What Geneva Convention?
Sightings from The Catbird Seat
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U.S. Torture and Abuse
“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
—The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 5 (1948)
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Each day brings more information about the appalling abuses inflicted upon men and women held by the United States in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the world. U.S. forces have used interrogation techniques including hooding, stripping detainees naked, subjecting them to extremes of heat, cold, noise and light, and depriving them of sleep—in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. This apparently routine infliction of pain, discomfort, and humiliation has expanded in all too many cases into vicious beatings, sexual degradation, sodomy, near drowning, and near asphyxiation. Detainees have died under questionable circumstances while incarcerated.
This must end. Torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading practices should be as unthinkable as slavery. U.S. Department of Defense officials have announced that certain stress interrogation techniques will no longer be used in Iraq. But President Bush should ban all forms of abuse during interrogation in Iraq and everywhere else that the United States holds people in custody. It is wrong in itself and leads to further atrocities....
Torture and Death for Accused Witches
By Jennifer Milanese
Long before the famed Salem Witch Trials, thousands upon thousands of men, women, and even children were being tortured and massacred throughout Europe. These horrible acts were even condoned by the churches. Towards the end of the thirteenth century witchcraft was proclaimed an act punishable by death. But death did not come easy to those accused.
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The Salem Witch Trials
"Today those who suffered persecution are viewed
Salem Wax Museum Text from Display
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by Carl Klang
"Can't you see? Are you blinded by the lies?"
- Jesus Christ of Nazareth
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 17, 2010
Ex-U.S. Officials say CIA Agreed to Pay $5M to Protect Private Architects - and Executors - of Technique from Lawsuits
(CBS/AP) The CIA agreed to cover at least $5 million in legal fees for two contractors who were the architects of the agency's interrogation program and personally conducted dozens of waterboarding sessions on terror detainees, former U.S. officials said.
DID BUSH ADMINISTRATION USE TORTURE TO TRY TO ESTABLISH LINK BETWEEN IRAQ AND AL-QUIDA?
(The answer is “YES”!)
Hardball with Chris Matthews, MSNBC
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THE TRUTH ABOUT TORTURE
Countdown with Keith Olbermann, MSNBC
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(S-h-h-h ... don’t tell anybody)
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October 10, 2009
By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press Writer Mark Sherman
WASHINGTON – Congress is set to allow the Pentagon to keep new pictures of foreign detainees abused by their U.S. captors from the public, a move intended to end a legal fight over the photographs' release that has reached the Supreme Court.
Federal courts have so far rejected the government's arguments against the release of 21 color photographs showing prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq being abused by Americans.
The Obama administration believes giving the imminent grant of authority over the release of such pictures to the defense secretary would short-circuit a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act.
The White House is asking the justices to put off consideration of the case until after a vote on the measure in the House and Senate, as early as this coming week. The provision is part of a larger homeland security spending bill and would allow the defense secretary to withhold photographs relating to detainees by certifying their release would endanger soldiers or other government workers.
The ACLU said the court should not disturb a ruling by the federal appeals court in New York ordering the photographs' release. The pending congressional action "does not supply any reason for delay," Jameel Jaffer, director of ACLU's national security project, told the court.
The dispute is on a list of cases the Supreme Court could act on Tuesday.
Lower courts have ruled that a provision of FOIA allows documents to be withheld from the public for security reasons only in instances where there are specific threats against individuals.
President Barack Obama initially indicated he would not fight the release of the photographs. He reversed course in May and authorized an appeal to the high court.
The president said he was persuaded that disclosure could further incite violence in Afghanistan and Iraq and endanger U.S. troops there.
The photographs at issue were taken by service members in Iraq and Afghanistan and were part of criminal investigations of alleged abuse. Some pictures show "soldiers pointing pistols or rifles at the heads of hooded and handcuffed detainees," Solicitor General Elena Kagan said in the appeal to the high court.
