Two years ago on this date, Julian Assange was in Iceland readying the release of the shocking material that would catapult his group, WikiLeaks (and himself) to worldwide fame: the "Collateral Murder" video, an aerial view of U.S. Apache helicopters firing on Iraqi civilians and two Reuters journalists in 2007, plus celebratory dialogue from the gunners. It would be the first of four major WikiLeaks releases that year, as it was followed by the Afghanistan and Iraq "war logs" and "Cablegate."
One man has been accused of leaking all of that (and more), and we mark a separate anniversary related to PFC Bradley Manning.
A year ago this month, protests were held here and abroad, calling for Manning's release from semi-solitary confinement, under inhumane conditions, at the Quantico base in Virginia. He had been on a "perosnal injury" watch for months (despite his protests), rarely let out of his cell, forced to sleep without a standard pillow and blanket, and even at times stripped naked at night. Protesters were arrested at the White House -- and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's chief spokesman, P.J. Crowley, had been forced out when he protested these conditions.
All of this would help provoke Manning's transfer to Leavenworth prison in Kansas in April 2011, where he would enjoy more freedom and privacy. But one factor remains: nearly two years after his arrest, in May 2010, he still has not faced his court-martial trial on the 22 charges brought against him -- including "aiding the enemy," which could bring the death sentence (though likely lead to life in prison instead).
This week, a book about this two year period that I've written with Kevin Gosztola has been published: Truth and Consequences: The U.S. vs. Bradley Manning. As we point out near the close of our story: "His court martial was expected to begin this August, even though Manning's defense had been saying the government could hold the trial in May. This means that when Manning goes on trial he will have been in confinement for eight hundred days. "
The book brings this home by tracing Manning's saga from his arrest and brutal incarceration to the present day, with a day-by-day account of the hearings, including testimony by Adrian Lamo. Gosztola, who assisted me on my two previous books on this subject and now writes daily for Firedoglake.com, was one of the very few journalists who attended both of the key court martial hearings for Manning: last December and then just two weeks ago. So the book, in both print and as an e-book, is amazingly up to date.
The book concludes with Gosztola raising questions after the latest hearing in mid-March: "Goal? Aggravate and bother media to the point that they wonder if it is even worth it to cover the proceedings? Lose them somewhere along the way to the actual start of Manning's trial? That way when the date finally comes for the trial the press won't really know the scale of the games played by the government to interfere with the ability of Manning's lawyers to defend him.
"Or, more insidious, prolong the pre-trial. Make the defense choose between a speedy trial or fighting for the right to evidence and potential witnesses to mount a proper defense. It's up to Manning, but at this rate, he could be in pre-trial confinement for almost a thousand days before he finally gets to the first day of his trial."
The new Manning book is just out in both print and e-book. Mitchell's other current book is "Journeys With Beethoven." He has written a dozen previous books and blogs daily at The Nation.
ACLU has provided detailed narratives by three women describing sexual assaults by guards whilst they were being transported in prison vans.
Almost all US immigration detainees, including asylum seekers and refugees, are not detained in specialist facilities but in normal state prisons.
The ACLU says the 185 assaults happened all around the country, with more allegations against facilities in Texas than in any other state, but they do not represent the full scope of the problem because sexual assault is “notoriously underreported.”
Mark Whitburn, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas, said in a statement:
“Immigrants in detention are uniquely vulnerable to abuse – and those holding them in custody know it. Many do not speak English … and may not be aware of their rights, or they may be afraid to exercise them.”
The ACLU has launched a class-action suit in Texas on behalf of three women who are seeking asylum in the US after fleeing sexual assault in their home countries.
Lisa Graybill, legal director of the ACLU of Texas, said in a statement:
“The fact that these women sought sanctuary in the United States – only to find abuse at the hands of officials they thought would protect them – is wholly inconsistent with America’s self-proclaimed reputation as a beacon of human rights.”
The Texas suit names three officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a guard accused of assaulting the women and Corrections Corp. of America, the country’s largest private prisons contractor.
Donald Dunn, the guard in Texas named in the lawsuit, has pleaded guilty in state court to three counts of official repression and two counts of unlawful restraint related to assaults against five women, according to the ACLU. Dunn also faces four federal counts of criminal violations of civil rights, the ACLU said.
A number of the 779 Guantanamo prisoners came to the prison as children, including these four. (Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas/photos)
Fifteen juveniles spent time as prisoners at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp — three more than the U.S. State Department had publicly acknowledged, the UC Davis Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas reported today on its website.
The finding is based on an analysis of military documents recently made public by the transparency organization WikiLeaks.
