Posts Tagged ‘Guantanamo’
We had been routinely subjected to pronouncements from the Bush Administration that those held in Guantanamo were the “worst of the worst” for some time, and many wondered whether any of them were aware that most of the detainees were totally innocent – that is, tortured for no reason.
Well, wonder no more. (Via Harper’s), the Times of London reports today that senior Bush officials, including, presumably, President Bush himself, were well aware that a majority of the 743 inmates of Guantanamo Bay were there for no reason other than bad luck, but that it would be “politically impossible” to release them.
George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld covered up that hundreds of innocent men were sent to the Guantánamo Bay prison camp because they feared that releasing them would harm the push for war in Iraq and the broader War on Terror, according to a new document obtained by The Times.
The accusations were made by Lawrence Wilkerson, a top aide to Colin Powell, the former Republican Secretary of State, in a signed declaration to support a lawsuit filed by a Guantánamo detainee. It is the first time that such allegations have been made by a senior member of the Bush Administration.
Colonel Wilkerson, who was General Powell’s chief of staff when he ran the State Department, was most critical of Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld. He claimed that the former Vice-President and Defence Secretary knew that the majority of the initial 742 detainees sent to Guantánamo in 2002 were innocent but believed that it was “politically impossible to release them”.
This is outstanding work from The Times of London, and yet further evidence in favor of war crimes prosecution for senior Bush administration officials, including, one hopes, President Bush himself. These guys knew as far back as 2002 (the year Guantanamo opened) that they were torturing and imprisoning people for no reason, yet they continued to spout for almost a decade that the inmates of Guantanamo were all hardened terrorists, “the worst of the worst”, etc., etc.
As Scott Horton notes, this would explain why Dick Cheney has been running a massive propaganda campaign to harden American public opinion against an investigation into the previous administration’s conduct at Guantanamo. If any official inquiry got a hold of the documents The Times of London describes in its article, then Mr. Cheney would necessarily have to appear for questioning, and would likely end up in jail.
And how ironic that even if he were sent to jail, he wouldn’t be tortured.
Lilliana Segura of Alternet reports:
The bill is only 12 pages long, but that is plenty of room to grant the president the power to order the arrest, interrogation, and imprisonment of anyone — including a U.S. citizen — indefinitely, on the sole suspicion that he or she is affiliated with terrorism, and on the president’s sole authority as commander in chief.
A subsequent section, titled “Detention Without Trial of Unprivileged Enemy Belligerents,” states that suspects “may be detained without criminal charges and without trial for the duration of hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.” In a press conference introducing the bill earlier this month, Sen. Joe Lieberman said, “I know that will be — that may be — a long time, but that’s the nature of this war.”
I’ve never seen a piece of legislation so baldly committed to subverting the rule of law. Remember, former Chief of Defense Staff has explicitly stated that the War on Terror (‘hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners’) could last 50 years. Or forever! No one knows!
Thankfully we still have a half-way independent judiciary which has repeatedly struck down similar legislation; so the odds are that this bill, if passed, will eventually be found unconstitutional (which, of course it is). But until then, anyone caught up in the drag-net of police state action this bill recommends will find themselves very lonely indeed, while they wait for the ‘war on terror’ to end.
And can we drop all this nonsense about “well, if you’re not a terrorist, you don’t need to worry”? Tell that to the 90% of inmates at Guantanamo Bay who are totally innocent. Tell that to the taxicab drivers, bakers and welders who were sold for bounties and found themselves held and tortured for years at the various US “black sites” around the globe. This bill isn’t so much an “anti-terrorism” bill as it is an “anti-Muslim” bill.
Seeing that the guy who flew his plane into a Texas IRS building (the very definition of Terrorism) was labeled a “tax protester” by our government and media, and our own Homeland Security department is on record saying that Timothy McVeigh (who bombed an Oklahoma government building, killing 168 people, including children) “wasn’t a terrorist“, it should be clear who that epithet refers to.
And if there’s any doubt still remaining, just check Newsweek‘s “handy guide” as to who is and is not a “terrorist”:
Lone wolfish American attacker who sees gov’t as threat to personal freedom: bomber, tax protester, survivalist, separatist
Group of Americans bombing/kidnapping to protest U.S. policies on war/poverty/personal freedom/ – radical left-wing movement, right-wing separatists
All foreign groups or foreign individuals bombing/shooting to protest American gov’t: terrorists
So it should be clear that this bill is specifically designed to more easily arrest “foreigners” (even those who happen to be US citizens), hold them indefinitely without trial, and – what the hell, why not – torture them. White people cannot, by definition, be terrorists. Only brown people can.
