What Geneva Convention?
Sightings from The Catbird Seat
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U.S. Torture and Abuse
“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
—The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 5 (1948)
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Each day brings more information about the appalling abuses inflicted upon men and women held by the United States in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the world. U.S. forces have used interrogation techniques including hooding, stripping detainees naked, subjecting them to extremes of heat, cold, noise and light, and depriving them of sleep—in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. This apparently routine infliction of pain, discomfort, and humiliation has expanded in all too many cases into vicious beatings, sexual degradation, sodomy, near drowning, and near asphyxiation. Detainees have died under questionable circumstances while incarcerated.
This must end. Torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading practices should be as unthinkable as slavery. U.S. Department of Defense officials have announced that certain stress interrogation techniques will no longer be used in Iraq. But President Bush should ban all forms of abuse during interrogation in Iraq and everywhere else that the United States holds people in custody. It is wrong in itself and leads to further atrocities....
Torture and Death for Accused Witches
By Jennifer Milanese
Long before the famed Salem Witch Trials, thousands upon thousands of men, women,
and even children were being tortured and massacred throughout Europe. These horrible
acts were even condoned by the churches. Towards the end of the thirteenth century
witchcraft was proclaimed an act punishable by death. But death did not come easy to
All across Europe fingers began to fly. Accusations were made, and the guilty party was often tortured and made to confess to witchcraft and evil deeds. No evidence was needed to convict. Europe became obsessed with ridding themselves of witches. Witch hunters popped up all throughout the Continent....
As the need to punish and kill witches grew, dozens and dozens of torture tools and methods were developed. One such item was the bootikens. These were boots that went from the person's ankles to knees. Wedges were hammered up the length of the boot into the person's leg, breaking and crushing bones as it went. Another tool used was called The Pear. It was a pear shaped apparatus that was often inserted into orifices. It was then expanded by way of a screw. It was often expanded enough until it tore and mangled which ever orifice it had been inserted in. Death would follow shortly, from either blood loss or infection. It was usually equipped with sharp spikes at the end so that a person could also be stabbed with it, usually in the neck. Another device known as Turcas was used to tear the fingernails out. This was followed by sticking pins or needles into the raw and exposed skin of the fingers.
Using red hot pincers against a witch's body was also a favorite. Often a pincer was used to tear off pieces of flesh and in some cases inserted into vaginas and rectums. Many times a person would be stripped naked, horse whipped, and then would have the pincers used on them. Women sometimes had their breasts torn off with hot pincers to further humiliate them.
Crushing a witch was often used both to kill and force a confession. The accused would be made to lie on the ground or a table and usually a board was placed on top of them. As they lay there being questioned they would slowly place large rocks upon the board. They would add more and more until the person confessed and then, once having a confession, would add more until the person was no longer able to breathe. It was a slow and painful death.
A variation on crushing was stoning. Stoning allowed a mob of people to gather around the accused and pelt them with stones until the person was killed. Depending on the situation a person could be battered for minutes or hours before succumbing to death. Stonings were not always organized events, in some communities a mob would develop before the so-called witch could be tried.
Another method used to gain a confession was called the Strappado. In this case, the persons wrists were bound behind their back with a rope. The rope was then hoisted over a ceiling beam. The rope was pulled until the person was suspended in the air and then they were viciously dropped. This was repeated until the persons shoulders became dislocated.
From country to country, the methods varied. But no matter where you were, if you were accused you were in for pain, humiliation, and ultimate suffering....
Torture & Death for Accused Witches
* * * * *
The Salem Witch Trials
"Today those who suffered persecution are viewed
as victims of ignorance, intolerance and prejudice."
Salem Wax Museum Text from Display
* * * * *
“Blinded by the lies,”
by Carl Klang
"Can't you see? Are you blinded by the lies?"
- Jesus Christ of Nazareth
* * * * *
FROM THE CATBIRD’S NEW NEST
UNCLE SAM’S TORTURE CHAMBERS
* * * * *
DID BUSH ADMINISTRATION USE TORTURE TO TRY TO ESTABLISH LINK BETWEEN IRAQ AND AL-QUIDA?
(The answer is “YES”!)
Hardball with Chris Matthews, MSNBC
* * * * *
THE TRUTH ABOUT TORTURE
Countdown with Keith Olbermann, MSNBC
* * * * *
SECRETS FROM THE CATBIRD’S NEST!
(S-h-h-h ... don’t tell anybody)
* * * * *
June 19, 2009
Obama-backed Bill to Ban Release of Bush-Era Torture Photos Passes Senate
By Jeremy Scahill. Rebel Reports
In a move that didn’t receive much attention, the Senate on Wednesday passed by unanimous consent the Graham-Lieberman bill, which seeks to make it illegal to make public any images of US prisoner abuse and torture from the Bush era.
Specifically, the bill bans the release of images “taken between September 11, 2001 and January 22, 2009 relating to the treatment of individuals engaged, captured, or detained after September 11, 2001, by the Armed Forces of the United States in operations outside of the United States.”
The Obama White House supports this outrageous legislation whose sole purpose is to make it illegal to reveal the truth about US torture.
At one point, this legislation was tacked on to the war supplemental bill passed by the House on Tuesday, but was removed (for purely tactical reasons) when too many Congressional Democrats objected. Now, it exists as stand-alone legislation (following a deal cut between Obama and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham). Whether or not it passes the House (at this point it seems unlikely), Obama is telling his Republican buddies he’s got their backs:
Graham said at a Judiciary Committee hearing that he had received assurance from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel “that the president will not let these photos see the light of day.”
“The people involved in Abu Ghraib and other detainee abuse allegations have been dealt with,” Graham said, arguing against the release of the photographs. “Every photo would become a bullet or IED used by terrorists against our troops.”[…]
After receiving the White House promise, Graham agreed to release a “hold” on key legislation, including the $106 billion war funding measure.
Before the Senate vote, Graham told his colleagues from the Senate floor that President Obama “would sign … an executive order” classifying the photographs unless Congress acted to prevent their release.
Once again, why do we even have a Congress anymore? Why even have votes? Why carry on with this charade when the Emperor can simply issue decrees?
June 16, 2009
CIA Mistaken on 'High-Value'
Detainee, Document Shows
By Peter Finn and Julie Tate
An al-Qaeda associate captured by the CIA and subjected to harsh interrogation techniques
said his jailers later told him they had mistakenly thought he was the No. 3 man in the
organization' s hierarchy and a partner of Osama bin Laden, according to newly released
excerpts from a 2007 hearing.
"They told me, 'Sorry, we discover that you are not Number 3, not a partner, not even a fighter,' " said Abu Zubaida, speaking in broken English, according to the new transcript of a Combatant Status Review Tribunal held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
President George W. Bush described Abu Zubaida in 2002 as "al-Qaeda's chief of operations." Intelligence, military and law enforcement sources told The Washington Post this year that officials later concluded he was a Pakistan-based "fixer" for radical Islamist ideologues, but not a formal member of al-Qaeda, much less one of its leaders.
Abu Zubaida, a nom de guerre for Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, told the 2007 panel of military officers at the detention facility in Cuba that "doctors told me that I nearly died four times" and that he endured "months of suffering and torture" on the false premise that he was an al-Qaeda leader.
Abu Zubaida, 38, was subjected 83 times to waterboarding, a technique that leads victims to believe they are drowning and that has been widely condemned as torture.
The Palestinian was held at a secret CIA facility after his capture in Pakistan in March 2002.
The Abu Zubaida transcript, and those of five other "high-value detainees," including Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request and lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. Versions of the transcripts were released by the Pentagon in 2007.
Abu Zubaida, Mohammed and 12 other high-value detainees were transferred to Guantanamo in September 2006 and continue to be held there at Camp 7, a secret facility at the naval base, part of a total population of 229 detainees.
After a meeting yesterday with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, President Obama announced that Italy has agreed to resettle three detainees.
The United States and the 27-nation European Union also issued a joint statement yesterday noting that "certain Member States of the European Union have expressed their readiness to assist with the reception of certain former Guantanamo detainees, on a case-by-case basis."
The statement said the United States "will consider contributing to the costs" of resettling detainees in Europe.
Although little new information was released in the hearing transcript for Majid Khan, an alleged associate of Mohammed and a former resident of Baltimore, the extent of the redactions is more apparent in the latest document. When referring to his treatment at CIA "black site" prisons, the Pakistani's transcript is blacked out for eight consecutive pages. In the version released earlier, this entire section was marked by a single word: "REDACTED."