“This new report shows that even more children have been imprisoned at Guantánamo than our earlier research revealed,” said Almerindo Ojeda, director of the center and principal investigators for its Guantanamo Testimonials Project. “This is one more reason for a full, independent, and transparent inquiry into the policies and practices of detention we have engaged in since 9/11.”
A 2008 study by the Guantánamo Testimonials Project found that the U.S. Department of State had underreported by 50 percent the number of juveniles seized and sent to Guantanamo. The State Department subsequently adjusted the number of juvenile detainees from eight to 12.
“This is three more than the 12 the State Department acknowledged to the public after our earlier report on the subject, and seven more than the eight the State Department originally reported to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child,” Ojeda said.
Ojeda and other scholars at UC Davis and beyond, as well as human rights specialists, attorneys and retired military officers, have repeatedly called for investigation into post-9/11 U.S. detention policies and practices. Referred to as the Davis Group — as it was convened by the center and the law school — their 2009 work can be found at http://tinyurl.com/3hb999k.
Thirteen of the one-time juvenile detainees who were identified in the latest WikiLeaks documents have been released. Of the other two, one is the first child in history to have been convicted of war crimes, according to Ojeda. The other is reported to have killed himself in his Guantanamo cell at age 21. Photos of the individuals are also on the website.
WikiLeaks began to release classified documents for all 779 Guantanamo prisoners in April.
The volunteer-staffed Guantánamo Testimonials Project also gathers accounts of torture of Guantánamo Bay prisoners found in news media reports, e-mails, diaries and other sources worldwide. The project has published a book, "The Trauma of Psychological Torture," that contains the proceedings of a September 2006 conference sponsored by the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain, which drew psychologists, psychiatrists, neurobiologists, lawyers and historians from nine institutions in the U.S. and Germany.
About UC Davis
For more than 100 years, UC Davis has engaged in teaching, research and public service that matter to California and transform the world. Located close to the state capital, UC Davis has more than 32,000 students, more than 2,500 faculty and more than 21,000 staff, an annual research budget that exceeds $678 million, a comprehensive health system and 13 specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and more than 100 undergraduate majors in four colleges — Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences, Engineering, and Letters and Science. It also houses six professional schools — Education, Law, Management, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing.
No Appetite for Prosecution: In Memoir, Bush Admits He Authorized the Use of Torture, But No One Cares
by Andy Worthington
With just days to go before George W. Bush's memoir, Decision Points, hits bookstores (on November 9), and with reports on the book's contents doing the rounds after review copies were made available to the New York Times and Reuters, it will be interesting to see how many media outlets allow the former President the opportunity to try to salvage his reputation, how many are distracted by his spat with Kanye West or his claim that he thought about replacing Dick Cheney as Vice President in 2004, and how many decide that, on balance, it would be more honest to remind readers and viewers of the former President's many crimes - including the illegal invasion of Iraq, and the authorization of the use of torture on "high-value detainees" seized in the "War on Terror."
As I fall firmly into the latter camp, this article focuses on what little has so far emerged regarding the President's views on Guantánamo, and, in particular, on his confession that he authorized the waterboarding of "high-value detainee" Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, which is rather more important than trading blows with a rapper about whether or not his response to the Katrina disaster was racist, as it is a crime under domestic and international law.
As Michiko Kakutani explained in a review of the book for the New York Times:
He tries to play down the problems of Guantánamo Bay, writing that detainees were given "a personal copy of the Koran" and access to a library among whose popular offerings was "an Arabic translation of Harry Potter."
On torture, however, Bush remains as casual about authorizing waterboarding (a form of controlled drowning used on at least three "high-value detainees" held in secret CIA prisons), as he did in June this year, when he told the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, Michigan, "Yeah, we waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. I'd do it again to save lives."
In his book, he writes that his response, when asked if he would approve the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was, "Damn right!" He added, "Had I not authorized waterboarding on senior al-Qaeda leaders, I would have had to accept a greater risk that the country would be attacked."
On Thursday, Reuters revealed more about the passages in the book in which Bush discusses waterboarding. This largely revisits the scenario as he described it in a press conference in September 2006, when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (the three men waterboarded by the CIA), plus 11 other "high-value detainees," were transferred to Guantánamo from the secret CIA prisons whose existence, until that moment, had been strenuously denied by the administration.
On that occasion, he spoke at length about Abu Zubaydah, the supposed "high-value detainee" for whom the torture program was specifically developed, who, according to the "torture memos" released last year (written by lawyers in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel in 2002 and 2005) was waterboarded 83 times.
