Category Archives: Torture

Cables: FBI trained Egypt’s state security ‘torturers’

open quoteEgypt’s secret police, long accused of torturing suspects and intimidating political opponents of President Hosni Mubarak, received training at the FBI’s facility in Quantico, Virginia, even as US diplomats compiled allegations of brutality against them, according to US State Department cables released by WikiLeaks.close quote (Read more from rawstory.com)

Torturing Bradley Manning

Dirty revenge for embarrassing the political elite. We are the U.S.S.A.

open quoteBoth The Guardian and the Associated Press are reporting that the U.N.’s top official in charge of torture is now formally investigating the conditions under which the U.S. is detaining accused WikiLeaks leaker Bradley Manning. Last week, I described the inhumane terms of his detention at a Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia, including being held 23 out of 24 hours a day in solitary confinement for seven straight months and counting as well as other punitive measures (such as strict prohibitions on any exercise inside his cell and the petty denial of pillows and sheets). Manning’s lawyer, former U.S. Army Major and Iraq War veteran David Coombs, thereafter publicly confirmed those facts, and then announced two days ago that efforts to persuade brig officials to allow more human conditions have failed, meaning it is likely that Manning will languish under these repressive restraints for many more months to come, at least.

In addition to confirming the facts I reported, Maj. Coombs added several disturbing new ones, including the paltry, isolated terms of Manning’s one-hour-a-day so-called “exercise” time (he’s “taken to an empty room and only allowed to walk,” “normally just walks figure eights in the room,” “if he indicates that he no long feels like walking, he is immediately returned to his cell”); the bizarre requirement that, despite not being on suicide watch, Manning respond to guards all day, every day, by saying “yes” every 5 minutes (even though guards cannot and “do not engage in conversation with” him); and various sleep-disruptive measures (he is barred from sleeping at any time from 5:00 am – 8:00 pm, and, during the night, “if the guards cannot see PFC Manning clearly, because he has a blanket over his head or is curled up towards the wall, they will wake him”).close quote (Read more from salon.com)

CIA kidnaps, tortures German citizen, tries to keep him prisoner they discover he’s innocent

I hate the James Bond image of the CIA. I think any violent organization with the power to conceal its mistakes will be reckless, barbaric, and grossly incompetent.

open quoteDespite El-Masri’s protests that he was not al-Masri, he was beaten, stripped naked, shot full of drugs, given an enema and a diaper, and flown first to Baghdad and then to the notorious “salt pit,” the CIA’s secret interrogation facility in Afghanistan. At the salt pit, he was repeatedly beaten, drugged, and subjected to a strange food regime that he supposed was part of an experiment that his captors were performing on him. Throughout this time, El-Masri insisted that he had been falsely imprisoned, and the CIA slowly established that he was who he claimed to be. Over many further weeks of bickering over what to do, a number of CIA figures apparently argued that, though innocent, the best course was to continue to hold him incommunicado because he “knew too much.” Dana Priest furnished the core of this account in an excellent 2005 Washington Post story. Other aspects have been slowly confirmed by German criminal investigators. By studying El-Masri’s hair and skin samples, for instance, they were able to confirm allegations that he was drugged and subjected to a bizarre starvation regimen. Throughout this process, El-Masri’s account of what transpired, part of which he wrote up as an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, has consistently been vindicated.close quote (Read more from harpers.org)

Terrorist Show Trials

open quoteThe trial of Omar Khadr has been called a travesty of justice, a violation of the rule of law, a kangaroo court and lots of other things beside. But what it really was, was a show trial.

On the main charge, “murder in violation of the laws of war” (a crime that doesn’t appear to even exist in international law, given that combatants who kill other soldiers in combat are not violating the laws of war), the chief evidence against the then-15-year-old child soldier was his own confession. And that confession, made years ago and long since recanted, was obtained under conditions that any normal human being would describe as torture.

Omar Khadr was captured in 2002 in Afghanistan. He was the only survivor after a firefight and an air strike on an al-Qaeda position. He had been wounded in his shoulder and in both eyes, shot twice in the back and was near death. It was alleged that, just before he was shot, he had thrown a grenade at attacking American troops, killing one of them. As already noted, he was 15 years old.

