Technically, President Obama appears to be making strides on his 2008 promise to close down Camp Delta at Guantánamo Bay Naval Base. But despite Fox News’ takeaway, let’s not get confused: closing down the prison has little to do with releasing the remaining prisoners, some of whom have been held there for nearly 12 years—almost none of them ever charged with a crime.
In fact, closing down the prison doesn’t clear up the issue of what will happen to the 164 prisoners, all of whom are foreign nationals, except that they will be “transferred,” a term that can mean whatever the President wants it to mean: relocating prisoners to another prison, releasing them to the custody of their home governments, placing them in “rehabilitation” facilities, or just simply: get them off the base.
In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the CIA reportedly used a secret facility at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention center to turn a handful of prisoners into double agents and then sent them home to help kill terrorists.
The program, which was carried out in a complex known as Penny Lane just a few hundred yards from the administrative offices at the prison, aided in the killing of “many” top al-Qaeda operatives, current and former U.S. officials told the Associated Press.
[...] The CIA offered the prisoners freedom, safety for their families, and millions of dollars from the agency’s secret bank account, code-named Pledge, in return for spying for the U.S.
Some of the information provided by the released detainees was used to launch Predator drone strikes, an official said, while other double agents ultimately stopped providing information and lost contact with the CIA.
- Navy shows WikiLeaks movie at Guantánamo, where surfing WikiLeaks website’s a crime
- Last British resident in Guantánamo Bay: we are treated like animals
- IMAP/OSF Report Calls for Investigation of Drug Given to All Guantanamo Detainees
- Guantánamo’s forever captives to make pitch for freedom in secret
- Torture inquiry ‘finds UK intelligence officers knew of mistreatment’
- Court rejects Polish request to keep CIA jail hearing private
- GOP to seek restricting detainee transfers to Yemen
- Leahy: Gitmo is ‘shameful’
Guantánamo’s military tribunals were not created to try crimes, but to hide them. This system was set up to ensure that the U.S. government’s torture program would never face trial, and so far it has succeeded. For the past decade, Guantánamo has been a parallel universe where information tainted by torture may be admitted as evidence, where the centuries-old attorney-client privilege is subject to arbitrary interference by military officials, and where people spend a decade or more waiting for a day in court.
- Eric Holder: 9/11 Suspects ‘Would Be on Death Row’ If Not for Politics
- Doctors: Force-Feedings at Guantanamo Have Been Used to Break Political Protests, Not Save Lives
- Torture Permanently Damages Normal Perception of Pain
- Obama meets with newly appointed Pentagon, State Department envoys on closing Guantanamo Bay
- CIA’s Resistance to 6,300-Page Report on the Agency’s Use of Torture
- Lawyers want Obama to declassify CIA prison program
- Commission finds ‘systematic violation of human rights’ at Guantanamo Bay
There has been all manner of commentary about the rendition and detention on a poorly functioning ship of Abu Anas al Libi. There are credulous claims about the humanity of the High Value Interrogation Group’s tactics that nevertheless remain officially classified. There’s the growing awareness that al-Libi’s case differs from Ahmed Warsame’s in several key ways. And then there’s John Bellinger, trolling the Obama Administration for violating rules the Bush Administration did not in superb fashion.
These are important questions. But they distract from another important question.
What kind of intelligence do they really expect to get from al-Libi?
- Abu Anas al-Liby was disillusioned with jihadism, says ex-colleague (Guardian)
- US Raid Fuels Growing Instability in Libya (Antiwar)
- UN finds torture widespread in Libya (AP)
- Gunmen seize Libyan PM Ali Zeidan before dawn, free him hours later (CNN)
- Libya: America’s New Playground (Portsmouth Patch)
- Jihadists Threaten Revenge for US Libya Snatch Operation (ABC)
- We all thought Libya had moved on – it has, but into lawlessness and ruin (Independent)
- Chaotic Libya appeals for help to restore security (Reuters)
- 9 years on, Libya still not free of chemical weapons (AFP)
- Libya apologizes for attack on Russian embassy, promises to secure foreign missions (AP)
Defense lawyers in the US are demanding the Obama Administration bring captured Libyan detainee Abu Anas al-Liby before a federal judge and appoint him a defense counsel, saying there is no legal basis not to do so.
