The disregard of human rights in America and Europe

United Nations Human Rights Council

United Nations Human Rights Council

The United Nations Human Rights Council confirmed that human rights violations have taken place in America and some European countries
The Guardian wrote that the United Nations announced in its latest report that America, England, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, and Macedonia have violated human rights under the pretext of fighting terrorism.

The Guardian alluded to America’s terrifying prisons in Guantanamo and Abu Ghrayb and wrote that the transfer of prisoners to secret prisons in Europe was not possible without the cooperation of the governments in England, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, and Macedonia.

The United Nations also stated in this report that the physical and mental tortures in these prisons are clear violations of human rights and international treaties.

Islam Times

Former Gitmo Guard Tells All

Brandon Neely

Brandon Neely

Army Private Brandon Neely served as a prison guard at Guantánamo in the first years the facility was in operation. With the Bush Administration, and thus the threat of retaliation against him, now gone, Neely decided to step forward and tell his story. “The stuff I did and the stuff I saw was just wrong,” he told the Associated Press. Neely describes the arrival of detainees in full sensory-deprivation garb, he details their sexual abuse by medical personnel, torture by other medical personnel, brutal beatings out of frustration, fear, and retribution, the first hunger strike and its causes, torturous shackling, positional torture, interference with religious practices and beliefs, verbal abuse, restriction of recreation, the behavior of mentally ill detainees, an isolation regime that was put in place for child-detainees, and his conversations with prisoners David Hicks and Rhuhel Ahmed. It makes for fascinating reading.

Neely’s comprehensive account runs to roughly 15,000 words. It was compiled by law students at the University of California at Davis and can be accessed here. Three things struck me in reading through the account.

First, Neely and other guards had been trained to the U.S. military’s traditional application of the Geneva Convention rules. They were put under great pressure to get rough with the prisoners and to violate the standards they learned. This placed the prison guards under unjustifiable mental stress and anxiety, and, as any person familiar with the vast psychological literature in the area (think of the Stanford Prison Experiment, for instance) would have anticipated produced abuses. Neely discusses at some length the notion of IRF (initial reaction force), a technique devised to brutalize or physically beat a detainee under the pretense that he required being physically subdued. The IRF approach was devised to use a perceived legal loophole in the prohibition on torture. Neely’s testimony makes clear that IRF was understood by everyone, including the prison guards who applied it, as a subterfuge for beating and mistreating prisoners—and that it had nothing to do with the need to preserve discipline and order in the prison.

Second, there is a good deal of discussion of displays of contempt for Islam by the camp authorities, and also specific documentation of mistreatment of the Qu’ran. Remember that the Neocon-laden Pentagon Public Affairs office launched a war against Newsweek based on a very brief piece that appeared in the magazine’s Periscope section concerning the mistreatment of a Qu’ran by a prison guard. Not only was the Newsweek report accurate in its essence, it actually understated the gravity and scope of the problem. Moreover, it is clear that the Pentagon Public Affairs office was fully aware, even as it went on the attack against Newsweek, that its claims were false and the weekly’s reporting was accurate.

Third, the Nelly account shows that health professionals are right in the thick of the torture and abuse of the prisoners—suggesting a systematic collapse of professional ethics driven by the Pentagon itself. He describes body searches undertaken for no legitimate security purpose, simply to sexually invade and humiliate the prisoners. This was a standardized Bush Administration tactic–the importance of which became apparent to me when I participated in some Capitol Hill negotiations with White House representatives relating to legislation creating criminal law accountability for contractors. The Bush White House vehemently objected to provisions of the law dealing with rape by instrumentality. When House negotiators pressed to know why, they were met first with silence and then an embarrassed acknowledgement that a key part of the Bush program included invasion of the bodies of prisoners in a way that might be deemed rape by instrumentality under existing federal and state criminal statutes. While these techniques have long been known, the role of health care professionals in implementing them is shocking.

Neely’s account demonstrates once more how much the Bush team kept secret and how little we still know about their comprehensive program of official cruelty and torture.

Harpers

A Call to End All Renditions

Binyam Mohamed

Binyam Mohamed

Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian residing in Britain, said he was tortured after being sent to Morocco and Afghanistan in 2002 by the U.S. government. Mohamed was transferred to Guantánamo in 2004 and all terrorism charges against him were dismissed last year. Mohamed was a victim of extraordinary rendition, in which a person is abducted without any legal proceedings and transferred to a foreign country for detention and interrogation, often tortured.

