... a declaration the defense secretary made in a Washington, D.C. District Court filing Dec. 12 during the habeas review of Guantánamo prisoner Binyam Mohamed might make some rethink the trustworthy label. Mohamed’s lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, says that unless Gates retracts his statement, he could find himself accused of perjury.
Mohamed has said that after being seized in Pakistan in April 2002 and held for three months, he was rendered by the CIA to Morocco, where he was tortured for 18 months.
His claims of torture were upheld by the British High Court in a review this summer (PDF), which took place after Mohamed’s lawyers sued the British government for alleged complicity in their client’s rendition and torture. Both the British government and the British High Court accepted that Mohamed “has put forward a prima facie case of torture,” Stafford Smith said.
The court established that Mohamed was “unlawfully rendered from Pakistan to Morocco by the United States authorities,” his lawyers said, and was ”subject to unlawful incommunicado detention and torture during his interrogation there by or on behalf of the United States authorities.” The court also established that Mr. Mohamed was “unlawfully rendered by the United States authorities from Morocco to Afghanistan,” where he was “detained unlawfully and incommunicado” and was “tortured or subject to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment by or on behalf of the United States authorities in the ‘Dark Prison.’” -- a secret CIA facility near Kabul.
At the end of this ordeal, Mohamed said he made a number of false confessions about his involvement with al-Qaeda and a plot to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in New York as a direct result of his torture in Morocco and at the hands of CIA agents in Afghanistan.
The Bush administration has never provided any explanation for Mohamed’s whereabouts from July 2002 to May 2004. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court granted Guantánamo prisoners habeas corpus rights. Mohamed’s case was reviewed by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in Washington D.C. District Court.
Sullivan set a deadline of Oct. 6 for the government to produce exculpatory evidence relating to the case (in other words, any evidence that tended to disprove the government’s claims). When the time arrived, however, the Justice Department dropped the claim about the “dirty bomb” plot.
At a Oct. 30 hearing, Sullivan said, “That raises a question as to whether or not the allegations were ever true.”
Sullivan continued to press the government for exculpatory evidence. Although the “dirty bomb” plot claim had been dropped, he ordered the Justice Department to disclose any exculpatory evidence relating to the charge. In order to determine the reliability of Mohamed’s statements, he said he wanted to know how the interrogation sessions were conducted.
Sullivan also ordered the Justice Department to secure an affidavit from Gates. The defense secretary swore under penalty of perjury that all exculpatory evidence in Mohamed’s case -- including evidence relating to the alleged “dirty bomb” plot -- had been provided to Mohamed’s lawyers.
In a letter sent to the Justice Department on Monday Dec. 15 (which has been seen by The Raw Story), Stafford Smith said he was trying to evaluate whether the defense secretary had deliberately perjured himself, or had been misled.
“I will say that I am extremely disappointed in the declaration that was filed on behalf of Secretary Gates on Friday,” Stafford Smith wrote, adding, “There is no question but that it is false.” He said he couldn't conclude “whether I would categorize Mr. Gates’ statement as outright perjury, or as a misguided consequence of his reliance on an erroneous definition of the legal terms."
“The vast majority of material (almost the entirety of the substantive evidence) submitted against Mr. Mohamed consists of statements attributed to him,” and therefore "would qualify as ‘exculpatory’ under Sullivan’s order," he said.
Stafford Smith says it's apparent that a wealth of material has not yet been turned over.
“Without going into anything that is classified, the Government has at no point in this case even acknowledged that Mr. Mohamed was rendered by the U.S. to Morocco on July 21, 2002, or that he was held there for 18 months, or that he was abused there," he wrote. "Nor has the government breathed a word about the five months he subsequently spent being abused and tortured in the Dark Prison in Kabul.”
“Nothing has changed," Stafford Smith told RAW STORY last week. "Unless Robert Gates revises his opinions, his declaration will demonstrate that he has been drawn into the defense not of the nation, but of some of the worst excesses of the current administration, involving ‘extraordinary rendition’ and torture, and shameless attempts to cover up all evidence of wrongdoing.”
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Most Americans have long known that the horrors of Abu Ghraib were not the work of a few low-ranking sociopaths. All but President Bush’s most unquestioning supporters recognized the chain of unprincipled decisions that led to the abuse, torture and death in prisons run by the American military and intelligence services.
Now, a bipartisan report by the Senate Armed Services Committee has made what amounts to a strong case for bringing criminal charges against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld; his legal counsel, William J. Haynes; and potentially other top officials, including the former White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and David Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff.
The report shows how actions by these men “led directly” to what happened at Abu Ghraib, in Afghanistan, in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and in secret C.I.A. prisons.
It said these top officials, charged with defending the Constitution and America’s standing in the world, methodically introduced interrogation practices based on illegal tortures devised by Chinese agents during the Korean War. Until the Bush administration, their only use in the United States was to train soldiers to resist what might be done to them if they were captured by a lawless enemy.
The officials then issued legally and morally bankrupt documents to justify their actions, starting with a presidential order saying that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to prisoners of the “war on terror” — the first time any democratic nation had unilaterally reinterpreted the conventions.
That order set the stage for the infamous redefinition of torture at the Justice Department, and then Mr. Rumsfeld’s authorization of “aggressive” interrogation methods. Some of those methods were torture by any rational definition and many of them violate laws and treaties against abusive and degrading treatment.
These top officials ignored warnings from lawyers in every branch of the armed forces that they were breaking the law, subjecting uniformed soldiers to possible criminal charges and authorizing abuses that were not only considered by experts to be ineffective, but were actually counterproductive.
