warprompts

Convicted Criminal Considers the Cause, the Crime, and the Court

Last week, as prisoners continued to languish in the infamous and illegally-run US concentration camp of Guantanamo, I was fortunate to join 34 fellow criminals in Washington DC at the District of Columbia Superior Court as our case, for an act of peaceful civil resistance, was heard by a judge and prosecuted by one of America‘s officers of the court. Our court experience was far more than our unfortunate brothers in Guantanamo have received after 6 years in their open-ended confinement. Approximately 270 Guantanamo prisoners are held in captivity without charges, Habeas Corpus rights denied, access to civil courts denied, living in conditions of abuse, torture, and with little hope for life or liberty. Some have committed suicide because of their desperate situation.

On January 11, 2008 hundreds of people solemnly processed from The National Mall to The United States Supreme Court marking the 6th year of the prison camp to redress our grievances against the US Government and its use of abusive treatment, torture, and the ending of Habeas Corpus rights for the Guantanamo prisoners. Out of the hundreds who were a part of this assembly, outside and inside the US Supreme Court, I was one of 80 people who ended up being arrested for our nonviolent witness, kneeling and praying, calling for the closing of the Guantanamo detention camp. Those of us who were arrested for our peaceful justice-advocacy for the prisoners were charged with “unlawful free speech” and a second charge, for those inside, of “causing a harangue”. The “harangue” charge was eventually dropped.

After our arrest we were held for over 30 hours in a chain of custody from the US Supreme Court Police to the DC Metropolitan Police, and finally in holding cells below the courtroom by the US Marshals. We chose not to have any identification such as drivers’ licenses and instead told the police that we were there in the name of a specific Guantanamo prisoner. The Guantanamo prisoner I represented is Sahr Fawaz Ahmad. Many of us had been held on January 11 in handcuffs for over 8 hours and some not given any food or water until the next day. The day after our arrest, while still in custody, the US Marshals refused to give us water. Our lawyer had to get the arraignment judge to order the marshals to give us water. On January 12 we were all arraigned late in the day and early evening. We were then free to go until we would be in court to defend ourselves against the charges. Again, this is more than those in Guantanamo have received even after 6 long years of imprisonment without charge or conviction.

On May 27, 2008 we gathered for our trial in the DC Superior Court. As we went to trial our numbers had decreased from 80 initially arrested to 34 prepared for trial. Several of the 80 had made agreements with the government not to get arrested for 6 months and having their records cleared if they maintained this agreement. Others had their charges dropped for no apparent reason just before our trial. Our judge was Wendell P. Gardner Jr. and our US Government prosecutor was Magdelena Acevado. We would defend ourselves Pro Se meaning we would represent ourselves with the assistance of attorney-advisers Mark Goldstone and Anne Wilcox. By going Pro Se we have the chance to introduce our message about the Guantanamo prisoners and what motivated us to take such a dramatic action at The US Supreme Court.

The trial lasted three days ending late on Thursday May 29. During our trial almost half of my fellow co-defendants wore orange jumpsuits and remained silent and would not take an active role in their defense. They did this to be in solidarity with the prisoners of Guantanamo and to illustrate the lack of justice the prisoners have experienced while being held in the US occupied portion of Cuba. The rest of us took on the various roles such as giving opening statements, cross examination of government witnesses, examination of defense witnesses, motion for judgment of acquittal, and closing statements in our defense. We all identified ourselves in court with our own names in addition to naming the Guantanamo prisoner we represented. In naming a Guantanamo prisoner we were in some small symbolic way getting these illegally held captives into the court record, again this is much more than what they have received so far.

During the trial several of my codefendants made deeply moving and passionate statements concerning the rights of the prisoners, about the abuse and torture we know is inflicted upon them, the importance of Habeas Corpus, human rights, and international law. They spoke eloquently about why we were called by conscience and the need to follow a higher law that is above statutes that govern behavior in and around a federal building. We all acted peacefully at the US Supreme Court on January 11, 2008 and firmly believe that we were there to uphold the law.

