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Ongoing Torture sticky icon

We've watched the Obama White House announce the end of torture and immunity for torturers, two policies that appear incompatible and have proven to be so.  We've seen the White House claim the right to torture, and seen that greeted with silence and an averted gaze by those pretending torture is over.  We've seen report after report of ongoing torture greeted with silence from the same pretenders, among whom we must include Congress.

Reuters, February 25, 2009.

New York Times, April 15, 2009.

Chris Matthews interview of Axelrod, video and background info, May 21, 2009.

Does the Pope Know a Boy Is About to Be Crucified?

The Pope will speak to Congress on Thursday. No other institution on earth does more to destroy the habitability of the planet for future generations. Will the Pope raise his concerns with them or only when he's thousands of miles away?

No other institution sells and gives as many weapons to the world, participates in as many wars, or invests remotely as much in planning, provoking, and pursuing war after war. Will the Pope speak up for abolishing war in the U.S. Capitol or only when he's nowhere near the leading maker of war on earth?

As Nicolas Davies documents in a forthcoming article, when the U.S. has reduced military spending, the world has followed. When it has increased, the world has followed. The Pope wants nuclear weapons eliminated. Will he mention that to the leading investor in nuclear weapons?

Occasionally a particular variety of horror serves to catch people's attention. The boy in the photo at right has been sentenced to be crucified. His crime was participation in a pro-democracy rally. Now he will have done to him what the Pope's religion says was done to Jesus Christ. He won't be smiling blissfully like a Christ on a crucifix either. He will suffer immense pain and torment, and then die.

Who would do this? Why, Saudi Arabia, of course. And who is Saudi Arabia's chief ally, weapons provider, and oil customer? Why, the United States Congress.

Is it possible that this particular murder can arouse action among all of those moral leaders in the United States so desirous of being followers that they're focusing all attention on the Pope?

And if this murder can attract attention, what about all the others? During the course of a brutal civil war in Syria in which all sides have slaughtered numerous innocents with all variety of weaponry, we've been advised at certain points to be indignant over the use of chemical weapons or beheadings. But we don't seem to have managed to carry that over to the full range of murder going on.

Saudi Arabia is dropping bombs, including U.S.-made cluster bombs, on Yemen, slaughtering children by the hundreds. Saudi Arabia is brutalizing the people of Bahrain, not to mention the people of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabians are funding ISIS and other murderers in the region. Are all of these murders acceptable even if the crucifixion isn't? Or can we seize this opportunity to build opposition to all murder? Or might we if the Pope mentions it to Congress?

On Tuesday the Senate Armed Services Committee brought in David Petraeus to testify yet again on how to escalate more wars. Petraeus recently proposed arming al Qaeda. Senator John McCain gave Petraeus credit on Tuesday for extending the Iraq war from 2007 to 2011. Petraeus noted that the whole region is in horrible turmoil. Nobody made any connection between the U.S. wars on Iraq and Libya that have created that turmoil and the results. Nobody questioned the wisdom of using more war to try to repair the damage of war.

Well, a few of us did. The wonderful CodePink was there as always. I was there with a sign that said "Arm al Qaeda? Reagan tried that."

The mad men who run the U.S. government have reached the point of re-arming the enemies of enemies whose blowback first drove them to radically escalate the global murder of innocent people in the name of opposing terrorism while increasing it.

The National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance had an answer to this on Tuesday, taking a protest of endless war and environmental destruction to the gate of the White House.

The Secret Service arrested the people in the photo below rather than accept a letter from them articulating their opposition to policies of massive cruelty to the earth and its inhabitants.

The Pope has the opportunity to speak that same message to Congress and to the U.S. corporate media. Will he use it?


Worst president ever?: History Should and Probably Will Judge President Obama Harshly

By Dave Lindorff

President Barack Obama is on track to go down in history as one of the, or perhaps as the worst and most criminal presidents in US history. 

Human Experimentation: a CIA Habit

The Guardian on Monday made public a CIA document allowing the agency's director to "approve, modify, or disapprove all proposals pertaining to human subject research."

Human what?

At Guantanamo, the CIA gave huge doses of the terror-inducing drug mefloquine to prisoners without their consent, as well as the supposed truth serum scopolamine. Former Guantanamo guard Joseph Hickman has documented the CIA's torturing people, sometimes to death, and can find no explanation other than research:

"[Why] were men of little or no value kept under these conditions, and even repeatedly interrogated, months or years after they'd been taken into custody? Even if they'd had any intelligence when they came in, what relevance would it have years later? . . . One answer seemed to lie in the description that Major Generals [Michael] Dunlavey and [Geoffrey] Miller both applied to Gitmo. They called it 'America's battle lab.'"

Non-consensual experimentation on institutionalized children and adults was common in the United States before, during, and even more so after the U.S. and its allies prosecuted Nazis for the practice in 1947, sentencing many to prison and seven to be hanged. The tribunal created the Nuremberg Code, standards for medical practice that were immediately ignored back home. Some American doctors considered it "a good code for barbarians."

The code begins: "Required is the voluntary, well-informed, understanding consent of the human subject in a full legal capacity." A similar requirement is included in the CIA's rules, but has not been followed, even as doctors have assisted with such torture techniques as waterboarding.

Thus far, the United States has never really accepted the Nuremberg Code. While the code was being created, the U.S. was giving people syphilis in Guatemala. It did the same at Tuskegee. Also during the Nuremberg trial, children at the Pennhurst school in southeastern Pennsylvania were given hepatitis-laced feces to eat.

Other sites of experimentation scandals have included the Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital in Brooklyn, the Willowbrook State School on Staten Island, and Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia. And, of course, the CIA's Project MKUltra (1953-1973) was a smorgasbord of human experimentation. Forced sterilizations of women in California prisons have not ended. Torture by Chicago police has for the first time just resulted in compensation for victims.

If we are, at long last, to put such contemptible behavior behind us, it will require breaking some bad habits.

Congress has busily re-banned torture a number of times in recent years. Now it must drop that charade and instead demand that the Attorney General enforce the anti-torture statute, which made torture a felony before George W. Bush ever became president.

It's good of John Oliver to denounce torture. And he's right to go after the lies told about torture in popular entertainment. But he's also spreading the false idea that it's legal. "We checked," he says, reporting that his crack team of investigators discovered that the only ban on torture is found in an executive order written by President Obama. This is dangerous nonsense. The U.S. was a party to the Anti-Torture Convention and had made torture a felony under the anti-torture statute and the war-crimes statute before George W. Bush ever became president.

Since then, Congress has repeatedly "banned" torture. But, just as the U.N. Charter's ban on war actually legalized certain wars, purporting to replace the total ban in the Kellogg-Briand Pact with a partial ban, these Congressional efforts (such as the Military Commissions Act of 2006) have actually legalized certain cases of torture, replacing (at least in everyone's mind) the total ban already existing in the U.S. Code and in a treaty to which the U.S. is party.

The latest "ban" proposal from Senator McCain and friends, would create exceptions in the form of those in the Army Field Manual, and advocates maintain that step number two would be to reform that manual. But if you skip both steps and acknowledge the existence of the anti-torture statute in the U.S. Code, you're done. The proper task is to press for its enforcement.

Oliver's mistake, like virtually everyone else's, is based on two myths. One, torture began with Bush. Two, torture ended with Bush. On the contrary, torture has been around in the United States and elsewhere for a very long time. So has the practice of banning it. Torture is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In fact, under international law, torture can never be legalized and is always banned.

Myth number two is also wrong. Torture has not ended and won't as long as it's not punished.

An attorney general can be questioned and threatened with impeachment until our laws are enforced. A new website created Monday let's you email Congress to demand that it do just that.

Child Soldier released from jail by Canadian court: US Still Seeks Jail for ‘Fighter’ Captured at 15 in Afghanistan

By Dave Lindorff


            The good news is that an appellate judge in Canada has had the courage and good sense to uphold the release from jail on bail of Omar Khadr, a native of Canada who was captured as a child soldier at the age of 15 in Afghanistan by US forces back in 2002 and shipped off to Guantanamo, where he became one of the children held in captivity.

Legacy of racism and colonialism targeted: Reparations Movements Meet to Make International Connections

By Linn Washington, Jr.

Dignitaries from three continents gathered in New York City recently to sharpen their strategies for confronting some of the world’s most powerful nations over a subject that sizable numbers of citizens support in the nearly two-dozen nations represented: reparations for the legacy of a history of slavery, colonialism and government-sanctioned segregation.