Revisiting his claims that, "When Abu Zubaydah stopped answering questions from the FBI, CIA Director George Tenet told Bush he thought the detainee had more information to offer" (as Reuters described it), Bush explains that "CIA and Justice Department lawyers conducted a careful legal review and came up with an ‘enhanced interrogation program,' which he said complied with the US Constitution and all applicable laws, including those that ban torture."
"No doubt the procedure was tough, but medical experts assured the CIA that it did no lasting harm," Bush writes, adding that the methods were "highly effective," and that Abu Zubaydah "revealed large amounts of information about al-Qaeda's structure as well as the location of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who he called the logistical planner of September 11 attacks" - an analysis that is unconvincing, as FBI interrogator Ali Soufan explained in an op-ed for the New York Times in April 2009. Soufan wrote:
Defenders of these techniques have claimed that they got Abu Zubaydah to give up information leading to the capture of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a top aide to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed ... This is false. The information that led to Mr. Shibh's capture came primarily from a different terrorist operative who was interviewed using traditional methods.
Bizarrely, Bush also attempts to explain how Abu Zubaydah began cooperating, in a troubling passage in which he seems to be trying to make out that waterboarding was some sort of specific test for Muslims. He writes, "His understanding of Islam was that he had to resist interrogation only up to a certain point. Waterboarding was the technique that allowed him to reach that threshold, fulfill his religious duty, and then cooperate." He adds that Abu Zubaydah then explained, "You must do this for all the brothers."
Writing of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times, according to the OLC memos, Bush describes him as "difficult to break," as Reuters put it, "but when he did, he gave us a lot." As Reuters explained, "He disclosed plans to attack American targets with anthrax and ‘directed us to three people involved in the al-Qaeda biological weapons program,' among other breakthroughs."
Again, this is a claim that is not backed up with any evidence. As David Rose explained in an article for Vanity Fair in December 2008, "according to a former senior CIA official, who read all the interrogation reports on KSM, ‘90 percent of it was total f*cking bullsh*t.' A former Pentagon analyst adds: ‘KSM produced no actionable intelligence. He was trying to tell us how stupid we were.'"
In conclusion, however, Bush claims that "the CIA interrogation program saved lives," as Reuters described it, and states, "Had we captured more al-Qaeda operatives with significant intelligence value, I would have used the program for them as well."
Why waterboarding is torture, and torture is a crime
The problem with Bush's off-hand acknowledgment that he authorized the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - and Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri - is that waterboarding is torture, and torture is a crime.
As Isabel Macdonald of FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) explained in 2008 in an excellent overview of US reporting on waterboarding, "During the insurrection against the US occupation of the Philippines, the Washington Post described how the US military tortured suspected members of the Filipino resistance using "the form of torture known as the water cure." That was in September 1902, but after the Second World War, when US military tribunals tried Japanese military officials for war crimes for torturing prisoners of war with techniques including waterboarding, the New York Times described the procedure as "forced drownings," and it was referred to by the Washington Post as "water torture."
Similarly, in March 1968:
"water torture" was mentioned in the headline of a Washington Post article about the Australian army's admission that a soldier had administered the "water treatment" to a Vietnamese woman suspected of being a guerilla. Six months later, the Post published a front-page photographic exposé of US soldiers administering this same "water treatment" to a Vietnamese prisoner. A follow-up report in the Post [in 1970] referred to this practice, which resulted in charges against the commander of the US Army troops in South Vietnam, as "an ancient Oriental torture called ‘the water treatment.'"
Moreover, when it comes to torture in more general terms, the US anti-torture statute (Title 18, Part I, Chapter 113C of the US Code, introduced in 1994) describes torture as "an act ... specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering ... upon another person within his custody or physical control," and, as I explained in an article in July this year about Jay S. Bybee, the former OLC head (and now a judge in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals) who signed his name to the most notorious of the "torture memos," written by John Yoo in the summer of 2002:
The US anti-torture statute [also] requires a fine, or 20 years' imprisonment (or both) for "[w]hoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture," and a death sentence, or a prison sentence up to and including a life sentence, "if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection."
The UN Convention Against Torture [ratified by Ronald Reagan in 1987] stipulates (Article 2.2), "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture." Moreover, the Convention also stipulates (Article 4. 1) that signatories "shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law" and requires each State, when torture has been exposed, to "submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution" (Article 7.1).