Mohamed and four other plaintiffs are accusing Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc. of flying them to other countries and secret CIA camps where they were tortured. In Mohamed’s case, two British justices accused the Bush administration of pressuring the British government to block the release of evidence that was “relevant to allegations of torture” of Mohamed.

Twenty-five lines edited out of the court documents included details about how Mohamed’s genitals were sliced with a scalpel as well as other torture methods so extreme that waterboarding “is very far down the list of things they did,” according to a British official quoted by the Telegraph (UK).

The plaintiffs’ complaint quotes a former Jeppesen employee as saying, “We do all of the extraordinary rendition flights – you know, the torture flights.” A senior company official also apparently admitted the company transported people to countries where they would be tortured.

Obama’s Justice Department appeared before a three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Monday in the Jeppesen lawsuit. But instead of making a clean break with the dark policies of the Bush years, the Obama administration claimed the same “state secrets” privilege that Bush used to block inquiry into his policies of torture and illegal surveillance. Claiming that the extraordinary rendition program is a state secret is disingenuous since it is has been extensively documented in the media.

“This was an opportunity for the new administration to act on its condemnation of torture and rendition, but instead it has chosen to stay the course,” said the ACLU’s Ben Wizner, counsel for the five men.

If the judges accept Obama’s state secrets claim, these men will be denied their day in court and precluded from any recovery for the damages they suffered as a result of extraordinary rendition.

Two and a half weeks before Obama’s representative appeared in the Jeppesen case, the new President had signed Executive Order 13491. It established a special task force “to study and evaluate the practices of transferring individuals to other nations in order to ensure that such practices comply with the domestic laws, international obligations, and policies of the United States and do not result in the transfer of individuals to other nations to face torture or otherwise for the purpose, or with the effect, of undermining or circumventing the commitments or obligations of the United States to ensure the humane treatment of individuals in its custody or control.”

This order prohibits extraordinary rendition. It also ensures humane treatment of persons in U.S. custody or control. But it doesn’t specifically guarantee that prisoners the United States renders to other countries will be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment that doesn’t amount to torture. It does, however, aim to ensure that our government’s practices of transferring people to other countries complies with U.S. laws and policies, including our obligations under international law.

One of those laws is the International Covenant on Civil Political Rights (ICCPR), a treaty the United States ratified in 1992. Article 7 of the ICCPR prohibits the States Parties from subjecting persons “to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.” The Human Rights Committee, which is the body that monitors the ICCPR, has interpreted that prohibition to forbid States Parties from exposing “individuals to the danger of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment upon return to another country by way of their extradition, expulsion or refoulement.”

Order 13491 also mandates, “The CIA shall close as expeditiously as possible any detention facilities that it currently operates and shall not operate any such detention facility in the future.” The order does not define “expeditiously” and the definitional section of the order says that the terms ‘detention facilities’ and ‘detention facility’ “do not refer to facilities used only to hold people on a short-term, transitory basis.” Once again, “short term” and “transitory” are not defined.

In his confirmation hearing, Attorney General Eric Holder categorically stated that the United States should not turn over an individual to a country where we have reason to believe he will be tortured. Leon Panetta, nominee for CIA director, went further and interpreted Order 13491 as forbidding “that kind of extraordinary rendition, where we send someone for the purposes of torture or for actions by another country that violate our human values.”

But alarmingly, Panetta appeared to champion the same standard used by the Bush administration, which reportedly engaged in extraordinary rendition 100 to 150 times as of March 2005. After September 11, 2001, President Bush issued a classified directive that expanded the CIA’s authority to render terrorist suspects to other States. Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the CIA and the State Department received assurances that prisoners will be treated humanely. “I will seek the same kinds of assurances that they will not be treated inhumanely,” Panetta told the senators.

Gonzales had admitted, however, “We can’t fully control what that country might do. We obviously expect a country to whom we have rendered a detainee to comply with their representations to us . . . If you’re asking me, ‘Does a country always comply?’ I don’t have an answer to that.”

