Human Rights News and Information
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President Obama is expected to sign executive orders Thursday directing the Central Intelligence Agency to shut what remains of its network of secret prisons and ordering the closing of the Guantanamo detention camp within a year, government officials said.
The orders, which would be the first steps in undoing detention policies of former President George W. Bush, would rewrite American rules for the detention of terrorism suspects. They would require an immediate review of the 245 detainees still held at the naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to determine if they should be transferred, released or prosecuted.
And the orders would bring to an end a Central Intelligence Agency program that kept terrorism suspects in secret custody for months or years, a practice that has brought fierce criticism from foreign governments and human rights activists. They will also prohibit the C.I.A. from using coercive interrogation methods, requiring the agency to follow the same rules used by the military in interrogating terrorism suspects, government officials said.
But the orders would leave unresolved complex questions surrounding the closing of the Guantanamo prison, including whether, where and how many of the detainees are to be prosecuted. They could also allow Mr. Obama to reinstate the C.I.A.'s detention and interrogation operations in the future, by presidential order, as some have argued would be appropriate if Osama bin Laden or another top-level leader of Al Qaeda were captured.
A federal judge on Tuesday accused the Bush administration of hiding evidence in the case of a Yemen man who has been held as a terror suspect at Guantanamo Bay for six years. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said he was forced to delay ruling on whether to free Aymen Saeed Batarfi because as many as 10 documents of classified information were withheld from the court until recently.
"I think it's unfair, I think it's disingenuous," Sullivan said during an hourlong hearing. He added: "This government, especially, hides the ball when it suits this government's purpose." Sullivan also presided over last fall's trial of former Sen. Ted Stevens, when prosecutors broke rules requiring them to turn over evidence favorable to the Alaska Republican.
Batarfi's attorneys say the 38-year-old Yemen doctor was first held by U.S. forces at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan in late 2001 and transferred to the U.S. naval station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in April 2002. William J. Murphy, a Baltimore lawyer representing Batarfi, said the Yemeni was on a humanitarian aid mission on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border when he was injured and swept up by Northern Alliance forces, who turned him over to the U.S. Batarfi's lawyers maintain he was not assisting al-Qaida.
When Muhammad Saad Iqbal arrived home here in August after more than six years in American custody, including five at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, he had difficulty walking, his left ear was severely infected, and he was dependent on a cocktail of antibiotics and antidepressants. In November, a Pakistani surgeon operated on his ear, physical therapists were working on lower back problems and a psychiatrist was trying to wean him off the drugs he carried around in a white, plastic shopping bag.
The maladies, said Mr. Iqbal, 31, a professional reader of the Koran, are the result of a gantlet of torture, imprisonment and interrogation for which his Washington lawyer plans to sue the United States government. [...]
Mr. Iqbal was never convicted of any crime, or even charged with one. He was quietly released from Guantanamo with a routine explanation that he was no longer considered an enemy combatant, part of an effort by the Bush administration to reduce the prison’s population. "I feel ashamed what the Americans did to me in this period," Mr. Iqbal said, speaking for the first time at length about his ordeal during several hours of interviews with The New York Times, including one from his hospital bed in Lahore. [...]
Much of Mr. Iqbal’s account could not be independently corroborated. Two senior American officials confirmed that Mr. Iqbal had been "rendered" from Indonesia, but could not comment on, or confirm details of, how he was treated in custody. The Pentagon and C.I.A. deny using torture, and American diplomatic, military and intelligence officials agreed to talk about the case only on the condition of anonymity because the files are classified. [...] There was no evidence that he had ever met Osama bin Laden, or had been to Afghanistan, the two senior American officials said. But in the atmosphere of fear and confusion in the months after Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Iqbal was secretly moved to Egypt for further interrogation, said one of the senior American officials. Mr. Iqbal said he had been beaten, tightly shackled, covered with a hood and given drugs, subjected to electric shocks and, because he denied knowing Mr. bin Laden, deprived of sleep for six months. "They make me blind and stand up for whole days," he said in halting English, meaning that he had been covered with a hood or blindfolded. The Pentagon and the C.I.A. have a policy of not talking about the detainees, but a C.I.A. spokesman, Paul Gimigliano, said, "The agency’s terrorist detention program has used lawful means of interrogation, reviewed and approved by the Department of Justice and briefed to the Congress. "This individual, from what I have heard of his account, appears to be describing something utterly different. I have no idea what he's talking about. The United States does not conduct or condone torture."
Just a month after President-elect Barack Obama takes office, he must tell the Supreme Court where he stands on one of the most aggressive legal claims made by the Bush administration - that the president may order the military to seize legal residents of the United States and hold them indefinitely without charging them with a crime. The new administration's brief, which is due Feb. 20, has the potential to hearten or infuriate Mr. Obama's supporters, many of whom are looking to him for stark disavowals of the Bush administration's legal positions on the detention and interrogation of so-called enemy combatants held at Navy facilities on the American mainland or at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
During the campaign, Mr. Obama made broad statements criticizing the Bush administration's assertions of executive power. But now he must address a specific case, that of Ali al-Marri, a Qatari student who was arrested in Peoria, Ill., in December 2001. The Bush administration says Mr. Marri is a sleeper agent for Al Qaeda, and it is holding him without charges at the Navy brig in Charleston, S.C. He is the only person currently held as an enemy combatant on the mainland, but the legal principles established in his case are likely to affect the roughly 250 prisoners at Guantanamo.
Many legal experts say that all of the new administration's options in Mr. Marri's case are perilous. Intelligence officials say he is exceptionally dangerous, making deportation problematic. Trying him on criminal charges could be difficult, too, in part because some of the evidence against him may have been obtained through torture and would not be admissible. And staying the course in the Marri case would outrage civil libertarians.
"If they adopt the Bush administration position, or some version of it," said Brandt Goldstein, a professor at New York Law School, "it is going to be a moment of profound disappointment for everyone in the legal community and Americans generally who believe that the Bush administration has tried to turn the presidency into a monarchy." In a statement, a spokeswoman for Mr. Obama, Brooke Anderson, said he "will make decisions about how to handle detainees as president when his full national security and legal teams are in place."
Three Guantanamo prisoners were flown to Bosnia on Tuesday and released to their families in the first detainee transfer ordered by a U.S. federal judge, according to local police and an attorney for the men.
A judge in Washington ordered the release of Boudella al Hajj, Mustafa Ait Idr and Mohammed Nechle last month, saying the U.S. government’s case was not strong enough to justify continuing to hold them. The order came in the first hearing on the Bush administration’s evidence for keeping prisoners at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as "enemy combatants." [...]
"This is a great victory. A great day for me and my family," said Nadja Dizdarevic, wife of al Hajj.
Two hours after the plane landed, a uniformed officer standing outside police headquarters told reporters that the men were allowed to go home after an identification process.
The Supreme Court breathed new life Monday into a lawsuit filed by former detainees at Guantanamo Bay over alleged torture and abuse of their religious rights.
The justices threw out an appeals court ruling that dismissed claims by four British men that, during their time at the U.S. naval base in Cuba, they were beaten, shackled in painful stress positions, threatened by dogs and subjected to extreme medical care. They also allege they were harassed while practicing their religion, including forced shaving of their beards, banning or interrupting their prayers, denying them copies of the Koran and prayer mats and throwing a copy of the Koran in a toilet bucket. [...]
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia unanimously ruled against them. "Because the plaintiffs are aliens and were located outside sovereign United States territory at the time their alleged RFRA claim arose, they do not fall with the definition of 'person,'" the court said.
Since that opinion was issued in January, however, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of detainees at Guantanamo. The justices instructed the appeals court to reconsider the lawsuit in light of their holding in June that the detainees have some rights under the Constitution.
The physical and mental abuse of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was the direct result of Bush administration detention policies and should not be dismissed as the work of bad guards or interrogators, according to a bipartisan Senate report released Thursday.
The Senate Armed Services Committee report concludes that harsh interrogation techniques used by the CIA and the U.S. military were directly adapted from the training techniques used to prepare special forces personnel to resist interrogation by enemies that torture and abuse prisoners. The techniques included forced nudity, painful stress positions, sleep deprivation, and until 2003, waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning.
The report is the result of a nearly two-year investigation that directly links President Bush's policies after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, legal memos on torture, and interrogation rule changes with the abuse photographed at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq four years ago. Much of the report remains classified. Unclassified portions of the report were released by the committee Thursday.
Administration officials publicly blamed the abuses on low-level soldiers - the work "of a few bad apples." Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., called that "both unconscionable and false." "The message from top officials was clear; it was acceptable to use degrading and abusive techniques against detainees," Levin said. Arizona Republican and former prisoner of war Sen. John McCain, called the link between the survival training and U.S. interrogations of detainees inexcusable. "These policies are wrong and must never be repeated," he said in a statement. Lawrence Di Rita, a senior aide to former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld at the time the Abu Ghraib and other abuses took place, disputed the report.
Blaring from a speaker behind a metal grate in his tiny cell in Iraq, the blistering rock from Nine Inch Nails hit Prisoner No. 200343 like a sonic bludgeon. [..] The auditory assault went on for days, then weeks, then months at the U.S. military detention center in Iraq. Twenty hours a day. AC/DC. Queen. Pantera. The prisoner, military contractor Donald Vance of Chicago, told The Associated Press he was soon suicidal. The tactic has been common in the U.S. war on terror, with forces systematically using loud music on hundreds of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, then the U.S. military commander in Iraq, authorized it on Sept. 14, 2003, "to create fear, disorient ... and prolong capture shock."
Now the detainees aren't the only ones complaining. Musicians are banding together to demand the U.S. military stop using their songs as weapons.
A campaign being launched Wednesday has brought together groups including Massive Attack and musicians such as Tom Morello, who played with Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave and is now on a solo tour. It will feature minutes of silence during concerts and festivals, said Chloe Davies of the British law group Reprieve, which represents dozens of Guantanamo Bay detainees and is organizing the campaign. [...]
Rear Adm. David Thomas, the commander of Guantanamo's detention center, said the music treatment is not currently used at Guantanamo but added that he could not rule out its use in the future. [...] The spokeswoman for Guantanamo's detention center, Navy Cmdr. Pauline Storum, wouldn't give details of when and how music has been used at the prison. FBI agents stationed at Guantanamo Bay reported numerous instances in which music was blasted at detainees, saying they were "told such tactics were common there."
In his Nov. 16 interview on CBS's '60 minutes," President-elect Barack Obama reiterated his pledge to shut down Guantanamo Bay and end U.S.-sponsored torture. Both actions would be "part and parcel of an effort to regain America’s moral stature in the world," he said.
Obama’s advisers are similarly encouraging him to look to the future and avoid the appearance of seeking vengeance for past practices. But many legal experts insist it's as important not to let those responsible for diminishing America's moral stature get away scot-free.
"When we speak about accountability, w'’re not talking about vengeance," lawyer and writer Scott Horton told at a packed forum on torture at New York University School of Law last week. "We're really talking about the future." President George W. Bush "has set a precedent that we cannot let stand." Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who also attended the forum, added: "Accountability is one of the most important questions before the country. It's critical to preventing a recurrence of the lawbreaking that clearly has been done [by this administration]."
The Supreme Court said yesterday it will decide whether the president may order the indefinite detention of suspects living lawfully in the United States, one of the broadest claims of executive power the Bush administration has asserted in the nation's anti-terrorism efforts.
The court said it will review the case of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a Qatari national studying in Illinois when he was seized in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and held in a Navy brig for more than five years without formal charges.
The case will present President-elect Barack Obama with an immediate decision on whether to endorse President Bush's aggressive use of executive power or to strike a new path in how the country confronts those suspected of planning additional al-Qaeda attacks. [...]
While Marri is the only person seized on U.S. soil and currently held as an enemy combatant - the administration says he was part of a sleeper al-Qaeda cell intent on mass murder and disrupting the banking system - the larger question of the president's powers might be the most significant the court has yet considered. "The constitutional scope of the administration's unilateral detention powers," said Robert Chesney, a national security expert at the Wake Forest University law school, "is the question we've all been waiting for an answer to."
U.S. military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay are a "stain on America" that risk convicting innocent people because judicial standards are so low, a former senior prosecutor at the prison said on Tuesday.
Darrel Vandeveld, a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who left his post at the base in Cuba earlier this year on ethical grounds, told the BBC that it was impossible to guarantee fair trials there.
"I thought that the military commissions were part of a grand tradition in accordance with the highest of American values," he said. "Now I see them as having defiled the U.S. Constitution and I see them as a stain on America. There should have been a procedure in place so that we could ensure due process and fair trials for these defendants. There was no such process."
A Pentagon spokesman said it disputed the prosecutor's claims, telling the BBC: "The military commission process provides full and fair trials to accused unlawful enemy combatants who are charged with a variety of war crimes."
A Justice Department lawyer urged an appeals court yesterday to overturn a judge's decision to release a group of Chinese Muslims at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay into the United States. Solicitor General Gregory G. Garre contended that U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina had overstepped his authority in ordering the release of the 17 men, all Uighurs, a group that seeks a separate homeland in western China. Garre argued that only the president and Congress have such power. The government "has the authority to hold these men pending resettlement efforts," he told the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, calling Urbina's ruling "an unprecedented order."
The government is appealing Urbina's October decision to release the Uighurs, who have been held at the Cuba facility for nearly seven years. The United States no longer considers the men enemy combatants and would like to release them. But it will not send them back to China, where the government considers them terrorists and where they might be tortured or killed, and it has been unable to find another country willing to take them. [...]
The appeals court stayed Urbina's ruling by a 2-to-1 vote, and it appeared from the questioning of lawyers yesterday that the judges might be inclined to overturn Urbina's decision. Judges A. Raymond Randolph and Karen LeCraft Henderson, appointees of Republican presidents, seemed sympathetic to the government's arguments. Judge Judith W. Rogers, a Clinton appointee, dissented from issuing the stay and appeared more skeptical. [...]
U.S. officials have said the men received weapons training at military camps run by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, which the government designated a terrorist organization in 2004. Garre said immigration law prohibits people who received such training from entering the country. Willett said the men received the kind of weapons training that U.S. citizens can receive at gun ranges and are not dangerous.
Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's onetime driver and the first of only two terrorism suspects convicted at Guantanamo Bay, is being transferred from the offshore prison to his Yemeni homeland, a government lawyer familiar with the case said Monday. Hamdan, who is about 40, was found guilty of material support for terrorism by a six-member military jury in August. He was acquitted of the more serious charge of conspiracy and sentenced to just five months longer than the five-plus years he had served, mostly in maximum security isolation, at the U.S. naval base in Cuba.
The disclosure that Hamdan was already off the base or would be within hours signaled that the Bush administration had conceded its effort to severely punish the $200-a-month Al Qaeda driver had failed. Bush administration officials sought and were denied reconsideration of Hamdan's 66-month sentence after trial by the Pentagon's Office of Military Commissions. Prosecutors deemed the term too lenient. They had asked that Hamdan serve 30 years to life. [...]
About 100 of the 250 prisoners still at Guantanamo are Yemenis. Many of them are expected to be sent home once President Bush leaves office and the Pentagon is compelled to dismantle the prison and the interrogation and prosecution operations that have drawn international condemnation. A lawyer involved in the commissions said he regarded the transfer of Hamdan as the "grease" needed to launch the repatriation of Yemenis after years of diplomatic standoff between the U.S. and Yemeni governments. [...]
A federal judge ordered the release of five Guantanamo Bay detainees Thursday, saying the government failed to show that they were "enemy combatants." [...]
The ruling by a Bush administration-appointed judge represented another legal setback for the government on detainee policy. The Justice Department said it "disagrees with the Court's decision" but did not announce whether it would appeal the order. [...] In June, the Supreme Court court ruled that all detainees at Guantanamo were entitled to challenge their continued detention. [...]
All six men are Algerians who were arrested in Bosnia in 2002. Initially, the U.S. government claimed that they were suspects in a plot to blow up the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo. They were flown to Guantanamo Bay, and five years later, the U.S. government dropped the embassy bombing allegations. But U.S. officials said the men were planning to go to Afghanistan to fight against the U.S. and coalition troops there. [...]
About 250 detainees remain at Guantanamo, down from a peak of roughly 750 men from 40 countries.
[Press Release] Detainees released from U.S. detention in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Afghanistan live shattered lives as a result of U.S. policies in the "war on terror," according to a new report by human rights experts at the University of California, Berkeley done in partnership with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). [...]
The report, "Guantanamo and Its Aftermath: U.S. Detention and Interrogation Practices and Their Impact on Detainees," based on a two-year study, reveals in graphic detail the cumulative effect of Bush Administration policies on the lives of 62 released detainees. Many of the prisoners were sold into captivity and subjected to brutal treatment in U.S. prison camps. Once in Guantanamo, prisoners were denied access to civilian courts to challenge the legality of their detention. Almost two-thirds of the former detainees interviewed reported having psychological problems since leaving Guantanamo.
"The nightmare of Guantanamo did not end with the detainees' release. Men never convicted of crimes or given the opportunity to clear their names are suffering from a lasting 'Guantanamo stigma,' and are unable to find work," said Laurel Fletcher, Director of the International Human Rights Law Clinic at UC Berkeley School of Law and co-author of the report. Researchers conducted interviews with released detainees in nine countries. The comprehensive study also includes in-depth interviews with key government officials, military experts, former guards, interrogators and other camp personnel.
The authors call for an independent, nonpartisan commission to lift the shroud of secrecy from Guantanamo and other detention sites. They further argue that the commission should have subpoena power and, if applicable, recommend further investigations of those allegedly responsible for any crimes committed at all levels of the civilian and military chain of command. The authors warn that such a commission should not be undercut by the issuance of pardons, amnesties, or other measures that would protect those culpable from accountability. President-Elect Barack Obama has called for the closure of Guantanamo. The UC Berkeley report asks for even broader remedies.
President-elect Obama's advisers are crafting plans to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and prosecute terrorism suspects in the U.S., a plan the Bush administration said Monday was easier said than done. Under the plan being crafted inside Obama's camp, some detainees would be released and others would be charged in U.S. courts, where they would receive constitutional rights and open trials. But, underscoring the difficult decisions Obama must make to fulfill his pledge of shutting down Guantanamo, the plan could require the creation of a new legal system to handle the classified information inherent in some of the most sensitive cases. [...]
The plan being developed by Obama's team has been championed by legal scholars from both political parties. But as details surfaced Monday, it drew criticism from Democrats who oppose creating a new legal system and from Republicans who oppose bringing terrorism suspects to the U.S. mainland. Obama foreign policy adviser Denis McDonough said the president-elect wants Guantanamo closed, but no decision has been made "about how and where to try the detainees, and there is no process in place to make that decision until his national security and legal teams are assembled."
Obama seeks a break from the Bush administration, which established military tribunals to prosecute detainees at the Navy base in Cuba and strongly opposes bringing prisoners to the United States. [...] But Obama has been critical of that process and his legal advisers said finding an alternative will be a top priority. One of those advisers, Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, acknowledges that bringing detainees to the U.S. would be controversial but said it could be accomplished. "I think the answer is going to be, they can be as securely guarded on U.S. soil as anywhere else," Tribe said. "We can't put people in a dungeon forever without processing whether they deserve to be there."
The tougher challenge will be allaying fears by Democrats who believe the Bush administration's military commissions were a farce and dislike the idea of giving detainees anything less than the full constitutional rights normally enjoyed by everyone on U.S. soil. "I think that creating a new alternative court system in response to the abject failure of Guantanamo would be a profound mistake," Jonathan Hafetz, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who represents detainees, said Monday. "We do not need a new court system. The last eight years are a testament to the problems of trying to create new systems." Senate Judiciary Committee member John Cornyn, R-Texas, said it would be a "colossal mistake to treat terrorism as a mere crime." [...]
Though a hybrid court may be unpopular, other advisers and Democrats involved in the Guantanamo Bay discussions say Obama has few options.
[...] As the Bush administration enters its final months with no apparent plan to close the Guantanamo Bay camp, an extensive review of the government's military tribunal files suggests that dozens of the roughly 255 prisoners remaining in detention are said by military and intelligence agencies to have been captured with important terrorism suspects, to have connections to top leaders of Al Qaeda or to have other serious terrorism credentials.
Senators John McCain and Barack Obama have said they would close the detention camp, but the review of the government's public files underscores the challenges of fulfilling that promise. The next president will have to contend with sobering intelligence claims against many of the remaining detainees.
"It would be very difficult for a new president to come in and say, 'I don't believe what the C.I.A. is saying about these guys,'" said Daniel Marcus, a Democrat who was general counsel of the 9/11 Commission and held senior positions in the Carter and Clinton administrations.
The strength of the evidence is difficult to assess, because the government has kept much of it secret and because of questions about whether some was gathered through torture.
Camp Justice, erected six months ago for the first U.S. war-crimes trials in a half-century, already feels like a ghost town. A hundred canvas tents pitched on a weed-choked airfield to house an army of lawyers and journalists stand mostly empty, even as air conditioning blasts through them to keep iguanas and large rodents at bay. Only three reporters showed up this week for the trial of Osama bin Laden's alleged communications specialist, in contrast to the dozens who attended earlier hearings.
With the clock running out on the Bush administration, so too is it ticking for America's six-year attempt to try what it called "the worst of the worst" for crimes of war. "It is getting quiet here," lamented Kiplin Rall, a Jamaican managing a small convenience store in a rusting hangar at Camp Justice.
