Today, I made my way to a TV studio in central London to hook up with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez in New York to discuss the recent uproar over the release of Yemeni prisoners from Guantánamo, and the Pentagon’s most recent claims that 1 in 5 released prisoners have engaged in terrorist activities, for Democracy Now! The segment, entitled, “After Years in Guantánamo Prison Without Charge, Future Even More Uncertain For Yemeni Detainees,” is available below, and is featured here on the Democracy Now! website:
Essentially, the Yemeni story involves inflated claims about the failed Christmas bomber’s links with Saudis released from Guantánamo, an almost total aversion to recognizing that the “Saudi recidivists” were released by George W. Bush, despite the advice of the intelligence agencies, a similar aversion to recognizing that, in contrast, Obama has been extremely careful about releasing prisoners from Guantánamo, and a complete disregard for the fact that the cleared Yemenis have now been made a victim of political maneuvering.
The US government is now so totally under the thumbs of organized interest groups that “our” government can no longer respond to the concerns of the American people who elect the president and the members of the House and Senate. Voters will vent their frustrations over their impotence on the president, which implies a future of one-term presidents. Soon our presidents will be as ineffective as Roman emperors in the final days of that empire.
Obama is already set on the course to a one-term presidency. He promised change, but has delivered none. His health care bill is held hostage by the private insurance companies seeking greater profits. The most likely outcome will be cuts in Medicare and Medicaid in order to help fund wars that enrich the military/security complex and the many companies created by privatizing services that the military once provided for itself at far lower costs. It would be interesting to know the percentage of the $700+ billion “defense” spending that goes to private companies. In American “capitalism,” an amazing amount of taxpayers’ earnings go to private firms via the government. Yet, Republicans scream about “socializing” health care.
Republicans and Democrats saw opportunities to create new sources of campaign contributions by privatizing as many military functions as possible. There are now a large number of private companies that have never made a dollar in the market, feeding instead at the public trough that drains taxpayers of dollars while loading Americans with debt service obligations.
On Monday, a federal court ordered the government to turn over a videotape of the brutal interrogation of a Guantanamo detainee to the prisoner’s lawyers.
A federal court judge on Monday revealed that the brutal interrogation of an alleged “war on terror” detainee imprisoned at Guantanamo for more than seven years was videotaped and she ordered the government to turn over the materials to the prisoner’s lawyers.
Mohammed al-Qahtani was someone Bush administration officials had referred to as the “20th hijacker” of the 9/11 attacks. The government claimed the Saudi man intended to take part in 9/11, but he was denied entry into the United States by an immigration official a month before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
As reported previously, specific interrogation methods used against al-Qahtani were approved by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in a December 2002 action memorandum.
The treatment of al-Qahtani was cataloged in an 84-page “torture log” that was leaked in 2006. The “torture log” shows that beginning in November 2002 and continuing well into January 2003, al-Qahtani was subjected to sleep deprivation, interrogated in 20-hour stretches, poked with IVs and left to urinate on himself.
In an interview with The Washington Post last January, Susan Crawford, the retired judge who heads military commissions at Guantanamo, became the highest ranking US official who said the interrogation of al-Qahtani met the legal definition of torture and, as a result, she would not allow a war crimes tribunal against him to proceed because the evidence against him was tainted.
by Andy Worthington
Excerpted from “When Torture Kills”
Often, the premise of media discussions of torture is that “torture” is something that was confined to waterboarding and used only on three “high-value” detainees accused of being high-level al-Qaeda operatives.
The reality is completely different.
The interrogation and detention regime implemented by the US has resulted in the deaths of over 100 detainees in US custody. Many of these were caused by “authorized” methods, including extreme stress positions, hypothermia, sleep deprivation and others. Here are some of the stories that have been uncovered thus far.
Murders in Bagram airbase
Many of the new recruits had no experience in interrogation. They were given few guidelines about how to behave, and had virtual carte blanche to treat the prisoners as they saw fit. It became standard procedure to use stress positions and sleep deprivation, with interrogation sessions lasting 32 to 36 hours.
