warprompts

50 Bullets

So as we all know the cops who fired 50 shots at Sean Bell and his friends were acquitted of all charges last Friday morning. I went to the protest at the Queens DA after work at 5. Unlike pre-9/11 police brutality protests in New York (the one for Diallo comes to mind) it felt small and defeated. I don’t know if it was the disenfranchisement of the George Bush years, the verdict that there’s no such thing as too many shots or some combination. I don’t think, as the New York Times claimed, that it was that “Black New Yorkers See Nuances That Temper Rage.” Oy. The story went on to infuriatingly claim from those oh-so-scientific person on the street interviews (or probably more accurately the persons on the street interviewed who would substantiate the writer/editor’s thesis) that, “Some also said that after a seven-week trial, the picture of what happened the night Mr. Bell, a black man, was killed was still murky, and so they left the public outcry to a relatively small group of black activists who had been closely monitoring the case.” Oy, oy, oy.

We have a criminal justice system that over-charges, over-convicts and over-punishes defendants. We have a system that locks up people for life without the possibility of freedom for firing a lot less than 50 shots and sometimes for crimes that aren’t homicides. We lock people up for decades for non-violent offenses, for drunken brawls that turned tragic, for violating the baseball rule of 3 strikes, for mental illnesses that resulted in violence… But when three cops kill a Black man in 50 bullets — no time at all.

I found one part of the Judge’s rancid opinion interesting — where he noted that he didn’t trust the State witnesses, with their inconsistencies and criminal records:

We instruct juries that it is expected that multiple witnesses to the same event may vary in their recounting of minor aspects of what had been observed. However, where there are significant inconsistencies related to important facts, they should be considered.

Reference was made earlier to the credibility of witnesses. The court has found that the people’s ability to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt was affected by a combination of the following factors: the prosecution witnesses’ prior inconsistent statements, inconsistencies in testimony among prosecution witnesses, the renunciation of prior statements, criminal convictions, the interest of some witnesses in the outcome of the case, the demeanor on the witness stand of other witnesses and the motive witnesses may have had to lie and the effect it had on the truthfulness of a witness’s testimony. These factors played a significant part in the people’s ability to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and had the effect of eviscerating the credibility of those prosecution witnesses. And, at times, the testimony just didn’t make sense.

I wonder how many jailhouse snitches he’s trusted and used to convict — people who have an incentive to lie and have been a proven factor in wrongful convictions. And inconsistent statements? Well, I have no doubt that the DA threw the case and didn’t properly prepare the witnesses, but we all know, as the judge himself admitted, that three witnesses to the same event will have three different accounts. In fact, a victim after a crime may, and often does, change his or her story over time because it’s a traumatic, bombarding event that can’t be recorded verbatim.

I plan on looking at the now retiring judge‘s Westlaw opinions just to see who he’s convicted on a whole lot less than 50 bullets.

Here is Judge Cooperman’s verdict:

“Before dealing with the business at hand, I would like to remind everyone how important it is to honor the decorum of the court and remain quiet after the verdicts are rendered.

A trial is defined as a formal examination of the facts of a case by a court of law to decide the validity of a charge. It is also defined in the dictionary as a hardship. And, in many ways, this trial was a hardship.

But, it was not a competition. To overreact to the outcome while you are in this courtroom, whether you are satisfied or dissatisfied with the result, would detract from the great effort that was expended to assure a fair trial – by the court personnel and the attorneys who handled their responsibilities with the highest level of professionalism and skill.

Because establishments known as “strip clubs” often generate criminal activity including prostitution and narcotics, the police department Club Enforcement Unit was given the task of infiltrating such places and pursuing violations of law that would lead toward shutting them down.

So it was that the detectives charged in this case found themselves in the vicinity of Club Kalua in the early morning of November 25, 2006.

And as a result of the events of that morning, they are accused of the crimes alleged in the indictment.

Now, after eight weeks of trial, this court has the responsibility of making a determination of guilt or lack of guilt as to each of the charges set forth against each of the defendants.

As the trier of fact, this court must determine what the facts are, apply those facts to the applicable law, and render a verdict.

The court will do so. But before announcing a decision, a brief statement is in order.

In weighing the evidence, the court examined the testimony of the witnesses and the factors to be considered in determining credibility.

An objective consideration of the proof ruled out sympathy and prejudice and any other emotional response to the issues presented. The court did not view the victims or the NYPD as being on trial here.

