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"Fabricating Terrorism:" Victims of UK Injustice
Launched in October 2003, Cageprisoners is a human rights organization dedicated to raising the "awareness of the plight of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay" and other War on Terror victims. As a "comprehensive resource," six words explain its mission: "education, campaign, support, motivation, co-operation (and) prevention" for its efforts to educate the public, campaign for Guantanamo and other detainee repatriations or their asylum, and have prisoner rights guaranteed under international law, including humane treatment not to be:
- indefinitely detained;
- disappeared; or
- denied proper legal representation, due process, judicial fairness, and access to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), medical personnel and families.
In April 2009, its report titled, "Fabricating Terrorism II: British Complicity in renditions and torture" followed its same-titled 2006 report. Part I covered 13 cases with evidence based on detainee testimonies, interviews with security service officials, and other research.
Part II updated it (including 16 other cases - 29 in all), focusing on Britain's claim to be a human rights leader. Stating it ratified the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) in 2003, its practices belie its commitment.
Prior to 9/11, Britain became complicit in America's War on Terror, and the worst of its crimes, including renouncing the rule of law, due process, and judicial fairness in persecuting innocent people, subjecting them to barbaric torture, other abuses, and long internments.
Muslims were targets of choice for their faith, ethnicity, prominence, activism, and at times charity. They've been singled out, hunted down, rounded up, held in detention, kept in isolation, denied bail, restricted in their right to counsel, tried on secret evidence and bogus charges, convicted in sham proceedings, then incarcerated as political prisoners for practicing Islam at the wrong time in America and Britain.
Targets were kidnapped, illegally detained, then extrajudicially disappeared to black sites, called extraordinary or irregular rendition, or the practice of forcibly transferring someone from one nation to another. The term is undefined in law.
Sourcewatch calls it "transferring or flying captured terrorist suspects from one country to another for detention and interrogation without the benefit of formal legal proceedings."
Others say it's "torture by proxy" in secret US or foreign black sites where anything goes and commonly does. According to the ACLU, current policies trace back to the Clinton administration, then were broadly expanded post-9/11 to Guantanamo, Bagram, Afghanistan, and facilities in Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Diego Garcia, prison ships, and elsewhere. According to former CIA agent Robert Baer:
"If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. It you want someone to disappear - never to see them again - you send them to Egypt."
In 2005, the British All Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition (APPG) was established to investigate charges of UK involvement, because "more likely than not (targets) may be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment." Made up of a "cross party grouping of MPs and Peers from the British parliament," it calls the practice:
"a process by which a detainee is transferred from one state to another, outside normal legal processes (where they're held in) secret detention....for the purposes of interrogation, often in circumstances where they face a real risk of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment."
"This applies to the UK as it does to the US - as the authors state plainly that:
seemingly innocuous acts (e.g. allowing refueling at airports of aircraft of another State) can become wrongful under international law if those acts facilitate Extraordinary Rendition."
Besides being illegal, "the moral case is unassailable: there is simply no justification whatsoever for the UK or the US engaging in torture, whether by direct or indirect means." Nor can it provide reliable information or combat terrorism. Yet the practice continues unabated.
In November 2009, APPG published its "legal proposals to criminalise UK involvement in extraordinary rendition" in a report titled, "Extraordinary Rendition: Closing the Gap."
It called the practice "illegal, immoral, a stark breach of the rule of law and ineffective as a counterterrorism tool." It's unaddressed sufficiently in British law, so it called for "effective legislation to ensure that the UK does not facilitate or support such a practice now or in the future."