One page of the report lists the repeated objections that President Bush and his aides so blithely and arrogantly ignored: The Air Force had “serious concerns regarding the legality of many of the proposed techniques”; the chief legal adviser to the military’s criminal investigative task force said they were of dubious value and may subject soldiers to prosecution; one of the Army’s top lawyers said some techniques that stopped well short of the horrifying practice of waterboarding “may violate the torture statute.” The Marines said they “arguably violate federal law.” The Navy pleaded for a real review.
The legal counsel to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time started that review but told the Senate committee that her boss, Gen. Richard Myers, ordered her to stop on the instructions of Mr. Rumsfeld’s legal counsel, Mr. Haynes.
The report indicates that Mr. Haynes was an early proponent of the idea of using the agency that trains soldiers to withstand torture to devise plans for the interrogation of prisoners held by the American military. These trainers — who are not interrogators but experts only on how physical and mental pain is inflicted and may be endured — were sent to work with interrogators in Afghanistan, in Guantánamo and in Iraq.
On Dec. 2, 2002, Mr. Rumsfeld authorized the interrogators at Guantánamo to use a range of abusive techniques that were already widespread in Afghanistan, enshrining them as official policy. Instead of a painstaking legal review, Mr. Rumsfeld based that authorization on a one-page memo from Mr. Haynes. The Senate panel noted that senior military lawyers considered the memo “ ‘legally insufficient’ and ‘woefully inadequate.’ ”
Mr. Rumsfeld rescinded his order a month later, and narrowed the number of “aggressive techniques” that could be used at Guantánamo. But he did so only after the Navy’s chief lawyer threatened to formally protest the illegal treatment of prisoners. By then, at least one prisoner, Mohammed al-Qahtani, had been threatened with military dogs, deprived of sleep for weeks, stripped naked and made to wear a leash and perform dog tricks. This year, a military tribunal at Guantánamo dismissed the charges against Mr. Qahtani.
The abuse and torture of prisoners continued at prisons run by the C.I.A. and specialists from the torture-resistance program remained involved in the military detention system until 2004. Some of the practices Mr. Rumsfeld left in place seem illegal, like prolonged sleep deprivation.
These policies have deeply harmed America’s image as a nation of laws and may make it impossible to bring dangerous men to real justice. The report said the interrogation techniques were ineffective, despite the administration’s repeated claims to the contrary.
Alberto Mora, the former Navy general counsel who protested the abuses, told the Senate committee that “there are serving U.S. flag-rank officers who maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq — as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat — are, respectively, the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo.”
We can understand that Americans may be eager to put these dark chapters behind them, but it would be irresponsible for the nation and a new administration to ignore what has happened — and may still be happening in secret C.I.A. prisons that are not covered by the military’s current ban on activities like waterboarding.
A prosecutor should be appointed to consider criminal charges against top officials at the Pentagon and others involved in planning the abuse.
Given his other problems — and how far he has moved from the powerful stands he took on these issues early in the campaign — we do not hold out real hope that Barack Obama, as president, will take such a politically fraught step.
At the least, Mr. Obama should, as the organization Human Rights First suggested, order his attorney general to review more than two dozen prisoner-abuse cases that reportedly were referred to the Justice Department by the Pentagon and the C.I.A. — and declined by Mr. Bush’s lawyers.
Mr. Obama should consider proposals from groups like Human Rights Watch and the Brennan Center for Justice to appoint an independent panel to look into these and other egregious violations of the law. Like the 9/11 commission, it would examine in depth the decisions on prisoner treatment, as well as warrantless wiretapping, that eroded the rule of law and violated Americans’ most basic rights. Unless the nation and its leaders know precisely what went wrong in the last seven years, it will be impossible to fix it and make sure those terrible mistakes are not repeated.
We expect Mr. Obama to keep the promise he made over and over in the campaign — to cheering crowds at campaign rallies and in other places, including our office in New York. He said one of his first acts as president would be to order a review of all of Mr. Bush’s executive orders and reverse those that eroded civil liberties and the rule of law.
That job will fall to Eric Holder, a veteran prosecutor who has been chosen as attorney general, and Gregory Craig, a lawyer with extensive national security experience who has been selected as Mr. Obama’s White House counsel.
A good place for them to start would be to reverse Mr. Bush’s disastrous order of Feb. 7, 2002, declaring that the United States was no longer legally committed to comply with the Geneva Conventions.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
A recent example is on the collective yawn over the Senate report on torture, but there are abundant examples and worse examples of media criminality, such as 9/11.
These are bad people.
UPDATE: Now Cheney admits approving torture-- on national TV! Can't you just hear the uproar coming from the media??????
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Last month the Senate armed services committee received new material from Condoleezza Rice, the first cabinet-level official to confirm high-level involvement in discussions on interrogation techniques. "I participated in a number of meetings in 2002 and 2003 ... at which issues relating to detainees in US custody, including interrogation issues, were discussed," she said. Those present at such meetings included Rumsfeld, attorney general John Ashcroft, Colin Powell, Paul Wolfowitz and CIA director George Tenet. The meetings, which concerned the CIA programme, "occurred inside the White House". Rice confirmed she was aware of the existence of, but did not read, the justice department legal advice of August 1 2002 that abandoned the international definition of torture and replaced it with a definition drawn from a US Medicare statute.
Buried away in this testimony lies the most dangerous material of all: evidence which may establish that abuses on detainees in Iraq in September 2003, in the period perhaps including the events at Abu Ghraib, were the result of decisions taken at the highest levels of the administration. The administration has long proclaimed it did not allow aggressive interrogations in Iraq, since the Geneva conventions applied. Last month we learned this was false: not everyone had protection under Geneva. If you were considered to be a terrorist, you had no protection at all. A senior US intelligence officer visited Iraq in September 2003. He witnessed abusive interrogation techniques that violated Geneva and complained. The response? He was told the techniques "were pre-approved by DoD GC or higher". DoD GC is the general counsel at the department of defence, Jim Haynes. Who could be higher? His boss: Rumsfeld.