It also became standard policy that new prisoners were hooded, shackled and kept in isolation for the first 24 hours of their imprisonment, and sometimes for the first three days. Writing for the New York Times in May 2005, journalist Tim Golden noted that prisoners were handcuffed and chained to the ceilings and doors of their cells, sometimes for several days.
Bagram became a place of random brutality. Golden described how sometimes “the torment seems to have been driven by little more than boredom or cruelty, or both.” In statements to army investigators, soldiers mentioned a prisoner who was “forced to roll back and forth on the floor of a cell, kissing the boots of his two interrogators as he went,” and another who was “made to pick plastic bottle caps out of a drum mixed with excrement and water as part of a strategy to soften him up for questioning.”
STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN—In a formal ceremony yesterday, Ahmat Al-Fassan, an Iraqi soldier held prisoner and brutally tortured by Iranian captors for more than seven years, was awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize for Screaming.
Presenting Al-Fassan with the solid-gold medallion traditionally awarded Nobel winners, Sweden’s King Carl Gustaf XVI praised the former prisoner of war for “excellence unparalleled in the field of shrieking at the top of one’s lungs in response to unheard-of levels of agonizing, brain-boiling pain.”
Al-Fassan, kept in a 3×3-foot locked box for the bulk of his captivity, thanked the Nobel Committee for the prestigious award: “Please. No. No more. No.”
Al-Fassan’s most noteworthy achievement came during a 1992 testicular crushing session involving a red-hot vise and 200 pounds of bricks, when a scream he let out was heard by an Iranian goat-herder more than 35 miles away.
“It was a very loud scream,” said goat-herder Aziz Farouk.
“You can be proud of your accomplishments,” Gustaf said. “Your volume stands unmatched.”
Al-Fassan said he plans to spend the $900,000 prize on alcohol.
From the LV editor: Written long before our “War on Terror”, maybe The Onion should repost this article to highlight the torture methods used by American captors. If such a piece was written, would it further loose its sense of humor if it highlighted the American captors’ acts upon children?
Policies that were wrong under George W. Bush are no less wrong because Barack Obama is in the White House.
One of the most disappointing aspects of the early months of the Obama administration has been its unwillingness to end many of the mind-numbing abuses linked to the so-called war on terror and to establish a legal and moral framework designed to prevent those abuses from ever occurring again.
The president deserves credit for unequivocally banning torture and some of the other brutal interrogation techniques that spread like a plague in the Bush administration’s lawless response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But other policies that offend the conscience continue.
Americans should recoil as one against the idea of preventive detention, imprisoning people indefinitely, for years and perhaps for life, without charge and without giving them an opportunity to demonstrate their innocence.
And yet we’ve embraced it, asserting that there are people who are far too dangerous to even think about releasing but who cannot be put on trial because we have no real evidence that they have committed any crime, or because we’ve tortured them and therefore the evidence would not be admissible.
President Obama is O.K. with this (he calls it “prolonged detention”), but he wants to make sure it is carried out — here comes the oxymoron — fairly and nonabusively.
Proof of guilt? In 21st-century America, there is no longer any need for such annoyances.
Sometimes, during a tsunami of bad news, it’s nice to come up for a breath of encouraging air. The only way to do that this week that I know of is to read a beautiful 42-page order by a judge. Usually such things don’t strike me as beautiful, but this one says that leading torture lawyer John Yoo can be sued in court by one of his victims. It also says that his arguments for immunity are a load of crap, his arguments for the legality of torture are at least plausibly as fetid a pile of feces as they appear to the naked eye, and the treatment received by Jose Padilla is rather glaringly in conflict with our laws, basic standards of decency, and the wisdom of those who have gone before us and warned against sacrificing our rights on the temple of war.
So, while Congress and the Ministry of Truth, er … I mean the Department of Justice (DOJ), hold off on any attempts to hold anyone accountable for torture until the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility releases a report on the conduct of Yoo, Jay Bybee, and Steven Bradbury — a report already delayed for six weeks of integrating edits made by the three men who are supposedly the subject of the report — a judge, by simply comparing Yoo’s publicly available confessions in the form of torture memos with actual legal standards, has produced the outline of an indictment that a special prosecutor could pick up and use to put John Yoo behind bars.