Mumia’s specialized mistreatment: Emergency Illness Exposes Lies in Abu-Jamal Case

By Linn Washington, Jr.

The recent emergency hospitalization of Mumia Abu-Jamal arising from alarming failures to address his chronic illnesses has exposed the inaccuracy of an assertion long made by adversaries of this inmate whom many around the world consider a political prisoner.

His adversaries charge that Abu-Jamal receives special treatment in prison.

Execution by medical neglect?: Pennsylvania’s Prison System is Torturing Mumia Abu-Jamal and his Family Too

By Dave Lindorff


Mumia Abu-Jamal, the radical Philadelphia journalist convicted of killing a white Philadelphia police officer in a trial fraught with prosecutorial misconduct, witness coaching and judicial prejudice back in 1981, spent nearly three decades in solitary confinement in the deliberately designed hell of Pennsylvania’s supermax SCI Green prison before a panel of federal Appeals Court judges eventually ruled that he’d been unconstitutionally sentenced to death.


Admit that torture does not work

To: Keifer Sutherland and Kathryn Bigelow

Admit awareness of the fact that torture does not work in real life. Sign the petition.

Admit that torture does not work

Why is this important?

The popularity and acceptability of torture have soared in the United States and around the world. This is not simply because the United States has tortured. The U.S. government, many of its policies, its wars, and key torture supporters have not seen similar boosts in popularity.

A major contributor to torture's improved image has been Hollywood, led by two productions that have popularized the false belief that torture can produce life-saving information. The U.S. Senate report's summary makes clear that torture has not worked in the real world. In fact, torture has generally not been used to stop an imminent attack, and has been used in some cases to compel agreement with lies about Iraqi links to al Qaeda -- lies aimed at starting a war.

The fantasy situation in which a torturer knows his victim has life-saving information that cannot be obtained elsewhere, and that his victim won't lie, and that torture will work better than legal interrogation exists only in fiction. But belief in it creates acceptance of torture.

Experts agree on this, but people need to hear it from the fictional experts they've heard of for it to seem real to them. People need to hear Keifer Sutherland, star of "24," and Kathryn Bigelow, director of "Zero Dark Thirty," admit that torture does not work in real life.

Sutherland and Bigelow don't need to criticize or apologize for their art. They don't need to begin self-censoring. They just need to admit that they are aware of the facts, that torture did not help find Osama bin Laden, that torture has not prevented deaths or destruction -- quite the contrary.

U.S. torture has been a recruiting bonanza for anti-U.S. terrorist groups. This fact is trumpted most loudly by defenders of torture and opponents of releasing reports, photos, or videos of what was done. The open secret that we need key public figures to acknowledge is that there's no up-side to weigh against the harm done.

On March 1, 2015, the Independent claimed to change everything with this headline: "Revealed: How torture was used to foil al-Qaeda 2010 plot to bomb two airliners 17 minutes before explosion." The claims in the article are not well documented and quite possibly entirely false. There is no evidence that questioning without torture wouldn't have worked as well or better than torturing. The bomb in the story may have been planted in the first place as retaliation for torture. And the serious argument against torture is not "It's just wrong" but that allowing it creates its widespread use and contributes to other brutal policies including war that kill and injure countless people driving forward vicious cycles of violence.

Torture creates enemies, causes horrific suffering, and dehumanizes the torturers including those who passively allow it. A torturer cannot know that someone has lifesaving information and is most likely to reveal it under torture. And once we pretend that a torturer might know that, we cannot stop the torturers from torturing large numbers of people.

Sign the petition.

Learn more with:

Gareth Porter: How the CIA Covered Up Its Lie on Torture and bin Laden

Patrick Cockburn: CIA Torture Report: It Didn't Work Then, It Doesn't Work Now

Donald Canestraro: Experienced Interrogator: Torture Doesn't Work

No more AUMFs! No more ‘unitary executives’!: We’re Already Losing Our Democracy and All Our Freedoms to the 2001 AUMF

By Dave Lindorff


            Critics of President Obama’s proposed Authorization for Use of Military Force AUMF) against ISIS have been focused upon its deliberately obfuscatory and ambiguous language, which they rightly note would make it essentially a carte blanche from Congress allowing the president to go to war almost anywhere some would-be terrorist or terrorist copycat could be found who claims affinity with ISIS.

Dear, Dear: Dave Petraeus

A Pointed Letter to Gen. Petraeus

February 3, 2015

Editor Note:  As retired Gen. and ex-CIA Director David Petraeus was about to speak in New York City last Oct. 30, someone decided to spare the “great man” from impertinent questions, so ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern was barred, arrested and brought to trial, prompting McGovern to ask some questions now in an open letter.

Dear Gen. David Petraeus,

As I prepare to appear in New York City Criminal Court on Wednesday facing chargesof “criminal trespass” and “resisting arrest,” it struck me that we have something in common besides being former Army officers – and the fact that the charges against me resulted from my trying to attend a speech that you were giving, from which I was barred. As I understand it, you, too, may have to defend yourself in Court someday in the future.

You might call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one who believes there may be some substance to reports last month that Justice Department prosecutors are pressing to indict you for mishandlingclassified information by giving it to Paula Broadwell, your mistress/biographer.

Gen. David Petraeus in a photo with his biographer/mistress Paula Broadwell. (U.S. government photo)

No doubt, whatever indiscretions were involved there seemed minor at the time, but unauthorized leaks of this sort — to casual acquaintances — were strongly discouraged in the Army in which I served five decades ago. Remember the old saying: “Loose lips sink ships.” There were also rules in the Universal Code of Military Justice for punishing a married soldier who took up with a mistress, an offense for which many a trooper spent time in the brig.

Yet, I don’t imagine there is much sweat on your brow regarding legal consequences for either offense. And you may be correct in assuming that, just as the Army looked the other way about the mistress indiscretion, our timorous Attorney General Eric Holder or his successor will likely do the same on any disclosure of classified information. Some influential members of Congress and various Washington talking heads have already opined that you have suffered enough.

Still, I find myself wondering if it does not bother you to be assigned to the comfortable, “don’t-look-back” compartment for excusing one class of violators, including CIA torturers and reckless investment bankers who were “too big (or well-connected) to jail.” I still want to hold out hope for even-handed, blind justice rather than give up completely on the system of justice in our country.

You may not be surprised to know that, try as I might to feel some empathy for you, Schadenfreude at your misfortune is winning out, since I am convinced that you had a lot to do with other far-more-serious offenses, including aiding and abetting illegal “aggressive war.” And, I suspect you also many have aided and abetted the circumstances that gave rise to the bizarre charges against me.

I refer, of course, to my violent arrest, causing pain of my fractured shoulder, and my jailing in The Tombs, simply because I wanted to hear you speak last fall at New York’s 92nd Street Y and possibly pose a question from the audience.

Why the Police Alert?

No doubt, your acolytes/adjutants have told you how, despite my ticket for admittance, I was denied entry, brutally arrested by the NYPD, handcuffed behind my back, jailed overnight and arraigned the following day. I’m still trying to figure it all out – including the enigma as to how it became known that I was coming.

“You’re not welcome here, Ray,” was the greeting I got from Y security as I came in the outer door. The NYPD was prepositioned and ready to pounce.

Were you, your entourage and the Y authorities afraid that during the Q & A I might ask an “impertinent” question of the kind I posedto your patron, promoter and protector, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, during a Q & A after he spoke in Atlanta six-plus years ago?

Speaking of Rumsfeld, you and I know him as your partner in some very serious crimes, relating to the illegal invasion of Iraq and the horrific violence that followed as well as the slaughter of so many innocent people in Afghanistan. For over a decade, I have closely observed your behavior and consider it nothing short of a media miracle that most Americans believe your worst sin to be that of adultery.

Since denial can be a very strong motivation, let me refresh your memory and remind you of the bad companions you fell in with. I am reminded of the egregious ways in which you did Rumsfeld’s bidding – winning promotions and richly undeserved fame by condoning the unspeakable – torture, for example.

Your third star came when you were dispatched to Iraq in June 2004, committed to carrying out Rumsfeld’s instructions to encourage Shia-on-Sunni torture and other human rights crimes. The all-too-predictable chickens are now coming home to roost from that unconscionably stupid attempt to defeat Sunni opponents of the U.S. occupation through such ignoble means – those chickens being what we now call ISIL or ISIS or simply the Islamic State.

