason the US isolates non-persons at an off-shore military penal colony in the first place is so we can ignore or violate “statutes” with impunity. And if we convince ourselves that “unprivileged enemy belligerents” are not people, we should be able to sleep even if we violate the US torture statute (18 USC, Sec. 1, Ch. 113C), the Convention Against Torture and the US War Crimes Act (18 USC, Sec. 2441) ¾ for years on end.

America’s indefinite imprisonment without charges, hunger strikers and force-feeding

My own jail and prison time, all for political protests, has always come with a clear sentence: six days, 90 days, 180 days; 54 months in all. Anybody who’s been on the inside knows that a release date gives you something fast to hold on to, even if you’re called by a number, fed through a slot, handcuffed for court. But imagine 156 months in a nihilistic “extraterritorial” military prison, with no charges, no trial, no sentence, no visits, phone calls or mail, and no hope.

This is what the USA imposes at Guantánamo, a torturous psychological vice of legal oblivion and manufactured futurelessness. Add to this appalling construction the fact that 72 of 149 remaining inmates were approved for release more than four years ago — but are chained up anyway. Scores of Gitmo’s inmates have looked into this man-made oblivion and decided to die. They are using the only power they have left, the dreadful hunger-strike, both as a protest against their endless detention without trial and their only means of eventually ending it.

The US military has chosen to force-feed hunger strikers, gruesomely plunging plastic tubes up the non-persons’ noses. This abuse violates laws against torture, and the force-feeding schedule is the original basis for the religious rights petition so vigorously opposed by Obama and Holder. The ghastly traumatic stress resulting from enduring force-feeding and the regime of its application make Ramadan’s prayerful group reflection impossible. US District Judge Gladys Kessler has, according to Charlie Savage in the New York Times, publicly condemned the abuse for causing “agony.” For PR purposes the Pentagon and Justice Department call the abuse “enteral feeding.”

Mr. Holder has called “not credible” the prisoners’ complaints about “alleged aspects of enteral feeding” and “allegations that detainees who were being enterally fed were not permitted to pray communally during Ramadan in 2013.” But after the number of hunger strikers reached 106 last year, the military halted its public reporting of the strike.

Significantly, a Navy medical officer at Guantánamo has become the first prison official known to refuse force-feeding duty. The unidentified nurse’s refusal was acknowledged by the Pentagon July 15.

If Holder wins his frightening argument denying the humanity of the men at Guantánamo, even the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals could object. The ASPCA says its vision is that “the US is a humane community in which all animals are treated with respect and kindness.”

CIA made doctors torture suspected terrorists after 9/11, taskforce finds November 4, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Torture.
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Roger’s note: there are parallels here, certainly not anyway near the same scope, but parallels nonetheless with Nazi concentration camp doctors.

 

Doctors were asked to torture detainees for intelligence gathering, and unethical practices continue, review concludes

 

CIA made doctors torture suspected terrorists after 9/11, taskforce finds

An al-Qaida detainee at Guantanamo Bay in 2002: the DoD has taken steps to address concerns over practices at the prison in recent years. Photograph: Shane T Mccoy/PA

 

Doctors and psychologists working for the US military violated the ethical codes of their profession under instruction from the defence department and the CIA to become involved in the torture and degrading treatment of suspected terrorists, an investigation has concluded.

The report of the Taskforce on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centres concludes that after 9/11, health professionals working with the military and intelligence services “designed and participated in cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and torture of detainees”.

Medical professionals were in effect told that their ethical mantra “first do no harm” did not apply, because they were not treating people who were ill.

The report lays blame primarily on the defence department (DoD) and the CIA, which required their healthcare staff to put aside any scruples in the interests of intelligence gathering and security practices that caused severe harm to detainees, from waterboarding to sleep deprivation and force-feeding.

The two-year review by the 19-member taskforce, Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror, supported by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) and the Open Society Foundations, says that the DoD termed those involved in interrogation “safety officers” rather than doctors. Doctors and nurses were required to participate in the force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strike, against the rules of the World Medical Association and the American Medical Association. Doctors and psychologists working for the DoD were required to breach patient confidentiality and share what they knew of the prisoner’s physical and psychological condition with interrogators and were used as interrogators themselves. They also failed to comply with recommendations from the army surgeon general on reporting abuse of detainees.

The CIA’s office of medical services played a critical role in advising the justice department that “enhanced interrogation” methods, such as extended sleep deprivation and waterboarding, which are recognised as forms of torture, were medically acceptable. CIA medical personnel were present when waterboarding was taking place, the taskforce says.

