Archive for the ‘Bush Administration’ Category
Guantánamo Diary author cleared for release after 14 years of imprisonment with no charges ever filed
Just a guy who had bad luck. The US government will not, of course, offer any compensation or apologies for torturing him and imprisoning him for 14 years. The US believes that it can do that sort of thing with impunity, though of course the US would mightily object if some country did that to US citizens—or maybe not. The US seems to care less and less about its citizens: look at how the US runs VA, at how many unarmed people are shot to death by police, at how citizens are no longer protected by the 4th Amendment against unreasonable searches and seizures (e.g., civil asset forfeiture).
Cora Currier reports in The Intercept:
An interagency review board has determined that Guantánamo detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi poses no threat to the United States and has recommended that he be released, setting the bestselling author on the path to be reunited with his family.
Slahi was arrested in his native Mauritania in 2001, and was held and tortured in secret prisons in Afghanistan and Jordan before being secreted to Guantánamo, an odyssey he recounted in a memoir, Guantánamo Diary, which became a bestseller last year. He has been imprisoned for over 14 years without being charged with a crime.
In early June, Slahi made his case to the Periodic Review Board as part of a sort of parole process instituted by the Obama administration to evaluate the cases of the remaining men at Guantánamo to determine if they might be safely transferred to another country.
At that hearing, Slahi’s advocates, including his lawyer and two representatives from the military, described his plans to continue writing and to start a small business, and noted the strong network of family and other supporters who could help him. They spoke to his unusual language skills and warm relationship with his lawyers and even the guards assigned to him. The military representatives described him as “an advocate for peace” and stated they were “certain that Mohamedou’s intentions after Guantánamo are genuine, and that he possesses sound judgment, and that he is good for his word.” One former guard submitted a letter attesting that he “would be pleased to welcome [Slahi] into my home.” (In keeping with the general secrecy of proceedings at Guantánamo, Slahi was not allowed speak during the open portion of the review, and he declined to have his own statement from the closed session made public.)
In a document dated July 14 but released today, the board members noted Slahi’s “highly compliant behavior in detention,” “candid responses to the Board’s questions,” and “clear indications of a change in the detainee’s mindset.” They had also taken into consideration his “robust and realistic plan for the future.”
Slahi has admitted to traveling to Afghanistan in the early 1990s to fight with the mujahideen against the Soviet-backed government, and the government claims he helped recruit and facilitate the travel of al Qaeda fighters. In 2010, a federal judge found that he was not a member of al Qaeda when the U.S. picked him up; the judge ordered his release, but that casestalled on appeal.
The board’s recommendation on a detainee is just a first step. The secretary of defense must arrange for a country to receive him and notify Congress of the transfer. In Slahi’s case, the government of Mauritania has already indicated that it would be willing to take him back.
One of Slahi’s lawyers, Hina Shamsi of the American Civil Liberties Union, said they were pressing the Pentagon to arrange for his actual release as soon as possible, but the exact timing is uncertain.
“We will now work toward his quick release and return to the waiting arms of his loving family,” said Nancy Hollander, another of his lawyers, in a statement. “This is long overdue.”
There are currently 76 men still held in Guantánamo. Including Slahi, 31 of them have been approved for release. . .
Presumably he’s being released because he paid his debt to society? But that’s not it: he never did anything wrong.
At Mother Jones Kevin Drum has an excellent post with two illuminating charts:
The theme of the convention tonight was supposed to be “Make America Work Again.” But Donald Trump has a famously short attention span, and apparently that’s spilled over into the scheduling of the entire convention. As near as I can tell, not a single person talked about jobs and the economy except maybe soap opera star Kimberlin Brown, who grows avocadoes and spent several minutes railing against Obamacare.
However, I didn’t watch every minute of the convention, so maybe I missed one of the early C-list speakers talking about jobs. On the off chance that this happened, I have two charts for you. First, here’s a re-up of one of my favorites, showing that Republicans did everything they possibly could to keep America from recovering while Obama was president:
As you can see from the various red and orange lines, Republicans were eager to increase spending for Reagan, Bush Jr., and Bush Sr.—at least until he lost the election and Clinton took over. Then they cut back. For Obama, they depressed public spending from the start. That’s the blue line. Today, more than six years after the official end of the recession, public spending is more than 20 points lower than the trendline for Reagan and Bush.