Similar redactions appear in other transcripts released yesterday. The ACLU said the continued level of redaction was unacceptable and vowed to return to court to press for unexpurgated transcripts.
"The only conceivable basis for suppressing this testimony is not to protect the American people but to protect the CIA from legal accountability, " said Ben Wizner, a staff attorney for the ACLU.
"There is no reason to continue to censor detainee abuse allegations. "
George Little, a CIA spokesman, said, "The CIA plainly has a very different take on its past interrogation practices -- what they were and what they weren't -- and on the need to protect properly classified national security information."
The new transcripts provide some limited new insight into the interaction between the CIA and its prisoners.
Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times, appears to have invoked the U.S. Constitution to protest his treatment.
He described the response he received: "You are not American, and you are not on American soil. So you cannot ask about the Constitution."
Mohammed also said he lied in response to questions about bin Laden's location.
"Where is he? I don't know," Mohammed said. "Then he torture me. Then I said yes,
he is in this area."
June 15, 2009
Accused 9/11 mastermind:
'I make up stories'
By DEVLIN BARRETT. Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- Accused al Qaeda mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed complained that interrogators tortured lies out of him, though he proudly took credit for more than two dozen other terror plots, according to newly released sections of government transcripts.
''I make up stories,'' Mohammed said at one point in his 2007 hearing at Guantánamo Bay.
In broken English, he described an interrogation in which he was asked the location of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
''Where is he? I don't know,'' Mohammed said. 'Then he torture me. Then I said, 'Yes, he is in this area or this is al Qaeda which I don't know him.' I said no, they torture me.''
Yet at the same military tribunal hearing, Mohammed ticked off a list of 29 terror plots in which he took part.
The transcripts were released as part of a lawsuit in which the American Civil Liberties Union is seeking documents and details of the government's terror detainee programs.
Previous accounts of the military tribunal hearings had been made public, but the Obama administration went back and reviewed the still-secret sections and determined that more portions could be released.
Most of the new material centers around the detainees' claims of abuse during interrogations while being held overseas in CIA custody.
One detainee, Abu Zubaydah, told the tribunal that after months ``of suffering and torture, physically and mentally, they did not care about my injuries.''
Zubaydah was the first detainee subjected to Bush administration-approved harsh interrogation techniques, which included a simulated form of drowning known as waterboarding, slamming the suspect into walls and prolonged period of nudity.
Zubaydah claimed in the hearing that he ``nearly died four times.''
''After a few months went by, during which I almost lost my mind and my life, they made sure I didn't die,'' Zubaydah said.
He claimed that after many months of such treatment, authorities concluded he was not the No. 3 person in al Qaeda as they had long believed.
May 13, 2009
Bush's 'Smoking Gun' Witness
IndictBushNow files Freedom of Information Act
lawsuit to get to bottom of story
The cover-up of Bush-era crimes is taking a shocking but not unexpected turn. A fateful move has been made and it is certain to backfire.
Colin Powell used al-Libi's tortured and knowingly fabricated testimony to tell the United Nations that Saddam Hussein's government was helping al-Qaeda develop weapons of mass destruction to kill Americans. It was all a lie.
IndictBushNow.org is joining with the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund and the ANSWER Coalition to demand that the truth be told. We have filed a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) with the CIA, Department of Defense, Department of State and other agencies to reveal information in their possession about Libi’s imprisonment, torture, false testimony on Iraq and the circumstances of his death. To read a copy of the FOIA, click this link.
A prisoner who was horribly tortured in 2002 until he agreed - at the demand of Bush torturers - to say that al-Qaeda was linked to Saddam Hussein is suddenly dead. Several weeks ago, Human Rights Watch investigators discovered the missing inmate and talked to him. He had been secretly transferred by the administration to a prison in Libya after having been held by the CIA both in secret “black hole prisons” and in Egypt.
Under conditions of extreme torture, the prisoner, Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, agreed in 2002 to supply the Bush-ordered interrogators what they sought as a political cover for Bush’s marketing of the pending war of aggression against Iraq. Mr. Libi agreed to tell them whatever they wanted in exchange for an end to the torture. The now famous Torture Memos providing legal cover for the torture were written at the same time starting in the summer of 2002.
Libi’s tortured and knowingly fabricated testimony was the source of information used by Bush to sell the war to the U.S. Senate, and the source for Colin Powell’s bogus and lying presentation to the United Nations in 2003.
Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice are now running around saying that the torture regime “protected the country from terrorist attack.” But the torture was used for the personal political goals of Bush and Cheney: namely, to sell their Iraq invasion to a very skeptical and disbelieving country.
Having been discovered by human rights investigators two weeks ago, Mr. Libi’s story coincided with the release of the Torture Memos and the growing clamor for criminal prosecutions of Bush officials.
His testimony is the smoking gun that would reveal that the torture regime was not for “national security” but for the personal political aims of Bush and Cheney.
He was Exhibit A in the indictment that alleges that tortured confessions and the contrived legal justifications of torture set up by Justice Department lawyers in July/August 2002 were central to the launch of the war against Iraq.
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died and tens of thousands of U.S. service members have either been killed or badly wounded in a war that was based on lies fortified and promoted by the most sadistic torture.
Mr. Libi is suddenly dead. A Libyan “newspaper source” says that his death is an apparent suicide. His friends don’t believe that.
We are building a movement for the appointment of a Special Prosecutor. This is not a political choice. It is a legal imperative. Mr. Libi’s death must be the first business of the investigation. When other prisoners who had been kept at secret sites were sent to Guantanamo, the Bush administration and the CIA intentionally kept Mr. Libi from being part of that transfer. Mr. Libi was publicly stating that the Iraq-al-Qaeda links attributed to him from his torture sessions were not true.
“Who was the beneficiary” from his death? Why was he spirited away by the Bush administration to hidden foreign prisons after he recanted his tortured testimony and revealed that he was forced to make false statements about Iraq under torture?
IndictBushNow.org is joining with the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund and the ANSWER Coalition to demand that the truth be told. We have filed a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) with the CIA, Department of Defense, Department of State and other agencies to reveal information in their possession about Libi’s imprisonment, torture, false testimony on Iraq and the circumstances of his death. To read a copy of the FOIA, click this link.
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--From all of us at www.IndictBushNow.org
May 13, 2009
Obama seeks to block release
of abuse photos
By JENNIFER LOVEN, AP White House Correspondent
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama declared Wednesday he would try to block the court-ordered release of photos showing U.S. troops abusing prisoners, abruptly reversing his position out of concern the pictures would "further inflame anti-American opinion" and endanger U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The White House had said last month it would not oppose the release of dozens of photos from military investigations of alleged misconduct. But American commanders in the war zones have expressed deep concern about fresh damage the photos might do, especially as the U.S. tries to wind down the Iraq war and step up operations against the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan.
Obama, realizing how high emotions run on detainee treatment during the Bush administration and now, made it a point to personally explain his change of heart, stopping to address TV cameras late in the day as he left the White House for a flight to Arizona.
He said the photos had already served their purpose in investigations of "a small number of individuals." Those cases were all concluded by 2004, and the president said "the individuals who were involved have been identified, and appropriate actions have been taken."
When photos emerged in 2004 from the infamous U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, showing grinning American soldiers posing with detainees — some of the prisoners naked, some being held on leashes — the pictures caused a huge anti-American backlash around the globe, particularly in the Muslim world.
The Pentagon conducted 200 investigations into alleged abuse connected with the photos that are now in question. The administration did not provide an immediate accounting of how they turned out.
"This is not a situation in which the Pentagon has concealed or sought to justify inappropriate action," Obama said of the photos. "In fact, the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger."
The Justice Department filed a notice of its new position on the release, including that it was considering an appeal with the Supreme Court. The government has until June 9 to do so.
Spokesman Robert Gibbs said release of the new batch of photos from the Pentagon cases would merely "provide, in some ways, a sensationalistic portion of that investigation."
Obama said later, "I want to emphasize that these photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational, especially when compared to the painful images that we remember from Abu Ghraib."
Still, he said he had made it newly clear: "Any abuse of detainees is unacceptable. It is against our values. It endangers our security. It will not be tolerated."
The effort to keep the photos from becoming public represented a sharp reversal from Obama's repeated pledges for open government, and in particular from his promise to be forthcoming with information that courts have ruled should be publicly available.
As such, it invited criticism from the more liberal segments of the Democratic Party, which want a full accounting — and even redress — for what they see as the misdeeds of the Bush administration.
