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.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Canadian Torture?

Posted by Michael Otterman at 2:57 PM |

This week controversy erupted over the Canadian transfer of Afghan prisoners to Northern Alliance torturers. On Monday, the Globe and Mail-- after interviewing 30 transferred Afghans -- reported that “Afghans detained by Canadian soldiers and sent to Kandahar's notorious jails say they were beaten, whipped, starved, frozen, choked and subjected to electric shocks during interrogation.” The Harper Government, it was then revealed, “knew from its own officials that prisoners held by Afghan security forces faced the possibility of torture, abuse and extrajudicial killing.”

The Canadian government-- amid growing calls for the ouster of Defense Minister Gordon O'Connor-- so far has hoped to squash the scandal through simple denial. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said claims concerning detainee treatment were “baseless accusations.” He added: “These are merely allegations being made by the Taliban. I don't accept allegations without evidence from the Taliban.”

Public Security Minister Stockwell Day's denial were even thinner. He described the Afghan prisoners held by Canada as "so-called detainees" and suggested humane treatment of prisoners is a radical thought to some people in Afghanistan. Canadian troops in Afghanistan, he said, have a special message for Northern Alliance when prisoners are transferred:
We're saying to them that these people that we're bringing you to put in jail — these people have no compunction about machine-gunning, mowing down little children. They have no compunction about decapitating or hanging elderly women... Now we've captured them and, yes, these people that we've captured want nothing more to do than to kill you and your children. And we're asking you to treat them humanely.
That's reassuring, isn't it?

The Michael Mori Effect

Posted by Michael Otterman at 12:45 PM |

Today we learn, according to the New York Times, that:
"The Justice Department has asked a federal appeals court to impose tighter restrictions on the hundreds of lawyers who represent detainees at Guantánamo Bay... The filing says the lawyers have caused unrest among the detainees and have improperly served as a conduit to the news media.

[...]

Under the proposal, filed this month in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the government would limit lawyers to three visits with an existing client at Guantánamo; there is now no limit. It would permit only a single visit with a detainee to have him authorize a lawyer to handle his case. And it would permit a team of intelligence officers and military lawyers not involved in a detainee’s case to read mail sent to him by his lawyer."
This proposal is an attempt by the Bush administration to scale oversight at Guantanamo back to dark days of 2002-2004-- a time when human rights abuse, according to the FBI, was at its worst.

It's important to remember that Cuba was chosen as the site to hold "enemy combatants" because it ostensibly would bar US courts and US lawyers from examining/exposing the conditions of confinement at the base. But, the plan to keep lawyers out of Cuba backfired in June 2004 when the Supreme Court ruled that detainees did have a right to challenge their detention in courts. Since then, the administration has fought hard to remove counsel-- most notably with the 2006 Military Commissions Act.

While that Act's constitutionality is still being tested, in the meantime the government has made it clear that it does not want another Major Michael Mori-- the military defense lawyer who deftly rallied international support for his client David Hicks-- on their hands.

Friday, April 20, 2007

News Dump III

Posted by Michael Otterman at 12:44 PM |

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.

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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."

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Abu Zubaydah Alleges Torture….Claims Secured Info Was False

Posted by Raj at 6:44 AM |

Abu Zubayah, supposedly the second most senior Al Qaeda operative in U.S. custody, made the claim of torture before the Combatant Status Review Tribunal, once again thrusting U.S. interrogation policy into the center of the “war on terror.”

Abu Zubaydah stated that he made up facts when tortured to stop the abuse. He said that: “The statement that I was an associate of Osama bin Laden is false.”

It is hard for one to tell what AZ’s exact relationship was with Bin Laden - was he a senior operative, a loose affiliate, a rival??