Nonetheless, check out Obama’s record on job growth:
Even with two big tax cuts and a housing bubble, Bush Jr. managed to create only 10.9 million jobs. Obama, even with the headwind of Republican obstruction, has created 13.1 million jobs so far. . . .
What’s odd and disturbing is that these facts will have zero influence on the GOP. Neither officeholders nor voters in the GOP seem to have any interest in factual evidence. Indeed, look at how they are almost rabid with anger at Hillary Clinton because she lies. Haven’t they noticed that Donald Trump lies incessantly, and continues to tell the same lies even when it is clear that they are lies and the person he’s talking with knows that they are lies and even points out that they’re lies. That doesn’t even make Trump pause: he continues to tell old lies and make up new lies constantly. And the GOP doesn’t like Hillary because she lies?
I don’t get it.
Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai has a very interesting post (with video) in Motherboard. The written part begins:
Thomas Drake was a 48-year-old decorated Air Force and Navy veteran, and a senior executive at the National Security Agency, the NSA, when he decided he had to speak up against what he considered the spy agency’s abuses.
That’s when he anonymously contacted a reporter at The Baltimore Sun, helping her expose wrongdoing at the agency in a series of articles. Two years later, the FBI raided his home, and the US government launched an investigation into Drake for leaking classified information and espionage.
All of a sudden, Drake faced the possibility of spending most, if not all, of the rest of his life in jail. Looking back now, after he escaped jail and only pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, Drake says it was all worth it.
“History was at stake,” he said in a recent interview with VICE’s reporter Ben Makuch filmed for VICELAND’s series on hacking and surveillance, CYBERWAR.
In a deleted scene [which is the video at the article link – LG], Drake explains how the NSA got “unleashed” after 9/11 and expanded its spying powers, pushing it beyond the limits of what he believed was acceptable.
“The mantra was, just get the data,” Drake said. “Collect it all, so we can know it all.”
“All means necessary to confront the threat, who cares about the Constitution, who cares about law, who cares about the rights of US persons,” Drake added. . .
Very interesting question: Would Turkey Be Justified in Kidnapping or Drone-Killing the Turkish Cleric in Pennsylvania?
Certainly the view of the US government is that Turkey would be fully justified in kidnapping or assassinating the Pennsylvania man: that is exactly what the US does, and clearly believes that it is right and appropriate to do it. How can the same actions that are promoted by the US government for itself be wrong if done by another government? It would make no sense, but of course we’ve long since left the realm of sense.
Glenn Greenwald writes in The Intercept:
Tukey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan places the blame for this weekend’s failed coup attempt on an Islamic preacher and one-time ally, Fethullah Gulen (above), who now resides in Pennsylvania with a green card. Erdogan is demanding the U.S. extradite Gulen, citing prior extraditions by the Turkish government of terror suspects demanded by the U.S.: “Now we’re saying deliver this guy who’s on our terrorist list to us.” Erdogan has been requesting Gulen’s extradition from the U.S. for at least two years, on the ground that he has been subverting the Turkish government while harbored by the U.S. Thus far, the U.S. is refusing, with Secretary of State John Kerry demanding of Turkey: “Give us the evidence, show us the evidence. We need a solid legal foundation that meets the standard of extradition.”
In light of the presence on U.S. soil of someone the Turkish government regards as a “terrorist” and a direct threat to its national security, would Turkey be justified in dispatching a weaponized drone over Pennsylvania to find and kill Gulen if the U.S. continues to refuse to turn him over, or sending covert operatives to kidnap him? That was the question posed yesterday by Col. Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor of Guantánamo’s military commissions who resigned in protest over the use of torture-obtained evidence:
If Fethullah Gulen is considered a threat to Erdogan & Turkey’s gov’t doesn’t Turkey have a right to drone strike him in Pennsylvania? @CNN
— Col. Morris Davis (@ColMorrisDavis) July 16, 2016
That question, of course, is raised by the fact that the U.S. has spent many years now doing exactly this: employing various means — including but not limited to drones — to abduct and kill people in multiple countries whom it has unilaterally decided (with no legal process) are “terrorists” or who otherwise are alleged to pose a threat to its national security. Since it cannot possibly be the case that the U.S. possesses legal rights that no other country can claim — right? — the question naturally arises whether Turkey would be entitled to abduct or kill someone it regards as a terrorist when the U.S. is harboring him and refuses to turn him over.
