30+ torture memos remain sealed while thousands of torture photos will eventually be released. Be prepared: Learn the deep history of US torture in SERE, Vietnam, Latin America, GMTO, Black Sites and beyond in American Torture.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Posted by Michael Otterman at 3:45 AM |

To the relief of Australian government officials that supported his detention, David Hicks has plead guilty to one count of supporting a terrorist organisation. I will have a full analysis of this suprise turn of events later in the week. My initial thoughts include:

1>Military officials intentionally deprived Hicks of emotional and physical contact with family until the day of the hearing. Hicks plead guilty after a tearful three-hour exchange with his sister and father. The prospect of not seeing them again for another few years (a possibility if Hicks had plead not guilty, plus tribunal rules were found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court) was likely too hard to bear.

2> His guilty plea reflects the "success" of American torture techniques lifted from Soviet Russia and Communist China (prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, varying temperatures, etc). In Stalin's days, the goal-- above all else-- was to secure a confession. These techniques do just that-- they get a deprived and dependent prisoner to sign their name to anything to stop the torture. The truth is merely an afterthought.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The International Fight for Hicks

Posted by Michael Otterman at 12:24 AM |

Below is a snippet of a story I did this week for New Matilda-- a popular Australian online politics/culture mag. Check out the full version here.


Outside Camp Six, an array of legal challenges swirl around Hicks. Most pressing is his upcoming arraignment on charges of ‘material support for terrorism.’ This is a retroactive charge created in October 2006 under the US Military Commission Act (MCA). The law carries, at maximum, a life sentence for anyone found guilty of providing ‘personnel (one or more individuals who may be or include oneself)’ to an ‘international terrorist organisation engaged in hostilities against the United States.’ In Hicks’s case, US officials have stated prosecutors will seek 20 years — time that officials have pledged Hicks could serve out in Australia if convicted.

A guilty plea and expedited sentencing could have had Hicks home before the upcoming Federal elections. Instead, Hicks’s legal team has decided to fight on. His Pentagon appointed lawyer, Major Michael Mori, has indicated Hicks will plead ‘not guilty’ at his 26 March arraignment. That is, of course, if the arraignment is even held as scheduled.

Last week, Hicks’ legal team applied for an injunction to postpone the arraignment until the US Supreme Court decides if the Military Commissions Act is unconstitutional. In particular, critics have alleged that the MCA’s habeas corpus-stripping provision — which holds that ‘unlawful enemy combatants’ like Hicks, cannot challenge ‘any aspect of the detention, transfer, treatment, trial, or conditions of detention’ in any US court — patently violates the US Constitution’s suspension clause. This clause holds that habeas corpus — the right to be brought before a judge to determine if one’s detention is lawful, be suspended only in times of ‘invasion’ or ‘rebellion.’

The US Supreme Court will consider whether or not to hear the MCA habeas challenge on 30 March 2007. If the court takes the case, oral arguments would be held in May while a decision could be reached by late June or early July 2007.

The Supreme Court has already ruled twice against the Bush Administration’s rules and policies at Guantánamo Bay. In 2004, the Supreme Court found in Rasul v Bush that detainees have a right to challenge their detentions in US courts. In 2006, the Court found in Hamdan v Rumsfeld that the military commissions patently violated the Geneva Conventions because they do not constitute a ‘court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognised as indispensable by civilised peoples.’

The Military Commissions Act itself was the Bush Administration’s response to these rulings. Passed in the last days of the Republican-controlled Congress, the MCA stripped habeas relief from detainees and reinstituted the military tribunals that allow secret evidence and hearsay. Further, the MCA legalised an array of coercive interrogation methods like total isolation, sleep deprivation, induced hypothermia and waterboarding; plus stipulated that evidence drawn from these tortures was admissible in tribunals provided it was extracted prior to 30 December 2005 — the day marking passage of the US Detainee Treatment Act.

If Hicks’ arraignment is not postponed, his military tribunal will begin within the next 120 days. Due to the rules of the commissions, plus the nature of Hicks’ catch-all retroactive charge, conviction is assured.