"The decision to not release the photographs makes a mockery of President Obama's promise of transparency and accountability," said ACLU attorney Amrit Singh, who had argued and won the case in question before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. "It is essential that these photographs be released so that the public can examine for itself the full scale and scope of prisoner abuse that was conducted in its name."
Human Rights Watch called the decision a blow to transparency and accountability.
On Capitol Hill, Republicans welcomed the change, however. A military group also said it was relieved.
"These photos represent isolated incidents where the offending servicemen and women have already been prosecuted," said Brian Wise, executive director of Military Families United.
The reactions were a reverse of what happened after Obama's decision last month to voluntarily release documents that detailed brutal interrogation techniques used by the CIA against terror suspects. Those also came out in response to an ACLU lawsuit, and his decision then brought harsh and still-continuing criticism from Republicans.
This time he's kicking the decision back into court, where his administration still may be forced into releasing the photos.
Indeed, there is some evidence that the administration has little case left.
Gibbs said the president instructed administration lawyers to challenge the photos' release based on national security implications. He said the argument was not used before.
But the Bush administration already argued against the release on national security grounds — and lost.
"It is plainly insufficient to claim that releasing documents could reasonably be expected to endanger some unspecified member of a group so vast as to encompass all United States troops, coalition forces, and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan," the three-judge appeals panel wrote in September 2008.
The Justice Department had concluded that further appeal would probably be fruitless, and last month, Gibbs said the president had concurred with that conclusion, though without commenting on whether Obama would support the release if not pressed by a court case.
Thus, the administration assured a federal judge that it would turn over the material by May 28, including one batch of 21 photos and another of 23 images. The government also told the judge it was "processing for release a substantial number of other images," for a total expected to be in the hundreds.
The lower court also has already rejected another argument the president and his spokesman made, that the photos add little of value to the public's understanding of the issue. "This contention disregards FOIA's central purpose of furthering governmental accountability," the appeals court panel concluded in the same decision.
Obama's own Jan. 21 memorandum on honoring the Freedom of Information Act also takes a different line. "The government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears," it said.
The president informed Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, of his decision during a White House meeting on Tuesday.
Gen. David Petraeus, the senior commander for both wars, had also weighed in against the release, as had Gen. David McKiernan, the outgoing top general in Afghanistan.
Military commanders' concerns were most intense with respect to Afghanistan. The release would coincide with the spring thaw that usually heralds the year's toughest fighting there — and as thousands of new U.S. troops head into Afghanistan's volatile south.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he had once held the view that it might be best to "go through the pain once" and release a large batch of images now, since so many are at issue in multiple lawsuits. But he — and the president — changed their minds when Odierno and McKiernan expressed "very great worry that release of these photographs will cost American lives," Gates said before the House Armed Services Committee.
"That's all it took for me," Gates said.
April 16, 2009
No charges against CIA officials
By Jennifer Loven And Devlin Barrett, Associated Press Writers
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration on Thursday informed CIA officials who used waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics on terror suspects that they will not be prosecuted, senior administration officials told The Associated Press.
Even before President Barack Obama took office in January, aides signaled his administration was not likely to bring criminal charges against CIA employees for their roles in the secret, coercive terrorist interrogation program. It had been deemed legal at the time through opinions issued by the Justice Department under the Bush administration.
But the statement being issued Thursday by Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation's chief law enforcement officer, is the first definitive assurance that those CIA officials are in the clear, as long as their actions were in line with the legal advice at the time.
The officials spoke about the Holder statement ahead of its release on condition of anonymity, so as not to pre-empt the attorney general.
The CIA has acknowledged using waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning, on three high-level terror detainees in 2002 and 2003, with the permission of the White House and the Justice Department. Former CIA Director Michael Hayden said waterboarding has not been used since, but some human rights groups have urged Obama to hold CIA employees accountable for what they, and many Obama officials and others around the world, say was torture.
The Holder statement was being issued by the Justice Department along with the release of four significant Bush-era legal opinions governing — in graphic and extensive detail — the interrogation of terror detainees, the officials said. One of the memos was produced by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel in August 2002, the other three in 2005.
The memos, released to meet a court-approved deadline in a lawsuit against the government in New York by the American Civil Liberties Union, detail the dozen harsh techniques approved for use by CIA interrogators, the officials said. A statement from Obama was also being released along with Holder's comments and the documents.
One memo specifically authorized a method for combining multiple techniques, a practice human rights advocates argue is particularly harmful and crosses the line into torture even if any of the individual methods do not.
The Obama administration last month released nine legal memos related to the interrogation program, and probably will release more as the lawsuit proceeds. But the four released Thursday represent the fullest accounting by the government of the methods authorized and used, and is the complete list, the officials said.
There is very little redaction, or blacking out, of detail in the memos, the officials said.
The methods include keeping detainees naked for long periods, keeping them in a painful standing position for long periods, and depriving them of solid food. Other tactics included using a plastic neck collar to slam detainees into walls, keeping the detainee's cell cold for long periods, and beating and kicking the detainee. Sleep-deprivation, prolonged shackling, and threats to a detainee's family were also used.
Among the things not allowed in the memo were allowing a prisoner's body temperature or caloric intake to fall below a certain level, because either could cause permanent damage, the officials said.
The techniques were applied to 14 suspects considered very senior terrorists.
Many of the methods were detailed in a secret 2007 report by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The New York Review of Books recently obtained a copy of the report.
The ACLU suit has sought to use the Freedom of Information Act to shed light on the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody abroad — even though the Bush administration eventually abandoned many of the legal conclusions and the Obama administration has gone further to actively dismantle most of President George W. Bush's anti-terror program.
Obama has ordered the CIA's secret overseas prisons known as "black sites" closed, ended so-called "extraordinary renditions" of terrorism suspects if there is any reason to believe the third country would torture them, and restricted CIA questioners to only those interrogation methods and protocols approved for use by the U.S. military until a complete review of the program is conducted.
Also Thursday, Holder was formally revoking every legal opinion or memo issued during Bush's presidency that justified interrogation programs. Obama had already said his administration would not rely upon them.
Still, the documents have been the subject of a long, fierce debate in and outside government over how much officials should say about the tough treatment of detainees.
The Bush administration held the view that the president had the authority to claim broad powers that could not be checked by Congress or the courts in order to keep Americans safe. Obama and Holder, among others, have said that the use of such unchecked powers has actually made Americans less safe, by increasing anti-U.S. sentiment, endangering American troops when captured and handing terrorists a recruiting tool.
Even so, the officials described the president's process of deciding how much to release in response to the suit as a very difficult one. Four weeks in the making, the process resulted in intense debates involving the president, Cabinet members, lower-level officials and even former administration officials.
Obama was concerned that releasing the information could endanger ongoing operations, American personnel or U.S. relationships with foreign intelligence services. CIA officials, in particular, needed reassuring, the officials said.
But in the end, the view of the Justice Department prevailed, that the FOIA law required the release and that the government would be forced to do so by the court if it didn't do so itself, the officials said. Also, Obama was reassured about the potential national security implications by the fact that much of the information contained in the memos was no longer secret, having been widely publicized — including some of it by Bush himself — and by the fact that the program itself no longer exists.
Those assurances are not likely to innoculate Obama against criticism from conservatives. Last month, Vice President Dick Cheney said, for instance, that Obama's decisions to revoke Bush-era terrorist detainee policies will "raise the risk to the American people of another attack."
April 11, 2009
'These People Fear Prosecution': Why
Bush's CIA Team Should Worry About
Its Dark Embrace of Torture
By Liliana Segura, AlterNet
On the night of April 6, a long-secret document was published -- in its entirety for the first time -- that provided a clear, stark look at the CIA torture program carried out by the Bush administration.
Dated Feb. 14, 2007, the 41-page report describes in harrowing detail the "ill treatment" of 14 "high-value" detainees in U.S. custody, as recounted by the prisoners in interviews with the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Besides listing the various kinds of harsh interrogation tactics undertaken by the CIA -- among them "suffocation by water," "prolonged stress standing," "beatings by use of a collar," "confinement in a box," "prolonged nudity," "threats," "forced shaving" and other methods -- the report reveals the disturbing role of medical professionals in the torture of suspects, which included using doctors' equipment to monitor their health, even as torture was carried out.
Just as Americans have known about Bush-era torture for years, lawyers and human rights activists have long known about the ICRC report and its contents. Both are due in large part to the work of journalists and the sources who have brought to light the many post-9/11 abuses committed in the name of counterterrorism.