He then spent several months in the hellhole that was Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, where he claims — credibly, given all that we know about what went on at Bagram — that he was subjected to sleep deprivation, the chaining of his hands above his head for hours, that he was hooded and threatened by dogs, and sometimes forced to urinate on himself because he was not unshackled to go to the bathroom.

His chief interrogator at Bagram admitted to telling the teenage boy that unless he co-operated, he would be sent to a U.S. prison, where a group of black men would gang rape him to death. Ponder that for a moment.

He was interviewed about 25 times by this interrogator, Joshua Claus. Claus was also the interrogator for an Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar who was chained to the ceiling and beaten to death in Bagram in 2002; Claus pled guilty to his involvement in the affair and received a five month sentence. In a lovely Orwellian touch, the U.S. government insisted that reporters covering Khadr’s trial not name Claus, but instead refer to him as “Interrogator 1.”

In Bagram, Khadr confessed that he had thrown the grenade that killed an American soldier. No one saw him do this, so his confession is really the only evidence of the act. Last summer, U.S. military judge Colonel Patrick Parrish ruled that the confession, despite the obviously coercive circumstances under which it was made, had been freely given, and could be used against Khadr in court.

This week, Omar Khadr was offered the following choice: plead guilty, or face two different routes to life in prison. He could go to trial, and thanks to a confession that would be laughed out of any real court of law, he’d probably be convicted. But even if the court somehow found him not guilty, the U.S. reserved the right to detain him indefinitely as an enemy combatant. The only sure way to get out of jail early was to tell his interrogators what they wanted to hear.

On Monday, Khadr was even forced to cop to other crimes, including the killing of two Afghan soldiers, something he wasn’t even charged with, and for which the prosecution appears to have had no evidence. And, in a nice touch that Stalin would have appreciated, Khadr appears to have also been forced to sign away his right to sue his jailors for the various forms of deprivation and abuse that he was subject to. In court on Monday, Col. Patrick Parrish repeatedly asked Khadr to confirm that he was agreeing to these terms willingly, that he really, truly, sincerely wanted to plead guilty all of his own accord. Khadr said yes. They could have told him to confess that he had simultaneously piloted all four hijacked planes on 9/11, and he would have done it.

And so the Bush administration project of ridding the world of terrorism by means of torture comes full circle. The U.S. military and CIA, ordered to use force to extract information from detainees, something that violated not just U.S. military tradition but U.S. military law, had to come up with new interrogation techniques, and quickly. They turned to history, including copying communist coercion-based interrogation models, such as those that captured American troops had been subjected to during the Korean War.

The original communist torture techniques, which for a time inspired the standard operating procedures at Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Guantanamo and the secret black sites, were not designed to elicit truth. They were designed to produce false confessions: That was the whole point.close quote (Read more from nationalpost.com)

Torture Apologist become Washington Post Columnist & Obama’s indifference

“Courting Disaster” (Regnery; $29.95), by Marc A. Thiessen, a former speechwriter in the Bush Administration, begins by imagining the horror that would have resulted had the plot succeeded. He conjures fifteen hundred dead airline passengers, televised “images of debris floating in the ocean,” and gleeful jihadis issuing fresh threats: “We will rain upon you such terror and destruction that you will never know peace.”

The plot, of course, was thwarted—an outcome that has been credited to smart detective work. But Thiessen writes that there is a more important reason that his dreadful scenario never came to pass: the Central Intelligence Agency provided the United Kingdom with pivotal intelligence, using “enhanced interrogation techniques” approved by the Bush Administration.

. . . .

Yet Thiessen is better at conveying fear than at relaying the facts. His account of the foiled Heathrow plot, for example, is “completely and utterly wrong,” according to Peter Clarke, who was the head of Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorism branch in 2006. “The deduction that what was being planned was an attack against airliners was entirely based upon intelligence gathered in the U.K.,” Clarke said, adding that Thiessen’s “version of events is simply not recognized by those who were intimately involved in the airlines investigation in 2006.” Nor did Scotland Yard need to be told about the perils of terrorists using liquid explosives. The bombers who attacked London’s public-transportation system in 2005, Clarke pointed out, “used exactly the same materials.”

Thiessen’s claim about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed looks equally shaky.

. . . .

Recently, Thiessen was hired by the Washington Post as an online columnist. Neither a journalist nor a terrorism expert, he got his start as a publicist for conservative politicians, among them Jesse Helms, the late Republican senator from North Carolina. After Bush’s election in 2000, he began writing speeches for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and, eventually, became a speechwriter in the Bush White House.