What amazes me is that the Teflon is still clinging to you and Rumsfeld, given the bedlam in that entire area today. You’re not even held to account for the performance of the tens of thousands of the Iraqi troops that you crowed about having trained and equipped so well. They dropped their weapons and ran away early last year when the ragtag militants of ISIL attacked.

Back in April 2004 when the graphic photos of torture at Abu Ghraib in Iraq were revealed, Rumsfeld claimed he was shocked, even though the International Red Cross had been complaining about abuses there for more than a year before the revelations.

The Senate Armed Services Committee eventually concluded without dissent, in a major investigative report on Dec. 11, 2008, that Rumsfeld bore direct responsibility for the abuses committed by interrogators at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and other military prisons.

The Committee added that the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib “was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own” but grew out of interrogation policies approved by Mr. Rumsfeld and other top officials, who “conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees.”

Four years before the Senate report, in May 2004, Gen. Antonio Taguba came close to revealing precisely that, when he led the Pentagon’s first (and only honest) investigation of the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Rumsfeld promptly fired him. Yet, throughout all this scandal and mayhem, you were maneuvering your way up the high-command ladder without any indication that you were objecting to any of this.

Dangerous Orders

Mid-2004 was a significant watershed for torture in another way. Official messages given to WikiLeaks by Pvt. Chelsea (Bradley) Manning show that FRAGO (Fragmentary Order) 242 of June 2004 went into effect the month you arrived in Iraq to oversee its implementation.

The WikiLeaks documents indicate that you followed Rumsfeld’s order to encourage Shiite and Kurdish commandos to torture suspected Sunni militants. Examining those documents as well as your actions at the time, investigative reporter Gareth Porter saw that as the deeper significanceof FRAGO 242 – significance somehow missed by your ardent admirers in the “mainstream media.”

Porter, too, believes it was part of the larger Rumsfeld/Petraeus strategy to exploit Shia sectarian hatred of Sunnis in order to suppress the Sunni attacks on U.S. forces. But that strategy had some very negative long-term consequences that we are still encountering.

It inflamed Sunni opposition to the U.S. and its puppet government in Baghdad, and gave rise to the massive sectarian warfare of 2006 in which tens of thousands of civilians – mainly Sunnis but many Shiites as well – were killed. The violence was so widespread that U.S. field generals, such as Generals John Abizaid and George Casey, and sensible experts on the region, such as former Secretary of State James Baker, urged a new strategy late that year, essentially minimizing the American footprint in Iraq.

Instead, President George W. Bush enlisted your help in doubling down on the U.S. military presence in 2007 with the so-called “surge,” lest he be forced to concede defeat in Iraq before leaving office. You agreed and sacrificed the lives of almost 1,000 more American troops to secure what one might call an “indecent interval” that let Bush get out of Dodge without an outright loss hung around his neck.

As the growth of ISIL/ISIS and the chaos in the area today have made clear, your famous “surge” did little more than achieve a temporary lull (after a lot more killing). It failed to achieve its most significant stated purpose – to create space for a political resolution of the Sunni-Shiite civil conflict. It did, however, have one very important benefit. The “surge” got you your fourth star.

On the issue of torture, it seems clear that the straight-arrow Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General Peter Pace, did not get the memo for how to rationalize away these disgraceful crimes. For 18 months, he was apparently unaware of FRAGO 242, which became obvious when Pace and Rumsfeld gave widely different answers to a question at a Pentagon press conference on Nov. 29, 2005.

Gen. Peter Pace: It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene, to stop it.

Rumsfeld: But I don’t think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it’s to report it.

Pace: If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, Sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it.

Needless to say, Pace did not get the usual second term as JCS Chairman.

Selective Prosecution

These grave crimes are the ones for which you should stand trial. Personally, I might even be inclined to give you a pass on your marital infidelity and possibly even on sharing classified information with your mistress, if so many true patriots weren’t being prosecuted and imprisoned for sharing evidence of U.S. government misconduct with the American people.

And there is one other sore point regarding your esteemed career. According to a Washington Post reportby Joshua Partlow, datelined Kabul, Feb. 11, 2011, you shocked aides to then Afghan President Hamid Karzai when you suggested that Afghan parents had deliberately burned their own children in order to exaggerate claims of civilian casualties from U.S. military action in Konar Province.

Partlow quoted two of Karzai’s aides who met with you in a closed-door session at the presidential palace and found your remarks “deeply offensive.” They said you had dismissed allegations by Karzai’s office and the provincial governor that many civilians had been killed and that you claimed that residents of Konar had invented stories, or even injured their children, to pin the blame on U.S. forces as a ruse to end the operation.

“I was dizzy. My head was spinning,” said one participant, referring to Petraeus’s remarks. “This was shocking. Would any father do this to his children? This is really absurd.”

You declined comment at the time. So I will add my own assessment, borrowing a famous line from another dark chapter of American history: “Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

Yours truly,

Ray McGovern

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an infantry/intelligence officer during the early Sixties, and then served as an analyst and Presidential briefer during a 27-year career with the CIA.

This article appeared first on


Talk Nation Radio: Joseph Hickman on Deadly Human Experimentation at Guantanamo Bay

Joseph Hickman is the author of Murder at Camp Delta: A Staff Sergeant's Pursuit of the Truth About Guantanamo Bay. He details the evidence that Guantanamo has been used for deadly human experimentation.

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"We murdered some folks" in Guantanamo

Murder at Camp Delta is a new book by Joseph Hickman, a former guard at Guantanamo. It's neither fiction nor speculation. When President Obama says "We tortured some folks," Hickman provides at least three cases -- in addition to many others we know about from secret sites around the world -- in which the statement needs to be modified to "We murdered some folks." Of course, murder is supposed to be acceptable in war (and in whatever you call what Obama does with drones) while torture is supposed to be, or used to be, a scandal. But what about tortures to death? What about deadly human experimentation? Does that have a Nazi enough ring to disturb anyone?

We should be able to answer that question soon, at least for that segment of the population that searches aggressively for news or actually -- I'm not making this up -- reads books. Murder at Camp Delta is a book of, by, and for true believers in patriotism and militarism. You can start out viewing Dick Cheney as a leftist and never be offended by this book, unless documented facts that the author himself was deeply disturbed to discover offend you. The first line of the book is "I am a patriotic American." The author never retracts it. Following a riot at Guantanamo, which he led the suppression of, he observes:

"As much as I blamed the inmates for the riot, I respected how hard they'd fought. They were ready to fight nearly to the death. If we had been running a good detention facility, I would have thought they were motivated by strong religious or political ideals. The sad truth was that they probably fought so hard because our poor facilities and shabby treatment had pushed them beyond normal human limits. Their motivation might not have been radical Islam at all but the simple fact that they had nothing to live for and nothing left to lose."

As far as I know, Hickman has not yet applied the same logic to debunking the absurd pretense that people fight back in Afghanistan or Iraq because their religion is murderous or because they hate us for our freedoms. Hickman will be a guest on Talk Nation Radio soon, so perhaps I'll ask him. But first I'll thank him. And not for his "service." For his book.

He describes a hideous death camp in which guards were trained to view the prisoners as sub-human and much greater care was taken to protect the well-being of iguanas than homo sapiens. Chaos was the norm, and physical abuse of the prisoners was standard.  Col. Mike Bumgarner made it a top priority that everyone stand in formation when he entered his office in the morning to the sounds of Beethoven's Fifth or "Bad Boys." Hickman relates that certain vans were permitted to drive in and out of the camp uninspected, making a mockery of elaborate attempts at security. He didn't know the reasoning behind this until he happened to discover a secret camp not included on any maps, a place he called Camp No but the CIA called Penny Lane.

To make things worse at Guantanamo would require a particular sort of idiocy that apparently Admiral Harry Harris possessed. He began blasting the Star Spangled Banner into the prisoners' cages, which predictably resulted in the guards abusing prisoners who did not stand and pretend to worship the U.S. flag. Tensions and violence rose. When Hickman was called on to lead an assault on prisoners who would not allow their Korans to be searched, he proposed that a Muslim interpreter do the searching. Bumgarner and gang had never thought of that, and it worked like a charm. But the aforementioned riot took place in another part of the prison where Harris rejected the interpreter idea; and the lies that the military told the media about the riot had an impact on Hickman's view of things. So did the media's willingness to lap up absurd and unsubstantiated lies: "Half the reporters covering the military should have just enlisted; they seemed even more eager to believe the things our commanders said than we did."

