warprompts

Floating in Limbo, literally

Makes you proud to be an American, huh? One Guantanamo detainee victim describes the “kinder, gentler” torture imposed by the Americans he thought he would be safe with:

While staying at his in-law’s village in Afghanistan in December 2001, Abdul Hamid Al-Ghizzawi, my client at Guantánamo, knew little of Bush and Cheney.

Later, when vigilante thugs turned him over to the Northern Alliance for an American bounty, Al-Ghizzawi knew nothing of Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee, John Yoo or Matthew Waxman — the man who would become Al-Ghizzawi’s personal war criminal and who is now a professor at Columbia Law School.

So, it was understandable that when Al-Ghizzawi heard American troops were coming, he tried to get himself turned over to them. As Al-Ghizzawi later told me, he thought he would be safe with the Americans “and have rights” and be treated “with respect.” Al-Ghizzawi convinced the Americans to take him when they learned he spoke English. That was all the troops knew about him. Ignorance of who he was or why he was there, however, proved no impediment to torture.

In the early years, “the Americans treated me very brutally and disrespectfully, worse than the Northern Alliance … and the Northern Alliance was very bad,” Al-Ghizzawi recounted to me. “But now the torture is much different. Now the torture is my life every day in this prison, alone without my family, dying, with no rights and no charges.”

His American jailers spared Al-Ghizzawi the very worst of the worst in the long list of torture techniques now in use. He was not murdered or waterboarded. He did not have a razor blade taken to his penis, nor was he hung from the ceiling by his arms. One might describe Al-Ghizzawi’s torture as a kinder, gentler torture.

In American custody, Al-Ghizzawi was only beaten with chains; bound to chairs in excruciating positions for endless hours; threatened with death and with rape; stripped and subjected to body-cavity searches by non-medical personnel while men — and women — laughed and took pictures.

Among many other brutalities and indignities, Al-Ghizzawi was also posed naked with other prisoners; terrorized with dogs; forced to kneel on stones in the searing heat; left to stand or crouch for extended periods; deprived of sleep; subjected to extreme cold without clothes or covering; denied medical attention; and kept in isolation for years.

Again, as I said: a kinder, gentler torture.

Torture planes, and now, Torture ships. The anti-torture group, Reprieve, reported on June 2nd that:

In June 2005 the UN’s special rapporteur on terrorism spoke of “very, very serious” allegations that the United States was secretly detaining terrorism suspects in various locations around the world, notably aboard prison ships in the Indian Ocean region.


Reprieve, the legal action charity, believes that the US has operated a number of ships as floating prisons (possibly as many as 17), where prisoners have been interrogated under torturous conditions before being rendered to other, often undisclosed locations. Details regarding the operation of prison ships have emerged through a number of sources, including the US military and other administration officials, the Council of Europe, various parliamentary bodies and journalists, as well as the testimonies of prisoners themselves…

Following his capture by Northern Alliance forces in November 2001, John Walker Lindh, the so called ‘American Taliban’, was transferred first to the USS Peleliu and then to USS Bataan. On board, he received medical treatment for dehydration, hypothermia and frostbite. In addition, the bullet wound he received two weeks previously was removed from his leg…

A former Guantánamo prisoner told Reprieve about conditions aboard the USS Bataan:

There were about 50 other people on the ship. They were all closed off in the bottom of the ship. The prisoner commented to me that it was like something you see on television. The people detained on the ship were beaten even more severely than in Guantánamo.

The USS Bataan is also known to have been operating in the Indian Ocean region.


Reprieve believes that prisoners held aboard the USS Bataan were routinely photographed and examined by medical personnel in between interrogations, and that such records are held by the US administration…

Reprieve will be issuing a full report on the use of prison ships later this year.

Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve’s Director, said: “The US administration chooses ships to try to keep their misconduct as far as possible from the prying eyes of the media and lawyers. We will eventually reunite these ghost prisoners with their human rights.”

He added: “By its own admission, the US government is currently detaining at least 26,000 people without trial in secret prisons, and information suggests up to 80,000 have been ‘through the system’ since 2001. The US government must show a commitment to rights and basic humanity by immediately revealing who these people are, where they are, and what has been done to them.”