Barack Obama and John McCain have both pledged, if elected, to close the offshore prison at Guantanamo Bay. Amnesty International Secretary-General Irene Khan this week urged whoever wins to make good on that promise in his first 100 days in office.
A military judge has refused to reconsider the sentence of Osama bin Laden's former driver, forcing the Bush administration to either release a man it insists is a dangerous terrorist in two months or continue to hold him at Guantanamo Bay as an enemy combatant despite his having served his time after a trial and conviction.
Salim Ahmed Hamdan, 40, a Yemeni captured in Afghanistan in late 2001, was sentenced in August to 66 months for providing material support for terrorism following his conviction by a jury of six officers. But the jury knew that the judge, Navy Capt. Keith J. Allred, planned to credit Hamdan 61 months and eight days for the time he had already been held at the military prison in Cuba.
Prosecutors had sought a 30-year sentence, but the jury, unconvinced that Hamdan was anything more than a low-level al-Qaeda figure, came back with a sentence that ostensibly allows Hamdan to be released Dec. 31.
The Bush administration is seeking to recall a military jury that gave a light sentence to Osama bin Laden's driver in one of the first trials at Guantanamo Bay, arguing that the judge improperly credited the defendant for time he had already spent in the detention facility.
Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a 40-year-old Yemeni captured in Afghanistan in November 2001, was sentenced in August to 66 months for providing material support to terrorism. The judge, Navy Capt. Keith J. Allred, credited the defendant with 61 months and eight days for time he had been detained at the U.S. military prison in Cuba, leaving Hamdan with an effective sentence of 142 days. Prosecutors had sought a 30-year term.
The government argues that Hamdan was not entitled to any credit for his pretrial detention because he was not held at Guantanamo Bay "in connection with the charges for which he was tried, but was independently detained under the law of armed conflict as an enemy combatant," according to motions filed with the military court and released this week.
According to military prosecutors, that distinction also allows the government to hold any detainee even after he has been tried, convicted, sentenced and has served his time. The government said in court papers that prosecution for violations of the laws of war is an "incidental fact" to a detainee's "wartime detention as an enemy combatant."
An appeals court in the US has temporarily blocked the release of 17 Chinese Muslim Uighurs from the Guantanamo prison camp, countering a judge's decision on Tuesday. The men were to be taken to Washington as soon as Friday, but a three-judge panel blocked the move after an appeal from the US government. [...]
Lawyers representing the 17 men say the government's motion to stay the release order could prolong their incarceration for months or years. China today again urged the US to repatriate the group. It claims they are members of a violent separatist movement.
A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the Bush administration to release 17 detainees at Guantanamo Bay by the end of the week, the first such ruling in nearly seven years of legal disputes over the administration's detention policies.
The judge, Ricardo M. Urbina of Federal District Court, ordered that the 17 men be brought to his courtroom on Friday from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where they have been held since 2002. He indicated that he would release the men, members of the restive Uighur Muslim minority in western China, into the care of supporters in the United States, initially in the Washington area.
"I think the moment has arrived for the court to shine the light of constitutionality on the reasons for detention," Judge Urbina said. Saying the men had never fought the United States and were not a security threat, he tersely rejected Bush administration claims that he lacked the power to order the men set free in the United States and government requests that he stay his order to permit an immediate appeal. [...]
The ruling set the stage for a confrontation between the courts and the administration. John C. O'Quinn, a deputy assistant attorney general, suggested that immigration or Department of Homeland Security officials might detain the men when they were taken to the Washington area. Mr. O'Quinn argued that only the executive branch of the government, not the courts, could decide about immigration.
Senior White House officials played a central role in deliberations in the spring of 2002 about whether the Central Intelligence Agency could legally use harsh interrogation techniques while questioning an operative of Al Qaeda, Abu Zubaydah, according to newly released documents.
In meetings during that period, the officials debated specific interrogation methods that the C.I.A. had proposed to use on Qaeda operatives held at secret C.I.A. prisons overseas, the documents show. The meetings were led by Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser, and attended by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Attorney General John Ashcroft and other top administration officials.
The documents provide new details about the still-murky early months of the C.I.A.’s detention program, when the agency began using a set of harsh interrogation techniques weeks before the Justice Department issued a written legal opinion in August 2002 authorizing their use. Congressional investigators have long tried to determine exactly who authorized these techniques before the legal opinion was completed.
Gordon D. Johndroe, a White House spokesman, declined to comment on which officials attended the meetings in 2002. [...] The new documents do not specify dates for the White House meetings. [...] Mr. Bellinger, the former National Security Council legal adviser, wrote in a separate document released on Wednesday that during the White House meetings, Justice Department lawyers frequently issued oral guidance to the C.I.A. about the interrogation program. One who did was John Yoo, the principal author of the August 2002 memo, Mr. Bellinger said.
A military judge Monday enlisted the help of self-described Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in coaxing an accused co-conspirator out of his detention cell so the pretrial hearings into the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., can proceed.
After a long day of procedural wrangling, Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann ordered Ramzi Binalshibh to be "extracted" from his cell by force if necessary and brought into the military commission courtroom [...] Binalshibh's defense lawyers opposed the extraction and asked the judge for a stay, saying Binalshibh's refusal to leave his cell might have something to do with the psychotropic medications he is taking - including one prescribed for schizophrenia - and that the court needs to determine whether he is mentally competent to stand trial before the proceedings continue. [...]
As Kohlmann listened to the opposing sides, Mohammed - who has confessed to dozens of al Qaeda attacks as its operations chief - politely raised his hand and began to speak. He was cut off but said through a lawyer that he, too, wanted his friend to appear in court and volunteered to visit Binalshibh in his cell along with the other defendants so they could talk him into it. [...]
The judge ruled out the visit and denied the stay request. But he did allow Mohammed, Waleed bin Attash, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi to write letters to Binalshibh asking him to please show up in court without a fight. By evening, they had done so and the letters were delivered to Binalshibh.
The United States cannot conceal pictures of abusive treatment of detainees by its soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan by saying their release might cause enemies to hurt someone, a federal appeals court said Monday in ordering the release of 21 photographs. The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New York, agreed with a 2006 ruling by Judge Alvin Hellerstein ordering the release of the pictures to the American Civil Liberties Union. Hellerstein had ordered identifying facial features be removed from the pictures.
The color photographs were taken by service members in Iraq and Afghanistan. The government has opposed the release of pictures of abuse, saying they would incite violence against U.S. troops in Iraq and provoke terrorists.
The Freedom of Information Act allows restrictions when images could reasonably be expected to endanger someone's life or safety, but the appeals court said that exemption was meant for instances where threats were specific. "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 appeals court said. In the future, it said, a government agency must identify at least one person who could be harmed with reasonable specificity if materials are made public.
ACLU attorney Amrit Singh called the decision "a resounding victory for the public's right to hold the government accountable." Government lawyers had no comment on the ruling, spokeswoman Janice Oh said.
In a dramatic turnaround that could strain the long-standing ties between the psychology profession and the military, the American Psychological Association has reversed its policy of encouraging members to assist in the interrogation of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other overseas prison sites.
The professional association's new policy, which was reached by a referendum, goes beyond telling members, even those who are military personnel, that it is off-limits to participate in interrogations at detention centers abroad. Members would be prohibited from working at such sites in any capacity that directly assists the government. The prohibition would apply to psychologists who work as psychological profilers or even as clinicians who treat detainees as mental health patients.
"This goes beyond interrogations," a Boston psychologist who has sought to change the APA's position, Stephen Soldz, said. "The thought is that if you are there and a part of the military chain of command, then you are part of the system." [...]
According to the bylaws of the APA, the policy does not go into effect for another year.
The US military tribunal that tried Osama bin Laden's driver ruled that he should be freed by the end of the year. The Pentagon has suggested that he may be in jail indefinitely. The final decision, according to the judge in the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, could be in the hands of Allah.
Hamdan was sentenced by a jury of six military officers to 66 months in prison on Thursday for supporting terrorism - but was acquitted of being part of al-Qaeda's conspiracy to attack the United States. To the outrage of human rights groups, the Pentagon insists that it can continue to hold "enemy combatants" beyond the end of their sentence - a position it is under growing pressure to abandon.
"In the strange world of Guantanamo justice, even if Hamdan had been acquitted on all charges, he would have been detained indefinitely," Ben Wizner, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union who observed the trial, said. "Nowhere else in the US justice system can someone be held for life regardless of whether he is convicted or acquitted of a crime. The outcome represents nothing more than an illusion of justice. It is time to shut down these commissions and put an end to this shameful chapter in American history."
Guantanamo's only convict was moved to a prison wing all by himself hours after U.S. military jurors found him guilty of driving Osama bin Laden, his lawyers said.
But if convicted Yemeni captive Salim Hamdan behaves, he'll get to see as many as 10 movies before his 66-month sentence runs out on New Year's Eve. Still, serving out his sentence does not mean he will walk free. "He'll still be retained as an enemy combatant," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters.
Osama bin Laden's driver, who received only a five-year sentence, is not so different from the majority of the 265 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay: a low-level player without a proven record of terrorism. Only a small group of recent arrivals from CIA custody — including five alleged Sept. 11 plotters - seem to fit the profile of hardcore militants who threaten America's existence, men so dangerous that a special tribunal was needed to try them. [...]
A military jury imposed a surprisingly lenient sentence of 5 1/2 years on Osama bin Laden's driver Thursday for a war crime that could have brought him a life term.
The sentence -- all but about four months of which has been served by Salim Hamdan - appeared to be a rebuke by the six senior officers who comprised the jury of the military tribunal for trying terror suspects. The officers came back with the sentence knowing that the judge was going to give Hamdan credit for the five years and one month of his pre-trial incarceration at Guantanamo.
Justice Department lawyer John Murphy had urged the jurors to send the Yemeni to prison for 30 years to life after his conviction Wednesday for providing material support to terrorism.
The U.S. military commission’s split guilty verdict on Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden, has drawn praise from the Bush administration and criticism from civil rights groups, but what has been overlooked is the chilling message that "the Hamdan principle" sends about future prosecutions in the "war on terror."
This new principle holds that anyone - regardless of how tangential a connection to actual acts of terrorism - can be prosecuted through the kangaroo court of the military commissions and be sentenced to a long prison term (or even death). Though Hamdan is a Yemeni, the principle would seem to apply to U.S citizens, too.
In effect, a parallel legal system has been created outside the U.S. Constitution in which the President can order someone locked up indefinitely simply by calling the person an "enemy combatant" and then subjecting the person to what amounts to a "star chamber" proceeding that permits use of secret evidence and coerced testimony.
Though some legal experts insist these special courts don't apply to U.S. citizens, the language of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and a recent federal court ruling make clear that President George W. Bush's asserted wartime power to order indefinite detentions covers citizens and non-citizens. [...]
A military jury on Wednesday convicted Osama bin Laden's driver of supporting terrorism but acquitted him on more serious charges of conspiring with al Qaeda to wage murderous attacks, in the first U.S. war crimes trial since World War Two.
The trial of Yemeni captive Salim Hamdan at the remote U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba was the first full test of the controversial military tribunal authorized by the Bush administration to try foreign captives on terrorism charges outside the regular U.S. court system. [...]
As the subsequent sentencing hearing began, the judge called Hamdan "a small player" and refused to let the government call an FBI agent to testify about retrieving bodies from the World Trade Center after the September 11 attacks. The judge, Navy Capt. Keith Allred, said the testimony was irrelevant since Hamdan had been cleared of conspiring with al Qaeda to carry out any attacks.
The judge in the first American war crimes trial since World War II barred evidence on Monday that interrogators obtained from Usama bin Laden's driver following his capture in Afghanistan. [...]
Hamdan, who was captured at a roadblock in Afghanistan in November 2001, pleaded not guilty at the start of a trial that will be closely watched as the first full test of the Pentagon's system for prosecuting alleged terrorists. He faces a maximum life sentence if convicted of conspiracy and aiding terrorism. The judge, Navy Capt. Keith Allred, said the prosecution cannot use a series of interrogations at the Bagram air base and Panshir, Afghanistan, because of the "highly coercive environments and conditions under which they were made."
At Bagram, Hamdan says he was kept in isolation 24 hours a day with his hands and feet restrained, and armed soldiers prompted him to talk by kneeing him in the back. He says his captors at Panshir repeatedly tied him up, put a bag over his head and knocked him the ground. The judge did leave the door open for the prosecution to use other statements Hamdan gave elsewhere in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo. Defense lawyers asked Allred to throw out all of his interrogations, arguing he incriminated himself under the effects of alleged abuse - including sleep deprivation and solitary confinement.
Michael Berrigan, the deputy chief defense counsel, described the ruling as a major blow to the tribunal system that allows hearsay and evidence obtained through coercion. "It's a very significant ruling because these prosecutions are built to make full advantage of statements obtained from detainees," he said.
U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey called on Congress to limit last month's Supreme Court decision that gave Guantanamo Bay detainees the right to challenge their imprisonment in federal courts.
Congress should pass legislation that bars federal judges from ordering the release into the U.S. of any unlawful enemy combatants, Mukasey said in Washington as the first war-crimes trial at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba began this week. Many detainees "pose an extraordinary threat to Americans," the attorney general said.
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on June 12 that Congress unconstitutionally denied Guantanamo detainees their constitutional right to challenge their incarceration before a federal judge. The justices invalidated part of a 2005 law that Guantanamo prisoners can only contest their enemy combatant status before a federal appeals court in Washington.
A federal judge overseeing Guantanamo Bay lawsuits ordered the Justice Department to put other cases aside and make it clear throughout the Bush administration that, after nearly seven years of detention, the detainees must have their day in court. "The time has come to move these forward," Judge Thomas F. Hogan said Tuesday during the first hearing over whether the detainees are being held lawfully. "Set aside every other case that's pending in the division and address this case first."
The Bush administration hoped it would never come to this. The Justice Department has fought for years to keep civilian judges from reviewing evidence against terrorism suspects. But a Supreme Court ruling last month opened the courthouse doors to the detainees. About 200 lawyers, law clerks and reporters sat through the nearly three-hour court hearing. Other lawyers joined by phone for the historic hearing. Attorneys, nearly all of them working for free, have long asked for a judge to scrutinize the evidence, saying the detainees could not be held indefinitely, simply on the government's say-so.
"A day in court on the Guantanamo cases is a treasured moment," said Gitanjali Gutierrez, one of two attorneys for the Center for Constitutional Rights selected to address the court on behalf of all the lawyers. [...]
The military trainers who came to Guantanamo Bay in December 2002 based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of "coercive management techniques" for possible use on prisoners, including "sleep deprivation," "prolonged constraint," and "exposure."
What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners.
The recycled chart is the latest and most vivid evidence of the way Communist interrogation methods that the United States long described as torture became the basis for interrogations both by the military at the base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and by the Central Intelligence Agency.
Three Iraqis and a Jordanian filed federal lawsuits Monday alleging they were tortured by U.S. defense contractors while detained at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2003 and 2004.
The lawsuits allege that those arrested and taken to the prison were subjected to forced nudity, electrical shocks, mock executions and other inhumane treatment. They seek unspecified payments high enough to compensate the detainees for their injuries, and to deter contractors from such conduct in the future. "These innocent men were senselessly tortured by U.S. companies that profited from their misery," said lead attorney Susan L. Burke, of the Philadelphia law firm Burke O'Neil. "These men came to U.S. courts because our laws, as they have for generations, allow their claims to be heard here." [...]
Neither U.S. civilian nor military authorities have charged private contractors with crimes at Abu Ghraib. The contractors named as defendants in the lawsuit are CACI International Inc. of Arlington, Va., and New York-based L-3 Communications Corp., formerly Titan Corp.
A federal appeals court reviewing evidence at Guantanamo Bay compared a Bush administration legal argument to one made by a hapless, dimwitted character in a 19th century nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit cited the 1876 poem, 'The Hunting of the Snark,' in ruling that the military improperly labeled a Chinese Muslim as an enemy combatant. The ruling was issued last week but an unclassified version of the opinion was released only Monday. [...]
The three-member court, which was made up of two Republican judges and one Democrat, was particularly pointed in its criticism of the argument that evidence is reliable because it appears on multiple documents. "The government insists that the statements made in the documents are reliable because the State and Defense Departments would not have put them in intelligence documents were that not the case," the court wrote. "This comes perilously close to suggesting that whatever the government says must be treated as true." [...]
The court said Parhat deserved a new hearing or should be released - though it didn't say to where he would be released. The U.S. does not want to send him to China for fear he will be tortured. Justice Department spokesman Erik Ablin said the agency is evaluating its options.
In the first civilian judicial review of the government’s evidence for holding any of the Guantanamo Bay detainees, a federal appeals court has ordered that one of them be released or given a new military hearing.
The ruling, made known Monday in a notice from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, overturned a Pentagon tribunal’s decision in the case of one of 17 Guantanamo detainees who are ethnic Uighurs, a Muslim minority from western China. The imprisonment of the 17 Uighurs (pronounced WEE-goors) has drawn wide attention because of their claim that although they were in Afghanistan when the United States invaded in 2001, they were never enemies of this country and were mistakenly swept into Guantanamo.
The court’s decision was a new setback for the Bush administration, which has suffered a string of judicial defeats on Guantanamo policy, most recently in a Supreme Court ruling on June 12 that dealt with a separate issue of detainee rights. The Uighur case was argued long before that ruling by the justices.
When military officers at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, struggled in the fall of 2002 to find ways to get terrorism suspects to talk, they turned to the one agency that had spent several months experimenting with the limits of physical and psychological pressure: the Central Intelligence Agency.
They took the top lawyer for the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorist Center to Guantanamo, where he explained that the definition of illegal torture was "written vaguely."
"It is basically subject to perception," said the lawyer, Jonathan M. Fredman, according to meeting minutes released Tuesday at a Senate hearing. "If the detainee dies, you're doing it wrong."
The minutes of the October 2002 meeting give an extraordinary glimpse of the confusion among government lawyers about both the legal limits and the effectiveness of interrogation methods. The new documents also reveal for the first time the close collaboration between the C.I.A. and the Defense Department on harsh interrogation methods.
Senior Pentagon lawyers played a more active role than previously known in developing the aggressive interrogation techniques approved for use in 2002 at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to officials familiar with a Senate investigation.
Investigators with the Senate Armed Services Committee have found documents from July 2002 showing that Pentagon lawyers working for William J. Haynes II, then the Defense Department general counsel, gathered information about a program used to train American pilots to withstand captivity, according to the officials. Some of the techniques used in the program were later approved for use on prisoners in American military custody.
It has been known for some time that Mr. Haynes played a role in recommending that Donald H. Rumsfeld, who was then the defense secretary, approve interrogation techniques beyond what military interrogators were normally authorized to use, which Mr. Rumsfeld did in December 2002. But the timing of the Pentagon requests for information earlier that year suggest that senior Pentagon lawyers played an active role in developing the aggressive interrogation program.
The military was never authorized to carry out interrogations as aggressive as those approved for use by the C.I.A., which until the end of 2003 included water boarding. The harshest techniques that Mr. Rumsfeld approved in December 2002 were rescinded by him a month later, but Pentagon investigations have found that some were later used without authorization in combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Supreme Court on Thursday delivered its third consecutive rebuff to the Bush administration's handling of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, ruling 5 to 4 that the prisoners there have a constitutional right to go to federal court to challenge their continued detention.
The court declared unconstitutional a provision of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that, at the administration's behest, stripped the federal courts of jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus petitions from the detainees seeking to challenge their designation as enemy combatants.
Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said the truncated review procedure provided by a previous law, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, "falls short of being a constitutionally adequate substitute" because it failed to offer "the fundamental procedural protections of habeas corpus." Justice Kennedy declared: "The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times."
In a flurry of oversight that some critics say comes years too late, Congress is pressing Bush administration officials on a still-unanswered question: How did the United States come to embrace harsh interrogation methods it had always shunned?
The interrogation techniques themselves have been repeatedly discussed, and administration officials have been forced to explain why waterboarding, a simulated drowning technique of torturers dating back to the Spanish Inquisition, was not torture when used by the C.I.A.
But it has never been clear what roles were played by President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and their subordinates in approving the interrogation techniques used after the Sept. 11 attacks against terrorism suspects. Only gradually has the fog of secrecy begun to lift, and two hearings on Tuesday showed there is a long way to go.
At the Senate Judiciary Committee, senior F.B.I. officials described the bureau's halting efforts in 2002 to protest harsh interrogations being carried out by the military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and to make the case that traditional rapport-building methods worked far better. But the F.B.I. officials said agents were rebuffed and were told that senior Pentagon officials, including Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, with the backing of Justice Department legal opinions, had approved the treatment. Valerie E. Caproni, the F.B.I.'s general counsel, testified that when she asked to read classified legal opinions on torture in 2004, she was refused access and has still not seen them. [...]
U.S. military personnel at Guantanamo Bay allegedly softened up detainees at the request of Chinese intelligence officials who had come to the island facility to interrogate the men - or they allowed the Chinese to dole out the treatment themselves, according to claims in a new government report.
Buried in a Department of Justice report released Tuesday are new allegations about a 2002 arrangement between the United States and China, which allowed Chinese intelligence to visit Guantanamo and interrogate Chinese Uighurs held there.
According to the report by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine, an FBI agent reported a detainee belonging to China's ethnic Uighur minority and a Uighur translator told him Uighur detainees were kept awake for long periods, deprived of food and forced to endure cold for hours on end, just prior to questioning by Chinese interrogators.