After the riot, some of the prisoners went on hunger strike. On June 9, 2006, during the hunger strike, Hickman was in charge of guards on watch from towers, etc., overseeing the camp that night. He and every other guard observed that, just as the Navy Criminal Investigative Service report on the matter would later say, some prisoners were taken out of their cells. In fact, the van that took prisoners to Penny Lane took three prisoners, on three trips, out of their camp. Hickman watched each prisoner being loaded into the van, and the third time he followed the van far enough to see that it was headed to Penny Lane. He later observed the van return and back up to the medical facilities, where a friend of his informed him that three bodies were brought in with socks or rags stuffed down their throats.

Bumgarner gathered staff together and told them three prisoners had committed suicide by stuffing rags down their own throats in their cells, but that the media would report it a different way. Everyone was strictly forbidden to say a word. The next morning the media reported, as instructed, that the three men had hung themselves in their cells. The military called these "suicides" a "coordinated protest" and an act of "asymmetrical warfare." Even James Risen, in his role as New York Times stenographer, conveyed this nonsense to the public. No reporter or editor apparently thought it useful to ask how prisoners could have possibly hung themselves in open cages in which they are always visible; how they could have acquired enough sheets and other materials to supposedly create dummies of themselves; how they could have gone unnoticed for at least two hours; how in fact they had supposedly bound their own ankles and wrists, gagged themselves, put on face masks, and then all hanged themselves simultaneously; why there were no videos or photos; why no guards were disciplined or even questioned for ensuing reports; why supposedly radically lax and preferential treatment had been given to three prisoners who were on hunger strike; how the corpses had supposedly suffered rigor mortis faster than is physically possible, etc.

Three months after Hickman returned to the U.S. he heard on the news of another very similar "suicide" at Guantanamo. Who could Hickman turn to with what he knew? He found a law professor named Mark Denbeaux at the Seton Hall University Law School's Center for Policy and Research. With his, and his colleagues', help Hickman tried reporting the matter through proper channels. Obama's Justice Department, NBC, ABC, and 60 Minutes all expressed interest, were told the facts, and refused to do a thing about it. But Scott Horton wrote it up in Harpers, which Keith Olbermann reported on but the rest of the corporate media ignored.

Hickman and Seton Hall researchers found out that the CIA had been administering huge doses of a drug called mefloquine to prisoners, including the three killed, which an army doctor told Hickman would induce terror and amounted to "psychological waterboarding." Over at Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye reported that every new arrival at Guantanamo was given mefloquine, supposedly for malaria, but it was only given to every prisoner, never to a single guard or to any third-country staff people from countries with high risk of malaria, and never to the Haitian refugees housed at Guantanamo in 1991 and 1992. Hickman had begun his "service" at Guantanamo believing the prisoners were "the worst of the worst," but had since learned that at least most of them were nothing of the sort, having been picked up for bounties with little knowledge of what they'd done. Why, he wondered,

"were men of little or no value kept under these conditions, and even repeatedly interrogated, months or years after they'd been taken into custody? Even if they'd had any intelligence when they came in, what relevance would it have years later? . . . One answer seemed to lie in the description that Major Generals [Michael] Dunlavey and [Geoffrey] Miller both applied to Gitmo. They called it 'America's battle lab.'"

Inside the Uniform, Under the Hood, Longing for Change

By Kathy Kelly

From January 4 – 12, 2015, Witness Against Torture (WAT) activists assembled in Washington D.C. for an annual time of fasting and public witness to end the United States' use of torture and indefinite detention and to demand the closure, with immediate freedom for those long cleared for release, of the illegal U.S. prison at Guantanamo.

Participants in our eight day fast started each day with a time of reflection. This year, asked to briefly describe who or what we had left behind and yet might still carry in our thoughts that morning, I said that I’d left behind an imagined WWI soldier, Leonce Boudreau.

I was thinking of Nicole de’Entremont’s story of World War I, A Generation of Leaves, which I had just finished reading.  Initial chapters focus on a Canadian family of Acadian descent. Their beloved oldest son, Leonce, enlists with Canada’s military because he wants to experience life beyond the confines of a small town and he feels stirred by a call to defend innocent European people from advancing “Hun” warriors. He soon finds himself mired in the horrid slaughter of trench warfare near Ypres, Belgium.

I often thought of Leonce during the week of fasting with WAT campaign members.  We focused, each day, on the experiences and writing of a Yemeni prisoner in Guantanamo, Fahed Ghazi who, like Leonce, left his family and village to train as a fighter for what he believed to be a noble cause.  He wanted to defend his family, faith and culture from hostile forces.  Pakistani forces captured Fahed and turned him over to U.S. forces after he had spent two weeks in a military training camp in Afghanistan.  At the time he was 17, a juvenile.  He was cleared for release from Guantanamo in 2007.

Leonce’s family never saw him again.  Fahed’s family has been told, twice, that he is cleared for release and could soon reunite with his wife, daughter, brothers and parents.  Being cleared for release means that U.S. authorities have decided that Fahed poses no threat to the security of people in the U.S. Still he languishes in Guantanamo where he has been held for 13 years. 

Fahed writes that there is no guilt or innocence at Guantanamo.  But he asserts that everyone, even the guards, knows the difference between right and wrong. It is illegal to hold him and 54 other prisoners, without charge, after they have been cleared for release.

Fahed is one of 122 prisoners held in Guantanamo. 

Bitter cold had gripped Washington D.C. during most days of our fast and public witness.  Clad in multiple layers of clothing, we clambered into orange jumpsuits, pulled black hoods over our heads, our “uniforms,” and walked in single file lines, hands held behind our backs. 

Inside Union Station’s enormous Main Hall, we lined up on either side of a rolled up banner.  As readers shouted out excerpts from one of Fahed’s letters that tell how he longs for reunion with his family, we unfurled a beautiful portrait of his face. “Now that you know,” Fahed writes, “you cannot turn away.” 

U.S. people have a lot of help in turning away.  Politicians and much of the U.S. mainstream media manufacture and peddle distorted views of security to the U.S. public, encouraging people to eradicate threats to their security and to exalt and glorify uniformed soldiers or police officers who have been trained to kill or imprison anyone perceived to threaten the well-being of U.S. people.  

Often, people who’ve enlisted to wear U.S. military or police uniforms bear much in common with Leonce and Fahed.  They are young, hard pressed to earn an income, and eager for adventure.  

There’s no reason to automatically exalt uniformed fighters as heroes.

But a humane society will surely seek understanding and care for any person who survives the killing fields of a war zone.  Likewise, people in the U.S. should be encouraged to see every detainee in Guantanamo as a human person, someone to be called by name and not by a prison number.

The cartoonized versions of foreign policy handed to U.S. people, designating heroes and villains, create a dangerously under-educated public unable to engage in democratic decision-making.

Nicole d'Entremont writes of battered soldiers, soldiers who know they've been discarded in an endless, pointless war, longing to be rid of their uniforms.  The overcoats were heavy, sodden, and often too bulky for struggling through areas entangled with barbed wire.  Boots leaked and the soldiers’ feet were always wet, muddy, and sore. Miserably clothed, miserably fed, and horribly trapped in a murderous, insane war, soldiers longed to escape.

When putting on Fahed’s uniform, each day of our fast, I could imagine how intensely he longs to be rid of his prison garb.Thinking of his writings, and recalling d’Entremont’s stories drawn from “the war to end all wars,” I can imagine that there are many thousands of people trapped in the uniforms issued by war makers who deeply understand Dr. Martin Luther King’s call for revolution:

A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war, ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’ This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love.”

This article first appeared onTelesur.  

Kathy Kelly ( co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence ( On January 23rd, she will begin serving a 3 month sentence in federal prison for attempting to deliver a loaf of bread and a letter about drone warfare to the commander of a U.S. Air Force base.

Day 8 of the Fast for Justice: From Ferguson to Guantánamo: White Silence Equals State Violence

Dear Friends,

A powerful day of action!

Please see our press release below, press coverage in Roll Call and the Washington Post, as well as a more detailed overview of the day.

And look thru and share these powerful images.

Thank you for taking this journey with us as you have been able…and thank you for continuing on the journey.

In Peace,

Witness Against Torture

Witness Against Torture: Day 7 of the Fast for Justice

Dear Friends,

It is hard to believe that our time together in Washington DC is soon coming to an end. The days have been full, and today – marking the beginning of the 14th year of indefinite detention for the men in Guantanamo, was no exception.