In one, "a soldier holds a broom as if 'sticking its end into the rectum of a restrained detainee,'" Kagan said, quoting from an investigation report prepared by the Pentagon. Two investigations led to criminal charges and convictions, she said.
Kagan said the military has identified more than two dozen additional pictures that could be affected by the court's ruling.
The government made much the same argument to prevent the release of 87 photographs and other images of detainees at detention facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, including Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
International outrage resulted when photographs from the Iraqi prison showing physical abuse and sexual humiliation of inmates that took place under the Bush administration were revealed. One picture showed a naked, hooded prisoner on a box with wires fastened to his hands and genitals.
The government dropped its appeal related to those photographs after they were made public and posted on the Internet.
The ACLU, in seeking the other pictures, said the government had long argued that the abuse at Abu Ghraib was isolated and was an aberration. The new photos would show that the abuse was more widespread, the ACLU said.
On the Net:
Government legal filings: http://tinyurl.com/yzkn6nl
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June 19, 2009
Obama-backed Bill to Ban
Release of Bush-Era Torture Photos
By Jeremy Scahill. Rebel Reports
In a move that didn’t receive much attention, the Senate on Wednesday passed by unanimous consent the Graham-Lieberman bill, which seeks to make it illegal to make public any images of US prisoner abuse and torture from the Bush era.
Specifically, the bill bans the release of images “taken between September 11, 2001 and January 22, 2009 relating to the treatment of individuals engaged, captured, or detained after September 11, 2001, by the Armed Forces of the United States in operations outside of the United States.”
The Obama White House supports this outrageous legislation whose sole purpose is to make it illegal to reveal the truth about US torture.
At one point, this legislation was tacked on to the war supplemental bill passed by the House on Tuesday, but was removed (for purely tactical reasons) when too many Congressional Democrats objected. Now, it exists as stand-alone legislation (following a deal cut between Obama and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham). Whether or not it passes the House (at this point it seems unlikely), Obama is telling his Republican buddies he’s got their backs:
Graham said at a Judiciary Committee hearing that he had received assurance from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel “that the president will not let these photos see the light of day.”
“The people involved in Abu Ghraib and other detainee abuse allegations have been dealt with,” Graham said, arguing against the release of the photographs. “Every photo would become a bullet or IED used by terrorists against our troops.”[…]
After receiving the White House promise, Graham agreed to release a “hold” on key legislation, including the $106 billion war funding measure.
Before the Senate vote, Graham told his colleagues from the Senate floor that President Obama “would sign … an executive order” classifying the photographs unless Congress acted to prevent their release.
Once again, why do we even have a Congress anymore? Why even have votes? Why carry on with this charade when the Emperor can simply issue decrees?
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HOW MUCH WORSE WERE THOSE THAT WERE BANNED???
June 16, 2009
CIA Mistaken on 'High-Value'
Detainee, Document Shows
By Peter Finn and Julie Tate
An al-Qaeda associate captured by the CIA and subjected to harsh interrogation techniques said his jailers later told him they had mistakenly thought he was the No. 3 man in the organization' s hierarchy and a partner of Osama bin Laden, according to newly released excerpts from a 2007 hearing.
President George W. Bush described Abu Zubaida in 2002 as "al-Qaeda's chief of operations." Intelligence, military and law enforcement sources told The Washington Post this year that officials later concluded he was a Pakistan-based "fixer" for radical Islamist ideologues, but not a formal member of al-Qaeda, much less one of its leaders.
Abu Zubaida, a nom de guerre for Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, told the 2007 panel of military officers at the detention facility in Cuba that "doctors told me that I nearly died four times" and that he endured "months of suffering and torture" on the false premise that he was an al-Qaeda leader.
Abu Zubaida, 38, was subjected 83 times to waterboarding, a technique that leads victims to believe they are drowning and that has been widely condemned as torture.
The Palestinian was held at a secret CIA facility after his capture in Pakistan in March 2002.
