Category Archives: Extradition/Prisons

Pentagon Releases Photos of Detainee Abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan

Cora Currier reports for The Intercept:

detainee-photos-3The Pentagon today released 198 photos related to its investigations into abuse of detainees by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The photos are mainly close-up shots of arms, feet, heads, hands, or joints, sometimes showing bruises or scabs. Faces are redacted with black bars. It’s not always clear where each of the photos was taken, but they come from internal military investigations and have dates ranging from 2003 to 2006. Sometimes the marks on the prisoners’ skin are labeled with tape measuring the size of the wound, or a coin or pen for comparison.

These photos appear to be the most innocuous of the more than 2,000 images that the government has fought for years to keep secret. Lawyers for the government have long maintained that the photos, if released, could cause grievous harm to national security because they could be used for propaganda by groups like al Qaeda and the Islamic State. The legal case has stretched on for more than a decade, since 2004, when the American Civil Liberties Union firstsued to obtain photos beyond the notorious images that had been leaked from the prison at Abu Ghraib.

It has been reported that some of the 2,000 imagesshow soldiers posing with dead bodies, kicking and punching detainees or posing them stripped naked next to female guards. The 198 photos that were released today do not show any of this.

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Brutal Repression in Egypt Exceeds Conditions Under Mubarak: Interview with Noha Radwan

Sharmini Peries talks to Noha Radwan, an associate professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature at UC Davis. Radwan discusses the conditions facing political prisoners, where as many as seventy people are crammed into 15×15 spaces, while calling on the international community for assistance. (The Real News)

Campaign to Close Guantánamo During Obama’s Last Year in Office: Interview with Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters and Andy Worthington

On the day that marked seven years since President Obama signed an executive order calling for the closure of Guantánamo Bay within one year, Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman spoke to Roger Waters, co-founder of Pink Floyd, and Andy Worthington, a British activist and investigative journalist who co-founded the “Countdown to Close Guantánamo” campaign. (Democracy Now!)

America’s Incarcerated Population, Largest in World, Grew Even More in 2014

Zaid Jilani reports for The Intercept:

The federal government’s Bureau of Justice Statistics has released new numbers detailing how America’s incarcerated population — already the world’s largest — grew even bigger in 2014.

The bureau’s researchers report that the number of individuals incarcerated grew by 1,900 people over the course of last year — “reversing a five-year decline since 2008.”

It’s not all bad news, though. The researchers also report that there was a decrease in overall adults supervised by correctional systems — meaning included in community supervision or parole. In 2014, there were “about 52,200 fewer offenders than at year-end 2013.”

Their report found that just seven jurisdictions “accounted for almost half of the U.S. correctional population at year-end 2014,” with Texas topping the list with 699,300 offenders. Overall, “about one in 36 adults in the United States was under some form of correctional supervision at year-end 2014.”

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“Groundbreaking” Exposé Shows Pentagon Thwarting Obama’s Bid to Transfer Guantanamo Prisoners: Interview with Charles Levinson and Omar Farah

Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman talk to Charles Levinson, the Reuters reporter who broke the story about the Pentagon’s efforts to thwart Obama’s attempts to transfer Guantanamo prisoners, and Omar Farah, the lawyer for a Yemeni prisoner who was cleared for release five years ago but remains behind bars due to Pentagon interference. (Democracy Now!)

The Defense Bill That Obama Just Signed Will Make It Harder to Shut Guantanamo

Jason Leopold reports for VICE News:

President Barack Obama signed a bipartisan defense authorization bill into law late Wednesday that contains a provision that will hinder his goal of shuttering the Guantanamo Bay detention facility before he leaves office.

The $607 billion legislation, which sets defense policies for the next fiscal year and authorizes military spending, specifically prohibits the administration from using any funds to transfer the remaining 107 Guantanamo detainees to the US for detention or prosecution or to “construct or modify any facility in the United States, its territories, or possessions to house any Guantanamo detainee.”