Tomorrow’s update will bring information about our January 12th activities – and will be written after the authors have had their first solid food in 7 days (folks who are local are invited to join us to break the fast at 10am – First Trinity Church).

Protesting Torturers


Lots of photos here.

We protested with CodePink, Witness Against Torture, et alia, at John Brennan's house, Dick Cheney's house, and the CIA.

"But You Haven't Explained Why:" Helen Thomas Asking John Brennan About Terrorism



Will France Repeat US Mistakes after 9/11?



Editor Note: As three suspects in the Charlie Hebdo massacre die in a shootout with French police, the cycle of violence that has engulfed the Mideast again reaches into the West, but the challenge is to learn from U.S. mistakes after 9/11 and address root causes, not react with another round of mindless violence.

By Ray McGovern

Witness Against Torture: Day 3 of the Fast for Justice

Dear friends,
Joy, gratitude, and greetings to you!  We've had a full day of reflections, meetings, rehearsals, and street theater that we hope you will enjoy reading about and seeing on flickr and facebook.

Morale is good here, and we continue to expand as new people arrive in DC to witness with us.  It's exciting to feel the energy building.

Thank you for your solidarity, as we join our spirits with those of our brothers in Guantánamo.

In Peace,

Witness Against Torture

*Please share your fasting experiences with us so we can pass them on to the larger community.*


In this e-mail you will find:

1)        DAY 3 – Wednesday, January 7


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DAY 3 - Wednesday, January 7

This morning was a time for introspection and community-building. Sitting in our circle, we all wrote personal responses to prompts that we knew also loom large for the men in Guantanamo.  Luke invited us each to think about people and experiences that have deeply affected us.  Specifically, he asked us to remember people we love, why we love these people, and to also recall instances of separation from and reunion with loved ones.

As we shared our responses around the circle, we felt a growing sense of community and caring. We brought our families and friends into our circle. We also brought the men in Guantanamo into the circle, knowing they have loved ones that they dearly miss and hope they will soon be reunited with. We understood the importance of seeing the prisoners in all of their humanity, not just as numbers in a prison.

Later in the morning we created and rehearsed an action that we took to Union Station here in D.C.  Using words from a letter written by Fahd Ghazy to his lawyer, a large painted banner of his face, a number of signs, and songs, we presented a performance piece attempting to show his humanity to people moving through the station. We spent over 45 minutes in the station doing our performance three times as we processed from one location to another.

During the dramatic readings of his words, we sang and hummed this song:

We’re gonna to build a nation

That don’t torture no one

But it’s going to take courage  

For that change to come

As we walked out of the building we also sang:

            Courage, Muslim brothers

            You do not walk alone

            We will walk with you

And sing your spirit home

Outside of Union Station, Frank invited us to form a circle and briefly express our feelings about the action we’d just created.  Several people expressed surprise and gratitude because of having transformed the spaces inside.

In the evening, Dr. Maha Hilal, an activist who has been part of WAT and has just earned her doctorate, came to share her dissertation. It’s title is “Too Damn Muslim to Be Trusted: The War on Terror and the Muslim American Response.” Her study documented the beliefs and attitudes of Muslim Americans about being targeted since 9/11 - with a majority feeling diminished senses of legal and cultural citizenship.

Malachy Kilbride, who will join our group later in the week, wrote a reflection to share. Here is an excerpt:

The fasting is a spiritual act of solidarity as we align ourselves with the suffering of the Guantanamo captives, their families and friends, and the injustice of this whole bloody mess. The fast in and of itself will not bring an end to this terrible travesty. In a way though, the fasting will also highlight the hunger strikes of the prisoners. Prisoners of Guantanamo have engaged in hunger strikes now for years to protest the illegality of their confinement, treatment, their torture, and their helplessness and hopelessness. In fasting we stand with them, the men who starve for justice.

Witness Against Torture: Day 2 of the Fast for Justice

Dear Friends,

We have been fasting in solidarity with the Guantanamo detainees for over 36 hours now.   

Most of today was spent on the streets – from the morning at the White House to the afternoon at the British Embassy and Vatican Apostolic Nunciature.  You can find images from today on Facebook and Flickr.

This evening we watched a powerful film on Fahd Ghazy - Waiting for Fahd.  We encourage you all to take 11 minutes to watch it, and then read Fahd’s personal appeal. 

The community gathered here in DC continues to grow.  We are about 30 folks staying at the church, and our numbers will continue to grow as we start to settle in to a certain rhythm.  

There is much work still to do, and it is good to be gathered in community – here in DC and around the country - as we struggle together, to learn…and act…and reflect.  And learn…and act…and reflect.
Witness Against Torture


In this e-mail you will find:

1)        DAY 2 – Tuesday, January 6

2)        The Path to Closing Guantánamo by Cliff Sloan


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DAY 2 - Tuesday, January 6

During our morning reflection, we recalled Beth Brockman’s invitation, yesterday evening, to introduce ourselves and then mention someone or something we left behind upon arriving in D.C., and yet still carry with us.  Many people in our circle spoke of leaving behind beloved community and family members.  Beth then noted that prisoners in Guantanamo likewise have left behind loved ones, and that some have been separated from their families and communities for 13 years.

Before the reflection circle (and before the sun was fully risen), ten of us joined Kathy Kelly in an hour-long Skype call with about 15 young people in Afghanistan known as the Afghan Peace Volunteers.  Several members of their group were fasting from food for a 24 hour period. Despite intermittent breakdowns in the internet connection and the weighty, troubling issues raised, we genuinely shared warmth and hopes, along with information.  One of our Afghan friends asked if there was any evidence that a detainee who was tortured gave information which eventually protected people from harm.  Brian Terrell shared that false information, gained through torture, was used to justify the U.S. “Shock and Awe” bombing and invasion of Iraq.  

We look forward to ongoing exchanges. One way to continue the discussion is through joining the Global Days of Listening Skype conversation which happens on the 21st of every month.  You can learn more about the APVs at their website, Our Journey To Smile.

Later in the morning we joined an action at the White House, along with School of the Americas Watch, to confront Mexican President Peña Nieto about the disappearance of 43 students in Ayotzinapa.  There were over 200 people there, some carrying Mexican flags, others blowing trumpets and horns, and all decrying state violence.

When our group moved just down the street to the Mexican embassy, the secret service began to push at us slowly with whistles and cars, ordering us to move away from the embassy and White House to the end of the block. As people resisted, eight of us from Witness Against Torture dropped to our knees in front of a police car and refused to move. After some peaceful confrontation, the police decided not to arrest us, but instead formed a new line of police, cars, and barricades in front of us to separate us from the embassy and hide us from view. Once Peña Nieto’s car entered the White House gates, we joined the rest of the group to walk around the block to Lafayette Park to continue the demonstration. We stood strong in the cold for another hour, in solidarity with the Ya me cansé movement.

In the afternoon, we suited up in our orange prisoner jumpsuits and hoods and visited the British Embassy as well as the Vatican Papal Nuncio. At the British Embassy, we walked single file and held signs and portraits in support of the release of Shaker Aamer. As we stood in front of the embassy, we broke our silence to sing a mantra/song created by our fellow WAT fasters, Luke Nephew and Frank Lopez of the Peace Poets:

Today is the day

Give Shaker your full embrace

Today is the day

Overcome your past disgrace

Today is the day

Lift the hood and show his face

Today is the day

Justice for the human race

At the Nuncio, we delivered a letter asking the Pope to offer to accept the prisoners from Guantanamo in Vatican City, a nation-state of its own.  While we stood in front of that building, we sang another of Luke and Frank’s mantra/songs:

Today is the day
You can use those papal keys

Today is the day
Bring in all the refugees
Today is the day
Help us to create the peace
Today is the day
Liberation and release

In the evening, we watched Waiting for Fahd. This film tells the story of Fahd Ghazy, a Yemeni national unlawfully detained at Guantánamo since he was 17 and who is now 30. It paints a vivid portrait of the life that awaits a man who, despite being twice cleared for release, continues to languish at Guantanamo, denied his home, his livelihood, and his loved ones because of his nationality.  Seeing the grief on the faces of Fahd’s family members, his mother, brothers, daughter has touched us deeply. We are galvanized to act, to tell his story, to share with the public, to tear down the veil of indifference and ignorance. If for one moment we can place ourselves in Fahd’s family, view his daughter and brothers as our own, we would understand how connected we all are to each other. 

