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For nine years, DEA withholds names of masked agents who violently raided two innocent women. Federal court shrugs.

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This seems to be the very definition of a police state. Radley Balko reports in the Washington Post:

A few years ago, I wrote about the raid on Geraldine and Caroline Burleyfor the Huffington Post:

When Caroline Burley, now 51, first heard the boom around 5:30 on the evening of June 13, [2007] it sounded like it had come from outside her bedroom window. She rushed to investigate, and as she came out of the room, a man with a gun confronted her, threw her into a wall and then hurled her to the floor. A SWAT team had burst through her front door. Wearing only her nightgown, she asked for mercy. She recently had back surgery, she explained. Instead, one officer, then another kept her close to the floor by putting a boot in her back, according to court filings.

Caroline’s mother, Geraldine Burley, was sitting at her computer in the basement when she heard a loud thud overhead, followed by a scream from her daughter and a man’s voice ordering Caroline Burley to the floor. When she ascended the stairs, she too found a gun pointed at her head, and a man ordered her to get on the floor as well. She thought at first that she was being robbed.

Geraldine, now 70, pleaded with the man to let her move to the floor slowly, explaining to him that she’d had both of her knees replaced. Instead, another officer approached, grabbed her by the face, demanded that she “get the [f–––] on the floor,” then threw her into a table. She tumbled to the ground. At that point, she said later in a deposition, everything turned to “a fire, white and ringing in my ear.” Another officer came up from the basement with her grandson, stepping on her knees in the process. She cried out again in pain.

The officers searched the home but found no drugs, weapons or any other contraband. (They arrested Geraldine’s grandson on an unrelated misdemeanor warrant.)

This was part of Operation Eight Mile, a three-day period in 2007 in which drug cops from 21 federal, state and local police agencies conducted hundreds of raids on the famously crime-ridden road. (For all that manpower, the raids didn’t turn up much: 50 ounces of marijuana, 6.5 ounces of cocaine and 19 guns.)

The Burleys tried to get the officers’ names and badge numbers to file a complaint. This presented a problem:

According to the Burleys’ accounts, the officers who raided their home were clad in black. Some wore balaclava masks or face shields that hid all but their eyes. Others pulled their hats down low to shield their identities. They had also obscured their names and badge numbers. Once the Burleys’ house had been thoroughly searched, both women asked the officers for their names. After holding an impromptu meeting, the officers told the Burleys that they wouldn’t divulge any information that could identify them individually. Instead, they told the women that they had just been raided by “Team 11.” The women weren’t given a search warrant.

“Team 11″ didn’t actually exist. It was part of a Drug Enforcement Administration squad called “Team 6.” But for the Eight Mile operation, the team was partially split up and reorganized with members of state and local police agencies, then renamed just for that particular operation.

The entire operation was coordinated by the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office. When the Burleys asked the office for the names of the officers who raided their home, the office said it had no record of that raid, directing them instead to the DEA. The DEA told the Burleys that the agency was transitioning to a new administration and couldn’t respond, but that it would eventually get back to them. It never did. The Burleys finally filed a lawsuit in state court, which forced the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department to give them the records of the raid that the office previously said didn’t exist. Included in those records was a DEA report with the names of the agents who participated in the raid.

For their lawsuit, the Burleys sent the named agents questionnaires. The agents filled them out, denying that they ever violated the women’s civil rights. But notably, none of the agents denied that they had participated in the raid.

That all changed during depositions for the lawsuit. In what was a complete surprise to the Burleys’ attorneys, every agent named in the report denied participating in the raid. Instead, they claimed that “Team 11″ had actually been split into two on that particular day. One team raided the Burleys, while the other raided a home nearby. The agents claimed that the DEA report must have included the names of the wrong half of “Team 11″ by mistake. They were all in the other house.

So the Burleys’ attorneys did what you’d expect them to do: They deposed the other half of the team. You probably know where this is going. All of those agents also claimed to have been in the other house. No one denies that the Burleys were raided. No one denies that one half of “Team 11″ conducted that raid. But both halves of “Team 11″ insist it was the other half that was in in the Burleys’ home. Deputies from the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department were also on the raid, but apparently stood outside the home while the DEA agents did the dirty work. Yet none of the deputies on the Burley raid could remember which DEA agents were with them.