The burden of proof was on the people to prove each defendant guilty of the crimes of which he was charged, beyond a reasonable doubt. And as with all criminal cases, each defendant was presumed to be innocent.

Because justification was raised as an issue, the people had the burden of proving as an element of each charged crime that each defendant was not justified.

It is important to note that in analyzing what happened here, it was necessary to consider the mind-set of each defendant at the time and place of occurrence, and not the mind-set of the victims. What the victims did was more pertinent to resolving the issues of fact than what may have been in their minds.

Also, carelessness and incompetence are not standards to be applied here, unless the conduct rises to the level of criminal acts, as defined by the law relating to each count charged.

What happened outside the Club Kalua on November 25, 2006, and the ensuing incident that occurred around the corner on Liverpool Street are the two significant events about which proof was elicited.

We instruct juries that it is expected that multiple witnesses to the same event may vary in their recounting of minor aspects of what had been observed. However, where there are significant inconsistencies related to important facts, they should be considered.

Reference was made earlier to the credibility of witnesses. The court has found that the people’s ability to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt was affected by a combination of the following factors: the prosecution witnesses’ prior inconsistent statements, inconsistencies in testimony among prosecution witnesses, the renunciation of prior statements, criminal convictions, the interest of some witnesses in the outcome of the case, the demeanor on the witness stand of other witnesses and the motive witnesses may have had to lie and the effect it had on the truthfulness of a witness’s testimony. These factors played a significant part in the people’s ability to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and had the effect of eviscerating the credibility of those prosecution witnesses. And, at times, the testimony just didn’t make sense.

Yet, it was apparent from the testimony of the participants that the confrontation that took place in front of the club was heated. The SUV owner, Fabio Coicou, gave the impression that he had a gun, causing at least one of the group to threaten to take it away from him.

And, the court finds, another threat was made by Joseph Guzman to retrieve a gun. At that point, nothing of a criminal nature had taken place. But, having witnessed that provocative confrontation between Mr. Coicou and the group, the undercover officers became concerned and followed the group around the corner to Liverpool Street.

Defendant Isnora approached the Nissan Altima into which Mr. Guzman and Sean Bell, two of the more active participants in the heated exchange, entered.

The Altima, which was driven by Mr. Bell, sped away from its parked position, struck defendant Isnora and collided head on with the police van that had entered Liverpool Street. The Altima then went into reverse, backed up onto the sidewalk, struck a gate and then went forward and to the right, striking the police van again. As this was happening, defendant Isnora — who testified in the grand jury –observed Mr. Guzman, the front passenger, move his body as if he were reaching for a weapon.

Defendant Isnora yelled, “gun” and fired.

Other officers, indicted and unindicted, joined in from different locations on the street.

The court has found that the incident lasted just seconds. The officers responded to perceived criminal conduct; the unfortunate consequences of their conduct were tragic.

The police response with respect to each defendant was not proved to be criminal, i.e. beyond a reasonable doubt. Questions of carelessness and incompetence must be left to other forums.

Although there were aspects of defense testimony that were not necessarily credible, the focus must be on the people’s proof to determine whether they have satisfied their burden of proving the defendants guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

To the extent that the defense of justification was applicable to the charged crimes, counts 1, 2, 3, 4 in part, 5 in part, 6, 7, and 8, the people have not proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that each defendant was not justified in the actions that each took.

With respect to counts 4 and 5, Trent Benefield, whose credibility was seriously impeached, testified that he was shot while running down liverpool street. Forensic evidence demonstrated otherwise. Thus, although the justification defense would not have applied to that aspect of counts 4 and 5, it was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Accordingly, the court finds each defendant not guilty of each of the respective counts in the indictment of which they were charged.

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April 29, 2008 Posted by | Non-Fiction | , , , | Leave a comment

Thank you, Helen Thomas

Reporter Helen Thomas confronts Bush spokeswoman on torture:

Q The President has said publicly several times, in two consecutive news conferences a few months ago, and you have said over and over again, we do not torture. Now he has admitted that he did sign off on torture, he did know about it. So how do you reconcile this credibility gap?

MS. PERINO: Helen, you’re taking liberties with the what the President said. The United States has not, is not torturing any detainees in the global war on terror. And General Hayden, amongst others, have spoken on Capitol Hill fully in this regard, and it is — I’ll leave it where it is. The President is accurate in saying what he said.

Q That’s not my question. My question is, why did he state publicly, we do not torture —

MS. PERINO: Because we do not.

Q — when he really did know that we do?