During the trial the government failed to provide any evidence of our individual guilt. We were identified in court with post-arrest photos by police witnesses. A video depicting some of what happened outside The US Supreme Court was presented without a single police officer identifying any one of us as an individual who committed a crime. Not one person who was inside on that day was ever identified by a police witness as committing any crime. One officer testified that the first time he saw me was on an elevator handcuffed being escorted by another officer after my arrest. Nevertheless we were all found guilty by the judge. We were found guilty by the use of post-arrest photos and guilt by association and not as individuals who each committed a crime. This is significant but not the most important thing for us.

We did what we did and went to trial because of the prisoners of Guantanamo. We were there for them. We were there to speak out for those who cannot. We were there to uphold international law, our constitution, our Bill of Rights, The Geneva Conventions, for justice and humanity. Our government refuses to allow the Guantanamo prisoners into our civil courts to be fairly tried. Instead our government has set up military tribunals where hearsay evidence is permitted, information obtained from those tortured is admitted as evidence, and the military judge picks the defense, prosecution, and jury. This is not justice. We took the names of the prisoners into court with us written on our hearts and minds and we spoke their names. We were subsequently sentenced by Judge Gardiner on May 30.

We now all face one year of probation and a one year order to stay away from the US Supreme Court building, grounds, and the surrounding sidewalk. Some of us have fines of $50 and a few have, including myself, a $100 fine. Some refused to accept probation knowing they may be called by conscience, to witness for justice and peace, to risk arrest again. These people, five of them, received immediate jail time of 10 days and an additional one to 15 days. Another defendant, a retired school teacher in her 70’s, received 5 days, and I was one of three who received 1 day in jail in addition 29 days in jail if we get arrested within the year. Again, this is nothing compared to what our brothers in Guantanamo face every day.

Our judge gave us these punishments because he said he wants us to learn a lesson. But, in reality the government is clamping down on peaceful dissent by jailing us and threatening us with more jail if we continue our nonviolent resistance to injustice. This is the lesson the government wants nonviolent dissenters to learn. The lesson the government needs to learn, however, is that this won’t work with us. We will be back for our brothers in Guantanamo and the estimated 27,000 other prisoners in secret black sites around the world where torture is practiced.

As long as the Guantanamo concentration camp is open and in operation none of us is truly free. As long as the likes of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Gonzalez, and Yoo remain at large ordering, advocating, and approving of torture none of us is safe. As long as the bipartisan US Congress fails to restore Habeas Corpus and close Guantanamo we have lost our republic and tyranny will rule us. We all must work to close this place and bring justice to those held captive. If this means risking arrest for nonviolent symbolic actions of peaceful civil resistance and then enduring a time of incarceration then this must be done for the sake of the higher laws of justice and the leadings of our individual consciences. I urge all people of goodwill to join us in this struggle for justice.

For more information on the campaign to close Guantanamo, our trial, and the work to end torture go to: www.witnesstorture.org

— Malachy Kilbride malachykilbride@yahoo.com

June 18, 2008 Posted by | Non-Fiction, Torture News | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Google It — We’re #1!

When you google “torture,” the US occupies two of the top three positions:

Torture – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Torture, according to the United Nations Convention Against Torture, is “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental,
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torture – 190k – CachedSimilar pagesNote this

Human Rights Watch – Torture – Abuse of Detainees – Iraq – Afghanistan

Human Rights Watch research and advocacy on the torture and mistreatment of US detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanmo Bay.
http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/torture.htm – 24k – CachedSimilar pagesNote this

Annals of National Security: Torture at Abu Ghraib: The New Yorker

In the era of Saddam Hussein, Abu Ghraib, twenty miles west of Baghdad, was one of the world’s most notorious prisons, with torture, weekly executions,

Google It!

If you google:

US + torture, you get 3,430,000 hits.