. . . .

Thiessen’s effort to rewrite the history of the C.I.A.’s interrogation program comes not long after a Presidential race in which both the Republican and the Democratic nominees agreed that state-sponsored cruelty had damaged and dishonored America. The publication of “Courting Disaster” suggests that Obama’s avowed determination “to look forward, not back” has laid the recent past open to partisan reinterpretation. By holding no one accountable for past abuse, and by convening no commission on what did and didn’t protect the country, President Obama has left the telling of this dark chapter in American history to those who most want to whitewash it. (Read more from newyorker.com)

Italy convicts CIA rendition agents

An Italian judge has convicted 23 US secret agents over the 2003 abduction of an Egyptian imam from a Milan street in an extraordinary rendition by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The trial was the first in the world to centre on the agency’s controversial programme, in which “terror” suspects are thought to have been transferred to countries known to practise torture.

The case concerned the seizure of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, and his transfer to Egypt, where he claims he was tortured.

All of the Americans were tried in absentia, with 22 sentenced to five years in jail and Robert Seldon Lady, the Milan CIA station chief, handed eight years in prison. (Read more from english.aljazeera.net)

Obama wins Orwellian “Peace” prize while expanding war, defending torture, targeting Iran

While continuing the 9th year of war in Afghanistan with all objective evidence demonstrating the US invasion is an illegal War of Aggression, refusing criminal investigation for torture despite all case law declaring waterboarding definitively as torture, despite over a year’s history of lying about Iran threatening to “wipe Israel off the map” and collaborating in the same lying war rhetoric against Iran that began his predecessor’s wars, and his defense of Israel in their enslavement of Gaza in the world’s largest concentration camp, Barack Obama and the Nobel Committee challenged the world’s peace advocates and sane citizens with an act George Orwell would sadly nod to in recognition: calling the criminal gang-leader of empire, war, and death as a leader for “peace.” (Read more from examiner.com)

CIA Releases Its Instructions For Breaking a Detainee’s Will

By Joby Warrick, Peter Finn and Julie Tate
Washington Post Staff Writers

As the session begins, the detainee stands naked, except for a hood covering his head. Guards shackle his arms and legs, then slip a small collar around his neck. The collar will be used later; according to CIA guidelines for interrogations, it will serve as a handle for slamming the detainee’s head against a wall.

After removing the hood, the interrogator opens with a slap across the face — to get the detainee’s attention — followed by other slaps, the guidelines state. Next comes the head-slamming, or “walling,” which can be tried once “to make a point,” or repeated again and again.

“Twenty or thirty times consecutively” is permissible, the guidelines say, “if the interrogator requires a more significant response to a question.” And if that fails, there are far harsher techniques to be tried.

Five years after the CIA’s secret detention program came to light, much is known about the spy agency’s decision to use harsh techniques, including waterboarding, to pry information from alleged al-Qaeda leaders. Now, with the release late Monday of guidelines for interrogating high-value detainees, the agency has provided — in its own words — the first detailed description of the step-by-step procedures used to systematically crush a detainee’s will to resist by eliciting stress, exhaustion and fear.

The guidelines, along with thousands of pages from other newly released documents, also show how the CIA gradually imposed limits on the program and eliminated some of the most controversial practices after the agency’s medical advisers protested.

Still, by Dec. 30, 2004, the date of the CIA memo that outlines the guidelines to the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, agency interrogators had grown adept at using sleep deprivation, stress positions and sometimes multiple methods to create a “state of learned helplessness and dependence.”

“Certain interrogation techniques place the detainee in more physical and psychological stress and, therefore, are considered more effective tools,” according to the memo, released under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Amnesty International USA and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The CIA on Tuesday declined to comment on the memo, which was written by an agency lawyer whose name was redacted from the document. But agency spokesman George Little noted that the interrogation program operated under guidelines approved by top legal officials of the Bush administration’s Justice Department. (Read more from informationclearinghouse.info)

Obama Promises Senators He Will Help Pass Bill Banning Torture Photos

“President Barack Obama sent a letter July 29 to Senators Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham informing them that he would work with Congress to ensure legislation is passed that would block the release of any photographs and videos depicting U.S. Soldiers abusing detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan captured after 9/11.” (Read more from pubrecord.org)

New boss seems a lot like the old boss.