In February 2005, Jane Mayer of the New Yorker magazine published a story called "Outsourcing Torture: The Secret History of America's 'Extraordinary Rendition' Program," which reported in intricate detail the sordid mechanisms of the Bush administration's kidnap-and-torture program -- a practice so violent and dramatic that it inspired a major Hollywood film a few years later.
As Mayer wrote at the time, however, "Rendition is just one element of the administration's new paradigm."
The CIA itself is holding dozens of 'high value' terrorist suspects outside of the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S., in addition to the estimated 550 detainees in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The administration confirmed the identities of at least 10 of these suspects to the 9/11 Commission -- including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a top al-Qaida operative … -- but refused to allow commission members to interview the men, and would not say where they were being held. Reports have suggested that CIA prisons are being operated in Thailand, Qatar and Afghanistan, among other countries. At the request of the CIA, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld personally ordered that a prisoner in Iraq be hidden from Red Cross officials for several months, and Army Gen. Paul Kern told Congress that the CIA may have hidden up to a hundred detainees."
Among the revelations of the ICRC report is that the CIA did indeed hide prisoners from the Red Cross....
April 10, 2009
Breaking news: Indictment of Bush
Officials May Come in Days
Newsweek Breaks Shocking New Revelations
About Disappeared Persons
From Pinochet to Bush, the Path to Prosecution
* The imminent indictment in Spanish courts of former officials of the Bush Administration is being applauded by civil and human rights organizations and legal scholars. The popular wave of support for indictment of Bush officials will inevitably lead to Bush himself.
* Newsweek Magazine blew open more shocking news about Bush' system of kidnapping, secret prisons and torture. A secret Red Cross report indicates that many kidnapped and tortured people were turned into "disappeared persons" by the CIA under instructions from Bush and Cheney. A former Bush administration official told Newsweek's Michael Isikoff that the information had been hidden from the Red Cross. "The majority of the people in the CIA program are unaccounted for. We don't know what happened to them," a human rights investigator told Isikoff.
* Like Bush, former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, thought his power would shield him from criminal prosecution when his regime kidnapped and tortured and assassinated individuals who became known as the "disappeared." It was when Spanish courts brought indictments against Pinochet that everything changed. As Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights said, "the importance of this investigation [in Spain] can not be understated. Contrary to statements by some, the Spanish investigations are not 'symbolic.' Just ask Augusto Pinochet, who was stranded under house arrest in England and who ultimately faced criminal charges in Chile because of the pressure of the Spanish courts. If and when arrest warrants are issued, 24 countries in Europe are obligated to enforce them. The world is getting smaller for the torture conspirators.”
Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General has called for the prosecution of Bush and other high officials in the United States, stating, "The greatest danger arising from impunity for President Bush and his cohorts would be that all subsequent officials will feel secure in committing the same crimes and the people, having failed to compel impeachment for such open, notorious and egregious crimes, will feel even more helpless to prevent them. Ultimately the power and the responsibility to prevent criminal acts by government is with the people."
Now is the time for massive outreach and publicity. This requires newspaper ads, organizing national call-in days to pressure Congressional representatives, intensive media work, teach-ins and educational forums, and providing literature for people of conscience to distribute in cities and towns across the country....
--All of us at http://www.IndictBushNow.org
April 7, 2009
Ex-Bush Officials May Be Indicted in Spain This Week For Torture
By William Fisher
Human rights organizations and legal scholars are applauding the efforts of Spanish lawyers in seeking the indictment of six former officials of the administration of President George W. Bush in connection with the torture of detainees at the U.S. military's Guantanamo Bay prison.
Spanish prosecutors may decide this week whether to proceed with an investigation. The prosecutors were asked to review the case by Baltasar Garzon, the crusading investigative judge who ordered the arrest of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998.
The official said that it was “highly probable” that the case would go forward and that it could lead to arrest warrants.
Garzon asked for the review following a complaint filed by Spanish human rights lawyers, who could pursue the case in court even if prosecutors decide not to take it further. This occurred in the Pinochet case.
The U.S. officials involved in the investigation include former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; John Yoo, the former Justice Department lawyer who wrote secret legal opinions saying President George W. Bush had the authority to circumvent the Geneva Conventions, Douglas Feith, the former undersecretary of defense for policy; William Haynes II, former general counsel for the Department of Defense; Jay Bybee, Yoo's former boss at the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel and now a Federal judge; and David Addington, chief of staff and legal adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney.
The investigation would likely focus on whether these officials violated international law by providing a legal justification for the torture. It was triggered by a complaint filed by the Association for the Dignity of Inmates, a Spanish legal rights organization.
The six are said to have “participated actively and decisively in the creation, approval and execution of a judicial framework that allowed for the deprivation of fundamental rights of a large number of prisoners, the implementation of new interrogation techniques including torture, the legal cover for the treatment of those prisoners, the protection of the people who participated in illegal tortures and, above all, the establishment of impunity for all the government workers, military personnel, doctors and others who participated in the detention center at Guantánamo.”
A spokesman for the association, attorney Gonzalo Boye, said the six Americans had well-documented roles in approving illegal interrogation techniques, redefining torture and abandoning the definition set by the 1984 Torture Convention.
The views of Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights – which has played a major role in mobilizing lawyers to defend Guantanamo detainees, probably represent the consensus among U.S. human rights advocates. He said, “The importance of this investigation can not be understated. Contrary to statements by some, the Spanish investigations are not ‘symbolic.’ Just ask Augusto Pinochet, who was stranded under house arrest in England and who ultimately faced criminal charges in Chile because of the pressure of the Spanish courts.”
He added, “If and when arrest warrants are issued, 24 countries in Europe are obligated to enforce them. The world is getting smaller for the torture conspirators.”
Brian J. Foley, Visiting Associate Professor of Law at Boston University, told us, “I hope Spain goes ahead with a full and fair investigation. These are serious allegations, and there needs to be a forum to air them. U.S. officials seem unwilling to look into the alleged war crimes, which is unfortunate and further diminishes any remaining U.S. moral authority. I hope the Spanish investigation is open and transparent, revealing the truth for the whole world to see -- including, perhaps especially, American citizens. We need to face what has been done in our name.”
And Marjorie Cohn, President of the National Lawyers Guild, told us, “The only reason Spain is considering the prosecution of Americans for torture is because the United States is refusing to do so. Eric Holder must follow U.S. law and initiate criminal investigations of Bush officials who committed torture and other war crimes. Political considerations should not control our obligation under the Torture Convention to prosecute or extradite war criminals."
A similar view was expressed by Ben Wizner, attorney in the National Security Project of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). He told us, “The idea of Spain investigating America’s treatment of detainees is an embarrassment to us. Once we were the world’s leading champions, not only of human rights, but of accountability. We shouldn’t be depending on other countries to clean up our mess.”
“If the Obama Administration did what the law required – appoint a special prosecutor –
we would see fewer of our allies feeling they have to do our work,” he added.
Spain's law allows it to claim jurisdiction in the case because five Spanish citizens or residents who were prisoners at Guantanamo Bay say they were tortured there.
The U.S. detention camp in Cuba was set up to hold foreigners captured after U.S.-led forces invaded Afghanistan to root out al Qaeda and its Taliban protectors in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001 against the United States. U.S. officials held that Guantanamo was beyond the reach of U.S. law, thus giving detainees no rights. But three landmark rebukes by the U.S. Supreme Court have destroyed that defense by ruling that prisoners have a right to challenge their detentions in U.S. civilian courts.
In one of his first acts in office, U.S. President Barack Obama set a one-year deadline for shutting the prison where about 245 people are still detained and which has been widely viewed by the international community as a stain on the U.S. human rights record.
Under Spanish law, prosecutors recommend whether to proceed with cases and determine whether any trial would come under the jurisdiction of the High Court.
While there is no set deadline for a decision, a recommendation could come this week, according to court officials.
February 11, 2009
Obama under fire for adopting
Bush's stance on 'state secrets'
By Inter Press Service
William Fisher, Inter Press Service
NEW YORK: President Barack Obama has cast doubt on his promise to put an end to secret government by allowing his Justice Department to follow a path frequently taken by his predecessor.
Before a federal appeals court in San Francisco Monday, lawyers from the Obama Department of Justice invoked the same "state secrets privilege" used by the administration of ex-President George W. Bush to argue that a lawsuit brought on behalf of Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyan Mohammad and four other alleged victims of the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program should not go forward because revealing the evidence would harm national security.
If the appeals court agrees, it will mean that the alleged victims will not have their day in court. The court has not yet ruled on the case.