I have testified before Congress on these issues, and have been asked if there should be criminal investigations and prosecutions. At the very least, the next US president must ensure the full facts are established. It will then be for others to decide what follows. But if the US doesn't get its own house in order and restore its reputation for the rule of law, others will surely step in.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Who will lead Bush's defense team—Rudy Giuliani?
By Nat Hentoff
published: October 01, 2008
The first was Philippe Sands, director of the Centre of International Courts and Tribunals at London's University College and the author of Torture Team: Rumsfeld's Memo and the Betrayal of American Values (Palgrave Macmillan), and the other was Jordan Paust, a University of Houston law professor and the author of Beyond the Law (Cambridge University Press). The latter, a peerless documentation of the Bush regime's lawlessness, includes this quote: "Not since the Nazi era have so many lawyers been so clearly involved in international crimes concerning the treatment and interrogation of persons detained during war." (As it happened, Paust was unable to attend due to the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.)
Among the 120 legal authorities and scholars at the conference, Dean Velvel notes, was "Ann Wright, a former U.S. Army colonel and U.S. Foreign Service official who holds a State Department Award for Heroism and who taught the Geneva Conventions and the Law of Land Warfare at the Special Warfare Section at Fort Bragg, North Carolina." Also present was Francis Boyle, a professor of international law at the University of Illinois, who drafted the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989 and was earlier responsible for the U.S. implementing legislation for the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention.
These war-crimes probers are of a significantly higher moral and intellectual grade than the general run of cable-television and Internet pundits.
And one of the smarter things they did was to name their conference after Justice Robert H. Jackson, the lead prosecutor at Nuremberg. This was no ranting MoveOn.org event—instead, its goal is a war-crimes trial beyond anything that has ever been attempted in American judicial history, a goal that echoes the words of Jackson himself: "The common sense of mankind demands that law shall not stop with the punishment of petty crimes by little people. It must also reach men [and women] who possess themselves of great power and make deliberate and concerted use of it to set in motion evils which leave no home in the world untouched."
Obviously, the American defendants in these proposed trials wouldn't be charged with anything on the order of the Holocaust and its many millions of ghoulishly murdered victims. But Philip Gourevitch, in his book Standard Operating Procedure (Palgrave Macmillan), points out how much the Bush administration has gotten away with so far: "Nobody was ever charged with torture, or war crimes, or any violation of the Geneva Conventions. Nobody ever faced charges for keeping prisoners naked, or shackled, [or exposed to systematic torture] . . . or for arresting thousands of civilians without direct cause and holding them indefinitely, incommunicado, in concentration-camp conditions."
The conference set about planning trials to determine the guilt of key actors in the Bush administration (and their authorizing lawyers) for having committed war crimes under both American and international law, and to determine the appropriate punishments. Among the items on the conference's agenda: "Creating an umbrella Coordinating Committee with representatives from an increasing number of organizations involved in war crimes cases; [c]reating a Center to keep track of and organize . . . relevant briefs and facts on war crimes and prosecutions of war criminals; [e]stablishing a Chief Prosecutor's Office such as Nuremberg's."
Keeping in mind the high likelihood that a domestic trial would take much more time and be subject to far more pressure as the full scope of the administration's appalling war crimes was revealed, the conferees also sought to find out "[w]hich international tribunals, foreign tribunals and domestic tribunals (if any) can be used and how to begin cases and/or obtain prosecutions before them." I strongly suggest that Dean Velvel and his colleagues consult the New York–based Center for Constitutional Rights (I'll provide the contacts), which has already filed cases in European nations whose courts exercise "universal jurisdiction" over war crimes. Along with its continuing experience in these pursuits, the CCR intends to keep bringing these charges indefinitely.
Because of the CCR, former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld already has reason to be very apprehensive about traveling in Europe. And arrest warrants for 25 CIA agents have been issued by an Italian court eager to question them about the "rendition" (i.e., kidnapping) of an Egyptian cleric living in Italy, who was snatched off the streets of Milan and flown to Egypt by the CIA to be tortured by that nation's secret police.
Of course, previous American officials might have qualified for prosecution as well due to the war crimes committed in Vietnam and other countries. But, as Dean Velvel notes, most of these people have escaped punishment: "President Johnson retired to his Texas ranch, and his defense secretary, Robert McNamara, was named to head the World Bank; Richard Nixon retired to San Clemente, and his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, was allowed to grow richer and richer." (It would be instructive to get Mr. Kissinger on the stand and question him about his role in the rise of General Pinochet in Chile.) This is precisely the reason why these trials should be conducted in the case of the Bush administration.
Before leaving for Nuremberg, Justice Jackson—on leave from the Supreme Court—told President Harry Truman: "The groundwork of our case must be factually authentic and constitute a well-documented history of what we are convinced was a grand, concerted pattern to [commit the] barbarities which have shocked the world."
As Dean Velvel said when announcing the reason for his Robert Jackson conference: "The future will be threatened by additional examples of executive lawlessness by leaders who fear no personal consequences" for what they've done. We've already seen how the torture president has exercised his "inherent unitary-executive constitutional authority"—but according to whose Constitution exactly? Dick Cheney's?
Next week: the next planning stages.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently became the first Bush administration official to admit that high-level discussions of the use of torture had taken place in 2002 and 2003.
According to a written statement provided to the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month and released on Wednesday by committee chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), officials were told that waterboarding and other "harsh interrogation measures" routinely used in a survival training program for US soldiers would not cause "significant" harm if used on prisoners.
Rice's statement is the first acknowledgment of those meetings by any of the officials involved. Rice did not name the other officials who were present, but reports last spring based on anonymous sources mentioned Vice President Dick Cheney, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft.