Friday, March 23, 2007

News Dump II

Posted by Michael Otterman at 9:18 AM |

A round-up of this week's torture related news. This list is in no particular order. Each story is as important as the next, so be sure to check out each one.


Psychology Legend Blasts Detainee Torture
The retiring psychology professor who ran the famed Stanford Prison Experiment savagely criticized the Bush administration's war on terrorism and said senior government officials should be tried for crimes against humanity.

In his final lecture at Stanford University on Wednesday, Philip Zimbardo said abuses committed by Army reservists at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison were not isolated incidents by rogue soldiers. Rather, sadism was the inevitable result of U.S. government policies that condone brutality toward enemies, he said.


The professor blasted President Bush, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other senior officials who said al-Qaida and Taliban captives would be considered "unlawful combatants" rather than "prisoners of war," a designation that would invoke the Geneva Convention.

Zimbardo said those officials "should be tried for the crimes against humanity."


Red Cross Says Detainees Reported Abuse

WASHINGTON (AP) - Terror detainees once held in the CIA's secret prisons were kept and questioned under highly abusive conditions, the International Committee of the Red Cross says in a confidential report based on interviews with high-value terror suspects.

The Red Cross said the techniques reported by the 14 prisoners, including sleep deprivation and the use of forced standing and other so-called "stress positions," were particularly harsh when used together. The prisoners were transferred from CIA custody to a military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in September.

The CIA's detention methods were designed to soften detainees and make them more likely to talk during interrogation. Human rights organizations say the CIA's extreme conditions of detention and the coercive questioning techniques constitute torture.


Ex-Captive in Guantánamo Makes Run for Office in Australia

AUBURN, Australia — Mamdouh Habib cannot drink cold water. He vomits when he tries to, he said. He knows he must drink water, so he engages in vigorous exercise in order to force some lukewarm water down.


Mr. Habib, an unemployed 51-year-old father of four, was an early case of rendition. He was seized in Pakistan in October 2001, where he has alleged that he was tortured, then bound up by tough English-speaking men in black and secretly flown to Egypt, where he was held and, by his accounts, tortured for several months, before being shipped to the American detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in April 2002.

He was released from Guantánamo and returned to Australia in February 2005 without any charges filed against him, because the Bush administration did not want the torture allegations aired in court, Australian and American officials have said.

Now, he is fighting back. He is running in elections on March 24 for a seat in the parliament of the state of New South Wales, whose capital is Sydney.


Mr. Habib does not expect to win, but he does plan to keep fighting, his own way.

“If we don’t win this election, we’ll go to the next one,” he said. “And if we don’t with that one, we’ll go to the next, and the next one after that. This is just practice.”


Inquiry Opens into 3 Canadians' Torture Cases

A public inquiry began Wednesday in Ottawa into the arrest and torture of three Canadians by Syria and the possible complicity of officials in this country.

Like Maher Arar, Abdullah Almalki, Ahmed Al Maati and Muayyed Nureddin all spent time in Syria's most feared prison where they say they were tortured and accused of links to al-Qaeda.

All were eventually freed and allowed to return to Canada.


Amnesty's Alex Neve says his organization wants to argue that, after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Canada may have operated its own version of the Bush administration's "extraordinary rendition" program.


Anger at US 'rendition' of refugees who fled Somalia

At least 150 people arrested in Kenya after fleeing violence in Somalia have been secretly flown to Somalia and Ethiopia, where they are being held incommunicado in underground prisons, human rights groups say.

It is alleged they were questioned by US and British officials.

Flight manifests seen by The Independent show that three charter planes left Nairobi for Somalia's capital Mogadishu, and Baidoa, the seat of parliament, in January and February, carrying around 80 people suspected of links with al-Qa'ida. The flights left at night, and the manifests appear to have been filled in hastily with many of the details, including the plane's destination, left blank.

Several of the suspects are understood to be held in underground prisons at Mogadishu airport where they are held shackled to the wall. Most have since been sent on to two detention facilities in Addis Ababa. Ethiopia has been accused of routinely torturing political prisoners. A further 50 or 60 people accused of belonging to Ethiopian rebel groups fighting alongside Somalia's Union of Islamic Courts were sent directly to Ethiopia.