The Abu Zubaida transcript, and those of five other "high-value detainees," including Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request and lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. Versions of the transcripts were released by the Pentagon in 2007.
Abu Zubaida, Mohammed and 12 other high-value detainees were transferred to Guantanamo in September 2006 and continue to be held there at Camp 7, a secret facility at the naval base, part of a total population of 229 detainees.
After a meeting yesterday with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, President Obama announced that Italy has agreed to resettle three detainees.
The United States and the 27-nation European Union also issued a joint statement yesterday noting that "certain Member States of the European Union have expressed their readiness to assist with the reception of certain former Guantanamo detainees, on a case-by-case basis."
The statement said the United States "will consider contributing to the costs" of resettling detainees in Europe.
Although little new information was released in the hearing transcript for Majid Khan, an alleged associate of Mohammed and a former resident of Baltimore, the extent of the redactions is more apparent in the latest document. When referring to his treatment at CIA "black site" prisons, the Pakistani's transcript is blacked out for eight consecutive pages. In the version released earlier, this entire section was marked by a single word: "REDACTED."
Similar redactions appear in other transcripts released yesterday. The ACLU said the continued level of redaction was unacceptable and vowed to return to court to press for unexpurgated transcripts.
"The only conceivable basis for suppressing this testimony is not to protect the American people but to protect the CIA from legal accountability, " said Ben Wizner, a staff attorney for the ACLU.
"There is no reason to continue to censor detainee abuse allegations. "
George Little, a CIA spokesman, said, "The CIA plainly has a very different take on its past interrogation practices -- what they were and what they weren't -- and on the need to protect properly classified national security information."
The new transcripts provide some limited new insight into the interaction between the CIA and its prisoners.
Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times, appears to have invoked the U.S. Constitution to protest his treatment.
He described the response he received: "You are not American, and you are not on American soil. So you cannot ask about the Constitution."
Mohammed also said he lied in response to questions about bin Laden's location.
"Where is he? I don't know," Mohammed said. "Then he torture me. Then I said yes, he is in this area."
June 15, 2009
Accused 9/11 mastermind:
'I make up stories'
By DEVLIN BARRETT. Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- Accused al Qaeda mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed complained that interrogators tortured lies out of him, though he proudly took credit for more than two dozen other terror plots, according to newly released sections of government transcripts.
''I make up stories,'' Mohammed said at one point in his 2007 hearing at Guantánamo Bay.
In broken English, he described an interrogation in which he was asked the location of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
''Where is he? I don't know,'' Mohammed said. 'Then he torture me. Then I said, 'Yes, he is in this area or this is al Qaeda which I don't know him.' I said no, they torture me.''
Yet at the same military tribunal hearing, Mohammed ticked off a list of 29 terror plots in which he took part.
The transcripts were released as part of a lawsuit in which the American Civil Liberties Union is seeking documents and details of the government's terror detainee programs.
Previous accounts of the military tribunal hearings had been made public, but the Obama administration went back and reviewed the still-secret sections and determined that more portions could be released.
Most of the new material centers around the detainees' claims of abuse during interrogations while being held overseas in CIA custody.
One detainee, Abu Zubaydah, told the tribunal that after months ``of suffering and torture, physically and mentally, they did not care about my injuries.''
Zubaydah was the first detainee subjected to Bush administration-approved harsh interrogation techniques, which included a simulated form of drowning known as waterboarding, slamming the suspect into walls and prolonged period of nudity.
Zubaydah claimed in the hearing that he ``nearly died four times.''
''After a few months went by, during which I almost lost my mind and my life, they made sure I didn't die,'' Zubaydah said.
He claimed that after many months of such treatment, authorities concluded he was not the No. 3 person in al Qaeda as they had long believed.
May 13, 2009
Bush's 'Smoking Gun' Witness
IndictBushNow files Freedom of Information Act
The cover-up of Bush-era crimes is taking a shocking but not unexpected turn. A fateful move has been made and it is certain to backfire.
