Category Archives: Extradition/Prisons

Camp Bucca: How the Islamic State evolved in an American prison

Terrence McCoy writes for The Washington Post:

‘In March 2009, in a wind-swept sliver of Iraq, a sense of uncertainty befell the southern town of Garma, home to one of the Iraq war’s most notorious prisons. The sprawling Camp Bucca detention center, which had detained some of the war’s most radical extremists along the Kuwait border, had just freed hundreds of inmates. Families rejoiced, anxiously awaiting their sons, brothers and fathers who had been lost to Bucca for years. But a local official fretted.

“These men weren’t planting flowers in a garden,” police chief Saad Abbas Mahmoud told The Washington Post’s Anthony Shadid, estimating that 90 percent of the freed prisoners would soon resume fighting. “They weren’t strolling down the street. This problem is both big and dangerous. And regrettably, the Iraqi government and the authorities don’t know how big the problem has become.”

Mahmoud’s assessment of Camp Bucca, which funneled 100,000 detainees through its barracks and closed months later, would prove prescient. The camp now represents an opening chapter in the history of the Islamic State — many of its leaders, including Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, were incarcerated and probably met there. According to former prison commanders, analysts and soldiers, Camp Bucca provided a unique setting for both prisoner radicalization and inmate collaboration — and was formative in the development of today’s most potent jihadist force.’


Moazzam Begg: ‘MI5 gave me the green light to go Syria’

Murky Special Ops Have Become Corporate Bonanza, Says Report

Ryan Gallagher reports for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Murky Special Ops Have Become Corporate Bonanza, Says Report‘The U.S. government is paying private contractors billions of dollars to support secretive military units with drones, surveillance technology, and “psychological operations,” according to new research. A detailed report, published last week by the London-based Remote Control Project, shines a light on the murky activities of the U.S. Special Operations Command by analyzing publicly available procurement contracts dated between 2009 and 2013. USSOCOM encompasses four commands – from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps – and plays a key role in orchestrating clandestine U.S. military missions overseas.

Researcher Crofton Black, who also works as an investigator for human rights group Reprieve, was able to dig through the troves of data and identify the beneficiaries of almost $13 billion worth of spending by USSOCOM over the five-year period. He found that more than 3,000 companies had provided services that included aiding remotely piloted drone operations in Afghanistan and the Philippines, helping to conduct surveillance of targets, interrogating prisoners, and launching apparent propaganda campaigns.’


Defense lawyer of ’9/11 mastermind’ resigns, says U.S. is crafting a ‘show trial’

NPR reports:

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has claimed to be the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks and multiple attempted attacks against the U.S.‘Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks, is facing a military commission at Guantanamo Bay and potentially the death penalty. He was captured in 2003 but his case still hasn’t gone to trial. Last week, Maj. Jason Wright — one of the lawyers defending Mohammed — resigned from the Army. He has accused the U.S. government of “abhorrent leadership” on human rights and due process guarantees and says it is crafting a “show trial.”

[...] Wright tells NPR’s Arun Rath that it’s hard to gain any client’s trust, but it was especially hard with Mohammed. His former client is one of six “high-value detainees” being prosecuted at Guantanamo for offenses that could carry the death penalty. “All six of these men have been tortured by the U.S. government,” he says.

Wright says Mohammed in particular has faced a level of torture “beyond comprehension.” He says his client was waterboarded by the CIA 183 times and subjected to over a week of sleep deprivation; there were threats that his family would be killed. “And those are just the declassified facts that I’m able to actually speak about,” Wright says. Given that treatment, Wright knew it would be hard for Mohammed to trust him.’


Decaying Guantánamo Defies Closing Plans

Charlie Savage reports for The New York Times:

‘[...] More than 12 years after the Bush administration sent the first prisoners here, tensions are mounting over whether Mr. Obama can close the prison before leaving office, according to interviews with two dozen administration, congressional and military officials. A split is emerging between State Department officials, who appear eager to move toward Mr. Obama’s goal, and some Pentagon officials, who say they share that ambition but seem warier than their counterparts about releasing low-level detainees.

