Friday, August 15, 2008
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Nearly two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that detainees held at Guantánamo Bay have the right to habeas corpus and can thus challenge their detention in civilian courts, a U.S. Court of Appeals dealt another blow to the Bush administration’s detention policy.
The appeals court ruled that the Pentagon improperly designated Huzaifa Parhat, an ethnic Uighur Chinese national, an “enemy combatant” after being swept up by the U.S. military in Afghanistan in 2001 and then sent to Guantánamo Bay, where he has been held since.
Despite the ruling, Parhat has yet to see any of its benefits. In fact, he doesn’t even know about it. Parhat’s lawyer told CBC radio’s As It Happens last night that Parhat is currently being held in solitary confinement and “has no idea” the appeals court ruled in his favor because, he added, “I’m not allowed to tell him”:
DEREK STOFFEL, CBC HOST: Mr. Willett, what’s your client’s reaction to this ruling?
SABIN WILLETT (PARHAT’S LAWYER): Boy what a great question that is because my client doesn’t know about this ruling because I’m not allowed to tell him. […] He’s sitting in solitary confinement today. He has no idea what’s happened as far as I know.
Indeed, it is unclear what the appeals court’s ruling actually means for Parhat. The New York Times noted that the U.S. “said it will not return Uighur detainees to China because of concerns about their treatment at the hands of the Chinese government, which views them as terrorists.” Thus, as another one of Parhat’s lawyers noted, the “court victory may not mean freedom for him.”
For now, Willett said that “we’re going to file a motion with a judge to order them to let us call him on the phone and take him out of solitary confinement.” He added, “We’ve got a man in solitary confinement that they’ve got no authority to hold at all. Its unbelievable.”
DEREK STOFFEL, CBC HOST: Mr. Willett, what’s your client’s reaction to this ruling?
SABIN WILLETT (Parhat’s Lawyer): Boy what a great question that is because my client doesn’t know about this ruling because I’m not allowed to tell him.
STOFFEL: He doesn’t know?
WILLETT: We’ve asked — the first thing we did was ask the government for permission to make a phone call and they haven’t given it to us. Now we have a way to send him a letter that goes through clearence and we’ve sent it and maybe in three weeks he’ll get it.
He’s sitting in solitary confinement today. He has no idea what’s happened as far as I know.
STOFFEL: Well let me ask you then, what’s your reaction to this ruling?
WILLETT: Well I’m thrilled except for the constant vexation of the inablitiy to bring this thing to a real and human close. Huzaifa Parhat
has now been determined by about as conservative a court as there is not to be an enemy combatant — this is what we’ve been saying for years — and yet I can’t get him out of solitary confinement in the hands of my own government. So it is a frustrating but somewhat thrilling moment for us. […]
STOFFEL: I suppose the next thing you need to do is to let your client know what’s happened.
WILLETT: Thats what we’re trying to do. I mean, we’ve sent him a letter. We’re going to file a motion with a judge to order them to let us call him on the phone and take him out of solitary confinement. I mean we’ve got a man in solitary confinement that they’ve got no authority to hold at all. Its unbelievable. So we’ll be in court pretty soon, trying to get some more relief but it was a good day to get that notice.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
A new report from the Seton Hall University School of Law explodes the myth that some 30 detainees released from Guantanamo Bay prison have “returned to the battlefield” against American forces.
This conservative urban legend was recently parroted by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in his dissent from the Court’s Boumediene decision. Scalia wrote that granting habeas corpus rights to Gitmo detainees “will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed,” and supported this view by asserting that “at least 30 of those prisoners hitherto released from Guantanamo Bay have returned to the battlefield.”
The new Seton Hall report (pdf) states that “Justice Scalia’s claim of 30 recidivist detainees is belied by all reliable data” :
Despite being repeatedly debunked, this statement has been reflexively accepted as true by Members of Congress and much of the American public. Justice Scalia is only the most recent disseminator of an urban legend that refuses to die. […]
[Scalia’s] source was a year-old Senate Minority Report, which in turn was based on misinformation provided by the Department of Defense.