Liby was captured outside his home by US troops over the weekend, and is currently being held on a warship in the Mediterranean Sea, where he is subject to interrogation by US troops and has no access to a lawyer.
Administration officials are arguing the exact contrary on the matter, arguing that there is no legal basis to not keep a captive indefinitely in military custody at sea, and that therefore President Obama can keep him in a legal black hole as long as he wants, since a ship in international waters is neither US territory nor the territory of any other nation.
The Geneva Convention requires that “prisoners of war” must be held on land, exactly for this reason, and while the administration made some vague references to Liby’s capture being in keeping with the ongoing global war, they have yet to call him a “prisoner of war.”
- Obama Swaps ‘Black Sites’ for ‘Justice at Sea’ (Antiwar)
- Interrogations at sea a Bush-era anti-terror strategy (McClatchy)
- Obama Skirts Legal Question Over Libya Capture (ABC)
- Graham Tells Obama to Send Terror Suspect to Gitmo (Foreign Policy)
- Abduction in Libya violates human rights, undermines rule of law (Amnesty)
- Experts: No time constraints for U.S. in holding Libyan on ship (Reuters)
- U.S. Officials Say Libya Approved Commando Raids (NY Times)
- Libyan PM: al-Qaida raid will not hurt country’s relations with US (Guardian)
- Libya demands US return al-Qaeda suspect (Al Jazeera)
- Libya summons US envoy over raid to capture al-Liby (BBC)
- FLASHBACK: Obama Signs 2013 NDAA, Blocking Closure of Gitmo (Antiwar)
- Pentagon Rejects Money to Overhaul Gitmo (Antiwar)
- Judge Rules Against Release of Video of Guantanamo Prisoner’s Interrogations, Could Be Used as Propaganda (FDL)
- US military to stop updates on hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay (Al Jazeera)
- Scary psychological torture: The real message behind force-feeding hunger strikers (Salon)
- Guantanamo Briton Shaker Aamer To Sue British Intelligence For Alleged Torture (Huffington Post)
- An artist at Guantanamo Bay (Al Jazeera)
- Center for Constitutional Rights
- Witness Against Torture
A little government shut-down wasn’t going to deter Army Colonel James Pohl. While most federal employees were furloughed, the judge presiding over the 9/11 case at the Guantanamo Bay military commissions on Tuesday insisted the pre-trial hearings continue apace despite Pentagon computer malfunctions that have compromised defense lawyers’ confidentiality obligations and drastically compounded the difficulties involved in preparing their clients’ defenses.
Just two weeks ago, the Chief Defense Counsel for the Office of Military Commissions testified at the Guantanamo Bay courtroom that since January, defense lawyers’ computer files and e-mails had been searched by unknown U.S. government officials, their internet searches had been tracked and hundreds of thousands of computer files and e-mail messages had mysteriously disappeared. Although some have since been retrieved, about seven gigabytes of investigative case files remain missing. Lawyers still don’t know whether their e-mails are being sent, or even if they are receiving case-related communications from the judge.
[...] In April, concerned that defense lawyers were unable to fulfill their ethical obligations to their clients to keep their communications confidential, Mayberry instructed her legal teams not to use the Pentagon-provided computer system.
- At Guantanamo, defense attorneys complain of ‘monitoring’ of their Internet activities (Washington Post)
- Guantanamo Soldiers Get 9/11 History Lessons To Keep Terrorist Attacks Fresh In Minds (Huffington Post)
- Who has more info: Guantanamo lawyers or Hollywood? (Miami Herald)
- Guantanamo defence lawyers ask to restrict CIA’s use of information in 9/11 case (Daily Times)
- Defense seeks to dismiss some of the charges in 9/11 case at Guantanamo (AP)
- Guantánamo judge makes secret ruling on secret motion in secret hearing (Miami Herald)
- Lawyer says guards gave ’50 Shades of Grey’ to Guantanamo prisoner charged in 9-11 attacks (AP)
Accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators were back before a military judge at Guantánamo on Monday as lawyers began a week-long series of hearings to decide unresolved legal issues in advance of the still-unscheduled war crimes trial.