The only viable objection to Turkey’s assertion of this authority would be to claim that the U.S. limits its operations to places where lawlessness prevails, something that is not true of Pennsylvania. But this is an inaccurate description of the U.S.’s asserted entitlement. In fact, after 9/11, the U.S. threatened Afghanistan with bombing and invasion unless the Taliban government immediately turned over Osama bin Laden, and the Taliban’s answer was strikingly similar to what the U.S. just told Turkey about Gulen:
The ruling Taliban of Afghanistan today further complicated the status of Osama bin Laden and rejected the ultimatum of the United States that he and his lieutenants be handed over to answer for their suspected role in last week’s terrorist attacks in the United States.
The Taliban’s ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, said at a news conference in Islamabad, “Our position in this regard is that if the Americans have evidence, they should produce it.” If they can prove their allegations, he said, “we are ready for a trial of Osama bin Laden.”
Asked again whether Mr. bin Laden would be surrendered, the ambassador replied, “Without evidence, no.”
The U.S. refused to provide any such evidence — “These demands are not open to negotiation or discussion,” said President George W. Bush at the time — and the U.S. bombing and invasion of Afghanistan began two weeks thereafter, and continues to this day, 15 years later. The justification there was not that the Taliban were incapable of arresting and extraditing bin Laden, but rather that they refused to do so without evidence of his guilt being provided and some legal/judicial action invoked.
Nor are such U.S. actions against individual terror suspects confined to countries where lawlessness prevails. In 2003, the CIA kidnapped a clericfrom the streets of Milan, Italy, and shipped him to Egypt to be tortured (CIA agents involved have been prosecuted in Italy, though the U.S. government has vehemently defended them). In 2004, the U.S. abducted a German citizen in Macedonia, flew him to Afghanistan, tortured and drugged him, then unceremoniously dumped him back on the street when it realized he was innocent; but the U.S. has refused ever since to compensate him or even apologize, leaving his life in complete shambles. The U.S. has repeatedly killed people in Pakistan with drones and other attacks, including strikes when it had no idea who it was killing, and also stormed a compound in Abbottabad — where the Pakistani government has full reign — in order to kill Osama bin Laden in 2010.
U.S. drone kills of terror suspects (including its own citizens) are extremely popular among Americans, including (in the age of Obama) those who self-identify as liberal Democrats. Yet it’s virtually certain that Americans across the ideological spectrum would explode in nationalistic outrage if Turkey actually did the same thing in Pennsylvania; indeed, the consequences for Turkey if it dared to do so are hard to overstate. . .
I would guess that Turkey, heeding the US example, is seriously considering assassination by some means of the Pennsylvania cleric, or at least forced rendition (i.e., kidnapping, as the US did in Macedonia, Italy, and elsewhere) to Turkey for imprisonment and torture (again following the US example).
I’m sure the CIA would indeed comply: there’s no punishment at all for torturing people when the president orders it. That’s been well established under George W. Bush (the president who ordered that people be tortured) and Barack Obama (the succeeding president who made the decision that the torturers and those who ordered the torture would not be punished or even charged—indeed, quite a few received promotions, as did the CIA official who destroyed all the video evidence). I don’t see that there’s any “might” about it.
Here’s the article by Alex Emmons in The Intercept:
It is, of course, against the law for members of the government to torture people, and it’s quite explicit (as in the Convention Against Torture treaty that the US signed and ratified). That makes no difference. The precedent is that the US government can torture people and can block any legal action from the victims. That’s the takeaway, and that’s the direction the US has elected to go. And the GOP candidate for president has promised explicitly that he will inaugurate much more brutal torture programs, and his supporters seem to like it.
I think government torture is definitely a part of the US identity now.
Raymond Bonner reports in ProPublica:
I would be strapped to a board by my arms and legs and by my waist (which was very painful because of my wound.)