Many people think that since Guantanamo only holds around 700 prisoners, and since that’s the only US secret prison that happens to be in the news, our crimes when it comes to torture and indefinite detention only extend to a few hundred prisoners. But Clive Stafford Smith, a valiant defense lawyer for many of the innocent US ‘ghost prisoners’, claims that the US is holding more than 27,000 secret prisoners in undisclosed hell-holes around the world.
Remember, 95% of detainees in US custody were seized randomly and brought to us to us by bounty hunters – sold, essentially, for a few thousand dollars – and ex-Bush officials are already on record saying that most of them are innocent. Everyone who has the rotten luck to end up in US custody gets tortured in some manner or another, be it by sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, “stress positions” (being forced to stand, arms outstretched for days at a time), or whatever else the soldiers decide to do with you. There are no exceptions.
And lest we forget, at least 100 of these detainees, and likely far more, were horrifically tortured to death. The most terrifying part about this is that there’s no law. None. You can be a US citizen, minding your own business one day, and the next be transported to an unknown location, placed in sensory deprivation for 1,301 days, pumped full of LSD and PCP, beaten within an inch of your life, shocked with electrodes, mock-executed, water-boarded, etc. The ‘interrogators’ are limited only by their imaginations. There are no written rules.
“Sensory deprivation” is a rather euphemistic phrase for what I am convinced is the most horrifying and brutal torture ever devised. The procedure is precisely as it sounds – you are “deprived” of your senses – but that description fails to convey the sheer terror involved. Imagine: you are sitting there with blackout goggles, thick ear-pads, and heavy gloves. You float in a sea of nothingness, seeing, hearing, smelling, and feeling nothing. You don’t know how long this will last – maybe a day, maybe a week – but what’s more, you feel your sensation of time and space breaking down. Just imagine it! Total silence and darkness for days, weeks at a time!
Donald O. Hebb, the psychiatrist who pioneered the technique, found that his subjects experienced “acute hallucinations” after just one day in the “deprivation chamber” and “total psychosis” after only two days. He estimated that six to eight days would be the maximum anyone could endure while keeping their sanity intact, and later claimed he had “no idea what a potentially vicious weapon this technique could be”. Jose Padilla was kept in sensory deprivation for 1,301 days – that is, 43 months. Can you imagine it – continuous silence and darkness for almost four years? They say “don’t try this at home”, but do try it! Sit in a room for just one day with blackout goggles and earmuffs on, wearing thick gloves, and preferably shackled to a fixed object. I have nightmares about this. But for Jose Padilla, a US citizen, it was all too real.
Finally, I should hasten to remind the Obama Administration, who has already endorsed kidnapping, interrogation by torture, and indefinite detention, that these practices are illegal via the Supreme Court’s Hamdan v. Rumsfeld decision, which stipulates that all detention practices must conform to Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. I wonder if this constitutional lawyer cares with the Supreme Court thinks.
Mark Benjamin at Salon reviews some CIA documents and emerges with the authoritative US Government Guide to Torture.
One of the more interesting revelations in the documents is the use of a saline solution in waterboarding. Why? Because the CIA forced such massive quantities of water into the mouths and noses of detainees, prisoners inevitably swallowed huge amounts of liquid – enough to conceivably kill them from hyponatremia, a rare but deadly condition in which ingesting enormous quantities of water results in a dangerously low concentration of sodium in the blood.
Interrogators were instructed to pour the water when a detainee had just exhaled so that he would inhale during the pour. An interrogator was also allowed to force the water down a detainee’s mouth and nose using his hands. “The interrogator may cup his hands around the detainee’s nose and mouth to dam the runoff,” the Bradbury memo notes. “In which case it would not be possible for the detainee to breathe during the application of the water.”
The CIA’s waterboarding regimen was so excruciating, the memos show, that agency officials found themselves grappling with an unexpected development: detainees simply gave up and tried to let themselves drown.