MS. PERINO: No, that’s what I mean, Helen. We’ve talked about the legal authorities —

Q Are you saying that we did not?

MS. PERINO: I am saying we did not, yes.

Q How can you when you have photographs and everything else? I mean, how can you say that when he admits that he knew about it?

MS. PERINO: Helen, I think that you’re — again, I think you’re conflating some issues and you’re misconstruing what the President said.

Q I’m asking for the credibility of this country, not just this administration.

MS. PERINO: And what I’m telling you is we have — torture has not occurred. And you can go back through all the public record. Just make sure — I would just respectfully ask you not to misconstrue what the President said.

Q You’re denying, in this room, that we torture and we have tortured?

MS. PERINO: Yes, I am denying that.

Elaine, did you have one?

Q I have one on Zimbabwe, actually.

Q Where is everybody?

According to Raw Story, the “Where is everybody?” was said by Thomas who turned in her seat, looked at her colleagues, shook her head in disgust, and asked sadly: “Where is everybody? For God’s sakes!”

What purpose did the Yoo memos really serve? Scott Horton looks into this in his LA Times editorial — Which came first: memos or torture?

It increasingly appears that the Bush interrogation program was already being used before Yoo was asked to write an opinion. He may therefore have provided after-the-fact legal cover. That would help explain why Yoo strained to take so many implausible positions in the memos.

It also appears that government lawyers had told Bush administration officials that some of the techniques already in use were illegal, even criminal. In fact, a senior Pentagon lawyer described to me exchanges he had with Yoo in which he stressed that those using the techniques could face prosecution. Yoo notes in his Pentagon memo that he communicated with the Criminal Division of the Justice Department and got assurances that prosecutions would not be brought. The question becomes, was Yoo giving his best effort at legal analysis, or was he attempting to protect the authors of the program from criminal investigation and prosecution?

In any case, Yoo kept the program running.

Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL) questioned FBI Director Robert Mueller on torture at a House Judiciary hearing on 04/23/08. Florida should be proud. Here’s one snippet of the exchange:

RW: My question Mr. Director, I congratulate you for pulling the FBI agents back, but why did you not take more substantial steps to stop the interrogation techniques that your own FBI agents were telling you were illegal? Why did you not initiate criminal investigations when your agents told you the CIA and the Department of Defense were engaging in illegal interrogation techniques, and rather than simply pulling your agents out, shouldn’t you have directed them to prevent any illegal interrogations from taking place?

RM: I can go so far sir as to tell you that a protocol in the FBI is not to use coercion in any of our interrogations or our questioning and we have abided by our protocol.

RW: I appreciate that. What is the protocol say when the FBI knows that the CIA is engaging or the Department of Defense is engaging in an illegal technique? What does the protocol say in that circumstance?

RM: We would bring it up to appropriate authorities and determine whether the techniques were legal or illegal.

RW: Did you bring it up to appropriate authorities?

RM: All I can tell you is that we followed our own protocols.

RW: So you can’t tell us whether you brought it; when your own FBI agents came to you and said the CIA is doing something illegal which caused you to say don’t you get involved; you can’t tell us whether you then went to whatever authority?

RM: I’ll tell you we followed our own protocols.

RW: And what was the result?

RM: We followed our own protocols. We followed our protocols. We did not use coercion. We did not participate in any instance where coercion was used to my knowledge.

RW: Did the CIA use techniques that were illegal?

RM: I can’t comment on what has been done by another agency and under what authorities the other agency may have taken actions.

RW: Why can’t you comment on the actions of another agency?

RM: I leave that up to the other agency to answer questions with regard to the actions taken by that agency and the legal authorities that may apply to them.

RW: Are you the chief legal law enforcement agency in the United States?

RM: I am the Director of the FBI.

RW: And you do not have authority with respect to any other governmental agency in the United States? Is that what you’re saying?

RM: My authority is given to me to investigate. Yes we do.

RW: Did somebody take away that authority with respect to the CIA?

RM: Nobody has taken away the authority. I can tell you what our protocol was, and how we followed that protocol.

RW: Did anybody take away the authority with respect to the Department of Defense?

RM: I’m not certain what you mean.

RW: Your authority to investigate an illegal torture technique

The New Republic interviews Philippe Sands, author of the forthcoming The Torture Team:

TNR: The administration’s narrative has been that a harsh set of interrogation techniques, including waterboarding and stress positions, was introduced in response to demands from interrogators in the field who concluded that what they had didn’t work. How did you reach the conclusion that, in fact, the pressure for the new techniques came from high up in the administration and worked its way down?