The answer is no. Binyam Mohamed’s case is apparently the tip of the iceberg. Maher Arar, a Canadian born in Syria, was apprehended by U.S. authorities in New York on September 26, 2002, and transported to Syria, where he was brutally tortured for months. Arar used an Arabic expression to describe the pain he experienced: “you forget the milk that you have been fed from the breast of your mother.” The Canadian government later exonerated Arar of any terrorist ties. Thirteen CIA operatives were arrested in Italy for kidnapping an Egyptian, Abu Omar, in Milan and transporting him to Cairo where he was tortured.

Panetta made clear that the CIA will continue to engage in rendition to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects and transfer them to other countries. “If we capture a high-value prisoner,” he said, “I believe we have the right to hold that individual temporarily to be able to debrief that individual and make sure that individual is properly incarcerated.” No clarification of how long is “temporarily” or what “debrief” would mean.

When Sen. Christopher Bond (R-Mo.) asked about the Clinton administration’s use of the CIA to transfer prisoners to countries where they were later executed, Panetta replied, “I think that is an appropriate use of rendition.” Jane Mayer, columnist for the New Yorker, has documented numerous instances of extraordinary rendition during the Clinton administration, including cases in which suspects were executed in the country to which the United States had rendered them. Once when Richard Clarke, President Clinton’s chief counter-terrorism adviser on the National Security Council, “proposed a snatch,” Vice-President Al Gore said, “That’s a no-brainer. Of course it’s a violation of international law, that’s why it’s a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass.”

There is a slippery slope between ordinary rendition and extraordinary rendition. “Rendition has to end,” Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! “Rendition is a violation of sovereignty. It’s a kidnapping. It’s force and violence.” Ratner queried whether Cuba could enter the United States and take Luis Posada, the man responsible for blowing up a commercial Cuban airline in 1976 and killing 73 people. Or whether the United States could go down to Cuba and kidnap Assata Shakur, who escaped a murder charge in New Jersey.

Moreover, “renditions for the most part weren’t very productive,” a former CIA official told the Los Angeles Times. After a prisoner was turned over to authorities in Egypt, Jordan or another country, the CIA had very little influence over how prisoners were treated and whether they were ultimately released.

The U.S. government should disclose the identities, fate, and current whereabouts of all persons detained by the CIA or rendered to foreign custody by the CIA since 2001. Those who ordered renditions should be prosecuted. And the special task force should recommend, and Obama should agree to, an end to all renditions.

Britain: Foreign Office colludes with US to cover-up torture of Binyam Mohamed

Binyam Mohamed

Binyam Mohamed

A High Court ruling by two British judges regarding the torture of a Guantánamo detainee has unleashed a major political crisis.

The judges have stated that they have been pressured by the United States into concealing evidence that should be made available in any country governed by the rule of law. This took the form of threats to withdraw security cooperation, instigated under the Bush administration and continued under Barak Obama’s presidency.

Binyam Mohamed, 30, is currently in Guantánamo Bay but is reportedly being prepared for a return to the UK. He states that he was tortured by US agents in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan between 2002 and 2004, and that Britain’s security agencies were complicit.

The High Court judgment on February 4 refused to order the disclosure of the CIA dossier said to contain evidence of his abuse. The document is a report by the US government to the British security services. The ruling followed a submission by the UK Foreign Office.

While calling for the document to be made public, the judges stated that it was not presently in the public interest to publish it, as the US government could “inflict on the citizens of the United Kingdom a very considerable increase in the dangers they face at a time when a serious terrorist threat still pertains”.

The joint judgment by Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones registered its concern that the document remained secret. “In the light of the long history of the common law and democracy which we share with the United States it was in our view difficult to conceive that a democratically elected and accountable government could possibly have any rational objection to placing into the public domain such a summary of what its own officials reported, as to how a detainee was treated by them and which made no disclosure of sensitive intelligence matters”.

The judgment continued, “Indeed we did not consider that a democracy governed by the rule of law would expect a court in another democracy to suppress a summary of the evidence contained in reports by its own officials…relevant to allegations of torture and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment, politically embarrassing though it might be”.

The ruling stated that the High Court had been informed by lawyers for the Foreign Secretary David Miliband that a threat to withdraw security cooperation remained under the Obama administration. The court said of the Foreign Office submissions, “We have however been informed by counsel for the foreign secretary that the position has not changed. Our current understanding is therefore that the position remains the same even after the making of executive orders by President Obama on 22 January 2009”.

This refers to the recent executive orders signed by Obama to close down the Guantánamo Bay prison camp within a year and to review the military trials for alleged terrorist suspects.