The memo also contains a last, little-noticed paragraph that may be the most disturbing of all. It seems to say that the detainees subjected to waterboarding were also guinea pigs. The language is eerily reminiscent of the very reasons the Nuremberg Code was written in the first place. That paragraph reads as follows:
“NOTE: In order to best inform future medical judgments and recommendations, it is important that every application of the waterboard be thoroughly documented: how long each application (and the entire procedure) lasted, how much water was used in the process (realizing that much splashes off), how exactly the water was applied, if a seal was achieved, if the naso- or oropharynx was filled, what sort of volume was expelled, how long was the break between applications, and how the subject looked between each treatment.”
But yeah, you know – torture is no big deal. Especially since most of these people we’re torturing are innocent anyway.
The Times continues its faux-reporting over the “controversy” that has erupted over whether we should act like tyrants and keep “terror suspects” in cages indefinitely without trial, or act like decent adults and follow the rule of law. Previously, The Times came out in support of the former option, happily announcing that “Detainees will be Held, but not Tried” – but as the political winds shift, so do does the leading newspaper, which now plumps for the worst aspects of both, much like President Obama. They even invoked the mysterious “experts”, who, apparently, do not include the Supreme Court.
As Jane Mayer expertly analyzed in a recent New Yorker, the Justice Department is now in a state of civil war. One one side, Attorney General Eric Holder, who advocates that “terror suspects” be vetted in a court of law to determine what, if anything, they’re guilty of. He is joined by a majority of our Supreme Court, human-rights activists, and other so-called sympathizers of terrorism. Opposing him stands Rahm Emanuel, the President’s chief of staff, who contends these “enemy combatants” deserve no quarter and should be tried, without evidence, before a “military tribunal” after being held indefinitely (after an interrogation by torture). Joining Mr. Emanual, ironically, is the Tea Party faction, along with “Republicans” in general, all of whom claim that allowing suspects of terrorism a fair trial stands tantamount to treason.
President Obama, as is his wont, has opted for a “middle path”, as The Times reports today. Some detainees, specifically those whom he is sure to convict, will be publicly tried, and the rest will just be held indefinitely because it’s impossible to convict anyone you’ve tortured a confession out of without looking like a butcher.
Granting civilian trials to some “terrorists” and secretly sentencing the others creates a multi-tiered justice system wherein only the suspects for whom conviction is assured will be allowed to go to trial. This is pre-judgment and worse. It it is a system that does away with even the pretense of caring whether or not these detainees are actually guilty. The government clearly seeks a few nefarious-looking Terrorists to be convicted by a civilian jury – thus proving that “the system works” – and then machinery to convict the rest of the suspects who could not be tried by jury because they were interrogated by torture and their cases would be thrown out (as, indeed, many have already).
It’s worth remembering that a vast majority of Guantanamo detainees were guilty of nothing more than bad luck. An ex-Bush official is on record saying that most of the people we held there were totally innocent.
But beyond this, The Times completely neglects to mention that these military commissions are illegal. The Supreme court has ruled, in numerous landmark cases, that the whole military commissions process is unconstitutional. Hamdan v. Rumsfeld effectively nullifies the necessary sections of the Military Commissions Act, and Hamdi v. Rumsfeld restored Habeas Corpus and Sixth Amendment rights (the right to a speedy trial) to detainees.
In fact, the majority opinion of Hamdan states that all detainees be given a “regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples“, and clearly states that the commissions system set up in Guantanamo does not fit that requirement.
Any article discussing discussing military commissions has the duty to mention these cases, but since they’re inconvenient to the prevailing narrative, they become “non-newsworthy”. I’m sure the “experts” they quote (nearly all Bush flunkies) know better.
One hears often from opponents of civil liberties that it’s “borderline criminal” to read a terrorism suspect his rights, that such actions provide “comfort to the enemy”, or as Ms. Palin thundered in her memorable Tea Party speech, that we’re allowing Terrorists who “hate our freedoms” to “lawyer up”. As Scott Brown, Massachusetts Senator and Tea Party darling once remarked: “Some people believe our Constitution exists to grant rights to terrorists who want to harm us. I disagree.”
But of course it is not for this charlatan to decide, but for the Supreme Court, who, unfortunately for Mr. Brown, has consistently ruled in favor of detainee rights. And for the record, the Constitution prescribes the relevant clauses to protect the rights of people who have been accused of a crime but not yet found guilty, much like these so-called “terrorists”. Until convicted in a court of law, these people are, by definition, guilty of nothing.