MSNBC's Rachel Maddow called the release of Rice's statement "a soul of the nation story," noting that torture violates the Geneva Conventions and is a criminal act under the US War Crimes Act of 1996. She emphasized that "we just can't get this issue behind us," even with the Bush administration on its way out of office, because "issues like this, like torture, still define who we are as a country. It's still unfinished business."
Saturday, July 26, 2008
The top experts agree that torture doesn't produce any useful information.
And the experts on national security agree that torture turns everyone against us, creates actual terrorists who want to kill us, and makes us less safe. Torture also makes it almost certain that our troops will be tortured by others. (snip)
Torture is a form of terrorism, plain and simple. The U.S. government is carrying out acts of terrorism on innocent victims - including children - in order to scare people into being compliant, into being too scared to demand their rights to liberty and justice guaranteed by the rule of law, into not challenging the powers-that-be.
As long as CIA agents could convince themselves they were not deliberately inflicting severe pain or suffering on detainees, they were free to do virtually anything in their questioning of suspected terrorists, including waterboarding. Furthermore, the agents' belief they weren't in fact torturing their captives didn't even need to be "reasonable."
These are the implications of a controversial August 2002 memo from the Justice Department to the CIA that was released Thursday. The American Civil Liberties Union obtained several internal Bush administration documents it says authorizes the CIA to torture detainees.
WASHINGTON - The Justice Department in 2002 told the CIA that its interrogators would be safe from prosecution for violations of anti-torture laws if they believed "in good faith" that harsh techniques used to break prisoners' will would not cause "prolonged mental harm."
That heavily censored memo, released Thursday, approved the CIA's harsh interrogation techniques method by method, but warned that if the circumstances changed, interrogators could be running afoul of anti-torture laws.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Mr. Bush’s 2005 proclamation that “we do not torture” was long ago revealed as a lie. Antonio Taguba, the retired major general who investigated detainee abuse for the Army, concluded that “there is no longer any doubt” that “war crimes were committed.” Ms. Mayer uncovered another damning verdict: Red Cross investigators flatly told the C.I.A. last year that America was practicing torture and vulnerable to war-crimes charges.
Top Bush hands are starting to get sweaty about where they left their fingerprints. Scapegoating the rotten apples at the bottom of the military’s barrel may not be a slam-dunk escape route from accountability anymore.
No wonder the former Rumsfeld capo, Douglas Feith, is trying to discredit a damaging interview he gave to the British lawyer Philippe Sands for another recent and essential book on what happened, “Torture Team.” After Mr. Sands previewed his findings in the May issue of Vanity Fair, Mr. Feith protested he had been misquoted — apparently forgetting that Mr. Sands had taped the interview. Mr. Feith and Mr. Sands are scheduled to square off in a House hearing this Tuesday.
So hot is the speculation that war-crimes trials will eventually follow in foreign or international courts that Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, has publicly advised Mr. Feith, Mr. Addington and Alberto Gonzales, among others, to “never travel outside the U.S., except perhaps to Saudi Arabia and Israel.” But while we wait for the wheels of justice to grind slowly, there are immediate fears to tend. Ms. Mayer’s book helps cement the case that America’s use of torture has betrayed not just American values but our national security, right to the present day.
In her telling, a major incentive for Mr. Cheney’s descent into the dark side was to cover up for the Bush White House’s failure to heed the Qaeda threat in 2001. Jack Cloonan, a special agent for the F.B.I.’s Osama bin Laden unit until 2002, told Ms. Mayer that Sept. 11 was “all preventable.” By March 2000, according to the C.I.A.’s inspector general, “50 or 60 individuals” in the agency knew that two Al Qaeda suspects — soon to be hijackers — were in America. But there was no urgency at the top. Thomas Pickard, the acting F.B.I. director that summer, told Ms. Mayer that when he expressed his fears about the Qaeda threat to Mr. Ashcroft, the attorney general snapped, “I don’t want to hear about that anymore!”
After 9/11, our government emphasized “interrogation over due process,” Ms. Mayer writes, “to pre-empt future attacks before they materialized.” But in reality torture may well be enabling future attacks. This is not just because Abu Ghraib snapshots have been used as recruitment tools by jihadists. No less destructive are the false confessions inevitably elicited from tortured detainees. The avalanche of misinformation since 9/11 has compromised prosecutions, allowed other culprits to escape and sent the American military on wild-goose chases. The coerced “confession” to the murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to take one horrific example, may have been invented to protect the real murderer.
A pretty amazing discussion here on MSNBC, with Jonathan Turley and Rachel Maddow:
Friday, June 20, 2008
The two-star general who led an Army investigation into the horrific detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib has accused the Bush administration of war crimes and is calling for accountability.
In his 2004 report on Abu Ghraib, then-Major General Anthony Taguba concluded that "numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees." He called the abuse "systemic and illegal." And, as Seymour M. Hersh reported in the New Yorker, he was rewarded for his honesty by being forced into retirement.
Now, in a preface to a Physicians for Human Rights report based on medical examinations of former detainees, Taguba adds an epilogue to his own investigation.
The new report, he writes, "tells the largely untold human story of what happened to detainees in our custody when the Commander-in-Chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture. This story is not only written in words: It is scrawled for the rest of these individual's lives on their bodies and minds. Our national honor is stained by the indignity and inhumane treatment these men received from their captors.
"The profiles of these eleven former detainees, none of whom were ever charged with a crime or told why they were detained, are tragic and brutal rebuttals to those who claim that torture is ever justified. Through the experiences of these men in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay, we can see the full-scope of the damage this illegal and unsound policy has inflicted --both on America's institutions and our nation's founding values, which the military, intelligence services, and our justice system are duty-bound to defend.