Although the DoD has taken steps to address concerns over practices at Guantánamo Bay in recent years, and the CIA has said it no longer has suspects in detention, the taskforce says that these “changed roles for health professionals and anaemic ethical standards” remain.

“The American public has a right to know that the covenant with its physicians to follow professional ethical expectations is firm regardless of where they serve,” said Dr Gerald Thomson, professor of medicine emeritus at Columbia University and member of the taskforce.

He added: “It’s clear that in the name of national security the military trumped that covenant, and physicians were transformed into agents of the military and performed acts that were contrary to medical ethics and practice. We have a responsibility to make sure this never happens again.”The taskforce says that unethical practices by medical personnel, required by the military, continue today. The DoD “continues to follow policies that undermine standards of professional conduct” for interrogation, hunger strikes, and reporting abuse. Protocols have been issued requiring doctors and nurses to participate in the force-feeding of detainees, including forced extensive bodily restraints for up to two hours twice a day.

Doctors are still required to give interrogators access to medical and psychological information about detainees which they can use to exert pressure on them. Detainees are not permitted to receive treatment for the distress caused by their torture.

“Putting on a uniform does not and should not abrogate the fundamental principles of medical professionalism,” said IMAP president David Rothman. “‘Do no harm’ and ‘put patient interest first’ must apply to all physicians regardless of where they practise.”The taskforce wants a full investigation into the involvement of the medical profession in detention centres. It is also calling for publication of the Senate intelligence committee’s inquiry into CIA practices and wants rules to ensure doctors and psychiatrists working for the military are allowed to abide by the ethical obligations of their profession; they should be prohibited from taking part in interrogation, sharing information from detainees’ medical records with interrogators, or participating in force-feeding, and they should be required to report abuse of detainees.

After Guantánamo, Another Injustice August 12, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Torture.
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Roger’s note: I am an unrepentant Grisham addict.  In addition to being a page-turning novelist, he writes about and combats injustice.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A restraint chair used to force-feed detainees at the military hospital at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

ABOUT two months ago I learned that some of my books had been banned at Guantánamo Bay. Apparently detainees were requesting them, and their lawyers were delivering them to the prison, but they were not being allowed in because of “impermissible content.”

I became curious and tracked down a detainee who enjoys my books. His name is Nabil Hadjarab, and he is a 34-year-old Algerian who grew up in France. He learned to speak French before he learned to speak Arabic. He has close family and friends in France, but not in Algeria. As a kid growing up near Lyon, he was a gifted soccer player and dreamed of playing for Paris St.-Germain, or another top French club.

Tragically for Nabil, he has spent the past 11 years as a prisoner at Guantánamo, much of the time in solitary confinement. Starting in February, he participated in a hunger strike, which led to his being force-fed.

For reasons that had nothing to do with terror, war or criminal behavior, Nabil was living peacefully in an Algerian guesthouse in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sept. 11, 2001. Following the United States invasion, word spread among the Arab communities that the Afghan Northern Alliance was rounding up and killing foreign Arabs. Nabil and many others headed for Pakistan in a desperate effort to escape the danger. En route, he said, he was wounded in a bombing raid and woke up in a hospital in Jalalabad.

At that time, the United States was throwing money at anyone who could deliver an out-of-town Arab found in the region. Nabil was sold to the United States for a bounty of $5,000 and taken to an underground prison in Kabul. There he experienced torture for the first time. To house the prisoners of its war on terror, the United States military put up a makeshift prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Bagram would quickly become notorious, and make Guantánamo look like a church camp. When Nabil arrived there in January 2002, as one of the first prisoners, there were no walls, only razor-wire cages. In the bitter cold, Nabil was forced to sleep on concrete floors without cover. Food and water were scarce. To and from his frequent interrogations, Nabil was beaten by United States soldiers and dragged up and down concrete stairs. Other prisoners died. After a month in Bagram, Nabil was transferred to a prison at Kandahar, where the abuse continued.

Throughout his incarceration in Afghanistan, Nabil strenuously denied any connection to Al Qaeda, the Taliban or anyone or any organization remotely linked to the 9/11 attacks. And the Americans had no proof of his involvement, save for bogus claims implicating him from other prisoners extracted in a Kabul torture chamber. Several United States interrogators told him his was a case of mistaken identity. Nonetheless, the United States had adopted strict rules for Arabs in custody — all were to be sent to Guantánamo. On Feb. 15, 2002, Nabil was flown to Cuba; shackled, bound and hooded.

Since then, Nabil has been subjected to all the horrors of the Gitmo handbook: sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, temperature extremes, prolonged isolation, lack of access to sunlight, almost no recreation and limited medical care. In 11 years, he has never been permitted a visit from a family member. For reasons known only to the men who run the prison, Nabil has never been waterboarded. His lawyer believes this is because he knows nothing and has nothing to give.