Padilla Case Opens Old Questions on CIA ‘Truth Serums’

Why won’t the government just deny that U.S. interrogators administered a “truth serum” to Jose Padilla?

What are they trying to hide?

Lawyers for the Chicago-born al Qaeda wannabe say their client told them he was given an LSD-like hallucinogen during his 44 months-and-counting stay in a Navy brig in South Carolina.

The government refuses to say what is almost certainly true: that interrogators did not, in fact, use any kind of so-called “truth serum” on Padilla.

Instead, it issues wobbly canned statements that dodge the question, like this one last week from a spokesman for Secretary of Defense (and former CIA director) Robert M. Gates:

“It has always been our policy to treat all detainees humanely.”


Senate Wins Fight To Lower Allowable Amperage Levels On Detainees' Testicles

WASHINGTON, DC—Led by a bipartisan group of senators critical of White House policy on suspected terrorists, the Senate passed a bill Thursday that prohibits interrogators from exceeding 100 amps per testicle when questioning detainees. "Even in times of war, it is counterproductive and wrong to employ certain inhumane interrogation techniques, and using three-digit amperage levels on the testicles of captives constitutes torture," said Sen. John Warner (R-VA), who has also supported reducing the size of attack dogs and the height of nude pyramids. "Using amperages of 99 and lower, with approved surge protectors on the jumper-cable clamps, are the hallmarks of a civilized society." The legislation did not address amperage restrictions on suspected terrorists' labia.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

"Why CIA abuse is medieval madness"

Posted by Michael Otterman at 2:39 AM |

Today, The Australian newspaper ran an op-ed I wrote earlier in the week about KSM's "confession". It begins:
SINCE medieval times, water-boarding, or forcing water into captives' lungs, has been used to compel prisoners to confess. During the Inquisition, water-boarded prisoners admitted to shape-shifting and cavorting with the devil.

Today, terrorism suspects subjected to this medieval torture admit the wildest things too. Just ask 9/11 plotter, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.
Read the whole piece here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Abu Omar: To Hell and Back

Posted by Michael Otterman at 12:23 AM |

On March 13 2005, the Washington Post revealed:
A radical Egyptian cleric known as Abu Omar was walking to a Milan mosque for noon prayers in February 2003 when he was grabbed on the sidewalk by two men, sprayed in the face with chemicals and stuffed into a van. He hasn't been seen since.
Abu Omar has since resurfaced. After his CIA kidnapping-- now the subject of a large scale Italian investigation-- he was rendered to Egypt. Omar talks about his torture in Egypt in a powerful piece in Spiegel Online:
"In the first few months I was locked in a solitary cell and had no contact with lawyers or my family. I was totally shut off from the outside world. Every couple of days I got taken to be interrogated. Egypt's government did what it always does: carry out Washington's orders. The dirty work to get me to talk was to be done here. That's why they tortured me, hooked up electric wires to my genitals, hung me on the wall in a solitary cell for days, subjected me to unbearably loud music through headphones."

"In the first 14 months I would have confessed to anything they wanted to hear -- but I knew nothing about any plans for attacks in Italy or anywhere else. During every interrogation they showed me photos of suspects I didn't know. Several times one of the men in uniform told me I was in a place no one knew and where no one could help me. I kept having to sign documents after the interrogations. I read the first ones, they confirmed that I had not been tortured. Afterwards I just signed everything they put in front of me. I didn't care. I had already tried twice to kill myself. Both times they found me too soon. I didn't want to carry on living in this hell."

"I'm a broken man. I suffer from severe back pain and can hardly move. My joints have stiffened because I was tied up for so long. My kidneys are so damaged that I can scarcely hold my water. I am 46 years old and feel like a pensioner who hasn't got many more years to live. Freedom is a relative thing in Egypt, especially for someone like me, an Islamist and CIA victim. I am not allowed to speak to the press. And I don't have a passport, I'm under house arrest. Every step I take is monitored."