Pending before the court are matters related to the protection of classified information, alleged government invasion of the attorney-client privilege, and the severity of the conditions of the defendants’ pre-trial confinement in a secret wing of the US terror detention facility, among others.
The proceedings were monitored by reporters at Guantánamo and via a live broadcast at Fort Meade in Maryland.
During the hearing, Mr. Mohammed sat at the defense table dressed in a green military-style camouflage jacket and white turban. Much of his lower face was concealed beneath a thick red beard.
He appeared alert and engaged in the proceeding.
The session marked the fifth time lawyers for the five defendants have squared off against military prosecutors since May 2012, when the defendants were formally charged with nearly 3,000 counts of murder and other crimes related to the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
The US government is seeking the death penalty for all five defendants.
Much of the legal wrangling is over how to handle classified information.
- A visit to Guantanamo’s secretive Camp 7 (BBC)
- 9/11 defendant leaves Guantánamo hearing, citing ‘psychological torture’ (CS Monitor)
- Lawyer in 9/11 case questions whether U.S. Guantanamo interrogation was voluntary (Reuters)
- Guantanamo prosecutors want September 2014 trial for 9/11 case (Reuters)
- 9/11 lawyer to challenge secret Guantanamo camp (WDEF12)
- Some of Guantanamo’s hardest cases to get new look (AP)
- Malaria drug overused on Guantanamo Bay prisoners? (Al Jazeera)
A former MI6 officer has gone on hunger strike to support Guantanamo Bay prisoner Shaker Aamer.
Harry Ferguson, 52, started his week-long protest on Monday, becoming the latest public figure to back the campaign for Aamer’s release.
Dozens of inmates are continuing their months-long hunger strike at the controversial facility that US President Barack Obama had promised to close.
Aamer, 47, is the last Briton held at Guantanamo Bay detention camp, and has been there for 11 years.
Two and a half months after Obama Administration officials indicated that they were preparing to “speed up” plans to let detainees cleared for release from Guantanamo Bay actually return home, officials have a new excuse not to do so.
Fresh off of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s visit to DC, at which he pressed President Obama to release the detainees, suddenly the focus on a huge plot in Yemen has officials saying that any plans to do so are indefinitely “on hold.”
The last British resident in Guantanamo Bay claims he is being assaulted, sometimes sexually, during prison searches as he continues a hunger strike against his unlawful detention.
In a declassified phone call with his lawyer last week, Shaker Aamer, who has been held in the Cuban prison for more than 11 years without being charged with any offence, said he still faces “forced cell extractions” on a daily basis.
“They flip me over for the search. Mostly, that’s just an assault, sometimes a sexual assault. We call it the Gitmo massage,” Mr Aamer said. “There is meant to be a board, like a wooden stretcher, and they are meant to roll me on. But now they don’t have them. Now they carry me like a sack of potatoes, which is really painful for me.”
Along with scores of other detainees, Mr Aamer, who is 46, has been on hunger strike since January over conditions at the camp and a lack of progress on individual cases. The comedian Frankie Boyle recently went on a week’s sympathy hunger strike to draw attention to Mr Aamer’s plight.
The latest developments come barely six weeks after David Cameron, said he had raised Mr Aamer’s case with US President Barack Obama during the G8 conference amid concerns that the US is trying to render the man known as prisoner 239 to Saudi Arabia.
A British resident, Mr Aamer was born in Saudi Arabia but has a wife and four children in London. He had indefinite leave to remain in the UK when he was arrested in Afghanistan in 2001. He claims he was doing charity work; the US claims he was assisting the Taliban.
Earlier this month, the US announced two Algerians detainees would be released from the prison but said there were no plans to return detainees to Britain. Mr Aamer’s lawyers said this could be because the US wanted to send him to Saudi Arabia where he could be silenced from speaking out about the torture and rendition, including sometimes in the presence of UK secret service agents, he said.
Mr Aamer’s lawyer in the US, Clive Stafford Smith, said: “Surely the US cannot think they can render him involuntarily for further abuse in Saudi Arabia, never to see his British wife and kids, and never to give evidence against his torturers in the ongoing criminal investigation by the Met Police?”
“They flip me over for the search. Mostly, that’s just an assault, sometimes a sexual assault”
A former CIA officer has broken the U.S. silence around the 2003 abduction of a radical Islamist cleric in Italy, charging that the agency inflated the threat the preacher posed and that the United States then allowed Italy to prosecute her and other Americans to shield President George W. Bush and other U.S. officials from responsibility for approving the operation.
Confirming for the first time that she worked undercover for the CIA in Milan when the operation took place, Sabrina De Sousa provided new details about the “extraordinary rendition” that led to the only criminal prosecution stemming from the secret Bush administration rendition and detention program launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The cleric, Osama Mustapha Hassan Nasr, was snatched from a Milan street by a team of CIA operatives and flown to Egypt, where he was held for the better part of four years without charges and allegedly tortured. An Egyptian court in 2007 ruled that his imprisonment was “unfounded” and ordered him released.
The nonpartisan, 577-page report concluded that the events of the “war on terror” following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks were “unprecedented” in American history. While the authors concede that some U.S. forces have committed brutal acts, they wrote that there has been no evidence that a U.S. president and top officials discussed the legality and effectiveness of “inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in custody.”
The report is a rebuke to President Barack Obama’s opposition to investigating torture under the Bush administration. As he said in an interview following his election in 2008, Obama has advocated ”a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backward.”
“Task Force members believe that having as thorough as possible an understanding of what occurred during this period of serious threat — and a willingness to acknowledge any shortcomings — strengthens the nation, and equips us to better cope with the next crisis and ones after that,” the authors wrote. “Moving on without such a reckoning weakens our ability to claim our place as an exemplary practitioner of the rule of law.”
The British Medical Association has written to Barack Obama urging him to immediately suspend the role of doctors and nurses in force-feeding prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay and to launch an inquiry into how the “unjustifiable” practice has been allowed to develop.
The association has also approached pharmaceutical companies that are reportedly supplying the US military with nutritional products used in the force-feeding, requesting that they disassociate themselves from issues surrounding the continuing hunger strike inside the detention facility.
The correspondence – sent to companies including Nestlé, whose product Boost Plus has been reportedly given to inmates being forcibly fed – says that “force-feeding of mentally competent adult hunger strikers is a gross violation of internationally accepted standards of medical ethics” and is “never ethically acceptable”.
The BMA has also outlined its deep concerns to the US secretary of defence, Chuck Hagel, as international pressure continues to mount over the administration’s handling of the hunger strike, which is understood to involve more than 100 of the 166 inmates.
- Four Obama Policies That Help Keep Guantanamo Open (PBS)
- Guantanamo’s Indefinite Prisoners To Have Cases Reviewed (TPR)
- 164 to Go: US Transferring 2 Gitmo Prisoners to Algeria (Newser)
- Gitmo Costs Continue to Soar: $454 Million for 2013 (Antiwar)
- 5 senators at Guantanamo hearing easily outnumbered by protesters (McClatchy)
- Guantánamo detainee relatives address US senators (Guardian)
- Gitmo’s Most Popular Book? Fifty Shades (Newser)
- Germany’s famous ex-Guantanamo inmate speaks out (DW)
The months-long hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay has returned the subject of indefinite detention to U.S. headlines this year, but that notorious island prison isn’t the only place where detainees in the war on terror are being held indefinitely by the United States without charge. Around 60 non-Afghan nationals are currently being kept by the U.S. at the prison near Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan – all without charge or trial – following the hand-over of around 3,000 Afghan prisoners to the Afghan government in March.