The United States government says otherwise. In documents, military prosecutors say that Nabil was staying at a guesthouse run by people with ties to Al Qaeda and that he was named by others as someone affiliated with terrorists. But Nabil has never been charged with a crime. Indeed, on two occasions he has been cleared for a “transfer,” or release. In 2007, a review board established by President George W. Bush recommended his release. Nothing happened. In 2009, another review board established by President Obama recommended his transfer. Nothing happened.

According to his guards, Nabil is a model prisoner. He keeps his head down and avoids trouble. He has perfected his English and insists on speaking the language with his British lawyers. He writes in flawless English. As much as possible, under rather dire circumstances, he has fought to preserve his physical health and mental stability.

In the past seven years, I have met a number of innocent men who were sent to death row, as part of my work with the Innocence Project, which works to free wrongly convicted people. Without exception they have told me that the harshness of isolated confinement is brutal for a coldblooded murderer who freely admits to his crimes. For an innocent man, though, death row will shove him dangerously close to insanity. You reach a point where it feels impossible to survive another day.

DEPRESSED and driven to the point of desperation, Nabil joined a hunger strike in February. This was not Gitmo’s first hunger strike, but it has attracted the most attention. As it gained momentum, and as Nabil and his fellow prisoners got sicker, the Obama administration was backed into a corner. The president has taken justified heat as his bold and eloquent campaign promises to close Gitmo have been forgotten. Suddenly, he was faced with the gruesome prospect of prisoners dropping like flies as they starved themselves to death while the world watched. Instead of releasing Nabil and the other prisoners who have been classified as no threat to the United States, the administration decided to prevent suicides by force-feeding the strikers.

Nabil has not been the only “mistake” in our war on terror. Hundreds of other Arabs have been sent to Gitmo, chewed up by the system there, never charged and eventually transferred back to their home countries. (These transfers are carried out as secretly and as quietly as possible.) There have been no apologies, no official statements of regret, no compensation, nothing of the sort. The United States was dead wrong, but no one can admit it.

In Nabil’s case, the United States military and intelligence agents relied on corrupt informants who were raking in American cash, or even worse, jailhouse snitches who swapped false stories for candy bars, porn and sometimes just a break from their own beatings.

Last week, the Obama administration announced that it was transferring some more Arab prisoners back to Algeria. It is likely that Nabil will be one of them, and if that happens another tragic mistake will be made. His nightmare will only continue. He will be homeless. He will have no support to reintegrate him into a society where many will be hostile to a former Gitmo detainee, either on the assumption that he is an extremist or because he refuses to join the extremist opposition to the Algerian government. Instead of showing some guts and admitting they were wrong, the American authorities will whisk him away, dump him on the streets of Algiers and wash their hands.

What should they do? Or what should we do?

First, admit the mistake and make the apology. Second, provide compensation. United States taxpayers have spent $2 million a year for 11 years to keep Nabil at Gitmo; give the guy a few thousand bucks to get on his feet. Third, pressure the French to allow his re-entry.

This sounds simple, but it will never happen.

A lawyer and author of the forthcoming novel “Sycamore Row.”

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    • Earthling
    • A Small Blue Planet, Milky Way Galaxy

    Who would have thought we would ever hear a United States Attorney General justify and condone torture and the USA would become a torturing nation? And whatever happened to the concept of a speedy and public trial? What is wrong with the US Justice Department that it cannot get it together to try or release prisoners in over a decade?

    Police, guards, soldiers, interrogators promulgate injustice daily on black and brown and poor Americans and on those unfortunate enough to find themselves in the custody of the United States.

    I am ashamed of this nation, of its leadership and its people who allow this. But I do sense the truth of the laws of karma and the national karma that the USA is creating is horrific. When mad gunmen kill theaters full of people, when no place in the nation is safe from the gun nuts and their violence, this is just a small taste of the violence and evil that the USA has meted out to the world.

    It is truly time for a Second American Revolution, but the government has all the firepower and the bureaucrats and autocrats will murder its own people rather than allow freedom and justice to flourish.

    • BSC
    • Canada

    After he left office, Bush had brought horrors on couple of hundred suspects in order to make America safe. The constitution was shredded in the process and thousand or so terrorists have now multiplied into millions through his ill conceived policies and rule. Now we find a book could destroy America. Should we believe all that? For humane laws do not exist in here, the only law is a jungle law. Too tragic for one man rule in age of democracy.

    • Dotconnector
    • New York

    Gitmo is a national disgrace, a symbol of not only inhumanity, but rank hypocrisy.