The defendant in the civil lawsuit is known as Jeppesen Dataplan, a subsidiary of aerospace giant Boeing, which is alleged to have knowingly provided the CIA with the chartered aircraft used to "render" terror suspects to countries where they were tortured.
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney Ben Wizner, who argued Monday on behalf of Mohammad and the other appellants, told IPS: "To date, not a single alleged torture victim has had his day in court. In this case, most of the evidence is already public. There are no 'state secrets' here."
"And if there were, our federal courts are well prepared to handle this issue," he added.
"This is a betrayal of the rule of law," the attorney said. "It is not the standard we expected from the Obama administration."
The ACLU was encouraged to believe that the Obama Justice Department would break from the practices of the Bush administration. Eric Holder, recently confirmed as the new attorney general, said at his confirmation hearing: "I will review significant pending cases in which DOJ [Department of Justice] has invoked the state secrets privilege, and will work with leaders in other agencies and professionals at the Department of Justice to ensure that the United States invokes the state secrets privilege only in legally appropriate situations."
This appeared to be at odds with testimony by Obama's nominee for director of the Central Intelligence Agency, who told senators at his confirmation hearing that the practice of rendition would be continued, but that "extraordinary rendition" - sending terror suspects to countries where they are likely to be tortured - would end.
In a statement, Anthony D. Romero, ACLU executive director, said: "Eric Holder's Justice Department stood up in court today and said that it would continue the Bush policy of invoking state secrets to hide the reprehensible history of torture, rendition and the most grievous human rights violations committed by the American government. This is not change. This is definitely more of the same."
He added: "Candidate Obama ran on a platform that would reform the abuse of state secrets, but President Obama's Justice Department has disappointingly reneged on that important civil liberties issue. If this is a harbinger of things to come, it will be a long and arduous road to give us back an America we can be proud of again."
The Mohammad case stems from a federal lawsuit filed in 2007 by the ACLU against Jeppesen on behalf of five victims of the United States government's "extraordinary rendition" program.
The suit charged that Jeppesen knowingly participated by providing critical flight planning and logistical support services to aircraft and crews used by the CIA to forcibly "disappear" the five men to detention and interrogation.
According to the ACLU, shortly after the suit was filed, "The government intervened and inappropriately asserted the 'state secrets privilege,' claiming further litigation would undermine national security interests, even though much of the evidence needed to try the case was already available to the public."
The case was dismissed in February 2008, and the ACLU then appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in the San Francisco Bay area.
According to published reports, Jeppesen had actual knowledge of the consequences of its activities. A former Jeppesen employee informed Jane Mayer of The New Yorker magazine that, at an internal corporate meeting, a senior Jeppesen official stated: "We do all of the extraordinary rendition flights - you know, the torture flights. Let's face it, some of these flights end up that way."
The case has also caused a furor in Britain and a problem for the US State Department.
In a separate case brought on behalf of Mohammad, who is a legal British resident, Britain's High Court refused to release seven paragraphs that the court had redacted in an earlier opinion. The High Court said that the redacted material lent credence to the torture allegations by Mohammad.
The court said that it reached its decision because of what it called a threat from the United States to reconsider sharing intelligence with the British.
But, in a highly unusual criticism, the High Court expressed dismay that a democracy "governed by the rule of law" would seek to suppress evidence "relevant to allegations of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, politically embarrassing though it might be."
The court said the Bush administration had made the threat in a letter to the Foreign Office last September. It called on the Obama administration to reverse that position.
The British foreign secretary, David Milliband, denied that there was any threat from the US. But, in a statement last week, the State Department said that the United States "thanks the UK government for its continued commitment to protect sensitive national security information" and that "the United States investigates allegations and claims of torture, and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment such as those raised by Binyam Mohammad."
After Mohammad was captured, then-US Attorney General John Ashcroft said that he had been complicit with Jose Padilla in a plan to detonate a "dirty bomb" in the United States. Padilla was never charged with this plot, but was convicted on other terrorism-related charges by a federal court in 2007. Last year, the Justice Department said it was dropping the dirty-bomb charges against Mohammad, and last October all charges against him were dropped.
The ACLU last week sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, urging her to clarify the Obama administration's position on the Mohammad case and to reject what it described as the Bush administration's policy of using false claims of national security to avoid judicial review of controversial programs.
The ACLU's Romero said: "The latest revelation is completely at odds with President Obama's executive orders that ban torture and end rendition, as well as his promise to restore the rule of law."
It has been 50 years since the United States Supreme Court last reviewed the use of the "state secrets" privilege. During the Bush administration, government lawyers invoked the "state secrets" privilege more often than any prior administration to stop cases from proceeding.
Among such cases was that of whistle-blower Sibel Edmonds, who was fired from her position as a language specialist at the FBI's Washington Field Office in March 2002, after she accused a colleague of covering up illicit activity involving foreign nationals, alleging serious acts of security breaches, cover-ups, and intentional blocking of intelligence which, she contended, presented a danger to US security.
Her case was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear it. And in 2007, the Supreme Court refused to review the "state secrets" privilege in a lawsuit brought by ACLU client Khaled al-Masri, an innocent German citizen who was kidnapped and rendered to detention, interrogation and torture in a CIA "black site" prison in Afghanistan.
# # #
Tell us the truth about
torture, Mr Miliband
The Observer, Sunday 8 February 2009
After the 11 September terror attacks, US Vice President Dick Cheney said that the administration, in its response, was prepared to "work the dark side".
That, it turned out, meant abandoning the Geneva Conventions and engaging in extra-judicial killing, kidnap and torture. In pursuit of the "war on terror", the US debauched the principles it claimed to be defending, a course now repudiated by President Obama. "We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals," he said in his inaugural address.
But is that view shared by the British government? In both policy and rhetoric on the "war on terror", Tony Blair faithfully shadowed George W Bush. So how far did Britain go over to "the dark side"?
Part of the answer may be contained in documents withheld from public view last week by the high court, at the request of the foreign secretary.
The documents relate to Binyam Mohamed, a former UK resident who was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 and transferred to prisons in Morocco and Afghanistan, before ending up at the US detention camp at Guantánamo Bay. He says he was tortured. Crucial paragraphs within the documents are thought to substantiate that claim and, it has been alleged, implicate British security services.
That suggestion demands a public response. The documents cannot be published, Mr Miliband told parliament, because they come from US intelligence sources. Britain was entrusted with them on the understanding that they remain confidential. That trust would be breached if a court released them. But fear of offending an ally, however close, is no grounds to suppress evidence of torture. So how damaging would disclosure be? And to whom?
While the US authorities did not "threaten to break off" intelligence sharing, Mr Miliband said, they did warn of "likely harm" to the relationship. But the high court, which heard arguments from Mr Miliband in private, appears to have understood that a more specific threat was made. Disclosure of the documents, it concluded, may result in "the loss of intelligence... vital to the safety of our day-to-day life". That threat, the court ruled, outweighed an otherwise pressing public interest case: that allegations of torture - and the implication that British officials might have been complicit - must be aired to uphold democracy and the rule of law.
The key paragraphs, the court decided, contain "no sensitive intelligence matters", while the call for publication was supported by a mass of legal and moral arguments. Only the foreign secretary's evidence has kept them secret. That leaves serious questions for Mr Miliband. How grave was the threat from the US? Did it really engender a risk to our "vital safety"? Has it been renewed by the Obama administration, which claims an abhorrence of torture and is shutting Guantánamo Bay?
The ostensible reason why evidence in the Binyam Mohamed case cannot be made public is that it originates in the US. That does not stop Mr Miliband from giving a full account of everything he knows from domestic sources. He must now make another statement. He must clarify the threat that was made by the US in the Mohamed case. He must explain how credible he believes allegations of UK security service complicity in torture to be.
Only the most extreme and imminent threat to national security could reasonably justify any suppression of evidence linking British officials to such serious offences. No diplomatic protocol can outweigh the need for justice to be done - and to be seen to be done - in the event of crimes against humanity.
As President Obama said, the choice between security and principle is a false one. The real threat to the national interest comes if the rule of law is perceived as subordinate to the government's interest in protecting itself from scrutiny.
That is the perception that Mr Miliband must now urgently address.
# # #
February 11, 2009
Dear President Obama, Attorney General Holder, Mr. Farmer; Mr. Guttman; Ms. Muranaka; Judge Ezra, Judge Chang, Judge Kurren, and All Concerned:
Due to the new discovery of facts which give evidence to more undisclosed financial, professional, political and personal conflicts of interest in this case, I am adding the subject Exhibit, which relates to my potential witnesses, Eric Holder, Leon Panetta and others.