China + torture gets 349,000 hits

Iran + torture gets 652,000

England + torture gets 573,000

France + torture gets 714,000

June 3, 2008 Posted by | Non-Fiction | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.


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

Torture in the House: Marjorie Cohn’s Testimony

Read an excerpt from Marjorie Cohn’s testimony before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

She speaks of the law and torture…

What does torture have in common with genocide, slavery, and wars of aggression? They are all jus cogens. That’s Latin for “higher law” or “compelling law.” This means that no country can ever pass a law that allows torture. There can be no immunity from criminal liability for violation of a jus cogens prohibition.

The United States has always prohibited torture in our Constitution, laws, executive statements, judicial decisions, and treaties. When the U.S. ratifies a treaty, it becomes part of American law under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.

The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, says, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for torture.”

Whether someone is a POW or not, he must always be treated humanely; there are no gaps in the Geneva Conventions.

The U.S. War Crimes Act, and 18 USC sections 818 and 3231, punish torture, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, and inhuman, humiliating or degrading treatment.

The Torture Statute criminalizes the commission, attempt, or conspiracy to commit torture outside the United States.

John Yoo’s criminal role…

The Constitution gives Congress the power to make laws and the President the duty to enforce them. Yet Bush, relying on memos by lawyers including John Yoo, announced the Geneva Conventions did not apply to alleged Taliban and Al Qaeda members. But torture and inhumane treatment are never allowed under our laws.

Justice Department lawyers wrote memos at the request of Bush officials to insulate them from prosecution for torture. In memos dated August 1, 2002 and March 14, 2003, John Yoo wrote the DOJ would not enforce U.S. laws against torture, assault, maiming and stalking, in the detention and interrogation of enemy combatants.

The maiming statute makes it a crime for someone “with the intent to torture, maim, or disfigure” to “cut, bite, or slit the nose, ear or lip, or cut out or disable the tongue, or put out or destroy an eye, or cut off or disable a limb, or any member of another person” or throw or pour upon another person any scalding water, corrosive acid, or caustic substance.

Yoo said, “just because the statute says — that doesn’t mean you have to do it.” In a debate with Notre Dame Professor Doug Cassell, Yoo said there is no treaty that prohibits the President from torturing someone by crushing the testicles of the person’s child. It depends on the President’s motive, Yoo said, notwithstanding the absolute prohibition on torture.

Yoo twisted the law and redefined torture much more narrowly than the Torture Convention and the Torture Statute. Under Yoo’s definition, you have to nearly kill the person to constitute torture.

Yoo wrote that self-defense or necessity could be defenses to war crimes prosecutions, notwithstanding the Torture Convention’s absolute prohibition against torture in all circumstances.

DOJ Memos…

After the August 1, 2002 memo was made public, the DOJ knew it was indefensible. It was withdrawn as of June 1, 2004, and a new opinion, dated December 30, 2004, specifically rejected Yoo’s definition of torture, and admitted that a defendant’s motives to protect national security won’t shield him from prosecution. The rescission of the prior memo is an admission by the DOJ that the legal reasoning was wrong. But for the 22 months it was in effect, it sanctioned and caused the torture of myriad prisoners.

Yoo and other DOJ lawyers were part of a common plan to violate U.S. and international laws outlawing torture. It was reasonably foreseeable their advice would result in great physical or mental harm or death to many detainees. Indeed, more than 100 have died, many from torture. Yoo admitted recently he knew interrogators would take action based on what he advised.

The torture architects and their liability…

Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, George Tenet, and John Ashcroft met in the White House and micromanaged the torture by approving specific torture techniques such as waterboarding. Bush admitted he knew and approved of their actions.

They are all liable under the War Crimes Act and the Torture Statute. Under the doctrine of command responsibility, commanders, all the way up the chain of command to the commander in chief, are liable for war crimes if they knew or should have known their subordinates would commit them, and they did nothing to stop or prevent it. The Bush officials ordered the torture after seeking legal cover from their lawyers.