The British government has denied that the US government threatened to break off security intelligence cooperation. Miliband said that he would not demand that Obama intervene in the case, stating, “I am not going to join a lobbying campaign against the American government for this decision”.

Miliband’s account has been flatly contradicted by BBC reporter Jonathan Beale, who said that he had been informed in Washington by a former Bush administration official who dealt with Guantánamo Bay that US intelligence agencies did tell the UK that they opposed the release of certain US intelligence without their consent.

On February 5, Channel 4 News documented the contents of confidential letters from the US State Department to the UK Foreign Office. One of the letters was dated August 21, 2008, and read, “The public disclosure of these documents or of the information contained therein is likely to result in serious damage to US national security and could harm existing intelligence information-gathering arrangements between our two countries”.

A further letter sent a week later said, “Ordering the disclosure of the US intelligence information now would have only the marginal effects of serious and lasting damage to the US-UK intelligence sharing relationship, and thus the national security of the United Kingdom”.

Opposition politicians have demanded a full explanation from government ministers regarding the allegations that Britain was complicit in torture. Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader said, “If British ministers were complicit in any way in the use of torture, or helped the US authorities to cover it up, they could face consequences in the International Criminal Court”.

David Davis, a Conservative Party opposition MP who has projected himself as a champion of democratic rights said, “The judge rules that there is a strong public interest that this information is put in the public domain even though it is politically embarrassing”.

Davis said US interference in the judicial process in Britain “is completely beyond the rule of law…. All the rumours are that it actually does show some degree of complicity by the UK and US governments. The question has come about that one of our agencies—MI5, MI6, whoever—have known about torture being used against people like that, has used information arising from torture, all of those sorts of issues”.

Mohamed, an Ethiopian national resident in the UK for seven years, was arrested in Pakistan as he was about to board a flight to Britain in April 2002. Mohamed said that he had gone to Afghanistan to attempt to escape from and deal with a drug problem. He was accused by the United States of travelling to Afghanistan in May 2001 and attending “terror training camps”.

He became a victim of the US government’s notorious policy of “extraordinary rendition” and was forcibly transferred from one country to another on three occasions, without reference to a court of law. He was questioned in Pakistan and subjected to torture there and in Morocco and Afghanistan. In Morocco he was subjected to prolonged torture for a period of 18 months. The American Civil Liberties Union website reports that “his interrogators routinely beat him, sometimes to the point of losing consciousness, and he suffered multiple broken bones. During one incident, Mohamed was cut 20 to 30 times on his genitals. On another occasion, a hot stinging liquid was poured into open wounds on his penis as he was being cut. He was frequently threatened with rape, electrocution and death. He was forced to listen to loud music day and night, placed in a room with open sewage for a month at a time and drugged repeatedly”.

The Bagram Theater Internment Facility is a US detention facility located at an air base in Afghanistan. At Bagram, Mohamed was forced to write a 20-page statement that detailed his relationship with alleged terrorist Jose Padilla. Included in the document were details of how he and Padilla went to Afghanistan together, and how they planned to go to the United States to detonate a “dirty bomb”. Mohamed has always maintained that these “confessions” were extracted on the basis of torture.

He was taken from Bagram on September 19, 2004, and moved to Guantánamo, where he has spent more than four years. Mohamed was charged under President Bush’s military order and was told he would face trial by a military commission. In November 2005 he was charged with conspiracy on the basis of his confessions. Mohamedmade a statement denouncing the commission as illegitimate. Following a ruling by the US Supreme Court that the president lacked the constitutional authority to create military commissions, proceedings against Mohamed were halted. He could have faced the death penalty.

Mohamed’s lawyer had said that that all a trial by military commission would produce “is evidence not of terrorism, but of torture…. I have seen not one shred of evidence against him that was not tortured out of him. We know the British talked to Binyam [Mohamed] in Pakistan, told him he was to be rendered and gave information to the US that was used in his torture in Morocco”.

Last July his lawyers filed a petition in a UK court declaring that the Foreign Office should be compelled to turn over the evidence of his abuse. In August the High Court concluded that the British security services had facilitated the original interrogation of Mohamed in Pakistan and that he was seen by British agents whilst in detention. The court established that British security service provided information about Mohamed and interrogation questions having full knowledge of the conditions of his detention and treatment.