These facts are generally ignored by mainstream media outlets, where those in charge have, since 2004, when waterboarding under the Bush administration was first introduced to the US public, coyly - and deceptively - chosen to refer to it as "a form of simulated drowning condemned by human rights activists as torture" (as Reuters did on Thursday), thereby helping to foster the culture of impunity which has allowed Bush to make this statement so publicly, and which, in February, allowed Dick Cheney to tell Jonathan Karl, on ABC News' "This Week," "I was a big supporter of waterboarding."
Why the Obama administration bears responsibility for Bush's impunity
In addition, the Obama administration is also responsible. Neither President Obama nor Attorney General Eric Holder has chosen to hold Bush administration officials and lawyers - up to and including the former President - accountable for their crimes, even though, as I explained in an article in March 2009:
In an interview with ABC News on January 11, 2009, President-Elect Obama responded to a recent CBS interview with Dick Cheney, in which the then-Vice President had sounded his usual alarms about the need for "extraordinary" policies to deal with terror suspects, by stating, "Vice President Cheney I think continues to defend what he calls extraordinary measures or procedures and from my view waterboarding is torture. I have said that under my administration we will not torture."
Two days later, at his confirmation hearing, Eric Holder reinforced Obama's opinion. Noting, as the New York Times described it, that waterboarding had been used to torment prisoners during the Inquisition, by the Japanese in World War II and in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, and adding, "We prosecuted our own soldiers for using it in Vietnam," he stated unequivocally, "Waterboarding is torture," and reiterated his opinion on March 2, 2009, in a speech to the Jewish Council of Public Affairs in Washington. "Waterboarding is torture," he said again, adding, "My Justice Department will not justify it, will not rationalize it and will not condone it."
Instead, after a promising start on torture, which involved the President upholding the absolute ban on torture in an executive order issued on his second day in office, and the release of the OLC "torture memos" last April, in response to a court order, the Obama administration has retreated to a place where every attempt to seek accountability for the Bush administration's torturers has been resolutely blocked.
In January this year, it was revealed that Holder had appointed - or had allowed - the veteran Justice Department fixer David Margolis to override the conclusions of a four-year internal investigation into the behavior of John Yoo and Jay Bybee, in which the author's conclusions - that both men had been willfully guilty of "professional misconduct" - were watered down so that they were merely reprimanded for exercising "poor judgment."
In addition, the administration's stock response to attempts to investigate torture claims in court - as, for example, in the cases of five men subjected to "extraordinary rendition" and torture, who sought to sue Jeppesen Dataplan Inc., a Boeing subsidiary that acted as the CIA's torture travel agent - has been to slam all the doors shut mercilessly, inappropriately invoking the little-known "state secrets" privilege to prevent anyone with a valid complaint from even getting anywhere near a court.
This is unlikely to change in the near future, of course, leaving George W. Bush able to boast openly about his crimes, apparently secure in the knowledge that he is untouchable, although as David Cole, a law professor at Georgetown University, and a long-standing critic of the Bush administration's interrogation and detention policies, told the Washington Post on Thursday, "The fact that he did admit it suggests he believes he is politically immune from being held accountable ... But politics can change."
At present, it is difficult to see how, but those compiling evidence will have taken note that, in the very public forum of an internationally available memoir, George W. Bush has failed to rehabilitate his legacy and has, instead, openly confessed to war crimes.
Note: For a perceptive analysis of George W. Bush's thoughts about his responsibility for the Iraq fiasco, see this post by Amy Davidson of the New Yorker.
Andy Worthington is a journalist and historian, based in London. He is the author of The Guantánamo Files, the first book to tell the stories of all the detainees in America's illegal prison. For more information, visit his blog here.
Court Rules Ashcroft Can Be Held Liable For U.S. Citizen’s Post 9/11 Detention
One of the cases the Supreme Court of the United States will take up in its 2011 session is Ashcroft vs. al-Kidd. John Ashcroft was the Attorney General under President George Bush Jr. In that capacity he appears to have knowingly violated the U.S. Constitution (as well as periodically forced his employees to listen to his horrendous singing voice). Abdullah al-Kidd is a Muslim American citizen who Ashcroft illegally ordered detained through the illicit use of a material witness warrant. Kidd was one of 70 detained in this manner. He was picked up at Dulles International Airport after the FBI lied to a judge in order to get the warrant for his seizure. Al-Kidd was subsequently held for long periods in a security cell where the lights never went out.
That John Ashcroft is the criminal and al-Kidd his victim is certain. That is how the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sees it. That court has refused to dismiss al-Kidd’s lawsuit against Ashcroft noting that the former Attorney General can be held personally responsible for action “repugnant to the Constitution.” That he knowingly and criminally acted to “arrest and detain American citizens for months on end, in sometimes primitive conditions, not because they have committed a crime, but merely because the government wants to investigate them for possible wrongdoing.” Ashcroft’s lawyers avoid the question of the illegality of his actions and simply say that he is immune from lawsuits for actions he took as Attorney General. On that basis they have asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the suit. The Justices have now decided to consider Ashcroft’s request.