Colin Powell used al-Libi's tortured and knowingly fabricated testimony to tell the United Nations that Saddam Hussein's government was helping al-Qaeda develop weapons of mass destruction to kill Americans. It was all a lie.
IndictBushNow.org is joining with the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund and the ANSWER Coalition to demand that the truth be told. We have filed a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) with the CIA, Department of Defense, Department of State and other agencies to reveal information in their possession about Libi’s imprisonment, torture, false testimony on Iraq and the circumstances of his death. To read a copy of the FOIA, click this link.
A prisoner who was horribly tortured in 2002 until he agreed - at the demand of Bush torturers - to say that al-Qaeda was linked to Saddam Hussein is suddenly dead. Several weeks ago, Human Rights Watch investigators discovered the missing inmate and talked to him. He had been secretly transferred by the administration to a prison in Libya after having been held by the CIA both in secret “black hole prisons” and in Egypt.
Under conditions of extreme torture, the prisoner, Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, agreed in 2002 to supply the Bush-ordered interrogators what they sought as a political cover for Bush’s marketing of the pending war of aggression against Iraq. Mr. Libi agreed to tell them whatever they wanted in exchange for an end to the torture. The now famous Torture Memos providing legal cover for the torture were written at the same time starting in the summer of 2002.
Libi’s tortured and knowingly fabricated testimony was the source of information used by Bush to sell the war to the U.S. Senate, and the source for Colin Powell’s bogus and lying presentation to the United Nations in 2003.
Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice are now running around saying that the torture regime “protected the country from terrorist attack.” But the torture was used for the personal political goals of Bush and Cheney: namely, to sell their Iraq invasion to a very skeptical and disbelieving country.
Having been discovered by human rights investigators two weeks ago, Mr. Libi’s story coincided with the release of the Torture Memos and the growing clamor for criminal prosecutions of Bush officials.
His testimony is the smoking gun that would reveal that the torture regime was not for “national security” but for the personal political aims of Bush and Cheney.
He was Exhibit A in the indictment that alleges that tortured confessions and the contrived legal justifications of torture set up by Justice Department lawyers in July/August 2002 were central to the launch of the war against Iraq.
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died and tens of thousands of U.S. service members have either been killed or badly wounded in a war that was based on lies fortified and promoted by the most sadistic torture.
Mr. Libi is suddenly dead. A Libyan “newspaper source” says that his death is an apparent suicide. His friends don’t believe that.
We are building a movement for the appointment of a Special Prosecutor. This is not a political choice. It is a legal imperative. Mr. Libi’s death must be the first business of the investigation. When other prisoners who had been kept at secret sites were sent to Guantanamo, the Bush administration and the CIA intentionally kept Mr. Libi from being part of that transfer. Mr. Libi was publicly stating that the Iraq-al-Qaeda links attributed to him from his torture sessions were not true.
“Who was the beneficiary” from his death? Why was he spirited away by the Bush administration to hidden foreign prisons after he recanted his tortured testimony and revealed that he was forced to make false statements about Iraq under torture?
IndictBushNow.org is joining with the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund and the ANSWER Coalition to demand that the truth be told. We have filed a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) with the CIA, Department of Defense, Department of State and other agencies to reveal information in their possession about Libi’s imprisonment, torture, false testimony on Iraq and the circumstances of his death.
To read a copy of the FOIA, click this link.
--From all of us at www.IndictBushNow.org
May 13, 2009
Obama seeks to block release
By JENNIFER LOVEN, AP White House Correspondent
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama declared Wednesday he would try to block the court-ordered release of photos showing U.S. troops abusing prisoners, abruptly reversing his position out of concern the pictures would "further inflame anti-American opinion" and endanger U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The White House had said last month it would not oppose the release of dozens of photos from military investigations of alleged misconduct. But American commanders in the war zones have expressed deep concern about fresh damage the photos might do, especially as the U.S. tries to wind down the Iraq war and step up operations against the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan.