Susan Manning, a lawyer who represents several Uighurs still held at Guantanamo, said Tuesday the allegations are all too familiar. U.S. personnel "are engaging in abusive tactics on behalf of the Chinese," she said Tuesday. When Uighur detainees refused to talk to Chinese interrogators in 2002, U.S. military personnel put them in solitary confinement as punishment, she said.
A Saudi citizen who allegedly intended to be the "20th hijacker" on Sept. 11 tried to kill himself last month at the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba after learning he faced charges that could carry the death penalty, his lawyer said on Monday.
The prisoner, Mohammed al Qahtani, cut himself at least three times in early April, once deeply enough to produce "profuse bleeding" that required hospital treatment, said attorney Gitanjali Gutierrez. Qahtani apparently thought his execution was imminent and had a mental breakdown. "He lost all hope and really had a very direct psychological reaction to all of this," Gutierrez said. [...]
Prosecutors filed charges against Qahtani in February, requesting the death penalty if he is convicted of conspiring with al Qaeda to crash hijacked passenger planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001. The Pentagon official overseeing the Guantanamo war crimes tribunals dropped the charges on May 13 without giving a reason but reserved the right to file them again later. Gutierrez said she learned of the suicide attempt during an April visit to the prison camp at a U.S. naval base in Cuba. She said the military had just given clearance for her to publicly discuss notes taken during that visit. [...]
Held at Guantanamo for more than six years, Qahtani was the subject of a "special interrogation plan" approved by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in 2002. It included beatings, sleep deprivation, extended isolation, threats against him and his family, forced nudity, sexual humiliation, cold temperatures, loud music and being chained in painful positions for long periods, according to publicly leaked interrogation logs. He was forced to bark like a dog and pick up trash with his hands cuffed while he was called "a pig," Gutierrez said. FBI agents described some of Qahtani's treatment in a Justice Department inspector general's report issued on Tuesday, which found that high-level officials of the Bush administration ignored FBI concerns over abusive treatment of terrorism suspects captured after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Four prisoners have committed suicide by hanging at Guantanamo, three in 2006 and one last year.
An Iraqi man sued two U.S. military contractors, claiming he was repeatedly tortured while being held at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison for more than 10 months. Emad al-Janabi's federal lawsuit, filed Monday in Los Angeles, claims that employees of CACI International Inc. and L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. punched him, slammed him into walls, hung him from a bed frame and kept him naked and handcuffed in his cell beginning in September 2003. [...]
The firms provided interrogators or interpreters to assist U.S. military guards at Abu Ghraib, which became notorious when photos made public in early 2004 showing U.S. soldiers abusing and humiliating detainees. Military investigators later concluded that much of the abuse happened in late 2003 - when CACI and Titan's interrogators were at the prison. CACI and L-3 were accused of abusing Abu Ghraib prisoners in earlier lawsuits. In November a federal judge in the District of Columbia dismissed the suit against L-3 but allowed the one against CACI to proceed.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Monday in Istanbul, Turkey, al-Janabi said he hopes the lawsuit sheds light on what happened to him and other detainees. "God willing the righteousness will emerge and God willing the criminal will receive his punishment," al-Janabi said.
Al-Janabi, 43, said he was detained by U.S. troops during a late-night raid in which he and his family were beaten by their captors. He said he was taken to a military base where he was stripped naked, a hood was placed on his head and his hands and legs were chained. "They (U.S. troops) did not tell me what was the reason behind my arrest ... during the interrogation, the American soldier told me I was a terrorist ... and I was preparing for an attack against the U.S. forces," said al-Janabi, who denied the accusation and claims he was forced to give confessions under "savage" intimidation. The lawsuit also claims the contractors conspired in a cover-up by destroying documents and other information, hid prisoners during periodic checks by the International Red Cross and misled military and government officials about what was happening at Abu Ghraib.
Al-Janabi was released in July 2004 and wasn't charged with any crime
President Bush says he knew his top national security advisers discussed and approved specific details about how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, according to an exclusive interview with ABC News Friday.
"Well, we started to connect the dots in order to protect the American people." Bush told ABC News White House correspondent Martha Raddatz. "And yes, I'm aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved."
As first reported by ABC News Wednesday, the most senior Bush administration officials repeatedly discussed and approved specific details of exactly how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the CIA. The high-level discussions about these "enhanced interrogation techniques" were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed - down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic. These top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects - whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding, sources told ABC news.
The White House was directly implicated for the first time last night in the decision to torture Al Qaeda prisoners. Sources say that Vice President Dick Cheney and a handful of other top politicians met in secret and agreed to the mistreatment of prisoners, according to ABC TV News and the Associated Press.
As part of the decision-making process, they were given demonstrations of the techniques used. And as a direct result, the CIA was given the go-ahead to punch suspected terrorists, deprive them of sleep, and practise waterboarding - simulated drowning.
According to the sources, Mr Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, then Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Attorney General John Ashcroft met in the White House following the 9/11 attacks in 2001. They agreed to authorise what they call "enhanced interrogation techniques" as the Bush administration has defined "torture" only as actions which are designed to cause serious injury or death. [...]
The Pentagon on Tuesday made public a now-defunct legal memo that approved the use of harsh interrogation techniques against terror suspects, saying that President Bush's wartime authority trumps any international ban on torture.
The Justice Department memo, dated March 14, 2003, outlines legal justification for military interrogators to use harsh tactics against al-Qaida and Taliban detainees overseas - so long as they did not specifically intend to torture their captives. Even so, the memo noted, the president's wartime power as commander in chief would not be limited by the U.N. treaties against torture. "Our previous opinions make clear that customary international law is not federal law and that the president is free to override it at his discretion," said the memo written by John Yoo, who was then deputy assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel. [...] The memo was rescinded in December 2003, a mere nine months after Yoo sent it to the Pentagon's top lawyer, William J. Haynes. Though its existence has been known for years, its release Tuesday marked the first time its contents in full have been made public. [...]
Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU's national security project, said Yoo's legal reasoning puts "literally no limit at all to the kinds of interrogation methods that the president can authorize." "The whole point of the memo is obviously to nullify every possible legal restraint on the president's wartime authority," Jaffer said. "The memo was meant to allow torture, and that's exactly what it did." [...]
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said the memo "reflects the expansive view of executive power that has been the hallmark of this administration." He called for its release four months ago. "It is no wonder that this memo ... could not withstand scrutiny and had to be withdrawn," said Leahy, D-Vt. "This memo seeks to find ways to avoid legal restrictions and accountability on torture and threatens our country's status as a beacon of human rights around the world."
A former translator for Osama bin Laden alleged to have helped the terrorist leader escape from Afghanistan's Tora Bora mountains in 2001 was recently transferred to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after lengthy interrogation by the CIA at a secret prison, U.S. officials said [...].
Muhammad Rahim, an Afghan national and bin Laden follower for nearly two decades, is the second CIA detainee to be transferred to military custody since the Bush administration confirmed 18 months ago that it had maintained a network of secret CIA prisons to interrogate key terrorism suspects. At the time, the president said 14 such detainees had been transferred to the military, emptying the prison system, but he left open the possibility that new prisoners could be added in the future. [...]
Rahim was captured in Pakistan last summer - apparently by local authorities - and turned over to the CIA in August, officials said. The agency declined to disclose details of his capture, or to reveal where and how he was interrogated. [...]
The CIA also has declined to say how many other captives, if any, remain in secret prison sites. Under international law, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) must be allowed to visit captured combatants, but the Bush administration has differed with the Red Cross over how quickly such visits are required and has refused to allow its delegations inside the CIA's secret prisons. Michael Khambatta, an ICRC spokesman, confirmed that his group had not been allowed to visit Rahim but plans to meet with him soon at Guantanamo Bay.
President Bush vetoed Saturday legislation meant to ban the CIA from using waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics, saying it "would take away one of the most valuable tools on the war on terror." [...]
Congress approved an intelligence authorization bill that contains the waterboarding provision on slim majorities, far short of the two-thirds needed to override a presidential veto. Bush's long-expected veto reignites the Washington debate over the proper limits of U.S. interrogation policies and whether the CIA has engaged in torture by subjecting prisoners to severe tactics, including waterboarding, a type of simulated drowning. [...]
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said Bush has "compromised the moral leadership of our nation," and said the administration is ignoring the advice of military experts who oppose harsh techniques.
Retired Army Lt. Gen. Harry E. Soyster, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, suggested that those who support harsh methods simply lack experience and do not know what they are talking about. "If they think these methods work, they're woefully misinformed," Soyster said at a news briefing called in anticipation of the veto. "Torture is counterproductive on all fronts. It produces bad intelligence. It ruins the subject, makes them useless for further interrogation. And it damages our credibility around the world."
In two separate forums earlier this week, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and Navy Rear Adm. Mark H. Buzby, commander of the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, defended the efficacy of less-coercive, "rapport-building" interrogation tactics. "We get so much dependable information from just sitting down and having a conversation and treating them like human beings in a businesslike manner," Buzby told reporters in a conference call Thursday.
It always happened at 1 a.m. In a secluded corner of this heavily guarded airfield, two snipers would creep across a rooftop and take their positions. Moments later, just below, a black minibus would arrive and wait. Three times in 2004, and twice more in 2005, a jet landed and the black bus drove out to meet it. Large, mysterious parcels were exchanged that, according to a Romanian official who says he witnessed it, looked like bundled-up terror suspects.
The official, a high-ranking veteran with inside knowledge of operations at the base, said the planes then left for North Africa with their cargo and two CIA handlers aboard.
His descriptions, told on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press, add to suspicions surrounding Romania's involvement in "extraordinary rendition" - the beyond-the-law transfer of U.S. terror suspects from country to country by the CIA. Human rights advocates say renditions were the agency's way to outsource torture of prisoners to countries where it is permitted practice.
Romania's precise role is a little-reported part of the system that is being slowly revealed, often to the chagrin of U.S. allies. In an embarrassing reversal after years of denial, Britain admitted Thursday that its military outpost on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia had twice been used as a refueling stop for the secret transport of terrorism suspects.
The British government revealed Thursday that CIA rendition flights, which critics say are used to transfer prisoners to be tortured, landed in British territory in 2002, despite Britain's previous denials of aiding rendition operations.
The Independent of London reports that the British government admitted that the US failed to inform Britain of two CIA rendition flights carrying suspected terrorists that had landed in British territory in 2002. David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, said the government only recently learned of the rendition flights to its Indian Ocean base of Diego Garcia.
[Mr. Miliband] had to make a humiliating apology to the Commons after it emerged that the US failed to tell British officials that two CIA rendition flights carrying suspected terrorists landed on the island of Diego Garcia in 2002. Six years on, one of the suspects is still being held by the US at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The other has been released.
Mr Miliband denied there was a deliberate cover-up and said he believed the US had acted "in good faith". However, Gordon Brown, attending an EU summit in Brussels, expressed his "disappointment" and said Washington's failure to disclose the flights earlier was "a very serious issue".
The Justice Department said Friday it is investigating whether its attorneys properly authorized and reviewed the use of waterboarding by CIA investigators.
The disclosure by the Office of Professional Responsibility - which reports to the attorney general - was made in a letter to two Democratic senators who last week had requested such an investigation. "Among other issues, we are examining whether the legal advice contained in those memoranda was consistent with the professional standards that apply to Department of Justice attorneys," said H. Marshall Jarrett, who heads the office. Jarrett was referring to legal memos that were written by the Office of Legal Counsel and provided to then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales on August 1, 2002, as well as to "subsequent memos." [...]
The review is not a new investigation, but has been ongoing for some time, Justice Department spokesman Brian Roherkasse stressed. Justice Department officials said Friday the investigation included a look at the the so-called "Bybee memo," which had defined torture narrowly, as "causing pain similar to that caused by death or organ failure." The 2002 memo was later retracted by former Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Last week, Steven Bradbury, the acting assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel, testified before a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee that the current Justice Department definition of torture includes all acts that are intended to inflict "severe physical pain," "severe physical suffering" or "severe mental pain or suffering."
Nearly 6-1/2 years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. is preparing to prosecute six of the men it says are responsible. But the trial and verdicts remain a long way off in the death penalty cases.
Given the slow pace of the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, verdicts on charges announced at the Pentagon on Monday are unlikely before President Bush leaves office in January 2009. The trials themselves may not even be underway by then — and the next president may be less keen on the military tribunal system. Throwing the process into further doubt, the Supreme Court is expected to rule in a few months on whether Guantanamo detainees can challenge their confinement in civilian courts. Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, the legal adviser to the military commissions, told a Pentagon news conference that the trial for the six Guantanamo detainees is at least 120 days away, "and probably well beyond that."
Critics of the untested military commissions system say the high-profile trial will expose its flaws. In 2006, a previous system was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Months later, Congress and Bush resurrected the tribunals in an altered form under the Military Commissions Act. The cases are also complicated by recent revelations that alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of the six charged, was subjected to a harsh interrogation technique known as waterboarding - which critics say is a form of torture. Hartmann said it will be up to the military judge to determine what evidence is allowed.
But questions of due process could overshadow the proceedings, according to Jennifer Daskal, senior counterterrorism counsel for Human Rights Watch. "By trying these men before flawed military commissions in Guantanamo Bay, the United States makes the system the center of attention rather the defendants and their alleged crimes," Daskal told the Associated Press. Steven Shapiro, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a telephone interview that "the administration now has placed itself in terrible bind because it subjected at least some, if not all, the six men to harsh interrogation techniques that the world regards as torture." Under the Military Commissions Act, statements obtained through torture are not admissible. But some statements obtained through "coercion" may be admitted at the discretion of a military judge.
Any death sentences likely would be carried out at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas by lethal injection, although the law allows for those convicted by military commissions to be executed elsewhere, according to Eugene Fidell, a Washington, D.C. attorney and expert in military law. He said one possibility could be Guantanamo Bay. But he said the U.S. would face obstacles, including an international outcry. "It would be highly controversial because a lot of the world simply doesn't believe in the death penalty any more," Fidell said.
The White House said Wednesday that the widely condemned interrogation technique known as waterboarding is legal and that President Bush could authorize the CIA to resume using the simulated-drowning method under extraordinary circumstances.
The surprise assertion from the Bush administration reopened a debate that many in Washington had considered closed. Two laws passed by Congress in recent years -- as well as a Supreme Court ruling on the treatment of detainees - were widely interpreted to have banned the CIA's use of the extreme interrogation method.
But in remarks that were greeted with disbelief by some members of Congress and human rights groups, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said that waterboarding was a legal technique that could be employed again "under certain circumstances." Fratto said the nation's top intelligence officials "didn't rule anything out" during congressional testimony Tuesday on CIA interrogation methods, and he indicated that Bush might consider reauthorizing waterboarding or other harsh techniques in extreme cases, such as when there is "belief that an attack might be imminent."
For years, White House officials denied that the U.S. had engaged in torture but always stopped short of confirming whether waterboarding had been used. The administration's latest stance - described by Fratto during the daily White House briefing - was denounced Wednesday by key lawmakers. "This is a black mark on the United States," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "The White House is trying to give themselves as much of an open field here as possible. It says to others that we are prepared to use the same kinds of tactics used by the most repressive regimes and the most heinous regimes."
The White House comments came one day after CIA Director Michael V. Hayden testified publicly for the first time that the agency had used waterboarding on Al Qaeda suspects in 2002 and 2003. He also identified three prisoners, including self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who he said were the only detainees subjected to the method.
Abdul Razzaq Hekmati was regarded here as a war hero, famous for his resistance to the Russian occupation in the 1980s and later for a daring prison break he organized for three opponents of the Taliban government in 1999.
But in 2003, Mr. Hekmati was arrested by American forces in southern Afghanistan when, senior Afghan officials here contend, he was falsely accused by his enemies of being a Taliban commander himself. For the next five years he was held at the American military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he died of cancer on Dec. 30.
The fate of Mr. Hekmati, the first detainee to die of natural causes at Guantanamo, who fruitlessly recounted his story several times to American officials, demonstrates the enduring problems of the tribunals at Guantanamo, say Afghan officials and others who knew him.
Afghan officials, and some Americans, complain that detainees are effectively thwarted from calling witnesses in their defense, and that the Afghan government is never consulted on the detention cases, even when it may be able to help. Mr. Hekmati's case, officials who knew him said, shows that sometimes the Americans do not seem to know whom they are holding. Meanwhile, detainees wait for years with no resolution to their cases.
In response to queries, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon, Cynthia O. Smith, said the military tribunals at Guantanamo contained "significant process and protections," including the right to call witnesses.
The Washington Post reports that In Canada, the United States has joined a notorious group of countries - Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Afghanistan and China, among others - as a place where foreigners risk torture and abuse, according to a training manual for Canadian diplomats that was accidentally given this week to Amnesty International lawyers.
The manual is intended to create "greater awareness among consular officials to the possibility of Canadians detained abroad being tortured." Part of the workshop is devoted to teaching diplomats how to identify people who have been tortured. It features a section on "U.S. interrogation techniques," including forced nudity, hooding and isolation.
On the same dateline, Reuters reported: Canada's foreign ministry, responding to pressure from close allies, said on Saturday it would remove the United States and Israel from a watch list of countries where prisoners risk being tortured. Both nations expressed unhappiness after it emerged that they had been listed in a document that formed part of a training course manual on torture awareness given to Canadian diplomats. Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier said he regretted the embarrassment caused by the public disclosure of the manual, which also classified some U.S. interrogation techniques as torture. "It contains a list that wrongly includes some of our closest allies. I have directed that the manual be reviewed and rewritten," Bernier said in a statement.
As the Bush administration struggles for a way to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a similar effort to scale down a larger and more secretive American detention center in Afghanistan has been beset by political, legal and security problems, officials say.
The American detention center, established at the Bagram military base as a temporary screening site after the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, is now teeming with some 630 prisoners - more than twice the 275 being held at Guantanamo.
The administration has spent nearly three years and more than $30 million on a plan to transfer Afghan prisoners held by the United States to a refurbished high-security detention center run by the Afghan military outside Kabul. But almost a year after the Afghan detention center opened, American officials say it can accommodate only about half the prisoners they once planned to put there. As a result, the makeshift American site at Bagram will probably continue to operate with hundreds of detainees for the foreseeable future, the officials said.
Meanwhile, the treatment of some prisoners on the Bagram base has prompted a strong complaint to the Pentagon from the International Committee of the Red Cross, the only outside group allowed in the detention center. In a confidential memorandum last summer, the Red Cross said dozens of prisoners had been held incommunicado for weeks or even months in a previously undisclosed warren of isolation cells at Bagram, two American officials said. The Red Cross said the prisoners were kept from its inspectors and sometimes subjected to cruel treatment in violation of the Geneva Conventions, one of the officials said.
A man who was held in isolation for more than three years before being tried and convicted of aiding terrorists filed suit Friday against the UC Berkeley law professor and former Justice Department official whose memos justified inflicting physical and mental pain during interrogations.
Military officials relied on John Yoo's writings in subjecting Jose Padilla to prolonged sensory deprivation, sleep interruption, stress positions and other techniques designed to break his will, Padilla's lawyers said in a lawsuit filed in San Francisco. Padilla faces sentencing Monday in Miami.
The same lawyers filed a similar suit in South Carolina last year against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other Pentagon officials who they said authorized Padilla's detention and harsh treatment. One new element in Friday's suit against Yoo is that it seeks to hold a former government lawyer responsible for allegedly unconstitutional acts by officials who followed his legal advice.
"John Yoo was central to the justification and creation of the torture system," Jonathan Freiman, an attorney at a Yale Law School human rights clinic who represents Padilla, said in a statement. "What Yoo seems to have forgotten is that lawyers are not above the law."
The House approved legislation yesterday that would bar the CIA from using waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics, drawing an immediate veto threat from the White House and setting up another political showdown over what constitutes torture.
The measure, approved by a largely party-line vote of 222 to 199, would require U.S. intelligence agencies to follow Army rules adopted last year that explicitly forbid waterboarding. It also would require interrogators to adhere to a strict interpretation of the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war. The rules, required by Congress for all Defense Department personnel, also ban sexual humiliation, "mock" executions and the use of attack dogs, and prohibit the withholding of food and medical care.
The passage of the bill, which must still win Senate approval, fulfills a promise by House Democratic leaders to seek a ban on interrogation practices that have prompted the condemnation of human rights groups and many governments around the world. It comes amid a furor over the CIA's announcement a week ago that it destroyed in 2005 videotapes showing the use of harsh interrogation tactics on two terrorism suspects.
The White House vowed to veto the measure. Limiting the CIA to interrogation techniques authorized by the Army Field Manual "would prevent the United States from conducting lawful interrogations of senior al Qaeda terrorists to obtain intelligence needed to protect Americans from attack," the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement.
The CIA acknowledged making videotapes to document interrogations of terrorism suspects that used techniques critics have denounced as torture, and said on Thursday it had destroyed the recordings.
Central Intelligence Agency Director Michael Hayden told employees in a letter that the videotapes were made in 2002 as part of a secret detention and interrogation program that began with the arrest of suspected al Qaeda lieutenant Abu Zubaydah.
The taping was discontinued later that year and the tapes were destroyed in 2005, Hayden said. "The tapes posed a serious security risk. Were they ever to leak, they would permit identification of your CIA colleagues who had served in the program, exposing them and their families to retaliation from al Qaeda and its sympathizers," Hayden said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters. He said he was discussing the program because of pending news reports on it. The New York Times published a story on the tapes on its Web site on Thursday.
The disclosure follows a separate instance last month involving a belated CIA acknowledgment that it possessed interrogation tapes sought in the trial of accused Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. [...]