Certainly John Ashcroft is not the first high U.S. official to reveal himself as an alleged criminal. Nor is it the first time that high government officials have acted in an unconstitutional manner. Right out of the starting gate , so to speak, the young United States created the Alien and Sedition Acts (1798) through which the Federalist party sought, quite unconstitutionally, to jail its political opponents. Andrew Jackson spit in the eye of both the Supreme Court and the Constitution by evicting the Cherokee Indians (1838), James Polk should have been impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors for lying to the Congress in order to start the Mexican-American War (1846), Abraham Lincoln probably violated the Constitution by some of his police actions during the Civil War, the raids and deportations that took place as a result of the Red Scares of the 1920s were at least in part unconstitutional, then you have Watergate, Irangate and now multiple potential Bushgates. Few of the politicians who ordered these criminal actions, or those who carried out those orders, ever faced punishment. [NOT TO SPEAK OF COINTELPRO]
The Position of the Obama Administration
What is interesting about the present case of Ashcroft vs. al-Kidd is that the Obama administration has decided to make illegality acceptable by institutionalizing the concept of immunity for highly placed men like Ashcroft. The administration will try to do this not through legislation, but through precedent– by defending Ashcroft’s claim to immunity before the Supreme Court. At first it seems strange that a professed liberal president such as Barack Obama would do this. But unfortunately, it is quite consistent with the illiberal stance he has maintained on the question of the constitutional responsibility of his predecessors in the Bush White House. From the beginning of his presidency, Obama decided to shield them from the consequences of their crimes. This position was initiated by the president’s “we should look forward” statement in January of 2009. In this statement he made it clear that he did not want to pursue those who had ordered or implemented (in this case) torture under the Bush administration. When popular pressure forced the president to allow his attorney general , Eric Holder, to open an investigation of the issue of torture it was arranged so the inquiry would have no teeth. Publically and up front we were told that no one would be prosecuted whatever the outcome of the probe. That is the last anyone has heard of Holder’s investigation of torture American style. The long and short of this is that the principle set down at Nuremberg, to wit following orders is no excuse for criminal behavior, will not be applied. Nor will giving the orders incur a penalty. The decision to defend Ashcroft’s claim of immunity is in solid accord with this position.
The logic of this position, and its likely consequences, warrants close examination. If we were to ask President Obama why he has decided to defend the immunity of alleged criminals who happen to be high government officials, and if he were to be perfectly candid in his reply, here is what he might say:
1. President Obama – It would be difficult for the president, or those who carry out his orders, to act freely and as needed if they had always to worry about litigation after the fact. This is particularly true in time of war and emergency.
My Reply – This assertion has been made by leaders of states from time immemorial. It is a variation on the raison d’etat argument that has historically allowed all manner of bad behavior under the guise of state interests. On the other hand, it is true that following the law can prove inconvenient under wartime or emergency conditions. Nonetheless, in the long run, lawlessness is much worse than inconvenience. It is to be noted that, in the American case, appointed and elected high officials (particularly attorney generals!) are sworn to uphold the law not to transgress it.
2. President Obama – While I have stopped the more egregious policies of the Bush administration, I am still responsible for the safety of all American citizens and, in our modern age, I have to be able to use all the methods, high tech and otherwise, to achieve this goal. Some of these methods might very well prove unconstitutional (warrantless wiretaps, for instance) and yet I must be free to use them because another 9/11 style attack must be prevented. And, if I am to use these methods, then I can not prosecute those who have done so before me. Otherwise I would be accused of being a hypocrite by my political foes.
My Reply – This argument juxtaposes unattainable 100% security against the traditional freedoms that makes America the country its founders intended. Do we want to sacrifice the latter for the illusion of the former? As James Madison once observed, “The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become instruments of tyranny at home.” That is the slippery slope President Obama seems willing to take us down. It also prioritizes the president’s political interests over the Constitution. This latter point of view can be carried further.
3. President Obama – You have to understand, that if I do not do all that is possible, be it constitutional or otherwise, to protect the nation I put myself in mortal political danger. I open myself to the accusation by my political rivals that I am “soft” on security or terrorism. And, if something does happen, such as another terrorist attack, then I am politically dead.