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

IHT article on Hicks Worrying on Two Levels

Posted by Raj at 6:52 AM |

Raymond Bonner's article in the IHT is disturbing on two levels.

First, obviously, is his reporting of the abuse/torture Hicks claims to have faced:

"....beatings and other abuse included being thrown on the ground along with other detainees and walked on by soldiers, being stripped naked, having all his body hair shaved, and being subjected to injections....white plastic was forcibly inserted in my rectum for no apparent reason."

Second, is the indication that the chief prosecutor of the military commission, Colonel Morris Davis, may well be seeking to put undue pressure on Major Michael Mori - the lawyer for Hicks.

It seems that Davis is pushing the judge who is in charge to reprimand Mori for a violation of Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Art 88 prohibits an officer from "using 'contemptuous language' against the president, vice-president, secretary of defense and other senior officials."

Davis, Bonner writes, "cited numerous statements by Major Mori on his trips to Australia, which would be considered insulting, rude or disrespectful."

Bonner goes on to note that "A copy of the e-mail, from Colonel Davis to Judge Susan Howard, was provided to the New York Times by a person who supports Major Mori and who likened Davis's attacks to the removal by the Justice Department of several U.S. Attorneys."

Significantly Bonner suggests that Colonel Davis is actively seeking to minimize the harm caused by the Hicks case to Australian PM Howard's election campaign.

So - in addition to a further erosion of U.S. moral credibility on the global stage, it seems that high ranking U.S. officials are further compromising justice standards (vigorous defense for the accused) to protect a perceived political friend running for election in another country....it just gets worse.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The next Arar Cases

Posted by Raj at 7:27 AM |

The Arar case has blown the lid off the extraordinary rendition program run by the CIA. This week, a Canadian judicial inquiry into three more Canadian cases will once again push this practice into the public eye.

Coming at the same time the Italian and German authorities are bringing charges against the CIA, the outside the U.S. pressure on the rendition program continues to grow.

When will we see U.S. Congressional hearings on rendition?

Another No-Brainer

Posted by Michael Otterman at 3:58 AM |

The latest (former) Bush administration official to independently confirm that the United States waterboards prisoners is none other than Mr. John Yoo— author of the infamous August 2002 Office of Legal Counsel torture memo directing that the UN Convention Against Torture should not limit US conduct 'even if certain interrogation methods being contemplated amounted to torture'.

Below is an exchange from The Spectator, a British weekly, between Yoo and journalist Alasdair Palmer:
Yoo: Does water-boarding inflict serious pain? I doubt that the CIA thinks that it does ... or that it is going to stop using the technique, if the stakes are high enough.

AP: So despite the [Detainee Treatment Act], the old tactics will be available?

Yoo: I think so. And more important, so do they ...
Yoo joins Dick Cheney (Vice President for Torture) and Porter Goss (Director for Torture) in revealing waterboarding as a tactic used by the CIA. In March 2005, then CIA Director Porter Goss labelled it a “professional interrogation technique”. In October 2006, Vice President Dick Cheney also confirmed that waterboarding is one of the CIA’s “alternative set of procedures.” Using it on suspected terrorists, he said, is a “no-brainer”.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

American Torture Launch

Posted by Michael Otterman at 11:02 PM |

Last night, American Torture launched at Gleebooks in Sydney. The book was released along-side Ian Bickerton and Kenneth Hagan's Unintended Consequences-- an important work that traces the stated aims and effects of ten US wars. My friend Jaime Koh, of The History Workroom, took some terrific photos of the event, check them out here.

As you may have noticed from the light posting, I've been flat out the past two weeks. Last week I was in Melbourne where I did several radio interviews and book talks about the American use of torture. The response has been both strong and supportive.