But in a signing statement attached to the bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, Obama said certain restrictions pertaining to Guantanamo might be unconstitutional and infringe on his executive authority. (A signing statement is an official pronouncement issued by a president explaining how he interprets legislation. Obama has issued several signing statements related to Guantanamo restrictions in other annual defense spending bills he signed into law.)

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Last British Prisoner Released From Guantanamo: Interview with Shayana Kadidal

Sharmini Peries talks to Shayana Kadidal, senior attorney with the Centre for Constitutional Rights. Kadidal discusses how Shaker Aamer was cleared for release in 2007, but US military officials held him all these years because he was a charismatic leader and negotiator. (The Real News)

Andy Worthington on Shaker Aamer finally being released from Guantanamo

From the Scott Horton Show:

Andy Worthington, author of The Guantanamo Files, discusses British resident Shaker Aamer’s reunion with his family in the UK after his long-delayed release from Guantanamo, and how he survived being locked away for 14 years without charge or trial, often in solitary confinement.

LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW…

How Obama Continued Bush’s National Security State After Campaigning Against It: Interview with Charlie Savage

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez talk to Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times correspondent Charlie Savage about his new book, Power Wars: Inside Obama’s Post-9/11 Presidency, which tells the story of the Obama administration’s counterterrorism legacy. You can watch Part Two of this interview here(Democracy Now!)

Homan Square: How Chicago police ‘disappeared’ 7,000 people

Spencer Ackerman reports for The Guardian:

Police “disappeared” more than 7,000 people at an off-the-books interrogation warehouse in Chicago, nearly twice as many detentions as previously disclosed, the Guardian can now reveal.

From August 2004 to June 2015, nearly 6,000 of those held at the facility were black, which represents more than twice the proportion of the city’s population. But only 68 of those held were allowed access to attorneys or a public notice of their whereabouts, internal police records show.

The new disclosures, the result of an ongoing Guardian transparency lawsuit and investigation, provide the most detailed, full-scale portrait yet of the truth about Homan Square, a secretive facility that Chicago police have described as little more than a low-level narcotics crime outpost where the mayor has said police “follow all the rules”.

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The Empire Files: Enter the World’s Biggest Prison

The American Empire holds more prisoners than any other country on earth, both in total numbers and per capita. In this episode of The Empire Files, Abby Martin explores the dark reality of the U.S. prison system: the conditions, who is held in them, and the roots of mass incarceration. (The Empire Files)

Never Forget That 9/11 Justifies…

Never Forget

Democrats Continue to Delude Themselves About Obama’s Failed Guantánamo Vow

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

[…] In the seventh year of Obama’s presidency, Guantánamo notoriously remains open, leaving one of his central vows unfulfilled. That, in turn, means that Democratic partisans have to scrounge around for excuses to justify this failure, to cast blame on someone other than the president, lest his legacy be besmirched. They long ago settled on the claim that blame (as always) lies not with Obama but with Congressional Republicans, who imposed a series of legal restrictions that impeded the camp’s closing.

As I’ve documented many times over the last several years, that excuse, while true as far as it goes, does not remotely prove that Obama sought to fulfill his pledge. That’s because Obama’s plans never included an end to what he himself constantly described as the camp’s defining evil: indefinite detention. To the contrary, he explicitly demanded the right to continue to imprison Guantánamo detainees without charges or trial –– exactly what made Guantánamo so evil in the first place — based on the hideous new phrase “cannot be tried but too dangerous to release.” Obama simply wanted to indefinitely imprison them somewhere else.

In other words, Obama never sought to close Guantánamo in any meaningful sense but rather wanted to relocate it to a less symbolically upsetting location, with its defining injustice fully intact and, worse, institutionalized domestically. In that regard, his Guantánamo shell game was vintage Obama: He wanted to make a pretty, self-flattering symbolic gesture to get credit for “change” (I have closed Guantánamo) while not merely continuing but actually strengthening the abusive power that made it so odious in the first place.

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U.S. military cancels hearing for September 11 suspects

Reuters reports:

The U.S. military has canceled a pretrial hearing for suspects in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, a military spokesman said on Sunday, in another setback for the government in its efforts to try the five men being held at Guantanamo.