Legal pressures are also building as the war in Afghanistan approaches its official end, and the judiciary grows uncomfortable with the military’s practice of force-feeding hunger strikers. And military officials here, faced with decaying infrastructure and aging inmates, are taking steps they say are necessary to keep Guantánamo operating — but may also help institutionalize it.’


Britain ‘attempts to censor’ US report on torture sites

Jamie Doward and Ian Cobain report for The Guardian:

Diego GarciaThe government stands accused of seeking to conceal Britain’s role in extraordinary rendition, ahead of the release of a declassified intelligence report that exposes the use of torture at US secret prisons around the world.

The Senate report on the CIA‘s interrogation programme, due to be released in days, will confirm that the US tortured terrorist suspects after 9/11. In advance of the release, Barack Obama admitted on Friday: “We tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values.”

Now, in a letter to the human rights group Reprieve, former foreign secretary William Hague has confirmed that the UK government has held discussions with the US about what it intends to reveal in the report which, according to al-Jazeera, acknowledges that the British territory of Diego Garcia was used for extraordinary rendition.’


Obama: “We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks”

David Jackson reports for USA Today: AP_OBAMA_64873740

‘President Obama said Friday that some CIA officials who interrogated suspects after the 9/11 attacks “crossed a line” into torture. “We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks,” Obama said while discussing a forthcoming Senate report on enhanced interrogation techniques. “We did some things that were contrary to our values.”‘


Lawyer: UK Officials ‘Dodging’ Accountability On Rendition, Torture

Nadia Prupis reports for Mint Press News:

‘As Abdel Hakim Belhaj appeals the ruling that barred him from suing MI6 for its role in his rendition and torture in 2004, his lawyer told a British court that UK government officials are trying to evade responsibility and prevent the case from continuing.

Richard Hermer QC, who represents Belhaj, told the judges of UK’s high court on Monday that government officials want “immunity from accountability… irrespective of the illegality of the act.”

Belhaj is suing MI6, MI5, the Home Office, the Foreign Office, and other UK intelligence agencies and officials for their collusion in his and his wife’s abduction and rendition to Libya, where they were tortured by security forces of Muammar Gaddafi. Belhaj’s wife, Fatima Boudchar, was pregnant at the time. Belhaj, a prominent Libyan dissident, was a leader of the anti-Gaddafi Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and the Libyan al-Watan party.’


MPs demand control over CIA activity on British territory of Diego Garcia

Richard Norton-Taylor reports for The Guardian:

US bomber plane on Diego Garcia‘The US must not be allowed again to use Diego Garcia, Britain’s territory in the Indian Ocean, to transfer terror suspects, for combat operations, “or any other politically sensitive activity”, without the explicit authority of the British government, a cross-party group of MPs insists. Information about the extent to which the CIA used the island as a “black site” to transfer detainees is still being withheld, it suggests.

Inhabitants of Diego Garcia were forcibly removed by the Labour government in the 1960s to make way for a large US military base. The island has been used as a bomber base for air strikes against Iraq and Afghanistan. More controversially, it was secretly used as a refuelling transit stop for CIA aircraft rendering detainees to Guantánamo Bay. In 2008, the Labour government was forced to retract assurances it had previously given to MPs about the CIA’s use of the base. In its report on Thursday,, the Commons foreign affairs committee refers to a classified US Congress investigation that suggests the British government is still withholding information about the full extent of the CIA’s use of Diego Garcia.’


Secret state: Photographing the hidden world of governmental surveillance, from drone bases to “black sites”

Peter Popham reports for The Independent:

National Reconnaissance Office Ground Station, New Mexico‘Trevor Paglen is an artist of a very particular kind. His principal tool is the camera, and most of his works are photographs, but the reason they are considered to be art – the reason, for example, that this bland photo, three feet wide by two feet high, showing the outer wall and the interior roof outline of the Salt Pit, with a dun-coloured Afghan hill behind it, sells for $20,000 – is because of the arduous, painstaking, sometimes dangerous path that culminated in pressing the shutter; and because it reveals something that the most powerful state in history has done everything in its power to keep secret. Since he was a postgraduate geography student at UCLA 10 years ago, Paglen has dedicated himself to a very 21st-century challenge: seeing and recording what our political masters do everything in their power to render secret and invisible.’