“It’s one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen,” Burley attorney Stanley Okoli told me a few years ago. “I asked, ‘which amongst you went to one address?’ and they said they couldn’t remember. So I asked, ‘which amongst you went to the other address?’ and they said they couldn’t remember.”

To file a civil rights lawsuit against law enforcement officers, you need to know the names of the actual officers. The courts won’t allow you to file a civil rights claim against a police or government agency in general. By the time the DEA agents sprang their surprise on the Burleys, the statute of limitations on their lawsuit had nearly run out.

The Burleys filed their lawsuit anyway, hoping they could persuade a court to compel the DEA to name the officers who participated in the raid. It just got worse from there:

In June 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman first dismissed the Burleys’ claims against Wayne County, then preempted a jury verdict in the trial against the federal agents. He ruled that, given the evidence, no reasonable jury could find in the plaintiffs’ favor, and in addition ordered the Burleys to pay the DEA agents $5,000 to compensate them for court costs.

“These women are destitute,” Okoli told HuffPost. “That was completely discretionary. He didn’t have to do that.” Because the women couldn’t pay, the government moved to garnish their Social Security disability checks to cover the fine.

The following year, a panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld the dismissal of the sheriff’s deputies from the lawsuit, but reinstated the claims against the federal agents and vacated the order for the Burleys to pay court costs. The panel found that “the agents’ intent to conceal contributed to the plaintiffs’ impaired ability to identify them.”

The problem:  . . .

Continue reading.

This is where the US is headed: police operating as a paramilitary force with no accountability and no transparency. (Recall that the NYPD has just proclaimed that it will release no information about disciplinary proceedings against any officer. Their position is that the public has no right to know and that the public should simply trust the NYPD to discipline or terminate officers guilty of misconduct.

What happened in this raid seems to amount to little more than terrorism of citizens by government officials.

And do read the rest of the report. Kafka would be proud.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 August 2016 at 11:12 am

What does it mean when war hawks say “Never Trump”?

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Rebecca Gordon writes in Salon:

It’s not every day that Republicans publish an open letter announcing that their presidential candidate is unfit for office. But lately this sort of thing has beenhappening more and more frequently. The most recent example: we just heard from 50 representatives of the national security apparatus, men — and a few women — who served under Republican presidents from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush. All of them are very worried about Donald Trump.

They think we should be alerted to the fact that the Republican standard-bearer “lacks the character, values and experience to be president.”

That’s true of course, but it’s also pretty rich, coming from this bunch. The letter’s signers include, among others, the man who was Condoleezza Rice’s legal advisorwhen she ran the National Security Council (John Bellinger III); one of George W. Bush’s CIA directors who also ran the National Security Agency (Michael Hayden); a Bush administration ambassador to the United Nations and Iraq (John Negroponte); an architect of the neoconservative policy in the Middle East adopted by the Bush administration that led to the invasion of Iraq, who has since served as president of the World Bank (Robert Zoellick). In short, given the history of the “global war on terror,” this is your basic list of potential American war criminals.

Their letter continues, “He weakens U.S. moral authority as the leader of the free world.”

There’s a sentence that could use some unpacking.

What is the “free world”?

Let’s start with the last bit: “the leader of the free world.” That’s what journalists used to call the U.S. president, and occasionally the country as a whole, during the Cold War. Between the end of World War II and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the “free world” included all the English-speaking countries outside Africa, along with western Europe, North America, some South American dictatorships and nations like the Philippines that had a neocolonial relationship with the United States.

The U.S.S.R. led what, by this logic, was the un-free world, including the Warsaw Pactcountries in eastern Europe, the “captive” Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, the People’s Republic of China (for part of the period), North Korea and of course Cuba. Americans who grew up in these years knew that the people living behind the “Iron Curtain” were not free. We’d seen the bus ads and public service announcements on television requesting donations for Radio Free Europe, sometimes illustrated with footage of a pale adolescent man, his head crowned with chains.

I have absolutely no doubt that he and his eastern European countrymen were far from free. I do wonder, however, how free his counterparts in the American-backed Brazilian, Argentinian, Chilean and Philippine dictatorships felt.

The two great adversaries, together with the countries in their spheres of influence, were often called the First and Second Worlds. Their rulers treated the rest of the planet — the Third World — as a chessboard across which they moved their proxy armies and onto which they sometimes targeted their missiles. Some countries in the Third World refused to be pawns in the superpower game, and created a non-aligned movement, which sought to thread a way between the Scylla and Charybdis of the United States and the Soviet Union.