You will find these updates and related information on-line at:
The closing of my website clearly demonstrates that Judge David A. Ezra's Order is a prior restraint of freedom of speech and violates my First Amendment Rights.
Also, as I have stated before, Judge Ezra did not have jurisdiction in this case due to the fact that I am located in Kentucky, and the website is part of a world-wide communications network.
Finally, this Exhibit proves beyond any reasonable doubt that there are many undisclosed conflicts-of-interest among various related parties, which justify my filing a Motion to Reopen this case. In view of all these facts that I have presented, I again offer to you, and to your insurance carriers, the opportunity to attempt a global settlement of this matter through negotiation or mediation.
If you are NOT willing to attempt to negotiate or mediate a settlement, however, then I ask that you review these pages and advise me if you find if they contain any so-called "protected subject matter", and whether or not you intend to OBJECT to my filing a Motion to reopen this case.
Your immediate reply is requested. If I do not receive a response from you within 15 days, I will assume that you have found no "protected subject matter" in these updated pages, and that you will NOT file any objections to my Motion to reopen this case.
Very truly yours,
Bobby N. Harmon, CPCU, ARM
Related internet pages:
June 19, 2008
Taguba Accuses Bush
Admin of War Crimes
Investigating Reports By MWC NEWS
Congressional Hearings Shed New Light on Government’s Endorsement of Torture; Maj. Gen. Taguba Accuses Bush Administration of War Crimes
On Tuesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee held an eight-hour hearing that exposed the role of top Bush administration officials in authorizing the use of harsh interrogation techniques. Meanwhile, Retired Major General Antonio Taguba, the Army general who first investigated the abuse at Abu Ghraib, has accused the Bush administration of committing war crimes. “The commander in chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture,” Taguba said.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Retired General Antonio Taguba, who led the US Army’s investigation into the Abu Ghraib abuses, has accused the Bush administration of “a systematic regime of torture” and war crimes. Taguba’s accusations appear in the preface to a new report released by Physicians for Human Rights. The report uses medical evidence to confirm first-hand accounts of eleven former prisoners who endured torture by US personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay.
Taguba writes, “There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”
AMY GOODMAN: The report was published in the midst of two days of congressional hearings on Capitol Hill. On Tuesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee held an eight-hour hearing that exposed the role of top Bush administration officials in authorizing the use of harsh interrogation techniques. The committee released a series of previously classified documents detailing how the Pentagon and the CIA transformed the military’s SERE resistance training program into a blueprint for interrogating terrorist suspects. Committee Chair Senator Carl Levin explained the timeline of implementing the SERE, or Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape, techniques and the role of military psychologists in devising these routines.
SEN. CARL LEVIN: On October 2, 2002, a week after John Rizzo, the acting CIA general counsel, visited Gitmo, a second senior CIA lawyer, Jonathan Fredman, who was chief counsel to the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, went to Guantanamo, attended a meeting of Gitmo staff and discussed a memo proposing the use of aggressive interrogation techniques. That memo had been drafted by a psychologist and psychiatrist from Gitmo, who a couple of weeks earlier had attended that training given at Fort Bragg by instructors by the SERE school.
While the training—excuse me, while the memo remains classified, minutes from the meeting where it was discussed are not. Those minutes clearly show that the focus of the discussion was aggressive techniques for use against detainees.
When the Gitmo chief of staff suggested at the meeting that Gitmo “can’t do sleep deprivation,” Lieutenant Colonel Beaver, Gitmo’s senior lawyer, responded, “Yes, we can—with approval.” Lieutenant Beaver added that Gitmo, quote, “may need to curb the harsher operations while the International Committee of the Red Cross is around.”
Mr. Fredman, the senior CIA lawyer, suggested that it’s, quote, “very effective to identify detainee phobias and to use them” and described for the group the so-called “wet towel” technique, which we know as waterboarding. Mr. Fredman said, quote, “It can feel like you’re drowning. The lymphatic system will react as if you’re suffocating, but your body will not cease to function,” close-quote.
And Mr. Fredman presented the following disturbing perspective of our legal obligations under our anti-torture laws, saying, quote, “It is basically subject to perception. If the detainee dies, you’re doing it wrong.”
“If the detainee dies, you’re doing it wrong.” How on earth did we get to the point where a senior US government lawyer would say that whether or not an interrogation technique is torture is, quote, “subject to perception” and that if, quote, “the detainee dies, you’re doing it wrong”? The Gitmo senior JAG officer Lieutenant Colonel Beaver’s response was: “We will need documentation to protect us.”
JUAN GONZALEZ: The Pentagon’s former general counsel William Haynes was repeatedly questioned at Tuesday’s hearing about his role in authorizing the interrogation techniques. During two hours of testimony, Haynes responded to dozens of questions by saying he could not recall or remember details about the process of approving the interrogation techniques. Democratic Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island blasted Haynes’s role in authorizing torture.
SEN. JACK REED: You said the Geneva Convention doesn’t apply, and they honestly ask, “What does apply?” And the only thing you sent them was: these techniques apply—no conditions, nothing. So don’t go around with this attitude of you’re protecting the integrity of the military. You degraded the integrity of the United States military.
JUAN GONZALEZ: A major McClatchy newspaper series investigating the detention of terrorist suspects names Haynes as one of a group of five lawyers at the White House, Pentagon and Justice Department who called themselves the “War Council” and reinterpreted US and international laws about accountability and the treatment of prisoners. Other members of the War Council included Vice President Cheney’s former legal adviser and current chief of staff, David Addington; former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo; and former deputy to Gonzales, Timothy Flanigan.
Despite the new revelations of systematic prisoner abuse sanctioned at the highest level of government, White House Press Secretary Tony Fratto insisted Tuesday that the administration does not abuse detainees.
TONY FRATTO: I can tell you it’s always been the policy of this government to treat these detainees humanely and in line with the laws and our legal obligations.
REPORTER: Along those lines, another memo came out suggesting that a senior CIA lawyer, while you were debating this in 2002, said the only short test for torture is if a detainee dies or not and said, quote, “If the detainee dies, you’re doing it wrong.” Does that fit into the guidelines—
TONY FRATTO: I don’t, I don’t know who that is or who that came from. I’m telling you that abuse of detainees has never been, is not, and will never be the policy of this government.
AMY GOODMAN: Today, we spend the hour on torture. We begin with Mark Benjamin, national correspondent for Salon.com. He covered the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday. He joins us from Washington, D.C.
Welcome, Mark, to Democracy Now!
MARK BENJAMIN: Thank you for having me.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the revelations that have come out over these two days of hearings from the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday to yesterday’s House Judiciary Committee?
MARK BENJAMIN: Yes. I think particularly the hearing in the Senate, for me—and I’ve been covering Washington for over a decade—was one of the most incredible hearings I think I’ve ever been to. And the reason why, you had a quote from General Taguba in the lead up to this discussion that it was patently clear that there was an organized effort to torture and that it was against the law, and the only question left is whether anyone will be prosecuted. I have to say—it’s sort of amazing to say this, but I think he’s right.
What became painfully clear, I think, in the Senate hearing were two things. One is that soon after 9/11—and there was testimony and documents showing this—officials from Washington, not interrogators out there in the field, were calling—you mentioned the military SERE school—officials from Washington were calling SERE school—we’re talking about CIA officials— ...
MARK BENJAMIN: OK. What the hearing showed in the Senate was that officials from Washington, from the CIA, from the Department of Defense, were calling the military SERE school, asking for how we train at SERE school, the Search, Evasion, Resistance, Escape school, how we train elite soldiers at SERE school and whether those techniques could be reverse-engineered into interrogation techniques.
Now, that’s important, and the reason why it’s important is because at SERE school, what we do with the elite soldiers is we—in some cases, they go through waterboarding, they go through sensory deprivation, hooding, forced nudity, humiliation, slapping, that kind of stuff—the same things you saw at Abu Ghraib. That school is designed to train soldiers in case they are captured by an enemy who violates the Geneva Conventions. The reason why that’s important is because at that time, violating Geneva Conventions was against the law. So you have high-level officials from Washington asking about techniques that are designed to help people in case they’re tortured by somebody who violates the Geneva Conventions. So that was one thing that came out in the hearing that was just incredibly shocking.
