The Guardian reports: Lawyers for two men subject to extraordinary rendition by the CIA told the European court of human rights (ECHR) on Tuesday that Poland, which permitted a secret “black” site to operate on its territory, should be held responsible for their torture.
The two-day hearing at Strasbourg was the first time a European country has been taken to court for allowing US agencies to carry out “enhanced” interrogation and “waterboarding” programmes. In a highly unusual legal move, the media and public were barred from the opening day’s session.
The military base at Stare Kiejkuty, north of Warsaw, it was revealed, had previously been used by German intelligence and later the Soviet army during the second world war. One of the men, it was alleged, was subjected to mock executions while hooded and otherwise naked. [Continue reading...]
The Associated Press reports: A few hundred yards from the administrative offices of the Guantánamo Bay prison, hidden behind a ridge covered in thick scrub and cactus, sits a closely held secret.
A dirt road winds its way to a clearing where eight small cottages sit in two rows of four. They have long been abandoned. The special detachment of Marines that once provided security is gone.
But in the early years after 9/11, these cottages were part of a covert CIA program. Its secrecy has outlasted black prisons, waterboarding and rendition.
In these buildings, CIA officers turned terrorists into double agents and sent them home.
It was a risky gamble. If it worked, their agents might help the CIA find terrorist leaders to kill with drones. But officials knew there was a chance that some prisoners might quickly spurn their deal and kill Americans.
For the CIA, that was an acceptable risk in a dangerous business. For the American public, which was never told, it was one of the many secret trade-offs the government made on its behalf. At the same time the government used the threat of terrorism to justify imprisoning people indefinitely, it was releasing dangerous people from prison to work for the CIA.
Nearly a dozen current and former U.S. officials described aspects of the program to The Associated Press. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the secret program, even though it ended in about 2006. [Continue reading...]
Morris Davis writes: Twelve years ago, on 13 November 2001, President George W Bush signed an order authorizing the detention of suspected al-Qaida members and supporters, and the creation of military commissions. To borrow a line from the Grateful Dead: “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”
The order was modeled on one issued by President Franklin D Roosevelt on 2 July 1942, authorizing a military commission to try eight Nazi saboteurs apprehended in the United States. The men were captured, convicted and six of the eight executed in a span of 43 days. Roosevelt’s military commission was swift, secret and severe, so some urged President Bush to dust it off and use it again.
A total of seven detainees out of the 779 men ever held at Guantánamo have been convicted and sentenced. Five of the seven are no longer at Guantánamo creating a paradox: you have to lose to win. Those lucky enough to get charged and convicted of a war crime have good odds of getting out of Guantánamo, but those who are never charged could spend the rest of their lives in prison. [Continue reading...]
Al Jazeera has obtained a copy of the secret personal diaries of Abu Zubaydah, one of the highest-profile prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. The six notebooks, which were obtained from a former U.S. government intelligence official who worked with the CIA and FBI on Al-Qaeda’s rise to power, were discovered at a safe house in Pakistan where Abu Zubaydah was captured in 2002. Repeatedly cited by U.S. officials in making the case for holding a number of prisoners at Guantanamo, the diaries, which were never officially released, cast fresh light on Abu Zubaydah and challenge some of the Bush administration’s accounts of its “war on terror.” Below are some of the highlights of the first notebook.
Arriving in Afghanistan in 1991, the young computer-science student Zain Abidin Mohammed Husain Abu Zubaydah had no idea of the fateful journey he was embarking on — a journey that, 10 years later, would land him in a CIA black-site prison and then in Guantanamo Bay, branded by President George W. Bush as “one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States.”
“I am actually scared,” he conceded in his diary. “Not of a bullet or a shell, rather of the future itself. If I decide to settle here, it means that I will cancel my education and there is no harm in that, God willing; jihad is a good thing, and I will stay.”
Abu Zubaydah arrived in Afghanistan from Mysore, India, where he had gone against his father’s wishes to study computer science.
“But,” his diary continues, “I am scared that I’ll be left high and dry in the future, God forbid. At that point, I will have no contingent plan to resort to, a degree or a job to lean on.” His fear was not martyrdom but surviving the war in Afghanistan, particularly if he was wounded. “What would I do if the party is over and there is no more jihad in Afghanistan! Where would I go when I have no job and no college degree?”