It stated that:
- evidence shows that extraordinary rendition is longstanding, but more frequent during America's War on Terror;
- it expressed great concern about Britain's involvement; clear evidence shows it, but "no prosecutions have taken place to date;"
- it called for new legislation to criminalize specific practices, including providing transport facilities like airports or planes at home or in British territories;
- it stated "There is no doubt that the UK has been involved with the US rendition programme," but the government has been silent on the practice even though there's been "direct involvement of MI5 officers;"
- it cited a Joint Committee on Human Rights report titled, "Report on Allegations of UK Complicity in Torture" providing evidence it's true;
- it mentioned other evidence as well, including detainee testimonies, interviews with legal representatives and insiders, investigative journalists' accounts, exhibits, parliamentary inquiries, and information gotten under Freedom of Information legislation;
- it cited Manfred Nowak, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture saying he received "credible evidence from well-placed sources familiar with the situation" of Britain's involvement; and
- it affirmed that "It is unlawful to aid, abet, counsel or procure the commission of a criminal offence" like illegal renditions and torture, calling for complicit government officials to be held accountable.
Torture Becomes Official US Policy - Britain Endorses It
On September 17, 2001, a secret White House finding empowered the CIA to "Capture, Kill, or Interrogate Al-Queda Leaders," authorizing a covert (black site) global network to detain and interrogate them without guidelines on proper treatment. In response to an ACLU lawsuit, George Bush acknowledged its existence without revealing program specifics, such as detainee locations or details of their confinement.
Claiming "the United States does not use torture," he admitted that "an alternative set of procedures" were involved for information not gotten by conventional means.
According to former CIA Counterrorism Center chief, Cofer Black (in September 2002): "After 9/11, the gloves came off - old" standards no longer apply. They never did but Washington now officially endorses them. UK officials are less forthcoming, but willingly partnered in America's high crimes and abuses, undermining their commitment to human rights and the rule of law.
According to Britain's Lord Bingham, "English common law has regarded torture and its fruits with abhorrence for over 500 years."
The 1984 UN Convention against Torture defines it as:
"any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether or physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity."
Article 3 states:
"No State Party shall expel, return ('refouler') or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture."
Article 4 says:
"Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture."
In his book titled, "Enemy Combatant: A British Muslim's Journey to Guantanamo and Back," Moazzam Begg wrote:
"The sad fact is (the UK government) acted duplicitously, immorally and unlawfully. It is not just their uncritical acceptance of and obedience to torturous conditions, regimes, and physical restraint or worse. They were there by choice." They were complicit "in breach of international law (but remain) unperturbed in using information" known to be worthless and "abhorrent to the British way of life."
Fabricating Terrorism II covers 29 case studies "mostly detailing the experiences of British citizens and British residents granted asylum (showing how they) passed through a subterranean system of kidnappings, ghosted to 'black sites,' suffering abuse and torture" to extract information and confessions known to be unreliable and false." In addition, no one was charged with terrorism or other crimes. UK authorities knew it before their rendition, yet allowed it and their torture to happen.
Cageprisoners "found systematic violations of international law," showing senior government officials lied to Parliament, its committees and the public regarding their complicity with America. UK security forces were present during torture interrogations. They supplied falsified evidence leading to kidnappings, renditions, illegal detentions and torture. No evidence proves their direct participation, but they're "unequivocally guilty of facilitating" the above practices and enlisting other States as willing partners. "Not exactly a clean pair of hands."
Cageprisoners published its report in April 2009. Torture, abuse and degrading treatment continue unabated globally under the Obama administration despite promises to end them.
Treatment at Guantanamo and Other Torture Prisons
Despite no involvement in terrorism, prisoners are subjected to horrific torture, abuse, and humiliating treatment as "unlawful enemy combatants" - now called "unprivileged enemy belligerents," defined as anyone (with or without evidence) suspected of "engag(ing) in (or materially supporting) hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners."
International law expert Francis Boyle calls it this legally nihilistic "quasi-category....where human beings (including US citizens) can be disappeared, detained incommunicado, denied access to attorneys and regular courts, tried by kangaroo courts (with no right of appeal, convicted), executed, tortured, assassinated and subjected to" unspeakable treatment.
Whatever its wording, the notion is "a long-defunct World War II era legal category of dubious provenance....superseded by the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949" and their Common Article 3, requiring detainees to be treated humanely and prohibiting:
- "violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture (and) degrading treatment."
No longer under the bogus War on Terrorism where imperial rights replace human ones.