The President can no more order the commission of torture than he can order the commission of genocide, or establish a system of slavery, or wage a war of aggression.

A Select Committee of Congress should launch an immediate and thorough investigation of the circumstances under which torture was authorized and rationalized. The high officials of our government, and the lawyers who advised them, should be investigated and prosecuted by a Special Prosecutor, independent of the Justice Department, for their roles in misusing the rule of law and legal analysis to justify torture and other crimes in flagrant violation of our laws.



June 1, 2008 Posted by | Torture News, Yoo Torture Memo | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Torture Hearing in Congress, Witness List

The Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties held a hearing on the role that Bush administration lawyers played in, as Chair Jerrold Nadler’s press release said, “creating abusive interrogation policies [torture] that have resulted in the widespread abuse [torture] of detainees in U.S. custody and control.”

The witnesses debunked the “ticking time bomb” scenario so often used to justify torture:

“Radio silence was the response when today’s witnesses were asked to identify a single example of a true ‘ticking bomb’ scenario ever occurring, even though such scenarios are often invoked to justify torture,” Congressman John Conyers said. “These scholars, who have studied this issue extensively and have intimate knowledge of the legal authority the administration sought, could not identify a single example. I hope that the administration officials who have agreed to testify will shed some light on this and many other questions raised in today’s hearing.”


  • Professor Phillipe Sands described the impact of US interrogation policies and legal opinions on our standing around the world, recounting how a foreign president had pulled out a copy of a John Yoo legal opinion as evidence that US law permitted torture.
  • Georgetown Professor David Luban testified that the John Yoo interrogation opinions were so flawed – full of “hot air” in his words – that US agents were “misled” into believing their actions were lawful and people in US custody “may have suffered cruel and illegal treatment because of these memos.”
  • Professor Sands described an important visit by senior administration lawyers to Guantanamo Bay in 2002 – vice presidential aide David Addington was on this trip and Sands described him as the “leader of the pack.” Former Defense Department general counsel Jim Haynes was also on this trip, and Sands testified at length about how Mr. Haynes and the administration had improperly blamed junior personnel at Guantanamo for initiating and legally approving aggressive interrogation techniques when in fact, Professor Sands testified, those techniques were pushed from the top of the administration and based on legal approval from the John Yoo August 2002 memorandum.

Watch the hearing here.

Before the hearing the Subcommittee considered, and approved by voice vote, a resolution to authorize the Committee Chair to issue subpoenas to compel Dick Cheney’s (another invited witness) Chief of Staff David Addington. Other witnesses — former Attorney General John Ashcroft and the torture memo author John Yoo — have agreed to testify. According to Nadler’s press release, former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, former CIA Director George Tenet, and former Assistant Attorney General Daniel Levin “remain in dialougue about their availability.” Hmmm…. Maybe we should send Feith, Tenet, Levin, Cheney and Addington “save the date” cards to discuss torture so they don’t over-book their schedules. I’m sure their dance cards are quite full!

May 11, 2008 Posted by | Torture News, Yoo Torture Memo | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a 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 Precious Gift of Freedom

Reprieve, a London organization that works with detainees at Guantanamo, is releasing pictures based on the censored drawings of Sami al-Haj, the al-Jazeera cameraman imprisoned at Guantánamo:

Mr. al-Haj had shown the drawings to his lawyer, Cori Crider, during a visit last month. Fearing that they would be censored, Ms. Crider asked Mr. al-Haj to provide detailed descriptions of the drawings, which he duly did.

When the drawings were subsequently censored, as anticipated, Reprieve approached Lewis Peake and asked him to create original works based on Mr. al-Haj’s descriptions.