The Path to Closing Guantánamo


JAN. 5, 2015

WASHINGTON — WHEN I began as the State Department’s envoy for closing the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, many people advised me that progress was impossible. They were wrong.

In the two years before I started, on July 1, 2013, only four people were transferred from Guantánamo. Over the past 18 months, we moved 39 people out of there, and more transfers are coming. The population at Guantánamo — 127 — is at its lowest level since the facility opened in January 2002. We also worked with Congress to remove unnecessary obstacles to foreign transfers. We began an administrative process to review the status of detainees not yet approved for transfer or formally charged with crimes.

While there have been zigs and zags, we have made great progress. The path to closing Guantánamo during the Obama administration is clear, but it will take intense and sustained action to finish the job. The government must continue and accelerate the transfers of those approved for release. Administrative review of those not approved for transfer must be expedited. The absolute and irrational ban on transfers to the United States for any purpose, including detention and prosecution, must be changed as the population is reduced to a small core of detainees who cannot safely be transferred overseas. (Ten detainees, for example, face criminal charges before the military commissions that Congress set up in lieu of regular courts.)

The reasons for closing Guantánamo are more compelling than ever. As a high-ranking security official from one of our staunchest allies on counterterrorism (not from Europe) once told me, “The greatest single action the United States can take to fight terrorism is to close Guantánamo.” I have seen firsthand the way in which Guantánamo frays and damages vitally important security relationships with countries around the world. The eye-popping cost — around $3 million per detainee last year, compared with roughly $75,000 at a “supermax” prison in the United States — drains vital resources.

Americans from across the spectrum agree on closing Guantánamo. President George W. Bush called it “a propaganda tool for our enemies and a distraction for our allies.” Kenneth L. Wainstein, who advised Mr. Bush on homeland security, said keeping the facility open was not “sustainable.”

In 18 months at the State Department, I was sometimes frustrated by opposition to closing the facility in Congress and some corners of Washington. It reflects three fundamental misconceptions that have impeded the process.

First, not every person at Guantánamo is a continuing danger. Of the 127 individuals there (from a peak of close to 800), 59 have been “approved for transfer.” This means that six agencies — the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice and State, as well as the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence — have unanimously approved the person for release based on everything known about the individual and the risk he presents. For most of those approved, this rigorous decision was made half a decade ago. Almost 90 percent of those approved are from Yemen, where the security situation is perilous. They are not “the worst of the worst,” but rather people with the worst luck. (We recently resettled several Yemenis in other countries, the first time any Yemeni had been transferred from Guantánamo in more than four years.)

Second, opponents of closing Guantánamo — including former Vice President Dick Cheney — cite a 30 percent recidivism rate among former detainees. This assertion is deeply flawed. It combines those “confirmed” of having engaged in hostile activities with those “suspected.” Focusing on the “confirmed” slashes the percentage nearly in half. Moreover, many of the “confirmed” have been killed or recaptured.

Most important, there is a vast difference between those transferred before 2009, when President Obama ordered the intensive review process by the six agencies, and those transferred after that review. Of the detainees transferred during this administration, more than 90 percent have not been suspected, much less confirmed, of committing any hostile activities after their release. The percentage of detainees who were transferred after the Obama-era review and then found to have engaged in terrorist or insurgent activities is 6.8 percent. While we want that number to be zero, that small percentage does not justify holding in perpetuity the overwhelming majority of detainees, who do not subsequently engage in wrongdoing.

Third, a common impression is that we cannot find countries that will accept detainees from Guantánamo. One of the happiest surprises of my tenure was that this is not the case. Many countries, from Slovakia and Georgia to Uruguay, have been willing to provide homes for individuals who cannot return to their own countries. Support from the Organization of American States, the Vatican and other religious and human rights organizations has also been helpful.

I don’t question the motives of those who oppose the efforts to close Guantánamo. Some are constrained by an overabundance of caution, refusing to trust the extensive security reviews that are in place. Others are hampered by an outdated view of the risk posed by many of the remaining detainees. A third group fails to recognize that the deep stain on our standing in the world is more dangerous than any individual approved for transfer. These concerns, however well-intentioned, collapse in the glare of a careful examination of the facts.

The road to closing Guantánamo is clear and well lit. We are now approaching the 13th anniversary of the opening of the Guantánamo detention facility. Imprisoning men without charges for this long — many of whom have been approved for transfer for almost half the period of their incarceration — is not in line with the country we aspire to be.

Cliff Sloan, a lawyer, was the State Department’s special envoy for closing Guantánamo until Dec. 31.

Witness Against Torture: Daily Update – Day 1 of the Fast for Justice

***let us know if you would like to receive daily updates from the fast by sending an e-mail with "fast updates" in the subject to - to unsubscribe, write ‘unsubscribe’ in the subject line ***

Dear Friends,

January 11, 2015 marks the thirteenth anniversary of the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, the ninth anniversary of Witness Against Torture’s January 11 presence in D.C., and our seventh liquids fast. 

There are 28 fewer men in Guantanamo as we gather this year then there were the last time we gathered for the Fast for Justice in DC.  127 men remain…many of whom have been cleared for release, but remain stuck in prison cells for up to 13 years, who continue to count the days, weeks, months and years they must wait to go home.

For the next 7 days, we are fasting in Washington, DC for the men in Guantanamo.

As our community closed our circle this evening, we went around, each sharing one word that we wanted to send to the men in Guantanamo.

Hope.  Solidarity.  Courage.  Relief.  Visibility.  Freedom. 

Through our actions this week-- fasting and vigiling-- we reach out to them, and to you.  We hope you will join us in any ways that you can.

In Peace,                                                                             
Witness Against Torture


*let us know if you will join us for a day, or days of fasting*

In this e-mail you will find:

1)        DAY 1 – Monday, January 5

2)       Press Advisory For #WeStandWithShaker Protest at British Embassy 1/6

 3)        January 5, 2015 Pentagon Vigil Opening Reflection By Art Laffin

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DAY 1 - Monday January 5

Fifteen members of Witness Against Torture (WAT) joined the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker weekly vigil at the Pentagon this morning. Wearing orange jumpsuits representing prisoners at Guantanamo, we stood silently as military and civilian workers entered the building.  Our signs and banners said: “Forever Prisoner;” “Forced Feeding;” “Indefinite Detention;” “Solitary Confinement;” “Is This Who We Are?”

Martha Hennessy wrote this about our vigil at the Pentagon:

It was 7:00 AM and very cold at the vigil. The sun came up, rosy pink, reflecting on the walls of this mammoth building, as employees walked in to work. Some were finishing up cigarettes or candy bars as they went. I think of my aunt Teresa Hennessy who worked her adult life there, perhaps beginning in the 1950s through the 80s. What secrets did she die with, what feelings did she have about how she spent her life, a good Catholic? The faces of folks walking by today showed stress, boredom, eagerness; two sets of couples holding hands, many uniforms, and civilian clothes that barely kept them warm from the cold morning. Some were hearing our message as Art sang, "Everyone beneath their vine and fig tree," in his beautiful tenor voice. Our fellow citizens are trying to provide for themselves and their families by participating in the works of war. How we have bastardized our work, our resources.

It was a call for justice and humanity, a quiet appeal to conscience. For an hour, in the heart of the U.S. war industry, we maintained a visual reminder that 127 men remain in Guantanamo.  These prisoners have been abused and tortured in the name of preserving U.S. national security. 

Later in the day, as new participants arrived, we began our seven day fast. WAT has taken this annual action since 2006 in solidarity with those still held, many without charge or trial, at the prison camp. Seven prisoners were recently released, but 59 who have been cleared for release are still imprisoned. The remaining 68 are in “indefinite detention.” Many of the Guantanamo prisoners are now conducting a hunger strike and are suffering through a forced feeding regimen. We vigil and fast as a means of accompanying our brothers in these brutal conditions. We hope that somehow they and their loved ones will know that our action is part of a grass roots network of campaigning, worldwide, undertaken by people who long to close Guantanamo, end torture, and find real security through fair and friendly relationships with people.

In the evening, we joined the group Dancing for Justice #DCFerguson #dancingforjusice at Dupont Circle. Undaunted by the freezing temperatures, we listened to black activists; a young dancer, sockless in the cold, led us in a dance followed by a die-in enacted to remember Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and the many other black men and women killed by police violence.  Then we chanted, “We can wake up because black lives matter,” as we marched around the circle.  Luke and Frank from the Peace Poets sang “I still hear my brother cryin,’ “I can’t breathe,” a song that has gone viral, knitting many people together in radical, uncompromising resistance to violence. 