Among its founders were some of the great Third World nationalists: Sukarno of Indonesia, Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, along with Yugoslavia’s President Josip Broz Tito.

Other countries weren’t so lucky. When the United States took over from France the (unsuccessful) project of defeating Vietnam’s anti-colonial struggle, people in the United States were assured that the war that followed with its massive bombing, napalming and Agent-Oranging of a peasant society represented the advance of freedom against the forces of communist enslavement. Central America also served as a Cold War battlefield, with Washington fighting proxy wars during the 1980s in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, where poor campesinos had insisted on being treated as human beings and were often brutally murdered for their trouble. In addition, the United States funded, trained and armed a military dictatorship in Honduras, where John Negroponte — one of the anti-Trump letter signers — was the U.S. ambassador from 1981 to 1985.

The Soviet Union is, of course, long gone, but the “free world,” it seems, remains, and so American officials still sometimes refer to us as its leader — an expression that only makes sense, of course, in the context of dual (and dueling) worlds. On a post-Soviet planet, however, it’s hard to know just what national or geographic configuration constitutes today’s “un-free world.” Is it (as Donald Trump might have it) everyone living under Arab or Muslim rule? Or could it be that amorphous phenomenon we call “terrorism” or “Islamic terrorism” that can sometimes reach into the “free world” and slaughter innocents as in San Bernardino, California, Orlando, Florida or Nice, France? Or could it be the old Soviet Union reincarnated in Vladimir Putin’s Russia or even a rising capitalist China still controlled by a Communist Party?

Faced with the loss of a primary antagonist and the confusion on our planet, George W. Bush was forced to downsize the perennial enemy of freedom from Reagan’s old “evil empire” (the Soviet Union) to three “rogue states,” Iraq, Iran and North Korea, which in an address to Congress he so memorably labeled the “axis of evil.” The first of these lies in near ruins; the second we’ve recently signed a nuclear treaty with; and the third seems incapable of even feeding its own population. Fortunately for the free world, the Bush administration also had some second-string enemies to draw on. In 2002, John Bolton, then an undersecretary of state (and later ambassador to the U.N.), added another group “beyond the axis of evil” — Libya, Syria and Cuba. Of the three, only Cuba is still a functioning nation.

And by the way, the 50 Republican national security stars who denounced Donald Trump in Cold War terms turn out to be in remarkably good company — that of Donald Trump himself (who recently gave a speech invoking American Cold War practices as the basis for his future foreign policy).

“He weakens U.S. moral authority…”

After its twenty-first century wars, its “black sites,” and Guantánamo, among other developments of the age, it’s hard to imagine a much weaker “moral authority” than what’s presently left to the United States. First, we gave the world eight years of George W. Bush’s illegal invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as CIA torture sites, “enhanced interrogation techniques” and a program of quite illegal global kidnappings of terror suspects (some of whom proved innocent of anything). Under President Obama, it seems we’ve traded enhanced interrogation techniques for an “enhanced” use of assassination by drone (again outside any “law” of war, other than the legal documents that the Justice Department has produced to justify such acts).

When Barack Obama took office in January 2009 his first executive order outlawed the CIA’s torture program and closed those black sites. It then looked as if the country’s moral fiber might be stiffening. But when it came to holding the torturers accountable, Obama insisted that the country should “look forward as opposed to looking backwards” and the Justice Department declined to prosecute any of them. It’s hard for a country to maintain its moral authority in the world when it refuses to exert that authority at home.

Two of the letter signers who are so concerned about Trump’s effect on U.S. moral authority themselves played special roles in “weakening” U.S. moral authority through their involvement with the CIA torture program: John Bellinger III and Michael Hayden.

June 26th is the U.N.’s International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. To mark that day in 2003, President Bush issued a statement declaring, “Torture anywhere is an affront to human dignity everywhere. The United States is committed to the world-wide elimination of torture, and we are leading this fight by example.”

The Washington Post story on the president’s speech also carried a quote from Deputy White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan to the effect that all prisoners being held by the U.S. government were being treated “humanely.” John Rizzo, who was then the CIA’s deputy general counsel, called John Bellinger, Condoleezza Rice’s legal counsel at the National Security Council, to express his concern about what both the president and McClellan had said.