He was distrustful of the few friends he had, describing many of them as backstabbers. “Friendship is a fantasy, friendship is false.”
So in the diary — which offers deep insight into a man portrayed by the Bush administration as a seminal figure in the “war on terror” — Abu Zubaydah created a friend he could talk to.
“Dear 30-year-old Hani,” the diary begins, referring to himself by a childhood nickname and making clear that the audience is himself 10 years in the future, “Today I have decided to write my memoirs and these words are to you. So, this will be the letter in which I complain to you, get things off my chest, and cry in your arms whenever I feel the need to share my burden, from this silly world, with someone.”
He states that he intends to reread the diary only after he reaches that age. “So, I will be you; the 30 years old Hani, provided that I get to live to meet you.”
Perhaps mindful of how others might interpret his literary device, Abu Zubaydah writes, “I am not a schizophrenic, which is a split personality disease; rather, I am trying to divide myself into two parts because; I believe that everything changes with time, even human beings. Therefore, it is inevitable that you Hani 2 at 30 years of age are different than Hani 1 … Me… at 20 years old.”
FBI agents who read the diaries said that Abu Zubaydah’s writing to a different version of himself proved that he had a “schizophrenic personality.” The correct term for the exhibition of multiple personalities is dissociative identity disorder, however, not schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a disease often characterized by hallucinations or delusions but not by multiple personalities. [Continue reading...]
John Grisham writes: About two months ago I learned that some of my books had been banned at Guantánamo Bay. Apparently detainees were requesting them, and their lawyers were delivering them to the prison, but they were not being allowed in because of “impermissible content.”
I became curious and tracked down a detainee who enjoys my books. His name is Nabil Hadjarab, and he is a 34-year-old Algerian who grew up in France. He learned to speak French before he learned to speak Arabic. He has close family and friends in France, but not in Algeria. As a kid growing up near Lyon, he was a gifted soccer player and dreamed of playing for Paris St.-Germain, or another top French club.
Tragically for Nabil, he has spent the past 11 years as a prisoner at Guantánamo, much of the time in solitary confinement. Starting in February, he participated in a hunger strike, which led to his being force-fed.
For reasons that had nothing to do with terror, war or criminal behavior, Nabil was living peacefully in an Algerian guesthouse in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sept. 11, 2001. Following the United States invasion, word spread among the Arab communities that the Afghan Northern Alliance was rounding up and killing foreign Arabs. Nabil and many others headed for Pakistan in a desperate effort to escape the danger. En route, he said, he was wounded in a bombing raid and woke up in a hospital in Jalalabad.
At that time, the United States was throwing money at anyone who could deliver an out-of-town Arab found in the region. Nabil was sold to the United States for a bounty of $5,000 and taken to an underground prison in Kabul. There he experienced torture for the first time. To house the prisoners of its war on terror, the United States military put up a makeshift prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Bagram would quickly become notorious, and make Guantánamo look like a church camp. When Nabil arrived there in January 2002, as one of the first prisoners, there were no walls, only razor-wire cages. In the bitter cold, Nabil was forced to sleep on concrete floors without cover. Food and water were scarce. To and from his frequent interrogations, Nabil was beaten by United States soldiers and dragged up and down concrete stairs. Other prisoners died. After a month in Bagram, Nabil was transferred to a prison at Kandahar, where the abuse continued. [Continue reading...]
Molly Crabapple reports: A T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan IT DON’T GITMO BETTER THAN THIS is perhaps the definitive physical manifestation of globalization. Sewn in Honduras and sold by Jamaican contractors on land rented from Cuba, the shirt celebrates an American prison holding Muslims who’ve been declared enemies in the war on terror. It’s a popular item in the Gitmo gift shop (yes, Gitmo has a gift shop), displayed next to the stuffed banana rats and shot glasses engraved with GUANTÁNAMO BAY: DIVE IN.
Built in 1898, the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base looks like a US suburb. There’s a McDonald’s, a Subway, and even a Christmas parade. On Halloween, military members dressed as zombies complete a 5K run. Winners of the Mr. and Ms. Gitmo Figure and Fitness Competition arch their backs on the cover of the Wire, the base’s in-house magazine. The Team Gitmo outdoor movie theater screens all the big blockbusters (when I visited it was World War Z), and in the evenings, visitors can eat jerk chicken next to swaying banyan trees, get drunk at O’Kelly’s (“the only Irish pub on Communist soil”), or sing karaoke.