My Reply – Well, yes, this is so. However, what is also true is that prioritizing politics above law always leads us in the direction of corruption, or worse. By defending Ashcroft isn’t President Obama saying it is all right to break the law if you are highly placed and so lacking in imagination that you can not figure out a legal way of dealing with an emergency? For let us be clear, there is no evidence that after 9/11 the unconstitutional route was the only possible route to defend the country. Were the legal options and their constitutional variants ever seriously itemized and discussed? The Obama administration, like the Bush operatives, have never publically addressed this question.
If the Obama Justice Department proceeds with its plans to defend Ashcroft’s immunity claim and if, as is likely, the Supreme Court upholds that claim, we will be left with a politically based two tier legal system. It will set free to break the law every highly placed federal official every time he or she can claim an emergency situation. Then, after the fact, they will cite the immunity precedent. In the meantime, the fact that high federal officials are sworn to uphold the laws of the land will be rendered worthless, just another bit of political hypocrisy.
So what is it that we want for America? Do we want a two tier legal system where presidents and their appointees can break the law with impunity? Do we want a legal system where it is accepted that citizens and residents can disappear into federal dungeons? Is it all right with us that our fellow citizens, following the orders of the president, will torture, detain, shackle and otherwise abuse others without any regard for law – and they too will be immune? Because, whether they realize it or not, that is what the Obama Justice Department is arguing for when it defends John Ashcroft.
Dwight Eisenhower once asked the question, “how far can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without?” It is time for us to ask this question about the heinous “security” tactics of President George Bush Jr. as well as President Barack Obama’s unfortunate willingness to defend them.
Lawrence Davidson Department of History West Chester University West Chester, Pa 19383 USA
Supporters of the tribunals at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, who insist military justice, not the federal courts, is the best way to deal with terrorists, should pay close attention to Tuesday’s events in a United States District Court in Manhattan. Faisal Shahzad was sentenced to life imprisonment, five months and four days after he tried to blow up his car in Times Square.
When Mr. Shahzad was arrested, and later given a Miranda warning, the “tough on terrorists” crowd screamed about coddling and endangering the country’s security. They didn’t stop complaining, even after Mr. Shahzad cooperated with investigators and entered a guilty plea with a mandatory life sentence. All of this happened without the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York Police Department breaking laws or violating Constitutional protections.
Now let’s check in on Guantánamo Bay, where President George W. Bush opened an illegal detention camp, authorized torture and abuse, and then set up military tribunals engineered to produce guilty verdicts no matter how thin or tainted the evidence. When the courts declared the system illegal, Congress made it slightly better. President Obama improved it a bit more. But it is still not up to American standards, or to its task.
There are more than 170 inmates left in Guantánamo. Only 36 have been referred for prosecution, some very dangerous men. Forty-eight are in a long-term detention that is certainly illegal. Almost all the rest are in limbo while the Obama team tries to figure out what to do. The chances are dimming every day that prisoners like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, will ever be brought to justice.
The only inmate on trial in Guantánamo is Omar Khadr, a Canadian who was accused at age 15 of killing an American soldier in Afghanistan. He has been held in extralegal detention for more than eight years, and the military has been attempting to try him since 2005. The thin evidence against him is tainted by his credible allegations of abuse.
The Pentagon has further shamed American justice during the trial by imposing censorship that included temporarily banning four reporters from the courtroom because they published the name of a witness who had been identified in news reports and public documents.
This is the choice: Justice in long-established federal courts that Americans can be proud of and the rest of the world can respect. Or illegal detentions and unending, legally dubious military tribunals. It is an easy one.
Torture IS an “American” Value: Reality Versus the Rhetoric
May 1, 2007
I became aware of torture as a U.S. policy in 1969 when I was serving as a USAF combat security officer working near Can Tho City in Viet Nam’s Mekong Delta. I was "informed" about the CIA’s Phong Dinh Province Interrogation Center (PIC) in Can Tho City and a POW camp near the Can Tho Army airfield where supposedly "significant members" of the VCI (Viet Cong Infrastructure) were taken for torture as part of the Phoenix "Pacification" Program. A huge nearby French-built prison was also apparently utilized for torture of "suspects" from the Delta region. The word was that many of the VC suspects were routinely murdered, and subsequent historical accounts confirm this.
Naive, I was shocked! The Agency for International Development (AID) working with Southern Illinois University, for example, trained Vietnamese police and prison officials the "art" of torture ("interrogations") under cover of "Public Safety." U.S. officials believed they were teaching "better methods," often making "suggestions" during torture sessions conducted by Vietnamese police.
Instead of the recent euphemism, "illegal combatants," the U.S. in Viet Nam claimed prisoners were "criminal" thus exempting them from Geneva Convention protections.