The other thing that came out that I thought was sort of amazing was that as the Pentagon, for example, started putting together its first formal protocols of these—using these techniques to interrogate people—in other words, the first memos from Secretary Rumsfeld in late 2002 saying this is what we’re going to do to people, we’re going to do hooding, we’re going to do forced nudity, so on and so forth, sensory deprivation—before that memo was even signed, all of the branches of the military—the Marine Corps, the Navy, the Air Force and Army—all wrote memos, before that was even signed, saying this looks like a problem, because it’s against the law. And I’ve just never seen that or never heard that. And what it suggests, obviously, is that high-level—very, very high-level people in the government knew or should have known that what they were doing was against the law. It was sort of an amazing, amazing hearing.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And also, about the role of the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Myers, in terms of his response to the criticism he was getting from down the ranks and how he dealt with the Defense Secretary Rumsfeld on this issue?
MARK BENJAMIN: Yeah, that was also an amazing part of the hearing. What happened was, in late 2002, while the military was preparing to formally embrace these techniques, in memos saying this is how we’re going to interrogate people at Guantanamo and elsewhere, as I said, the military services were saying, “Don’t do this. It’s a bad idea. It won’t work, and it’s against the law.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Richard Myers, has his own attorney, Admiral Dalton, and Admiral Dalton began a legal review, said, “Wait a minute. Let’s do a legal review. The services are having a problem,” and started a formal legal review of this process. Because of a request from Jim Haynes, who’s the Department of Defense general counsel, worked directly for Rumsfeld—Haynes went to Dalton and said, “Stop the review”—in other words, put a halt to it, muzzle the services. And what was sort of amazing, which came out in the hearing, is Richard Myers agreed and told his own lawyer, Admiral Dalton, to stop the review. And, you know, it looked pretty awful in the hearing, because you could certainly make an argument that if Richard Myers hadn’t done that, maybe this all wouldn’t have happened.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break, then come back to this discussion. We’re also going to be joined by the head of the NYU Center for Torture Survivors, victims of torture, just come out with a remarkable report that Major General Taguba introduced, called “Broken Laws, Broken Lives.” We’re also going to be talking with the editor at McClatchy newspapers about their eight-month investigation interviewing more than sixty former prisoners, prisoners of the US, and what happened to them. At Tuesday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, former Navy general counsel Alberto Mora blasted the Bush administration’s abusive detention practices.
ALBERTO MORA: To use so-called “harsh” interrogation techniques during the war on terror was a mistake of massive proportions. It damaged and continues to damage our nation. This policy, which may be aptly a “policy of cruelty,” violated our founding values, our constitutional system and the fabric of our laws, our overarching foreign policy interests and our national security. The net effect of this policy of cruelty has been to weaken our defenses, not to strengthen them.
Before examining the damage, it may be useful to draw some basic legal distinctions. The choice of the adjectives “harsh” or “enhanced” to describe these interrogation techniques is euphemistic and misleading. The legally correct adjective is “cruel.” Many of the counter-resistance techniques authorized for use at Guantanamo in December 2002 constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment that could, depending on their application, easily rise to the level of torture.
Many Americans are unaware that there is a legal distinction between cruelty and torture, cruelty being the less severe level of abuse. This has tended to obscure important elements of the interrogation debate. For example, the public may be largely unaware that the government could evasively, if truthfully, claim, and did claim, that it was not “torturing,” even as it was simultaneously applying cruelly. Yet Americans should know that there is little or no moral distinction between cruelty and torture, for cruelty can be as effective as torture in savaging human flesh and spirit and in violating human dignity. Our efforts should be focused not merely on banning torture, but on banning cruelty.
AMY GOODMAN: Former Navy general counsel Alberto Mora, blasting the Bush administration. We turn to Mark Benjamin, who is with Salon.com. The significance of Mora’s statement?
MARK BENJAMIN: I think it’s very significant, and I think we’re going to hear more and more very smart attorneys looking at the memos that came out that we were talking about from the Senate hearing, which are incredible, which show high-level Bush administration officials using techniques that were clearly, many military officials thought were, illegal, and developing them into interrogation protocol.
And I just wanted to note that Mora is a fascinating figure in this whole story. Mora is one of the people—he was general counsel of the Navy, and in late 2002, as Secretary Rumsfeld, at least on the military side, was implementing these interrogation protocols, which a lot of attorneys think are illegal, he literally was threatening Rumsfeld’s counsel Jim Haynes to rescind that order and in fact essentially threatened to go public. He succeeded in getting at least the paper pulled back. Rumsfeld did rescind it. But by that time, the memo had already been sent to Afghanistan and on to Iraq.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And what about the inability of Haynes to recall, so many of the questions he was asked about, the specifics? What was the reaction to his faulty memory?
MARK BENJAMIN: I think the lawmakers were incredulous. I don’t think they believe him. I think that they believe he was trying not to incriminate himself. A lot of the people around Haynes during that period of time remember him aggressively pursuing this agenda on behalf of his boss. And by “this agenda,” I mean taking these tactics where we train, you know, soldiers to withstand an interrogation by whoever who would violate the Geneva Conventions and turn that into our own interrogation tactics. As I mentioned before, one of the things he did, for example, was he told the military to stop reviewing this decision, because the military—as I said, the services had real problems with it, because they thought it would be ineffective and they thought it would be illegal.
June 18, 2008
Exams show torture of
By Deborah Charles, Rueters
WASHINGTON - Medical examinations of 11 former terrorism suspects held by U.S. troops found proof of physical and psychological torture resulting in long-term damage, a human rights advocacy group said on Wednesday.
Mistreatment cited by the men included beatings and other physical and sexual abuse, isolation, forced nakedness and being forced into painful stress positions with hands and feet bound.
"The evaluations provide evidence of violation of criminal laws prohibiting torture and of the commission of war crimes by U.S. personnel," said the report by the Cambridge, Mass.-based Physicians for Human Rights.
Also on Wednesday, three former U.S. interrogators told a seminar that abusive techniques were counterproductive and urged that they be banned. "These coercive techniques are not working," Joe Navarro, a former senior FBI interrogator, said at an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Human Rights First.
The image of the U.S. military has been tarnished by abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and criticism over the detention facility at the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay on Cuba. Rights groups have condemned the U.S. government for allowing interrogation techniques they describe as torture. The Bush administration insists it does not practice or allow torture.
Navarro said soldiers in the field who tried to apply vague administration-developed guidelines on interrogations reported that they "in fact were torturing."
Physicians for Human Rights said its report gave the most detailed account, supplemented by medical evidence, of the detainees tortured at the hands of U.S. personnel.
"Additionally, this report provides further evidence of the role health professionals played in facilitating detainee abuse by being present during torture and ill-treatment ... and failing to stop or document detainee abuse," it said.
The report said seven of the 11 had considered suicide.
The report was released a day after Congress looked into how Pentagon officials developed interrogation techniques after the Sept. 11 attacks, amid questions over whether there was a systematic government effort to determine the harshest methods.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the study had significant shortcomings and doctors did not know the complete medical history of the detainees.
He said the Department of Defense had several times reviewed and adjusted detention procedures, but its policy had always been to treat detainees humanely.
TORTURE AND ABUSE 'SECOND TO NONE'
Physicians for Human Rights conducted two-day clinical interviews and evaluations of the 11 former detainees to document psychological and physical consequences of their treatment in custody.
Four of the men were arrested in or brought to Afghanistan between late 2001 and early 2003 and were later sent to Guantanamo. They were held for an average of three years before being released without charge.
The other seven were detained in Iraq, most in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, in 2003 and also released without charge.
"As a physician with more than 15 years of experience evaluating and caring for torture victims from all over the world, the torture and abuse these men were subjected to in Abu Ghraib and the resulting trauma are second to none," said Allen Keller, one of the medical evaluators for the study.
Keller said the report found "clear physical and psychological evidence" of torture and abuse, often causing lasting suffering.
Leonard Rubenstein, president of the advocacy group, said the men, particularly those held in Iraq, described "gratuitous cruelty" by U.S. personnel.
"Another key finding is that the authorized techniques, many of which themselves amount to torture, begat yet additional forms of torture, proving once again that once torture starts it can't be contained," Rubenstein said.
The report gave one example of the case of a man named Amir, arrested by U.S. forces in Iraq in August 2003.
Amir said while at Abu Ghraib prison he was placed in a foul-smelling room and forced to lay face down in urine while he was hit and kicked. He was also sodomized with a broomstick and forced to howl like a dog while a soldier urinated on him. After a soldier stepped on his genitals, he fainted.
Amir experiences physical and psychological symptoms nearly four years after being released, the report said.
