Category Archives: Torture

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!)

ISIS Recruitment Thrives in Brutal Prisons Run By US-Backed Egypt

Murtaza Hussain reports for The Intercept:

For nearly two years, Mohamed Soltan, a 26-year-old citizen of both Egypt and America, endured torture, deprivation, and cruelty while locked in the prisons of Egyptian military dictator Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. In 2013, he was among thousands arrested in a country-wide crackdown on civil society activists, journalists, and members of the deposed government following Sisi’s coup and massacre of protestors in Cairo’s Raba’a Adawiya Square.

Soltan was released this year after a 400-day hunger strike in which he lost over 130 pounds and nearly died, saved only by the intervention of the American government on his behalf. Despite bending to pressure in his case, the Egyptian regime continues to hold as many as 41,000 political prisoners, recent Human Rights Watch estimates suggest. And Soltan worries that extremism is incubating in those facilities, where he witnessed and experienced torture. Today, he says that, through its oppressive practices, the Sisi government is effectively acting as a “recruiting agent” for extremist groups like the Islamic State.

“The regime is fostering an environment in their prisons that makes them a fertile ground for that kind of ideology to flourish,” Soltan says. “The brutality and the overwhelming loss of hope is creating a situation which fits [the Islamic State’s] narrative, and they’re using it to try and recruit people and spread their message.”

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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…

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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FIFA needs change, but this democracy-crushing choice is grim

Marina Hyde writes for The Guardian:

In any sane world, the spectacle of a man from one of Earth’s most oppressive regimes pontificating about a presidential election would be regarded as so obviously absurd as to be self-satirising. And yet, as hardly needs explaining, Fifa is not a sane world. Never mind Kansas, Toto – I don’t think we’re even in Oz anymore. Is there a world beyond even the world that’s through the looking glass, a place where the Red Queen and Humpty Dumpty actually seem quite rational compared to some monstrous arsehole from the Bahraini royal family presenting himself as a change candidate?

The monstrous arsehole in question is Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, whose ascent to football primacy has been a classic riches-to-riches story. Wondering what he might have achieved had he not been held back by his connections is one for another day. He can only play it as it lays, and Sheikh Salman currently declares himself under increasingly heavy pressure to stand as a candidate in Fifa’s presidential election.

According to his good self, he is being urged to stand “by a growing number of senior football administrators, Fifa members and personalities of public life”. And shame on all of them – but we’ll come to that shortly.

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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)

DSEI weapons fair: Authoritarian regimes descend on London

Richard Norton-Taylor reports for The Guardian:

Authoritarian regimes including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and Azerbaijan are among the official guests invited by the UK government to one of the world’s largest arms bazaars, opening in London’s Docklands this week.

The biennial weapons fair, which opens on Tuesday, is the focus of an increasingly heated debate between those who say major weapons producers such as Britain cannot claim at the same time to defend human rights, and those who say the arms industry provides tens of thousands of jobs and valuable exports.

This year’s Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition coincides with a government drive to increase arms sales to countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, by far its most lucrative single market for weapons.

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Never Forget That 9/11 Justifies…

Never Forget

The Google Search That Made the CIA Spy on the US Senate

Jason Leopold reports for VICE News:

John Brennan was about to say he was sorry.

On July 28, 2014, the CIA director wrote a letter to senators Dianne Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss — the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee (SSCI) and the panel’s ranking Republican, respectively. In it, he admitted that the CIA’s penetration of the computer network used by committee staffers reviewing the agency’s torture program — a breach for which Feinstein and Chambliss had long demanded accountability — was improper and violated agreements the Intelligence Committee had made with the CIA.

The letter was notable in part because Brennan initially denied the January 2014 search of the Senate’s computer network even took place. And later, when it became clear that it had — and that he had known of it while publicly denying that it happened — he refused to acknowledge that it was wrong. For months, Feinstein and other committee members were clamoring for a written apology to make part of the official record.

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Who is to blame for the rise of the Islamic State? Interview with former DIA head Michael T. Flynn

Editor’s Note: The discussion regarding the 2012 DIA document begins around the 9:00 mark.

Fascinating interview with Michael T. Flynn, the former head of the U.S. Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and a commander of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). (Al Jazeera)

Retired General: Drones Create More Terrorists Than They Kill, Iraq War Helped Create ISIS

Murtaza Hussain reports for The Intercept:

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testifies during a hearing before the House (Select) Intelligence Committee February 4, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing to examine threats to the U.S. from all around the world.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)Retired Army Gen. Mike Flynn, a top intelligence official in the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, says in a forthcoming interview on Al Jazeera English that the drone war is creating more terrorists than it is killing. He also asserts that the U.S. invasion of Iraq helped create the Islamic State and that U.S. soldiers involved in torturing detainees need to be held legally accountable for their actions.

Flynn, who in 2014 was forced out as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, has in recent months become an outspoken critic of the Obama administration’s Middle East strategy, calling for a more hawkish approach to the Islamic State and Iran.

