The British papers are ever so encouraging today.
Papers reveal Bagram abuse
Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington and James Meek
Friday February 18, 2005
New evidence has emerged that US forces in Afghanistan engaged in widespread Abu Ghraib-style abuse, taking "trophy photographs" of detainees and carrying out rape and sexual humiliation.
Documents obtained by the Guardian contain evidence that such abuses took place in the main detention centre at Bagram, near the capital Kabul, as well as at a smaller US installation near the southern city of Kandahar. The documents also indicate that US soldiers covered up abuse in Afghanistan and in Iraq - even after the Abu Ghraib scandal last year.
A thousand pages of evidence from US army investigations released to the American Civil Liberties Union after a long legal battle, and made available to the Guardian, show that an Iraqi detained at Tikrit in September 2003 was forced to withdraw his report of abuse after soldiers told him he would be held indefinitely.
Meanwhile, photographs taken in southern Afghanistan showing US soldiers from the 22nd Infantry Battalion posing in mock executions of blindfolded and bound detainees, were purposely destroyed after the Abu Ghraib scandal to avoid "another public outrage", the documents show....In a separate case, which the Guardian reveals today, two former prisoners of the US in Afghanistan have come forward with claims against their American captors.
In sworn affidavits to a British-American human rights lawyer, a Palestinian says he was sodomised by American soldiers in Afghanistan. Another former prisoner of US forces, a Jordanian, describes a form of torture which involved being hung in a cage from a rope for days.
Both men were freed from US detention last year after being held in Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay. Neither has been charged by any government with any offence.
I should think that the soldiers involved would have destroyed photographs after Abu Ghraib, yes. I'm certainly not saying that it was the right thing to do; however, it's certainly what one would do in the interest of self preservation.
Mind, one wonders at the mental process of people who not only torture, but then take pictures of it. I can see how showing them to the person being tortured would be even more mental torture piled on to the rest of it -- "Oh, look! here's a picture of you having all these wonderful things being done to you, and we'll be showing them to your relatives now!" -- but why would you keep them? Why would you want to look at them? Why would you be proud of all this?
A British resident has been blinded in one eye by American military police at Guantanamo Bay, his lawyer claimed today.
Omar Deghayes' family appealed for the British Government to intervene and secure his release, almost 25 years to the day since his father was assassinated by Colonel Gaddafi's regime in Libya.
Mr Deghayes mother Zohra Zewawi, from Brighton, wept as lawyer Clive Stafford Smith described the injuries the detainee has allegedly suffered at the Cuban base.
"In March 2004 the Emergency Reaction Force in Camp Delta came into his cell," he said.
"They brought their pepper spray and held him down.
"They held both of his eyes open and sprayed it into his eyes and later took a towel soaked in pepper spray and rubbed it in his eyes. Omar could not see from either eye for two weeks but he gradually got sight back in one eye. He's totally blind in the right eye. I can report that his right eye is all white and milky - he can't see out of it because he has been blinded by the US in Guantanamo."
Mr Stafford Smith added that one of the officers also pushed his finger into Mr Deghayes' eye. It was a combination of the pepper spray and the gouging which led to loss of his sight, the lawyer claimed. [...] The lawyer's statement describes other incidents in which Mr Deghayes was abused in Guantanamo. In one case another prisoner's faeces was smeared on Mr Deghayes' face by one of the officers. Mr Stafford Smith said his client had also had his head pushed in the toilet by US guards, in a separate incident he was kneed in the nose and slammed face down on the concrete surface of a recreation yard.
But the British papers aren't the only ones having all the fun these days, oh no no no!
By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 18, 2005; Page A16
Members of an Army Special Forces unit allegedly punched, slapped, kicked and beat Afghan civilians in two villages southeast of the capital of Kabul last May, prompting official complaints from two senior Army psychological operations officers who were present and said they witnessed the incidents.
The allegation is detailed in internal Army criminal files, released yesterday, that also document other allegations of abuse in Afghanistan as recent as last year. Previous abuse allegations have mostly concerned U.S. military activities in Iraq in 2003; these documents detail parallel conduct in Afghanistan in 2004. In one strikingly similar event, the Army last year found about half a dozen photographs that depict masked U.S. soldiers standing with their weapons pointed at the heads of handcuffed and hooded or blindfolded detainees at a base in southern Afghanistan and, in one case, pressing a detainee's head against the wall of a "cage" where he was brought for interrogation.
The photographs were found on a compact disc left in one of the unit's offices, and the discovery set off a lengthy search by the Army for additional copies in the cars, homes, barracks, computers and cameras of members of the unit, part of the 22nd Infantry Regiment based in Fort Drum, N.Y.
None of the photos have been published -- unlike a set of photos the news media obtained last summer depicting similar acts of abuse and humiliation in Iraq -- and an Army spokesman said yesterday that they are being withheld from release "to protect the privacy" of the Afghan victims....
"To protect the privacy of the Afghan victims" ... well. Yes. Quite. That it also prevents the public from seeing US soldiers conducting such viscerally revolting actions is just the lagniappe, isn't it?
by JANE MAYER
The secret history of America’s “extraordinary rendition” program.
Issue of 2005-02-14
On January 27th, President Bush, in an interview with the Times, assured the world that “torture is never acceptable, nor do we hand over people to countries that do torture.” Maher Arar, a Canadian engineer who was born in Syria, was surprised to learn of Bush’s statement. Two and a half years ago, American officials, suspecting Arar of being a terrorist, apprehended him in New York and sent him back to Syria, where he endured months of brutal interrogation, including torture. When Arar described his experience in a phone interview recently, he invoked an Arabic expression. The pain was so unbearable, he said, that “you forget the milk that you have been fed from the breast of your mother.” [...] Rendition was originally carried out on a limited basis, but after September 11th, when President Bush declared a global war on terrorism, the program expanded beyond recognition—becoming, according to a former C.I.A. official, “an abomination.” What began as a program aimed at a small, discrete set of suspects—people against whom there were outstanding foreign arrest warrants—came to include a wide and ill-defined population that the Administration terms “illegal enemy combatants.” Many of them have never been publicly charged with any crime. Scott Horton, an expert on international law who helped prepare a report on renditions issued by N.Y.U. Law School and the New York City Bar Association, estimates that a hundred and fifty people have been rendered since 2001. Representative Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts and a member of the Select Committee on Homeland Security, said that a more precise number was impossible to obtain. “I’ve asked people at the C.I.A. for numbers,” he said. “They refuse to answer. All they will say is that they’re in compliance with the law.” [...] The extraordinary-rendition program bears little relation to the system of due process afforded suspects in crimes in America. Terrorism suspects in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East have often been abducted by hooded or masked American agents, then forced onto a Gulfstream V jet, like the one described by Arar. This jet, which has been registered to a series of dummy American corporations, such as Bayard Foreign Marketing, of Portland, Oregon, has clearance to land at U.S. military bases. Upon arriving in foreign countries, rendered suspects often vanish. Detainees are not provided with lawyers, and many families are not informed of their whereabouts. [...] Perhaps surprisingly, the fiercest internal resistance to this thinking has come from people who have been directly involved in interrogation, including veteran F.B.I. and C.I.A. agents. Their concerns are as much practical as ideological. Years of experience in interrogation have led them to doubt the effectiveness of physical coercion as a means of extracting reliable information. They also warn that the Bush Administration, having taken so many prisoners outside the realm of the law, may not be able to bring them back in. By holding detainees indefinitely, without counsel, without charges of wrongdoing, and under circumstances that could, in legal parlance, “shock the conscience” of a court, the Administration has jeopardized its chances of convicting hundreds of suspected terrorists, or even of using them as witnesses in almost any court in the world....
New Twist In Terror Justice
Feb. 18, 2005
"Extraordinary rendition" sounds like a phrase from Gilbert and Sullivan or Charles Dickens. But it is a controversial legal concept that is moving quickly to the front-burner of the legal and political world. Never mind the ongoing fight over the rights of the Guantanamo Bay detainees, the intensifying debate over the constitutional propriety of extraordinary rendition already looms as the most important battle of the year in the legal war on terrorism.
Thanks mainly to the fine work of journalist Jane Mayer in the last issue of The New Yorker magazine, more and more people, including important lawmakers, are paying closer attention to the government policy wherein terror suspects are transferred from U.S. control into the control of foreign governments, so that interrogation methods that are not permitted under U.S. law may be applied to the suspects. In other words, when our government decides that a particular suspect may have information that is of particular use, and that this information must be obtained quickly, it farms the suspect out to governments that permit, or at least do not explicitly outlaw, torture. And apparently it does this despite a 1998 law that seems to prohibit the practice. [...] Now, apparently, the CIA itself is "seeking to scale back its role as interrogator and custodian of terrorist leaders who are being held without charges in secret sites around the world." In part, the Times' article reports, the CIA's change of tack is motivated by increasingly shaky legal support for the detentions, especially in the wake of the two terror-case rulings last June by the United States Supreme Court which recognized certain due process rights for detainees. Those landmark rulings – in which the justices famously told the president that "a state of war is not a blank check" – have spawned several lower court rulings that slowly but surely are stemming executive branch control over terror suspects. [...] But it isn't just the genuine (and warranted) fear of bad results in court that has intelligence officials and lawmakers looking to change its dynamic when it comes to detention, interrogation, and rendition. The CIA's newfound interest in washing its hands of these men also stems from practical considerations as well, the Times and others have reported. Many of the terror suspects they are holding now no longer have much intelligence value, yet they are still unlikely ever to be turned over to any prosecutor for trial. It's unclear whether they ever have committed any domestic crimes and, even if they did, the interrogation methods they purportedly endured surely would generate heartburn for federal judges. Now that they may have been tortured, in other words, they very likely cannot be successfully prosecuted....
There is one theoretically bright spot regarding torture in recent news:
Slamming the government for shipping terror suspects like former Framingham resident Maher Arar to nations known to use torture, U.S. Rep. Ed Markey filed legislation to outlaw such extraordinary rendition. "Extraordinary rendition is outsourcing torture, and it is morally repugnant to allow such a practice to continue," said Markey, D-7th. His proposed bill would direct the U.S. State Department to compile a list of countries that commonly torture and degrade suspects during interrogation and detention and then prohibit U.S. officials from sending suspects there.
Arar, a 34-year-old Canadian resident born in Syria, said U.S. officials nabbed him in a New York airport as a presumed al Qaeda terrorist in October 2002 and sent him to Syria where he was tortured for 10 months. He was never charged with a crime and is suing the United States for violating laws including the Torture Victim Protection Act.
The legislation Markey filed yesterday still would permit legal treaty-based extradition, in which suspects can appeal in court to block their extradition because of a likelihood they would be tortured or treated inhumanely. [...] Markey, a senior member of the Homeland Security Committee, has not been able to determine how many other terror suspects have been subjected to extraordinary rendition by the Bush Administration.
This is only a theoretically bright spot for a few reasons.
First, the bill will never pass. The House leadership will likely quietly table the bill or send it into some committee where it will die a quiet, unnoticed death. The House leadership will do this at the quiet request of the White House, which wants to keep its options legally open without being seen to do so. If the bill were to proceed to debate, the White House would then be required to state, on the record, again, that they think that torture is just peachy-keen, thanks, and they really really like being able to do stuff like that, because it deters US citizens from even thinking about protesting against their government! (What? You thought this was meant to send a message to foreign terrorists? How? They thought that this was what the US was like in the first place. And if you're determined to martyr yourself, it scarcely matters to your audience if you do it by blowing yourself up, getting yourself killed, or getting yourself captured by the Great Satan. The only people this message can possibly be meant for is us.)
Second, if, by some means, this bill does make it to debate, this administration has shown that it is oddly willing to shoot itself in the foot by stating that it wants to keep torture officially on the table. This despite the fact that according to existing US law and international treaties, it was never on the table in the first place.
Third, if this bill somehow manages to pass with a vetoproof majority -- because this president will never ever sign the thing -- the administration will simply ignore it. Everyone knows this. They practice secret rendition now; it's not as though they were ever going to suddenly say, "Well, we're sending these people here off to Syria -- yes, yes, the Axis of Evil country, but evil has its uses -- to be tortured for a while until we get something useful out of them."
It would be nice to have this law on the books to be used against any administration that ignored it ... but it simply won't happen.Posted by iain at February 18, 2005 12:09 PM