Justice Scalia’s reliance on these sources would have been more justifiable had the urban legend he perpetuated not been (one would have thought) permanently interred by later developments, including a 2007 Department of Defense Press Release and hearings before the House Foreign Relations Committee less than two weeks before Justice Scalia’s dissent was released.
Among the report’s conclusions:
– According to the Department of Defense’s published and unpublished data and reports, not a single released Guantánamo detainee has ever attacked any Americans.
– Despite national security concerns, the Department of Defense does not have a system for tracking the conduct or even the whereabouts of released detainees.
While there is little evidence that fighters interred at Guantanamo Bay — that is, those who were fighters before they got there — have attacked Americans, there is quite a bit of evidence that, for those falsely imprisoned there and for many young Muslims watching around the world, Guantanamo has a politically radicalizing effect. Maintaining Guantanamo and other illegal detention sites hurts America’s image abroad, and calls into question America’s support for human rights and the rule of law. There is no good argument against closing it down.
Friday, June 20, 2008
GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) - A young Canadian prisoner will go on trial before the Guantanamo prison camp's war crimes court on Oct. 8 on charges of murdering a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan, a judge said Thursday.
But Omar Khadr's trial date is "not set in stone" and is dependent on prosecutors turning over evidence as ordered, said the judge, Army Col. Patrick Parrish.
The trial date was set during a brief hearing at the U.S. naval base, marking the first time the Guantanamo court has convened since last week's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the 270 Guantanamo prisoners have the right to contest their detention in the U.S. federal courts.
Khadr, 21, is charged with murdering U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer with a grenade during a firefight at a suspected al Qaeda compound in Afghanistan in 2002.
He was 15 when captured and is one of two Guantanamo detainees captured as juveniles and charged with crimes that carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.
The other, Afghan captive Mohammed Jawad, is accused of throwing a grenade into a U.S. military jeep at a bazaar in Kabul in December 2002, shortly after the United States invaded Afghanistan to oust al Qaeda and its Taliban protectors following the Sept. 11 attacks.
The explosion injured Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Lyons, Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Martin and their Afghan interpreter, Assadullah Khan Omerk, the military charges said.
Jawad, now 23, is charged with attempted murder and causing great bodily harm, and appeared in another Guantanamo courtroom on Thursday.
Military defense lawyers have alleged that both Khadr and Jawad were abused at Guantanamo and have repeatedly complained that the government has refused to turn over evidence they need to prepare their cases.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
In the preface to a report by Physicians for Human Rights on the “medical evidence of torture by the U.S.,” former Abu Ghraib investigator ret. Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba writes that President Bush “authorized a systematic regime of torture” that has stained “our national honor.” Taguba, who first spoke out publicly in June 2007, bluntly accuses the Bush administration of committing war crimes:
After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts, and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.
The report found that medical examinations of 11 former detainees revealed “scars and other injuries consistent with their accounts of beatings, electric shocks, shackling and, in at least one case, sodomy.”
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
WASHINGTON — The U.S. military hid the locations of suspected terrorist detainees and concealed harsh treatment to avoid the scrutiny of the International Committee of the Red Cross, according to documents that a Senate committee released Tuesday.
"We may need to curb the harsher operations while ICRC is around. It is better not to expose them to any controversial techniques," Lt. Col. Diane Beaver, a military lawyer who's since retired, said during an October 2002 meeting at the Guantanamo Bay prison to discuss employing interrogation techniques that some have equated with torture. Her comments were recorded in minutes of the meeting that were made public Tuesday. At that same meeting, Beaver also appeared to confirm that U.S. officials at another detention facility — Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan — were using sleep deprivation to "break" detainees well before then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld approved that technique. "True, but officially it is not happening," she is quoted as having said.
A third person at the meeting, Jonathan Fredman, the chief counsel for the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, disclosed that detainees were moved routinely to avoid the scrutiny of the ICRC, which keeps tabs on prisoners in conflicts around the world.
"In the past when the ICRC has made a big deal about certain detainees, the DOD (Defense Department) has 'moved' them away from the attention of the ICRC," Fredman said, according to the minutes.
The document, along with two dozen others, shows that top administration officials pushed relentlessly for tougher interrogation methods in the belief that terrorism suspects were resisting interrogation.
It's unclear from the documents whether the Pentagon moved the detainees from one place to another or merely told the ICRC they were no longer present at a facility.
Fredman of the CIA also appeared to be advocating the use of techniques harsher than those authorized by military field guides "If the detainee dies, you're doing it wrong," the minutes report Fredman saying at one point.
Beaver testified that she didn't recall making the comment about avoiding "harsher operations" while ICRC representatives were around, but she said she probably was referring to the need to conduct extended periods of interrogations of detainees without disruption.
The minutes of the Guantanamo meeting were among 25 documents released Tuesday by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee and is leading a probe of the origins of cruel treatment of detainees in President Bush's "war on terrorism."
The administration overrode or ignored objections from all four military services and from criminal investigators, who warned that the practices would imperil their ability to prosecute the suspects. In one prophetic e-mail on Oct. 28, 2002, Mark Fallon, then the deputy commander of the Pentagon's Criminal Investigation Task Force, wrote a colleague: "This looks like the kind of stuff Congressional hearings are made of. ... Someone needs to be considering how history will look back at this." The objections from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines prompted Navy Capt. Jane Dalton, legal adviser to the then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, to begin a review of the proposed techniques.
But Dalton, who's now retired, told the hearing Tuesday that the review was aborted quickly. Myers, she said, took her aside and told her that then-Defense Department general counsel William Haynes "does not want this ... to proceed." Haynes testified that he didn't recall the objections of the four uniformed services.
Officials in Rumsfeld's office and at Guantanamo developed the techniques they sought by reverse-engineering a long-standing military program designed to train U.S. soldiers and aviators to resist interrogation if they're captured.
The program, known as Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, was never meant to guide U.S. interrogation of foreign detainees.
An official in Haynes' office sought information about SERE as early as July 2002, the documents show. Two months later, a delegation from Guantanamo attended SERE training at Fort Bragg, N.C. Levin said, "The truth is that senior officials in the United States government sought information on aggressive techniques, twisted the law to create the appearance of their legality and authorized their use against detainees." The documents confirm that a delegation of senior administration lawyers visited Guantanamo in September 2002 for briefings on intelligence-gathering there. The delegation included David Addington, a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney; Haynes; acting CIA counsel John Rizzo; and Michael Chertoff, then the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and now the homeland security secretary. Few of the Republicans at Tuesday's hearing defended the Bush administration’s detainee programs. Guidance provided by administration lawyers "will go down in history as some of the most irresponsible and shortsighted legal analysis ever provided to our nation's military intelligence communities," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C..
Regarding the ICRC, the United States long has complained that other countries such as China or the old Soviet Union prevented independent access to prisoners or made their conditions look better when outsiders were inspecting. The Bush administration appears to have engaged in similar practices, however.
Bernard Barrett, the ICRC’s Washington spokesman, said, "We knew that we did not always have full access to all detainees. It was a fairly serious issue." “It’s been addressed,” he said. “We are confident we now have access to all detainees at Guantanamo.”
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Military officials tasked with training U.S. troops to evade enemy interrogations provided Pentagon lawyers a list of abusive tactics that could be used in prisons like Guantanamo Bay, a top Senate Democrat disclosed Tuesday.
Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said the harsh techniques were then pursued despite strong objections in November 2002 by the military's uniformed lawyers.
"If we use those same techniques offensively against detainees, it says to the world that they have America's stamp of approval," said Levin, D-Mich., at the onset of a committee hearing.
"That puts our troops at greater risk of being abused if they're captured. It also weakens our moral authority and harms our efforts to attract allies to our side in the fight against terrorism."
The hearing is the committee's first look at the origins of the harsher methods used in Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba and Abu Ghraib in Iraq and how policy decisions on interrogations were vetted across the Defense Department. Its review fits into a broader picture of the government's handling of detainees, which includes FBI and CIA interrogations in secret prisons.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the administration's legal analysis on detainees and interrogations following the the Sept. 11 attacks will "go down in history as some of the most irresponsible and shortsighted legal analysis ever provided to our nation's military and intelligence communities."
The Pentagon's top civilian lawyer at the time, chief counsel William "Jim" Haynes, was expected to testify. Also present were Richard Shiffrin, Haynes' former deputy on intelligence matters, as well as legal advisers at the time to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Guantanamo Bay prison.
According to the Senate committee's findings, Haynes became interested in using harsher interrogation methods as early as July 2002 when his office inquired into a military program that trained Army soldiers on how to survive enemy interrogations and deny foes valuable intelligence.
Haynes and other officials wanted to know if the program — known as "Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape" training — could be used used to develop more effective interrogation methods.
Shiffrin said his interest was not so much in trying reverse engineer the tactics to be used against the enemy but rather tapping military expertise in interrogations.
In response, the head of the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, which ran the SERE program, offered that resistance training included sensory deprivation, sleep disruption, stress positions, waterboarding and slapping.
Several of those techniques, including stress positions, were later approved by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a December 2002 memo.
Levin said these techniques were approved despite fierce objections a month earlier by the military services' lawyers. In separate memos, the lawyers told the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the techniques warranted further study and could be illegal.
The committee also released previously secret and privately held memos dating from the 2002 inception of the harsh interrogation program at Guantanamo.
In one of them, the top military lawyer at Guantanamo, Lt. Col. Diane Beaver, explains that the Defense Department had made a practice of hiding prisoners who were being treated harshly, even abusively, from the International Committee of the Red Cross, a non-governmental body empowered to monitor compliance with Geneva Convention rules for the treatment of military prisoners.
Beaver also confirmed that the military was secretly using previously forbidden techniques, such as sleep deprivation, but hiding them so as not to draw "negative attention," according to minutes of the meeting.
"Officially it is not happening," Beaver said, according to minutes from the meeting. "It is not being reported officially. The ICRC is a serious concern. They will be in and out, scrutinizing our operations, unless they are displeased and decide to protest and leave. This would draw a lot of negative attention."
Beaver said interrogators should "curb the harsher operations while ICRC is around."
Beaver was speaking at an Oct. 2, 2002 meeting between CIA and military lawyers and military intelligence officials on how to counter the resistance of Guantanamo detainees to military interrogation.
Beaver's comments suggest that the CIA's practice of hiding unregistered "ghost detainees" from the ICRC at military jails may have been as much in service to the Pentagon's interrogation program as it was to the CIA's.
A senior CIA lawyer at the meeting, John Fredman, explained that whether harsh interrogation amount to torture "is a matter of perception." The only sure test for torture is if the detainee died.
"If the detainees dies you're doing it wrong," Fredman said.
Monday, June 16, 2008
During an interview with President Bush on Britain’s Sky News yesterday, Sky political editor Adam Boulton noted that while Bush talks “a lot about freedom,” there are many who say that some of the Bush administration’s torture and detention policies represent “the complete opposite of freedom.” But Bush quickly snapped back, saying those criticizing his policies are slandering America:
BOULTON: There are those who would say look, lets take Guantanamo Bay, and Abu Ghraib, and rendition and all those things and to them that is the complete opposite of freedom.
BUSH: Of course, if you want to slander America.
So, according to Bush, below is a short — but by no means exhaustive — list of those who have suggested that Bush’s terrorism policies represent “the opposite of freedom” and thus have slandered America:
– The United States Supreme Court: The Court ruled last week that “terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay have a right to seek their release in federal court” saying that Bush’s policy compromised “the Constitution’s guarantee of liberty.”
– The Federal Bureau of Investigation: An FBI report issued last month said that according to its agents, “[m]ilitary officials at Guantanamo Bay used some aggressive techniques before they were approved, possibly in violation of Defense Department policy and U.S. law.”
– McClatchy Newspapers: An eight month McClatchy investigation found that after the Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. has wrongfully imprisoned “perhaps hundreds” of men “in Afghanistan, Cuba and elsewhere on the basis of flimsy or fabricated evidence, old personal scores or bounty payments.”
Boulton told Bush that the Supreme Court “ruled against what you have been doing” at Guantanamo but Bush wouldn’t budge, arguing that the district court, appellate court and Congress agreed that Gitmo detainees do not have to right to challenge their detention.
Boulton, a Briton, then had to remind Bush of America’s checks and balances system: “But the Supreme Court is supreme isn’t it?”