But since the Joint Task Force (JTF) arrived in 2002, Guantánamo Bay has been home to the world’s most notorious prison.
Gitmo’s prison camps were built, in principle, to hold and interrogate captives outside the reach of US law. Nearly 800 Muslim men have been imprisoned since it opened, and the vast majority of them have never been charged with any crime. Since he was inaugurated in 2008, President Obama has twice promised to close Gitmo, but 166 men still languish in indefinite detention. It is a place where information is contraband, force-feeding is considered humane care, staples are weapons, and the law is rewritten wantonly.
Nabil Hadjarab arrived at Gitmo 11 years ago, in an orange jumpsuit and a diaper, his head covered by a hood, eyes blinded by blackout goggles, mouth gagged, and with headphones blaring white noise into his ears.
At 34, Nabil is four years my senior. We both speak French, draw pictures, and, in our youths, liked to travel to desolate places and have adventures. But Nabil’s days of wanderlust may be over forever. Although he’s been cleared for release since 2007, the US will not return him to his family in France. He has vowed to remain on a hunger strike till he finds freedom or death, whichever happens first. [Continue reading...]
Carol Rosenberg reports: New number-crunching by Democrats campaigning for Guantanamo’s closure says the Pentagon spends nearly a half-billion dollars a year – a whopping $2.7 million per prisoner – to operate its offshore prison complex in southeast Cuba.
The figure is by far the largest per-prisoner cost ever calculated and apparently, for the first time, includes troop costs. The ostensibly temporary Pentagon prison has, since it opened in 2002, been staffed largely by troops trained up on their way to Guantanamo for rotations of nine months to a year.
The cost for this year – $454.1 million to operate, staff and build at the prison complex – comes from a report by the Defense Department’s Office of the Comptroller.
It was first provided to Congress on June 27 by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and made public last week.
The report says the Pentagon will have spent $5.242 billion by the end of 2014.
The total costs, however, are likely higher. The accounting does not appear to include the prison camps’ state-of-the-art headquarters, built in 2004 for $13.5 million, or a secret lockup for ex-CIA prisoners, called Camp 7, the price tag of which is considered classified.
In addition, the Justice Department and FBI have devoted staff to detainee operations, and probably the CIA.
At Guantanamo, the prison camps spokesman, Navy Capt. Robert Durand, said the $2.7 million-per-prisoner figure apparently represents “fully loaded costs” of maintaining what is today a 2,000-strong staff at the sprawling detention center zone where 166 captives are confined to seven different lockups – including the hospital and psychiatric wards. [Continue reading...]
In a letter sent to President Obama on Wednesday, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Dick Durbin said: We write to urge you to use your Presidential authority to end the unnecessary force-feedings of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
Earlier this week, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Gladys Kessler also expressed concern about the force-feeding of Guantanamo Bay detainees. The Court denied detainee Jihad Dhiab’s motion for a preliminary injunction to stop force-feeding due to lack of jurisdiction, but in her order, Judge Kessler noted that Dhiab has set out in great detail in his court filings “what appears to be a consensus that force-feeding of prisoners violates Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which prohibits torture or cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment.” The United States has ratified the ICCPR and is obligated to comply with its provisions. Judge Kessler also wrote, “it is perfectly clear from the statements of detainees, as well as the statements from the [medical] organizations just cited, that force-feeding is a painful, humiliating, and degrading process.” (emphasis added).
The judge concluded by correctly pointing out that you, as Commander in Chief, have the authority to intercede on behalf of Dhiab, and other similarly-situated detainees at Guantanamo. The court wrote: “Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution provides that ‘[t]he President shall be the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States. …’ It would seem to follow, therefore, that the President of the United States, as Commander-in-Chief, has the authority—and power—to directly address the issue of force-feeding of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay.”
Furthermore, on May 23, 2013, in your national security speech at the National Defense University you raised the issue of force-feeding and asked “Is this who we are? Is that something our Founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave our children?” (emphasis added). We don’t believe it is. And we agree with your comment in the speech that “[o]ur sense of justice is stronger than that.” [Continue reading...]