David Swanson writes an excellent commentary on McCain and the torture ships:

When asked about other known crimes of Bush and Cheney, Senator Barack Obama has said that he can’t see any crimes now, but he’ll be glad to look into it after we elect him. So, it’s a safe bet that if he becomes president Obama will create a task force to advise him on whether it’s illegal or abusive in any way to secretly kidnap random innocent people, allow their families to think they’re dead, hide them in the hull of what can technically only be called a pirate ship, beat them, hang them by their wrists, starve them, electroshock them, hold their heads underwater, and keep them chained hands-and-feet like something worse than wild animals. Depending on what conclusions Obama’s subordinates draw, it seems an even bet he’ll launch a more in-depth study to fully investigate the question in a discrete and respectful manner.

McCain is a different story, at least in terms of rhetoric. When asked how he came to switch from being an opponent and supposed victim of torture denouncing it as both evil and useless, to a cheerleader for its blatantly illegal use and its justification by dictatorial “signing statement”, Senator John McCain . . . Actually, we would have to have a public communications system for McCain to ever have been asked such an impolite question, but I feel safe in asserting that HAD he been asked that question, he would have replied by threatening to torture the questioner, with a wink and a nervous grin, followed by a slurred and semi-coherent refusal ever to surrender to “extremists.” If I were a betting man, my money would be on McCain’s presidential campaign quite soon offering to name torture ships in honor of major campaign donors. A pirate-themed ball at the Republican National Convention is not unlikely.

Additional coverage on the torture ships:

The Personal is Political

The Guardian

Reuters

AFP

I was lucky enough to interview A.C. Thompson in 2006, co-author of Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA’s Rendition Flights:

Can you tell me a little bit about how this book came about?

Back in December 2005, my co-author Trevor Paglen gave me a call and said, “Hey, I’ve been checking out these planes. Can I come over to your office and talk about it?” And he came over and basically said, “I believe these planes are involved with the CIA in some way. Can you help me figure out who owns them and where they’re based, and find any clues about the corporations who allegedly own these planes?”

So right on the spot we started doing document searches at my desk, and looking up the ownership records for some of these planes. Very quickly it became clear that the planes that he was interested in were not normal.

Torturetaxicover_1 Normally, if you look at any company, you’ll find that it has an office somewhere, it has a CEO or president who can be easily located, it has a Web site — it has all the basic sort of stuff that you’d expect. And the companies that putatively owned these planes had none of that. You couldn’t find an office, you couldn’t find any real estate that they owned, you couldn’t find a phone number for the executives, you couldn’t find an address, and you couldn’t find any homes that executives of these companies owned. Now, you’d expect that the president of even a small aviation company probably owns a home somewhere – you know, you wouldn’t see any of this stuff. And so, very quickly, we realized that there was something weird about this.

Once you saw that something wasn’t really right, what was the next step?

Our whole thing was that we were researching this as people who didn’t have intelligence sources, as people who didn’t have sources deep in the aviation business. We were trying to reverse engineer the program. That was our goal.

So we gathered up all the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records and corporate paperwork that we could. Then we also networked with the plane spotters – the sort of nerdy hobbyists who spend their time obsessing over the minutia and esoterica of aviation — Where does one plane go? Where does it land? What kind of plane is it? Who owns it? Who flies it?

In a lot of ways, they were the ones who actually cracked the CIA’s code, because these geeky types have Web sites and listservs where they’re sharing information with one another. And a lot of them are very interested in suspicious aircraft, and they had obtained flight logs and documented these planes — with photos — in very interesting places.

We could build on that information and start understanding better where these planes were going, and that, in fact, they were very likely CIA planes. That same tactic was employed by Stephen Grey, the author of Ghost Plane, and John Sifton at Human Rights Watch. And really, that sort of became the cutting edge of human rights research and reporting at the moment — to understand how aviation flight patterns work. It was kind of a weird thing.


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June 3, 2008 Posted by | Torture News | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment