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The New Yorker's Jane Mayer discusses the fallout from the Red Cross' shocking report on CIA torture and its serious legal implications.
On the night of April 6, a long-secret document was published -- in its entirety for the first time -- that provided a clear, stark look at the CIA torture program carried out by the Bush administration.
Five survivors of the 1988 poison gas attacks of ethnic Kurds in Iraq have filed a class action lawsuit in Maryland claiming three American companies and the government of Iraq violated the Geneva Convention by using mustard and nerve gasses to kill tens of thousands of people.
Filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, the lawsuit says the companies supplied the regime of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein with the chemical precursors and compounds needed to make the poison gases used in the six-month long “Operation Anfal.”
CIA Claims to Close Secret Prisons But Promises to Imprison People Somewhere Else and Oppose Prosecuting Past Crimes
CIA shuts down its secret prisons
The US has stopped running its global network of secret prisons, CIA director Leon Panetta has announced.
"CIA no longer operates detention facilities or black sites," Mr Panetta said in a letter to staff. Remaining sites would be decommissioned, he said.
The "black sites" were used to detain terrorism suspects, some of whom were subjected to interrogation methods described by many as torture.
President Obama vowed to shut down the facilities shortly after taking office.
The Bush administration allowed the CIA to operate secret prisons on the territory of allied countries in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa, according to media reports.
During his first week as president, Mr Obama ordered the closure of the black sites, as well as the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, as part of an overhaul of US detainee policy.
CIA Director Leon Panetta has carried through on his pledge to prohibit independent contractors from conducting interrogations of terror suspects.
In a message to agency employees on Thursday, Panetta said he had notified the congressional oversight committees about the current CIA policy regarding interrogations.
Besides discontinuing the use of contractors, the director outlined in the message other steps taken in response to executive orders issued by President Obama in January.
The harsh interrogation techniques authorized by the Bush administration will no longer be used. Panetta said questioning of suspected terrorists will follow the approaches authorized in the Army Field Manual.
Judge Sullivan, who was appointed to the federal bench by President Clinton and to local courts by Republican presidents, has indicated deep misgivings about what has transpired at Guantanamo. “I mean, this Guantanamo issue is a travesty. It ranks up there with the internment of Japanese-American citizens years ago,” the judge said at last week’s hearing. “It's a horror story in the American system of jurisprudence.” Kollar-Kotelly expressed her ire in two recent orders castigating the government for repeatedly ignoring deadlines she had set to produce evidence to lawyers for four Kuwaiti prisoners at Guantanamo. She said she had “lost all confidence” in a DOJ attorney assigned to the case. And in the Miami case, Judge Gold said, "It’s more than just mistakes. Important safeguards were not met." Two prosecutors involved in the case have been reassigned.
A federal appeals court on Tuesday overturned a judge's decision to give Chinese Muslim detainees at Guantanamo Bay a 30-day notice of where the U.S. government will send them when they are released.
A federal judge had ordered the government to give a month's notice before releasing nine Uighurs (pronounced WEE'-gurz) so they could challenge the decision of where to send them.
The Uighurs at Guantanamo are no longer regarded as enemy combatants by the United States. But U.S. authorities have rejected calls by China to return the detainees, citing fears of persecution.
After Torture, Resurrection
By Ray McGovern
Three years ago, Easter dawned on Crawford, Texas, for the many friends of justice and peace who were gathered there to celebrate new hope.
Rev. Joseph Lowery gave an inspired message that morning, in what turned out to be a warm-up for his Benediction at the Inauguration of our new president in January 2009.
Camp Casey that Easter 2006 was a relatively quiet occasion to reflect and celebrate new life and one another. The best known resident of Crawford had decided to avoid the crowd assembling there, opting instead to spend Easter at Camp David in the mountains of Maryland. There troublesome questioners could be kept farther away—I mean people like Cindy Sheehan, who would not stop asking why our sons and daughters were being killed and maimed in an unnecessary war.
By Del Quentin Wilber, Washington Post
The father of a detainee at a U.S. military prison in Afghanistan sent a letter (PDF) this week to President Obama pleading for his son's release, writing that "my heart aches when I consider the terrible and degrading treatment he has been forced to endure."
The letter comes a week after a federal judge ruled that the man, Amin al-Bakri, may challenge his detention in a federal lawsuit. Bakri, 39, is a Yemeni who was captured by U.S. authorities in Thailand in 2002, his lawyers say. He is being held at the U.S. military prison at Bagram air base.
JURIST Guest Columnist Benjamin Davis of the University of Toledo College of Law says that three memos written by the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel in the Bush administration authorizing specific interrogation techniques amounting to torture need to be disclosed and should not be held back for fear of political reprisals....
Rather than mid-April being only a key date for tax filings, it is quickly becoming a moment of truth on torture for America.
On April 16, 2009 the Obama Administration will have to file a submission in court and decide whether to publicly disclose under a Freedom of Information Act request three memos written by the Office of Legal Counsel in the previous administration that authorized specific interrogation techniques that are torture. Published reports suggest that a battle is roiling in the highest levels of the government about publicly releasing those memos as well as the Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility’s allegedly scathing review of the lawyering of the memos' key architects. It is also reported that the nominations of Dawn Johnsen to head the Office of Legal Counsel and Dean Harold Hongju Koh to be the United States Department of State Legal Adviser are being threatened or held hostage by members of the Senate who are strongly resisting the release of the memos and the review, threatening to “go nuclear.”
D.C. Circuit Court Decision Refuses to Allow Advance Notice Before a Guantánamo Detainee is Transferred
From Center for Constitutional Rights
Decision Would Increase the Risk of Illegal Transfers to Torture
Washington, DC. - Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued its opinion in Kiyemba v. Obama. The Court vacated the district court decision, which had required the government to give thirty days advance notice before an individual is transferred from Guantánamo. The Court held that it could not test the Executive’s promise not to transfer someone to a country where he could be tortured.
In response, Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Emi MacLean, issued the following statement:
UC Berkeley law school Dean Christopher Edley has reaffirmed his position that the tenured job of notorious law professor John Yoo is safe. In an op-ed published in the Contra Costa Times over the weekend, Edley repeated his stance from last year that there is basically nothing that the university can do unless Yoo is convicted of a crime. Edley's piece came in response to a CC Times and Oakland Tribune editorial that expressed concerns that the university intended to punish the man who enabled torture. Great. So now both of our East Bay mainstream dailies desperately want to protect the right of a professor to authorize torture, as does the University of California. We certainly live among the truly courageous, don't we?
Red Cross Report: Medical Officers 'Participated in Torture'
By Diane Sweet | Raw Story
A confidential report by the International Committee of the Red Cross has revealed that medical officers and health personnel supervised, and in some cases assisted as detainees were deprived of food, exposed to extreme temperatures, and subjected to waterboarding. A copy of the 2007 report was posted on a magazine web site Monday night. The report quotes one medical official telling a detainee: "I look after your body only because we need you for information."
The new details of alleged CIA interrogation practices are contained in a 43-page volume written by ICRC officials who were given unprecedented access to the CIA's'high-value detainees' in 2006.
Yet more information is trickling out on the BushCo torture regime. Via Jeralyn, the Seton Hall Law Center for Policy and Research (the watchdogs on the bogus released-prisoners-turned-terrorist numbers) have issued a new report [pdf] on the FBI and DoD role in torture at Guantanamo.
From the press release:
Holder and Powell Ain’t Misbehavin’
By Ray McGovern
I used to take a certain pride by association with prominent Bronxites who have “made it.” Cancel that for Attorney General Eric Holder and former secretary of state Colin Powell.
Why would they want to whitewash torture, given what blacks have suffered at the hands of torturers in this country and abroad?
And why is it that they seem to value more their entrée into a privileged white-dominated ruling class than doing the right thing? How else to explain their stunning reluctance to hold torturers accountable and thus remove the stain of torture from our nation’s soul and reputation?
What’s Holding Holder?
A new report by Cageprisoners into the involvement of British authorities in torture and rendition details alarming findings that are too recurrent to ignore. Today Cageprisoners publishes, Fabricating Terrorism II: British Complicity in Renditions and Torture, which highlights 29 cases of individuals who have been subjected to renditions or torture with recurrent allegations of the direct involvement of the British officials even before 9/11.
Strongly reminiscent of the case of former Guantanamo prisoner Binyam Mohamed, the report details the experiences of Farid Hilali, who, years prior to the 'War on Terror' in 1998, was first tortured in Dubai, UAE and then rendered to Morocco where he was further abused – all with the knowledge and collusion of British intelligence officials.
Spokesman for Cageprisoners, Moazzam Begg, said of the report,
U.S. President Barack Obama met with his NATO allies in Strasbourg, France on Friday to talk about his plans for the war in Afghanistan, his "front line in the war on terror."
But the U.S. war on terror has some dark secrets and Obama hasn't really wanted to talk about them.
In Spain, a crusading judge named Baltasar Garzon is reviewing the case of several men who say they were tortured at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
In Washington, Senator Patrick Leahy has been asking similar questions that people around the world want answered:
Did the U.S. really torture prisoners, did it secretly transfer some to other countries specifically to be tortured and did senior officials authorize it?
Leahy says: "We can't turn the page unless we first read the page."
On Thursday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers quietly released the final draft of an extensive report he first unveiled in January documenting the Bush administration’s “unreviewable war powers” and the possible crimes committed in implementing those policies.
In order to determine whether Bush officials broke laws, Conyers has recommended that Attorney General Eric Holder appoint a special prosecutor to launch a criminal inquiry to investigate, among other things, whether “enhanced interrogation techniques” used against alleged terrorist detainees violated international and federal laws against torture.
“The Attorney General should appoint a Special Counsel to determine whether there were criminal violations committed pursuant to Bush Administration policies that were undertaken under unreviewable war powers, including enhanced interrogation, extraordinary rendition, and warrantless domestic surveillance,” Conyers’s report says. “In this regard, the report firmly rejects the notion that we should move on from these matters.”
Two days after being sworn in as the forty-fourth president of the United States, Barack Obama signed three executive orders, banning torture, requiring the CIA to use the same methods as the military in interrogating terror suspects, shutting down the network of secret CIA prisons and shuttering the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, within a year. "What the cynics fail to understand," the president proclaimed in his inaugural address, "is that the ground has shifted beneath them."
But where exactly has the ground shifted? The places of focus--and much of the furor against Bush's terror politics over the past few years--are outside our nation's borders, in distant lands and faraway prisons. The problem of torture and other human rights violations in America's "war on terror" has been framed as a problem that happens largely beyond our shores. The underlying assumption is that if Guantánamo detainees were to be tried on United States soil and in federal courts (as many groups demand), such egregious abuses would not occur.
An Arrest Warrant for al-Bashir, Could Bush Be Next?
In what could become an historic decision, a Federal judge has ruled that non-Afghan citizens rendered by the U.S. to Bagram prison in Afghanistan have a constitutional right to challenge their detention in American civilian courts.
The decision by Federal Judge John Bates was a stunning rejection of unlimited power for the executive branch of government espoused by former President George W. Bush and his successor, President Barack Obama.
By Ian Cobain, The Guardian
MPs are to undertake the most far-reaching inquiry into Britain's role in human rights abuses in decades as allegations mount to suggest that officials repeatedly breached international law.
The Commons foreign affairs select committee will examine Britain's involvement in the detention, transfer and interrogation of prisoners held during the so-called war on terror. Among the matters to be examined later in the year are allegations, reported in the Guardian over the past two years, that British intelligence officers colluded in the torture of Britons held in Pakistan and Egypt.
Attorney General Eric Holder wants to release classified Bush-era interrogation memos. But U.S. intel officials are fiercely lobbying the White House to block him from moving forward.
Michael Isikoff, Newsweek
A fierce internal battle within the White House over the disclosure of internal Justice Department interrogation memos is shaping up as a major test of the Obama administration's commitment to opening up government files about Bush-era counterterrorism policy.
Before leaving office, senior Bush administration lawyers secured changes in a Justice Department watchdog agency’s report that reportedly was sharply critical of legal opinions granting President George W. Bush sweeping powers, including the right to abuse “war on terror” captives.
In a letter to two U.S. senators, the Justice Department said the changes to the report by the Office of Professional Responsibility followed comments from then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey, then-Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip and the Office of Legal Counsel, which was still run by Steven Bradbury, one of three lawyers who had been singled out for criticism in OPR's initial draft.