The Guardian reports: Increasingly brutal tactics are being used in an attempt to break the hunger strike by detainees at Guantánamo Bay, according to fresh testimony from the last British resident still held in the camp.
Shaker Aamer claims that the US authorities are systematically making the regime more hardline to try to defuse the strike, which now involves almost two-thirds of the detainees. Techniques include making cells “freezing cold” to accentuate the discomfort of those on hunger strike and the introduction of “metal-tipped” feeding tubes, which Aamer said were forced into inmates’ stomachs twice a day and caused detainees to vomit over themselves.
The 46-year-old from London tells of one detainee who was admitted to hospital 10 days ago after a nurse had pushed the tube into his lungs rather than his stomach, causing him later to cough up blood. Aamer also alleges that some nurses at Guantánamo Bay are refusing to wear their name tags in order to prevent detainees registering abuse complaints against staff.
Speaking last week from the camp in Cuba, exactly four months after he joined the hunger strike, Aamer said: “The administration is getting ever more angry and doing everything they can to break our hunger strike. Honestly, I wish I was dead.” [Continue reading...]
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports: Calls for the doctors who force-feed hunger-striking prisoners at Guantánamo Bay to refuse to perform the practice on ethical grounds have got nowhere, a spokesman for the prison said on Thursday.
No doctors, nurses or corpsman had balked at feeding the prisoners or even voiced a concern about the military’s policy of using what’s known as enteral feeding to prevent any of the hunger strikers starving to death, said Navy Captain Robert Durand.
“They signed up to carry out lawful orders,” Durand said. “This is a lawful order.”
The hunger strike at the US base in Cuba is nearing a fourth month amid increasing pressure on the defence department to reconsider its response to the protest.
The Miami Herald reports: The military judge in the Sept. 11 conspiracy trial abruptly cleared the court Thursday after a defense attorney said he was threatened by a prosecutor during a tense standoff over what U.S. intelligence agencies are working at the base.
Navy Cmdr Walter Ruiz, a veteran death-penalty defense attorney, was questioning Rear Adm. David Woods, a former prison commander, when a Department of Justice attorney interrupted. Court stopped. Ruiz huddled with several prosecutors.
“You’re playing with fire,” one said.
At issue in the hearing is who and what organizations influenced Woods as he restricted attorney-client communications ahead of last May’s arraignment of the five men accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackings that killed 2,976 people.He was in charge of the prison, even what the accused could or could not wear to court, a year ago when the alleged 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, and four other alleged conspirators were arraigned. Thursday Woods testified by video teleconference from San Diego while Mohammed sat in court wearing a jungle camouflage hunting jacket that Woods had banned.
Woods already had testified that nobody ever told him that the CIA had input into an order that regulated the work of defense attorneys for the 9/11 accused and other former CIA captives. Ruiz, defense lawyer for Mustafa al Hawsawi, was asking the admiral what intelligence organizations he knew operated at Guantánamo during Woods’ 10-month tenure, which ended a year ago.
The line of questioning apparently so alarmed the Department of Justice’s attorney with expertise in state secrets, Joanna Baltes, that she mistakenly referred to Ruiz as “Commander Reyes,” another Navy lawyer from another war court case in which the accused was waterboarded.
Ruiz turned to the judge, Army Col. James Pohl, in exasperation. “If she wants me to use the term ‘agency who shall remain nameless’ I can do that.” [Continue reading...]
The Miami Herald reports: The prosecution in the Sept. 11 conspiracy trial put the judge on notice Wednesday that it wants to hold secret pretrial motions in the death-penalty case — and exclude both the public and five alleged terrorists during discussion of their years in CIA custody.
Exclusion must be handled on a case by case basis, said Department of Justice attorney Joanna Baltes. But, she argued, the accused don’t have an absolute right to hear legal arguments that discuss classified information before a military jury starts hearing evidence.
Defense lawyers disagreed. At issue, noted attorney David Nevin for alleged mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, is the Bush administration’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program, in which his client was waterboarded 183 times.
“Mr. Mohammad has a right to be present when we’re talking about matters that deal with his torture,” he said. Nevin invoked the 8th Amendment prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment, and said Mohammed has a right to see evidence the against him. [Continue reading...]