WASHINGTON — The framework under which detainees were imprisoned for years without charges at Guantanamo and in many cases abused in Afghanistan wasn't the product of American military policy or the fault of a few rogue soldiers. It was largely the work of five White House, Pentagon and Justice Department lawyers who, following the orders of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, reinterpreted or tossed out the U.S. and international laws that govern the treatment of prisoners in wartime, according to former U.S. defense and Bush administration officials.Washington Independent:
In August 2004, a Defense Dept. panel convened to investigate detainee abuse after the Abu Ghraib scandal issued its much-anticipated report. Interrogation techniques designed for use at Guantanamo Bay, which President George W. Bush had decreed outside the scope of the Geneva Conventions, had "migrated" to Iraq, which Bush recognized was under Geneva, concluded panel chairman James Schlesinger, a former defense secretary. Schlesinger's panel, however, did not explain which officials ordered the abusive techniques to transfer across continents -- or how and why they became Pentagon policy in the first place.McClatchy again:
Tuesday the Senate Armed Services Committee answered those questions. In a marathon hearing spanning eight hours and three separate panels, the committee revealed, in painstaking detail, how senior Pentagon officials transformed a program for Special Forces troops to resist torture -- known as Survival Evasion Resistance Escape, or SERE -- into a blueprint for torturing terrorism detainees.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. military hid the locations of suspected terrorist detainees and concealed harsh treatment to avoid the scrutiny of the International Committee of the Red Cross, according to documents that a Senate committee released Tuesday.
"We may need to curb the harsher operations while ICRC is around. It is better not to expose them to any controversial techniques," Lt. Col. Diane Beaver, a military lawyer who's since retired, said during an October 2002 meeting at the Guantanamo Bay prison to discuss employing interrogation techniques that some have equated with torture.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
A Senate investigation has concluded that top Pentagon officials began assembling lists of harsh interrogation techniques in the summer of 2002 for use on detainees at Guantanamo Bay and that those officials later cited memos from field commanders to suggest that the proposals originated far down the chain of command, according to congressional sources briefed on the findings.
The sources said that memos and other evidence obtained during the inquiry show that officials in the office of then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld started to research the use of waterboarding, stress positions, sensory deprivation and other practices in July 2002, months before memos from commanders at the detention facility in Cuba requested permission to use those measures on suspected terrorists.
The reported evidence -- some of which is expected to be made public at a Senate hearing today -- also shows that military lawyers raised strong concerns about the legality of the practices as early as November 2002, a month before Rumsfeld approved them. The findings contradict previous accounts by top Bush administration appointees, setting the stage for new clashes between the White House and Congress over the origins of interrogation methods that many lawmakers regard as torture and possibly illegal.
"Some have suggested that detainee abuses committed by U.S. personnel at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and at Guantanamo were the result of a 'few bad apples' acting on their own. It would be a lot easier to accept if that were true," Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote in a statement for delivery at a committee hearing this morning. "Senior officials in the United States government sought out information on aggressive techniques, twisted the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees."
Sunday, April 20, 2008
America's most senior general was "hoodwinked" by top Bush administration officials determined to push through aggressive interrogation techniques of terror suspects held at Guantánamo Bay, leading to the US military abandoning its age-old ban on the cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners, the Guardian reveals today.
General Richard Myers, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff from 2001 to 2005, wrongly believed that inmates at Guantánamo and other prisons were protected by the Geneva conventions and from abuse tantamount to torture.
The way he was duped by senior officials in Washington, who believed the Geneva conventions and other traditional safeguards were out of date, is disclosed in a devastating account of their role, extracts of which appear in today's Guardian.
In his new book, Torture Team, Philippe Sands QC, professor of law at University College London, reveals that:
· Senior Bush administration figures pushed through previously outlawed measures with the aid of inexperienced military officials at Guantánamo.
· Myers believes he was a victim of "intrigue" by top lawyers at the department of justice, the office of vice-president Dick Cheney, and at Donald Rumsfeld's defence department.
· The Guantánamo lawyers charged with devising interrogation techniques were inspired by the exploits of Jack Bauer in the American TV series 24.
· Myers wrongly believed interrogation techniques had been taken from the army's field manual.
our government designed a system of interrogation whose express purpose was to inflict serious psychological damage on people we were interrogating.
This post explains how easy this can be:
sensory deprivation produces psychosis within hours. It's shockingly fast, and can have severe long-term effects after just a day or two. All you have to do is strap somebody down, put on a blindfold, sound-proof earmuffs, and gloves that reduce tactile sensation, and full-blown hallucinations begin in less than a day.
Monday, April 14, 2008
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.
So now we can clearly throw Bush in jail along with the rest of his sick crew.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
By LARA JAKES JORDAN and PAMELA HESS, Associated Press Writer Fri Apr 11, 6:25 AM ET
WASHINGTON - Bush administration officials from Vice President Dick Cheney on down signed off on using harsh interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists after asking the Justice Department to endorse their legality, The Associated Press has learned.
The officials also took care to insulate President Bush from a series of meetings where CIA interrogation methods, including waterboarding, which simulates drowning, were discussed and ultimately approved.
A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the meetings described them Thursday to the AP to confirm details first reported by ABC News on Wednesday. The intelligence official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the issue.
Between 2002 and 2003, the Justice Department issued several memos from its Office of Legal Counsel that justified using the interrogation tactics, including ones that critics call torture.
"If you looked at the timing of the meetings and the memos you'd see a correlation," the former intelligence official said. Those who attended the dozens of meetings agreed that "there'd need to be a legal opinion on the legality of these tactics" before using them on al-Qaida detainees, the former official said.
The meetings were held in the White House Situation Room in the years immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks. Attending the sessions were Cheney, then-Bush aides Attorney General John Ashcroft, Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.
The former intelligence official described Cheney and the top national security officials as deeply immersed in developing the CIA's interrogation program during months of discussions over which methods should be used and when.