PS: I have no doubt about the early, close, and active involvement of the upper echelons of the administration in the decision to request, approve and then use harsh techniques of interrogation on “Detainee 063,” Mohammed Al Qahtani. The story that emerged from the interviews was clear and it was consistent (plus, I had the opportunity to put my findings to Jim Haynes, who was the final piece of the jigsaw). The administration’s ‘bottom-up’ narrative–as spun by Mr. Haynes and others–is false, inaccurate, and misleading, and I believe it was knowingly intended to be so. The administration has scapegoated individuals who were on the ground at Guantánamo in order to protect itself.

The ACLU and Human Rights First have filed a motion in federal court to overturn the dismissal of a lawsuit against Donald Rumsfeld. The March 2005 lawsuit was filed on behalf of nine Iraqi and Afghan detainees who were tortured in US custody and eventually released without being charged with a crime. Read about the case against Rumsfeld here.

Make it Matter. Sign the Human Rights First petition to tell the presidential candidates to end torture.

April 29, 2008 Posted by | Torture News, Yoo Torture Memo | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

George Bush OKs Torture

George Bush admits he approved of torture meetings:

Make it matter. Demand that congress hold US torturers responsible. Click here for the ACLU’s action alert.

So how’s the media responding to the whole our-government-tortures-thing? Uh, not so good.

The Washington Post’s White House Watch reports:

The mainstream media by and large seem to agree with Bush that the ABC News Report wasn’t so startling, and they have given Bush’s remarks almost no coverage. There was no mention of Bush’s admission in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal or the Los Angeles Times. There was nothing on the major wire services. And nothing on CNN, CBS or NBC.

April 29, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thank you for your patience. Your concerns are important to us.

Things got busy but I’ll be posting fresh content again this week.

April 27, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Psychologists’ Torture Policy

Read about psychologists’ efforts to change the American Psychological Association’s policy on torture. Amy Goodman writes in A Torture Debate Among Healers:

While the other healing professions, including the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association, bar their members from participating in interrogations, the APA leadership has fought against such a restriction.Frustrated with the APA, a New York psychoanalyst, Dr. Steven Reisner, has thrown his hat into the ring [for APA president]. Last year, Reisner and other dissident psychologists formed the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology in an attempt to force a moratorium against participation by APA members in harsh interrogations…

He is running on a platform opposing the use of psychologists to oversee abusive and coercive interrogations of prisoners at Guantanamo, secret CIA black sites or anywhere else international law or the Geneva Conventions are said not to apply.

The issue came to a head at the 2007 APA annual convention. After days of late-night negotiations, the moratorium came up for a climactic vote. We saw a surreal scene on the convention floor: Uniformed military were out in force. Men and women in desert camo and Navy whites worked the APA Council of Representatives, and officers in crisp dress uniforms stepped to the microphones.

Military psychologists insisted that they help make interrogations safe, ethical and legal, and cited instances where psychologists allegedly intervened to stop abuse. “If we remove psychologists from these facilities, people are going to die!” boomed Col. Larry James of the U.S. Army, chief psychologist at Guantanamo Bay and a member of the APA governing body. Dr. Laurie Wagner, a Dallas psychologist, shot back, “If psychologists have to be there in order to keep detainees from being killed, then those conditions are so horrendous that the only moral and ethical thing to do is to protest by leaving.”

The moratorium failed, and instead a watered-down resolution passed, outlining 19 harsh interrogation techniques that were banned, but only if “used in a manner that represents significant pain or suffering or in a manner that a reasonable person would judge to cause lasting harm.” In other words, this loophole allowed, you can rough people up, just don’t do permanent harm.

Immediately after the vote, Reisner spoke out at a packed town hall meeting: “If we cannot say, ‘No, we will not participate in enhanced interrogations at CIA black sites,’ I think we have to seriously question what we are as an organization and, for me, what my allegiance is to this organization, or whether we might have to criticize it from outside the organization at this point.”

Here’s some background on the APA’s torture policy:

The Enablers (Mother Jones), 03/01/08:

Last May, a Pentagon report showed that military psychologists oversaw the adaptation of the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape program for use in “terror” interrogations… SERE training is intended “to replicate harsh conditions that the Service member might encounter if they are held by forces that do not abide by the Geneva Conventions,” according to the 2007 report. By using SERE techniques against prisoners, the United States has become the country that is violating the Geneva Conventions.