The court stated that much of the case against Mohamed was believed to have been based on confessions made in Bagram between May and September 2004, and in Guantánamo Bay before November 2004. Judges ruled that the Foreign Office should disclose this material as “not only necessary but essential for his defence”.

In August 2007, Foreign Secretary Miliband requested that the US government release Mohamed and four other UK residents at Guantánamo. The US released three of the men, but refused to release Mohamed and Saudi-born Shaker Aamer. In June last year the US military announced they were formally charging Mohamed. These charges were dropped in October.

In the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has brought a case against a subsidiary of the Boeing Company, Jeppesen Dataplan, accusing the firm of aiding in rendition flights that carried Mohamed and others to torture. The case was dismissed in a San Francisco court last year after the Bush administration asserted its “state secrets privilege”. An appeal to this decision is expected to come before the court next week.

Supporters of Mohamed in Britain have demanded that he is moved immediately from the maximum security prison Camp 5 in Guantánamo due to the risk to his mental and physical health. He is said to have smeared faeces over his cell walls and spent days in the cell with his water supply cut off. His lawyer states he is on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

The case of Binyam Mohamed reveals the extent to which basic democratic and legal norms have been overturned in the name of the “war on terror”. There is a growing body of evidence revealing collusion between the UK and US governments in the suppression and erosion of democratic rights, using criminal practises including humiliation, abuse, torture and extraordinary rendition. It has been used as a pretext for waging illegal wars abroad and for attacking established constitutional rights at home.

It also demonstrates that while signing the order to close Guantánamo and promising to review the ongoing military trials, the Obama regime intends to preserve the essential elements of the “war on terror”, including the suppression of evidence of torture and other nefarious activity.

Informationclearinghouse

Bush Officials Authorized Torture of US Citizen, Lawyers Say

Jose Padilla

Jose Padilla

Attorneys for US citizen Jose Padilla — who was convicted of material support for terrorist activities in 2007 — say that high-level Bush Administration officials knew their client was being tortured during the time he was held an enemy combatant in a South Carolina brig, because of the command structure and that then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld employed in approving harsh interrogation tactics.

Rumsfeld approved the harsh interrogation techniques early in Bush’s presidency. In Iraq, a cheat sheet titled “Interrogation Rules of Engagement,” revealed that some of them required the Iraq commanding general’s approval.

Among those requiring approval are tactics Padilla’s mother and lawyer say he was the victim of: “Sleep adjustment,” “Sleep management, “Sensory deprivation,” “isolation lasting longer than thirty days” and “stress” positions.” It wouldn’t be a shock if military guards went beyond the traditional treatment of a US prisoner, given Rumsfeld’s approved techniques and that Padilla was is legal limbo as an enemy combatant and eligible to be held for years without charge.

Padilla and his mother filed suit against the US government last year alleging a litany of harsh interrogation practices they said were tantamount to torture. His lawyer also says he was held in isolation for years while held at the South Carolina brig.

“They knew what was going on at the brig and they permitted it to continue,” Tahlia Townsend, an attorney representing Padilla, told the Associated Press Thursday. “Defendants Rumsfeld and [Deputy Paul] Wolfowitz were routinely consulted on these kinds of questions.”

The Justice Department is attempting to get the case dismissed. Padilla’s suit alleges mistreatment and that Padilla’s being held as an enemy combat was unconstitutional.

Dismissal might quietly shut the door on a troubled case that drew broad attention because the Bush Administration had deemed a US citizen an enemy combatant, the quasi-legal terminology used to hold suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay.

Padilla, a US citizen, was arrested in 2002 and accused of plotting with al-Qaida to detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb” in a major U.S. city, but those charges were dropped. He was declared an enemy combatant after his arrest, and held at the brig from June 2002 until January 2006, again without charge.

In 2008, Padilla and his mother, Estela Lebron, filed a lawsuit accusing the government of mistreating and illegally detaining Padilla while he was held near Charleston, South Carolina. Padilla suffered “extreme isolation, sensory deprivation, severe physical pain, sleep deprivation, and profound disruption of his sense and personality, all well beyond the physical and mental discomfort that normally accompanies incarceration,” according to the lawyers’ claim. Such treatment bears the hallmarks of harsh interrogation techniques approved by then-Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and used by interrogators of other enemy combatants held at the US’ Guantanamo Bay and Iraqi prisons.

In particular, they singled out then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and then Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.