At times, CIA officers would demonstrate some of the tactics, or at least detail how they worked, to make sure the small group of "principals" fully understood what the al-Qaida detainees would undergo. The principals eventually authorized physical abuse such as slaps and pushes, sleep deprivation, or waterboarding. This technique involves strapping a person down and pouring water over his cloth-covered face to create the sensation of drowning.
The small group then asked the Justice Department to examine whether using the interrogation methods would break domestic or international laws.
"No one at the agency wanted to operate under a notion of winks and nods and assumptions that everyone understood what was being talked about," said a second former senior intelligence official. "People wanted to be assured that everything that was conducted was understood and approved by the folks in the chain of command."
The Office of Legal Counsel issued at least two opinions on interrogation methods.
In one, dated Aug. 1, 2002, then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee defined torture as covering "only extreme acts" causing pain similar in intensity to that caused by death or organ failure. A second, dated March 14, 2003, justified using harsh tactics on detainees held overseas so long as military interrogators did not specifically intend to torture their captives.
Both legal opinions since have been withdrawn.
The second former senior intelligence official said rescinding the memos caused the CIA to seek even more detailed approvals for the interrogations.
The department issued another still-secret memo in October 2001 that, in part, sought to outline novel ways the military could be used domestically to defend the country in the face of an impending attack. The Justice Department so far has refused to release it, citing attorney-client privilege, and Attorney General Michael Mukasey declined to describe it Thursday at a Senate panel where Democrats characterized it as a "torture memo."
Associated Press writer Pete Yost contributed to this report.
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
"Top Bush Advisors Approved 'Enhanced Interrogation'"-- Detailed Discussions Were Held About Techniques to Use on al Qaeda Suspects (April 9, 2008)
In dozens of top-secret talks and meetings in the White House, the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific details of how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, sources tell ABC News.
The so-called Principals who participated in the meetings also approved the use of "combined" interrogation techniques -- using different techniques during interrogations, instead of using one method at a time -- on terrorist suspects who proved difficult to break, sources said.
Highly placed sources said a handful of 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.
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.
It’s high time that the authors of the Bush administration’s legal recipe book for torture be brought out of the kitchen and into the courtroom. Yet despite volumes of highly credible evidence of human rights crimes, or even war crimes, a negligent Congress continues to fail miserably in its responsibility to mandate proper investigations into these cruel policies.
The United States’ moral and political standing in the world have completely eroded, and legitimate prosecutions of crimes against humanity against the United States have been compromised. Congress must finally face its own complicity in torture with concrete measures — not shortsighted hearings — by ordering a full, independent investigation into how torture became United States modus operandi and holding those responsible accountable. Curt Goering
Deputy Executive Director
Amnesty International USA
New York, April 2, 2008
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Matthew Diaz served his country as a staff judge advocate at Guantánamo. He watched a shameless assault on America’s Constitution and commitment to the rule of law carried out by the Bush Administration. He watched the introduction of a system of cruel torture and abuse. He watched the shaming of the nation’s uniformed services, with their proud traditions that formed the very basis of the standards of humanitarian law, now torn asunder through the lawless acts of the Executive. Matthew Diaz found himself in a precarious position—as a uniformed officer, he was bound to follow his command. As a licensed and qualified attorney, he was bound to uphold the law. And these things were indubitably at odds.
Diaz resolved to do something about it. He knew the Supreme Court twice ruled the Guantánamo regime, which he was under orders to uphold, was unlawful. In the Hamdan decision, the Court went a step further. In powerful and extraordinary words, Justice Kennedy reminded the Administration that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions was binding upon them, and that a violation could constitute a criminal act. One senior member of the Bush legal team, informed of the decision over lunch, was reported to have turned “white as a sheet” and to have immediately excused himself. For the following months, Bush Administration lawyers entered into a frenzied discussion of how to protect themselves from criminal prosecution.
One of the crimes the Administration committed was withholding from the Red Cross a list of the detainees at Guantánamo, effectively making them into secret detainees. Before the arrival of the Bush Administration, the United States had taken the axiomatic position that holding persons in secret detention for prolonged periods outside the rule of law (a practice known as “disappearing”) was not merely unlawful, but in fact a rarified “crime against humanity.” Now the United States was engaged in the active practice of this crime.
The decision to withhold the information had been taken, in defiance of law, by senior political figures in the Bush Administration. Diaz was aware of it, and he knew it was unlawful. He printed out a copy of the names and sent them to a civil rights lawyer who had requested them in federal court proceedings.
Diaz was aware when he did this that he was violating regulations and that he could and would, if caught, be subjected to severe sanction. What he did was a violation of law, even as it was an effort to cure a more severe act of lawlessness by the Government. Diaz violated the law in precisely the same sense as Martin Luther King reminds us, in the Letter from Birmingham Jail, that his arrest was based on a violation of law. That everything the Nazis did in Germany was lawful. And that every act of the Hungarian freedom fighters was a crime. In terms of the moral law, however, Diaz was on the side of right, and the Bush Administration and the Pentagon had, by engaging in the conduct that the Supreme Court condemned, placed themselves on the side of lawlessness, corruption and dishonor.
Diaz was charged, tried and convicted for disclosing “secrets.” For the Bush Administration, any information which would be politically embarrassing or harmful to it is routinely classified “secret.” In this fashion the Administration believes it can use criminal sanctions against those who disclose information it believes will be politically damaging. The list of detainees at Guantánamo, which by law was required to be disclosed, was classified as “secret.”
Diaz spent six months in prison and left it bankrupt and without a job. In addition to his sentence, the Pentagon is working aggressively to have Diaz stripped of his law license so he will not be able to practice his profession. The Bush Administration has sought to criminalize, humiliate and destroy Diaz. Its motivation could not be clearer: Diaz struck a blow for the rule of law. And nothing could be more threatening to the Bush Administration than this.