Obama, realizing how high emotions run on detainee treatment during the Bush administration and now, made it a point to personally explain his change of heart, stopping to address TV cameras late in the day as he left the White House for a flight to Arizona.
He said the photos had already served their purpose in investigations of "a small number of individuals." Those cases were all concluded by 2004, and the president said "the individuals who were involved have been identified, and appropriate actions have been taken."
When photos emerged in 2004 from the infamous U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, showing grinning American soldiers posing with detainees — some of the prisoners naked, some being held on leashes — the pictures caused a huge anti-American backlash around the globe, particularly in the Muslim world.
The Pentagon conducted 200 investigations into alleged abuse connected with the photos that are now in question. The administration did not provide an immediate accounting of how they turned out.
"This is not a situation in which the Pentagon has concealed or sought to justify inappropriate action," Obama said of the photos. "In fact, the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger."
The Justice Department filed a notice of its new position on the release, including that it was considering an appeal with the Supreme Court. The government has until June 9 to do so.
Spokesman Robert Gibbs said release of the new batch of photos from the Pentagon cases would merely "provide, in some ways, a sensationalistic portion of that investigation."
Obama said later, "I want to emphasize that these photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational, especially when compared to the painful images that we remember from Abu Ghraib."
Still, he said he had made it newly clear: "Any abuse of detainees is unacceptable. It is against our values. It endangers our security. It will not be tolerated."
The effort to keep the photos from becoming public represented a sharp reversal from Obama's repeated pledges for open government, and in particular from his promise to be forthcoming with information that courts have ruled should be publicly available.
As such, it invited criticism from the more liberal segments of the Democratic Party, which want a full accounting — and even redress — for what they see as the misdeeds of the Bush administration.
"The decision to not release the photographs makes a mockery of President Obama's promise of transparency and accountability," said ACLU attorney Amrit Singh, who had argued and won the case in question before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. "It is essential that these photographs be released so that the public can examine for itself the full scale and scope of prisoner abuse that was conducted in its name."
Human Rights Watch called the decision a blow to transparency and accountability.
On Capitol Hill, Republicans welcomed the change, however. A military group also said it was relieved.
"These photos represent isolated incidents where the offending servicemen and women have already been prosecuted," said Brian Wise, executive director of Military Families United.
The reactions were a reverse of what happened after Obama's decision last month to voluntarily release documents that detailed brutal interrogation techniques used by the CIA against terror suspects. Those also came out in response to an ACLU lawsuit, and his decision then brought harsh and still-continuing criticism from Republicans.
This time he's kicking the decision back into court, where his administration still may be forced into releasing the photos.
Indeed, there is some evidence that the administration has little case left.
Gibbs said the president instructed administration lawyers to challenge the photos' release based on national security implications. He said the argument was not used before.
But the Bush administration already argued against the release on national security grounds — and lost.
"It is plainly insufficient to claim that releasing documents could reasonably be expected to endanger some unspecified member of a group so vast as to encompass all United States troops, coalition forces, and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan," the three-judge appeals panel wrote in September 2008.
The Justice Department had concluded that further appeal would probably be fruitless, and last month, Gibbs said the president had concurred with that conclusion, though without commenting on whether Obama would support the release if not pressed by a court case.
Thus, the administration assured a federal judge that it would turn over the material by May 28, including one batch of 21 photos and another of 23 images. The government also told the judge it was "processing for release a substantial number of other images," for a total expected to be in the hundreds.
The lower court also has already rejected another argument the president and his spokesman made, that the photos add little of value to the public's understanding of the issue. "This contention disregards FOIA's central purpose of furthering governmental accountability," the appeals court panel concluded in the same decision.