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said the tapes' destruction was another troubling aspect of the interrogation program. "The damage is compounded when such actions are hidden away from accountability," he said in a statement. [...] "The destruction of these tapes suggests an utter disregard for the rule of law. It was plainly a deliberate attempt to destroy evidence that could have been used to hold CIA agents accountable for the torture of prisoners," ACLU National Security Project Director Jameel Jaffer said in a statement.
Imprisoned without trial for years at Guantanamo Bay with no end in sight, a group of detainees yesterday begged the Supreme Court to grant them hearings before a federal judge so they can challenge the Bush administration's accusation that each is a terrorist.
"All have been confined at Guantanamo for almost six years, yet not one has ever had meaningful notice of the factual grounds of detention or a fair opportunity to dispute those grounds," said the prisoners' lawyer, Seth Waxman, who was the Clinton administration's solicitor general from 1997 to 2001. "Each maintains . . . that he is innocent of all wrongdoing."
But Paul Clement, the Bush administration's solicitor general, urged the justices to rule that the Constitution gives detainees no such right to a day in court. He said the justices should instead uphold laws enacted in 2005 and 2006 that limit detainees to a hearing before a panel of military officers, without a lawyer or a right to see the government's evidence against them. Clement said the military hearings represented the "best efforts" of both Congress and the White House "to try to balance the interest in providing the detainees" with hearings while still meeting "the imperative to successfully prosecute the global war on terror."
A United Nations committee said Friday that use of Taser weapons can be a form of torture, in violation of the U.N. Convention Against Torture. Use of the electronic stun devices by police has been marked with a sudden rise in deaths - including four men in the United States and two in Canada within the last week. Canadian authorities are taking a second look at them, and in the United States, there is a wave of demands to ban them. [...]
Tasers have become increasingly controversial in the United States, particularly after several notorious cases where their use by police to disable suspects was questioned as being excessive. Especially disturbing is the fact that six adults died after being tased by police in the span of a week.
Last Sunday, in Frederick, Md., a sheriff's deputy trying to break up a late-night brawl tased 20-year-old Jarrel Grey. He died on the spot. "I want to know what he did that was so bad," the victim's mother, Tanya James, said. "Did the deputy think that their life was in danger? Did he have a weapon?"
The death came just weeks after Frederick police used a Taser to subdue a high school student.
The chief executioner and torturer of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge regime has become the first man to appear in court over the deaths of at least 1.7 million Cambodians in the 1970s. Kaing Guek Eav, 65, better known as "Duch", a frail-looking, born-again Christian, sat alone in the dock and addressed the judges respectfully. With palms held together in a gesture of deference, Duch told the judges "I have been detained for more than eight years without trial."
Duch was tracked down by the Irish photojournalist Nic Dunlop in a refugee camp in 1999 and was held in a government jail before being transferred to the UN assisted tribunal in July. Tuesday's session was a bail hearing. He was remanded in custody.
While commandant of the S-21 prison, in a converted Phnom Penh high school called Toul Sleng, Duch is accused of torturing and then killing at least 14,000 men, women and children.
The US military says it will recommend criminal charges against an Associated Press photographer detained in 2006 on suspicion of helping Iraqi insurgents. The Pentagon says additional evidence has come to light proving Bilal Hussein is a "terrorist media operative" who infiltrated the news agency. The case will be passed to Iraqi judges who will decide if he should be tried.
AP says its own investigation has found no evidence that he was anything but an Iraqi journalist working in a war zone. The agency's lawyers say they have been denied access to Mr Hussein and the evidence against him, making it impossible to build a defence. AP's president and chief executive officer Tom Curley told the BBC he believed the US military simply wished to keep Mr Hussein in jail as long as possible.[...]
Mr Hussein was part of an AP photo team that won a Pulitzer prize in 2005.
US officials say he had previously aroused suspicion because he was often at the scene of insurgent attacks as they occurred. [...] AP says Mr Hussein, who is now 36, was taken into custody in April 2006 after sheltering strangers in his home following an explosion near his home in Falluja. US marines later arrived and used his flat as an observation post, where they detained him and his guests as suspected insurgents and confiscated his laptop computer and telephone.
Through 17 debates this year, roughly 1,500 questions have been asked of the two parties' presidential candidates. But only a small handful of questions have touched on the candidates' views on executive power, the Constitution, torture, wiretapping, or other civil liberties concerns. [...]
Not one question about renditions. The words "habeas corpus" have not once been spoken by a debate moderator. Candidates have not been asked about telecom liability. [...] No moderator has asked a single question of a single candidate about whether the president should be able to order the indefinite detention of an American citizen, without charging the prisoner with any crime.
[The full text of this article includes description of questions about executive power, the Constitution, torture, etc., that have been asked of the candidates.]
Saudi authorities received a group of 14 Saudis Saturday from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the state-run-news agency reported. This latest transfer of detainees brings the number of Saudi nationals remaining in Guantanamo to 22, the Saudi Press Agency said. It quoted Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz as saying that those returned will be referred to Saudi courts. There were no details given about what charges the men may face in court and up until now no one released into Saudi custody has yet been tried, said officials. [...]
The Pentagon confirmed the transfer in a statement released late Friday, saying that 305 detainees remained in Guantanamo, including more than 70 who have been deemed eligible for transfer or release. [...]
Of the 759 people who have been held at Guantanamo, 136 have been Saudis, the second-largest group after Afghan nationals, according to U.S. Defense Department documents released to The Associated Press. The detention of Saudis at the U.S. naval base in Cuba has been a source of tension with Riyadh, a close U.S. ally. Three Saudis have committed suicide inside the detention camp since it opened in 2002, according to the U.S. military.
Defense attorneys for accused illegal combatant Omar Khadr, a Canadian national, say they have only just been told by US prosecutors of a potentially exculpatory witness, more than five years after US forces captured Mr. Khadr in Afghanistan.
The revelation casts further doubt on the fairness of the military commissions established to try "unlawful enemy combatants" being held at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Canadian broadcaster CTV reports that Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, Khadr's trial attorney, only learned of the witness this week as the judge began to hear arguments as to whether Khadr could be tried by military commission. Commander Kuebler accused the US government of trying to hide the witness, described as a US government employee. [...] Kuebler's concerns about the previously unmentioned witness were echoed by Michael Berrigan, the deputy chief military defense lawyer for the Guantanamo cases [...].
Administration officials are considering granting Guantanamo detainees substantially greater rights as part of an effort to close the detention center and possibly move much of its population to the United States, according to officials involved in the discussions.
One proposal that is being widely discussed in the administration would overhaul the procedure for determining whether detainees are properly held by granting them legal representation at detention hearings and by giving federal judges, not military officers, the power to decide whether suspects should be held. [...] The administration has insisted for more than five years that a legal pillar of the war on terror is that the military alone has the power to decide which foreign terrorism suspects should be held and for how long, and backing away from that would be a sharp change of course. [...]
Even so, some officials are arguing against major policy shifts, and similar proposals have failed to gain steam within the administration in the past. In addition, any administration proposal would probably face intense scrutiny in Congress. Before any detainees can be moved, officials have said that they would need to find or build a secure site in the United States and that they would need legislation allowing detainees deemed to be a threat to be held “until the end of hostilities” in the war on terror, even if they were not charged with war crimes. Under current proposals, scores of detainees might continue to be held indefinitely without facing criminal charges.
An American military lawyer and veteran of dozens of secret Guantanamo tribunals has made a devastating attack on the legal process for determining whether Guantanamo prisoners are "enemy combatants". The whistleblower, an army major inside the military court system which the United States has established at Guantanamo Bay, has described the detention of one prisoner, a hospital administrator from Sudan, as "unconscionable". [...]
The whistleblower's testimony is the most serious attack to date on the military panels, which were meant to give a fig- leaf of legitimacy to the interrogation and detention policies at Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay. The major has taken part in 49 status review panels. "It's a kangaroo court system and completely corrupt," said Michael Ratner, the president of the Centre for Constitutional Rights, which is co-ordinating investigations and appeals lawsuits against the government by some 1,000 lawyers. "Stalin had show trials, but at Guantanamo they are not even show trials because it all takes place in secret." [...]
The army major has said that in the rare circumstances in which it was decided that the detainees were no longer enemy combatants, senior commanders ordered another panel to reverse the decision. The major also described "acrimony" during a "heated conference" call from Admiral McGarragh, who reports to the Secretary of the US Navy, when a the panel refused to describe several Uighur detainees as enemy combatants. Senior military commanders wanted to know why some panels considering the same evidence would come to different findings on the Uighurs, members of a Muslim minority in China.
In the sixth year of detention for many of the 330 men held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Justice Department lawyers have raised the possibility that the government may hold new hearings for some detainees to decide whether they are being properly held. The statement came in a filing made public late Friday in the federal appeals court in Washington. Detainees' lawyers said officials appeared to be considering what several of the lawyers called a "massive" repeat of the military's combatant-status hearings originally held in 2004 and 2005. The hearings are held to decide whether detainees were "enemy combatants" who should be held at Guantanamo.
[...] Detainees are not permitted lawyers at the hearings, cannot see much of the evidence against them and are seldom permitted to call witnesses.
The consideration of whether to hold a new round of hearings does not appear to reflect a change in the government’s view about their propriety. Instead, it would be a way for the government to fight off a recent court ruling in a case in which detainees have challenged their detention based on the first round of status review hearings. Detainees' lawyers said a decision to redo the hearings could delay those court challenges brought on behalf of the detainees, almost all of whom have been held for years without criminal charges.
A complex of canvas Quonset huts arrayed like dominoes has risen on an abandoned airfield here, where just a year ago the Pentagon envisioned a $125 million permanent judicial center in which terrorism suspects would be brought to trial. The battlefield-style Expeditionary Legal Complex, which can be quickly dismantled once the war-crimes tribunals of the Guantanamo detainees are over, reflects the shrinking mission of the controversial procedures created by the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Authorities plan to prosecute a few dozen of the more than 300 men detained here, and the first trial is scheduled to begin next month.
[...] some commissions officials grumble about crude conditions that will confront attorneys and court personnel expected to live and work in tents for the duration of the trials, which could last weeks or months. "These guys are going to be in trials for 10, 11, 12 hours a day, and they won't have the relaxation they need sleeping on a cot," said McDonald, noting that showers and toilets are in separate tents. "I'm a taxpayer, but I personally think we should have gone with the other idea."
The $125 million complex the Pentagon tried to slip into a supplemental spending bill in December would have provided three courtrooms, an office building and enough hotel rooms, restaurants and parking for as many as 800 people.
A German citizen who says he was kidnapped, imprisoned and tortured overseas by the CIA lost his appeal on Tuesday when the Supreme Court refused to review a decision dismissing the case because it would expose state secrets. [...]
His case, in which Masri said he was abducted in Macedonia, flown to Afghanistan and tortured, has drawn worldwide attention to the CIA's extraordinary rendition program, in which terrorism suspects are sent from one foreign country to another for interrogation. Human rights groups have strongly criticized the program. Masri's case sparked outrage in Germany and prompted a parliamentary inquiry to find out what authorities might have known about U.S. renditions.
Masri's attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union challenged what they called the Bush administration's increased invoking of national security secrets to prevent any judicial inquiry into serious allegations of misconduct.
When the Justice Department publicly declared torture "abhorrent" in a legal opinion in December 2004, the Bush administration appeared to have abandoned its assertion of nearly unlimited presidential authority to order brutal interrogations. But soon after Alberto R. Gonzales’s arrival as attorney general in February 2005, the Justice Department issued another opinion, this one in secret. It was a very different document, according to officials briefed on it, an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.
The new opinion, the officials said, for the first time provided explicit authorization to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures. Mr. Gonzales approved the legal memorandum on "combined effects" over the objections of James B. Comey, the deputy attorney general, who was leaving his job after bruising clashes with the White House. Disagreeing with what he viewed as the opinion’s overreaching legal reasoning, Mr. Comey told colleagues at the department that they would all be "ashamed" when the world eventually learned of it.
Later that year, as Congress moved toward outlawing "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment, the Justice Department issued another secret opinion, one most lawmakers did not know existed, current and former officials said. The Justice Department document declared that none of the C.I.A. interrogation methods violated that standard. [...]
Congress and the Supreme Court have intervened repeatedly in the last two years to impose limits on interrogations, and the administration has responded as a policy matter by dropping the most extreme techniques. But the 2005 Justice Department opinions remain in effect, and their legal conclusions have been confirmed by several more recent memorandums, officials said. They show how the White House has succeeded in preserving the broadest possible legal latitude for harsh tactics.
The U.S. Supreme Court formally opens its new term Monday, and as always, some of the most pressing national controversies are on the docket, from the rights of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to a major constitutional test of gun owners' rights. [...] This year, again, [Justice Anthony Kennedy's] vote is expected to be decisive in the court's biggest case, a test of the rights of Guantanamo detainees.
Among the prisoners before the court is a group of Bosnians who were arrested in their homes by Bosnian police shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The police acted at the behest of U.S. officials who said they had evidence that the six men were involved in a plot to blow up the U.S. Embassy. Bosnian authorities then joined with Interpol and U.S. Embassy officials to conduct a three-month investigation, at the end of which the Bosnian supreme court ruled that the charge was not supported by evidence and ordered the men released. On the same day, an international tribunal staffed by several European countries issued an order forbidding the removal of the men from Bosnian territory. Nonetheless, the men were turned over to U.S. authorities and shipped to Guantanamo, where they have remained ever since, despite repeated statements from the Bosnian government that it is willing to take them back.
The detainees claim that they have the right to challenge their imprisonment in the U.S. courts, using the constitutionally guaranteed procedure called a writ of habeas corpus. Historically, the writ has been an important mechanism in safeguarding individuals from arbitrary state action. It guarantees a complete review by a neutral fact finder to ascertain whether the government has justifiably jailed someone. The Guantanamo prisoners contend there is no neutral fact finder at Guantanamo hearings, no way for the prisoners to rebut secret evidence, no lawyer to help them to secure evidence of their innocence, and that the legal standard presumes them guilty.
Congress, they contend, violated the Constitution, when it stripped them of the right to challenge their detentions in court after an earlier Supreme Court ruling that permitted them to do so. The Constitution, they note, provides for suspension of the writ of habeas corpus only in cases of invasion and rebellion, and even then requires an alternative system of basic due process rights. The Bush administration, backed by a federal appeals court, counters that since the men are being held outside the United States, they have no constitutional rights. The detainees have adequate rights to appeal under the law passed by Congress when it stripped the detainees of the right of habeas corpus, the administration contends.
A Republican filibuster in the Senate Wednesday shot down a bipartisan effort to restore the right of terrorism suspects to contest in federal courts their detention and treatment, underscoring the Democratic-led Congress's difficulty with terrorism issues. The 56-43 vote fell short of the 60 needed to cut off debate and move to a final vote on the amendment to the Senate's annual military policy bill. But the measure did garner the support of six Republicans, a small victory for its supporters. A similar vote garnered 48 votes last September. [...]
The prisoners' rights amendment was an effort to reverse a provision in last year's Military Commissions Act that suspended the writ of habeas corpus for terrorism suspects at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other offshore prisons. The Supreme Court previously ruled that such prisoners did have the right to appeal their detention in federal court, but the court invited Congress to weigh in on the issue. [...]
The authors of last year's bill said that advocates of such rights would open the federal courts to endless lawsuits from the nation's worst enemies. [...] But advocates of the rights, led by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and the panel's ranking Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, argued that Congress should right last year's historic wrong.
The Senate's action "calls into question the United States' historic role of defender of human rights in the world," Leahy said. "It accomplishes what opponents could never accomplish on the battlefield, whittling away our own liberties."
[...] Israeli lawyers and military law experts filed a brief supporting Guantanamo detainees suing the Bush administration over one of its most controversial war-on-terrorism policies. They argue that the United States can safeguard national security while giving presumed dangerous captives access to U.S. courts.
Says Haifa Law Professor Emanuel Gross, a retired Israeli Army colonel and military judge who contributed to the brief: "The issue here is, having been engulfed with terrorist activities from the beginning, from 1948, we learned a good lesson - if you want to remain a democracy you must be willing to let them have their day in court."
The Israelis' brief was among 19 amicus curiae petitions in the case of Boumediene v. Bush - which will become the third Guantanamo case in four years to go before the Supreme Court. In a stunning reversal in June, the justices agreed to hear a challenge to the indefinite-detention policy designed by the Bush administration and adopted by Congress. Detainees won their two earlier cases.
Commanders at the US naval base in Cuba have written to lawyers for two of the inmates accusing their clients of wearing contraband underpants and Speedo swimming trunks which they claim have been illegally smuggled into the high-security compound. In a bizarre development that would be laughable if it did not have such serious implications, the US prison's staff judge advocate has now launched an official inquiry to discover who is behind the smuggling operation. The judge has named the prisoners' lawyers as the two prime suspects.
These allegations are the latest in a series of increasingly desperate attempts by the Guantanamo authorities to undermine the relationship between human rights lawyers and their clients. Muslim prisoners have also been told that their legal representatives are practising Jews or confirmed homosexuals. Clive Stafford Smith, legal director of human rights group Reprieve, and another Reprieve lawyer, are both accused of threatening the personal safety of the prison guards by smuggling in the unauthorised clothing. Under US law it is a criminal offence to bring any illicit item into a prison.
Mr Stafford Smith has [dismissed] the allegations as ridiculous, saying that the case smacks of the growing sense of desperation inside the camp. He says the letter he received is the "most extraordinary" he has ever received in his career as a human rights lawyer. Mr Stafford Smith tells the judge: "I hope you understand my frustration at yet another unfounded accusation against lawyers who are simply trying to do their job – a job that involves legal briefs, not the other sort." On the allegation regarding Speedo swimming trunks Mr Stafford Smith writes: "I cannot imagine who would want to give my client Speedos or why. Mr Aamer is hardly in a position to go swimming, since the only available water is the toilet in his cell."
[One] detainee accused of wearing the contraband underwear is a juvenile named Mohammed El Gharani, a Chad national, who was just 14 years old when he was seized by the Pakistani authorities and sold to the US military. Reprieve say there is no evidence that Mohammed ever travelled to Afghanistan, nor that he intended to do so. Nevertheless, he is now one of 20 juveniles Reprieve has identified as being held in Guantanamo Bay. In interviews with his lawyers he claims he has been terribly abused, including having a cigarette stubbed out on his arm by an interrogator. He states that much of the abuse stems from his vocal objection to being called a "nigger" by US military personnel.
The only military officer to face trial for the abuses at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison was acquitted Tuesday of all charges of mistreatment of detainees. But after a weeklong trial, a military jury in Fort Meade, Md., found Army Lt. Col. Steven Jordan guilty of disobeying an order not to discuss a 2004 investigation into the allegations.
[...] Jordan's acquittal on three charges related to abuse exonerates him of any connection to the infamous photographs of naked detainees that emerged from the prison in early 2004. Defense attorneys argued that Jordan was not in charge of interrogations and had no connection to controversial interrogation policies that allowed the use of dogs and other harsh methods. Rather, they said, he served more as a "mayor" in charge of improving conditions for service members at the austere military base.
Jordan's exoneration on charges of mistreatment means that no officer will serve prison time in connection with the mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib, leaving the harshest punishment for low-ranking soldiers who committed the abuse. [...]
Jordan's case also wraps up the numerous inquiries and investigations that began after photographs taken by military police at the prison became public.
Renowned psychologist and New York Times bestselling author Mary Pipher decided last week to return her Presidential Citation award from the APA in protest. In a letter to the group's president, she wrote, "I have struggled for many months with this decision and I make it with pain and sorrow...I do not want an award from an organization that sanctions its members' participation in the enhanced interrogations at CIA 'black sites' and at Guantanamo."
The American Psychological Association has come under public criticism once again over its endorsement of professional involvement in CIA and military interrogations.
At its annual convention just over a week ago, the APA's policymaking council voted overwhelmingly to reject a measure that would have banned its members from participating in interrogations at Guantanamo Bay and other US detention centers. In the days since the convention ended, the Houston Chronicle - one of the nation's most-widely read newspapers - criticized the move in an editorial, writing "Psychologists have no place assisting interrogations at places such as Guantanamo Bay."
After a raucous debate about what role - if any - psychologists should play in U.S. government interrogations of terror suspects, the American Psychological Association voted overwhelmingly on Sunday to reject a measure that would have in effect banned its members from those interrogations.
Instead, the association passed a competing measure that reaffirms the organization's position against torture "and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment" of terror suspects. For the first time on record, the resolution lists specific treatment that the association opposes, including mock executions, water-boarding, sexual humiliation, induced hypothermia, hooding, using dogs to threaten and intimidate suspects, and sleep deprivation. In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, these techniques have been used by U.S. authorities against terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other U.S. prisons to extract information, according to military officials and human rights activists.
Psychologists have overseen past U.S. interrogation of terror suspects, and are currently in Guantanamo Bay working with military authorities, said APA member Bill Strickland, a former U.S. Air Force research director and one of many speakers on Sunday who urged voting against the measure that would have banned participation in those interrogations. The presence of psychologists at Guantanamo Bay and other military-detention centers helps guarantee the well-being of the terror suspects because it adds a layer of official oversight, said Strickland and Army Col. Larry James, who was the chief military psychologist at the Cuba prison in 2003. "If we removed psychologists from these facilities, people are going to die," James told the convention. Supporters of the failed measure, which called for members not to cooperate with interrogations connected to prescribed practices, argued that psychologists' presence at these interrogations rubber-stamps various practices that are tantamount to torture. "We're talking about places where people being interrogated don't have human rights!" said Neil Altman, a supporter of the moratorium.