In the week in which Diaz received the Ridenhour Prize, another Pentagon “secret” was disclosed. This “secret” was a memorandum made to order for William J. Haynes II, Rumsfeld’s General Counsel, and the man at the apex of the Pentagon’s military justice system that tried, convicted and sentenced Diaz. The memo was authored by John Yoo. This memorandum was designed to authorize the introduction of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading interrogation techniques to be used upon prisoners held at Guantánamo, and ultimately also used in Afghanistan and Iraq. The memorandum authorized waterboarding, long-time standing, hypothermia, the administration of psychotropic drugs and sleep deprivation in excess of two days in addition to a number of other techniques. Each of these techniques is long established as torture as a matter of American and international law. The application and implementation of these techniques was and is a crime.
The exact circumstances surrounding the dealings between Haynes and Yoo that led to the development of this memorandum are unclear. However, it is clear that Haynes had previously authorized the use of the torture techniques, and had secured an order from Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld authorizing them.
Following the implementation of these techniques, more than 108 detainees died in detention. In a large number of these cases, the deaths have been ruled a homicide and connected to torture. These homicides were a forseeable consequence of the advice that Haynes and Yoo gave.
The introduction of torture techniques destroyed America’s reputation around the world, dramatically eroded a system of alliances that generations of Americans fought and labored to sustain and build, and provided the basis for a dramatic recruitment campaign for terrorist groups who are the nation’s principal adversaries in the war on terror. Yoo’s and Haynes’s conduct dramatically undercut the security and safety of every American. And equally, Yoo and Haynes demonstrated by their conduct contempt for the rule of law and the principles for which hundreds of thousands of Americans shed their blood in prior conflicts.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
As Jane Mayer reported two years ago in The New Yorker -- in which she quoted former Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora as saying that "the memo espoused an extreme and virtually unlimited theory of the extent of the President's Commander-in-Chief authority" -- it was precisely Yoo's torture-justifying theories, ultimately endorsed by Donald Rumsfeld, that were communicated to Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the commander of both Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib at the time of the most severe detainee abuses (the ones that are known).
It is not, of course, news that the Bush administration adopted (and still embraces) legal theories which vest the President with literally unlimited power, including the power to break our laws. There are, though, several points worth noting as a result of the disclosure of this Memorandum:
(1) The fact that John Yoo is a Professor of Law at Berkeley and is treated as a respectable, serious expert by our media institutions, reflects the complete destruction over the last eight years of whatever moral authority the United States possessed. Comporting with long-held stereotypes of two-bit tyrannies, we're now a country that literally exempts our highest political officials from the rule of law, and have decided that there should be no consequences when they commit serious felonies.
John Yoo's Memorandum, as intended, directly led to -- caused -- a whole series of war crimes at both Guantanamo and in Iraq. The reason such a relatively low-level DOJ official was able to issue such influential and extraordinary opinions was because he was working directly with, and at the behest of, the two most important legal officials in the administration: George Bush's White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, and Dick Cheney's counsel (and current Chief of Staff) David Addington. Together, they deliberately created and authorized a regime of torture and other brutal interrogation methods that are, by all measures, very serious war crimes.
If writing memoranda authorizing torture -- actions which then directly lead to the systematic commission of torture -- doesn't make one a war criminal in the U.S., what does? Here is what John Yoo is and what he did:
"It depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that." Yoo wasn't just a law professor theorizing about the legalization of torture. He was a government official who, in concert with other government officials, set out to enable a brutal and systematic torture regime, and did so. If this level of depraved criminality doesn't remove one from the realm of respectability and mainstream seriousness -- if not result in war crimes prosecution -- then nothing does.
That John Yoo is a full professor at one of the country's most prestigious law schools, and a welcomed expert on our newspaper's Op-Ed pages and television news programs, speaks volumes about what our country has become. We sure did take care of that despicable Pvt. Lyndie England, though, because we don't tolerate barbaric conduct of the type in which she engaged completely on her own.
(2) While Yoo's specific Torture Memos were ultimately rescinded by subsequent DOJ officials -- primarily Jack Goldsmith -- the underlying theories of omnipotent executive power remain largely in place. The administration continues to embrace precisely these same theories to assert that it has the power to violate a whole array of laws -- from our nation's spying and surveillance statutes to countless Congressional oversight requirements -- and to detain even U.S. citizens, detained on American soil, as "enemy combatants." So for all of the dramatic outrage that this Yoo memo will generate for a day or so, the general framework on which it rests, despite being weakened by the Supreme Court in Hamdan, is the one under which we continue to live, without much protest or objection.
(3) This incident provides yet more proof of how rancid and corrupt is the premise that as long as political appointees at the DOJ approve of certain conduct, then that conduct must be shielded from criminal prosecution. That's the premise that is being applied over and over to remove government lawbreaking from the reach of the law.
That's the central argument behind both telecom amnesty and protecting Bush officials from their surveillance felonies (it's unfair to hold them accountable for their illegal spying behavior because the DOJ said they could do it). It's the same argument that CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden just made on Meet the Press as to why CIA interrogators should be immunized from the consequences of their illegal conduct ("when I go and tell him to do something in the shadows and point out to him it is perfectly lawful, that the Department of Justice has reviewed it . . . I need him to have confidence in that DOJ opinion").
The DOJ is not the law. They are not above the law and they do not make the law. They are merely charged with enforcing it. The fact that they assert that blatantly illegal conduct is legal does not make it so. DOJ officials, like anyone else, can violate the law and have done so not infrequently. High DOJ officials -- including Attorneys General -- have been convicted of crimes in the past and have gone to prison.