Guards with black costumes, masks and black goggles strapped me in. My mouth and nose and eyes were covered by a cloth.
The board — and my body — were placed horizontally. My head was immobilized by a board. Someone poured over the cloth, which entered my mouth and nose. I could hear one water bottle empty out by the gurgling noise it made; I hoped that would end the process, then I heard another bottle start to pour.
Water would enter my lungs. I felt like my whole body was filled with water; even my eyes felt like they were drowning. I experienced the panicked sensation of death and my body convulsed in terror and resistance.
“I thought ‘I will die. I will die.’ I lost control of my functions and urinated on myself. At the last possible moment, I instantly vomited water violently but at the same time was still panicked and desperate for air.”
In 2009, Abu Zubaydah’s lawyers interviewed their client and prepared a handwritten, first-person account of the torture their client suffered at the hands of the U.S. government.
The document, quoted above, recounts the terrifying experience of a man repeatedly waterboarded in the mistaken belief that he was al-Qaida’s No. 3 official. It was filed in federal court as part of his lawsuit seeking release from Guantanamo, and like nearly all the documents in the case, was sealed at the government’s request.
Now, seven years later, Zubaydah’s statement, which he signed under oath, has been released, and it provides the most detailed, personal description yet made public of his “enhanced interrogation” at a Central Intelligence Agency “black site” in Thailand.
The United States waterboarded Zubaydah 83 times. According to his statement, he was also hung from hooks, “shackled to a chair naked in freezing temperatures,” and bombarded with loud noises that kept him awake for days.
While shackled and being screamed at, he was forced to stand naked in front of a woman. “When I refused to talk with a woman present, [name blacked out] beat my head against the wall repeatedly.”
In between waterboarding sessions, he was placed in what he called a “dog box,” a wooden container that was about 2 ½ feet long, 2 ½ feet wide and 2 ½ feet high.
“The pain in the small box was unbearable,” he said in his declaration. “I was hunched over in a contorted way and my back and knees were in excruciating pain. I began slamming my body and shackled arms against the inside and screaming for help and tried to break the door. The wound in my stomach and leg opened up and I started bleeding; yet I didn’t care: I would do anything to stretch my leg and back for 1 minute.”
At night, he was placed in a slightly larger, coffin-like box.
His interrogators screamed questions and at times he pleaded: “tell me what you want me to say, I will say it! “ At other times, “I just said things that were false and that I had no basis to know or believe simply to get relief from the pain.”
Zubaydah was captured in Pakistan in March 2002. Senior government officials, including President George W. Bush, immediately boasted that they had seized “one of the top three leaders of al-Qaida.”
Years later, the government admitted it had been mistaken about Zubaydah. In a court filing, it said Zubaydah had no involvement or advance knowledge of 9/11, knew nothing about future plots against America, and was not even a member of al-Qaida or the Taliban. He nonetheless remains imprisoned at Guantanamo as an “enemy combatant.”
The case of Abu Zubaydah is part of a contentious political debate about the morality and tactical value of waterboarding. . .
Continue reading. And do read the whole thing. Zubaydah did get an apology from one person. The article concludes:
. . . In spite of all the admissions and informal apologies, Abu Zubaydah remains a prisoner at Guantanamo. In July 2008, he filed a petition for habeas corpus in federal district court in Washington, D.C., seeking his release.For eight years, the case languished, assigned to Chief Judge Richard W. Roberts, who declined to rule on virtually every motion filed by the defense. Roberts stepped down earlier this year — amid sexual assault allegations. The case has been assigned to Judge Emmet G. Sullivan.
In reading the above, think about your lack of knowledge of the specifics of terror plots and how you would be treated by the US government if it even suspected you—and suspicion was all they had on Zubaydah. But that, apparently, was enough to torture him for months. Some suspects were tortured to death by the CIA and American military. That’s the direction the US has taken.
And it’s particularly important to note that those responsible for the torture have faced no accountability whatsoever and enjoy the protection of the current president (who refuses even to acknowledge the kidnapping and torture of an innocent German civilian and will not allow him to go to court to seek recompense—and of course the US will never apologize to him).