The Miami Herald reports: The Obama administration Monday lifted a veil of secrecy surrounding the status of the detainees at Guantánamo, for the first time publicly naming the four dozen captives it defined as indefinite detainees — men too dangerous to transfer but who cannot be tried in a court of law.
The names had been a closely held secret since a multi-agency task force sifted through the files of the Guantánamo detainees in 2009 trying to achieve President Barack Obama’s executive order to close the detention center. In January 2010, the task force revealed that it classified 48 Guantánamo captives as dangerous but ineligible for trial because of a lack of evidence, or because the evidence was too tainted.
They became so-called “indefinite detainees,” a form of war prisoner held under Congress’ 2001 “Authorization for Use of Military Force.”
The Defense Department released the list to The Miami Herald, which, with the assistance of Yale Law School students, had sued for it in federal court in Washington, D.C. The Pentagon also sent the list to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees on Monday, a Defense Department official said.
According to the list, the men designated for indefinite detention are 26 Yemenis, 12 Afghans, 3 Saudis, 2 Kuwaitis, 2 Libyans, a Kenyan, a Moroccan and a Somali.
Human rights groups denounced the existence of such a list.
Amnesty International’s Zeke Johnson called “fundamentally flawed” the notion of classifying captives as indefinite detainees. “Under international human rights law,” he said, “all of the detainees should either be charged and fairly tried in federal court, or released.” [Continue reading...]
In the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr George Annas, Dr Sondra Crosby and Dr Leonard Glantz write: American physicians have not widely criticized medical policies at the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp that violate medical ethics. We believe they should. Actions violating medical ethics, taken on behalf of the government, devalue medical ethics for all physicians. The ongoing hunger strike at Guantanamo by as many as 100 of the 166 remaining prisoners presents a stark challenge to the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to resist the temptation to use military physicians to “break” the strike through force-feeding.
President Barack Obama has publicly commented on the hunger strike twice. On April 26, he said, “I don’t want these individuals [on hunger strike] to die.” In a May 23 speech on terrorism, the President said, “Look at our current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are . . . on a hunger strike. . . . Is this who we are? . . . Is that the America we want to leave our children? Our sense of justice is stronger than that.” How should physicians respond? That force-feeding of mentally competent hunger strikers violates basic medical ethics principles is not in serious dispute. Similarly, the Constitution Project’s bipartisan Task Force on Detainee Treatment concluded in April that “forced feeding of detainees [at Guantanamo] is a form of abuse that must end” and urged the government to “adopt standards of care, policies, and procedures regarding detainees engaged in hunger strikes that are in keeping with established medical professional ethical and care standards.” Nevertheless, the DOD has sent about 40 additional medical personnel to help force-feed the hunger strikers.
The ethics standard regarding physician involvement in hunger strikes was probably best articulated by the World Medical Association (WMA) in its Declaration of Malta on Hunger Strikers. Created after World War II, the WMA comprises medical societies from almost 100 countries. Despite its checkered history, its process, transparency, and composition give it credibility regarding international medical ethics, and its statement on hunger strikers is widely considered authoritative. The WMA’s most familiar document is the Declaration of Helsinki — ethical guidelines for human-subjects research. The Declaration of Malta states that “Forcible feeding [of mentally competent hunger strikers] is never ethically acceptable. Even if intended to benefit, feeding accompanied by threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints is a form of inhuman and degrading treatment.” The Declaration of Malta aims to set the same type of ethical norm as the Helsinki document. Physicians can no more ethically force-feed mentally competent hunger strikers than they can ethically conduct research on competent humans without informed consent. [Continue reading...]
The Guardian reports: Thirteen Guantánamo Bay detainees on hunger strike have written an open letter to their military doctors insisting they receive independent, non-military medical treatment – and appealing to the conscience of their physicians.
“I cannot trust your advice, because you are responsible to your superior military officers who require you to treat me by means unacceptable to me, and you put your duty to them above your duty to me as a doctor,” the detainees write in an open letter from the detention center obtained by the Guardian. “Your dual loyalties make trusting you impossible.”
The signatories, who include former UK resident Shaker Aamer, protest that the force-feedings administered by military physicians at Guantánamo are “extremely painful” and “in violation of the ethics of your profession.” The May 30 letter was co-ordinated by attorneys for the 13 detainees, nine of whom signed the statement directly. Four signed through their lawyers.