Today I tracked down some of the interviews I've done that have been posted online. If you're interested, check out these three:

ABC Melbourne, Conversation Hour

ABC Radio National, Breakfast

2SER Sydney, The Wire

Reviews of American Torture are also starting to appear. Check out:

The Age, Melbourne

Online Opinion Australia

Now back in Sydney, I'll be doing some more writing for this site and for Australian publications. Stay tuned for fresh content.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Daily Update: SC Senators Oppose Moving Detainees

Posted by Michael Otterman at 10:57 PM |

From McClatchy newspapers:

WASHINGTON — Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint reacted with outrage Friday to key Democratic lawmakers’ proposals to ship accused terrorist detainees to South Carolina from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.


“This is just another example of an element of the Democratic Party making emotional decisions in a vacuum,” Graham said. “I can assure you Guantanamo Bay is not ready to be closed, nor should it be closed. And Charleston, South Carolina, is not the proper venue to bring the mastermind of 9/11 and his cohorts.”

DeMint also criticized the idea.

“This is a shocking perspective,” he said. “To bring known terrorists, many of whom have killed Americans, to our shores risks the lives of additional Americans and encourages more attacks on our soil. That’s unacceptable, and it’s not going to happen.”


Rep. James Moran, a Virginia Democrat, said he hopes to hold hearings on Guantanamo Bay next month with the aim of closing its controversial detention facility and transferring some of its inmates to military brigs in the United States.

“If we’re serious about winning the war on extremists, then we’ve got to show the world that we are nation of laws and that we are principled in the way that we deal with people, even bad people,” Moran said in an interview.

Evangelicals Against Torture

Posted by Raj at 12:58 PM |

Very big news here in the U.S. The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), probably the most powerful U.S. evangelical group (it represents roughly 45,000 churches across the U.S.) endorsed a very important declaration against torture put together by Evangelicals for Human Rights - an organization of 17 evangelical scholars.

Key passage of the NAE statement:
"Tragically, documented cases of torture and inhumane and cruel behaviour have occurred at various sites in the war on terror, and current law opens procedural loopholes for more to continue"

Rich Cizik who is a senior figure in the NAE and very active in Washington, DC told the Associated Press that "There is a perception out there in the Middle East that we're willing to accept any action in order to fight this war against terrorism. We are the conservatives — let there be no mistake on that — who wholeheartedly support the war against terror, but that does not mean by any means necessary."

Monday, March 12, 2007

Rep. Markey Reintroduces Bill to Ban Rendition

Posted by Raj at 6:37 AM |

Well done Ed Markey!
The Congressman from Massachusetts reintroduced his important bill on rendition titled the "Torture Outsourcing Prevention Act."

Let's hope that the Speaker of the House ensures the bill is given her full support and that it receives floor time as soon as possible.

Interesting Story on Rendition Program and Poland Connection

Posted by Raj at 6:28 AM |

A recent Rawstory article suggests that the "interrogation and short-term detention facility for suspected terrorists within a Polish intelligence training school with the explicit approval of British and US authorities." If this is true the web of individuals involved in the black sites project expands significantly. The story goes on to allege that "...according to a confidential British intelligence memo shown to RAW STORY, Prime Minister Tony Blair told Poland's then-Prime Minister Leszek Miller to keep the information secret, even from his own government."

Let's see if the memo is leaked....

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Hicks’ Torture Casts Long Shadow

Posted by Michael Otterman at 12:33 AM |

Below is an article I wrote that appeared in Crikey!-- the popular Australian online news/commentary site akin to Salon and Slate. Check it out:
The official mission of the Pentagon’s military intelligence unit, Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF GTMO), is to provide “safe, humane care and custody of detained enemy combatants [and] gather intelligence in support of the Global War on Terror”. According to Colonel Donald Woolfolk, former Deputy Commander of JTF GTMO: “The need to maintain the tightly controlled environment, which has been established to create dependency and trust by the detainee with his interrogator, is of paramount importance.”

The same day the US formally charged David Hicks with the retroactive “providing material support for terrorism” offense, the Sydney Morning Herald published the most detailed account of Hicks' torture yet. It gives a very clear view into methods used by the US government to elicit “dependence and trust”.

