Hello, Mike here, I'm back in New York now after speaking across Australia about the American use of torture. Looking forward to doing some events here and in Washington DC, before flying to the UK, then back to Australia, to continue the tour. At the moment I'm just trying to catch up on the news from the past week, stay tuned for further analysis. Below are some of the larger stories that have caught my eye.
-------U.S. Holds 18,000 Detainees in Iraq
In the past month, as a new security crackdown in Baghdad began, U.S. forces arrested another 1,000 Iraqis, bringing to 18,000 the number of detainees jailed in two U.S.-run facilities in that country.
The average stay in these detention centers is about a year, but about 8,000 of the detainees have been jailed longer, including 1,300 who have been in custody for two years, said a statement provided by Capt. Phillip J. Valenti, spokesman for Task Force 134, the U.S. Military Police group handling detainee operations.
"The intent is to detain individuals determined to be true threats to coalition forces, Iraqi Security Forces and stability in Iraq," Valenti said. "Unlike situations in the past, these detainees are not conventional prisoners of war."
--------Hicks owes Canberra $300,000: father
GUANTANAMO Bay detainee David Hicks has been told he owes the Federal Government more than $300,000, Hicks' father Terry revealed last night.
The $300,000 sum is believed to relate to fees for David Hicks' lawyers, paid by the Federal Government. Terry Hicks maintained last night that his son — who pleaded guilty last month to providing material support to terrorism — was not proven guilty by any fair process, and also said his son had been targeted by authorities because he was a Westerner.
"If these governments had so much evidence against David, what would have been wrong with a proper court system?" Terry Hicks asked rhetorically.
--------European lawmakers rail CIA tactics
WASHINGTON — Members of the European Parliament told U.S. lawmakers Tuesday that CIA tactics for spiriting away terrorism suspects are illegal. The parliamentarians' briefing for House members concerned CIA renditions, the practice of grabbing terror suspects in one country and delivering them to another country for questioning.
Carlo Fava, the author of a panel report accusing Britain, Poland, Italy and other nations of colluding with the CIA to transport terror suspects to clandestine prisons in third countries, told the members of Congress that the Parliament considers rendition "an illegal instrument used by the United States in the fight against terrorism," according to testimony prepared for the hearing.
--------CIA Chief Complains About Agency's Critics in Europe
CIA Director Michael V. Hayden has taken the unusual step of complaining privately to European diplomats about officials in their countries criticizing U.S. intelligence programs that involve renditions, detentions and interrogations of terrorism suspects.
At a luncheon last month at the German Embassy in Washington, Hayden gave a frank report on the controversial counterterrorism programs and spoke of his concern about the inaccurate information surrounding them and the "unbounded criticism" directed at them, particularly from the European Parliament, according to Western diplomats and officials aware of his remarks.
In describing the size of the CIA programs, details of which remain classified, Hayden said fewer than 100 people had been held in secret "black site" facilities since spring 2002, according to the diplomats and officials. He added that fewer than half had been subjected to what President Bush described as "alternative procedures" during interrogations, the sources recalled.
--------ITALY: GOVERNMENT CAN TRY TO BLOCK CLERIC'S 'CIA RENDITION' TRIAL
Rome, 19 April (AKI) - Italy's constitutional court has ruled that the Italian government can seek to block the trial of several Italian and American secret agents accused of kidnapping an Egyptian Muslim cleric, on the grounds that investigating magistrates may have violated state secrecy regulations.
--------Judge rejects Padilla torture argument
MIAMI - A federal judge refused to dismiss terrorism charges against a suspected al-Qaida operative over claims he was tortured in U.S. military custody, but the possibility that the allegations could resurface at his upcoming trial was left open.
U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke said Jose Padilla's torture allegations could become relevant during his trial if prosecutors seek to use evidence gathered from him during his 3 1/2 years in isolation at a Navy brig.
"Should any Naval Brig statements be introduced at trial ... the circumstances surrounding the making of those statements may be relevant and hence admissible," Cooke wrote in a 12-page ruling filed late Monday.
--------Father of Pakistani Alleges U.S. Torture
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - The father of a Pakistani terrorism suspect at the Guantanamo Bay military prison alleges his son was beaten by U.S. interrogators while held in Pakistan, according to an affidavit released Monday. The CIA denied the prisoner was abused.
Majid Khan, who graduated from a Maryland high school, was deprived of sleep and tied in painful positions during grueling interrogations in the days following his arrest in Karachi, Pakistan, his father, Ali Khan, said in the statement.
A spokesman for the Central Intelligence Agency, which held Majid Khan in secret prisons for three years before his transfer to Guantanamo, denied the allegations.
"The United States neither conducts nor condones torture, and the agency acts in strict accord with American law," spokesman Paul Gimigliano said.