    • Tom B
    • Lady Lake, Florida

    If we believe Victor Hugo, the author of Les Miserables, it is likely that cops are sometimes wrong, but unable to stop themselves from doing what they do. Kind of like Pit bulls trained to attack. So, I think John Grisham might be right about this poor guy, and right about the Pit bulls, too. On the other hand, the world needs cops, as we also know, and the presumption of guilt does indeed get put ahead of the presumption of innocence.

    • Caspin
    • United States

    Thank you so much, John Grisham! When we say that “this isn’t the country I grew up in,” I believe reading an article like this, written by such a high profile author such as yourself, that this IS the country I believe in. I believe in brave acts such as this, speaking truth despite the hordes who will rally against you for writing it.

    So many are in absolute denial that the nation under the flag they were made to pledge allegiance to since 5 years old is not operating honorably. It seems to be a psychological identification process, whereby the individual has been so identified with the idea of “America” that all negative aspects MUST be denied in order to maintain a certain level of self-esteem to remain intact.

    Anyways, Mr. Grisham, thank you. Thank you for caring and sharing. And may we all help to see the vision through, and create a fund to compensate these falsely accused and detained brothers of ours.

    • Hakuna Matata
    • San Jose

    I remember when Guantanamo just opened, the CIA placed a mole (the young son of a terrorist; the son had a different agenda for his life) in the prison to get some information. There was a Frontline episode on the story. He came out saying what the administration did not want known, namely, that many if not most did not belong there. The CIA ended up dumping him in Canada. The Bush administration and Cheney kept on insisting that everyone in Guantanamo was the worst of the worst and drafted torture memos. And, so it continues with no end in sight. It is truly sad to see how, in the most sophisticated country in the world, mistakes cannot be undone. Do you remember the uproar among the citizenry (and some politicians who should know better) when it was suggested that terrorists be kept in mainland prisons and be tried under the judicial system?

    • Eugene
    • in Oregon
    NYT Pick

    Like several other commenters, I have my doubts that Mr. Hadjarab is as pure and innocent as Mr. Grisham describes him. That said, however, no one seems to have proved — or even alleged — that he committed any sort of crime or engaged in any sort of activity that justifies a the punishment that he has been given. The horror of Guantanamo and the other detention facilities was not simply that Americans engaged in torture (although that was certainly bad enough), but that hundreds have been held without any real justification. Some of those held probably are nasty characters, but absent some sort of trial or other adjudication we are holding these men without any real legal or moral right. If they are terrorists, try them. If they are POWs, follow the relevant international rules. If they are ‘mistakes’, let them go.

    • MAW
    • New Windsor, NY

    Thank you, Mr. Grisham, for parting the clouds on this disgraceful horror perpetrated by my government on what I believe is an innocent man. We are no longer the land of the free and the home of the brave. I am sickened beyond comprehension at this kind of injustice. I hope you will write more, but most of all, I hope this man will be freed and compensated (happily by my tax dollars) for the terrible injustice he has been put through.

    • Richard
    • Camarillo, California

    Thank you, President Obama, for bringing “transparency” and “justice” to our handling of detainees in the “War on Terrorism”. Thanks, too, so much, for closing the illegal and immoral prison at Guantanamo Bay. Great work!

    • Jim O.
    • Charleston, SC

    I am a fan of Mr Grisham’s writing, but I am surprised that, as a lawyer, he apparently accepts Mr Hadjarab’s account of his recent life uncritically and with no substantiating evidence. Since Mr Grisham states that there is nothing to be done about Mr Hadjarab’s case, why in the world would he waste his time writing this article? He gives no motivation in the article.

    • johnaskins
    • San Jose, CA

    The unfulfilled promises of Barack Obama are almost as disheartening as the unrepentance of Dick Cheney. I’m from a generation old enough to remember when we had reason to think of ourselves as the good guys. Hard to believe America has reached this nadir.

    • pibis0
    • Sun City West, AZ

    God bless America, land of the free??????
    What goes around comes around.

    • Citizen
    • Texas

    It is against International law to force feed prisoners. It is considered a form of torture. The military medics and doctors doing this force feeding at Gitmo should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. It should also be made perfectly clear that these criminals doing the force feeding are never allowed to practice medicine the rest of their lives. But, of course, none of this well ever happen; the good old boy system in the military will shield and protect these criminals. Their kangaroo courts need to be stopped also. But alas, the great and glorious military are going to do whatever they so choose. They have been given far too much power with no oversight. They’ll be patrolling the American streets any day now if they aren’t stopped. Of course, the excuse given will be that they are protecting us and saving our freedoms and democracy. Right.