Of the original 517 Guantanamo detainees:
- few at most committed violent acts;
- many were randomly seized, guilty only of being in the wrong place at the wrong time;
- 95% were sold for bounty - $5,000 per claimed Taliban and $25,000 for alleged Al Queda members; and
- 20 were children, some as young as 13, yet were treated as horrifically as adults.
Alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was victimized, despite no evidence of his involvement, yet in custody, he:
- was initially held in Afghanistan;
- had no lawyer;
- was isolated at black sites for over two years, including the secret "Dark Prison" near Kabul International Airport, infamous for its brutalizing torture in total darkness;
- another north of Kabul called the "Salt Pit," where in 2002, a detainee was stripped naked and left chained to the floor in frigid temperatures until he died;
- in Afghanistan, Mohammed was hog-tied, stripped naked, hooded, and repeatedly abused in numerous ways, including being:
- kept in prolonged isolation for months;
- waterboarded numerous times;
- chained naked to a metal ring in his cell in a painful crouch in intense heat and extreme cold;
- subjected to deafening sounds round the clock for weeks;
- forcefully thrown against walls, a procedure called walling;
- suspended from the ceiling by his arms so his toes barely touched the ground;
- beaten with electric cables;
- given electric shocks; and
- forced to endure a variety of stress positions for extended periods, causing excruciating pain until -
- in 2006, he was sent to Guantanamo where his torture continued, including being waterboarded over 180 times and subjected to numerous other tortures.
Since its 2002 opening, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) represented hundreds of Guantanamo detainees, publishing detailed accounts of their treatment that remain unchanged, appalling, and illegal. Besides the above listed ones, they include:
- 20 or more daily hours in tiny cells with virtually no human contact;
- severe discipline for the slightest infraction;
- holes for toilets;
- burning lights 24 hours a day;
- sleep deprivation;
- painful shackling;
- physical attacks by guards;
- confinement in boxes in extreme stress positions causing severe physical and psychological pain and trauma;
- under restraint for hunger strikers, force feeding through their noses and throats abrasively enough to draw blood - a procedure causing excruciating pain;
- instances of severe beatings causing deaths; in some cases, willful murders; and
- to exact confessions, some are told they won't be killed, but will taken to the brink of death and back repeatedly.
War on Terror Rendition and Torture Case Studies
Examples of UK involvement in several are recounted - subjecting innocent victims to barbarous tortures. They're explained to arouse public outrage enough to stop them and hold those involved (in America and Britain) accountable and punished.
Farid Hilali - A British Resident of Moroccan Nationality
Initially detained in 1999 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), he was tortured and interrogated at the behest of Britain's security services, then sent to Morocco for more. After release, he came to the UK, was arrested on immigration charges, then re-arrested when Spain charged him with terrorism, specifically for alleged 9/11 involvement. The evidence was entirely bogus, but it stuck.
During his UAE interrogation, a British government representative was present. Introducing himself, he explained: "If you want to come out of this problem, you have to cooperate with the British government;" that is, tell what you know meaning say what they wanted to hear, no matter how false.
Failing to "cooperate," Hilali was violently beaten for an extended period, isolated in a dark cell for three days with no food or water, had no human contact, was told it was only the beginning, and it continued in Morocco - not to learn about him, but about Britain and others there, alleged terrorists despite no evidence.
In testimony to his lawyers, Moazzam Begg said MI5 agents first visited him in 1998. Hilali wrote him from Dubai explaining he was arrested in Pakistan, transfered to Dubai authorities, and severely tortured to confess that he belonged to the Armed Islamic Group (GAI) connected to bin Laden.
His case is significant in one respect. It occurred pre-9/11, showing rendition and outsourced torture predated it, but intensified greatly thereafter, Britain very much involved as it remains today.
Binyam Mohamed - a British Resident of Ethiopian Nationality
After being granted UK asylum in 1994, he converted to Islam, then travelled to Pakistan and Afghanistan to learn more about his new faith. Post-9/11, Pakistani authorities arrested, interned, and abused him in the presence of MI6 officers.