After 9/11, psychologists helped reverse-engineer the SERE program from defensive to offensive use. Members of the Army’s Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT), which included psychologists, oversaw the use of these torture techniques against prisoners at Guantanamo. Last November, a Guantanamo Bay standard operating procedures manual from 2003 was leaked that revealed how new prisoners were to be kept in isolation—and hidden from Red Cross investigators, in violation of the Geneva Conventions—for their first month in order to “enhance and exploit the disorientation and disorganization felt by a newly arrived detainee in the interrogation process.” This process of sensory deprivation and isolation is a cornerstone of the psychological torture techniques used by the U.S. military and CIA. And psychologists played a role in developing it.

Psychological Warfare (Salon), 07/26/06:

The 150,000-member American Psychological Association is facing an internal revolt over its year-old policy that condones the participation of psychologists in the interrogations of prisoners during the Bush administration’s “war on terror.”

Last summer, the APA adopted new ethical principles drafted by a task force of 10 psychologists, who were selected by the organization’s leadership. That controversial task-force report, which is now official APA policy, stated that psychologists participating in terror-related interrogations are fulfilling “a valuable and ethical role to assist in protecting our nation, other nations, and innocent civilians from harm.”

But Salon has learned that six of the 10 psychologists on the task force have close ties to the military. The names and backgrounds of the task force participants were not made public by the APA; Salon obtained them from congressional sources. Four of the psychologists who crafted the permissive policy were involved with the handling of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, or served with the military in Afghanistan — all environments where serious cases of abuse have been documented…

In May, the American Psychiatric Association reacted to the detainee-abuse scandal by barring psychiatrists’ participation in interrogations. A month later, in June, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs William Winkenwerder Jr. unveiled a new policy clarifying the role of medical professionals in interrogations. It laid out a preference for psychologists (rather than psychiatrists) to advise on interrogations. That 10-page document also set other guidelines for military medical professionals who deal with detainees, such as establishing a barrier between acting as caregivers and those who advise interrogators….

Listen to (or read) a Democracy Now! debate with Dr. Steven Reisner and the APA president, Dr. Gerald Koocher (06/16/06):

Should doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists participate in military interrogations? Both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association have adopted policies discouraging their members from being involved. But their counterpart, the American Psychological Association has not.

Read an open letter to the APA President, Sharon Brehm.

And for more analysis:

The Ethics of Interrogation and the APA: A Critique of Policy and Process

Psychologists and the Realpolitik of Torture

April 15, 2008 Posted by | Torture News | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

White House Tortured

No surprise here: ABC News reported that,

The discussions in the White House were top secret and sources say, involve some of the President’s most senior and influential advisors, principals of the National Security Council. In dozens of private talks and meetings, sources said that a handful of top advisors discussed specific high-value al Qaeda prisoners and exactly how those prisoners would be interrogated. Whether, for example, they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding. The discussion about the “enhanced interrogation techniques” were so detailed, sources said, the interrogations were almost choreographed, down to the number of times the CIA could use a specific tactic. Former CIA director George Tenet, in an interview last year with ABC News told Charles Gibson.

And the Associated Press reported on 08/10/08 that:

Bush administration officials from Vice President Dick Cheney on down signed off on using harsh interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists after asking the Justice Department to endorse their legality, The Associated Press has learned.

The officials also took care to insulate President Bush from a series of meetings where CIA interrogation methods, including waterboarding, which simulates drowning, were discussed and ultimately approved…

The meetings were held in the White House Situation Room in the years immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks. Attending the sessions were then-Bush aides Attorney General John Ashcroft, Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Reactions, coverage and commentary:

Buzzflash.com:

If you recall, Ashcroft was the one who resisted, from his hospital bed, a White House effort to strong arm him into signing off on actions that he deemed unConstitutional. When you have John Ashcroft as a conscientious objector, you know that Cheney Inc. has crossed the line into uber illegal activity

Brains and Eggs:

There’s no blaring headline in the Washington Post online about this story. Nothing even very significant that I can find from the source, ABC News, on their website. There is a story there, however about how “absolutely appalling” Dick Cheney thinks Rev. Wright’s comments were.

deadlineUSA (The Guardian)

But will this get any traction? Will people at the top of the Bush administration including Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, George Tenet, and John Ashcroft be held responsible? I doubt it. It would appear Barack Obama’s bowling prowess or lack thereof garners more attention in the mainstream media.