The reasoning employed by the Palin-Brown faction makes the dangerous assumption that anyone the government accuses of terrorism magically becomes a terrorist. In the warped mind of a Tea Partier, suspicion is proof. This works fine for most people, so long as it’s only brown Arabs with weird squiggly writing whom we lock up in cages with no trial, but the danger of promoting totalitarian practices is that you never quite know against whom they’ll be used next.
It’s also worth mentioning that every other country that has had problems with terrorism – India, Greece, Spain, etc. – have all found ways to deal with it within their already existing legal structures. They saw no need to create new levels of “justice” wherein some suspects get trials and others simply go to jail forever.
Is anyone even remotely surprised that President Obama reserves the right to assassinate US citizens for any reason (or no reason at all)? Should you be so unfortunate as to incur Mr. Obama’s displeasure, you may wake up one morning to find yourself on the business end of an M-16 assault rifle and a grimly determined marine dispatched to “take out the threat” (i.e. you). You need not be on a battlefield or even have committed any crime – Mr. Obama merely has to label you an “enemy combatant”. You can gain this unfortunate moniker for such acts as speaking out against the American occupation of your country, consorting with “unknown elements”, or, indeed, no reason at all.
It is clear, as Mr. Greenwald repeatedly points out, that such extra-judicial presidential murders are unconstitutional and a dangerous new investment of power into the Executive Branch. One recalls the massive powers President Bush gave himself as a “war president” to craft legislation (via “signing statements), unilaterally declare war, imprison “enemy combatants” without trial or habeas corpus, interrogate by torture, and send CIA hit squads all around the globe. One wonders, however, if even Mr. Bush would have assumed the right to kill American citizens wherever, whenever, and however he wished.
During his campaign, Mr. Obama naturally spoke out against the vast powers accumulated under the Bush Administration. Mr. Bush was terribly unpopular, after all, and Mr. Obama had to distance himself from him as best he could. Let’s take a look at what he said then:
Regarding warrantless wiretapping and Telecom immunity:
1/28/2008, Campaign statement: “I strongly oppose retroactive immunity in the FISA bill. Ever since 9/11, this Administration has put forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand. The FISA court works. The separation of power works. We can trace, track down and take out terrorists while ensuring that our actions are subject to vigorous oversight, and do not undermine the very laws and freedom that we are fighting to defend.”
Mr. Obama voted for the FISA bill (which he “strongly opposed”), only six months later.
Regarding separation of powers:
10/2/2007, Speech at DePaul University: “We face real threats. Any President needs the latitude to confront them swiftly and surely. But we’ve paid a heavy price for having a President whose priority is expanding his own power. The Constitution is treated like a nuisance. Matters of war and peace are used as political tools to bludgeon the other side.”
We continue to pay that “heavy price”, as Mr. Obama has taken for himself powers which even Mr. Bush would have blushed to demand.
Regarding indefinite detention:
Q: Does the Constitution permit a president to detain US citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants?
A: No. I reject the Bush Administration’s claim that the President has plenary authority under the Constitution to detain U.S. citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants.
– Boston Globe Questionaire, December, 2007
Well, apparently he didn’t like that answer, because almost immediately after his inaguaration, he redacted it. Now, not only does he think the Constitution allows detention without charges, Mr. Obama has come to believe that under the Constitution, the President has the power to impose arbitary death sentances upon any of his subjects who dare incur his wrath.
Here is the most tragic part:
2/26/2008, Speech in Cleveland: “It’s time to give our intelligence and law enforcement agencies the tools they need to track down and take out terrorists, while ensuring that their actions are subject to vigorous oversight that protects our freedom. So let me be perfectly clear: I have taught the Constitution, I understand the Constitution, and I will obey the Constitution when I am President of the United States.”
You see, once upon a time, before being seduced by the Dark Side, Mr. Obama was an upstanding constitutional lawyer, and even taught classes on the subject. In fact, that was a major appeal to his candidacy – since he was a constitutional lawyer by profession he would surely have more respect for that document than his predecessor Mr. Bush, who likely had never once read it. I have no idea what happened to Mr. Obama between 2/26/2008 and his inauguration, but something has surely changed his mind on these issues.
Scott Horton goes way in-depth on three “suicides” at Guantanamo that apparently turned out to be murders. The whole thing came out because a sergent at the camp couldn’t live with his conscience and blew the whistle.
This is definitely a must-read.