He was then renditioned to Morocco, held from July 2002 - January 2004, and reported the following abuse:
- numerous penis mutilations;
- sustained, severe beatings;
- sensory deprivation in solitary confinement;
- deafening music for days; and
- being administered mind-altering drugs intravenously.
British authorities gave interrogators questions and were kept informed, apparently directing the entire process.
In January 2004, Mohamed was flown to Afghanistan, held at the "Dark Prison" near Kabul airport, and remained there until May for more torture, including:
- soldiers smashing his head against a wall;
- being hung by his wrists for days so his toes barely touched the ground;
- deafening hip hop music and other harrowing sounds, and throughout the process, CIA operatives, doctors and psychiatrists were present.
He was then taken to Bagram Airbase, forced to sign a confession that he planned a dirty bomb attack on a US city, so to end his abuse he said "whatever they wanted to hear."
In September 2004, he was transferred to Guantanamo, placed in "super maximum" Camp V, further abused, explaining MI6 officers were very much involved, and at one point said he'd be tortured.
"Mohamed's case is one of the most disgraceful examples of how the rendition process (is) used by (America, Britain, and other) governments in order to extract information (detainees have no knowledge of or involvement in) through illegal and inhuman means."
He was an innocent victim, later released, and now resides in Britain.
Jamal Al-Harith - A British Citizen
After converting to Islam, he spent years abroad learning about his new faith. On October 2, 2001, he attended a Pakistan religious retreat, feared he'd be suspected as a British spy, tried leaving for Turkey, but Taliban forces seized and imprisoned him. After the Afghan invasion, he contacted Britain's Kabul embassy, then followed ICRC advice to remain where he was while they tried to arrange for his UK return.
However, US Special Forces intercepted him, said he could fly home, yet took him to Kandahar Airbase where he was stripped naked and beaten, then sent to Guantanamo where he was:
- shackled up to 15 hours a day;
- confined to open-air cells and exposed to extreme temperatures, rats and snakes;
- physically beaten by guards;
- psychologically tortured;
- denied medical treatment;
- served rotten food and unsafe drinking water; and
- subjected to religious abuse.
MI5 operatives had full knowledge of his treatment, abandoned one of their subjects, and tried to get him to confess to terrorism, even after checking his background and finding nothing incriminating.
In March 2004, Al-Harith was released, is currently, with other detainees, suing top Bush administration officials for redress, saying:
"They deprived me of my liberty, interrogated and tortured me and let me go without even a word of apology."
Omar Deghayes - A British Resident of Libyan Nationality
Like Moazzam Begg, Deghayes wanted to experience life under Taliban rule after seeing how western media distorted it. When war broke out, he left for Pakistan, was arrested and visited numerous times by British officials who said they'd help but didn't, even though they knew he was innocent.
In mid- 2002, he was taken to Bagram Airbase, then to Guantanamo, where torture and abuse took his sight in one eye. He was falsely charged with fighting for the Chechen mujahideen and traveling to Iran with other alleged terrorists.
After six years of incarceration without charge or trial, he was released and now lives in Britain where he's involved in projects helping others at Guantanamo and elsewhere - innocent victims, detained without charges, tortured, and abandoned by their governments.
Shaker Aamer - A British Resident of Saudi Nationality
Working as an Arabic translator in Britain, he went abroad to earn more, and performed charity work in Afghanistan where, post-9/11, an Afghan family kidnapped him, sold him to the Northern Alliance, who turned him over to Americans for bounty.
He was badly abused, taken to Bagram Airbase, starved for nine days, horrifically treated, then moved to Kandahar, beaten, and deprived of sleep. Two British agents visited him, knew he was innocent, witnessed his torture, and didn't help.
After transfer to Guantanamo, torture and abuse continued for another four years. "The complicity of the British government in Aamer's situation is undeniable...."