The problem was that — as Rizzo and his boss, CIA director George Tenet, well knew — many detainees then held by the CIA were not being treated humanely. They were being tortured or mistreated in various ways. The CIA wanted to be sure that they still had White House backing and approval for their “enhanced interrogation” program, because they didn’t want to be left holding the bag if the truth came out. They also wanted the White House to stop talking about the humane treatment of prisoners.

According to an internal CIA memo, George Tenet convened a July 29, 2003, meeting in Condoleezza Rice’s office to get the necessary reassurance that the CIA would be covered if the truth about torture came out. There, Bellinger reportedly apologized on behalf of the administration, explaining that the White House press secretary had “gone off script,” mistakenly reverting to “old talking points.” He also “undertook to [e]nsure that the White House press office ceases to make statements on the subject other than [to say] that the U.S. is complying with its obligations under U.S. law.”

At that same meeting, Tenet’s chief counsel, Scott Muller, passed out packets of printed PowerPoint slides detailing those enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, so that Bellinger and the others present, including Rice, would understand exactly what he was covering up.

So much for the “moral authority” of John Bellinger III.

As for Michael Hayden (who has held several offices in the national security apparatus), one of his signature acts as CIA Director was . . .

. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 August 2016 at 2:40 pm

Saudis and Extremism: ‘Both the Arsonists and the Firefighters’

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Scott Shane reports in the NY Times:

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump don’t agree on much, but Saudi Arabia may be an exception. She has deplored Saudi Arabia’s support for “radical schools and mosques around the world that have set too many young people on a path towards extremism.” He has called the Saudis “the world’s biggest funders of terrorism.”

The first American diplomat to serve as envoy to Muslim communities around the world visited 80 countries and concluded that the Saudi influence was destroying tolerant Islamic traditions. “If the Saudis do not cease what they are doing,” the official, Farah Pandith, wrote last year, “there must be diplomatic, cultural and economic consequences.”

And hardly a week passes without a television pundit or a newspaper columnist blaming Saudi Arabia for jihadist violence. On HBO, Bill Mahercalls Saudi teachings “medieval,” adding an epithet. In The Washington Post, Fareed Zakaria writes that the Saudis have “created a monster in the world of Islam.”

The idea has become a commonplace: that Saudi Arabia’s export of the rigid, bigoted, patriarchal, fundamentalist strain of Islam known as Wahhabism has fueled global extremism and contributed to terrorism. As the Islamic State projects its menacing calls for violence into the West, directing or inspiring terrorist attacks in country after country, an old debate over Saudi influence on Islam has taken on new relevance.

Is the world today a more divided, dangerous and violent place because of the cumulative effect of five decades of oil-financed proselytizing from the historical heart of the Muslim world? Or is Saudi Arabia, which has often supported Western-friendly autocrats over Islamists, merely a convenient scapegoat for extremism and terrorism with many complex causes — the United States’s own actions among them?

Those questions are deeply contentious, partly because of the contradictory impulses of the Saudi state.

In the realm of extremist Islam, the Saudis are “both the arsonists and the firefighters,” said William McCants, a Brookings Institution scholar. “They promote a very toxic form of Islam that draws sharp lines between a small number of true believers and everyone else, Muslim and non-Muslim,” he said, providing ideological fodder for violent jihadists.

Yet at the same time, “they’re our partners in counterterrorism,” said Mr. McCants, one of three dozen academics, government officials and experts on Islam from multiple countries interviewed for this article.

Saudi leaders seek good relations with the West and see jihadist violence as a menace that could endanger their rule, especially now that the Islamic State is staging attacks in the kingdom — 25 in the last eight months, by the government’s count. But they are also driven by their rivalry with Iran, and they depend for legitimacy on a clerical establishment dedicated to a reactionary set of beliefs. Those conflicting goals can play out in a bafflingly inconsistent manner.

Thomas Hegghammer, a Norwegian terrorism expert who has advised the United States government, said the most important effect of Saudi proselytizing might have been to slow the evolution of Islam, blocking its natural accommodation to a diverse and globalized world. “If there was going to be an Islamic reformation in the 20th century, the Saudis probably prevented it by pumping out literalism,” he said. . .

Continue reading.

And do read the whole thing. There’s a lot more, and it shows how the Saudi initiative has unbalanced the role of Muslim in daily life in dozens of countries and cultures.

