Category Archives: Torture

Senator Who Put Pentagon Papers Into Public Record Urges Udall To Do Same With Torture Report

Dan Froomkin writes for The Intercept:

Article 1, Section 6 of the Constitution establishes an absolute free-speech right for members of Congress on the floor or in committee, even if they are disclosing classified material. It states that “for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.”

Within hours of Colorado Senator Mark Udall losing his reelection bid last week, transparency activists were talking about how he should go out with a bang and put the Senate intelligence committee’s torture report into the congressional record.  The report is said to detail shockingly brutal abuse of detainees by the CIA during the George W. Bush administration, as well as rampant deception about the program by top officials. But the Obama White House is refusing to declassify even a summary of the report without major redactions. And Republicans take over the Senate in January.

Udall is one of two senators — along with fellow Intelligence Committee member Ron Wyden — who have consistently demanded greater transparency from the intelligence community. If he made the report public on the Senate floor or during a hearing, he couldn’t be prosecuted.’

READ MORE…

British Spies Are Free to Target Lawyers and Journalists

Ryan Gallagher reports for The Intercept:

‘British spies have been granted the authority to secretly eavesdrop on legally privileged attorney-client communications, according to newly released documents.

On Thursday, a series of previously classified policies confirmed for the first time that the U.K.’s top surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters (pictured above) has advised its employees: “You may in principle target the communications of lawyers.”

The U.K.’s other major security and intelligence agencies—MI5 and MI6—have adopted similar policies, the documents show. The guidelines also appear to permit surveillance of journalists and others deemed to work in “sensitive professions” handling confidential information.’

READ MORE…

You know who else won the 2014 election? The CIA

Ryan Cooper writes for The Week:

Good luck getting answers now.The Republican Party, as you may have heard, has taken control of the Senate, after fumbling chances to do so in 2010 and 2012. With President Obama’s veto power safe for another two years, this means little for any positive Republican agenda, which barely exists in any case. But it does have enormous repercussions for one crucial area: civil liberties.

The defeat of Colorado’s Mark Udall, in particular, is a disaster. He is possibly the most prominent and committed civil libertarian in Congress, which means President Obama will no longer have to deal with a high-profile opponent of due process–free assassination of American citizens. The NSA can say goodbye to an enemy of dragnet surveillance, while the CIA no longer has to worry about Udall pushing for the release of a long-awaited report on the torture the agency inflicted on terrorism suspects during the Bush years.’

READ MORE…

Report to U.N. Calls Bullshit on Obama’s ‘Look Forward, Not Backwards’ Approach to Torture

Murtaza Hussain writes for The Intercept:

‘Months after President Obama frankly admitted that the United States had “tortured some folks” as part of the War on Terror, a new report submitted to the United Nations Committee Against Torture has been released that excoriates his administration for shielding the officials responsible from prosecution.

The report describes the post-9/11 torture program as “breathtaking in scope”, and indicts both the Bush and Obama administrations for complicity in it – the former through design and implementation, and the latter through its ongoing attempts to obstruct justice. Noting that the program caused grievous harm to countless individuals and in many cases went as far as murder, the report calls for the United States to “promptly and impartially prosecute senior military and civilian officials responsible for authorizing, acquiescing, or consenting in any way to acts of torture.”’

READ MORE…

CIA And Senate Battle Over A Report On Interrogation Tactics: Interview with Senator Ron Wyden

Jeremy Scahill on Obama’s Orwellian War in Iraq: We Created the Very Threat We Claim to be Fighting

‘As Vice President Joe Biden warns it will take a “hell of a long fight” for the United States to stop militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, we speak to Jeremy Scahill, author of the book, “Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield.” We talk about how the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 that helped create the threat now posed by the Islamic State. We also discuss the role of Baathist forces in ISIS, Obama’s targeting of journalists, and the trial of four former Blackwater operatives involved in the 2007 massacre at Baghdad’s Nisoor Square.’ (Democracy Now!)

Uzbekistan ‘unspeakable abuse’ of political prisoners

BBC News reports:

Humans Rights Watch has called for the release of 'everyone imprisoned on politically motivated charges'‘Political prisoners in Uzbekistan suffer “unspeakable abuses”, including torture and abysmal jail conditions according to Human Rights Watch. A new report says that activists, journalists and government critics are locked up for years and often have their sentences extended arbitrarily. The Uzbek authorities say there are no political prisoners in the country and that torture is being eliminated.