Embracing this twisted notion that the DOJ has the authority to immunize any conduct by high government officials or private actors from the reach of the law is a recipe for inevitable lawlessness. It enables the President to break the law, or authorize lawbreaking, simply by having his political appointees at DOJ -- including ideologues like John Yoo -- declare that he can do it. As these incidents ought to demonstrate rather vividly, the mere fact that Bush officials at the DOJ declare something to be legal cannot provide license to break the law with impunity.
(4) Since the Nuremberg Trials, "war criminals" include not only those who directly apply the criminal violence and other forms of brutality, but also government officials who authorized it and military officials who oversaw it. Ironically, the Bush administration itself argued in the 2006 case of Hamdan -- when they sought to prosecute as a "war criminal" a Guantanamo detainee whom they allege was a driver for Osama bin Laden -- that one is guilty of war crimes not merely by directly violating the laws of war, but also by participating in a conspiracy to do so.
Monday, March 03, 2008
"The war in Iraq is not covered to its potential because of how dangerous it is for reporters to cover it," said Liam Madden, a former Marine and member of the group Iraq Veterans Against the War. "That's left a lot of misconceptions in the minds of the American public about what the true nature of military occupation looks like."
Iraq Veterans Against the War argues that well-publicised incidents of U.S. brutality like the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the massacre of an entire family of Iraqis in the town of Haditha are not the isolated incidents perpetrated by "a few bad apples", as many politicians and military leaders have claimed. They are part of a pattern, the group says, of "an increasingly bloody occupation".
"The problem that we face in Iraq is that policymakers in leadership have set a precedent of lawlessness where we don't abide by the rule of law, we don't respect international treaties, so when that atmosphere exists it lends itself to criminal activity," argues former U.S. Army Sergeant Logan Laituri, who served a tour in Iraq from 2004 to 2005 before being discharged as a conscientious objector.
Laituri told IPS that precedent of lawlessness makes itself felt in the rules of engagement handed down by commanders to soldiers on the front lines. When he was stationed in Samarra, for example, he said one of his fellow soldiers shot an unarmed man while he walked down the street.
"The problem is that that soldier was not committing a crime as you might call it because the rules of engagement were very clear that no one was supposed to be walking down the street," he said. "But I have a problem with that. You can't tell a family to leave everything they know so you can bomb the shit out of their house or their city. So while he definitely has protection under the law, I don't think that legitimates that type of violence."
Iraq Veterans Against the War is calling the gathering "Winter Soldier," after a quote from the U.S. revolutionary Thomas Paine, who wrote in 1776: "These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."
Thursday, February 07, 2008
For more than three years, Steven Bradbury has been the acting head of the Office of Legal Counsel, the crucial Justice Department office that has the power to issue "advance pardons," as former OLC head Jack Goldsmith put it. But Senate Democrats, because of Bradbury's role in approving the warrantless wiretapping program and enhanced interrogation techniques that include waterboarding, have opposed White House efforts to have him confirmed and remove his acting status.
That hasn't kept him from the job, however. It is, after all, a position that is supposed to require Senate confirmation. While Democrats, especially Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) have held firm, Bradbury has simply acted as the head of OLC. The Dems say that the administration has broken the law to keep him in the spot.
Dems have returned Bradbury's nomination four times, and over and over again, the White House has renominated him, most recently last month. And today Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Durbin, the Senate whip, revealed that, in negotiations with the White House late last year before the Christmas holiday, the President refused to strike a deal on nominees unless Reid allowed him to recess appoint Bradbury. Reid said he'd offered to confirm 84 of the pending nominees, but the White House said no dice.
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
I guess they figure the cat's out of the bag. Last month, former Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, trying to accent the positive, confirmed that the U.S. had used waterboarding, but said they hadn't done it "in years." Today, CIA Director Michael Hayden got more specific in a public Congressional hearing. From Reuters:The CIA on three occasions shortly after the September 11 attacks used a widely condemned interrogation technique known as waterboarding, CIA Director Michael Hayden told Congress on Tuesday.
"Waterboarding has been used on only three detainees," Hayden told the Senate Intelligence Committee, publicly specifying the number of subjects and naming them for the first time, as Congress considers banning the technique.
Those subjected to waterboarding were al Qaeda suspects Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Hayden said. [The CIA's destroyed torture tapes, remember, documented the interrogations of Zubaydah and Nashiri.]
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
It's no secret that after 9/11, the administration authorized the use of waterboarding, and that the technique was used on a number of detainees in 2002 and reportedly stopped in 2003. But the administration has never explicitly admitted that.
In fact, when Dick Cheney, seduced into loose talk by a friendly interviewer, confirmed that "a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives," the White House furiously backpedaled, and Tony Snow did his best to proclaim that "a dunk in water" had not been a reference to waterboarding, but just "a dunk in the water."So John Negroponte is really letting the horse out of the barn here. In an interview with National Journal, the former director of national intelligence casually mentions the use of waterboarding.
Monday, January 21, 2008
At an event in Watertown, New York on Saturday, members of Iraq Veterans Against War charged that war crimes against civilians were encouraged by unit commanders.
"The killing of innocent civilians is policy," said veteran Mike Blake. "It's unit policy and it's Army policy. It's not official policy, but it's what's happens on the ground everyday. It's what unit commanders individually encourage."
Veteran Matt Howard concurred: "These decisions are coming from the top down," Howard said. "The tactics that we use, the policies that the military engages, will create situations, create dynamics, create -- ultimately -- atrocity."
Blake and Howard were among four veterans speaking at Watertown's Different Drummer Cafe, in a preliminary event to the 'Winter Soldier' gathering scheduled in Washington, D.C. in March. Named after the 1971 event in which John Kerry read testimony from soldiers on atrocities they had committed, this year's Winter Soldier will feature Iraq War veterans speaking about war crimes they committed or witnessed.