Obama's own Jan. 21 memorandum on honoring the Freedom of Information Act also takes a different line. "The government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears," it said.
The president informed Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, of his decision during a White House meeting on Tuesday.
Gen. David Petraeus, the senior commander for both wars, had also weighed in against the release, as had Gen. David McKiernan, the outgoing top general in Afghanistan.
Military commanders' concerns were most intense with respect to Afghanistan. The release would coincide with the spring thaw that usually heralds the year's toughest fighting there — and as thousands of new U.S. troops head into Afghanistan's volatile south.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he had once held the view that it might be best to "go through the pain once" and release a large batch of images now, since so many are at issue in multiple lawsuits. But he — and the president — changed their minds when Odierno and McKiernan expressed "very great worry that release of these photographs will cost American lives," Gates said before the House Armed Services Committee.
"That's all it took for me," Gates said.
April 16, 2009
No charges against CIA officials
By Jennifer Loven And Devlin Barrett, Associated Press Writers
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration on Thursday informed CIA officials who used waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics on terror suspects that they will not be prosecuted, senior administration officials told The Associated Press.
Even before President Barack Obama took office in January, aides signaled his administration was not likely to bring criminal charges against CIA employees for their roles in the secret, coercive terrorist interrogation program. It had been deemed legal at the time through opinions issued by the Justice Department under the Bush administration.
But the statement being issued Thursday by Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation's chief law enforcement officer, is the first definitive assurance that those CIA officials are in the clear, as long as their actions were in line with the legal advice at the time.
The officials spoke about the Holder statement ahead of its release on condition of anonymity, so as not to pre-empt the attorney general.
The CIA has acknowledged using waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning, on three high-level terror detainees in 2002 and 2003, with the permission of the White House and the Justice Department. Former CIA Director Michael Hayden said waterboarding has not been used since, but some human rights groups have urged Obama to hold CIA employees accountable for what they, and many Obama officials and others around the world, say was torture.
The Holder statement was being issued by the Justice Department along with the release of four significant Bush-era legal opinions governing — in graphic and extensive detail — the interrogation of terror detainees, the officials said. One of the memos was produced by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel in August 2002, the other three in 2005.
The memos, released to meet a court-approved deadline in a lawsuit against the government in New York by the American Civil Liberties Union, detail the dozen harsh techniques approved for use by CIA interrogators, the officials said. A statement from Obama was also being released along with Holder's comments and the documents.
One memo specifically authorized a method for combining multiple techniques, a practice human rights advocates argue is particularly harmful and crosses the line into torture even if any of the individual methods do not.
The Obama administration last month released nine legal memos related to the interrogation program, and probably will release more as the lawsuit proceeds. But the four released Thursday represent the fullest accounting by the government of the methods authorized and used, and is the complete list, the officials said.
There is very little redaction, or blacking out, of detail in the memos, the officials said.
The methods include keeping detainees naked for long periods, keeping them in a painful standing position for long periods, and depriving them of solid food. Other tactics included using a plastic neck collar to slam detainees into walls, keeping the detainee's cell cold for long periods, and beating and kicking the detainee. Sleep-deprivation, prolonged shackling, and threats to a detainee's family were also used.
Among the things not allowed in the memo were allowing a prisoner's body temperature or caloric intake to fall below a certain level, because either could cause permanent damage, the officials said.
The techniques were applied to 14 suspects considered very senior terrorists.
Many of the methods were detailed in a secret 2007 report by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The New York Review of Books recently obtained a copy of the report.
The ACLU suit has sought to use the Freedom of Information Act to shed light on the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody abroad — even though the Bush administration eventually abandoned many of the legal conclusions and the Obama administration has gone further to actively dismantle most of President George W. Bush's anti-terror program.
Obama has ordered the CIA's secret overseas prisons known as "black sites" closed, ended so-called "extraordinary renditions" of terrorism suspects if there is any reason to believe the third country would torture them, and restricted CIA questioners to only those interrogation methods and protocols approved for use by the U.S. military until a complete review of the program is conducted.