So Obama Really Can Close Gitmo

Medea Benjamin and Alli McCracken write for Common Dreams:

‘Over the weekend the government of Qatar brokered a dramatic deal between the US and the Taliban to swap five Guantánamo prisoners for Bowe Bergdahl, a US soldier held as a prisoner of war for almost five years. Flexing his political clout, President Obama demonstrated his ability to navigate with ease through the Congressional obstacles in the way of releasing prisoners from Guantánamo. Some House Republicans accused the President of breaking the law to get his way. But the Obama administration made it clear that the President had added a “signing statement” to the bill restricting the transfer of Guantánamo detainees, saying that the restrictions violated his Constitutional prerogative.

Called “the hardest of the hardcore” by hawkish Republican Senator John McCain, the Guantánamo prisoners released in the swap have been identified as high-level Taliban operatives. According to Human Rights Watch, one of those released, Mullah Norullah Nori, could be prosecuted for possible war crimes, including mass killings. All of the men were recommended for continued detention because of their “high-risk” status. Qatar has assured the US that the released men will be held and monitored in Qatar for at least a year, but some US officials are highly critical of the move, saying that the men are likely to return to their former positions within the Taliban.

If Obama is willing to take the risk with these “high-risk” prisoners, and if he really wants to close Guantanamo as he has claimed many times, why hasn’t he been using his authority all along to release the 77 prisoners already cleared for release? Of the remaining 149 Gitmo prisoners, 77 were cleared by the President’s Guantánamo Review Task Force – meaning the US government has deemed them innocent or not a threat to Americans. But since President Obama’s speech at the National Defense University in May of 2013, in which he reiterated his promise to close the detention facility, only 12 of these men have been transferred.

In his May 23 speech, the President also announced he was lifting a self-imposed ban on repatriating Yemeni prisoners, who represent the majority of remaining prisoners. Yet over one year later, not one Yemeni has been transferred. If finding a safe place to transfer prisoners is indeed a problem, President Obama could immediately accept the generous offer of Uruguay’s President Mujica to take five men from Guantánamo.

By releasing the five Guantánamo prisoners without prior Congressional approval, President Obama has blown away the excuse that his hands are tied by Congress.’


Important Revelations From New Leaks of CIA Torture Report: Interview with Michael Ratner

Guantánamo hearings halted amid accusations of FBI spying on legal team

Spencer Ackerman writes for The Guardian:

Photograph: Michelle Shephard/APThe US government’s troubled military trials of terrorism suspects were dealt another blow on Monday when proceedings were halted after an allegation surfaced that the Federal Bureau of Investigation turned a member of a 9/11 defendant’s defense team into a secret informant. Judge James Pohl, the army colonel overseeing the controversial military commission at Guantánamo, gaveled a hearing out of session after barely 30 minutes on Monday morning, following the revelation of a motion filed by the defense stipulating that the FBI approached an unidentified member of the team during the course of an investigation into how a manifesto by accused 9/11 architect Khalid Shaikh Mohammed found its way to the media.

Defense attorneys argued the government plunged them into a potential conflict of interest, as they would need to potentially defend themselves against a leak investigation, risking their ability to put their clients’ legal needs ahead of their own. They implored Pohl to investigate, and if necessary, assign their clients with new independent counsel to advise the defendants about the existence and implications of conflict of interest. That could be a lengthy process – potentially the next delay for a proceeding that has yet to get out of the pretrial stage nearly two years after the latest incarnation of the 9/11 military trials began.