Later in the article:

Why does Saudi Arabia find it so difficult to let go of an ideology that much of the world finds repugnant? The key to the Saudi dilemma dates back nearly three centuries to the origin of the alliance that still undergirds the Saudi state.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 August 2016 at 3:13 pm

How many terrorists does the U.S. itself create? ISIS leader was held in Abu Ghraib prison

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When the U.S. uses a drone-fired missile to kill an entire wedding party, how do you think the surviving family members feel? I suppose in part the answer depends on how you feel about your own family members and how you would feel if a foreign power fired a missile into a group of them. But I think many would take it hard.

And how would feel about being imprisoned and tortured by soldiers from a foreign nation, and being humiliated in your own country? Or what would you feel if that happened to a relative or friend? Again, you might accept that such things happen, but I can easily imagine that some might carry a serious grudge.

Joshua Eaton reports in The Intercept:

In February 2004, U.S. troops brought a man named Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badry to Abu Ghraib in Iraq and assigned him serial number US9IZ-157911CI. The prison was about to become international news, but the prisoner would remain largely unknown for the next decade.

At the time the man was brought in, Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba was finalizing his report on allegations of abuse at Abu Ghraib’s Hard Site — a prison building used to house detainees singled out for their alleged violence or their perceived intelligence value. Just weeks later, the first pictures of detainee abuse were published on CBS News and in the New Yorker.

Today, detainee US9IZ-157911CI is better known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State. His presence at Abu Ghraib, a fact not previously made public, provides yet another possible key to the enigmatic leader’s biography and may shed new light on the role U.S. detention facilities played in the rise of the Islamic State.

Experts have long known that Baghdadi spent time in U.S. custody during the occupation of Iraq. Previous reports suggested he was at Camp Bucca, a sprawling detention facility in southern Iraq. But the U.S. Army confirmed toThe Intercept that Baghdadi spent most of his time in U.S. custody at the notorious Abu Ghraib.

Baghdadi’s detainee records don’t mention Abu Ghraib by name. But the internment serial number that U.S. forces issued when they processed him came from the infamous prison, according to Army spokesperson Troy A. Rolan Sr.

“Former detainee al-Baghdadi’s internment serial number sequence number begins with ‘157,’” Rolan said, describing the first three digits of the second half of Baghdadi’s serial number. “This number range was assigned at the Abu Ghraib theater internment facility.”

The details of Baghdadi’s biography have always been murky, and his time in U.S. custody is no exception. In June 2014, the Daily Beast reported that the United States held Baghdadi at Camp Bucca from 2005 to 2009, citing Army Col. Kenneth King, the camp’s former commanding officer. However, King backtracked after U.S. officials told ABC News that Baghdadi was out of U.S. custody by 2006.

Days later, the Pentagon confirmed that Baghdadi was only in U.S. custody for 10 months, from February to December 2004. The Department of Defense told the fact-checking website PunditFact in a statement that Baghdadi was held at Camp Bucca. “A Combined Review and Release Board recommended ‘unconditional release’ of this detainee and he was released from U.S. custody shortly thereafter. We have no record of him being held at any other time.”

In February 2015, the Army released Baghdadi’s detainee records to Business Insider, in response to a records request. They showed that . . .

Continue reading. There’s more worth reading.

Later in the article:

. . . In the occupation’s first few years, U.S. facilities like Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca developed a reputation as “jihadi universities” where hard-line extremists indoctrinated and recruited less radical inmates. Analysts have long suspected that Baghdadi took full advantage of his time at Bucca to link up with the jihadis and former Iraqi military officials who would later fill out the Islamic State’s leadership.

In November 2014, the Soufan Group, a private intelligence firm, published a list of nine Islamic State leaders it said had been detained at Camp Bucca. The list included Baghdadi and Hajji Bakr, a former Iraqi military official who became head of the Islamic State’s military council and is widely reported to have spent time in Bucca. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

25 August 2016 at 2:43 pm

Fractured Lands: How the Arab World Came Apart

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The NY Times has published a lengthy piece on the catastrophe of the conflicts that are tearing apart the Arab world. A convenient starting point is the disastrous decision by the U.S. to invade Iraq (because of the weapons of mass destruction that the Bush Administration assured us were there, despite much evidence to the contrary—the attitude seemed to be, “Let’s invade anyway. What’s the worst that could happen?”, and then we found out. This is quite directly the responsibility of George W. Bush and his key administration figures: Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, George Tenet, and others. They suffer no accountability for what they did, but the destruction they unleashed was vast and is still on-going.