But his enthusiasm for the application of force doesn’t extend to the use of drones. In the interview with Al Jazeera presenter Mehdi Hasan, set to air July 31, the former three star general says: “When you drop a bomb from a drone … you are going to cause more damage than you are going to cause good.” Pressed by Hasan as to whether drone strikes are creating more terrorists than they kill, Flynn says, “I don’t disagree with that.” He describes the present approach of drone warfare as “a failed strategy.”

“What we have is this continued investment in conflict,” the retired general says. “The more weapons we give, the more bombs we drop, that just … fuels the conflict.”’

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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)

In Historic Ruling, Bush Officials Can Be Sued for Post-9/11 Roundups

Nadia Prupis reports for Common Dreams:

Victims of post-9/11 racial profiling, illegal detention, and abuse in the U.S. may have the chance to sue high-level Bush administration officials, including former Attorney General John Ashcroft, a U.S. federal court ruled on Wednesday in what the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) called an “exceedingly rare” decision.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday [17th June] found that Ashcroft, former FBI director Robert Mueller, and former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Commissioner James Ziglar, who are all defendants in the case of Turkmen v. Ashcroft,“exceeded the bounds of the [U.S.] Constitution in the wake of 9/11” by profiling, detaining, abusing, and deporting numerous Arab, Muslim, and South Asian men based on nothing more than their race or religion.

“[T]here is no legitimate governmental purpose in holding someone as if he were a terrorist simply because he happens to be, or appears to be, Arab or Muslim,” the three-judge panel wrote in its decision. “We simply cannot conclude at this stage that concern for the safety of our nation justified the violation of the constitutional rights on which this nation was built.”

CCR, which brought the case in 2002, said the ruling was historic and served as a reminder that “the rule of law and the rights of human beings, whether citizens or not, must not be sacrificed in the face of national security hysteria.”‘

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Torture is a war crime the government treats like a policy debate

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

GUANTANAMOThe Senate commendably passed an amendment “outlawing” torture by a wide margin on Monday, but given that torture is already against the law – both through existing US statute and by international treaty – what does that really mean?

The bill, a response by lawmakers to last year’s devastating CIA torture report that exposed the agency’s rampant illegal conduct and subsequent cover-up in the years after 9/11, would force all US agencies – including the CIA, finally – to comply with the Pentagon’s rulebook on interrogations. It would also forbid any of the Pentagon’s interrogation rules from being secret and give the Red Cross access to all detainees held by the US, no matter where.

One would’ve thought pre-9/11 that it would be hard to write the current law prohibiting torture any more clearly. Nothing should have allowed the Bush administration to get away with secretly interpreting laws out of existence or given the CIA authority to act with impunity. The only reason a host of current and former CIA officials aren’t already in jail is because of cowardice on the Obama administration, which refused to prosecute Bush administration officialswho authorized the torture program, those who destroyed evidence of it after the fact or even those who went beyond the brutal torture techniques that the administration shamefully did authorize.

Since the Senate’ report reinvigorated the torture debate six months ago, Obama officials have continued to try their hardest to make the controversy go away by stifling Freedom of Information Act requests for the full report and, in many cases, refusing to even read it. And Bush-era law-breakers were even given the courtesy of having their names redacted from the report, sparing them of public shaming or criticism, despite clear public interest to the contrary.’

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CIA torture appears to have broken spy agency rule on human experimentation

Spencer Ackerman reports for The Guardian:

cia human experimentation illustrationThe Central Intelligence Agency had explicit guidelines for “human experimentation” – before, during and after its post-9/11 torture of terrorism detainees – that raise new questions about the limits on the agency’s in-house and contracted medical research.

Sections of a previously classified CIA document, made public by the Guardian on Monday, empower the agency’s director to “approve, modify, or disapprove all proposals pertaining to human subject research”. The leeway provides the director, who has never in the agency’s history been a medical doctor, with significant influence over limitations the US government sets to preserve safe, humane and ethical procedures on people.

CIA director George Tenet approved abusive interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, designed by CIA contractor psychologists. He further instructed the agency’s health personnel to oversee the brutal interrogations – the beginning of years of controversy, still ongoing, about US torture as a violation of medical ethics.

But the revelation of the guidelines has prompted critics of CIA torture to question how the agency could have ever implemented what it calls “enhanced interrogation techniques” – despite apparently having rules against “research on human subjects” without their informed consent.’

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As Chicago Pays Victims of Past Torture, Police Face New Allegations of Abuse at Homan Square: Interview with Spencer Ackerman

‘More victims have come forward to detail recent abuse inside Homan Square, a secret compound used by Chicago police for incommunicado interrogations and detentions which some have described as the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site overseas. Exclusive video obtained by The Guardian shows a Chicago man named Angel Perez being taken inside a “prisoner entrance.” Perez says police handcuffed his right wrist to a metal bar and then sexually assaulted him with a metal object, believed to be a handgun barrel. Perez says the officers also threatened to “go after” his family members, including his father who is battling cancer. Perez is now the 13th person to describe his detainment at the secret police site to The Guardian. Like many detainees, he apparently was never formally arrested — neither booked, nor permitted access to an attorney, nor charged. Now, Perez and four others have filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department. We are joined by the reporter who broke the Homan Square story, Spencer Ackerman, national security editor at The Guardian.’ (Democracy Now!)