The Central Intelligence Agency crucified a prisoner in Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, according to a report published in The New Yorker magazine.
“A forensic examiner found that he (the prisoner) had essentially been crucified; he died from asphyxiation after having been hung by his arms, in a hood, and suffering broken ribs,” the magazine’s Jane Mayer writes in the magazine’s June 22nd issue. “Military pathologists classified the case a homicide.” The date of the murder was not given.
“No criminal charges have ever been brought against any CIA officer involved in the torture program, despite the fact that at least three prisoners interrogated by agency personnel died as a result of mistreatment,” Mayer notes.
An earlier report, by John Hendren in The Los Angeles Times indicted other torture killings. And Human Rights First says nearly 100 detainees have died in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Hendren reported that one Manadel Jamadi died “of blunt-force injuries” complicated by “compromised respiration” at Abu Ghraib prison “while he was with Navy SEALs and other special operations troops.” Another victim, Abdul Jaleel, died while gagged and shackled to a cell door with his hands over his head.” Yet another prisoner, Maj. Gen. Abid Mowhosh, former commander of Iraq’s air defenses, “died of asphyxiation due to smothering and chest compression” in Qaim, Iraq.
I’m sick of torture. And the fact that we’re one of the countries way up there on the J.D. Powers annual “torture reliability” list makes me unwell as well. As does talking AROUND torture. What this country needs is an up-front national referendum on whether we should or shouldn’t be torturing people. Oh wait. That’s right, we did have one. Last November 4th.
These aren’t your normal, ordinary everyday forms of torture we’re talking about either: like twelfth in line at an understaffed Starbucks or shuffling through life a Golden State Warriors fan or being forced to watch NBC’s prime-time lineup against your will, I’m referring to real, state-sponsored, “talk or we do something crazy” Jack Bauer-on-steroids kind of stuff.
The big difference being, Kiefer Sutherland’s rascally television tor-turer gets most of his best results simply by raising his voice. “Are you going to talk?” “Never.” Compelling him to move in real close and yell in the dastardly scoundrel’s face: “ARE YOU GOING TO TALK NOW?”
“Okay. I’ll talk. Just lower your voice. The kids are trying to sleep.”
In November 2007 Scripps Howard surveyed 811 Americans about their beliefs regarding the events of 9/11 and asked this question:
How about that some people in the federal government had specific warnings of the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, but chose to ignore those warnings. Is this very likely, somewhat likely or unlikely?
32% “Very Likely”
30% “Somewhat Likely
The Orwellian Mainstream Media and every elected office holder consistently ignore the many questions about 9/11. The questions remain, and 62% of the public believe that “some people” in the Federal Government ignored specific warnings of the impending terrorist attack. Obama did not receive 62% of votes in the last election, which was considered a landslide.
The majority of Americans who continue to ask questions based on the existing evidence and facts believe that “some people” would most definitely include former Vice President Dick Cheney.. Cheney directed the response to 9/11 while keeping George Bush well away from Washington. When the 9/11 commission interviewed the executive branch, Bush and Cheney refused to testify under oath, nor did they allow an official record of their “testimony”. Instead they insisted on meeting together which would allow them to keep their stories straight.
It has been reported that a Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agent, Saeed Sheikh, had wired $100,000 to Mohammed Atta, the ringleader of the 9/11 hijackers, at the instruction of ISI chief Mahmoud Ahmad. Ahmad arrived in Washington DC on Sept 4th, 2001 and was scheduled to leave on 9/11, but extended his stay until Sept 16 due to the attacks. Ahmad was removed from his position after this information became public in October 2001. Thus, there is clear evidence that that the ISI was involved in the attack and since they work closely with the CIA it raises questions about that agency’s role as well. What exactly was Ahmad’s business in Washington DC for 12 days, and did it involve a meeting with Cheney?
Now, we fast forward to the past two weeks. Mr. “undisclosed location” Cheney resurfaces after his party was soundly defeated in the November election, in order to confess to and then defend his policy of torture. This man, who was the central figure in allowing the worst terrorist attack on American soil, is now allowed to claim proudly that his policies kept us safe. Tell that to the jumpers who fell from the World Trade Center to their deaths.