British gave ‘full co-operation’ for CIA black jail on Diego Garcia, report claims

Peter Foster writes for the Telegraph:

Photo: ALAMYThe British government allowed the CIA to run a “black” jail for Al-Qaeda suspects on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, it was claimed last night. The report, based on leaked accounts of a US Senate investigation into the CIA’s kidnap and torture programme after 9/11, contradicts years of British government denials that it allowed the US to use Diego Garcia for its “extraordinary rendition” programme.

The alleged Diego Garcia black site was used to hold some “high-value” detainees and was made with the “full co-operation” of the British government, according to Al Jazeera America, quoting US officials familiar with the Senate report. Last night William Hague was facing demands from international and British lawyers representing victims of the CIA “extraordinary rendition” programme to urgently clarify the new allegations in a letter from Reprieve, the legal charity that represents several rendition victims.


UN Human Rights Committee Finds US in Violation on 25 Counts

Adam Hudson writes for Truthout:

Illustration: Lance Page / t r u t h o u tWhile President Obama told the country to “look forward, not backward” when it came to Bush’s torture program, the United Nations has taken a different route. Recently, the UN Human Rights Committee issued a report excoriating the United States for its human rights violations. It focuses on violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the country is party. The report mentions 25 human rights issues where the United States is failing. This piece will focus on a few of those issues – Guantanamo, NSA surveillance, accountability for Bush-era human rights violations, drone strikes, racism in the prison system, racial profiling, police violence, and criminalization of the homeless.


Why Gitmo is Worse than You Think: Interview with Navy Lt. Commander Kevin Bogucki

‘Abby Martin speaks with Navy Lieutenant Commander and Gitmo attorney, Kevin Bogucki, about the findings of the Obama’s Periodic Review Board and if a closure of the notorious prison camp will ever come to fruition.’ (Breaking the Set)

Psychology Association’s Torture Link Fails “Do-No-Harm” Ethics

Roy Eidelson and Trudy Bond write for Truthout:


Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout; Adapted: Brian Hillegas, Reigh LeBlanc, abrinsky

After seven years, the American Psychological Association recently decided to close an ethics case against a Guantanamo psychologist without taking disciplinary action. This is not merely an isolated story about a single individual’s reprieve from accountability. Rather, the case of Dr. John Leso illuminates in full measure the APA’s disturbing post-9/11 decision to embrace the burgeoning US “war on terror” national security agenda at the expense of our profession’s do-no-harm ethical principles.

Shortly after the terrorists hit their targets on the morning of September 11, 2001, the American Psychological Association took action. Within hours, it mobilized a broad network of expert practitioners to offer psychological support to the families of victims and to rescue workers. But the APA also worked quickly to ensure that the Bush Administration viewed the world’s largest organization of psychologists as a valued partner in the rapid expansion of military and intelligence operations. High-level efforts were devoted to nurturing relationships with the Department of Defense, the CIA, and other government agencies. The APA aimed to position psychology and behavioral scientists as key players in US counterterrorism and counterintelligence activities. 


Federal court to hear challenge to Gitmo force-feeding: Interview with detainee lawyer, Jon Eisenberg

‘The Guantanamo Bay Detention Center in Cuba is saying goodbye to one detainee while defending its practice of force-feeding prisoners on hunger strikes. Ahmed Belbacha, a 44-year-old man held without trial for 12 years, was transferred to the Algerian government. Belbacha was cleared for transfer several years ago, and is the first detainee to be transferred out of Gitmo this year. In the meantime, the military is defending itself in court against charges it is using a form of torture called “water cure” to force feed at least one of the Gitmo detainees participating in a hunger strike since summer of 2013. Lawyers for Emad Abdullah Hassan, a Yemeni who has been on hunger strike in the detention camp intermittently since 2005 and continuously since 2007, filed the first legal challenge to force-feeding at the military base brought before a US federal court. RT’s Ameera David discusses the case with one of Hassan’s lawyers, Jon Eisenberg.’ (RT America)

Guantanamo Officials Now Call Hunger Strikes “Long-Term Non-Religious Fasts”

Jason Leopold writes for Vice News:

Officials at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility have come up with an ingeniously misleading new term to describe hunger strikes at the prison: “long-term non-religious fasts.” The rebranding appears in a 24-page document with the equally ingeniously misleading title, “Medical Management of Detainees With Weight Loss.” The standard operating procedure (SOP) document was exclusively obtained by VICE News Monday afternoon in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

“Preventing [redacted] is important to maintaining good order and discipline in the detention environment, and in protecting detainee health,” the document says. “The procedures outlined in this SOP will be protected from release to detainees and other personnel, including [Joint Task Force (JTF)] staff and visitors without a need to know.”