Padilla has alleged he was shackled in painful “stress positions,” a technique used at Guantanamo Bay that a bipartisan U.S. Senate panel ruled last year was the direct result of Bush administration detention policies, not individual guards or interrogators.

The original charge leveled at Padilla when he was arrested in 2002 was that he was part of a “dirty bomb” al Qaeda plot. By the time he was charged five years later, government lawyers had dropped the charge.

The following are excerpts from Padilla’s 2006 motion (PDF link) which describe the claims of torture in more detail:

A substantial quantum of torture endured by Mr. Padilla came at the hands of his interrogators. In an effort to disorient Mr. Padilla, his captors would deceive him about his location and who his interrogators actually were. Mr. Padilla was threatened with being forcibly removed from the United States to another country, including U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he was threatened his fate would be even worse than in the Naval Brig. He was threatened with being cut with a knife and having alcohol poured on the wounds. He was also threatened with imminent execution. He was hooded and forced to stand in stress positions for long durations of time. He was forced to endure exceedingly long interrogation sessions, without adequate sleep, wherein he would be confronted with false information, scenarios, and documents to further disorient him. Often
he had to endure multiple interrogators who would scream, shake, and otherwise assault Mr. Padilla. Additionally, Mr. Padilla was given drugs against his will, believed to be some form of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or phencyclidine (PCP), to act as a sort of truth serum during his interrogations.
….

It is worth noting that throughout his captivity, none of the restrictive and inhumane conditions visited upon Mr. Padilla were brought on by his behavior or by any actions on his part. There were no incidents of Mr. Padilla violating any regulation of the Naval Brig or taking any aggressive action towards any of his captors. Mr. Padilla has always been peaceful and compliant with his captors. He was, and remains to the time of this filing, docile and resigned B a model detainee.

In sum, many of the conditions Mr. Padilla experienced were inhumane and caused him great physical and psychological pain and anguish. Other deprivations experienced by Mr. Padilla, taken in isolation, are merely cruel and some, merely petty. However, it is important to recognize that all of the deprivations and assaults recounted above were employed in concert in a calculated manner to cause him maximum anguish. It is also extremely important to note that the torturous acts visited upon Mr. Padilla were done over the course almost the entire three years and seven months of his captivity in the Naval Brig. For most of one thousand three hundred and seven days, Mr. Padilla was tortured by the United States government without cause or justification. Mr. Padilla=s treatment at the hands of the United States government is shocking to even the most hardened conscience, and such outrageous conduct on the part of the government divests it of jurisdiction, under the Due Process clause of the Fifth Amendment, to prosecute Mr. Padilla in the instant matter.

insight-info

Obama’s Orders Leave Framework of Torture, Indefinite Detention Intact

On Thursday, President Barack Obama issued executive orders mandating the closure of the Guantánamo Bay prison camp in a year’s time, requiring that Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and military personnel follow the Army Field Manual’s prohibitions on torture, and closing secret CIA prisons overseas.

While the media is portraying these orders as a repudiation of the detention and interrogation policies of the Bush administration, they actually change little. They essentially represent a public relations effort to refurbish the image of the United States abroad after years of torture and extralegal detentions and shield high-ranking American officials from potential criminal prosecution.

In cowardly fashion, Obama staged his signing of the orders in a manner aimed at placating the political right and defenders of Guantánamo and torture and underscoring his intention to continue the Bush administration’s “war on terror.” He was flanked by 16 retired generals and admirals who have pushed for the closure of the prison camp in Cuba on the grounds that it impedes the prosecution of the global “war” and reiterated in his own remarks his determination to continue the basic political framework of the Bush administration’s foreign policy.

The continuation of the ideological pretext for wars of aggression and attacks on democratic rights ensures that the police state infrastructure erected under the Bush administration will remain intact. This is further reinforced by Obama’s assurances that his administration will not investigate or prosecute those officials—including Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales and others—who were responsible for the policies of torture and illegal detention.

The orders signed by Obama do not undo the Bush administration’s attacks on constitutional and international law. They do not challenge the supposed right of the president to unilaterally imprison any individual, without trial and without charges, by declaring him to be an “enemy combatant.” Nor do they end the procedure known as “extraordinary rendition,” by which the United States during the Bush years kidnapped alleged terrorists and shipped them to foreign countries or secret CIA prisons outside the US, where they were subjected to torture.