    • Benny
    • san diego

    Because of these actions other countries in the world hate us and plans attacks against us. Then when something happens we complaint why there’s so much hate towards us. I’m embarrassed of our Government.

    • Marilynn
    • Las Cruces,NM

    We will be unwinding the judicial system put in place by the Bush Administration to justify the Iraq War for years to come, including closing of Gitmo. , which I believe can only be done with the approval of Congress, thanks to G.W.

    • GMGUERRERO
    • 94010

    Being a big fan of John Grisham does not make him innocent. I’m a big fan of John Grisham.

    • Mariano
    • Argentina

    These things always happen during war. They happen in every war, but the difference is, that years ago they werent so public because media wasn’t so massive like today, but horrible things happen in every conflict.

    USA is at war on terrorism. It’s naive to expect no innocent casualties. I’m very sorry for these innocents, and i hope they can recover. But that’s war. The worst side of humanity.

    • Joel Huizenga
    • San Diego California

    It is now possible to tell if someone is telling a lie or the truth with an fMRI and pattern recognition technology. All of the over 40 original scientific journal articles on this topic conclude this fMRI technology works. There are no original scientific articles that conclude it does not work since this technology has been invented and there has been a lot of desire and financing to do so. People should be allowed to verify their statements, presently they are not. We have started a non-profit to gain this right for individuals. See www.medforlaw.org for information on our organization. If this technology was available to this individual this would not have ever happened.

    • Larry
    • Brussels

    As a US citizen, I feel a patriotic duty to take responsibility for my government’s misdeeds. If it refuses to pay compensation to former GITMO detainees, then I would like to make a personal donation to a charitable fund to be established for that purpose, and I would invite others to do the same.

    • Gudrun
    • Independence, NY

    I read somewhere that the only book that every prisoner gets at Guantanamo is the Koran. Then we wonder why they turn out so extreme after reading nothing else for a decade– why just reading that book and nothing else would be a way to go nuts.

    Now they won’t let them read John Grisham ? People in prison should be able to read a whole lot of books that are deamed inspiring, creative, thoughtful etc etc. Start with Tolstoy, Mark Twain, Grisham, etc etc. the more the merrier.

    • gomez
    • bronx, ny

    There is no modern torture without torturers and psychiatrists to teach them about how the mind ‘ought’ to work under extreme conditions. Who benefits from the ‘knowledge’ acquired under torture? Take a guess.

    More interesting to me is: How do we train THE TORTURERS, what become of them once we released them back to ‘civilian’ life, and how do we live without remorse knowing that our ‘kids’ are now professionally practicing the torture they inflicted to that cat when they were kid. Because, I doubt that any soldier who was an animal lover as a child could have been trained to do this to humans.

    Those are the ones that end up committing suicide. For them, I have a place in my heart.

    https://thecitywidementalhealthproject.wordpress.com/

    • Athenian
    • Danville, CA

    As I read Grisham’s article, I kept wondering, how does he know this is true?

    A prisoner claimed to be innocent? Certainly possible, but where is the proof?

    • Ana
    • Kentucky

    It’s a sick feeling when you know your country has done and continues to do disgusting and immoral activities. It’s a sicker feeling when you realize you can’t do anything about it.

    I don’t understand how a man who made constitutional law his life’s work can allow this kind of thing to continue. With all our military budget, resources for anti-terrorism, and lawyers chomping at the bit to get these prisoners processed and out of our hair (and our headlines), you’d think Obama would have forced a solution by this point. What are we going to do? Continue to keep them there until they (and we) all die of old age?

    • Gudrun
    • Independence, NY

    We have more people in prison than any other country and we cannot afford it. I just read about Lynne F Stewart , lawyer for unpopular clients and she was sentenced to 10 years in prison for smuggling messages from an imprisoned sheik to his violent followers in Egypt. She wants out because she has metastasis of breast cancer– cannot the state take away her law license and let her out for two years served????

    I agree with John Grisham that we need to pay for prisoners who are trying to get back into society and who have not been proven to have done anything wrong in the first place– that payment might prevent these prisoners from becoming terrorists and they might be grateful for getting some kind of monthly stipend and US could follow them if they give a monthly check to them. – good insurance. .

    Let us please be creative in letting people out of jail. Bryant Manning served many years in isolation already and now they want to throw the book at him for hundreds of years– his main crime was that he recorded and passed around a video of US soldiers shooting civilians including Reuter reporters — now who was the criminals in that case?

    However, Mr Zimmerman got no jail at all and killed a person he did not need to kill.