Salon.com (Glenn Greenwald):

In the past two weeks, the following events transpired. A Department of Justice memo, authored by John Yoo, was released which authorized torture and presidential lawbreaking. It was revealed that the Bush administration declared the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights to be inapplicable to “domestic military operations” within the U.S. The U.S. Attorney General appears to have fabricated a key event leading to the 9/11 attacks and made patently false statements about surveillance laws and related lawsuits. Barack Obama went bowling in Pennsylvania and had a low score.

Here are the number of times, according to NEXIS, that various topics have been mentioned in the media over the past thirty days:

“Yoo and torture” – 102

“Mukasey and 9/11” — 73

“Yoo and Fourth Amendment” — 16

“Obama and bowling” — 1,043

“Obama and Wright” — More than 3,000 (too many to be counted)

“Obama and patriotism” – 1,607

“Clinton and Lewinsky” — 1,079

Center for Constitutional Rights:

American torturers must not go unpunished.

The Center for Constitutional Rights has, since 2006, been pursuing high-level Bush administration officials in national courts across Europe for their program of torture and coercive interrogations…

CCR represents men who were tortured while held in U.S. custody… Mohammed al Qahtani, who has been at Guantanamo since 2002, was subjected to a brutal interrogation program – specifically authorized by Donald Rumsfeld – that included 20-hour interrogations, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and severe sleep deprivation, among other tactics. The government is seeking the death penalty against al Qahtani based on evidence that was likely obtained through torture.

And check out the excellent coverage found in these outlets:

Daily Mail (UK)

Crooks and Liars

Emptywheel

Left in the West

IntoxiNation

Make it matter. Contact your representatives and demand they investigate these war crimes.

And speaking of making it matter… The National Lawyers Guild is calling on Berkeley to dismiss John Yoo, “whose torture memos led to commission of war crimes.” Help out their effort by contacting Yoo’s dean and asking why they have a war criminal on staff.

April 13, 2008 Posted by | Media Criticism, Torture News, Yoo Torture Memo | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Torture Paper Trail: from legal memos to pleas for help

Human Rights Watch has released a new report — Double Jeopardy: CIA Renditions to Jordan — which reports that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) transferred at least 14 terrorist suspects to Jordanian custody for interrogation and torture since the September 11, 2001 attacks:

Based largely on firsthand information from Jordanian former prisoners who were detained with the non-Jordanian terrorism suspects, the report describes eight previously unknown cases of rendition. The new cases include Ibrahim Abu Muath al-Jeddawi, whose statements may have been relied upon as evidence in US status review proceedings at Guantanamo Bay, and Khayr al-Din al-Jazaeri, whose alleged activities were mentioned in a high-profile terrorism prosecution in France. None are known to have been charged with a criminal offense.

The report also excerpts a handwritten note from one of the rendered prisoners, Ali al-Hajj al-Sharqawi, which he wrote while in Jordanian custody in late 2002. The note, which al-Sharqawi marked with his thumbprint, says that GID interrogators beat him “in a way that does not know any limits.”


The note continues: “They threatened me with electricity, with snakes and dogs …. [They said] we’ll make you see death …. They threatened to rape me.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) plans to hold a May 6th hearing to examine the Yoo torture memo and “the issue of executive power as it relates to interrogation an war-making authority. Conyers also sent a letter today to Berkeley professor John Yoo asking him to testify at the hearing. Read his letter to Yoo here.

When the Yoo memo was released Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) made exactly this point in his 04/01/08 statement: It has been more than four months since I asked the White House — again — to declassify the secret Justice Department opinions on interrogation practices. Today’s declassification of one such memo is a small step forward, but in no way fulfills those requests. The administration continues to shield several memos even from members of Congress. The memo they have declassified today reflects the expansive view of executive power that has been the hallmark of this administration.

The Washington Post reports on the still hidden torture memos:

The release last week of a Justice Department memo that authorized the military to pursue harsh interrogation techniques torture has ignited new demands for documents that underpin the Bush administration’s most sensitive policies, including the treatment of detainees and the warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens. [correction mine]

One psychologist’s campaign to change the American Psychological Association’s participation in torture. Psychologist Steven Reisner is currently running for president of the APA. Reisner writes:

“My candidacy calls for a clear departure from the complicity of psychologists in state-sponsored abuses of human rights, whether these take place at Guantánamo, CIA black sites, or domestic supermax prisons.

I have been told that psychologists might fear for their jobs if we hold to a principled stance on detainees’ basic human rights. I fear for our nation and our profession if we don’t. And I hope that there are enough psychologists who feel similarly to me, so that the APA might at last join the other health professions in unambiguously opposing the practices that have brought shame to our profession and our nation.”