What I do know is that in a relatively recent conversation, with someone who has talked to a lot of intel types about AZ and Al Qaeda, it was suggested to me that AZ was cooperating UNTIL the torture started - after that, it was suggested by my contact, the info secured from him was almost worthless.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

David Hicks: The Indelible Stain of Torture

Posted by Michael Otterman at 10:42 AM |

Below is an excerpt of another story I wrote for Australia's New Matilda magazine. Hicks continues to dominate the news out here-- still featured on front pages and filling the Op-Eds of all the big papers. Read my take below, or check out the whole piece here.
This week, David Hicks is undergoing a final round of interrogation at Guantánamo Bay before his transfer to Adelaide's Yatala Labour Prison to serve out his nine-month sentence. As part of his plea-bargain agreement, Hicks agreed to ‘co-operate fully, completely and truthfully in post-trial briefings and interviews.’ Hicks’s Australian solicitor, David McLeod, wryly said that this final interrogation would take place ‘hopefully without the torture this time.’

Five years since he was first arrested by the Northern Alliance at an Afghani taxi stand and turned over to US forces for a cool US$1000, torture remains an enduring element to the unfolding David Hicks saga.

Hicks arrived at Guantánamo Bay in January 2002 wearing the standard US sensory deprivation suit — goggles, facemask, earplugs, and shackles. In Cuba, Hicks suffered a long list of physical and psychological tortures including sleep deprivation, total isolation, and being forced to endure stress positions for long periods. The effects, according to Hicks in a 2004 affidavit lodged at Guantánamo Bay, were profound. Hicks said:

The interrogation process ruled the detention camps and the lives of detainees. Co-operation with interrogators offered the only means of relief from the miserable treatment and abuse the detainees suffered. Those who failed to comply suffered abuse until they gave in.

Hicks’s conclusions about torture at Guantánamo Bay are similar to the US military’s own Cold War-era findings into communist methods of coercion. In 1954, a US Marine Corps inquiry into Soviet and Chinese interrogation methods found that America’s Cold War enemies ‘developed, and perfected, a diabolical method of torture which combines degradation, deprivation and mental harassment, and which is aimed at the destruction of the individual’s will to resist.’

The panel determined that the Soviet People's Commisariat for Internal Affairs’s (NKVD)methods of torture — including forced standing, sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation and induced hypothermia — ‘can be applied to an individual continuously over such a long period of time by a skillful, ruthless and determined enemy that one of three events inevitably takes place: A. The victim’s will to resist is broken, and he responds as the enemy desires. B. The victim becomes insane. C. The victim dies.’

From what is known about Hicks’s incarceration, ‘event A’ has clearly occurred.

[...]

At its heart, Hicks’s plea does not reflect the guilt or innocence only a fair trial could deliver. Instead, it reveals the desperation of a man anxious to come home — an Australian subjected to an array of tortures once reserved for Stalin’s ‘enemies of the State.’

Monday, April 02, 2007

Russian Torture

Posted by Raj at 1:08 PM |

Many outrageous claims have been made by the Bush Administration over the past few years but perhaps none has been more laughable than their belief that it is sufficient to secure "diplomatic assurances" that a national being transferred back to his home country by the U.S. will not be tortured.

Today HRW once again blows the Administration line out of the water this time by releasing a report titled:
“Stamp of Guantanamo: The Story of Seven Men Betrayed by Russia’s Diplomatic Assurances to the United States."

It shows clearly
that Guantanamo "war on terror" detainees who were sent home to Russia in 2004 experienced torture and other abuse despite the Putin government's pledge to the Bush Administration that these prisoners that they would be treated humanely.

Key Quote from the Summary:

"The US government has triply wronged these men: first by detaining them without due process, second by returning them to Russia in violation of international law, and third by failing to follow and protest their mistreatment by Russian authorities after their return. In this last aspect, the Russian government of course bears the greatest and most immediate responsibility. But by branding these seven men “terrorist suspects,” the US government certainly rendered them more vulnerable targets for Russian abuse. In this sad post-Guantanamo tale, both the US and Russian governments have a great deal to answer for."