    • Ted
    • Forest Hills

    This is what happens to a foreigner who had the grave misfortune of being labeled a suspected terrorist by the US government. Does anyone doubt what is going to start happening to Americans once someone in the government deems them an undesirable, labels them a terrorist, and has a few incriminating bits of digital evidence against them based on limitless surveillance authority?

    The full force and fury of American police and military powers is a really scary thing. Military and police organizational culture is one where there is very little interest in the protecting the rights of those suspected of crimes. We need to draw a line in the sand and stop these activities now, before they get turned on American citizens at the first chance the executive branch discovers a legal loophole to exploit and keep secret for years.

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Obama Speech: Same Policies, Slightly New Package May 24, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Pakistan, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: “Further, the president made several statements that seem to be contradicted by his actions.”  This is a genteel way of saying the president is a liar.


ANSWER responds to President Obama’s speech at the National Defense
University

May 23, 2013

President Obama’s speech at the National Defense University today was another
exercise in misdirection and illusion regarding the administration’s
unprecedented use of drone military strikes that have killed more than 5,000
people, the majority of whom were civilians, including a large number of
children.

Under pressure from a growing international grassroots protest movement
demanding the end of drone strikes and the closure of the Guantanamo torture
center, Obama’s speech was crafted to address both issues.

He acknowledged that civilians were killed by his drone strikes and said that
he would be “haunted” by their deaths, but he made it clear that the strikes
would continue.

Although he spoke far more eloquently than George W. Bush, the president used
the Bush-created legal architecture to permit the president to kill anyone,
anywhere if he labeled them as a terrorist. Obama said that his previously
secret “legal basis” for targeted killings was actually the Authorization of
Military Use Force (AMUF) that Bush rammed through Congress shortly after the
September 11, 2001 attacks.

Demagogically he called again for the closure of Guantanamo, which has been
labeled a torture center by the United Nations. He said that the failure to
close the facility was seen by the whole world as a “flouting [of] the rule of
law” by the United States. But he neglected to say that he has refused to use
the vast authority of the presidency to actually close Guantanamo. Rather he is
placing the blame on Congress rather than acting.

In addition to refusing to take immediate action to close Guantanamo,
President Obama stated that he would not end the policy of indefinite detention.
He in fact stated that he has tasked an official to find a place in the United
States where people can be held indefinitely without charges. He further
referenced America’s “supermax” prisons. These brutal facilities, in which
prisoners are kept in tiny cells for 23 hours a day, also meet most definitions
of torture, a practice Obama claims to have “banned.”

Old wine in a new bottle

For almost the entirety of his presidency, Obama has sought to shield his
“War on Terror” policies from even some of the most basic scrutiny. In fact,
information on many of these programs has only been released after significant
criticism has been raised. More than anything, President Obama’s May 23, 2013,
speech must be seen as a direct response to the individuals and organizations
who have consistently been challenging the actions of the administration on
these issues. It is unavoidably clear that the firestorm of criticism around
drone strikes, Guantanamo Bay Prison, and the extent of domestic surveillance
created a climate in which Obama was forced to defend his policies.

The president outlined a number of policies, many of which had already been
revealed in their broad outlines, and attempted to give them a new gloss.
Further, the president made several statements that seem to be contradicted by
his actions. In other words, despite all the hype, the president is attempting
to codify many of the “war-time” measures that erode our civil liberties and
perpetuate imperialist brutality abroad.

For instance, President Obama claimed that his administration has “banned
torture” despite the fact the force feedings being carried out by individuals
directly under his purview have been classified by the American Medical
Association as torture. The president also made several interesting admissions,
one being that in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater the U.S. government
reportedly only attacks leaders of Al-Qaeda. Whether that is true or not, it is
a clear admission that in Pakistan and Afghanistan, “signature strikes” – which
have been responsible for thousands of deaths, including many civilians – will
continue.

“Only 55 known militant leaders have been killed in Pakistan, representing
just 2 percent of the total deaths” caused by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan,
according to the New American Foundation.

President Obama, in response to major criticism, did state the need to close
Guantanamo; the president also stated that he wants to find a way to eliminate
the Authorization of the Use of Military Force as a justification for terror
policies. This is after he used the AUMF to conduct a mostly secret worldwide
conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people. It seems highly convenient
that, after such a huge amount of damage and suffering were caused, in
retrospect the president criticizes the AUMF.

While there is much to dissect in his speech, the bottom line is that
President Obama is attempting to respond to criticism of his war on terror
policies while creating a new framework to institutionalize many of these same
policies.

Beatings, Attempted Suicides and Deliberate Starvation: The Dystopic Hell of Guantanamo Bay April 14, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Torture.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
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Roger’s note: Guantánamo ordered to be closed: Obama’s first day as president.  Remember?  The Mendacity of Hope.  Capture an alleged enemy, torture him so that he cannot be brought to trial, keep him in chains forever.  The American Way.