Martha Hennessy wrote about her encounter with Dancing for Justice:

Lindsay was such a beautiful dancer with her bare hands and ankles in the thirty-degree weather. Her movements conveyed pain, grief, and oppression as we remembered the black lives lost to police use of deadly force. Black lives matter. We were led through a ten-minute die-in, lying on the cold pavement, reflecting on family members who die on the pavement every day in the United States. Lindsay shared frightful statistics. A black man is killed every 28 hours at the hands of the police, security agents, or vigilantes. Over 60% of those killed have severe mental health issues that play a role in the end result of a shooting.  Those who respond to calls for people in such mental states are not appropriately trained. And so tonight we raise our voices in grief and protest over these killings that have roots in our history of slavery.  

To all of us, the connection between the violence of the U.S. military and its black holes like Guantánamo and the violence of the police and its mass incarcerations against black Americans rings clear as a bell.

Press Advisory For #WeStandWithShaker Protest at British Embassy 1/6

Press Advisory- 1/6/2014

Contact: Daniel Wilson -

US group, Witness Against Torture, Protests at British Embassy Over Imprisonment of Shaker Aamer

Washington D.C.

On the afternoon of January 6th U.S.based group, Witness Against Torture, will protest at the British Embassy over the continued imprisonment of Shaker Aamer, British citizen currently detained at Guantanamo Bay.

Dozens of protesters dressing in orange jumpsuits and black hoods will sing, chant and display posters saying “I Stand With Shaker Aamer” along with banners depicting Aamer’s face. In solidarity with several UK based groups and Aamer’s lawyers, Witness Against Torture will demand that the British government take a stronger stance both for the immediate release of Shaker Aamer and closure of the illegal detention facility in Guantanamo Bay Cuba.

A pending legal case against the UK brought by Aamer’s lawyers has invigorated renewed interest in his release.

Mr. Aamer, who has been held for 13 years without charge or trial. US authorities approved his release in 2007, under George W. Bush, and again in 2009, under Barack Obama.

January 5, 2015 Pentagon Vigil Opening Reflection By Art Laffin

We greet all who have come to the Pentagon in a spirit of peace and nonviolence. We, members of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker and Witness Against Torture,  come this morning to the Pentagon, the center of warmaking on our planet, to say YES to love and justice and NO to the lies and death-dealing policies of a national security state and warmaking empire.

The Catholic Worker began this weekly Monday vigil in 1987. Mindful that Jesus calls us to love and not to kill, we seek to embrace God's command to renounce all war and killing and practice the way of nonviolence.  We call for an end to all U.S. warmaking and military intervention in our world, for the abolition of all weapons of war--from nuclear weapons to killer drones, for an end to all U.S.-sponsored oppression and torture and justice for the poor and all victims. We seek to eradicate, what Martin Luther King. Jr. called, the triple evils of poverty, racism and militarism.  We remember and pray for all victims of our warmaking empire, including the nine men who have died at Guantanamo over the past eight years.

The U.S. continues to operate with impunity as it has waged lethal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, uses deadly killer drones as part of its kill-list and assassination program in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia, and continues its criminal policy of indefinite detention and torture at Guantanamo. This reign of state-sanctioned violence and terror must end! Too many people have suffered and died! All life is sacred. We are all part of the same human family. In biblical terms, if one person suffers we all suffer. What affects one, affects all!

In the Gospel of Luke Jesus quotes the prophet of Isaiah as he begins his public ministry. Jesus, who was himself a victim of torture and state execution, declares: the spirit of Lord is upon me because he has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. This admonition to proclaim liberty to captives was not simply a directive for Jesus but also a mandate for us today. And it has taken on a critical urgency regarding the 127 detainees still being held at Guantanamo,  59 of whom have been cleared for release, most have never been charged with a crime, and many of whom have endured tortuous force-feeding as a result of a hunger strike protesting their unjust confinement.

If a member of our own blood family was imprisoned at Guantanamo, what would we want people to do to help them? We would certainly want a speedy and just resolution to their case. Yet most of these men have languished at Guantanamo for going on 13 years, not knowing their fate. We need to see the men at Guantanamo as member's of our own blood family. And we need to act on their behalf. Thus, a major step toward making this truly a year acceptable to the Lord is to outlaw the sin and crime of torture and war, to end indefinite detention, to release those unjustly held, and to close Guantanamo. We appeal to all those in power and all people of goodwill to join with us and many others to make this a reality.

To mark and mourn the 13th year since the first detainees were taken to Guantanamo on Jan. 11th, members of WAT are conducting a “Fast for Justice” to call for justice for the Guantanamo detainees and for the immediate closing of Guantanamo. We hear the cries of the condemned and tortured, and those detainees who died, like Adnan Latif, and we will not rest until they are free and Guantanamo is closed! We demand that all those responsible for directing and carrying out the illegal abduction, torture and indefinite detention of these men, to repent for what they have done and to make reparations to all the victims.

In this New Year let us recommit ourselves to labor together to create the Beloved Community, and a world free of torture, oppression, racism, violence and war. Let us never forget that we are all part of one human family. What affects one, affects all! Close Guantanamo Now!

Join Witness Against Torture’s Annual Fast, Rally, and Direct Action to Close Guantánamo and End Torture

The WAT community will gather together in Washington D.C. from January 5th thru January 13th. You are invited to fast with us for a day, fast with us from Jan. 5-12, and to join us in Washington!

This January 11, 2015, the detention facility at Guantánamo will enter its fourteenth year of operation. Despite the recent release of some detained men, more than 100 remain imprisoned, including dozens who are cleared for transfer.  While we celebrate the freedom of those released, we cannot stand idly by waiting for executive action to determine the fate of those still in Guantánamo.

In Washington., we will use our creative energy to encourage citizens and government officials to see the humanity of the men in Guantánamo, to call for the closure of the prison, and to seek an end to torture.  The Senate report on CIA torture describes acts that shock the conscience. Our actions during the week will also call for the prosecution of those who authorized, designed, ordered, and carried out torture policies

Many of us will be fasting in solidarity with the men in Guantánamo as they continue to suffer the torture of indefinite detention, separation from their families, and force-feeding. We fast because of a mutual desire for freedom and justice that connects our lives to theirs.

How can you participate?

Join us for the duration of the fast: January 5th thru the 13th.

We still have space available for those that wish to come to Washington D.C. for the entire time.   We have actions and activities planned for everyday of the week. Join us for this time of shared solidarity, mutual support and creative collective actions.

If you are wondering what to expect, click here to watch this video of our 2014 Fast

Join us for the weekend activities:  January 9th to the 13th:  

During the weekend, we have very special events and actions planned If you cannot make it for the duration, come for the weekend!  Activities include:

Saturday, January 10th 8pm: From Ferguson to Guantánamo: Institutionalized Brutality & Torture: A Panel Discussion. Location: First Trinity Lutheran Church

4th & E Street NW.  The discussion will feature activists and attorneys involved in the struggles against police violence, racial profiling, and US detention policies.

Sunday, January 11th 1pm: Interfaith Prayer Vigil (Sponsored by NRCAT and Interfaith Action for Human Rights) 1:30pm Rally to close Guantánamo at the White House followed by a march to the Department of Justice.Click here to read The Call to Action.

Monday, January 12th: Witness Against Torture’s Nonviolent Direct Action. TBD.

We shut down a Federal Court when the courts refused to allow the men from Guantánamo in. We held a memorial in the Capitol Rotunda for men who had died at Guantánamo. We shut down the United States Supreme Court calling for justice for men in Guantánamo. We have lined the sidewalk in front of the White House hundreds of times, in orange jumpsuits and black hoods. We took over the Museum of American History imploring “Make Guantánamo History!”

This year, as 132 men remain in Guantánamo,

as we enter the 14th year of the prisons existence,

as 64 men are cleared for release…

We are looking for 64 people to join us on January 12th.

Fast with us in your home community:

You are invited to join us from afar. Every year people join us in fasting and organizing actions in their home communities. During this time, we will stay connected with you through our daily updates and direct contact, as helpful.  If you are considering fasting with us from afar please let us know!

If you have any questions, please email us at

Witness Against Torture on Social Media:

Please "like us on Facebook & follow us on Twitter & Instagram

Check out our latest news and updates on Tumblr.

Post any pictures of your local activities to ourflicker account and we will help spread the word.