Use of torture as a function of terror, or its equivalent in sadistic behavior, has been historic de facto U.S. American policy.
Our European ancestor’s shameful, sadistic treatment of the original Indigenous inhabitants based on an ethos of arrogance and violence has become ingrained in our values. "Manifest Destiny" has rationalized as a religion the elimination or assimilation of those perceived to be blocking "American" progress — at home or abroad — a belief that expansion of the nation, including subjugation of natives and others, is divinely ordained, that our "superior race" is obligated to "civilize" those who stand in the way.
When examining my "roots" in New York and New England, I discovered that Indian captives were skinned alive and dragged through the streets of New Amsterdam (New York City) in the 1640s. Scalping enabled Indian bounty hunters to be paid.
Captains Underhill and Endicott in the Massachusetts Bay Colony governed by John Winthrop spent their time "burning and spoiling the country" of Indians in Rhode Island and Connecticut in 1636-37 while sparing the children and women as slaves.
My hometown of Geneva in the Finger Lakes region of New York State was once home to the Seneca Nation with its flourishing farms, orchards, and sturdy houses. In one two-week period in September 1779, General George Washington’s orders "to lay waste, that the country . . . be . . . destroyed," instilling "terror" among the Indians, were dutifully carried out by General Sullivan who promised that "the Indians shall see that there is malice enough in our hearts to destroy everything that contributes to their support." Sullivan’s campaign has been described as a ruthless policy of scorched earth, bearing comparison with Sherman’s march to the sea or the search-and-destroy missions of U.S. soldiers in Vietnam.
In northern California where I now live the same grueling history exists. Bret Harte wrote in 1860 that little children and old women were mercilessly stabbed and their skulls crushed by axes, "old women . . . lay weltering in blood, their brains dashed out . . . while infants . . . with their faces cloven with hatchets and their bodies ghastly wounds" lay nearby.
In 1920 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) investigated the conduct of U.S. troops who had occupied Haiti since 1915: More than 3,000 Haitians had been killed by U. S. Marines, many having been tortured.
When Indigenous Nicaragua resistance fought against occupying United States Marines in the late 1920s, the Marines launched counter insurgency war. U.S. policy makers insisted on "stabilizing" the country to enforce loan repayments to U.S. banks. They defined the resistance forces as "bandits," an earlier equivalent to the "criminal prisoners" in Viet Nam and "illegal combatants" in Iraq. Thus, since the U.S. claimed not to be fighting a "legitimate" military force, any Nicaraguan perceived as interfering with the occupiers was commonly subjected to beatings, tortures, and beheadings. When the U.S-installed Somoza dictatorship was overthrown in 1979, the Somoza torture centers were immediately destroyed.
In 1946, the U.S. Army institutionalized teaching torture techniques to Latin American militaries with the opening of its School of the Americas (SOA) which continues today as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC).
Torture has been an historical U.S. practice in police stations and prisons (and via countless vigilante crimes of sadistic torture and mutilations against Black Americans).
The Wickersham Commission’s 1931 Report on Lawlessness in Law Enforcement, concluded that "The third degree is the employment of methods which inflict suffering, physical or mental, upon a person, in order to obtain from that person information about a crime. . . . The third degree is widespread. The third degree is a secret and illegal practice."
Seventy years later, the 2002 Human Rights Watch World Report documented systematic use of torture by U.S. police: ". . . thousands of allegations of police abuse, including excessive use of force, such as unjustified shootings, beatings, fatal chokings, and rough treatment."
My studies of brutality in Massachusetts prisons in 1981 concluded (in Walpole State Prison, Massachusetts: An Exercise in Torture), "a clear pattern and history of systematic torture including withholding water, heat, bedding, medical care, and showers; imposition of hazards such as flooding cells, placing foreign matter in food, igniting clothes and bedding, spraying with mace and tear gas; regular physical assaults and beatings; and forcing prisoners to lie face down, naked and handcuffed to one another . . . on freezing . . . outdoor ground while being kicked and beaten." This was two decades before the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo revelations.
Terry Kupers, a psychiatrist has testified about human rights abuses in U.S. prisons: "The plight of prisoners in the USA is strikingly similar to the plight of the Iraqis who were abused by American GIs. Prisoners are maced, raped, beaten, starved, left naked in freezing cold cells and otherwise abused in too many American prisons, as substantiated by findings in many courts. . . ."
It would behoove us to attempt to understand the underlying psychological "defenses" that seem to have afflicted us like a cultural mental illness since our origins.