THE GENEVA CONVENTION
Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War
Adopted on 12 August 1949 by the Diplomatic Conference for the Establishment of
International Conventions for the Protection of Victims of War, held in Geneva
from 21 April to 12 August, 1949
entry into force 21 October 1950
The High Contracting Parties undertake to respect and to ensure respect for the present Convention in all circumstances.
In addition to the provisions which shall be implemented in peace time, the present Convention shall apply to all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties, even if the state of war is not recognized by one of them.
The Convention shall also apply to all cases of partial or total occupation of the territory of a High Contracting Party, even if the said occupation meets with no armed resistance.
Although one of the Powers in conflict may not be a party to the present Convention, the Powers who are parties thereto shall remain bound by it in their mutual relations. They shall furthermore be bound by the Convention in relation to the said Power, if the latter accepts and applies the provisions thereof.
In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:
1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.
To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
(b) Taking of hostages;
(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;
(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.
2. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.
An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.
The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.
The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict....
Read the complete Articles here...
The U.S. Torture Chambers Photo Gallery
WARNING ! ! !
Graphic photos may not be suitable for minors or the faint of heart.
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April 4, 2005
We've Been Here Before: The Tiger Cages of Vietnam
By Don Luce
Mr. Luce worked in Vietnam with International Voluntary Services and the World Council of Churches from 1958 to 1971. In 1970 he disclosed the Tiger Cages on Con Son Island to a congressional group. He presently works in Niagara Falls with the mentally ill, a soup kitchen, and a home for persons living with Aids. He can be contacted at 716-285-3403 x 2226.
My best friend was tortured to death in 1970. Nguyen Ngoc Phuong was a gentle person. But he hated the war and the destruction of his country. He was arrested by the U.S.- sponsored Saigon police in one of his many anti-government demonstrations. After three days of continuous interrogation and torture, he died. "He was tortured by the (Saigon) police but Americans stood by and offered suggestions," said one of the men who was in prison with him.
Perhaps this is the biggest single difference between Viet Nam and Abu Ghraib. In Viet Nam, the U.S. primarily taught and paid the Saigon police and military to do their bidding. In Abu Ghraib and Iraq, the U.S. military is carrying out the torture themselves. There were, however, many Vietnamese who were tortured by Americans before being turned over to their Saigon allies and put into jail. Reports of suspected Viet Cong being thrown out of helicopters, peasant farm people tied to stakes in the hot sun, and young men led off to execution by U.S. soldiers are well-documented by U.S. soldiers and journalists.
The U.S. paid the salaries of the torturers, taught them new methods, and turned suspects over to the police. The U.S. authorities were all aware of the torture.
The Tiger Cages
In 1970, President Nixon sent a delegation of ten Congressmen to Viet Nam to investigate pacification. A part of their mandate included a visit to a prison in South Viet Nam as a way to be allowed to visit a prison where U.S. POWs were held in the North.
Tom Harkin, then an aide to the congressional group, convinced two of the Congressmen to investigate stories of torture in the Tiger Cages off the coast of Viet Nam (the French built them in 1939 to hold political opponents; similar ones in French Guinea became famous in the movie Papillion, starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman). The congressman requisitioned a plane for the 200-mile trip to Con Son Island. I was asked to go as an interpreter and specialist in Vietnamese prisons. At that time I was working for the World Council of Churches.
On the way out Frank Walton, the U.S. prison advisor, described Con Son as being like "a Boy Scout Recreational Camp." It was, he said, "the largest prison in the Free World."
We saw a very different scene when we got to the prison. Using maps drawn by a former Tiger Cage prisoner, we diverted from the planned tour and hurried down an alleyway between two prison buildings. We found the tiny door that led to the cages between the prison walls. A guard inside heard the commotion outside and opened the door. We walked in.
The faces of the prisoners in the cages below are still etched indelibly in my mind: the man with three fingers cut off; the man (soon to die) from Quang Tri province whose skull was split open; and the Buddhist monk form Hue who spoke intensely about the repression of the Buddhists. I remember clearly the terrible stench from diarrhea and the open sores where shackles cut into the prisoners' ankles. "Donnez-moi de l'eau" (Give me water), they begged. They sent us scurrying between cells to check on other prisoners' health and continued to ask for water.
The photos that Harkin, today a U.S. Senator from Iowa, took were printed in Life Magazine (July 17, 1970). The international protest which resulted brought about the transfer of the 180 men and 300 women from the Cages. Some were sent to other prisons. Some were sent to mental institutions.
Grace Paley described the prison life of one of the 300 women who were incarcerated in the Tiger Cages in her 1998 book, Just As I Thought:
In prison, Thieu Thi Tao was beaten on the head with truncheons. Her head was locked between two steel bars. Water was forced down her throat. She was suspended above the ground. Then, on November 20, 1968, she was transferred to national police headquarters. The Vietnamese Catholic priest, Father Chan Tin, in a plea for international concern about her case, wrote that she was "further beaten and subjected to electric shock." "She's become insane," Father Tin wrote, "unable to sleep for fifteen days, believing herself to be a pampered dog that could only eat bread and milk. Not being given these, she refused to eat and became so weak she couldn't talk. When the wind blew she wanted to fly.
Late in 1969 Tao was transferred to the Tiger Cages of Con Son. She was there for a year and transferred to the Bien Hoa Insane Asylum. For several days, she was hung from an iron hook. Her spine was damaged by this torture and she still wears a neck brace.
"You saved our lives," Tao later wrote. "I still remember the strange foreign voices when you came. In the cages, we wondered what new indignities were to be visited upon us. But a foreigner [myself] who spoke Vietnamese with a heavy accent told us it was a U.S. congressional investigation. We had prayed for such an inquiry and took the chance to speak of the tortures. We begged for water and food. We were dying you know."
Tao was a 16-year high school student then. She was put in cages because she would not salute the flag. She was obstinate, the prison director said at the time. The oldest prisoner in the Cages was Ba Sau. She was blinded by the caustic lime that was thrown onto prisoners as a disciplinary measure. "I was a Communist," she says. "But the others were only student protestors, Buddhists and writers."
Today, behind the five foot by nine-foot cages is a cemetery for the 20,000 people who died in Con Son prison. Most graves are unmarked. The prisoners at Con Son didn't even have numbers. When the survivors return, they bring flowers, pray and softly sing the songs that were whispered in the cages some 35 years ago.
Soon after the expose in Life, Congressman Philip Crane (R, Illinois) visited Con Son and declared "the Tiger Cages are cleaner than the average Vietnamese home." He could not understand afterward why even the most pro-American of Vietnamese newspapers condemned him strongly and even hinted that his remarks were racist.
Similar to contemporary events in Iraq and the so-called War on Terror, in 1971 the Department of Navy gave a contract to the company Raymond, Morrison, Knutson-Brown Root and Jones to build new cages even smaller than the original ones. The money for the new cages came from the U.S. Food for Peace program. Ironically, part of the construction consortium, Brown and Root, is today the Halliburton subsidiary that built the "isolation cells" in Guantánamo, Cuba for imprisonment of Afghan and Iraqi suspects. (For a copy of the contract, see Hostages of War by Holmes Brown and Don Luce.)
U.S. Policy in Viet Nam and Iraq
Torture was certainly an integral part of U.S. policy in the Viet Nam war. We paid for it through our "Public Safety" program. Our advisors taught "better methods" and were often present helping with "suggestions" during the torture. But as a general policy, our soldiers turned their prisoners over to the Vietnamese police for torture. Just as with U.S. policy-makers on Iraq, the U.S. developed rationale to claim that the prisoners we took were not covered by the Geneva Convention (the U.S. authorities claimed they were all "criminal prisoners").
Where Are They Now?
For 35 years I have followed the lives of the Tiger Cage inmates who are still alive. Many are doing very well. Loi runs an embroidery business. Tao is an agricultural engineer and runs a large shrimp farm. Lap is a high official in the Tourist Bureau. Tan runs an interior design business and Thieu is a prominent lawyer. They are all reminders that the people imprisoned for political reasons during a war are most often the leaders of a country after the war. The people who were in the Tiger Cages also have a have a special attachment to the Americans who worked so hard for their freedom.
"I read the books about the survivors of Auschwitz and Dachau," one of the former Tiger Cage inmates told me. "They are like us. Each has a special memory of someone who was there for them at a crucial moment. Someone who gave them a crust of bread or a few drops of water. Moments of kindness are seared in our minds. There is no way we can forget Mr. Harkin and his group."
This article was first published by Historians Against the War.
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Originally posted: June 20, 2008
Last Update October 10, 2009, by The Catbird