Donate to support our work:

Witness Against Torture is completely volunteer driven and run. We have no paid staff, but do have expenses associated with our organizing work. If you are able, please donate here.


Witness Against Torture

Don't Slink Away, Mark Udall;There's a Mountain to Climb



Udall Urged to Disclose Full Torture Report



Sen. Mark Udall has called for the full release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on torture. However, as a still-sitting member of Congress, he has a constitutional protection to read most of the still-secret report on the Senate floor — and a group of intelligence veterans urges him to do just that.

MEMORANDUM FOR: Senator Mark Udall

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Stopping Torture

We, the undersigned are veteran intelligence officers with a combined total of over 300 years of experience in intelligence work. We send you this open letter at what seems to be the last minute simply because we had been hoping we would not have to.

Obama Tortured by Fear



Torture’s Time for Accountability



Editor Note: America’s reputation for cognitive dissonance is being tested by the Senate report documenting the U.S. government’s torture of detainees and the fact that nothing is happening to those responsible. Ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern says the nation must choose between crossing the Delaware or the Rubicon.

By Ray McGovern

I trust I was not alone in seeing irony in President Barack Obama’s public chiding of Sony on Friday for caving in to hacker demands to cancel distribution of its comedy “The Interview” – about a fictional CIA plot to assassinate North Korea’s real-life leader Kim Jong-Un – after a retaliatory cyber attack blamed on North Korea.

6 Guantanamo Prisoners Released, Not Sent Home, but to Uruguay

After up to 12 years, some of the prisoners just released are off hunger strike, and in “freedom.” This deal was put together last March, reportedly because of the huge pressure the Guantanamo prisoners' hunger strike put on Obama. But it took another nine months, during which the prisoners could have died, before their release.

One of those released is Abu Wa'el Dhiab, who has been suing the U.S. over forced-feeding he's endured for years, and suing to get the government to release videotape of the feedings.  Reprieve said, about him:

The Case Against Re-Banning Torture Yet Again

Senator Ron Wyden has a petition up at that reads "Right now, torture is banned because of President Obama's executive order. It's time for Congress to pass a law banning torture, by all agencies, so that a future president can never revoke the ban." It goes on to explain:

"We live in a dangerous world. But when CIA operatives and contractors torture terrorist suspects, it doesn't make us safer -- and it doesn't work. The recent CIA torture report made that abundantly clear. Right now, the federal law that bans torture only applies to the U.S. military -- not our intelligence agencies. President Obama's executive order barring all agencies from using torture could be reversed, even in secret, by a future president. That's why it's critical that Congress act swiftly to pass a law barring all agencies of the U.S. government, and contractors acting on our behalf, from engaging in torture. Without legislation, the door on torture is still open. It's time for Congress to slam that door shut once and for all."

Why in the world would anybody object to this unless they supported torture? Well, let me explain.

Torture and complicity in torture were felonies under U.S. law before George W. Bush moved into the White House, under both the torture statute and the war crimes statute. Nothing has fundamentally changed about that, other than the blatant lack of enforcement for several years running. Nothing in those two sections of the U.S. code limits the law to members of the U.S. military or excludes employees or contractors or subcontractors of so-called intelligence agencies. I emailed a dozen legal experts about that claim in the above petition. Michael Ratner replied "I don’t see where they get that from." Kevin Zeese said simply "They're wrong." If anyone replies to me with any explanation, I'll post it as an update at the top of this article on -- where I can be contacted if you have an explanation.

For the past several years, the U.S. Congress, White House, Justice Department, and media have gone out of their way to ignore the existence of U.S. laws banning torture. When silence hasn't worked, the primary technique has been proposing over and over and over again to ban torture, as if it were not already banned. In fact, Congress has followed through and banned it a number of times, and done so with new exceptions that by some interpretations have in fact weakened the war crimes statute. This is my best guess where the nonsense about applying only to "intelligence agencies" comes from: laws like the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that claimed to pick and choose which types of torture to ban for whom.

When President Obama took President Bush's place he produced an executive order purporting to ban torture (again), even while publicly telling the Justice Department not to enforce any existing laws. But an executive order, as Wyden seems to recognize, is not a law. Neither can it ban torture, nor can it give legal weight to the pretense that torture wasn't already banned. In fact the order itself states: "Nothing in this order shall be construed to affect the obligations of officers, employees, and other agents of the United States Government to comply with all pertinent laws and treaties of the United States governing detention and interrogation, including but not limited to: the Fifth and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution; the Federal torture statute, 18 U.S.C. 2340 2340A; the War Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. 2441 . . . ."

Senator Wyden says he will introduce yet another bill to "ban torture." Here's how the Washington Post is spinning, and explaining, that:

"Torture is already illegal, but Wyden notes that protections can be strengthened. To oversimplify, the U.S. is a signatory to the U.N. Convention Against Torture, in which participating states agreed to outlaw intentionally inflicting severe pain for specific purposes. The Bush administration obviously found a (supposedly) legal route around that."

In other words, because it was done by a president, it was legal -- the worldview of the Post's old buddy Richard Nixon.

"After the Abu Graib revelations, John McCain helped pass a 2005 amendment that would restrict the military from using specific brutal interrogation tactics — those not in the Army Field Manual. (This didn’t preclude intel services from using these techniques, which might explain why CIA director John Brennan felt free to say the other day that future policymakers might revert to using them). In 2008, Congress passed a measure specifically applying those restrictions to intelligence services, too, but then-President Bush vetoed it. Senator Wyden would revive a version of that 2008 bill as a starting point, with the goal of codifying in law President Obama's executive order banning the use of those specific techniques for all government employees, those in intelligence services included."

But let's back up a minute. When a president violates a law, that president -- at least once out of office -- should be prosecuted for violating the law. The law can't be declared void because it was violated. Loopholes can't be created for the CIA. Reliance on the Army Field Manual can't sneak into law the loopholes built into that document. Presidents can't order and un-order things illegal. Here's how the United Nations Special Rapporteur on counter terrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson responded to the release of the Senate's report summary:

"The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy revealed in today’s report must be brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes. The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorised at a high level within the U.S. Government provides no excuse whatsoever. Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability. International law prohibits the granting of immunities to public officials who have engaged in acts of torture. This applies not only to the actual perpetrators but also to those senior officials within the U.S. Government who devised, planned and authorised these crimes. As a matter of international law, the U.S. is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice. The UN Convention Against Torture and the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances require States to prosecute acts of torture and enforced disappearance where there is sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction. States are not free to maintain or permit impunity for these grave crimes."

Now, one could try to spin the endless re-banning of torture as part of the process of enforcing an international treaty that under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land. But banning a practice going forward, even when you ban it better, or ban it more emphatically for the 8th time, does absolutely nothing to fulfill the legal obligation to prosecute those crimes already committed. And here we are dealing with crimes openly confessed to by past officials who assert that they would "do it again" -- crimes that resulted in deaths, thus eliminating any attempt at an argument that statutes of limitations have run out.

Here's a different sort of petition that we've set up at along with Witness Against Torture and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee: " We call on President Obama to allow the U.S. Department of Justice to enforce our laws, and to immediately appoint a special prosecutor. As torture is a crime of universal jurisdiction, we call on any willing court system in the world to enforce our laws if our own courts will not do so."

The purpose of such a petition is not vengeance or partisanship or a fetish with history. The purpose is to end torture, which is not done by looking forward or even by pardoning the crimes, as the ACLU has proposed -- to its credit recognizing that the crimes exist. That should be a first step for anyone confused by the endless drumbeat to "ban torture."

Facing Down a Key Torture Enabler

Clashing Face-to-Face on Torture

Editor Note: It’s rare on TV when you see two former senior U.S. officials clashing angrily over something as significant as torture. Usually decorum prevails. But ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern wasn’t going to let the ex-House intelligence oversight chief get away with a bland defense of torture.

By Ray McGovern

When you get an opportunity like this, don’t fall back – I heard my Irish grandmother telling me last Thursday as I took my place at the table to discuss torture with a former congressional committee chairman whose job it was to prevent such abuse.

Making a joke of the Supreme Court: Justice Antonin Scalia is a Publicity-Seeking Intellectual Midget

By Dave Lindorff

Sometimes you really don't need to write much to do an article on something. Writing about the inanity of Justice Antonin Scalia, the ethics-challenged, lard-bottomed, right-wing anchor of the Supreme Court, is one of those times.

Speaking Events


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