The Times notes:

This is a story unlike any we have previously published. It is much longer than the typical New York Times Magazine feature story; in print, it occupies an entire issue. The product of some 18 months of reporting, it tells the story of the catastrophe that has fractured the Arab world since the invasion of Iraq 13 years ago, leading to the rise of ISIS and the global refugee crisis. The geography of this catastrophe is broad and its causes are many, but its consequences — war and uncertainty throughout the world — are familiar to us all. Scott Anderson’s story gives the reader a visceral sense of how it all unfolded, through the eyes of six characters in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan. Accompanying Anderson’s text are 10 portfolios by the photographer Paolo Pellegrin, drawn from his extensive travels across the region over the last 14 years, as well as a landmark virtual-reality experience that embeds the viewer with the Iraqi fighting forces during the battle to retake Falluja.

It is unprecedented for us to focus so much energy and attention on a single story, and to ask our readers to do the same. We would not do so were we not convinced that what follows is one of the most clear-eyed, powerful and human explanations of what has gone wrong in this region that you will ever read.

– Jake Silverstein, Editor in Chief

It’s worth reading. Although the Arab world has long held internal tensions, it was the US invasion that released them and has resulted in so many deaths and so much destruction. And those who perpetrated the outrage: no accountability.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

11 August 2016 at 1:43 pm

After Yemeni’s 13 Years in Guantánamo, Freedom for the Soul Takes Longer

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Charlie Savage reports in the NY Times:

TALLINN, Estonia — When guards brought Ahmed Abdul Qader to the plane that would take him away from the Guantánamo Bay prison a year and a half ago, he asked permission to pause before boarding. Closing his eyes, he tried to leave behind the burden of his 13 years of captivity.

Mr. Qader was about 17 — an overweight Yemeni teenager suspected [and for the US, suspicion is sufficient to imprison someone for 13 years – LG] of being a terrorist — when the United States military brought him to Guantánamo. When he left, he was past 30, his hair thinning, and about to start a new life in Estonia, a tiny Baltic country he had never heard of before it had decided to resettle a detainee a few months earlier.

A day later, he was in his new home, a modestly furnished studio apartment in Tallinn provided by the Estonian government. But the past, he soon realized, was not so easy to escape. Snow was falling, and he was eager to touch it. He started for the door, then suddenly panicked, fearful that something — he was not sure what — could go wrong if he went outside.

“Any trouble I get myself in now — even an honest mistake — will be a hundred times worse than if any normal person did it,” Mr. Qader said recently, trying to explain how that sense of paralysis has stayed with him.

“I thought that after two months’ release, I’d be back to normal,” he said. “But I cannot live my life regularly. I try, but it is like part of me is still at Guantánamo.”

Mr. Qader is one of about 780 men who have been held at the prison since the Bush administration opened it after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. A central part of the war on terrorism, Guantánamo was an experiment: using indefinite detention without trial, a tool of traditional wars, for an open-ended conflict in which distinguishing truly dangerous enemies from people caught on the periphery can be particularly difficult.

President Obama inherited 242 detainees when he came into office vowing to close the prison. Today 76 remain, 32 of them approved for transfer to a stable country willing to accept them. Congressional Republicans opposeclosing the prison and further transfers, pointing to the minority of former detainees accused of recidivism.

In the long and contentious debate over Guantánamo’s future, former detainees who have been transferred and caused no problems have been largely forgotten. But while their files may have been closed, the ambiguity surrounding their release — deemed safe enough to transfer, but never proven guilty or innocent — continues to brand them.

Mr. Qader recently told me his story in a series of conversations over several days this spring — in his apartment, strolling through Tallinn’s medieval Old Town, and riding a city bus to Estonia’s Islamic Center. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 July 2016 at 6:48 pm

Guantánamo Diary author cleared for release after 14 years of imprisonment with no charges ever filed

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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.”

Slahi’s mother and one of his brothers died while he was imprisoned, and his father died nearly three decades ago. But he has 10 other siblings and has described plans to “take care of his sisters.”

There are currently 76 men still held in Guantánamo. Including Slahi, 31 of them have been approved for release. . .

Continue reading.

Presumably he’s being released because he paid his debt to society? But that’s not it: he never did anything wrong.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 July 2016 at 2:31 pm

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