 

 

The mass hunger strike at the notorious prison camp is shining a light on the festering issue of indefinite detention.

 

Detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
Photo Credit: Shane T. McCoy/U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons

 Colonel John Bogdan’s arrival at Guantanamo Bay meant trouble for the prisoners who had been locked up there for over a decade, many of them without ever being charged with a crime. His punitive actions sparked the first mass hunger strike at Guantanamo since 2006. In turn, the strike is shining a light on the festering issue of indefinite detention without charge, and the Obama administration’s failure to close the prison that has become a symbol of the lawlessness of America’s “war on terr

Bogdan, who served in Iraq and took over operations at the prison camp in June 2012, embarked on a campaign of harassment directed at the prisoners, according to published accounts by attorneys for Guantanamo prisoners.

He had members of the Joint Detention Group, the military unit that runs the prison, storm Camp 6, the name given for the prison area where most of the detainees live. (In response to the hunger strike, some detainees have reportedly been moved to Camp 5, an area of the camp for “non-compliant” detainees that has been criticized for small cells, bright lights and foul smells. Camp 6 is the most permissive area of the camps, where prisoners live communally.) Temperatures in the prison cells were lowered to 62 degrees.

“Bogdan brought a tough-guy approach to detention operations and has ruled the camps with an iron fist,” one attorney who works with Guantanamo prisoners said in a statement published by the Huffington Post. “Marked by displays of power for power’s sake, his approach has led to mayhem in the camps.” One Yemeni detainee recently stated that “we are in danger. One of the soldiers fired on one of the brothers a month ago.”

On February 6, Bogdan ordered a search that led directly to the ongoing hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay that’s making headlines around the world.

Military guards searched prison cells and confiscated personal letters, photos and mail prisoners had received from their lawyers. But the biggest indignity for the prisoners was a search of their Qu’rans, the Muslim holy book. The U.S. military says that they suspected contraband or weapons might be hidden in the Qu’rans, a claim that has not been substantiated and that lawyers for Guantanamo detainees strongly deny. The government says its interpreters–many of whom are Muslim and don’t make up the prison guard force–carried out the Qu’ran searches, but the prisoners don’t care; they say the searches constitute religious desecration.

The Qu’ran searches were the last straw for the 166 detainees, and most of them have now joined the hunger strike, according to their attorneys. The U.S. military admits that there are 42 participants under what they define as a hunger strike. Their definition states that a prisoner is hunger-striking when he deliberately misses nine consecutive meals. The military has taken to force-feeding the prisoners in response to their deliberate act of starvation.

The protest, which seeks to end the Qu’ran searches, started in February and has also morphed beyond just focusing on the perceived desecration of their holy books. Some detainees have now taken to protesting against their indefinite detention. Lawyers for Guantanamo prisoners state that Bogdan’s punitive policies hearken back to the dark days of Gitmo, when those at the camp were routinely tortured.

“The hunger strike has escalated to a broader crisis that is, at this point, all but irreversible,” said Wells Dixon, a senior attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights who represents five detainees. “The men are not starving themselves so they can become martyrs…They’re doing this because they’re desperate. They’re desperate to be free from Guantanamo. They don’t see any alternative to leaving in a coffin. That’s the bottom line.”

The U.S. government has tried to downplay the growing hunger strike and denigrated the act as a media stunt. The hunger strike was “specifically designed” to “attract media attention,” a Guantanamo prison spokesman told Truthout.

But while this is no “stunt,” the fact that the media is finally paying attention is a victory for the prisoners, though the camp still receives relatively little attention in general from the public at large.

Human rights groups are also now mobilizing as a result of the hunger strike. April 11 was a day of action against Guantanamo, with protests taking place in a handful of cities, all with a unified demand: shut down the prison camp now.

And it comes at a moment when it appears that the Obama administration has given up on shuttering the prison. While the administration likely hopes that Guantanamo as an issue goes away, the hunger strike has shown just how awful the situation has become. Detainees are bitterly disappointed in Obama’s failure to close Guantanamo. “They had great optimism that Guantanamo would be closed,” General John Kelly said in congressional testimony last month. “They were devastated, apparently, when the president backed off.” Indeed, in January, the State Department office tasked with closing the prison was itself closed.