The report looks at the cases of 34 current and 10 former prisoners. “We have concluded that at least 29 out of these 44 prisoners have alleged credibly that they have been tortured either during the pre-trial custody phase or in prison,” Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, told the BBC. One case highlighted in the report is that of prominent journalist Muhammad Bekjanov who has been held since 1999.’

READ MORE…

U.N. torture inspectors say barred from Azerbaijan jails

Reuters reports:

‘A United Nations human rights team looking into complaints of torture in Azerbaijan said on Wednesday it had cut short its investigations because it had been stopped from visiting some government detention centres.

In a statement issued in Geneva, the five-person group said the action by the authorities in the former Soviet republic had come despite assurances that the team would have unrestricted access to all places where prisoners were held.’

READ MORE…

Dick Cheney Should be in Jail

Human Rights Abuses Reported in Junta-Ruled Thailand

Thomas Fuller reports for The New York Times:

‘In the wake of the coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Thailand in May, at least one activist says she was tortured while in custody, some 60 civilians face trials in military courts, and dissent and freedom of expression have been sharply restricted, according to a report by Amnesty International.

“The right to a fair trial is currently in jeopardy,” said the report, which provided a snapshot of what it described as a deteriorating human rights situation in Thailand since the armed forces seized power in May.

The people facing military trials, which offer no appeal, are charged with taking part in political gatherings, protesting against the military takeover of the country or insulting the monarchy.’

READ MORE…

Report: Torture in Mexico rose 600 percent during past decade

Kate Kilpatrick reports for Al Jazeera:

‘According to the report, use of torture by Mexican police and military is widespread, with a 600 percent rise in the number of reported cases over the past decade. Yet despite the huge increase in incidents, there is little being done to combat it or, in fact, discourage it.

“Torture is so widespread in Mexico and sort of expected as an investigative technique,” said Maureen Meyer, the Washington Office of Latin America associate for Mexico and Central America.

Meyer authored a 2010 report on human rights violations committed by the military in Mexico, with a focus on Ciudad Juárez, where cartel violence combined with federal militarization made it the deadliest city in the world from 2008 to 2010. “It’s not sanctioned. It’s not necessarily a state policy to torture but in fact it’s very much permissive and the torturers are never investigated,” she said.’

READ MORE…

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.’

READ MORE…

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.’

READ MORE…

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.’

READ MORE…

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.”‘

READ MORE…

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.’

READ MORE…

The CIA’s Declassified Torture Handbook: How to Create a “World of Fear, Terror, Anxiety, Dread”

Lauren Harper writes for Unredacted:

The 1963 KUBARK Manual. ‘[...] The fear of Communist expansion into the Western Hemisphere after Fidel Castro’s 1959 victory in the Cuban Revolution was the geo-political background for the 1963 KUBARK manual. Castro’s victory not only encouraged the 1964 U.S.-supported overthrow of democratically elected Brazilian President Joao Goulart; it also encouraged the CIA to spread KUBARK across the continent to help prop up pro-U.S. governments. After the Brazilian coup, right-wing military leaders across Latin America began seizing control from democratically elected governments with US encouragement, School of the Americas degrees, and a copy of the KUBARK manual.

The Secret, 127-page KUBARK manual, first declassified (with redactions) in 1997 thanks to a Baltimore Sun FOIA request, is a comprehensive guide for training interrogators in obtaining intelligence from “resistant sources.” According to the National Security Archive’s 2004 posting, Prisoner Abuse: Patterns from the Past, KUBARK –a CIA cryptonym for itself– “describes the qualifications of a successful interrogator, and reviews the theory of non-coercive and coercive techniques for breaking a prisoner.”’

READ MORE…

CIA Apologizes For Spying On Senate Computers

Kosovo Leaders Have Been Accused of Killing and Harvesting Organs

John Dyer reports for Vice News:

KLA fighters in Pristina, 1999‘On Tuesday, Clint Williamson — an American diplomat appointed EU prosecutor in 2011 to investigate crimes against humanity in Kosovo — released a scathing statement that accused the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) of murdering a handful of people and then trafficking their kidneys, livers, and other body parts. KLA leaders now run the tiny Balkan country’s government…. The KLA also murdered, kidnapped, and detained people illegally, and in general oversaw a reign of terror against its non-Albanian and Albanian opponents after the group won Kosovo’s independence from Serbia in 1999.