They do not affect the hundreds of prisoners—600 at the Bagram prison camp in Afghanistan alone—incarcerated beyond the barbed wire of Guantánamo. If and when Guantánamo is closed, the US government will simply ship alleged terrorists caught up its international dragnet to other American-run prison camps.

On the question of so-called “harsh interrogation techniques,” i.e., torture, Obama’s orders leave room for their continuation. White House Counsel Gregory Craig told reporters the administration was prepared to take into account demands from the CIA that such methods be allowed. Obama announced the creation of a task force that will consider new interrogation methods beyond those sanctioned by the Army Field Manual, which now accepts 19 forms of interrogation, as well as the practice of extraordinary rendition.

Retired Admiral Dennis Blair, Obama’s nominee for director of national intelligence, told a Senate confirmation hearing that the Army Field Manual would itself be changed, potentially allowing new forms of harsh interrogation, but that such changes would be kept secret.

Obama also announced a second task force that is to consider the fate of the 245 detainees remaining at Guantánamo. Earlier this week he suspended the military commission procedures at the prison camp, but has not abolished the military commissions themselves.

The new administration has ruled out the only constitutional remedy for those who have been held under barbaric conditions, without due process, for years—either releasing them or giving them a speedy trial in a civilian court, with all of the accompanying legal protections and guarantees. There has been a great deal of speculation that the administration may support the establishment of a special National Security Court within the civilian court system to try Guantánamo prisoners and other alleged terrorists. This would represent yet another attack on civil liberties, setting up a drumhead court system to railroad those charged with terrorism—something that could in future be used to repress political opposition.

According to NBC Nightly News on Thursday, the administration is considering keeping some 20 Guantánamo detainees, including the five alleged 9/11 conspirators currently facing military commission trials, imprisoned indefinitely without charges in a military brig within the US.

Commentators have noted that the Obama administration wants to prevent noncitizens detained as terrorists from being able to exercise habeas corpus rights.

Two separate measures taken Tuesday and Thursday by Obama point to a further major consideration behind his moves to close Guantánamo and finesse the issue of torture. On Thursday the administration requested a stay in the habeas corpus appeal to the Supreme Court by the only alleged enemy combatant now held on US soil—Ali al-Marri, of Qatar, whom Obama has called “dangerous.” Al-Marri’s lawyers are challenging the right of the president to arrest and jail individuals by declaring them enemy combatants, and it was expected that the Supreme Court’s hearing of the appeal would force Obama to reveal his position on the issue.

This followed Tuesday’s request for a stay from the Federal District Court in Washington in similar appeals that could affect the cases of more than 200 Guantánamo prisoners.

Thus, the immediate effect of the new administration’s moves is to halt civilian trials that could prove immensely damaging to the government by revealing systematic torture of the detainees and could potentially entangle high government officials.

Insight-info

The Shocking Story of Ali al-Marri

Ali al-Marri

Ali al-Marri

In brighter times, before a fog of fear descended on the United States, and the discourse of decent men and women was coarsened by an acceptance of the use of torture as a “no-brainer,” it would have been inconceivable that an American could have been held for seven years without charge or trial on the US mainland, in a state of solitary confinement so debilitating that he is said to be suffering from “severe damage to his mental and emotional well-being, including hypersensitivity to external stimuli, manic behavior, difficulty concentrating and thinking, obsessional thinking, difficulties with impulse control, difficulty sleeping, difficulty keeping track of time, and agitation.”

And yet, this is exactly what has happened in the case of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri. A Qatari national — and legal US resident — al-Marri had studied computer science in Peoria, Illinois in the 1980s, had graduated in 1991, and had legally returned to the United States on September 10, 2001 to pursue post-graduate studies, bringing his family — his wife and five children — with him. Three months later, on December 12, 2001, he was arrested at his home by the FBI, and taken to the maximum security Special Housing Unit at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, where he was held in solitary confinement as a material witness in the investigation into the 9/11 attacks.