April 11, 2008 Posted by | Torture News, Yoo Torture Memo | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Innocent in Guantanamo

Murat Kurnaz’s memoir, Five Years of My Life: an Innocent Man in Guantánamo, will soon be published in the United States.

Amnesty International reports:

About two months after the September 11 attacks, Kurnaz was abducted by Pakistani authorities while traveling through Pakistan with a group of tablighis, a sect of missionaries. Sold as a terror suspect to the U.S. military for a $3000 bounty, Kurnaz spent two hellish months in a secret U.S. prison in Afghanistan before he was bundled onto a plane and sent to the U.S. detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. There, he endured five years of torture, interrogations and abuse until his 2006 release”prompted by a personal plea by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to President George W. Bush”even though official documents show that U.S. and German authorities had determined in 2002 that he was innocent. His memoir, soon to be published in the United States, has caused a furor in Germany over the role German government and intelligence agencies played in his ordeal.

Below are excerpts of his interview with the German magazine, Stern:

How did you end up being arrested on Dec. 1, 2001?
We were in Peshawar. I had already bought souvenirs to take home. On the way to the airport we went through a checkpoint and I was taken off the bus. I did not think that I was going to be arrested; I thought that the situation would resolve itself. I was taken to the police station, then to a villa and then to a prison. They kept asking me stupid questions: whether I was a cameraman, whether I was from the police. And then they would always say, “No problem, we will take you to the airport tomorrow.”

And instead of that?
The next morning, a sack was put over my head, and I was handcuffed. We traveled for a few hours to a very quiet place. You could not hear any cars, any voices. Many metal doors opened one after another. When I could see again I was in a room without a window, without a toilet, just a hole right above me through which the light came in from a lamp that you could not see.

You were obviously sold–the Americans paid a bounty for terror suspects. Did you know about that?
Only much later. A guard at Guantánamo once complained that I had not given them any new information and had just continued to say the same thing. “You would have surely expected more for your five thousand dollars,” I said to him. “Three thousand,”he replied. “We only paid three thousand for you.”

You were taken to a U.S. camp in Kandahar, in Afghanistan. What did that look like?
A site at the airport. Split into groups of 10 or 20 men, we lay out in the open behind lengths of barbed wire.

That must have been just before Christmas.
It was very cold. On the first night we were naked–they had taken our overalls away from us, and we were not wearing anything underneath. The guards had German and Belgian shepherds, which they would let loose on us every once in a while. In the morning we received new overalls, again with nothing underneath, nothing over the top. We only had blankets for a very short amount of time. And we continued to lie out in the open. My breath froze onto my clothing.

Was there nobody who stood up for you?
After a few days, somebody came from the Red Cross. He was from Germany. He wrote a letter to my family for me. Then, in the night, I was thrown out of my cell. A guard held a shotgun to my head. “You are a terrorist!” he screamed. “What kind of dumb stuff did you write about your treatment here?” My hands and feet were bound, and someone kicked me from behind. I fell. The interrogator pulled me up again by my hair. In Kandahar, I at least found out what I was being accused of: having a fake visa and being a friend of Mohammed Atta, the terrorist pilot. They asked where Osama was, where I had seen him. They claimed that they knew everything already and that I should give evidence to improve my situation.

Did they really have information on you?
They knew a lot–for example, the fact that I had bought my digital camera and my mobile phone before my journey and from whom I had bought them. I was in no doubt that they were working alongside German authorities…

Were you tortured in any other ways?
They called it “showering.” You had to pour cold water over your head. They took me out to do that every day. They prepared me for interrogations by putting electric shocks through my feet. For hours on end they would hang me up by my hands, which were bound behind my back in different positions?and then a break, and then you would be hung up again. A doctor looked in to see if you were still alive. The interrogator came at midday every day, and then you would be taken down for a short while…

Your impressions upon arrival at Guantánamo?
It was warm. I thought it was a U.S. military base in Turkey. They were already beating us a lot on the way to the camp, as a welcoming greeting.

What was Camp X-Ray [the first prison at Guantánamo like?
The cages were so small that I initially thought they were only for getting changed in. You were exposed to everything: sun, rain, snakes, scorpions. I once saw with my own eyes one of the prisoners being stung on the finger by a scorpion. Fat rats walked all over your arms and legs.

April 9, 2008 Posted by | Non-Fiction | , , , | Leave a comment

At the NYT, soldiers are seen but not heard

Listen to Jeff Cohen on Counterspin discuss the media black-out on Winter Soldier.