Lawyers For Guantánamo Prisoner.... Mood:
quizzical Now Playing: Court Should Uphold Habeas Ruling In Salahi Case, Says ACLU Topic: TORTURE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 16, 2010 11:51 AM
CONTACT: ACLU Rachel Myers, National ACLU, (212) 549-2689 or 2666; email@example.com
Lawyers For Guantánamo Prisoner In Court Friday To Defend Successful Challenge To Detention
Court Should Uphold Habeas Ruling In Salahi Case, Says ACLU
NEW YORK - September 16 - The American Civil Liberties Union and attorneys from the law firm Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg Ives & Duncan P.A. will argue Friday, September 17, that a federal appeals court should uphold Guantánamo prisoner Mohamedou Ould Salahi's successful challenge to his unlawful detention. A federal judge ordered Salahi released from Guantánamo in March on the grounds that he was being held unlawfully, but the U.S. government is challenging that ruling.
After being arrested in Mauritania in 2001 on suspicion of ties to al Qaeda, Salahi was rendered by the U.S. government to Jordan, where he was detained, interrogated and abused for eight months. He was then rendered to Bagram, Afghanistan and finally to Guantánamo, where he has been held since August 2002.
WHAT: Arguments in the U.S. government's appeal of a ruling ordering the release of Guantánamo prisoner Mohamedou Ould Salahi
WHO: Theresa Duncan of the law firm Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg Ives & Duncan P.A. will argue before Judges Sentelle, Tatel and Brown of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In addition to Duncan, lawyers on the case are Melissa Goodman and Jonathan Manes of the ACLU National Security Project; Jonathan Hafetz, cooperating attorney with the ACLU; Nancy Hollander of Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg Ives & Duncan P.A. and Linda Moreno of Linda Moreno P.A.
WHERE: U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit 333 Constitution Ave. NW Washington, D.C.
WHEN: Friday, September 17, 2010 9:30 a.m. EDT
The ACLU conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
ByBee & his sick Torture Laws "has got to go!" Mood:
lyrical Now Playing: News From the Underground: Jay Bybee must resign! Topic: TORTURE
News From the Underground: Jay Bybee must resign!
2.22.10 at 12:32pm
From: Mark Crispin Miller
(copied from Facebook to post here on the Zebra 3 report)
Date: Mon, 22 Feb 2010 06:56:51 -0500 To: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: [MCM] Jay Bybee must resign!
Watchdog Group Calls On Lawyers Practicing In The Ninth Circuit Court Of Appeals To Reject Judge Jay Bybee
Newly Released Department of Justice Report Further Discredits the Former Bush Administration Torture Lawyer
Washington, DC: On Friday, Department of Justice Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis found that Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jay Bybee exercised "poor judgment" when preparing legal memos advocating torture of detainees in US custody. Mr. Margolis also released a report from the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility, which found that Mr. Bybee engaged in "unprofessional conduct." That 300-page OPR report is a blistering indictment against Mr. Bybee, accusing him of ethical transgressions such as intentionally ignoring established case law--including that from the Supreme Court--that directly contradicted his position.
The Disbar Torture Lawyers campaign, www.disbartorturelawyers.com, consisting of scores of government accountability groups representing over a million members, last year filed a disciplinary complaint against Jay Bybee with the Washington, DC Bar seeking his disbarment. Today, the campaign supplemented that complaint with the DOJ and OPR reports.
The campaign now calls on Jay Bybee to resign. "Judge Bybee can no longer pretend to be fair, impartial, or to exercise good judgment," said attorney and campaign spokesperson Kevin Zeese. "He has been found to possess all the qualities that people do not want in a judge - bias, poor judgment, predetermination, failure to follow established law, and professional misconduct. Add that to his intentional withholding of information from the Senate during his confirmation hearings and it is clear that he cannot effectively serve as a judge, nor even as an attorney. He should resign or be impeached. Until Bybee resigns or is removed from the bench, we call on all lawyers of the Ninth Circuit Court Of Appeals to file motions to disqualify Judge Bybee, should be assigned to their cases, on the basis of these official findings of poor judgment and professional misconduct. No plaintiff or defendant should be subjected to the authority of a judge who has been so thoroughly discredited. We call on every plaintiff and defendant whose case is assigned to Judge Bybee to demand that their lawyer file a motion to disqualify him, and if the lawyer refuses, to take action against the lawyer for failing to protect their interests and the integrity of the judicial process."
Lawyers can find the DOJ and OPR documents as well as dozens of other documents related to Judge Bybee and other torture lawyers on the DisbarTortureLawyers.com site. The campaign has filed disciplinary complaints against 15 Bush Administration lawyers who advocated torture of US detainees.