A defense department spokesman said the hearing, originally scheduled for Aug. 24 to Sept. 4, was canceled by the military judge.

“The judge cited issues that remain unresolved with regard to a claimed defense counsel conflict of interest,” said Commander Gary Ross.

News of the cancellation was first reported by ABC News.

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Interview with James G. Connell III, the Attorney Representing Aamar al-Baluchi

James G. Connell III is an attorney at the U.S Defence Department. He represents Aamar al-Baluchi, a man who stands accused of financing 9/11. The CIA-backed movie Zero Dark Thirty based a character on al-Baluchi. In this interview with Going Underground, Mr. Connell explains how Hollywood producers and directors work with the CIA, and why the U.S considers itself to be exempt from many human rights treaties. (Going Underground)

Defense secretary “not confident” Guantanamo will be closed under Obama

Kristina Wong reports for The Hill:

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter cast doubt Tuesday on whether the Guantanamo Bay detention facility can be closed before President Obama leaves office.

“I’m not confident, but I am hopeful,” Carter said in an exclusive interview with CBS News.

The closure of the U.S. military prison in Cuba was a campaign promise Obama made in 2008, but Congress has imposed restrictions on detainee releases through annual defense policy bills.

Carter said earlier this month he was working on a proposal to send to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

McCain has said he is willing to work with the administration to close the facility if the administration submits a plan that can be approved by Congress.’

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The United States Considers Itself a Human Rights Champion. The World Begs to Differ.

Jamil Dakwar writes for the American Civil Liberties Union:

UN Building; Photo Source: Jamil DakwarStarting Monday, the United States’ human rights record will be subject to international scrutiny by the U.N. Human Rights Council. It may just be the perfect catalyst for the Obama administration to make good on past and present wrongs that should never be associated with a liberal democracy predicated on respect for human rights.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is part of a regular examination of the human rights records of all 193 U.N. member countries and will be the second review of its kind for the U.S. since 2010.  The review comes at a critical time when the U.S. human rights record has been criticized for falling short of meeting international human rights standards. From racially biased policing and excessive use of force by law enforcement to the expansion of migrant family detention and from the lack of accountability for the CIA torture program to the use of armed drones abroad, the U.S. has a lot to answer for.’

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Why the Tsarnaev conviction is another black eye for Gitmo

Marcy Wheeler writes for Salon:

America's glaring double standard on terror: Why the Tsarnaev conviction is another black eye for Gitmo[…] The trial will now move into a sentencing phase where the jury decides whether Tsarnaev should be executed for his role in the biggest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11.

Now just imagine a similar process, had a jury called out Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s guilt in the murder of each of 2,976 people on Sept. 11, 2001.

“Anna Williams Allison; David Lawrence Angell; Lynn Edwards Angell,” the indictment filed against KSM and four others in New York in 2009 started its list of the 2,976 people KSM murdered. “Olga Kristin Gould White,” the long list ended. “Guilty,” a jury would surely have found KSM and his co-conspirators, of the mass murder he has always admitted. Guilty, 2,976 times, plus the larger conspiracy to attack the U.S.

Of course, that never happened. Under pressure from Congress and New York politicians, the administration gave up its efforts to try the 9/11 attackers in civilian court in 2011, moving their trial back to the military commissions at Guantánamo Bay just over four years ago.

And in those four years, the trial against the perpetrators of that massive attack, committed more than 13 years ago, has gone nowhere.’

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Obama: I Should’ve Closed Gitmo on Day One

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

[…] Obama announced his intention to close the facility within a year, a non-controversial position at the time. Within a few months, however, Congressional hawks started opposing the move. Obama admitted the “path of least resistance was to just keep it open.

This admission is in stark contrast to what the White House has been saying all along, that the president had been working hard to close the facility and still intended to get it done.’

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American police brutality, exported from Chicago to Guantánamo

Spencer Ackerman reports for The Guardian:

Police brutality updatedWhen the Chicago detective Richard Zuley arrived at Guantánamo Bay late in 2002, US military commanders touted him as the hero they had been looking for.