The first of the pictures to be released (the others will follow over the next week or so) documents Mr. al-Haj’s feelings about the way he sees himself subjected to force-feeding in what he and other prisoners describe as the “Torture Chair,” the restraint chair into which they are strapped twice a day, when they have a 110 cm tube forcibly inserted into one nostril so that liquid food can be administered. The tube is pulled out after each feeding, and the prisoners are left in the chair for up to two hours so that they can be force-fed again if they vomit.

“The first sketch is just a skeleton in the torture chair,” Mr. al-Haj explained. “My picture reflects my nightmares of what I must look like, with my head double-strapped down, a tube in my nose, a black mask over my mouth, with no eyes and only giant cheekbones, my teeth jutting out — my bones showing in every detail, every rib, every joint. The tube goes up to a bag at the top of the drawing. On the right there is another skeleton sitting shackled to another chair. They are sitting like we do in interrogations, with hands shackled, feet shackled to the floor, just waiting. In between I draw the flag of Guantanamo — JTF-GTMO — but instead of the normal insignia, there is a skull and crossbones, the real symbol of what is happening here.”

Rear Admiral John D. Hutson, who served as the Navy’s judge advocate general from 1997 to 2000, discusses the legality and effectiveness of torture:

Minnpost.com: Is that a tested theory — that it’s more effective for interrogators to build rapport with someone they’ve captured?

JH: Absolutely. If you read the literature or you talk to interrogators who are not just CIA thugs, that has been the doctrine since we can remember. Torture was never intended in its earliest days to be a quest for the truth. It was intended to get people to confess to things they hadn’t done like being a witch. We have turned it around and tried to legitimize it.

And another interview with the brilliant Darius Rejali, this time with Harper’s:

During the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the Shah’s torture was the best recruiting tool the opposition had. Prisons were places where prisoners met each other and professionalized their skills, as I and others have documented. It feels like a nightmare watching American politicians make the same mistake as the Shah. I like to believe that with every mistake we must surely be learning, but sometimes it is hard to believe.

When I talked about people under torture saying anything, I was especially interested in the cases where torturers interrogate for true information. That’s what I document doesn’t work. But it seems pretty clear that torture works to generate false confessions, which serve equally as well as true confessions for many state purposes.

Wonder if there’s a Hallmark card for this… On the five year anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, Hillary Clinton said the US has given Iraq the “precious gift of freedom”:

“I have been outlining plans as to what we can and must do to begin bringing our sons and daughters home. I am convinced that we can start within sixty days and do it in a responsible and careful manner, recognizing that the Iraqi government has to take responsibility for its own future, that we have given them the precious gift of freedom, and it is up to them to decide whether or not they will use it. But we cannot win their civil war. There is no military solution.”

Here are some of those gifts —

The New Yorker reports on more of the US government sanctioned macabre at Abu Ghraib, including a detainee who was just 10 years old and the practice of submerging prisoners in garbage cans filled with ice water:

“Put them in a cell where the toilet is blocked—backed up. It smells like urine and crap. That would drive you nuts.” And you could keep shifting a prisoner’s mealtimes, or simply withhold meals. The prisoners ate the same M.R.E.s that the guards ate, but you could deny them the spoon and all the fixings. “If you got Salisbury steak, they got the Salisbury steak, not the rice that comes with it, not the hot sauce, not the snack, not the juice—the Salisbury steak, and that’s it,” [Javal] Davis said, who had spent six years in the Army. “They were starving by the time they’d get ready to get interrogated.” At that point, he said, it would be: “O.K., we’ll give you more food if you talk.”

And you could inflict pain. “You also had stress positions, and you escalated the stress positions,” Davis said. “Hand-cuffs behind their backs, high up, in very uncomfortable positions, or chained down. Then you had the submersion. You put the people in garbage cans, and you’d put ice in it, and water. Or stick them underneath the shower spigot naked. They’d be freezing.” It was a routine, he said: “Open a window while it was, like, forty degrees outside and watch them disappear into themselves . . . before they go into shock.”

March 26, 2008 Posted by | Torture News | , , | Leave a comment