Steven Reisner, a New York City psychologist, said [...] the APA's listing of torture measures it opposes was an important first step, but that "this fight is going to continue as long as it has to." "The APA named the abuses that are most widely used at CIA 'black sites' to torture detainees, and said they are unacceptable," said Reisner. "That is the positive thing I see here, and that will help the U.S. government to understand that this is unacceptable." [...] Sunday's passed resolution includes "an absolute prohibition against psychologists' knowingly planning, designing, and assisting in the use of torture and any form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."
When military interrogators devised new methods to extract information from prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, starting in 2002, psychologists and psychiatrists assisted them, according to a recently declassified Defense Department report. The American Psychiatric Association quickly adopted new ethical standards that said psychiatrists should not take part in the interrogations after an early version of the report surfaced last year. But the American Psychological Association, which represents most of the nation's psychologists, left its rules unchanged and merely reiterated its previous condemnation of torture and abuse. The Pentagon then began using only psychologists to train its interrogators.
As the 150,000-member psychologists' organization holds its annual meeting in San Francisco this weekend, a dissident faction is pushing to prohibit members from playing any role in the military interrogations, which it views as tantamount to torture. "Our first ethical principle is that psychologists should do no harm," said Ruth Fallenbaum, a Berkeley clinical psychologist who works with torture victims. "We should not contribute our expertise, our training to breaking down people in these environments where there's no respect for human rights." [...]
The issue comes to a head Sunday when competing resolutions are scheduled for votes in the association's Council of Representatives [...]. One proposal, by APA leaders, would prohibit any involvement in interrogations that use any of 14 specified methods that might be associated with torture, including mock executions, the use of dogs to threaten or intimidate a prisoner, sexual humiliation, and the simulated drowning technique called waterboarding. The rival resolution backed by a group called Coalition for an Ethical APA would forbid all participation by psychologists in interrogations at Guantanamo and similar military facilities.
Disavowing specific interrogation techniques would be "a major step forward," said New York psychologist Steven Reisner, an outspoken member of the dissident group. But he said the APA leaders' resolution is full of loopholes - for example, it applies only to interrogations and not to the use of some of the same methods used during confinement to "soften up" a prisoner before questioning. "Participating in that environment is (the equivalent of) giving your approval" to what goes on there, Reisner said. With psychiatrists and other health professionals shunning the interrogations, he said, psychologists provide the remaining veneer of legitimacy to the Bush administration's claim that the United States does not torture or abuse prisoners.
Faced with rising international pressure to close the military prison in Cuba, the U.S. has identified dozens of detainees who can be released or transferred to other countries. However, that was only the first step in a process so difficult it has slowed releases to a trickle. Before it puts detainees on a plane, the U.S. must find a country to accept them. [...] Britain's new Prime Minister Gordon Brown asked Tuesday for the transfer of five British residents held at Guantanamo [...]. A senior U.S. defense o fficial warned that officials will have to discuss appropriate security measures before the five sought by Britain can be transferred.
"These are extremely dangerous individuals and if they are sent back to the United Kingdom they could pose a risk if they are out on the street," said Sandra Hodgkinson, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs in an interview with The Associated Press. However, for nearly all of the 80 Guantanamo detainees now cleared for release, the U.S. has either not been able to get the necessary assurances or their native countries refused to accept them, Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, said Wednesday. "Repatriation has been extraordinarily challenging," Gordon said. It is a challenge that will not end soon.
The U.S. holds about 360 men at Guantanamo on suspicion of terrorism or links to al-Qaida or the Taliban. Of that group, military officials say they expect to identify about another 70 who can be transferred or released. But they are likely to face the same hurdles. The U.S. says it cannot release the rest: About 80 are expected to be tried for war crimes before military tribunals. Some 130 others are considered Islamic extremists who are too dangerous to release. However, there are no plans to prosecute them. Because of the diplomatic challenges in transferring detainees, some men have been cleared to leave Guantanamo for more than a year but remain in limbo.
"The U.S. has created a mess and it's very hard to get out of this mess," said Jennifer Daskal, a Washington-based lawyer for Human Rights Watch, which believes there are at least 50 detainees who have expressed fears of being sent back to their home countries. [...] Barbara Olshansky, a Stanford University law professor who has represented Guantanamo detainees, said she believes more Western European countries and others with good human rights records would take detainees, but balk at the U.S. demand for guarantees that they be prevented from carrying out attacks on America and its allies. "Who the United States is approaching and what they are asking is making it difficult to find places," Olshansky said.
The Government called on America yesterday to release five foreign nationals from Guantanamo Bay detention centre who were formerly British residents.
The request by David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, to Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State, represented a U-turn by the Government, which had previously resisted moves to force it to take responsibility for the men. [...]
Sources said the Government was keen to encourage President George W Bush to close the controversial prison camp in Cuba. Officials said they wanted to "embolden" the US in its approach.
An AP article published in the SF Chronicle excerpted the following from a Human Rights Watch statement responding to this news: "The UK's decision to accept its legal residents is an important step forward," New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement. "At the same time, Human Rights Watch continues to urge the UK and other EU member states to help resettle other detainees who may not have a legal claim to residency, but who cannot return to their home countries."
An executive order governing treatment of prisoners in a formerly secret CIA detention program still denies Red Cross access to captives:
US President George W. Bush on Friday forbade the CIA from torturing suspected terrorists in its once-secret detention and interrogation program but was criticized for his vague, "trust us" approach. Human rights groups said the executive order left out critical details, such as controversial tactics that administration officials often describe as "enhanced interrogation techniques."
The order says that the detention program, whose existence was confirmed last September, must abide by Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions on wartime detainees and requires the CIA director to enforce that standard. It lists no specific practices that are affected, or punishments for violations, and does not describe in any further detail a secret CIA prison network that has drawn outrage from US allies in Europe.
New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) slammed the order as "contrary to the Geneva Conventions" because it essentially affirmed CIA secret detentions, a program that is "illegal to its core," it said in a statement. "The key aspect of this is all the parts that aren't said," said Jennifer Daskal, HRW senior counterterrorism counsel, who charged that the order allowed "a system of incommunicado detention to continue, with the blessing of the president. What we have here is an administration basically reciting a number of legal principles and saying `trust us.' And that's hard to take from an administration that refuses to renounce waterboarding," she said.
On a White House-organized conference call - organized on the condition that the briefer not be named - one senior Bush aide refused to discuss whether any detention or interrogation practices, or how many detainees, were affected. He refused to discuss specifically the order's impact on "waterboarding," in which a prisoner is tied down and water is poured over the face or over a cloth stretched over the face, producing the sensation of drowning.
Twice a day at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo, Abdul Rahman Shalabi and Zaid Salim Zuhair Ahmed are strapped down in padded restraint chairs, and flexible yellow tubes are inserted through their noses and throats. Milky nutritional supplements, mixed with water and olive oil to add calories and ease constipation, pour into their stomachs. Shalabi, 32, an accused al Qaeda militant who was among the first detainees taken to Guantanamo, and Ahmed, about 34, have refused to eat for almost two years to protest their conditions and open-ended confinement. In recent months, the number of hunger strikers has grown to two dozen, and the military is using force-feeding to keep them from starving.
An Associated Press investigation reveals the most complete picture yet of a test of wills that's taking place out of public view and shows no sign of ending. The restraint chair was a practice borrowed from U.S. civilian prisons in January 2006. Prisoners are strapped down and monitored to prevent vomiting until the supplements are digested. The British human rights group Reprieve labeled the process "intentionally brutal," and Shalabi, according to his lawyer's notes, said it is painful, "something you can't imagine. For two years, me and Ahmed have been treated like animals."
When Guantanamo Bay detainees challenge their status as "enemy combatants," judges must review all the evidence, not just what the military chooses, a U.S. federal appeals court ruled Friday. The court rejected the Bush administration's plan to limit what judges and the detainees' attorneys can review when considering whether the Combatant Status Review Tribunals acted appropriately. "Counsel for a detainee has a 'need to know' the classified information relating to his client's case," the appeals court ruled. "The government may withhold from counsel, but not from the court, certain highly sensitive information."
Washington attorney David Remes, who represents 17 Guantanamo Bay detainees, noted "The court said that its review goes beyond the information presented to the Combatant Status Review Tribunals, but the court never explains how it can determine what that information might be." [...] Remes also said that "it's clear from the decision that the review under the Detainee Treatment Act falls short of constitutionally required habeas corpus review." The Supreme Court will soon consider whether detainees have the right to challenge their detention in federal courts. That right was stripped away by the most recent terrorism law [the Military Commissions Act of 2006].
Jonathan Hafetz, an attorney involved in other detainee cases, said Friday's court ruling is only a minor improvement in a seriously flawed process. "It's definitely better than what the government had proposed but it still doesn't provide for a meaningful process," Hafetz said.
The Supreme Court said on Friday it would hear appeals by Guantanamo prisoners on their right to challenge their confinement before federal judges, a test of President George W. Bush's powers in the war on terrorism. The court in April had denied the same appeals by the prisoners, but the justices in a brief order changed their minds and said they would hear and decide the two cases during the court's term that starts in October. [...]
The decision by the court to hear the two cases was a setback for the Bush administration which had urged the justices to turn down the appeals. [...]
The Supreme Court's action in the Guantanamo cases was announced the day after the justices had ended their 2006-2007 term.
President Bush was presented with a letter Monday signed by 50 high school seniors in the Presidential Scholars program urging a halt to "violations of the human rights" of terror suspects held by the United States. [...] The handwritten letter said the students "believe we have a responsibility to voice our convictions."
"We do not want America to represent torture. We urge you to do all in your power to stop violations of the human rights of detainees, to cease illegal renditions, and to apply the Geneva Convention to all detainees, including those designated enemy combatants," the letter said.
[...] "The president enjoyed a visit with the students, accepted the letter and upon reading it let the student know that the United States does not torture and that we value human rights," deputy press secretary Dana Perino said. [...] The designation as a Presidential Scholar is one of the nation's highest honors for graduating high school students. Each year the program selects one male and one female student from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Americans living abroad, 15 at-large students, and up to 20 students in the arts on the basis of outstanding scholarship, service, leadership and creativity.
The U.S. is helping expand a prison in Afghanistan to take some detainees from Guantanamo Bay, while administration officials argue about whether to bring the most dangerous to the U.S. when the Cuban facility shuts down.
Officials say the administration is split, with Vice President Dick Cheney's office and the Justice Department vehemently opposed to any proposal that would bring detainees to U.S. soil, where they would be afforded more legal rights and might pose a threat.
"America does not have any intention of being the world's jailer," [Deputy press secretary Dana Perino] said, noting that the United States has announced plans to release about 80 of the some 375 detainees remaining in Guantanamo and hopes to transfer several dozen Afghans back to Afghanistan in the near future.
Washington is helping the Afghan government build a high-security wing at Pul-e-Charki prison complex just outside Kabul. The wing has 330 cells and can hold up to 660 people, including 65 Afghans held at Guantanamo Bay, according to Afghan officials. But Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, the chief spokesman for Afghanistan's Defense Ministry, said none of those held at Guantanamo had been transferred to Afghanistan so far despite statements by U.S. officials that they would be sent back by the end of April 2007.
A proposal gaining traction among Bush's top national security advisers would have some of the most dangerous suspects at Guantanamo transferred to one or more Defense Department facilities, including the maximum-security prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and a Navy brig in South Carolina. Perino declined to comment on the Fort Leavenworth option, which has been raised by lawmakers.
Senior Bush administration officials are engaged in active discussions about closing the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but deep divisions remain regarding the fate of the approximately 375 foreign detainees currently held there should the prison close, according to numerous officials familiar with the dialogue. [...]
Key discussions have centered on how to repatriate roughly 75 remaining detainees who have been cleared for release or transfer, how to put roughly 80 detainees on trial following major failures in the Military Commissions Act, and where to indefinitely hold an additional 220 detainees the government deems too dangerous for release.
While there have been preliminary talks of bringing them to military detention centers in the United States, there has been significant pushback from Vice President Dick Cheney as well as from the Justice and Homeland Security departments, and officials said Thursday that they are not on the brink of a decision.
[...] officials said the discussions are not yet at a decision point because too many issues remain unresolved. Justice officials have argued against moving Guantanamo detainees to the United States because it would immediately grant the alleged terrorists habeas corpus rights, which would launch another round of legal battles in U.S. federal courts. Homeland Security officials have opposed such a move because it would mean bringing some of the people on the nation's terror watch list - including the highest-value detainees the United States has in its custody, such as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed - inside U.S. borders. Cheney's office also has vehemently opposed bringing the detainees into this country.
A White House meeting planned for Friday about the future of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility has been canceled after The Associated Press reported the Bush administration was "nearing a decision" to close the center. [...]
Officials from the White House, the Pentagon and the Justice and State departments denied the AP report. "The administration is not 'nearing a decision' on changing our long-held policy to shut down Gitmo in a responsible way," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. "There is no meeting tomorrow."
Officials said there have been numerous discussions on the issue involving Cabinet-level officials but none yet involving President Bush. One item being worked on is reaching agreement with Afghanistan to build a prison, where several dozen detainees could be transferred, officials said. "There are 375 detainees," one official said. "If we transferred the Afghan prisoners, that would put us at less than 100 at the camp. This would be a reasonable number. It would allow us to then figure out who to try and get the military commissions up and running. [...] "But we still need to build the prison, train the guards and transfer people. All of this takes time" [...].
There is growing evidence of high-level coordination between the Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. military in developing abusive interrogation techniques used on terrorist suspects. After the Sept. 11 attacks, both turned to a small cadre of psychologists linked to the military's secretive Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape program to "reverse-engineer" techniques originally designed to train U.S. soldiers to resist torture if captured, by exposing them to brutal treatment. The military's use of SERE training for interrogations in the war on terror was revealed in detail in a recently declassified report. But the CIA's use of such tactics - working in close coordination with the military - until now has remained largely unknown.
According to congressional sources and mental healthcare professionals knowledgeable about the secret program who spoke with Salon, two CIA-employed psychologists, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, were at the center of the program, which likely violated the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners. The two are currently under investigation: Salon has learned that Daniel Dell'Orto, the principal deputy general counsel at the Department of Defense, sent a "document preservation" order on May 15 to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other top Pentagon officials forbidding the destruction of any document mentioning Mitchell and Jessen or their psychological consulting firm, Mitchell, Jessen and Associates, based in Spokane, Wash. Dell'Orto's order was in response to a May 1 request from Sen. Carl Levin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who is investigating the abuse of prisoners in U.S. custody. [...]
"The irony - and ultimately the tragedy - in the migration of SERE techniques is that the program was specifically designed to protect our soldiers from countries that violated the Geneva Conventions," says Brad Olson, president of the Divisions for Social Justice within the American Psychological Association. "The result of the reverse-engineering, however, was that by making foreign detainees the target, it made us the country that violated the Geneva Conventions," he says.
The words of the celebrated Pakistani poet were scratched on the sides of a Styrofoam cup with a pebble. Then, under the eyes of Guantanamo Bay's prison guards, they were secretly passed from cell to cell. When the guards discovered what was going on, they smashed the containers and threw them away, fearing that it was a way of passing coded messages. Fragments of these "cup poems" survived, however, and are included in an 84-page anthology entitled Poems from Guantanamo: the Detainees Speak, to be published later this year by the University of Iowa Press.
The verses provide a harrowing insight into the torments and fading hopes of the prisoners. Only two Guantanamo inmates have been charged with a crime.
They were brought to light by Marc Falkoff, a US professor of law with a doctorate in American literature. He represents 17 Yemeni inmates and has made 10 visits to Guantanamo. He dedicates the book to "my friends inside the wire". In the summer of 2005 Professor Falkoff was sent two poems from his clients. Written in Arabic, they were included in letters they could legally send. Because all communication with the detainees is deemed a potential threat to national security, everything - letters, interview notes, legal documents - must be sealed and sent to a US intelligence facility for review. The two poems were deemed a potential risk and remain classified to this day.
Censorship remains absolute at the camp however. As far as the US military is concerned: "poetry ... presents a special risk, and DoD [Department of Defence] standards are not to approve the release of any poetry in its original form or language". The fear, officers say, is that allegorical imagery in poetry may be used to convey coded messages to militants outside.
The thoughts of the inmates are considered so potentially dangerous by the US military that they are not even trusted with pen and paper. The only exception is an occasional 10-minute period when they are allowed to write to their families via the International Red Cross. Even then the words they write are heavily censored.
[Several poems written by Guantanamo detainees are included in the article]
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday he favors immediately closing the Guantanamo Bay military prison and moving its detainees to U.S. facilities. The prison, which now holds about 380 suspected terrorists, has tarnished the world's perception of the United States, Powell said.
"If it was up to me, I would close Guantanamo. Not tomorrow, but this afternoon. I'd close it," he said.
And I would not let any of those people go," he said. "I would simply move them to the United States and put them into our federal legal system. The concern was, well then they'll have access to lawyers, then they'll have access to writs of habeas corpus. So what? Let them. Isn't that what our system is all about?
Powell, who was secretary of state under President Bush, said the U.S. should do away with the military c ommission system in favor of procedures already established in federal law or the manual for courts-martial. "I would also do it because every morning, I pick up a paper and some authoritarian figure, some person somewhere, is using Guantanamo to hide their own misdeeds," Powell said. "And so essentially, we have shaken the belief that the world had in America's justice system by keeping a place like Guantanamo open and creating things like the military commission."
The CIA held suspected al-Qaida militants in secret prisons in Poland and Romania, enlisting top officials in those countries to create and conceal the facilities, a European intergovernmental agency alleged yesterday.
Current and former intelligence officials in Europe and the United States told the Council of Europe that the interrogation facilities were hubs of a global anti-terror campaign that used torture, clandestine flights and extrajudicial abductions known as extraordinary rendition, according to a report by the council, which is based in Strasbourg, France. [...]
"Poland and Romania agreed to provide the premises in which these facilities were established, the highest degrees of physical security and secrecy and steadfast guarantees of noninterference," said Dick Marty, a Swiss senator leading the probe.
The Council of Europe's press release and the report itself were made available on 8 June 2007.
A bill that would allow terrorism suspects access to federal courts to challenge their imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. The committee, on an 11-8 vote, advanced a bill that would allow those prisoners, as well as millions of legal non-citizens inside the United States, to protest detentions through a writ of habeas corpus. All of the committee's Democrats and Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, the committee's top Republican, voted for the legislation. The rest of the GOP senators voted against it.
Congress, while under GOP control last year, stripped federal courts of jurisdiction over Guantanamo cases. As a result, detainees only had recourse to challenge their imprisonment through special military tribunals that omitted rights common in civil courts.
"The great history of our nation is built on having judicial review, on having openness, and we should not out of fear or indifference or whatever turn our back on that great history," said Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. The legislation is expected to be offered later this month as an amendment to the Senate's $649 billion defense authorization bill for 2008. The defense policy bill already includes several provisions aimed at expanding the legal protections of detainees.
Six human rights groups released a list Wednesday of 39 people they believe have been secretly imprisoned by the United States and whose whereabouts are unknown, calling on the Bush administration to abandon such detentions. The list, compiled from news media reports, interviews and government documents, includes terrorism suspects and those thought to have ties to militant groups. In some suspects' cases, officials acknowledge that they were at one time in U.S. custody. In others, the rights groups say, there is other evidence, sometimes sketchy, that they had at least once been in American hands.
Meg Satterthwaite of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University, one of the six groups, said the recent American practice mimics "disappearances" of political opponents under Latin American dictators. "Enforced disappearances are illegal, regardless of who carries them out," she said.
The other groups that compiled the list were Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights Watch and two British groups, Reprieve and Cageprisoners. Three of the groups are suing under the Freedom of Information Act to learn what became of the prisoners. [...]
Even before the secret detentions were officially confirmed, the practice drew widespread objections, including from within the Bush administration. William H. Taft IV, legal adviser at the State Department from 2001 to 2005, opposed it while in office, and on Wednesday he said he had not changed his view. "I believe the United States should always account for people in its custody," said Taft, who had not reviewed the human rights groups' report. "When our own people are missing, we want to be able to insist on an accounting from their captors," Taft said. He added that keeping prisoners secret can tempt their jailers to abuse them and to cover up their deaths in custody.
The White House suffered an embarrassing setback in its effort to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay on Monday when military judges threw out all charges against the first two prisoners to come before the newly-constituted commission.
Two judges, ruling in two separate cases, dismissed all charges against Omar Khadr, a 20-year-old Canadian who has been held at Guantanamo for five years, because the court did not have jurisdiction to try "enemy combatants." A judge also threw out the case against Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden.
The Bush administration had hoped the military commissions’ proceedings for Mr Hamdan and Mr Khadr would put an end to the years of legal wrangling that have plagued the system created after the US invasion of Afghanistan. Congress in 2006 approved the commissions to try prisoners after the Supreme Court ruled that the initial military tribunals created by the Bush administration breached US law and the Geneva Conventions. [Military Commissions Act of 2006]
Colonel Peter Brownback, the military judge presiding over the Khadr case, ruled that Congress intended that the commissions could only consider the cases of "unlawful enemy combatants". [...] ”The dismissal of charges against Khadr is further evidence that this jury-rigged system is incapable of delivering justice,” said Priti Patel, a Human Rights First lawyer who observed the proceedings at Guantanamo. "If the US has evidence that Khadr or any other detainee committed war crimes, it should prosecute them either in the tried and true military justice system or, where appropriate, the criminal justice system," she said. [...]