Here was a Navy reserve lieutenant who had spent the last 25 years as a distinguished detective on the mean streets of Chicago, closing case after case – often due to his knack for getting confessions.

But while Zuley’s brutal interrogation techniques – prolonged shackling, family threats, demands on suspects to implicate themselves and others – would get supercharged at Guantánamo for the war on terrorism, a Guardian investigation has uncovered that Zuley used similar tactics for years, behind closed police-station doors, on Chicago’s poor and non-white citizens. Multiple people in prison in Illinois insist they have been wrongly convicted on the basis of coerced confessions extracted by Zuley and his colleagues.’

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‘Guantanamo of the East’: Ukraine Locks Up Refugees at EU’s Behest

Maximilian Popp reports for Spiegel:

Most asylum seekers trying to make their way to Europe take the dangerous route...‘[…] The European Union has provided Ukraine with €30 million ($34 million) in funding, which Kiev is using to build and renovate migrant detention centers, along with other facilities where they are housed temporarily. The International Organization for Migration received several million euros to support Ukrainian authorities in such areas as the internment of undocumented migrants. Brussels is apparently hoping that the system will reduce the number of asylum seekers in Europe — without attracting too much attention.

In 2010, the human rights organization Human Rights Watch criticized the EU for investing millions to divert flows of refugees from Europe toward Ukraine, while neglecting to take sufficient steps to ensure the humane treatment of refugees in Ukraine.

The refugee crisis along the eastern edge of Europe could now escalate in the course of the Ukraine conflict. The government in Kiev has its hands full caring for almost a million internally displaced persons fleeing the fighting between government troops and rebels in eastern Ukraine. It is hardly capable of providing for asylum-seekers from the Middle East and African countries, as well, warns Ilya Todorovich, the UNHCR representative in Ukraine.’

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How Guantanamo Became America’s Interrogation ‘Battle Lab’

Jason Leopold writes for VICE News:

‘[…] According to a new report, there was an ulterior motive for setting up Guantanamo: It was the ideal long-term interrogation facility, a “battle lab” where detainees would be subjected to untested interrogation methods and “exploited” for their intelligence value in what turned out to be a massive “experiment.”

The claims in the 66-page report, “Guantanamo: America’s Battle Lab,” prepared by Seton Hall Law School Center for Policy & Research and shared with VICE News, aren’t new. In 2009, the Senate Armed Services Committee released the findings of its investigation about the treatment of detainees in custody of the US military and reached similar conclusions.

But the Seton Hall study, co-authored by the university’s adjunct professor and senior research fellow Joseph Hickman, a former Guantanamo guard who challenged the military’s narrative surrounding the June 2006 deaths of three detainees – the government called them suicides, Hickman came to believe they were murders – makes a much stronger case. The report relies exclusively on internal government and military documents and statements public officials have made since Guantanamo opened 13 years ago to show how the detention facility “was covertly transformed into a secret interrogation base designed to foster intelligence’s curiosity on the effects of torture and the limits of the human spirit.”‘

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Obama’s State of the Union Double Speak

Chris Hedges on Roots of Terrorism, Free Speech Hypocrisy & Translating #JeSuisCharlie

Editor’s Note: The interview with Chris Hedges begins at around 8:07.

The CIA Didn’t Just Torture, It Experimented on Human Beings

Lisa Hajjar reports for The Nation:

‘[…] The “war on terror” is not the CIA’s first venture into human experimentation. At the dawn of the Cold War, German scientists and doctors with Nazi records of human experimentation were given new identities and brought to the United States under Operation Paperclip. During the Korean War, alarmed by the shocking rapidity of American POWs’ breakdowns and indoctrination by their communist captors, the CIA began investing in mind-control research. In 1953, the CIA established the MK-ULTRA program, whose earliest phase involved hypnosis, electroshock and hallucinogenic drugs. The program evolved into experiments in psychological torture that adapted elements of Soviet and Chinese models, including longtime standing, protracted isolation, sleep deprivation and humiliation. Those lessons soon became an applied “science” in the Cold War.