Yet he was respected for being kind and leading others in a hunger strike to stop horrific, abusive treatment. It took its toll, reflected in his own words, saying:
"I am dying here every day, mentally and physically. This is happening to all of us. We have been ignored, locked up in the middle of the ocean for many years....I have many problems from the filthy yellow water....I have lung problems from the chemicals they spread all over the floor....I am already arthritic at 40 because I sleep on a steel bed, and they use freezing air conditioning as part of the interrogation process. I have ruined eyes from the permanent, 24-hour fluorescent lights. I have tinnitus in my ears from the perpetual noise....I have ulcers and almost permanent constipation from the food. I have been made paranoid, so I can trust nobody, not even my lawyer. I was over 250 lbs. I dropped to 130 lbs in the hunger strike."
On February 19, 2010, the London Guardian's Adam Gabbatt headlined his article, "Shaker Aamer: last British resident held in Guantanamo Bay."
Now aged 42, he's a former Londoner with a British wife and four children, in US custody since 2001 after traveling to Kabul to do charity work in June. In December 2007, his release was thought imminent, but he's still incarcerated. After leading a 2005 hunger strike, he was isolated in a six by eight foot cell where he remains, innocent, abused, and guilty of being Muslim in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Tarek Dergoul - A British Citizen
In July 2001, he took an extended holiday to Pakistan, then Afghanistan for a prospective business opportunity. While there, Northern Alliance fighters sold him for bounty to Americans. Britain was complicit from the start.
Incarcerated at Bagram, UK representatives participated in interrogations, understood his situation, yet facilitated his transfer to Guantanamo. In March 2004, he was released, arrested on arrival in Britain, then let go without charge the next day. His experience traumatized him enough to remain silent for months. Finally he spoke publicly, explained his ordeal, and that he suffers from migraines, memory loss and depression.
Moazzam Begg - A British/Pakistani National
In July 2001, he moved to Kabul with his family to continue work on a girls school he helped fund. In October, they left for Islamabad, Pakistan for safety where, in January 2002, Pakistani intelligence and CIA agents abducted him, took him to Kandahar, then Bagram and Guantanamo. He was falsely called an enemy combatant and al-Qaeda member, charges he categorically denies.
During internment, he was kicked, beaten, suffocated with a bag over his head, stripped naked, chained by his hands to the top of a door, left hanging, and led to believe he'd be executed. Mostly in isolation, he was tortured, interrogated over 300 times, threatened with death, and witnessed the murder of two detainees.
After his 2005 release, he documented his experiences in two books: "Enemy Combatant: A British Muslim's Journey to Guantanamo and Back," and "Enemy Combatant: My Imprisonment at Guantanamo, Bagram, and Kandahar," explaining his experiences and Britain's complicity, saying:
"one of the hardest truths I've had to face since my return has been the complicity of my own government in what happened. For me the questions remain. Who provided false information to the US, and allowed my detention in the first place? Who exploited my situation to the maximum at every stage of my ordeal in Islamabad, in Kandahar, in Bagram, and in Guantanamo? Who was then, as now, the closest ally of the US? (Contrary to Foreign Office letters to his father, he) was interrogated by British intelligence in these very places - places where people, in the same situation as me, were tortured to death."
Zeeshan Siddiqui - A British Citizen
In May 2005, he was arrested in North West Pakistan, allegedly for involvement with UK Islamic militants, but he was never charged. After his 2006 release, he told the BBC:
"I was drugged. I was forcibly injected with chemicals. I had chemicals injected up my nose which burnt my nasal passage and burnt my throat. I was forcefully inserted with a feeding tube and forcefully fed, even though I was capable of feeing myself. I was chained to a bed for approximately 11 days in a row and was not allowed to even use the bathroom. I had a catheter forced up me, only in order to stop me using the bathroom, then this catheter was forcefully pulled out and I was made to bleed.
Then I had the shackle pressed into my wrists so tightly that it slit (them). Then I was threatened with sexual abuse. For example, one person came along and started opening up my clothes. They forcefully stripped me and started touching up my body and telling me that they would commit sexual abuse if I did not cooperate."