Hicks’ time in detention has been marked with “silent, disoriented dread”. At Guantanamo’s Camp X Ray, Hicks was woken up every hour by guards. He was not permitted to speak to any human being except his interrogators. Once a week he was allowed 15 minutes of exercise. In his cell, Hicks was allowed to assume only one of two physical positions: sitting while looking straight down or prone looking up. Hicks said he was forced to “say anything” to avoid further punishment.

In Camp Delta, “comfort items” like toilet paper and clean drinking water were doled out to detainees that cooperated with interrogators. Korans, Hicks alleged, were frequently kicked or dropped in the toilet. At one stage, he was shown a photograph of a battered Mamdouh Habib, then held in an underground Cairo prison. He was told that if he didn’t confess to crimes against the United States he too would be “sent to Egypt” for brutal torture.

After fifteen months of psychological torture, Hicks signed the following statement penned by his interrogators: “I knew after six months that I was receiving training from al-Qaeda, who had declared war on numerous countries and peoples.” After confessing, Hicks was placed in solitary confinement for 244 days, then later moved to Camp Six— a facility that has been described as a “dungeon above the ground”.

Given the rules governing US military tribunals, Hicks will likely be convicted. Although his confession was drawn by coercive means at Guantanamo, the commissions permit coerced statements. Evidence “in which the degree of coercion is disputed” drawn before 30 December 2005 is permitted provided it possess “sufficient probative value”. Given all evidence is, by definition, probative— all coerced evidence will be allowed.

This is a situation that some in US intelligence circles have privately wished for since the early Cold War period. For instance, in 1958 the CIA’s in-house journal, Studies in Intelligence, printed an article by an agent under the pseudonym Don Compos titled, ‘The Interrogation of Suspects Under Arrest’. The article begins with ominous advice: “The recalcitrant subject of an intelligence interrogation must be ‘broken’ but broken for use like a riding horse, not smashed in the search for a single golden egg.” Citing methods used in Soviet and Chinese prisons, the article suggested interrogators “control the psychological factors in every aspect of the subject’s life from the earliest possible stage”. Methods like sensory deprivation and constantly changing cell conditions were central to ensuring “a continuing flow of information”. He adds: “Everything possible must be done to impress upon the subject the unassailable superiority of those in whose hands he finds himself and therefore the futility of his position”.

The Compos article includes a sober observation. A coercive intelligence interrogation is “usually incompatible with one intended to produce legal evidence for a court conviction, since statements by the accused may be barred as court evidence on the ground that they were made under duress, during prolonged detention without charge, or in some other violation of legal procedure.”

Fifty years later, the US created a system where evidence drawn from coercive methods can be used in court. David Hicks— the first detainee to be charged— will be the first victim of this injustice.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Guantanamo: The Separate Prison

Posted by Michael Otterman at 3:16 AM |

Today's Canberra Times featured an opinion piece I wrote about sensory deprivation. Read the excerpt below, or check out the whole piece:
LAST Monday, David Hicks's Australian solicitor, David McLeod, told an audience at the University of Technology Sydney about his client's mental state. "He shows all of the signs and exhibits all of the features of someone who has been in solitary confinement for a very long time," he said. "He's in his own little world."

Sensory deprivation an innocuous name for a debilitating torture. The use of solitary confinement in prison is not new; wardens at Tasmania's Port Arthur penal settlement once called it "separation". At the Separate Prison, inmates too violent to control were housed in 2m by 2.5m cells. Speaking was forbidden. The prisoners were addressed by number, not name. Masks were placed on prisoners when they were moved from their cells to prevent them recognising fellow prisoners. To maintain utter silence, guards wore soft slippers and communicated by hand signals.

Isolation, it was then believed, led to reflectiveness. In turn, this led to repentance. As one observer noted on July 22, 1860 in the Advertiser, this transformation was "harrowing in the extreme".


US-government-funded researchers discovered that a person will lose the ability to reason if cut off from all stimuli for eight to 12 hours. "The patient first becomes anxious, then becomes quite anxious, and then begins to hallucinate usually, and finally becomes completely disoriented", then director of the National Institutes of Health Dr RobertH.Felix reported to the US Congress in 1956.A 1963 CIA interrogation manual incorporating these findings explained: "The deprivation of stimuli induces regression by depriving the subject's mind of contact with an outer world and thus forcing it upon itself. At the same time, the calculated provision of stimuli during interrogation tends to make the regressed subject view the interrogator as a father-figure. The result, normally, is a strengthening of the subject's tendencies towards compliance."