During the Vietnam War, the CIA developed the Phoenix program, which combined psychological torture with brutal interrogations, human experimentation and extrajudicial executions. In 1963, the CIA produced a manual titled “Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation” to guide agents in the art of extracting information from “resistant” sources by combining techniques to produce “debility, disorientation and dread.” Like the communists, the CIA largely eschewed tactics that violently target the body in favor of those that target the mind by systematically attacking all human senses in order to produce the desired state of compliance. The Phoenix program model was incorporated into the curriculum of the School of the Americas, and an updated version of the Kubark guide, produced in 1983 and titled “Human Resource Exploitation Manual,” was disseminated to the intelligence services of right-wing regimes in Latin America and Southeast Asia during the global “war on communism.”

In the mid-1980s, CIA practices became the subject of congressional investigations into US-supported atrocities in Central America. Both manuals became public in 1997 as a result of Freedom of Information Act litigation by The Baltimore Sun. That would have seemed like a “never again” moment.

But here we are again.’

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ISIS Leader: “If there was no American prison in Iraq, there would be no ISIS.”

Martin Chulov reports for The Guardian:

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Isis.‘In the summer of 2004, a young jihadist in shackles and chains was walked by his captors slowly into the Camp Bucca prison in southern Iraq. He was nervous as two American soldiers led him through three brightly-lit buildings and then a maze of wire corridors, into an open yard, where men with middle-distance stares, wearing brightly-coloured prison uniforms, stood back warily, watching him.

“I knew some of them straight away,” he told me last month. “I had feared Bucca all the way down on the plane. But when I got there, it was much better than I thought. In every way.”

The jihadist, who uses the nom de guerre Abu Ahmed, entered Camp Bucca as a young man a decade ago, and is now a senior official within Islamic State (Isis) – having risen through its ranks with many of the men who served time alongside him in prison. Like him, the other detainees had been snatched by US soldiers from Iraq’s towns and cities and flown to a place that had already become infamous: a foreboding desert fortress that would shape the legacy of the US presence in Iraq.

The other prisoners did not take long to warm to him, Abu Ahmed recalled. They had also been terrified of Bucca, but quickly realised that far from their worst fears, the US-run prison provided an extraordinary opportunity. “We could never have all got together like this in Baghdad, or anywhere else,” he told me. “It would have been impossibly dangerous. Here, we were not only safe, but we were only a few hundred metres away from the entire al-Qaida leadership.”’

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Ex-CIA Operative John Kiriakou Says Prison Was Punishment for Whistleblowing on Torture

Brian Ross reports for ABC News:

‘Former CIA officer John Kiriakou is the only CIA employee connected to its interrogation program to go to prison. But he was prosecuted for providing information to reporters, not for anything connected to waterboarding or other actions that today’s Senate Intelligence Committee report calls “torture.”

No other person connected to the program has been charged with a crime, after the Justice Department said their actions had been approved legally or that there was not sufficient admissible evidence in a couple cases of potential wrongdoing, even in light of the death of two detainees in the early 2000s.

Today the Justice Department said that the Senate Intelligence report didn’t provide new information that would lead them to reopen any of the old cases.

Kiriakou was the first person with direct knowledge of the CIA interrogation program to publicly reveal its existence, in an interview with ABC News in 2007. He is now serving a nearly-three-year prison sentence for violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, but he says that’s only what the government wants people to believe.’

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CIA Agents Blast Report, Defend Torture

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

‘It’s already glaringly obvious that the Senate isn’t going to follow up the CIA torture report with any actual reform, or even a token attempt to hold any of the torturers accountable. Still, CIA officials are outraged.

Nobody likes to be called a torturer, even if they tortured people and even if they’re going to get away with it. CIA Director John Brennan and others were furious about the release of the heavily redacted summary of the report.’

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CIA Torture Report Incomplete as Key Documents Remain Withheld: Interview with Marcy Wheeler

Editor’s Note: Marcy Wheeler is an investigative journalist who focusses on national security and civil liberties issues. You can find her writings over at emptywheel.net

Why the Senate Torture Report Doesn’t Matter: Interview with David Remes