The document advises Guantanamo’s Joint Medical Group (JMG) on how to treat prisoners who engage in hunger strikes (a.k.a. long-term non-religious fasts). The SOP was implemented this past December, which was also when Gitmo public-affairs officers stopped providing the media with daily statistics on the number of prisoners who were engaged in hunger strikes and being subjected to force-feedings.


Khalid Sheikh Mohammed offers to testify in New York federal trial

Khalid Sheikh MohammedFrom The LA Times:

From his cell in the heavily guarded prison at Guantanamo Bay, the presumed chief architect of the Sept. 11 terrorist plot is offering to be a key defense witness in what probably will be the only trial in New York of someone charged in connection with the World Trade Center attacks.

This would not be the first time Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has emerged as a star defense witness for members of Al Qaeda. Twice, his words have minimized the role defendants played in the organization’s top hierarchy. In 2006, his interrogation summaries were read aloud in the capital murder trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker, and Moussaoui was spared the death penalty. Two years later, different Mohammed statements were read in a military commission trial, or tribunal, that led to the release from Guantanamo Bay of Osama bin Laden’s chauffeur, Salim Hamdan.

This time the stakes are higher. Mohammed agreed in a Jan. 27 letter from his lawyer, which was obtained by The Times, to be interviewed by defense lawyers for Sulaiman abu Ghaith — as long as federal prosecutors and military lawyers were not allowed to monitor the conversation in any way.

Abu Ghaith, the top Al Qaeda propagandist now charged in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks, goes on trial in 10 days in federal court in Lower Manhattan. And his chief attorney, Stanley Cohen, has insisted in court documents that Mohammed be allowed to speak in some capacity — in court through a live closed-circuit feed from the U.S. military prison in Cuba, in a taped interview or in a written statement.


New Guantanamo hearings limit media, NGO access

From AP:

Some prisoners at Guantanamo are getting an opportunity to plead for their release, but journalists and observers from human rights groups won’t get to hear them in what critics say is a break from past practice at the U.S. base in Cuba.

The Department of Defense is restricting access to a series of hearings that start Tuesday, requiring reporters and observers from non-governmental organizations to view the proceedings only by video link from Washington. They also will not be able to listen when prisoners held for more than a decade without charge address a committee known as the Periodic Review Board that will decide whether they can be sent back to their homeland or another country.

The Pentagon, which says it must impose restrictions for security reasons, says it will release a transcript of what the prisoner tells the board after the hearing. But, in a recently released memo, it notes that the transcript may be redacted or altered.

Neither observers, nor prisoners, will be permitted to hear the classified portion of the session.


Ongoing Gitmo Hunger-Strike Spurs Prison to Impose Media Blockade

Michael Ratner: Obama Must Move to Close Guantanamo Now

Don’t buy the spin on Guantanamo: “Closing” it doesn’t mean what you think

Don't buy the spin on Guantanamo: From Salon:

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.


CIA Used Secret Gitmo Facility To Turn Prisoners Into Double Agents

From BuzzFeed:

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.


Guantánamo’s Sham Trials, Now Unraveling

From The Huffington Post:

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.


What Kind of Intelligence Does the HIG Expect to Get from Anas al-Libi? (and other Libya news)

From Emptywheel:

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?



Lawyers: No Legal Basis for Keeping Libyan Detainee at Sea (and other related news)

From Antiwar:

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.”


Is Obama Making Good on His Promise to Close Gitmo?



Government Shuts Down But Dysfunctional Military Commissions Continue

From The Huffington Post:

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.