The US Army, according to its latest interrogation field manual, permits "separation" to be used only upon "unlawful enemy combatants". The technique aids in "decreasing the detainee's resistance to interrogation" and should be used to "foster a feeling of futility". At Guantanamo Bay's Camp Echo, Hicks was kept in a small cell with no natural light for 244 days under 24-hour supervision by military police. He lost 14kg from his already wiry frame during this ordeal. Moazzam Begg, one of nine British detainees freed from Guantanamo, spoke with Hicks after his stint in isolation. "One of the things he said to me is, 'Please, when you get out from here, please tell people that my sanity is at risk here.' He used to tell me quite often that he felt like just banging his head so hard against the walls that he just ends up killing himself."


It was for this reason that in 1986 the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Peter Kooijmans, listed isolation, sensory deprivation and "being kept in constant uncertainty in terms of space and time" as conditions that rose to the level of torture. This designation is well deserved. As one Separate Prison observer noted in the Advertiser in 1860 about Port Arthur: "The punishment inflicted here is said to be of the most unendurable kind. The isolation, the silence, the total separation from all human fellowship and communion, the monotony of the bare white-washed walls makes confinement in the model prison a horrible torture to all confined in it."

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Reading Between the Lines

Posted by Michael Otterman at 2:15 AM |

Military Commissions Act, Page 8:
‘‘(c) STATEMENTS OBTAINED BEFORE ENACTMENT OF DETAINEE TREATMENT ACT OF 2005.—A statement obtained before December 30, 2005 (the date of the enactment of the Defense Treatment Act of 2005) in which the degree of coercion is disputed [it will always be disputed by Department of Defense] may be admitted only if the military judge finds that—
‘‘(1) the totality of the circumstances renders the statement reliable [tortured statements, by definition, are not reliable] and possessing sufficient probative value [all evidence is probative]; and
‘‘(2) the interests of justice would best be served by admission of the statement into evidence. [admission of tortured statements, by definition, deny justice— not serve it]

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Hicks Tortured, Charged

Posted by Michael Otterman at 10:01 PM |

Perhaps the timing was deliberate, but the day the US formally charged Australian David Hicks with the arguably retroactive "providing material support for terrorism" offense, the Sydney Morning Herald publishes this piece-- the most detailed account of Hicks' torture yet:
Mr Hicks says his introduction to Guantanamo was one of silent, disoriented dread. Injected with drugs, hooded, tightly bound and wearing goggles and ear muffs and the infamous orange overalls, he was thrown into one of the small, open-air cages of Camp X-Ray.

For weeks, he says, he and other prisoners were forbidden to talk and permitted to lie in only two positions - prone and looking up, or sitting looking straight down. No other movement was permitted other than at meal times, and any deviations from the edict, or muttered conversations, were met with savage beatings by the guards.

In their cages, he says, prisoners had one bucket of water and another to be used as a toilet. They also were given a toothbrush and, if requested, a copy of the Koran.

Guards interrupted them every hour, supposedly to check if they still had their toothbrushes, but in effect to deprive them of sleep.

If prisoners covered their faces to block out the sun or floodlights as they tried to sleep, he says, they were woken by screaming guards kicking their cages.

At this time, Mr Hicks said, he had his first experience of Guantanamo Bay's notorious "Initial Reaction Force", or IRF, squads of half a dozen men in body armour who rushed recalcitrant prisoners and beat them.

In the account, Mr Hicks tells of a one-legged prisoner in a nearby cell who was set upon by guards and dogs. Mr Hicks was ordered to face the other way, but listened to the screams. When he was allowed to turn around, there was blood all over the cell.
Public outrage over the US handling of Hicks is reaching new peaks here in Australia, due largely from the now-relentless coverage of the case by the Australian media. Let's hope it continues during the countdown to Hicks' trial.