The decisions do not mean that the two detainees will be released. The Pentagon argues that it can hold them indefinitely as ”enemy combatants" in the so-called ”war on terror”.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued a San Jose company Wednesday for allegedly providing Central Intelligence Agency transportation services for three terrorism suspects who were tortured under the U.S. government's "extraordinary rendition program." CBS 5 first reported Tuesday on the anticipated lawsuit againt Jeppesen International Trip Planning involving claims that the company organized secret flights, on behalf of the CIA, to countries that practice torture.
The ACLU lawsuit involves the alleged mistreatment of Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian citizen, in July 2002 and January 2004; Elkassim Britel, an Italian citizen, in May 2002; and Ahmed Agiza, an Egyptian citizen, in December 2001. Mohamed is currently being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Britel in Morocco and Agiza in Egypt, the ACLU said in a statement.
The lawsuit, [...] said the company "furnished essential flight and logistical support to aircraft used by the CIA to transfer terror suspects to secret detention and interrogation facilities in countries such as Morocco and Egypt where, according to the U.S. Department of State, the use of torture is 'routine,' as well as to U.S.-run detention facilities overseas, where the United States government maintains that the safeguards of U.S. law do not apply."
"American corporations should not be profiting from a CIA rendition program that is unlawful and contrary to core American values," said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU. "Corporations that choose to participate in such activity can and should be held legally accountable."
Neither the CIA nor the U.S. government is named in this lawsuit. [ACLU attorney Ben] Wizner said the executive branch has evoked a state secrets defense in similar lawsuits.
[Act Against Torture joined South Bay Mobilization and other Bay Area activists in protest actions calling attention to Jeppesen's role in CIA torture flights beginning in November, 2006; see our press page for more info.]
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility Closure Act of 2007, a bill that would close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The bill cuts off funds for everything except sending charged or sentenced detainees to Fort Leavenworth and transferring the remaining detainees to their home countries or other countries that will not torture or abuse them. The bill would effectively end the practice of indefinite detention without charge or due process for detainees who have been held for as long as five years without charge and without knowing the reason for their detention. It will also provide an incentive for the government to finally charge those detainees the government believes are guilty of crimes against the United States.
Senator Harkin said, "it is time to close it [Guantanamo] down. We need to reverse the damage Guantanamo has done to America's reputation and to our ability to wage an effective fight against the terrorists who attacked us on September 11, and the essential first step must be to close the prison at Guantanamo as expeditiously as possible. The bill I am introducing today offers a practical approach to accomplishing this within 120 days of enactment of the law." (from the Congressional Record at the Library of Congress)
In introducing the bill, Senator Harkin acknowledged the pending bill introduced by Senator Feinstein several weeks before: "There is a pending bill, S. 1249, to close the prison at Guantanamo. However, that bill gives the administration too much leeway to maintain the status quo in terms of the detainees' legal status. It allows an enemy combatant to be detained indefinitely without charge-that is what is getting us into trouble in the first place-and it does not require that the administration abide by the Convention Against Torture, nor does it give detainees a forum in which to lodge credible claims of torture or abuse. The bill I am introducing does all of that." (ibid)
Concerned about the long-term repercussions of the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a U.S. senator has proposed a bill to shut it down. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced legislation Monday that would require the U.S. detention facility to close no later than a year from the enactment of the law. Terrorism suspects currently held at Guantanamo would be formally tried, and then transferred to other facilities or released, according to a press release from Feinstein's office.
"Guantanamo Bay has become a lightning rod for international condemnation," the senator said. "This has greatly damaged the nation's credibility around the world. Rather than make the United States safer, the image projected by this facility puts us at greater risk. The time has come to close it down. "We must recognize the sustained damage this facility is doing to our international standing. We are better served by closing this facility and transferring the detainees elsewhere," Feinstein said in a statement.
Feinstein said she recognized the need to prevent terrorists "or anyone else who is committed to harming the United States" from being released, but she stressed the importance of due process.
The legislation recommends that detainees stand trial either in the United States or at an internationally recognized tribunal. Under the current arrangements, cases are processed by a military tribunal located at the Guantanamo facility. However, rights groups have widely criticized these proceedings, alleging that detainees are often denied access to resources necessary to build their defense.
More than a fifth of the approximately 385 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been cleared for release but might have to wait months or years for their freedom because U.S. officials are finding it increasingly difficult to line up places to send them, according to Bush administration officials and defense lawyers.
Since February, the Pentagon has notified about 85 inmates or their attorneys that they are eligible to leave after being cleared by military review panels. But only a handful have gone home, including a Moroccan and an Afghan who were released Tuesday. Eighty-two remain at Guantanamo and face indefinite waits as U.S. officials struggle to figure out when and where to deport them, and under what conditions. [...] "In general, most countries simply do not want to help," said John Bellinger, legal adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. "Countries believe this is not their problem. They think they didn't contribute to Guantanamo, and therefore they don't have to be part of the solution." [...] Foreign governments have questioned why U.S. officials should expect other countries to pitch in, given that Washington won't offer asylum to detainees either.
Of the roughly 385 still incarcerated, U.S. officials said they intend to eventually put 60 to 80 on trial and free the rest. [...] Only two people have been charged under a military tribunal system approved by Congress last year. One of those cases has been adjudicated. [...]
Defense lawyers for some of the 82 cleared prisoners whose release is pending said Hicks received a better deal than did their clients who were not charged with any offenses. "One of the cruel ironies is that in Guantanamo, you've got to plead guilty to be released," said [Ben] Wizner, ACLU [staff] attorney. "It's the only way out of there."
The Justice Department has asked a federal appeals court to impose tighter restrictions on the hundreds of lawyers who represent prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba [...]. Saying that visits by civilian lawyers and attorney-client mail have caused "intractable problems and threats to security at Guantanamo," a Justice Department filing proposes new limits on the lawyers' contact with their clients and access to evidence in their cases [...]. The filing says the lawyers have caused unrest among the prisoners and have improperly served as a conduit to the news media, assertions that have drawn angry denials from some of the lawyers.
"There is no right on the part of counsel to access to detained aliens on a secure military base in a foreign country," the Justice Department filing argued.
Under the proposal, filed this month in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the government would limit lawyers to three visits with an existing client at Guantanamo; there is currently no limit. It would permit only a single visit with a prisoner to have him authorize a lawyer to handle his case. And it would allow intelligence officers and military lawyers not involved in a prisoner's case to read mail sent to him by his lawyer.
Many of the lawyers say the restrictions would make it impossible to represent their clients, or even to convince wary prisoners -- in a single visit -- that they are lawyers, rather than interrogators. Jonathan Hafetz of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, a lawyer who has helped to coordinate strategy for the prisoners, condemned the government's action. "These rules," Hafetz said, "are an effort to restore Guantanamo to its prior status as a legal black hole."
A new, long-term hunger strike has broken out at the American detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with more than a dozen detainees subjecting themselves to daily force-feeding to protest their treatment, military officials and lawyers for the detainees said.
Lawyers for several hunger strikers said their clients' actions were driven by harsh conditions in a new maximum-security complex to which about 160 prisoners have been moved since December.
"We don't have any rights here, even after your Supreme Court said we had rights," one hunger striker, Majid al Joudi, told a military physician, according to medical records made public recently under a federal court order. "If the policy does not change, you will see a big increase in fasting."
Many detainees who remain in the U.S.-controlled detention center in Guantanamo Bay are held in cruel conditions of isolation, Amnesty International charged [...] in its new report, "USA: Cruel and Inhuman - Conditions of Isolation for Detainees in Guantanamo Bay." Most detainees have suffered harsh treatment throughout their detention, confined to mesh cages or maximum security cells. Moreover, a new facility that opened in December 2006, known as Camp 6, has created even harsher and apparently more permanent conditions of extreme isolation and sensory deprivation.
Detainees are reportedly confined for 22 hours a day to individual, enclosed, steel cells where they are almost completely cut off from human contact. The cells have no windows to the outside or access to natural light or fresh air. No activities are provided, and detainees are subjected to 24-hour lighting and constant observation by guards through the narrow windows in the cell doors. They exercise alone in a high-walled yard where little sunlight filters through; detainees are often only offered exercise at night and may not see daylight for days at a time.
The U.S authorities have described Camp 6 as a "state of the art modern facility" that is safer for guards and "more comfortable" for the detainees. However, Amnesty International believes that the conditions, as shown in photographs and described by detainees and their attorneys, contravene international standards for humane treatment. In some respects, they appear more severe than the most restrictive levels of "super-maximum" custody on the U.S. mainland, which have been criticized by international bodies as incompatible with human rights treaties and standards.
It appears that around 80 percent of the approximately 385 men currently held at Guantanamo are in isolation - a reversal of earlier moves to ease conditions and allow more socializing among detainees. According to the Pentagon, 165 detainees had been transferred to Camp 6 from other facilities on the base by mid-January 2007. A further 100 detainees are held in solitary confinement in Camp 5, another maximum security facility. As many as 20 detainees are also believed to be held in solitary confinement in Camp Echo, a facility set apart from others on the base, where conditions have been described by the International Committee of the Red Cross as "extremely harsh."
Former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld cannot be tried on allegations of torture in overseas military prisons, a federal judge said Tuesday in a case he described as "lamentable." U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan threw out a lawsuit brought on behalf of nine former prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said Rumsfeld cannot be held personally responsible for actions taken in connection with his government job.
The lawsuit contends the prisoners were beaten, suspended upside down from the ceiling by chains, urinated on, shocked, sexually humiliated, burned, locked inside boxes and subjected to mock executions. Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First had argued that Rumsfeld and top military officials disregarded warnings about the abuse and authorized the use of illegal interrogation tactics that violated the constitutional and human rights of prisoners.
"The court ruled that innocent civilians tortured by the United States cannot seek recourse in the federal courts to hold responsible U.S. officials legally liable," said ACLU attorney Lucas Guttentag. "We believe that the law and Constitution require more, and that the former secretary of defense must be held accountable for his policies that led to this abuse."
The Justice Department had no immediate comment.
The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee is questioning whether the CIA's secret prison program - which he fears has become a black eye to the United States - should continue.
The review led by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., comes as the Bush administration deliberates an executive order, called for by Congress, that will establish new guidelines for the CIA's system for detaining and interrogating suspected terrorists.
As chairman, Rockefeller has promised to conduct more vigorous oversight of the spy agencies than did his Republican predecessor. He is asking whether having a separate CIA detention and interrogation system is necessary and worth the toll on the U.S. image abroad. "The widespread reports about secret prisons and torture, whether accurate or not, have damaged the United States' reputation around the world and hindered counterterrorism efforts with our allies," he said.
Human rights groups have argued for years that the CIA's detention and interrogation techniques amount to torture. The International Committee of the Red Cross is the only independent watchdog to interview the 14 detainees who were held by the CIA. In a confidential report that has not been publicly distributed, the Red Cross said the 14 prisoners described highly abusive interrogation methods, especially when techniques such sleep deprivation and forced standing were used in combination.
New US Defence Secretary Robert Gates wanted the Guantanamo Bay prison shut after he took office [...].
Mr Gates, who became Pentagon chief in December, argued that terrorism suspects should be tried in the US to make the proceedings more credible, the New York Times reported.
Vice President Dick Cheney, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and others argued against that plan and the discussion ended when President George W. Bush agreed with them, administration officials told the paper. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had reportedly joined Mr Gates in pushing for the facility to be closed.
One official said the issue may come up again if Mr Gonzales is forced to step down because of the current controversy over fired US attorneys. "Let's see what happens to Gonzales," the senior official told the Times. "I suspect this one isn't over yet."
U.S. Representative Edward Markey reintroduced legislation to ban the 'extraordinary rendition' program used against suspected terrorists.
The bill would bar the transfer of individuals in the custody of the United States or its contractors to a country known to employ torture, regardless of the citizenship of the individual or the location of seizure. "Diplomatic assurances" would not be basis for determining whether a threat of torture exists in a particular country. The American Civil Liberties Union endorsed the Markey bill and said that the legislation would close the loopholes that have been opened by unprecedented administration interpretations of the laws governing torture.
The Torture Outsourcing Prevention Act is HR 1352 in the current (110th) Congress, and has 47 co-sponsors. The bill was first introduced as HR 952 in February, 2005.
The Department of Defense on Feb. 24 informed the Office of Federal Public Defender in Portland, Ore., that three of its detainee clients were now "eligible for transfer," or are eligible to leave the island prison.
One of those three is Adel Hamad, a native of Sudan declared an enemy combatant by the U.S. government whose life and legal case formed the centerpiece of what one Internet expert describes as a "visionary" video filmed and posted on YouTube by his lawyers in the Federal Public Defender's Office.
Hamad, who lived with his wife and children in Pakistan and Afghanistan, had worked for various Muslim charities since 1986 as a teacher and a hospital administrator. At one of those charities, the military contends, he came into contact with members of al-Queda. At a military hearing on his status, Hamad denied any connection with al-Queda or knowledge of any connection between it and his employers. But a three-judge military panel voted to detain him as an enemy combatant.
The video posted on YouTube is the product of investigations intended to determine the veracity of Hamad's story, and those of two others. The power of those investigations seems evident in the DoD determination that the three have no business being detained at Guantanamo. The video can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5E3w7ME6Fs.
Human Rights Watch published the names of 38 men and one woman it believes have been locked up in secret overseas facilities, and asked President Bush to disclose the identity and fate of all detainees the CIA has held since 2001.
The group also released a report titled "Ghost Prisoner: Two Years in Secret CIA Detention," which tells the story of another terrorism suspect, Marwan Jabour, a Palestinian man who claims he was tortured and held incommunicado for more than two years by the United States and Pakistan. Human Rights Watch officials said the letter and the report were part of an effort to pry loose more information about detainees who have been held by the CIA or other U.S. authorities.
The author, James A. Cohen, recently returned from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and was among the first lawyers to visit the newly opened Camp 6 and observe the way in which it is being operated. It is a far cry from the "more comfortable" facility it is billed to be. "It's much better across the board than the facilities from which they came," stated Navy Rear Admiral Harry Harris Jr., commander of Joint Task Force Guantánamo Bay, referring to the 160 men transferred to Camp 6 in December. The facility was built to equal the most modern, efficient and harshest Supermax Security prison in the United States. Yet the military has managed to impose conditions that surpass our toughest federal prisons.
Although the oppressive, punitive conditions at Camp 6 are far worse than U.S. maximum security prisons, many of its occupants have, in effect, been declared innocent by the military. Camp 6 includes detainees who have been cleared for transfer because the military has determined that they are no longer considered to be a danger to the United States or its allies, that they no longer have any intelligence value and that there is no other reason to keep them locked up. They remain only until they can be repatriated to their country of origin, or another country willing to accept them. Can there be any justification for a civilized country to hold any of this group of approximately 100 men, in conditions worse than maximum security? The answer is surely no.
(This article is available only to subscribers. A cached copy of the article is available on Google.)
The cruel methods US interrogators have used since September 11 to "break" prisoners are finally being put on trial. [...] Padilla's lawyers are arguing that he is not fit to stand trial because he has been driven insane by the government.
Arrested in May 2002 at Chicago's O'Hare airport, Padilla, a Brooklyn-born former gang member, was classified as an "enemy combatant" and taken to a navy prison in Charleston, South Carolina. He was kept in a cell 9ft by 7ft, with no natural light, no clock and no calendar. Whenever Padilla left the cell, he was shackled and suited in heavy goggles and headphones. Padilla was kept under these conditions for 1,307 days. He was forbidden contact with anyone but his interrogators, who punctured the extreme sensory deprivation with sensory overload, blasting him with harsh lights and pounding sounds. Padilla also says he was injected with a "truth serum", a substance his lawyers believe was LSD or PCP.
According to his lawyers and two mental health specialists who examined him, Padilla has been so shattered that he lacks the ability to assist in his own defence. He is convinced that his lawyers are "part of a continuing interrogation program" and sees his captors as protectors. [...]
The techniques used to break Padilla have been standard operating procedure at Guantanamo Bay since the first prisoners arrived five years ago. [...] These same practices have been documented in dozens of cases of "extraordinary rendition" carried out by the CIA, as well as in prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Many have suffered the same symptoms as Padilla. According to James Yee, a former army Muslim chaplain at Guantanamo, there is an entire section of the prison called Delta Block for detainees who have been reduced to a delusional state.
An Egyptian cleric, speaking publicly for the first time, said Thursday that Egyptian officials tortured him in prison after he was kidnapped in Italy - allegedly by CIA agents - and sent [to Egypt] for interrogation.
The claims by Osama Hassan Mustafa Nasr sharpened the controversy over the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program, just days after Italy indicted 26 Americans and five Italian agents accused of seizing him.
The case is the first criminal trial connected to the rendition policy, in which U.S. agents secretly transferred terror suspects for interrogation to third countries where critics say they faced torture. [...]
Nasr showed up unexpectedly Thursday at the unrelated trial of an Egyptian blogger in this Mediterranean city - his first public appearance since he was released Feb. 11 after four years in Egyptian custody.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington ruled 2-1 on 20 Feb that the Constitution does not extend the right of habeas corpus to noncitizens who are held outside the sovereign territory of this country. "Cuba -- not the United States -- has sovereignty over Guantanamo Bay," wrote Judge Raymond Randolph, for the court's majority.
"This decision empowers the president to do whatever he wishes to prisoners without any legal limitation, so long as he does it offshore. (It) encourages such notorious practices as extraordinary rendition and contempt for international human rights law," said Shayana Kadidal, an attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York.
Lawyers for the detainees said they will take their case to the Supreme Court.
An Italian judge has ordered 25 CIA agents, a US Air Force colonel and the former head of Italy's military intelligence service to stand trial over the illegal abduction of an Egyptian cleric in Milan
It'll be the first criminal trial over the secret US practice known as 'extraordinary rendition', and it could reveal new information about the controversial CIA program.
During rendition, people suspected of involvement in terrorist activities are taken from one country and flown to another, where many have claimed they've been tortured.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to switch gears a bit, Congressmember Conyers [...] There are many who’ve said, if you cut off the purse strings, if you cut off the appropriations for the war in Iraq, if you cut off the appropriations for the prison camps at Guantanamo, that they'll have to close. Will you sponsor a resolution to close Guantanamo?
REP. JOHN CONYERS: Absolutely. We have an obligation, based on what we've learned, to close that place down and also check out our role in other prison camps in Iraq, as well. There's no question in my mind that we have to use the power of the purse. That's why it's in the Constitution. The founders wisely decided that this should not be an executive priority. It's a congressional priority to declare war, to maintain peace and to determine how we will apportion our resources among our military. And this case before us right now, Amy Goodman, is precisely why that is an important part of the Constitution, and I intend to use it.
The European parliament has approved a damning report on secret CIA flights, condemning member states which colluded in the operations. The UK, Germany and Italy were among 14 states which allowed the US to forcibly remove terror suspects, lawmakers said. The EU parliament voted to accept a resolution condemning member states which accepted or ignored the practice.
The EU report said the CIA had operated 1,245 flights, some taking suspects to states where they could face torture. The report was adopted by a large majority, with 382 MEPs voting in favour, 256 against and 74 abstaining.
"This is a report that doesn't allow anyone to look the other way. We must be vigilant that what has been happening in the past five years may never happen again," said Italian Socialist Giovanni Fava, who drafted the document. The parliament also called for an "independent inquiry" to be considered and for closure of the US' Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Human rights campaigning group Amnesty International welcomed the EU lawmakers' vote, but urged member states to carry out independent investigations.
The first detainees arrived in Guantanamo four months to the day after the 9/11 attacks. From the opening of Camp X-Ray—the first site of imprisonment, notorious for its tin-roofed open-air cages—to the recently completed permanent prison known as Camp 6, critics have called for its closure. Even President Bush has said, "I'd like to end Guantanamo. I’d like it to be over with." Yet he refuses to close it because, he says, it holds detainees who "will murder somebody if they are let out on the street." It's time to look at the powerful reasons to close Guantanamo, both the standard ones enumerated [in the full article] - and also what may be the most compelling, if unspoken, one of all: Guantanamo must be closed because the United States needs to indicate that it has decided to change course. Closing Guantanamo will help to restore America’s standing in the world and in the eyes of its own citizens. ...
Despite assurances from the major U.S. news media that American citizens retain their habeas corpus rights to a fair trial – even if non-citizens don't – Justice Department lawyers have reasserted their claim that George W. Bush has the power to lock up anyone he chooses as an "enemy combatant" and effectively throw away the key.
"A citizen, no less than an alien, can be an enemy combatant," administration lawyer David B. Salmons told a federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, on Feb. 1, adding that on such issues, the courts cannot interfere with the President"s wartime judgments.
The administration's contempt for habeas corpus and other fundamental rights was reflected again in a strange colloquy between Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Sen. Arlen Specter during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Jan. 18. Gonzales argued that the Constitution doesn't explicitly bestow habeas corpus rights; that it merely says when the so-called Great Writ can be suspended. "There is no expressed grant of habeas in the Constitution; there's a prohibition against taking it away," Gonzales said. Gonzales's remark left Specter, the committee's ranking Republican, stammering.