Lawyers for the Guantanamo detainees have sounded the alarm on their clients’ deteriorating condition. On March 14, a group of attorneys representing men at Guantanamo sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. “We have…received alarming reports of detainees’ deteriorating health, including that men have lost over 20 and 30 pounds, and that at least two dozen men have lost consciousness due to low blood glucose levels, which have dropped to life-threatening levels among some,” they wrote. They went on to urge the Defense Secretary to “address the immediate situation at hand as well as the long-term fate of all the remaining men at Guantánamo.”

One of the most detailed accounts of the ongoing hunger strike comes from Shaker Aamer, a resident of Britain originally from Saudi Arabia. The Bush administration admitted it had no evidence to hold Aamer, who has been at Guantanamo since February 2002 after being sold inAfghanistan by bounty hunters. He gave his account of current conditions at the camp to his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, a prominent British human rights lawyer, who wrote an affidavit.

The Qu’ran searches are not the only indignities the prisoners are livid about, as Aamer details. On February 15, they entered Aamer’s cell and brutalized him, as well as two others, during prayer time. One of the men beaten by what’s called the Emergency Reaction Force (ERF) was unconscious for four days. The ERF, as investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill detailed for AlterNet in 2009, is known for being particularly abusive. Shaker Aamer has been abused by guards a number of times since then, according to Smith’s affidavit.

Aamer says that the use of sleep deprivation has intensified since the hunger strike began and that a Tunisian prisoner has attempted suicide. A “new practice…has been brought in which involves using a dog leash on the detainees,” Aamer related to Smith. And Aamer has “been badly punished for joining the strike”–the military has withheld medical treatment for Aamer’s health problems.

The American response has fallen far short of what detainees are demanding. Truthout reporter Jason Leopold wrote earlier this month that “prisoners said they would immediately end their hunger strike if they were allowed to ‘surrender’ their Korans…instead of having them searched by translators. That demand was shot down because it could be interpreted that Guantanamo officials are denying prisoners their right to religious materials.” Guantanamo spokesman Robert Durand told Truthout that the prisoners “have presented no demands that we can meet.”

Instead of addressing the root causes of the hunger strike, the U.S. has taken to force-feeding the detainees to keep them alive. The Associated Press reports that lawyers are being informed when their detainees are being force-fed. While officials at the prison camp say that force-feeding is not painful, the detainees tell a different story. The United Nations Human Rights Commission has said that force-feeding at Guantanamo amounts to torture. Asked about the process, the Center for Constitutional Right’s Dixon said: “The process of death, death by starvation, is not easy. It’s not painless. In the case of men who are force-fed, it’s an even more excruciating experience. The military may keep these individuals alive by pumping food up their noses into their stomach. But eventually they’re going to die. You can only force-feed someone for so long before their body gives out.”

The ongoing hunger-strike is the latest example of how bizarre, cruel and dystopic the situation at Guantanamo has become. Eighty-six men have been cleared for release from Guantanamo by the U.S., but they still remain at the camp. Fifty-six of those cleared are from Yemen, a country and close ally of the U.S. that has expressed willingness to take them back—though human rights groups have also criticized the Yemeni government’s abusive treatment of returned prisoners. One of the Yemeni prisoners was Adnan Latif, who was cleared for release by one court in a decision that was later overturned after the Obama administration appealed it. In September 2012, Latif died at Guantanamo due to what the U.S. government says was a suicide, though questions have been raised about the U.S. government explanation.

The Obama administration has halted repatriation to Yemen since the disruption of a 2009 terrorist plot originating from the country. Congress has meddled in the president’s ability to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo. Legislation signed by President Obama has imposed limits on releasing prisoners. But one mechanism that does exist is a national security waiver that the Secretary of Defense could sign off on the release of prisoners. There are also prisoners the Obama administration says are too dangerous to release but cannot be prosecuted because evidence related to their case comes from torture.

Lawyers for the select group of detainees who are being subjected to military prosecution have had to deal with their own problems. For one, the Guantanamo detainees are prohibited from detailing in court how they were brutally tortured. That information is considered classified by the U.S. government. Other problems include the fact that outside censors cut off a public feed to the courtroom, though a judge barred that practice early this year, and that U.S. officials have installed listening devices to eavesdrop on prisoner-attorney communications.

Attorneys for detainees emphasize that if current conditions at Guantanamo persist, the situation could become even more disastrous than it already is.

“If this crisis isn’t resolved soon, there will be more deaths. That is certain,” Dixon told AlterNet. “The administration is going to need to explain why these individuals were detained, particularly individuals who have been cleared for release for years, and allowed to die. They’ll be forced to answer the question: why in the world was this person detained to the point where he felt so utterly hopeless, that he starved himself to death in order to be free?”

 

Alex Kane is AlterNet’s New York-based World editor, and an assistant editor for Mondoweiss. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.