In February 2003, al-Marri was charged with credit card fraud, identity theft, making false statements to the FBI, and making a false statement on a bank application, and was moved back to a federal jail in Peoria, but on June 23, 2003, a month before he was due to stand trial, the charges were suddenly dropped when President Bush declared that he was an “enemy combatant,” who was “closely associated” with al-Qaeda, and had “engaged in conduct that constituted hostile and war-like acts, including conduct in preparation for acts of international terrorism.” Also asserting that he possessed “intelligence,” which “would aid US efforts to prevent attacks by al-Qaeda,” the President ordered al-Marri to be surrendered to the custody of the Defense Department, and transported to the Consolidated Naval Brig in Charleston, South Carolina.

full article: www.insight-info.com

Caged Citizen Will Test President Obama

If our new president intends to try to make America resemble what it was meant to be, he will have to deal with the noxious residue of the Bush-Cheney war against terrorism. Barack Obama will be confronted, as Harold Reynolds predicted in the October 29 New York Law Journal, with bringing justice to “thousands of . . . men and women cut off from access to their families, tortured, humiliated . . . and kept off stage to this day by Bush’s resistant administration.”

Among these purported menaces to national security are survivors, if they can be found, of CIA secret prisons (“black sites”); victims of CIA kidnapping renditions; and American citizens locked up indefinitely as “unlawful enemy combatants.”

We have one such pariah right here in New York at the Metropolitan Correction Center. He is 28-year-old Sayed Fahad Hashmi, whom I first told you about in this column last week. Confined in extreme isolation as if he were in a supermax prison, Hashmi was put away about a year ago by Bush’s Attorney General Michael Mukasey under what are euphemistically called Special Administrative Measures (SAMs).

Of the 201,000 prisoners presently in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, fewer than 50 are so dangerous to the state that they are held under SAMs, which can be imposed in one-year increments. Mukasey was supposed to inform Hashmi’s lawyer, Sean Maher, on October 29 whether those fierce conditions that were described here last week would be renewed for another year. But as of this writing, no word has come from the Justice Department, and the keys to Hashmi’s cell will soon be in the hands of Barack Obama’s attorney general. When Jeanne Theoharis—a professor of political science at Brooklyn College who has been leading the campaign to get Hashmi out of the cage where he’s been jammed for his daily one hour of “recreation”—asked a Bureau of Prisons staff member how Hashmi has been SAM’d without even being charged with violence, she was told curtly: “He’s being charged with terrorism, right?”

full article: www.insight-info.com

Israeli army sprays toilet water at Bil’in protesters

Israeli forces used a new weapon against Bil’in protesters on Friday, and opened up streams of contaminated water on Palestinians, Israelis and international activists protesting the construction of the separation wall on village lands.

Protesters gathered at the center of the village and moved towards the construction site. Once they arrived at the site and chanted – while raising photos of the murdered children Ahmed Husam Yousif Musa and Yousif Ahmed Amera – slogans against the occupation soldiers and their officers that command them to shoot unarmed civilians.

Soldiers soon began firing tear gas and then pulled out hoses and sprayed water at the group. Several protesters were immediately sick after they were sprayed with the water. The Bil’in popular committee against the wall plans to have samples of the water taken in for analysis.

full article: www.insight-info.com

John McCain, Torture Puppet

Sen. John McCain, who recently shelved his opposition to torture by voting against a bill banning the use of torture by the CIA,, compounded his desperate lunge for the Hard Right vote by declaring that last Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling, granting constitutional habeas corpus rights to the prisoners at Guantánamo, was “one of the worst decisions in the history of this country.”

John McCain

As the conservative columnist George F. Will asked, in a Washington Post column, “Does it rank with Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857), which concocted a constitutional right, unmentioned in the document, to own slaves and held that black people have no rights that white people are bound to respect? With Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which affirmed the constitutionality of legally enforced racial segregation? With Korematsu v. United States (1944), which affirmed the wartime right to sweep American citizens of Japanese ancestry into concentration camps?”

McCain’s effort portray Barack Obama as soft on terror flies in the face of the ever-growing evidence that the entire “War on Terror” imprisonment program has been both chronically brutal and irredeemably flawed, and that Obama is correct to call the ruling “an important step toward reestablishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law, and rejecting a false choice between fighting terrorism and respecting habeas corpus.”

On ABC News on Monday, Obama explained more, saying, “Let’s take the example of Guantánamo. What we know is that in previous terrorist attacks, for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center, we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in US prisons, incapacitated. And the fact that the administration has not tried to do that has created a situation where not only have we never actually put many of these folks on trial, but we have destroyed our credibility when it comes to rule of law all around the world.”

Full article: http://www.insight-info.com/articles/item.aspx?i=1182

« Older entries