A senior Pentagon official resigned Friday over remarks in which he criticized lawyers who represent terrorism suspects, the Defense Department said. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Charles "Cully" Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, told him he had made his own decision to resign and was not asked to leave by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Stimson said he was leaving because of the controversy over a radio interview in which he said he found it shocking that lawyers at many of the nation's top law firms represent detainees held at the U.S. military prison in Cuba.
German prosecutors on Wednesday issued arrest warrants for 13 suspected Central Intelligence Agency agents in connection with the alleged kidnapping of a German citizen in a forced renditions case [...].
Christian SchmidtSommerfeld, the Munich prosecutor, said the unnamed people were wanted on suspicion of false imprisonment and causing serious bodily harm in the case of Khaled al-Masri, a Lebanese-born German detained in December 2003 in Macedonia and allegedly held until May 2004 by the CIA in a secret prison in Afghanistan.
The US was not informed in advance of the arrest warrants, according to officials in Berlin. This could have "serious consequences" for bilateral anti-terror co-operation, diplomats said. The German justice ministry was also not informed in advance of the warrants being issued, a ministry spokesperson said.
The 13 people comprised the crew of the aircraft that, according to Mr Masri, flew him from Macedonia to Afghanistan, the prosecutor said. German public television reported that many of the 11 male and two female suspects live in North Carolina. The crew operated out of Majorca, Spain, and worked for Aero Contractors, the successor of the CIA's former secret airline Air America, the television channel said.
The prime minister apologized Friday to a Syrian-born Canadian and said he would be compensated $8.9 million for Ottawa's role in his deportation ["extraordinary rendition"] by U.S. authorities to Damascus, where he was tortured and imprisoned for nearly a year.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper again called on Washington to remove Maher Arar from its no-fly and terrorist watchlists. He reiterated that Canada would keep pressing the United States to clear Arar's name.
"On behalf of the government of Canada, I want to extend a full apology to you and Monia as well as your family for the role played by Canadian officials in the terrible ordeal that you experienced in 2002 and 2003," Harper told reporters in Ottawa, referring to Arar's wife, Monia Mazigh, and their two children, who now live in British Columbia. [...]
[Arar] was exonerated in September after a two-year public inquiry led by Associate Chief Justice of Ontario Dennis O'Connor. It found that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police wrongly labeled Arar as an Islamic fundamentalist and passed misleading and inaccurate information to U.S. authorities, which very likely led to Arar's arrest and deportation. The report said the 37-year-old wireless technology consultant's inability to find work since his return from Syria has had a devastating economic and psychological impact on him and his family.
CNN reported that Prime Minister Harper told a news conference in Ottawa that, "We think the evidence is absolutely clear and that the United States should in good faith remove Mr. Arar from the list. We don't intend to either change or drop our position." The U.S. government has repeatedly insisted it has reasons to leave the 37-year-old on its watchlists. The issue has grown into an unpleasant diplomatic row between the world's largest trading partners and closest allies.
In response to this news, Amy Goodman, in an opinion piece published on CommonDreams.org, made the case that Democrats criticized the Republican-controlled "rubber-stamp Congress," which failed to provide adequate oversight of the Bush administration. Now that the Democratic Party has control of Congress, the onus is upon them to restore law and order, to investigate the use of torture and to demand prosecution of those who engaged in it.
A Pentagon official who criticized large U.S. law firms for representing terrorism suspects at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has apologized for his comments, saying that his discussion on a local radio program does not reflect his "core beliefs."
In a letter to the editor that appears today on The Post's editorial page, Stimson said he believes that both sides of a legal case should have "competent legal counsel." Stimson is a former prosecutor and defense lawyer. "Regrettably, my comments left the impression that I question the integrity of those engaged in the zealous defense of detainees in Guantanamo," Stimson wrote. "I do not."
The remarks [on the radio program] drew condemnation on the floor of the Senate yesterday from Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), and more than 130 law school deans have signed an Internet petition declaring themselves "appalled" by them.
"Cully" Stimson left to readers' imaginations which of his beliefs - if not his "core beliefs" - were in fact reflected in his radio interview.
A senior Pentagon official should be fired for suggesting a boycott of American law firms defending detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, four law organizations said in a letter to President Bush on Tuesday.
Charles Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs, said last week in a Washington radio interview he found it "shocking" that major U.S. law firms would agree to represent Guantanamo detainees pro bono. Stimson predicted that those firms would suffer financially once their involvement in Guantanamo cases was known to their corporate clients. He then listed law firms involved in Guantanamo cases.
Stimson's remarks were aimed at "chilling the willingness" of lawyers to represent Guantanamo detainees and were contrary to the "bedrock principles" of the right to counsel and the presumption on innocence, read the letter signed by the American Association of Jurists, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, the National Lawyers Guild and the Society of American Law Teachers.
The senior Pentagon official in charge of military detainees suspected of terrorism said in an interview this week that he was dismayed that lawyers at many of the nation's top law firms were representing prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and that the firms' corporate clients should consider ending their business ties.
The comments by Charles Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, produced an instant torrent of anger from lawyers, legal ethics specialists and bar association officials, who said Friday that his comments were repellent and displayed an ignorance of the duties of lawyers to represent people in legal trouble.
Later in the week, AP reported that the Pentagon officially disavowed Stimson's remarks. Stimson's comments "do not represent the views of the Department of Defense or the thinking of its leadership," [Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Brian] Maka told The Associated Press on Saturday.
Stimson discounted international outrage over the detention center as "small little protests around the world" that were "drummed up by Amnesty International" and inflated in importance by liberal news media outlets.
Demonstrators - some wearing Guantanamo-style orange jumpsuits - staged protests from Melbourne to London and Washington on Thursday against the U.S. military prison in Cuba where terrorism suspects have been held for years without trial. A dozen American peace activists, including Cindy Sheehan, marched to the U.S. military enclave in eastern Cuba and held a vigil to demand the detention camps's closure on the fifth anniversary of its creation. [...] "If dogs were treated like this in my country, there would be an uprising," Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, said as the group placed flowers by a barbed wire fence 5 miles (7 km) from the naval base that houses the prison.
About 75 to 100 people were arrested after they entered a federal courthouse in the U.S. capital wearing orange T-shirts, waving banners and chanting slogans against the prison [...].
The BBC reported, More than 300 protesters gathered outside the US embassy in Grosvenor Square, central London to mark the fifth anniversary of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. [...] Amnesty International's director Kate Allen, said Guantanamo has set an "appalling example" throughout its existence. "We are here to show our abhorrence at this icon of lawlessness," she said. "If there is evidence against anyone in Guantanamo, they should be charged and brought in front of a court. Otherwise they should be released and Guantanamo should be closed."
Lawyer Kerry Smith, 31, from London, said Guantanamo had contributed to anti-US feeling. "There are still hundreds of people detained in the most awful conditions," she said. "It's just a blot not only against America but anyone who stands with them."
Anti-war activists are demonstrating near to the US prison in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to demand its closure. The 12 activists include an ex-detainee and relatives of another prisoner. The protest marks the fifth anniversary of the first "war on terror" detentions.
The protesters have reached the end of the Cuban military zone which borders the US naval base. It is as far as the Cuban authorities will let them go. [..] They are holding a vigil, calling on the world to put pressure on the US to close down the centre.
The protesters include a British former detainee, Asif Iqbal, the mother and brother of a current detainee, Omar Deghayes, and Cindy Sheehan, a well-known American peace activist.
Some 75 of the Guantanamo detainees are expected to face military tribunals in the coming months. The others face indefinite detention without trial at the naval facility - which lies outside the jurisdiction of the US judicial system.
Decisions by more than a dozen countries in the Middle East, Europe and South Asia to release the former Guantanamo detainees raise questions about whether they were really as dangerous as the United States claimed, or whether some of America's staunchest allies have set terrorists and militants free.
Some former detainees say they never intended to harm the United States and are bitter. "I can't wash the three long years of pain, trouble and humiliation from my memory," said Badarzaman Badar, an Afghan who was freed in Pakistan. "It is like a cancer in my mind that makes me disturbed every time I think of those terrible days."
Overall, about 165 Guantanamo detainees have been transferred from Guantanamo for "continued detention," while about 200 were designated for immediate release. Some 420 detainees remain at the U.S. base in Cuba.
Clive Stafford Smith, a British-American attorney representing several detainees, said the AP's findings indicate that innocent men were jailed and that the term "continued detention" is part of "a politically motivated farce. The Bush Administration wants to be able to say that these are dangerous terrorists who are going to be confined upon their release ... although there is no evidence against many of them," he said.
Joshua Colangelo-Bryan, a lawyer representing several detainees, says the fact that hundreds of men have been released into freedom belies their characterization by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as "among the most dangerous, best-trained, vicious killers on the face of the earth. After all, it would simply be incredible to suggest that the United States has voluntarily released such 'vicious killers' or that such men had been miraculously reformed at Guantanamo."
The hard core of detainees held at America's Guantanamo Bay detention camp will continue to be held indefinitely even if there is insufficient evidence to bring them to trial, a senior Bush administration official has warned.
Of the 435 detainees currently being held at Guantanamo, only 10 have so far been charged with terrorism-related offences. [...] But of the remainder an estimated 200 detainees face being held indefinitely at Guantanamo because they are deemed a threat to international security even though there is insufficient evidence to bring them before a military commission.
Eleven European Union governments - including Britain, Poland and Germany - knew about secret CIA prisons operating in Europe, a draft European Parliament report concluded Tuesday.
The report presented to the EU assembly's special committee investigating allegations about the detention centers and CIA kidnappings in Europe called on governments to launch their own inquiries to determine whether human rights laws were violated. It criticized top EU officials, including foreign policy chief Javier Solana and anti-terror coordinator Gijs de Vries of "omissions and denials" during testimony to the committee.
No EU governments have admitted that the claimed anti-terror operations were carried out on their territory. Governments have been warned by EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini that if they knew about the CIA renditions and secret flights they could be found in violation of EU law. While thin on proof to back up the allegations, the committee report claimed it got information from secret documents and information from several sources in the United States and from national authorities in the 25-nation bloc.
Audio recordings obtained by NPR provide the outside world with its first window into the secret world of military tribunals at the U.S. prison camp for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The recordings, made by the U.S. military, are of tribunals held in the fall of 2004 to review the "enemy combatant" status of six detainees who were arrested in Bosnia in late 2001. Lawyers for the men obtained the tapes under the Freedom of Information Act and provided NPR with copies of the recordings. [...]
"I've been here for three years, and these accusations were just told to me," [detainee Hadj] Boudella says. "Nobody or any interrogator ever mentioned any of these accusations you are talking to me about now." [...]
The detainees question the panel about the evidence against them and ask for proof, rather than just allegations. The audio recordings and transcripts show that the unclassified evidence is slim [...] "Ninety-six percent of the time, [the government] produced no evidence of any sort," Seton Hall law professor Mark Denbeaux told NPR's Robert Siegel. Denbeaux represents two detainees and co-authored the report. "They relied instead on secret evidence that was classified," Denbeaux says. "And the government's procedure was, anything in that secret evidence was presumed to be valuable and valid. And then the detainee was given the opportunity to rebut the secret evidence. But he was never told what the secret evidence was."
The U.S. military on Friday said it plans to build a $125 million compound at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base where it hopes to hold war-crimes trials for terror suspects by the middle of next year.
"This is a huge waste of taxpayer money," said Michael Ratner, president of the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents hundreds of Guantanamo detainees. "They've been trying to try people for five years, and until they try somebody according to the Constitution, nothing's going to happen there." Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA, described the compound proposed by the Pentagon as "a permanent homage to its failed experiment in second class justice."
The project, which has not yet been submitted for congressional approval, represents one of the largest upgrades to the detention center since it began taking in suspected enemy combatants in January 2002.
The U.S. Dept. of Justice filed a motion arguing that immigrants living in the US could be held indefinitely on suspicion of terrorism and had no right to challenge their imprisonment in court.
The motion was filed in the case of Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri, a Qatar citizen studying in the US who was arrested in 2001 and accused of being an al-Qaida sleeper agent. Mr. Marri's attorney, Jonathan Hafetz, noted that "They have now, for the first time in the history of the United States, said that non-citizens in this country have no habeas [corpus] rights. It means millions of non-citizens could be whisked off in the dead of the night and held indefinitely in a military brig."
In response to an ongoing lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the CIA has acknowledged the existence of two documents authorizing it to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects overseas. For more than two years, the CIA had refused to either deny or confirm the existence of the documents and had argued in court that doing so could jeopardize national security.
"The CIA’s sudden reversal on these secret directives is yet more evidence that the Bush administration is misusing claims of national security to avoid public scrutiny," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "Confusion about whether such a presidential order existed certainly led to the torture and abuse scandal that embarrassed America. With a new Congress and renewed subpoena power, we now need to look up the chain of command."
This story was picked up widely, in newspapers that included the NY Times (editorial), SF Chronicle, International Herald Tribune, Houston Chronicle, and Sydney Morning Herald
Attorneys with the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a war crimes lawsuit today in Germany against outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and other high-ranking U.S. officials, for their role in the torture of prisoners in Iraq and Guantanamo. [Transcript of news item and interview with CCR attorney Michael Rattner is available on the Democracy Now! website, in addition to the show's audio archive.]
The Bush administration has told a federal judge that terrorism suspects held in secret CIA prisons should not be allowed to reveal details of the "alternative interrogation methods" that their captors used to get them to talk. The government says in new court filings that those interrogation methods are now among the nation's most sensitive national security secrets and that their release -- even to the detainees' own attorneys -- "could reasonably be expected to cause extremely grave damage." [...]
Because [Majid] Khan [a 26-year-old former Catonsville resident who was one of 14 high-value detainees transferred in September from the "black" sites to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba] "was detained by CIA in this program, he may have come into possession of information, including locations of detention, conditions of detention, and alternative interrogation techniques that is classified at the TOP SECRET//SCI level," an affidavit from CIA Information Review Officer Marilyn A. Dorn states, using the acronym for "sensitive compartmented information." [...]
Government lawyers also argue in court papers that detainees such as Khan previously held in CIA sites have no automatic right to speak to lawyers because the new Military Commissions Act, signed by President Bush last month, stripped them of access to U.S. courts.
Full article available on Truthout.org or in the original posting at the Washington Post (may require signup/subscription).
Kevin Tillman and his brother Pat joined the U.S. Army in 2002, and were deployed to both in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pat Tillman traded a $3.6 million dollar NFL contract to enlist in May 2002, and was killed by "friendly fire" on April 22, 2004; the Army covered up the nature of his death for over a month, fabricating a scandelous set of lies, presumably to protect the image (?) of the U.S. Armed Forces. Kevin, discharged from the military in 2005, wrote a scathing op-ed piece published in the San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere, on the occasion of what would have been his brother's 30th birthday - the day before the 2006 U.S. midterm elections.
It is Pat's birthday on Nov. 6, and elections are the day after. It gets me thinking about a conversation I had with Pat before we joined the military. He spoke about the risks with signing the papers. How, once we committed, we were at the mercy of the American leadership and the American people. How we could be thrown in a direction not of our volition. How fighting as a soldier would leave us without a voice ... until we got out.
Much has happened since we handed over our voice: [...]
Somehow our elected leaders were subverting international law and humanity by setting up secret prisons around the world, secretly kidnapping people, secretly holding them indefinitely, secretly not charging them with anything, secretly torturing them. Somehow that overt policy of torture became the fault of a few "bad apples" in the military. [...]
Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated. Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated. Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated. Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution is tolerated. Somehow suspension of habeas corpus is supposed to keep this country safe. Somehow torture is tolerated. Somehow lying is tolerated. [...]
In a democracy, the policy of the leaders is the policy of the people. So don't be shocked when our grandkids bury much of this generation as traitors to the nation, to the world and to humanity. Most likely, they will come to know that "somehow" was nurtured by fear, insecurity and indifference, leaving the country vulnerable to unchecked, unchallenged parasites.
The majority of those questioned in the BBC World Service poll - 19 of the 25 countries surveyed - agree that clear rules against torture in prisons should be maintained because it is immoral and its use would weaken human rights standards. "The dominant view around the world is that terrorism does not warrant bending the rules against torture," said Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA), whose organisation helped conduct the survey. While most polled in the US are against torture, opposition there is less robust than in Europe and elsewhere.
More than 27,000 people in 25 countries were asked if torture was acceptable if it could provide information to save innocent lives. Some 36% of those questioned in the US agreed that this use of torture was acceptable, while 58% were unwilling to compromise on human rights./
All of the countries surveyed have signed up to the Geneva Conventions which prohibit the use of torture and cruel and degrading behaviour.
On the first full day the Military Commisions Act of 2006 was in effect, MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann blasted the hypocrisy, lies, and corrosion imposed on the United States and the world by President Bush through his proposal, promotion, and signature on that legislation, calling it "the beginning of the end of America." Speaking directly to the president, he said: We have a long and painful history of ignoring the prophecy attributed to Benjamin Franklin that "those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." But even within this history we have not before codified the poisoning of habeas corpus, that wellspring of protection from which all essential liberties flow. You, sir, have now befouled that spring. You, sir, have now given us chaos and called it order. You, sir, have now imposed subjugation and called it freedom. (Truthout.org for .MOV files & transcript; MSNBC for Flash video & transcript.
Robert Parry, the investigative journalist who broke key stories regarding Oliver North and Iran-Contragate in the 1980s, explains how the revocation of habeas corpus in the Military Commissions Act of 2006 effectively reverses key elements of the American Revolution of the late eighteenth century. In his 10/18/06 analysis, Parry describes how this law, signed by President Bush on 17 Oct 2006, creates a parallel "star chamber" system of criminal justice for anyone, including an American citizen, who is suspected of engaging in, contributing to or acting in support of violent acts directed against the U.S. government or its allies anywhere on earth. [...] with habeas corpus suspended these suspects have no guarantee of a swift trial and can theoretically be jailed indefinitely at the President’s discretion. Given the endless nature of the "global war on terror," suspects could disappear forever into the dark hole of unlimited executive authority, their fate hidden even from their families.
In his 10/19/06 analysis, Parry takes the New York Times to task for their editorial of that date. Parry points out that the NYT gives false comfort to American citizens by assuring them that they will not be victims of George W. Bush’s new draconian system for prosecuting enemies of the U.S. government in military tribunals outside constitutional protections. Citations from the new law make apparent the flimsiness of any belief that U.S. citizens are immune from unchecked exercise of executive power.
Guantanamo guards described physically and mentally abusing detainees, including slamming one's head into a cell door and denying them privileges merely to anger them, a U.S. Marine said in a document made public on Friday. "Examples of this abuse included hitting detainees, denying them water, and removal of privileges for no reason," the Marine Corps sergeant stated in a sworn affidavit sent to the Pentagon's inspector general's office for investigation.
On the same date, Associated Press reported: The Pentagon yesterday said it will investigate a Marine's sworn statement that guards at Guantanamo Bay bragged about beating detainees, and that they described it as common practice. The Marine, a paralegal who was at the U.S. Navy station in Cuba last month, alleges that several guards she talked with at the base club admitted routinely hitting detainees. "From the whole conversation, I understood that striking detainees was a common practice," the sergeant wrote. "Everyone in the group laughed at the others' stories of beating detainees."
[Okay, that wasn't their headline, but it's what happened.]
In a 65 - 34 vote the Senate approved Senate Bill 3930, the "Military Commisions Act of 2006."
The bill, as the BBC reported, "endors[es] President George W Bush's proposals to interrogate and prosecute foreign terror suspects" and will "eliminate their right to challenge their detention and treatment in federal courts." The provision refusing habeas corpus rights for detainees flies in the face of 800 years of Anglo-American jurisprudence, and is likely to form a signifcant part of the basis of constitutional challenges to the measure.
In response to the measure railroaded through the federal legislature as a sop to the reactionary Republican Party "base" in advance of midterm elections, despite egregious flaws that even "moderate" Republican senators bemoaned from one side of their mouth while voting to pass SB 3930 from the other, Senator John Kerry - who declined along with the rest of his Democratic Party colleagues to filibuster the legislation - was quoted by the BBC saying, "This bill gives an administration that lobbied for torture exactly what it wanted."
"The bad news," the Washington Post wrote of this week's compromise between the White House and Republican Senators McCain, Graham, and Warner, "is that Mr. Bush [...] intends to continue using the CIA to secretly detain and abuse certain terrorist suspects. He will do so by issuing his own interpretation of the Geneva Conventions in an executive order and by relying on questionable Justice Department opinions that authorize such practices [...]. Under the compromise [...], Congress would recognize his authority to take these steps and prevent prisoners from appealing them to U.S. courts. The bill would also immunize CIA personnel from prosecution for all but the most serious abuses and protect those who in the past violated U.S. law against war crimes."
In its editorial of 22 Sept, the New York Times observed that "The deal does next to nothing to stop the president from reinterpreting the Geneva Conventions. While the White House agreed to a list of 'grave breaches' of the conventions that could be prosecuted as war crimes, it stipulated that the president could decide on his own what actions might be a lesser breach of the Geneva Conventions and what interrogation techniques he considered permissible. It's not clear how much the public will ultimately learn about those decisions."
The ACLU's released a press release on 21 Sept titled New Military Commissions Compromise Gives License to Abuse Prisoners, in which spokesperson Caroline Fredrickson asserted that "This is a compromise of America's commitment to the rule of law. The proposal would make the core protections of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions irrelevant and unenforceable. It deliberately provides a 'get out of jail free card' to the administration's top torture officials, and backdates that card nine years. These are tactics expected of repressive regimes, not the American government."