British and Pakistani intelligence interrogated him. According to his lawyer, he was severely tortured to extract false confessions of Al Qaeda movements and other terrorist networks. After release, he returned to Britain, was put under a control order restricting his travel, and requiring that he report regularly to local police, even though authorities knew he was innocent. In Pakistan, he performed humanitarian work and had no terrorist connections.
Mohammed Naeem Nor Khan - A Pakistani Citizen
In July 2004, Pakistani authorities arrested him in Lahore after two Malaysian students claimed he was involved in an Al-Qaeda cell. After 18 months of incarceration, he was denied legal representation, the right to defend himself in court, and became a "ghost detainee," despite no incriminating evidence against him.
Allegedly his computer science background made him suspect. In June 2005, the UK Telegraph said MI5 officials interrogated him, obtaining a confession of his involvement in a London cell planning to attack London's Heathrow Airport. It was gotten under duress, the result of torture and abuse.
Never charged or tried, Kahn was released in 2007 after three years of lawless detention and serious abuses.
Abu Faraj Al-Libbi - A Libyan Citizen
After his May 2005 arrest, George Bush called him Al-Qaeda's No. 3, declared a "critical victory in the war on terror," but intelligence officials had doubts. He wasn't one of the FBI's most wanted or on the State Department's "Reward for Justice," list offering up to $25 million for capturing alleged terrorists.
After internment, he was disappeared, taken to a secret Islamabad location, and interrogated by US and Pakistani authorities. Also by UK officials about the July 7, 2005 London transport system bombings and other information he had. He was later taken to Guantanamo where he remains.
Alam Ghafoor - A British Citizen
On a business trip to Dubai with three friends, British authorities asked local authorities to detain and interrogate him. Ghafoor explained:
He was "confronted by a group of unidentifiable men (who) didn't say who they were (and he didn't know). I was taken into a building, put into a room, sat down, and there was this deathly silence."
He was then "surrounded by six or seven Arabs, two or three shouting in English, two or three shouting in Arabic, and one trying to speak in Urdu. There are all these fingers pointing with them saying to me, 'You are the bomber, you are linked to London bomb, we want information from you now.' I was totally gobsmacked, I was like, 'I don't know anything about this.' "
He tried explaining to no avail. They kept him in detention, deprived him of sleep for four days. He felt he was losing his mind and the walls were closing in, finally saying he divulged all he could, but if they'd provide pen and paper he'd write whatever they wanted.
After a few days, they let him shower, shave, and dress in his own clothes. At that point, a British Embassy member met him, saying she'd get him out as soon as possible. He explained he'd been tortured, humiliated and degraded. Throughout questioning, he asked why he was there and was told that British intelligence requested it.
Azhar Khan - A British Citizen
On arrival in Cairo in July 2008, Egyptian authorities detained and subjected him to cruel and inhuman treatment, revealing Britain's involvement. He was held for two days, got no food or water, and couldn't make calls or leave the room.
He was then cuffed, hooded, covered with a blanket, and taken to a secret prison for interrogation, at which time he was subjected to electroshocks, beatings, starvation, sleep deprivation, and painful stress positions for extended periods. He was asked nothing about Egypt, only about Britain and people he allegedly knew there. MI 5 was involved.
Later released to the UK, he was never charged and remains free.
All 29 detainees were innocent and uncharged, yet were victimized by horrific torture, abuse, and the involvement of their own government - serious crimes against humanity under Fourth Geneva's prohibitions against "violence to life and person (including) cruel treatment and torture" as well as provisions for the rights of "protected persons."
Complicit with America, Britain still denies them, in breach of Geneva and other international laws. Post-9/11, War on Terror priorities supercede human rights and civil liberties. Muslims became targets of choice, and still do for their faith at the wrong time in both countries.
Yet writing in the Daily Telegraph in early February 2010, Jonathan Evans, MI5 director-general in 2007, said:
"We in the UK agencies did not practice mistreatment or torture (earlier) and do not do so now, nor do we collude in torture or encourage others to torture on our behalf."
He lied as do his American counterparts.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.