About two-thirds of the detainees, known as third country nationals, are Pakistani. Some of them have been held for nearly a decade, according to a lawyer who is fighting for his clients’ freedom. Omran Belhadi is an attorney with the Justice Pakistan Project, based in Lahore, which represents 11 detainees currently held by the U.S. “They are being held without charge, trial or access to a lawyer, which constitutes a violation of international human rights law,” says Belhadi. “Quite a few of them have been recommended for release by the U.S. government but remain stuck at Bagram, because the U.S. and Pakistani governments are failing to negotiate the terms of their repatriation.”
Though the detainees at Bagram aren’t mentioned often in the U.S., Chris Rogers, who focuses on conflict-related detention at the Open Society Foundations, says that the prison remains a problem for America’s image in the Middle East. “For Afghans, Pakistanis and many others around the world, Bagram is a symbol of hypocrisy and injustice,” says Rogers. “Ending the war in Afghanistan, and closing the chapter of war-on-terror detention that both Guantanamo and Bagram have come to symbolize, means the U.S. has to resolve detainees’ cases and end their legal limbo.”
by Lizzie Rajasingh
Foreign Policy in Focus
With arms tied down and feet shackled, Yasiin Bey writhes in anguish as a feeding tube is shoved into his right nostril. Groaning in extreme discomfort as his handlers push the tube deeper, Bey – better known as Mos Def – breaks into sobs as he begs for the torment to stop. “This is me, please, stop! I can’t do it anymore.”
Released just a few weeks ago by the British human rights group Reprieve, the video already has some 5 million views on YouTube. Designed to showcase the brutality of the Army’s forced feeding of hunger-striking Guantanamo detainees, the video’s popularity has prompted Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale – the Pentagon spokesman for Guantánamo policy – to demur that the video “doesn’t comport with our procedures.” (Breasseale himself, however, has never witnessed the force-feeding procedure.)
As the month-long fast of Ramadan begins, leaders throughout the world are calling for the Obama administration to reassess its stance on force-feeding the 106 hunger-striking detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention center. While officials say they will respect detainees’ right to observe the fast during the daylight and only attempt force-feeding after sunset, advocacy groups have revamped their campaigns to end force-feeding altogether.
Joining Breasseale in defending the government’s decision to continue force-feeding detainees, the House of Representatives recently included a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2014 barring any transfers of detainees to Yemen. That means that even for detainees cleared for release – the bulk of whom are Yemeni – there’s still no way out, neither by transfer nor starvation.
SEE ALSO: Blowback (Matthew Cole)
SEE ALSO: Ex-CIA station chief in Milan detained in Panama (RT)
A former CIA base chief convicted in the 2003 abduction of a terror suspect from an Italian street has been detained in Panama after Italy requested his arrest in one of the most notorious episodes of the U.S. program known as extraordinary rendition, Italian and Panamanian officials said Thursday.
Robert Seldon Lady, the former CIA chief in Milan, entered Panama, crossed the border into Costa Rica and was sent back to Panama where he was detained, according to an Italian official familiar with Italy’s investigation of the rendition of Cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the case.
A Panamanian National Police official said Lady, 59, had been detained Wednesday on the Costa Rica-Panama border. The official also spoke on condition of anonymity due to lack of authorization to discuss the matter.
The government of Panama, which maintains one of the region’s closest relationships with the U.S., was officially silent on the case. Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino told The Associated Press that he was unaware of Lady’s detention and the press office of the National Police — which works with Interpol, the international police agency — said it had no information. The CIA also declined to comment.
Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, was hustled into a car in February 2003 on a street in Milan, where he preached, and transferred to U.S. military bases in Italy and Germany before being flown to Egypt. He alleged he was tortured in Egypt before being released.
Italy conducted an aggressive investigation and charged 26 CIA and other U.S. government employees despite objections from Washington. All left Italy before charges were filed in the first trial in the world involving the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program, under which terror suspects were abducted and transferred to third countries where many were subjected to torture.
All the U.S. suspects were eventually convicted but only Lady received a sentence — nine years in prison — that merited an extradition request under Italian legal guidelines. Two former Italian spy chiefs were also convicted this year for their role in the cleric’s kidnapping.
Guantánamo guards have been accused of using the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to massage hunger strike numbers, after the US military claimed Sunday that less than half of the inmate population are now on strike.