The important thing for Americans to recall here is that the KLA achieved victory with the help of United States and NATO bombers attacking Serbian forces. At the time, President Bill Clinton portrayed the KLA as freedom fighters challenging Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic — a genocidal monster who died in a Hague prison cell in 2006. A few years ago, grateful Kosovars erected a bronze statue of Clinton in downtown Pristina, their capital. But now, it turns out, members of the KLA were probably monsters, too.’

READ MORE…

Spinwatch director talks to VICE about British PR companies “reputation laundering” for dictatorships

Jack Gilbert of Vice recently spoke to Tamasin Cave, director of Spinwatch:

‘The UK PR industry generates roughly £7.5 billion per year. If you work in media, it might feel like a good chunk of that comes via companies blasting your inbox with products that literally no one could ever want. But let’s be rational about this: there’s a lot more to be made by working for heavy hitters than trying to flog iridescent bean bags to a music reviews website.

Helped by a lack of interference from the government, and with no regulation standing in their way, British PR firms are doing their bit to suppress the evils of foreign dictatorships, and making a decent sum in the process. This isn’t a new phenomenon, of course – regimes have been employing spin doctors for decades whenever they need a dodgy human rights violation smoothed over. But thanks to the internet, there are increasingly more ways in which they can soften whatever blow it is that needs softening.’

READ MORE…

European Court of Human Rights Holds Poland Responsible for Allowing CIA Torture & Rendition

Kevin Gosztola writes for Firedoglake:

‘The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Poland had violated the United Nations Convention Against Torture when it allowed the CIA to torture and abuse prisoners on its territory. It also ruled that the country had violated the Convention by allowing the CIA to transfer prisoners, even though they would likely be subject to undisclosed detention. And the court ruled that Poland had violated the Convention by transferring prisoners to a country where they had a real risk of facing a “flagrant denial of justice.”

The complaints of violations of the torture convention came from Abu Zubaydah [PDF] and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri [PDF]. Poland was ordered to pay 130,000 euros to Zubaydah and $100,000 to Nashiri for “enabling US authorities” to subject the two men to torture and ill-treatment. ECHR also sought to hold the country accountable for its “failure to carry out an effective investigation,” a violation of the torture convention as well. The Polish government has not decided whether it would like to appeal. Throughout the ECHR proceedings, the government consistently refused to constructively participate and provide information that would help the court make a fair ruling.’

READ MORE…

FDA considering ban on electric shock therapy

My Fox Boston reported last month:

‘A doctor who was part of an FDA advisory panel on electric shock therapy says the Judge Rotenberg Center is not reporting device malfunctions that randomly shock students to the government as required.

“We have no data on how often this device is malfunctioning,” said Dr. Steven Miles, a physician who served on a panel advising the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the devices used to deliver the shocks. “Any time that you have a medical device failure, in this case administering random shocks, you cause trauma to people. And in this case you traumatize people with learning disabilities.”

The Canton-based Rotenberg Center, the only place in the country using the devices, disagrees, saying the misfires don’t meet the FDA reporting standard of causing death or serious injury. The FDA, however, is not so sure.’

READ MORE…

How the UK taught Brazil’s dictators interrogation techniques

Emily Buchanan writes for BBC News:

Pictures showing some of the dead and disappeared‘As the world focuses on the World Cup, which opens in Brazil in less than a fortnight, many Brazilians are wrestling with painful discoveries about the military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1964 to 1985. The BBC has found evidence that the UK actively collaborated with the generals – and trained them in sophisticated interrogation techniques.

Brazil’s 21-year dictatorship is less well known abroad than that of Argentina or Chile, but it was still brutal. Hundreds died and thousands were imprisoned and tortured. One of those tortured was a left-wing guerrilla who is now the country’s president, Dilma Rousseff. She set up a Truth Commission to unearth long-buried facts about the past.

As former victims and a few military players come forward to give evidence, Britain’s secret role has emerged. By the early 1970s Brazil’s rulers were engaged in a bitter struggle against left-wing guerrillas. Swept up in the oppression were union leaders, students, journalists and almost anyone who voiced opposition.’

READ MORE…

Torture in Northern Ireland sanctioned by British government minister

From AFP:

‘Torture methods used during internment of Irish nationalists at the height of the Northern Irish Troubles were sanctioned by the British government minister, an Irish television documentary claimed Wednesday.