Also Thursday, Holder was formally revoking every legal opinion or memo issued during Bush's presidency that justified interrogation programs. Obama had already said his administration would not rely upon them.
Still, the documents have been the subject of a long, fierce debate in and outside government over how much officials should say about the tough treatment of detainees.
The Bush administration held the view that the president had the authority to claim broad powers that could not be checked by Congress or the courts in order to keep Americans safe. Obama and Holder, among others, have said that the use of such unchecked powers has actually made Americans less safe, by increasing anti-U.S. sentiment, endangering American troops when captured and handing terrorists a recruiting tool.
Even so, the officials described the president's process of deciding how much to release in response to the suit as a very difficult one. Four weeks in the making, the process resulted in intense debates involving the president, Cabinet members, lower-level officials and even former administration officials.
Obama was concerned that releasing the information could endanger ongoing operations, American personnel or U.S. relationships with foreign intelligence services. CIA officials, in particular, needed reassuring, the officials said.
But in the end, the view of the Justice Department prevailed, that the FOIA law required the release and that the government would be forced to do so by the court if it didn't do so itself, the officials said. Also, Obama was reassured about the potential national security implications by the fact that much of the information contained in the memos was no longer secret, having been widely publicized — including some of it by Bush himself — and by the fact that the program itself no longer exists.
Those assurances are not likely to innoculate Obama against criticism from conservatives. Last month, Vice President Dick Cheney said, for instance, that Obama's decisions to revoke Bush-era terrorist detainee policies will "raise the risk to the American people of another attack."
April 11, 2009
'These People Fear Prosecution'
Why Bush's CIA Team Should Worry About
By Liliana Segura, AlterNet
On the night of April 6, a long-secret document was published -- in its entirety for the first time -- that provided a clear, stark look at the CIA torture program carried out by the Bush administration.
Dated Feb. 14, 2007, the 41-page report describes in harrowing detail the "ill treatment" of 14 "high-value" detainees in U.S. custody, as recounted by the prisoners in interviews with the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Besides listing the various kinds of harsh interrogation tactics undertaken by the CIA -- among them "suffocation by water," "prolonged stress standing," "beatings by use of a collar," "confinement in a box," "prolonged nudity," "threats," "forced shaving" and other methods -- the report reveals the disturbing role of medical professionals in the torture of suspects, which included using doctors' equipment to monitor their health, even as torture was carried out.
Just as Americans have known about Bush-era torture for years, lawyers and human rights activists have long known about the ICRC report and its contents. Both are due in large part to the work of journalists and the sources who have brought to light the many post-9/11 abuses committed in the name of counterterrorism.
In February 2005, Jane Mayer of the New Yorker magazine published a story called "Outsourcing Torture: The Secret History of America's 'Extraordinary Rendition' Program," which reported in intricate detail the sordid mechanisms of the Bush administration's kidnap-and-torture program -- a practice so violent and dramatic that it inspired a major Hollywood film a few years later.
As Mayer wrote at the time, however, "Rendition is just one element of the administration's new paradigm."
The CIA itself is holding dozens of 'high value' terrorist suspects outside of the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S., in addition to the estimated 550 detainees in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The administration confirmed the identities of at least 10 of these suspects to the 9/11 Commission -- including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a top al-Qaida operative … -- but refused to allow commission members to interview the men, and would not say where they were being held. Reports have suggested that CIA prisons are being operated in Thailand, Qatar and Afghanistan, among other countries. At the request of the CIA, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld personally ordered that a prisoner in Iraq be hidden from Red Cross officials for several months, and Army Gen. Paul Kern told Congress that the CIA may have hidden up to a hundred detainees."
Among the revelations of the ICRC report is that the CIA did indeed hide prisoners from the Red Cross....
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TO BE CONTINUED...
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