In an update Sunday, army spokesman Lt Col Sam House said 81 detainees were still refusing food as part of a protest that began in February. The official figure is down 15 from the previous day and 25 from a recent high of 106. It has raised the prospect that the hunger strike – which has put a spotlight on conditions in the camp – may be on the wane. But lawyers representing Guantánamo detainees are suspicious of the figures, with one leading advocate for the camp’s closure claiming that the military are “cheating on the numbers as usual”.
by Jason Ditz
Most of the hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay, 99 according to military reports, broke their fast for the first night of Ramadan, having a communal meal of lamb to celebrate the religiously important month.
The US responded to this by dropping two of the detainees from the official list of hunger strikers, though the other 102 will remain there until a later date, with officials saying they would need to show a pattern of sustained eating.
The alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, reportedly asked his CIA captors if he could design a vacuum cleaner.
The Pakistan-born mechanical engineering graduate made the request during a period of detention in Romania in 2003, the Associated Press reports.
A former CIA official told the news agency that he used online guides to re-design the household appliance.
The CIA wanted to make sure its prisoners stayed sane, AP reported.
Officials from the Israeli Medical Association have been invited to the U.S. to present policy makers there with their methods of handling hunger strikers, as the U.S. administration comes under fire for its own practice of force-feeding of Guantanamo Bay detention camp prisoners who refuse to eat.
The invitation followed the officials remarks on the matter at a convention at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, one of the most prestigious medical faculties.
Israeli policies regarding hunger strikers were formulated in a position paper of the IMA in February 2005. The guidelines were written following hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons a year earlier, and are based on the 1975 Tokyo Declaration of the World Medical Association, and the WMA’s Declaration of Malta on Hunger Strikers. The policy determines that hunger strikers will not be force-fed with liquids or food against their will.
In recent weeks, photos taken in the U.S.’ detention center in Guantanamo depicting Muslim prisoners being force-fed during Ramadan have embarrassed the administration. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset.
by ELSPETH REEVE
The United States military will likely show its benevolence toward the Guantanamo Bay detainees it’s holding in perpetuity and will only force-feed the hunger strikers at night out of respect for Ramadan.Currently 106 of the 166 detainees are on hunger strike, and 44 of them are twice daily strapped into a chair while a tube is threaded through their noses into their stomachs to prevent them from escaping detention through suicide. In a motion filed Sunday night, four Algerian men asked federal court to stop the force feeding, the Miami Herald‘s Carol Rosenberg explains, and judges gave the government till Wednesday at noon to respond. Ramadan starts July 8, and if the court can’t decide by then, the men ask the judges “at a minimum, to enjoin any force-feeding between sunup and sundown during the month of Ramadan.”
That was the plan all along, a Guantanamo spokesman told Reuters’ Jane Sutton, who says the military said two weeks ago it planned to only do nighttime force feedings, as it has during past Ramadans. However, the Miami Herald reports that in previous years, there were only a few detainees being force fed at a time, and that Guantanamo spokesmen would not say whether the base was capable of following that procedure with so many detainees.
by Carol Rosenberg
The judge in the Sept. 11 conspiracy trial abruptly cleared the court Thursday during questioning of a former prison camps commander about what intelligence groups were at work on this remote base.
At issue in the hearing is who and what organizations influenced Navy Rear Adm. David B. Woods as he restricted attorney-client communications ahead of last May’s arraignment of the five men accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackings and 2,976 murders.
[...] Woods had already testified that nobody ever told him that the CIA had input into an order that regulated the work of defense attorneys for the 9/11 accused and other former CIA captives. Cmdr Walter Ruiz, defense lawyer for a Saudi defendant, was asking the admiral what intelligence groups he knew operated at Guantánamo during Woods’ 10-month tenure, which ended a year ago.
Prosecutors in the Sept. 11 war crimes case at Guantanamo are asking a judge to allow secret pretrial hearings that would exclude even the defendants.
Justice Department attorney Joanna Baltes says U.S. law would allow hearings without the defendants to protect national security. But lawyers for the five defendants say there is no legal basis to keep them out.