In 1971, as violence intensified in the sectarian conflict, internment – or imprisonment without trial – was introduced by the British state as they tried to bring order to the province.

Hundreds of Catholic nationalists were brought to detention camps at army bases. Twelve men, who became known as the Hooded Men, were selected for ‘deep interrogation’.’

READ MORE…

Global Survey Shows Citizens Around World Fear Their Own Governments Would Torture Them

Kevin Gosztola writes for Firedoglake:

‘Worldwide, a global survey conducted by Amnesty International reveals that tens of thousands of citizens from twenty-one different countries believe if they were “taken into custody” by their government they would probably be tortured. From December 2013 to April 2014, Amnesty International interviewed 21,221 citizens from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Citizens were asked if they agreed or disagreed with the following statements: (1) If I were taken into custody by the authorities in my country, I am confident that I would be safe; (2) Clear rules against torture are crucial because any use of torture is immoral and will weaken international human rights; (3) Torture is sometimes necessary and acceptable to gain information that may protect the public. On average, “more than four in ten people” indicated they would not “feel safe from torture if taken into custody.” The highest rates of fear were found in Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, Pakistan and Kenya. Thirty-two percent of Americans surveyed feared they would be tortured.’

READ MORE…

Britons more likely to support torture than Russians

Tom Whitehead reports for The Telegraph:

Simulation of waterboarding, taken from an Amnesty film‘Up to one in three Britons think torture can be justified – because of what they have seen in fictional TV shows, Amnesty International has revealed. The British public is more likely to condone torture practices than people in Russia and almost half are against an outright ban. The civil rights organisation was surprised by the results of its poll and blamed programmes such as 24, Homeland and Spooks for their glorification of ill-treatment of terror suspects and criminals. Some 29 per cent of Britons said practices such as beatings, scalding and needles rammed under fingernails could be justified if it is to protect the public – compared to 25 per cent in Russia.’

READ MORE…

Amnesty: 141 Countries Still Torture

Michael Pizzi reports for Al Jazeera:

‘Three decades after the U.N. Convention Against Torture imposed measures to eradicate the practice, torture still happens in 141 countries — many of which are signatories to that convention — according to Amnesty International’s annual report on torture released Tuesday.

According to the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” That agreement, as well as the various Geneva Conventions and the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights, have all dictated an absolute ban on torture for any purpose — even in times of war.

And yet, in police headquarters, secret prisons and CIA black sites, detainees across the globe report being subjected to torture as a means of extracting information or confessions, silencing dissent or simply as punishment. The Amnesty report details 27 categories of torture reported in the past year, including electric shocks, mock executions, water torture, rape and sexual violence and the pulling of teeth.’

READ MORE…

Patrick Cockburn: Prince Andrew praises Bahrain, island of torture

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa shows the UK's Prince Andrew round the Bahrain International Airshow (16 January 2014)‘The Duke of York will be the keynote speaker at a conference in London this Friday celebrating Bahrain as a place of religious freedom and tolerance of divergent opinions. Speaking during a visit to Bahrain last month, he said: “I believe that what’s happening in Bahrain is a source of hope for many people in the world and a source of pride for Bahrainis.” This is very strange, as the island kingdom of Bahrain has a proven record of jailing and torturing protesters demanding democratic rights for the Shia majority, an estimated 60 per cent of Bahraini citizens, from the Sunni al-Khalifa monarchy. In its annual report on human rights, the US State Department identifies many abuses, the most serious of which include “citizens’ inability to change their government peacefully; arrest and detention of protesters on vague charges, in some cases leading to their torture in detention”. It draws attention to the fact that “discrimination [has] continued against the Shia population”.’

READ MORE…

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

Sarah Palin: ‘Waterboarding is how we’d baptize terrorists’ if I were in charge

Mollie Reilly reports for The Huffington Post:

Speaking Saturday at the National Rifle Association’s “Stand And Fight” rally at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, the former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate accused the Obama administration of instating counterterrorism policies that “coddle adversaries.”

“Come on. Enemies, who would utterly annihilate America, they who’d obviously have information on plots, to carry out Jihad. Oh, but you can’t offend them, can’t make them feel uncomfortable, not even a smidgen,” she said. “Well, if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we’d baptize terrorists.”

READ MORE…