Read FAIR’s Action Alert here and the New York Times response here. One infuriating snippet of the NYT response:

News organizations like the Times, with its own substantial investment in independent reporting from Iraq tend to prefer their own on-scene accounts of the war, rather than relying on charges and counter-charges at home by organizations with strongly held political viewpoints about the war.

What a dishonest response. While the New York Times has been featuring several stories about the torment suffered by American veterans of the Iraq war, they chose not to cover the Winter Soldier hearings, where veterans and active duty soldiers detail the tragedy and immorality they witnessed in Iraq. So, according to the NYT, soldiers can be subjects of stories on the “costs of war” but they won’t be covered if they express political views while telling their stories?

They didn’t cover these soldiers because the vets dared to express a political view about the war they fought — a political view that contradicts the corporate media line.

April 9, 2008 Posted by | Media Criticism, Non-Fiction | , , | Leave a comment

Torture at the Highest Level

In The Green Light, Vanity Fair reports on how torture starts at the top. (I have to say that I’m no Vanity Fair fan since they published their anti-Mumia dribble several years ago, plus their parade of sexist covers.)

From The Green Light:

Starting in late 2002 a detainee bearing the number 063 was tortured over a period of more than seven weeks. In his story lies the answer to a crucial question: How was the decision made to let the U.S. military start using coercive interrogations at Guantánamo?

The Bush administration has always taken refuge behind a “trickle up” explanation: that is, the decision was generated by military commanders and interrogators on the ground. This explanation is false. The origins lie in actions taken at the very highest levels of the administration—by some of the most senior personal advisers to the president, the vice president, and the secretary of defense… This is the story of how the torture at Guantánamo began, and how it spread.

The senior managing attorney of the Guantánamo project at the Center for Constitutional Rights writes on the Torture Memo, the Vanity Fair piece and the documents that still remain hidden:

[W]e know that many other specific memos exist but have yet to be declassified or leaked to the public:

  • a 2001 directive to CIA authorizing it to set up overseas detention facilities;
  • an August 2002 authorizing CIA to use specific interrogation methods (including waterboarding);
  • a memo of October 23, 2001, arguing that the Posse Comitatus Act, which places restrictions on the use of the armed forces to quell unrest within the United States, cannot bind the President in efforts to “prevent and deter terrorism” domestically, and arguing that the Fourth Amendment generally does not place restrictions on such presidential military activities domestically (keep in mind the NSA is a branch of the Department of Defense, and protections against indiscriminate warrantless wiretapping derive from the Fourth Amendment.

One woman protesting torture in her neighborhood and how you can too.

Read letters to the New York Times from readers who react to the Torture Memo.

Psychologists and torture:

Check out this website for psychologists who withhold dues to protest the APA’s policy that “promotes the participation of psychologists in interrogations at Guantanamo Bay and other military and CIA facilities where suspected terrorists are detained without due process.”

The American Psychological Association (APA): “seeks critical incidents/vignettes concerning the casebook/commentary on psychological ethics and national security. The goal of the casebook/commentary is to provide ethical guidance to psychologists advising or consulting to national security-related interrogations.”

Read some of the the submissions from the Coalition for an Ethical APA. One scenario submitted:

In 2003, the CIA acknowledged that it had kidnapped two children of a suspected terrorist, ages 7 and 9, and held them at a CIA ‘black site.’ Before their father was captured, the children were interrogated so that the CIA might discover from them their father’s whereabouts. After their father was captured, the detained children were held as hostages to pressure their father into giving up information.

By one account, the two children were pressured into giving up information by having insects put on their legs to scare them. [Testimony of Ali Khan, father of Guantánamo prisoner Majid Khan, submitted to the Combatant Status Review Tribunal at Guantánamo in March 2007.]

CIA interrogators stated at the time that, “We have child psychologists on hand at all times and they are given the best of care.”

Is it ethical for a child psychologist to offer care in such a circumstance?
Is it ethical for a child psychologist to permit his or her treatment of these children to be the basis of a propaganda statement for the U.S. government? For instance, how can it be said that children who have been kidnapped and are being held as hostages, away from home and family, in order to facilitate the interrogation of their father, be considered are held under “the best of care”?
Is it ethical for the child psychologist to allow the dissemination of such a statement to legitimize the governmental use of children for coercive purposes?


April 9, 2008 Posted by | Torture News, Yoo Torture Memo | , , | 1 Comment