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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Bahrain is ruthlessly crushing dissent and torturing its own citizens, yet Britain is heaping it with praise

Daniel Wickham writes for The Independent:

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond met with the Crown Prince of Bahrain earlier this week. He was there to discuss their “shared regional and strategic goals” and “reaffirm the UK’s commitment” to strengthening their ties with the Gulf monarchy.

Just a day earlier, a Bahraini court had extended the detention of one of the country’s most prominent human rights activists, Nabeel Rajab, for another two weeks. His alleged crime? Tweeting about torture and the war in Yemen.

Hammond has previously told the House of Commons that Bahrain, a long-standing ally and former protectorate of the UK, is “a country which is travelling in the right direction” and “making significant reform”. Last April, the Foreign Office even went as far as to predict that the country’s “overall trajectory on human rights will be positive” due to the “judicial and security sector” reforms being implemented. Delighted by the assessment, pro-government media in Bahrain repeated the Foreign Office’s claims with approval.

A year later, Amnesty International have published a report which points to a much bleaker picture of Bahrain’s alleged progress in implementing reform. Their research finds that, contrary to the Foreign Office’s predictions, “the human rights situation today remains dire and little has changed in practise”.’

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Endless War: As U.S. Strikes Tikrit and Delays Afghan Pullout, “War on Terror” Toll Tops 1.3 Million

‘As the United States begins bombing the Iraqi city of Tikrit and again delays a withdrawal from Afghanistan, a new report has found that the Iraq War has killed about one million people. The Nobel Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and other groups examined the toll from the so-called war on terror in three countries — Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The investigators found “the war has, directly or indirectly, killed around one million people in Iraq, 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan. Not included in this figure are further war zones such as Yemen. The figure is approximately 10 times greater than that of which the public, experts and decision makers are aware. … And this is only a conservative estimate.” The true tally, they add, could be more than two million. We are joined by two guests who worked on the report: Hans von Sponeck, former U.N. assistant secretary-general and U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, who in 2000 resigned his post in protest of the U.S.-led sanctions regime; and Dr. Robert Gould, president of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.’ (Democracy Now!)

Chilean accused of murder, torture taught 13 years for Pentagon

Marisa Taylor and Kevin G. Hall reports for McClatchy:

‘A member of the late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s brutal secret police who’s been accused of murder taught for more than a decade at the Pentagon’s premier university, despite repeated complaints by his colleagues about his past.

Jaime Garcia Covarrubias is charged in criminal court in Santiago with being the mastermind in the execution-style slayings of seven people in 1973, according to court documents. McClatchy also interviewed an accuser who identified Garcia Covarrubias as the person who sexually tortured him.

Despite knowing of the allegations, State and Defense department officials allowed Garcia Covarrubias to retain his visa and continue working at a school affiliated with the National Defense University until last year .’

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Chinese police to film interrogations as government promises end to torture following miscarriages of justice

Jamie Fullerton reports for The Independent:

The announcement of major new reforms of the police force in China has sparked hopes that police torture and corruption are to be curbed and further miscarriages of justice avoided.

Public support for the police and judiciary system is at rock bottom here after a series of high-profile murder convictions based on confessions allegedly given under duress have been overturned.

A hundred new measures will be rolled out from now until 2020, with areas covering law enforcement, domestic security, administration and personnel. Top priority will be the increased accountability of officers.’

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CIA Torture Whistleblower John Kiriakou: Wake Up, You’re Next

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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Obama: Transparency Helps Terrorists

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

gitmo prisonersThe Obama administration, self-described Most Transparent Administration in History™, is currently engaged in a multi-pronged legal battle to prevent an iota more transparency related to illegal torture. If there was any lingering hopes that the President might use the last two years of his final term in office to bring some accountability to the despicable actions of the CIA or the US military, it appears that he will instead continue to use the power of the office to fight to keep them hidden.

Later today [Feb 4th], the government will showcase its latest suppression effort, as the Justice Department will urge a federal judge in New York to keep secret hundreds of photos of torture from Abu Ghraib prison from almost a decade ago. President Obama once promised to release the photos, only to reverse himself months after coming into office – and he’s since been fighting for years to keep them secret.’

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Freed CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou Says “I Would Do It All Again” to Expose Torture

Editor’s Note: Below are excerpts from John Kiriakou’s interview with Democracy Now! You can listen to the full 45 minute interview here.

CIA torture whistleblower John Kiriakou released from prison, torture practitioners yet to enter

John Kiriakou, the CIA whistleblower who exposed the agency’s use of torture and the only person to have gone to prison for the scandal, was released from a federal corrections facility on Tuesday. Government transparency advocates have long blasted the former spy’s sentence as the persecution of a hero who exposed massive agency wrongdoing, while also pointing out the hypocrisy of those who actually undertook the torture remaining free. Jesselyn Radack, author of “Traitor,” discusses with RT’s Ben Swann.’ (RT America)