President Bush, in a statement on 6 Sept 2006, "confirmed the existence of the CIA program under which Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and others have been secretly held and subjected to irregular interrogation methods." The admission came in the context of an announcement of "the transfer of the last 14 suspected terrorists held by the CIA at secret foreign prisons to the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba" where the President "wants to try them before U.S. military panels under proposed new rules he simultaneously sent to Congress." The new rules "would allow defendants to be prosecuted with evidence they are not permitted to see, as well as evidence obtained through coercive interrogations that fall short of torture [...] Three influential Republican senators - John W. Warner (Va.), John McCain (Ariz.), and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) - have drafted competing legislation that gives defendants access to the evidence against them and provides other rights that Bush opposes."
In an interview on NPR, Barbara Olshansky of the Center for Constitutional Rights explains how the Bush administration proposal specifies that "the Geneva Conventions can't ever be enforced by an individual in court" including the "right to a trial, your right not to be brutally treated," etc.; and that anyone, including U.S. citizens, may be delcared an "unlawful combatant" and thereby lose legal rights and protections guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. Olshansky says, "Well, now, the language says an unlawful enemy combatant can be any individual. And it's very clear that that means Americans. It can mean anyone in the world. There is no exclusion, you know, for Americans. And the language of who can be an enemy combatant has been tremendously expanded. So it could be, you know, not only al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, but other associated forces and just others who are unnamed. And it's any hostile act, not necessarily a military act. Am I hostile by talking about what's wrong with this, by sitting here with you? How are we going to know that? And then I end up in Guantanamo in a military commission, where the death penalty can result? This is astounding stuff."
Finally, the New York Times editorial of 7 Sep 2006 argued in relation to the President's proposed legislation that "If Guantánamo Bay has any purpose, it is for men like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, considered key players in 9/11. They should go on trial. If convicted, they should be locked up for life. But Mr. Bush’s urgency [with regard to his proposed rules regarding military tribunals] was phony, driven by the Supreme Court’s ruling, not principle. This should all have happened long ago. If the White House had not wanted to place terror suspects beyond the reach of the law, all 14 of these men could have been tried by now, and America’s reputation would have been spared some grievous damage. And there would be no need for Congress to rush through legislation if the White House had not stymied all of its attempts to do just that before. The nation needs laws governing Guantánamo Bay, not just for the 14 new prisoners, but also for many others who have been there for years without due process, and who may have done no wrong. [...] Some of the most influential Republican voices on military affairs, Senators John Warner, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, are sponsoring a more sensible bill that would bar the use of coerced testimony and secret evidence. Members of this Congress have a nasty habit of caving in to the White House on national security, and there’s a looming election, but it is vital that they stick to their principles this time."
[Apologies to readers without on-line subscriptions to the Washington Post and the New York Times: we generally try to avoid citing newspapers who do not open their archives to the public, and we realize that a week or two after this posting the cited articles will require subscriptions to view. Today's news was sufficiently important, however, that we decided to cite original stories, despite the subscriber-only restrictions. Those who are not able to view the original articles via subscription or through a public library's on-line services are encouraged to read coverage on the Reuters and BBC sites, including Bush admits secret CIA terror detentions (Reuters, 6 Sep 2006), which reports that "President George W. Bush acknowledged on Wednesday the CIA has run a secret detention program for terrorism suspects overseas and said 14 of those held have been transferred to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay. With human rights organizations suspicious about a program that has remained in the shadows, Bush strongly defended the detention and questioning of terrorism suspects through this method..."; and Bush stands by secret CIA prisons (BBC, 7 Sept 2006): "So, by admitting the prisons' existence, was the president admitting that their existence was wrong, as many of his worldwide critics contend? Not in the slightest. In fact, Mr Bush issued a robust defence of those secret prisons: necessary and effective tools - as he sees them - in the struggle to get information from the most dangerous, best-informed terrorist suspects, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged mastermind of the 11 September attacks. "]
Though President Bush said that "the CIA's use of a global secret prison network should continue," the Washington Post reported that "Pentagon officials yesterday repudiated the harsh interrogation tactics adopted since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, specifically forbidding U.S. troops from using forced nudity, hooding, military dogs and waterboarding to elicit information from detainees captured in ongoing wars. The Defense Department simultaneously embraced international humane treatment standards for all detainees in U.S. military custody, the first time there has been a uniform standard for both enemy prisoners of war and the so-called unlawful combatants linked to al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other terrorist organizations."
"Political appointees, CIA officers and former military personnel would not face prosecution for humiliating or degrading wartime prisoners under amendments to a war crimes law drafted by the Bush administration, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday. Citing unidentified U.S. officials, the newspaper said the administration plans to amend the 1996 War Crimes Act, which makes it a crime to violate the Geneva Conventions, by narrowing the number of potential criminal prosecutions. [...] The administration's two other responses to the Supreme Court's rejection of its military tribunal system have been to seek legislation blocking Guantanamo prisoners' right to sue to enforce their newly won protections; and to draft a bill that replaces an absolute human rights standard with consideration of intelligence-gathering needs during interrogations."
The controversy over the US-run detention centre at Guantanamo Bay is to erupt anew with confirmation by the Pentagon that a new, permanent prison will open in the Cuban enclave in the next few weeks. [...] Amnesty International's UK campaigns director, Tim Hancock, said: "This appears to make a mockery of President Bush's statements about the need to close down Guantanamo Bay. In addition to strongly urging the President to step in to prevent any extension to this already notorious prison camp, we call on him to speed up the process of closing Guantanamo and of ensuring that all detainees are allowed fair trials or released to safe countries." [...] Of all the prisoners ever held at Guatanamo since it was established in January 2002, only 10 have been formally charged. An investigation earlier this year by New Jersey's Seton Hall University showed that, based on the military's own documents, 55 per cent of prisoners are not alleged to have committed any hostile acts against the US, and 40 per cent are not accused of affiliation with al-Qa'ida. The same documents suggested only 8 per cent of prisoners are accused of fighting for a terrorist group, and that 86 per cent were captured by the Northern Alliance or Pakistani authorities "at a time when the US offered large bounties for the capture of suspected terrorists".
"U.S. citizens suspected of terror ties might be detained indefinitely and barred from access to civilian courts under legislation proposed by the Bush administration, say legal experts reviewing an early version of the bill. [...] The legislation is the administration's response to a June 29 Supreme Court decision, which concluded the Pentagon could not prosecute military detainees using secret tribunals established soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks."
"After four years, more than 700 interviews and $6 million, the prosecutors said they could prove beyond a reasonable doubt in court at least three cases of torture by the police, involving five former officers, and that they had found credible evidence of abuse in about half the 148 complaints they thoroughly investigated. But they rejected arguments by lawyers for people alleging abuse who said criminal charges could still be filed." Read the full report on the Chicago Tribune website.
"The Pentagon acknowledged for the first time that all detainees held by the U.S. military are covered by the protections of an article of the Geneva Conventions that bars inhumane treatment, [... following ...] a June 29 Supreme Court ruling that struck down as illegal the military tribunal system set up by the Bush administration to try foreign terrorism suspects held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba." However, in the same article Reuters reported that "Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman made clear the United States still will not apply full Geneva Conventions rights to al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners under a policy set out by President George W. Bush." And "A day after saying that terrorism suspects have a right to protections under the Geneva conventions," the New York Times reported in an article syndicated to the International Herald Tribune, dateline July 13, "the Bush administration said that it wanted Congress to pass legislation that would limit the rights granted to detainees. The earlier statement had been widely interpreted as a retreat, but testimony to Congress by administration lawyers Wednesday [12 July 2006] made clear that the picture was more complicated."
"In a sharp rebuke of President George W. Bush's tactics in the war on terrorism, the U.S. Supreme Court [...] struck down as illegal the military tribunal system set up to try Guantanamo prisoners." (also see story filed by SF Chronicle / AP). Nevertheless, "US President George Bush has refused to rule out military tribunals for inmates at Guantanamo Bay detention centre," as reported by the BBC, 06/30/2006; and SF Chronicle / AP reports on the same date that "GOP leaders are already trying to figure out how to give the president the options he wants for dealing with suspected terror detainees."
"They have no regard for life, either ours or their own," said Rear Admiral Harry Harris, U.S. Commander of the widely-condemned prison. "I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us." Colleen Graffy, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, echoed these remarks, calling the suicides a "good PR move to draw attention." The New York Times wrote in the paper's editorial of 06/12/2006, "These comments reveal a profound disassociation from humanity. They say more about why Guantánamo Bay should be closed than any United Nations report ever could."
This draft report analyzes evidence of a "spider web" of airports and secret prisons used by the CIA to effect its program of "extraordinary rendition" (i.e., kidnapping and moving suspected terrorists to secret prisons for indefinite detention, where torture is conducted without judicial oversight or redress). As reported by the BBC, involved nations argue that the evidence compiled in this government report fails to conclusively prove their participation in the CIA's lawless kidnap-and-torture operations.
Invoking Spain's history of dictatorship and terror, Baltasar Garzón, the country's most prominent investigative magistrate, has called on the United States to immediately close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.(also see NY Times)
"A report from a four-year, multimillion-dollar investigation into allegations that Chicago police tortured black suspects should be released to the public, a judge ruled..." according to The Washington Post. As reported on Democracy Now (9 May 2006), "For nearly two decades a part of the city’s jails known as Area 2 was the epicenter for what has been described as the systematic torture of dozens of African-American males by Chicago police officers. In total, more than 135 people say they were subjected to abuse including having guns forced into their mouths, bags places over their heads, and electric shocks inflicted to their genitals. Four men have been released from death row after government investigators concluded torture led to their wrongful convictions." Further information can be found in an article by Salim Muwakkil, a senior editor at In These Times.
As summerized in a New York Times article of the same dateline, "An important United Nations panel roundly criticized the United States on Friday for its treatment of terrorism suspects, and called for shutting down the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba."
"The United States has again refused the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access to terrorism suspects held in secret detention centers, the humanitarian agency said on Friday. The overnight statement was issued after talks in Washington between ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger and senior officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley"
"The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, is set to trigger a diplomatic row between Britain and the United States by calling for Guantánamo Bay to close. [...] 'There are certain principles on which there can be no compromise,' Goldsmith will say. 'Fair trial is one of those - which is the reason we in the UK were unable to accept that the US military tribunals proposed for those detained at Guantánamo Bay offered sufficient guarantees of a fair trial in accordance with international standards.'"
Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte said the prisoners in these hidden gulags will be there as long as "the war on terror continues." He added, in an April 12 Time interview: "I'm not sure I can tell you what the ultimate disposition of those detainees will be." As far as their families are concerned, these "detainees" have vanished from the face of the earth.
This AI report details the inadequacy of the US government response to widely-reported torture committed by its intelligence and military personnel, "despite evidence that much of the ill-treatment stemmed directly from official policy and practice."
A report detailing evidence of the United States government practice of "extraordinary rendition," by which, "For all practical purposes, the USA has created a law-free zone, in which the human rights of certain individuals have simply been erased." Bill Goodman, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, responded to the release of this report: "These new disclosures again demonstrate our contention that the U.S. government is systematically outsourcing torture. The flight records reveal a disturbing pattern of secret human rights abuse around the world, from the U.S. to Guantánamo Bay to Djibouti. It is shameful that the Bush Administration has used the CIA and private aircraft operators to send people abroad for torture, and now that these practices have been exposed, the Administration and these companies must be held accountable. Congress overwhelmingly voted to ban torture and the American people do not want torture practiced in their name - not on our soil, and not hidden in another country."
Two hundred and sixty three doctors from seven countries signed a letter condemning the U.S. practice of violently force-feeding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Force-feeding is specifically prohibited by declarations of the World Medical Association, of which the American Medical Association is a signatory.
Evidence that "neither the MNF nor Iraqi authorities have established sufficient safeguards to protect detainees from torture" and "for thousands of detainees access to the outside world continues to be restricted or delayed."
"It took me 2 1/2 years to gain access to my clients, but now I have visited the prison camp 11 times in the last 14 months. What I have witnessed is a cruel and eerie netherworld of concrete and barbed wire that has become a daily nightmare for the nearly 500 people swept up after 9/11 who have been imprisoned without charges or trial for more than four years." (Access to this story may require free registration with the Los Angeles Times.)
Concludes that "The United States Government should close the Guantánamo Bay detention facilities without further delay" and "refrain from any practice amounting to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment...." The report insists that "all special interrogation techniques authorized by the Department of Defense should immediately be revoked."
Press release announcing testimony of prisoners released from Guantanamo prison. Includes corroborated testimony of Jumah al-Dossari; and testimonies of Sami al Hajj and Abdulsalam al-Hela.
An exhaustively footnoted summary of the legal claims and mechanisms used by the White House to hold prisoners without charges or trial, and without substantive check or balance of that power by the Congress or Judiciary. Describes the number and location of detainees held in connection with wars on Afghanistan and Iraq. Describes the evasive tactics used by the administration to preserve and continue its practice of torturing detainees. Makes a case for the inefficacy and hypocrisy of advocating for human rights while violating international human rights laws, treaties, and conventions. Extensive documentation of particular instances of torture, and investigations and legal proceedings connected with these instances.
135-page report providing extensive evidence that psychological torture was systematic and central to the interrogation process of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay.
Letter to Members of the U.S. House of Representatives from representatives of eleven Human Rights groups, protesting the practice of transferring custody of individuals to nations where the detainees face "grave risk of torture.
The site of a Human Rights group of international scope and stature, with extensive information about abuses of human rights committed by the United States.
This project of the CCR aims to "seek justice for the hundreds of men and minors who have languished at Guantánamo [...] and to seek redress for the abuse and torture many have suffered at the hands of military interrogators and private contractors there, at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, in Afghanistan and at secret detention facilities around the world."
Names and (where available) photographs of individuals imprisoned in the so-called "war on terror."
Witness Against Torture, a group of 25 people of faith in the tradition of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker marched from Santiago de Cuba to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay in December  to visit the prisoners and draw attention to torture and abuse." This website documents their endeavor.
[...] Yoo, a tenured professor at Boalt Hall since 1999, is the author of the infamous "Torture Memos" - a set of repudiated legal opinions that led to prisoner abuses in US prisons at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and elsewhere. Yoo wrote the memos for the Bush administration's Department of Justice while on leave of absence from UC Berkeley from 2001 to 2003. A staunch conservative, he also is believed to have laid the legal foundation for the nation's warrantless wiretapping program.
The future of the detention facility on the American naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, inspires an unusual degree of bipartisan consensus, at least in theory. All three remaining candidates for President, the Republican John McCain and the Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, have called for Guantánamo to be closed. So have Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State, and Robert M. Gates, the Secretary of Defense; after touring Guantanamo in January, Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, "I'd like to see it shut down." At a news conference in 2006, President Bush said, "I'd like to close Guantánamo."
Still, Guantanamo is bustling. Although the number of detainees has fallen from a high of around six hundred and eighty to around two hundred and seventy-five, the base is gearing up for what could become a series of military commissions - criminal trials of detainees. The first is scheduled to begin in May. [...]
Administration officials hope that the military commissions will change Guantanamo's reputation, but that seems unlikely. To date, the commissions have been an abject failure; in more than six years, they have adjudicated just one case - a plea bargain for David Hicks, a former kangaroo skinner from Australia. In March, 2007, after more than five years in custody, he pleaded guilty to "material support to terrorism," and was sentenced to nine months; he was returned to Australia, where he served out his sentence, and has now been released. Charges have been filed against fifteen detainees, but even if these cases come to trial - and considerable legal obstacles remain - many more prisoners will be left in limbo, without any charges pending against them or any foreseeable prospect of release. As the clatter of construction work shows, it is easier to talk about closing Guantanamo than to do it. Even shuttering it would not settle the most fundamental question raised by this notorious prison: what to do with its inmates. And attempts to resolve that dilemma are increasingly likely to play a role in the Presidential election.
The Bush Administration has gone to great lengths to keep secret the treatment of the hundred or so "high-value detainees" whom the C.I.A. has confined, at one point or another, since September 11th. The program has been extraordinarily "compartmentalized," in the nomenclature of the intelligence world. By design, there has been virtually no access for outsiders to the C.I.A.'s prisoners. The utter isolation of these detainees has been described as essential to America’s national security. [...] Given this level of secrecy, the public and all but a few members of Congress who have been sworn to silence have had to take on faith President Bush’s assurances that the C.I.A.'s internment program has been humane and legal, and has yielded crucial intelligence. Representative Alcee Hastings, a Democratic member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, said, "We talk to the authorities about these detainees, but, of course, they're not going to come out and tell us that they beat the living daylights out of someone." He recalled learning in 2003 that Mohammed had been captured. "It was good news," he said. "So I tried to find out: Where is this guy? And how is he being treated?" For more than three years, Hastings said, "I could never pinpoint anything." Finally, he received some classified briefings on the Mohammed interrogation. Hastings said that he "can't go into details" about what he found out, but, speaking of Mohammed’s treatment, he said that even if it wasn’t torture, as the Administration claims, "it ain’t right, either. Something went wrong."
Mayer reports that a source who has seen a Red Cross report on "high value" detainees transferred to Guantanamo said the report warned that [U.S.] officials may have committed "grave breaches" of the Geneva Conventions, and may have violated the U.S. Torture Act, which Congress passed in 1994. The conclusions of the Red Cross, which is known for its credibility and caution, could have potentially devastating legal ramifications. Further, she writes, A former C.I.A. officer, who supports the agency's detention and interrogation policies, said he worried that, if the full story of the C.I.A. program ever surfaced, agency personnel could face criminal prosecution. Within the agency, he said, there is a "high level of anxiety about political retribution" for the interrogation program. If congressional hearings begin, he said, "several guys expect to be thrown under the bus." He noted that a number of C.I.A. officers have taken out professional liability insurance, to help with potential legal fees.
America's coercive interrogation methods were reverse-engineered by two C.I.A. psychologists who had spent their careers training U.S. soldiers to endure Communist-style torture techniques. The spread of these tactics was fueled by a myth about a critical "black site" operation.
The author writes that she was attempting to explain why psychologists, alone among medical professionals, were participating in military interrogations at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. Both army leaders and military psychologists say that psychologists help to make interrogations "safe, legal and effective." But last fall, a psychologist named Jean Maria Arrigo came to see me with a disturbing claim about the American Psychological Association, her profession's 148,000-member trade group. Arrigo had sat on a specially convened A.P.A. task force that, in July 2005, had ruled that psychologists could assist in military interrogations, despite angry objections from many in the profession. The task force also determined that, in cases where international human-rights law conflicts with U.S. law, psychologists could defer to the much looser U.S. standards - what Arrigo called the "Rumsfeld definition" of humane treatment. Arrigo and several others with her, including a representative from Physicians for Human Rights, had come to believe that the task force had been rigged - stacked with military members (6 of the 10 had ties to the armed services), monitored by observers with undisclosed conflicts of interest, and programmed to reach preordained conclusions.
Amy Goodman interviewed the author of this article on "Democracy Now" on July 30, 2007. The transcript and audio recording of this interview is available on-line.
There is growing evidence of high-level coordination between the Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. military in developing abusive interrogation techniques used on terrorist suspects. After the Sept. 11 attacks, both turned to a small cadre of psychologists linked to the military's secretive Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape program to "reverse-engineer" techniques originally designed to train U.S. soldiers to resist torture if captured, by exposing them to brutal treatment. The military's use of SERE training for interrogations in the war on terror was revealed in detail in a recently declassified report. But the CIA's use of such tactics - working in close coordination with the military - until now has remained largely unknown.
The Defense Department (DoD) has just declassified a report from their Inspector General (OIG) looking at the various investigations that the Department has conducted into repeated claims of detainee abuse - a.k.a. "torture" and "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment" - banned by international and United States law. The report documents that the various DoD "investigations were, individually and in total, inadequate [...].
Perhaps the most important information in this report, however, is that it provides further documentation that psychologists were central to the development of the abusive interrogation paradigm developed at Guantanamo and migrated to Abu Ghraib and other Iraqi prisons. In particular, the OIG provides concrete evidence that techniques developed in the US military's SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) program to help US troops at high risk of becoming POWs evade capture and resist breaking under abusive interrogations were
279 photographs and 19 videos from the Army's internal investigation record a harrowing three months of detainee abuse inside the notorious prison - and make clear that many of those responsible have yet to be held accountable.
Alberto J. Mora, then general counsel of the United States Navy, tried to stop torture at Guantanamo Bay prison beginning as early as December 2002, but was thwarted by allies of Vice-President Cheney and a chain of officials leading directly to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
An investigation of the death-in-captivity of "ghost prisoner" Manadel al-Jamadi, who died at Abu Ghraib, and the legal and political context of his case.
An investigation of how the military is using psychological techniques developed to harden U.S. personnel against torture to terrify and break detainees at Guantanemo Bay.
Europe's human rights body condemned the United States yesterday for using what it termed torture on terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and it called on European countries not to cooperate in interrogating Guantanamo detainees."
Evidence of the U.S. government's practice of "extraordinary rendition," in which prisoners are turned over to foreign countries who torture them. Extensive detail on the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian engineer who was born in Syria, kidnapped at JFK Airport in New York, and "rendered" to Syria where he was held and tortured for a year before being released without charges; and other cases as well.
"Despite a lot of talk about torture being un-American, Congress is quietly keeping alive the School of the Americas, our country's infamous torture-training school.
"The Pentagon announces new procedures for investigating the deaths of people in U.S. military custody. [...] The guidelines are seen as an attempt to quell criticism of detainee deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan."