The Central Intelligence Agency is under investigation for allegedly spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee, panel Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein confirmed Wednesday. The CIA is prohibited from spying on Americans, and spying on members of Congress and their staff would raise particular concerns about the separation of powers. Congress created the House and Senate Intelligence committees in the 1970s to oversee the CIA, the National Security Agency, and other spy agencies after uncovering a slew of spying abuses.
The CIA’s internal watchdog, its inspector general, is reviewing whether CIA agents hacked into the computers of Senate staffers who were involved in producing a report critical of the agency’s now-defunct detention and interrogation program, The New York Times reported Wednesday. According to McClatchy, the inspector general’s office has asked the Justice Department to investigate the case. The committee worked on the 6,300-page interrogation report for years. The report, which remains classified, concluded that brutal interrogation techniques produced little valuable intelligence. Last June, the CIA responded with its own 122-page report challenging particular facts and the conclusion of the Senate’s document. Ending the interrogation program was one of President Obama’s first acts in office.
Sen. Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat and member of the Intelligence panel, wrote a letter to Obama on Tuesday, urging him to support declassification of the full report. Udall referred vaguely to the CIA’s alleged spying on the committee. “As you are aware, the CIA has recently taken unprecedented action against the Committee in relation to the internal CIAreview, and I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the Committee’s oversight responsibilities and for our democracy,” Udall wrote. “It is essential that the Committee be able to do its oversight work—consistent with our constitutional principle of the separation of powers—without the CIA posing impediments or obstacles as it is today.”
The top ten recipients slated to receive US foreign assistance in 2014 all practice torture and are responsible for major human rights abuses, according to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other major human rights organizations. The violators and degree of aid they are expected to receive are: 1. Israel – $3.1bn, 2. Afghanistan – $2.2bn, 3. Egypt – $1.6bn, 4. Pakistan – $1.2bn, 5. Nigeria – $693m, 6. Jordan – $671m, 7. Iraq – $573m, 8. Kenya – $564m, 9. Tanzania – $553m, 10. Uganda -$456m.
Each of the listed countries are accused of torturing people in the last year, and at least half are reported to be doing so on a massive scale. Financial support for such governments could violate existing US law mandating that little or no funding be granted to a country that “engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, including torture.” The United States remains a signatory of the United Nations Convention against Torture, ratified in 1994. That the top ten recipients of US assistance all practice torture calls into serious question the Obama administration’s overall stance on and understanding of fundamental human rights.
The United States used former Nazi doctors to develop interrogation techniques — including some that used hallucinogens like LSD — during the Cold War, according to a new book by investigative journalist Annie Jacobsen. “Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America,” published Tuesday, documents a top secret intelligence and military program run with the help of prominent Nazi scientists and doctors, including Nazi Germany’s surgeon general.
“The CIA teamed up with Army, Air Force and Naval Intelligence to run one of the most nefarious, classified, enhanced interrogation programs of the Cold War,” Jacobsen wrote, in an excerpt posted on the Daily Beast. “The work took place inside a clandestine facility in the American zone of occupied Germany, called Camp King. The facility’s chief medical doctor was Operation Paperclip’s Dr. Walter Schreiber, the former Surgeon General of the Third Reich… The activities that went on at Camp King between 1946 and the late 1950s have never been fully accounted for by either the Department of Defense or the CIA.”
Industrial band Skinny Puppy has presented an invoice the U.S. government for using its music to torment inmates at a prison camp for terrorist suspects.
“We heard through a reliable grapevine that our music was being used in Guantanamo Bay prison camps to musically stun or torture people,” founder cEvin Key told the Phoenix New Times. “We heard that our music was used on at least four occasions.”
While the Canadian group tackles transgressive themes in a harsh musical style, Key said the thought that his music was used to torture prisoners made him feel “not too good.”
Tony Blair could face legal action amid claims he “connived” with Colonel Gaddafi to block a multi-million pound compensation claim by IRA victims. An email is said to show the former prime minister intervened in a long-running legal action from victims of Libyan-sponsored terrorism.
The email suggests Mr Blair helped to broker an agreement between Gaddafi and US President George W Bush, which saw Libya pay a one-off £1bn in compensation to US victims of terrorism to settle all actions. A spokesman for Mr Blair branded the claims “malicious”.
The Libyan regime supplied Semtex for IRA attacks, said to include the 1987 Enniskillen bomb which killed 11 people. Lawyers said the disclosure of the email, reported in the Sunday Telegraph, could form the basis for legal action in the UK.
The Obama administration first learned last November about a harrowing trove of photographs that were said to document widespread torture and executions in Syrian prisons when a State Department official viewed some of the images on a laptop belonging to an antigovernment activist, a senior official said Wednesday.
The United States did not act on the photos for the past two months, officials said, because it did not have possession of the digital files and could not establish their authenticity. Nevertheless, they said, the administration believes the photos are genuine, basing that assessment in part on the meticulous way in which the bodies in the photos were numbered.
The photographs, some of which were released this week on the eve of an international peace conference on Syria, have helped prompt the administration to heighten its demand that President Bashar al-Assad release political prisoners and allow Red Cross inspectors access to the prisons.
But it seems clear that the photos that appear to document the torture and executions will not fundamentally alter American policy, which is to push for a political settlement that will remove Mr. Assad from power but to avoid direct military intervention in the conflict.
A devastating 250-page dossier, detailing allegations of beatings, electrocution, mock executions and sexual assault, has been presented to the International Criminal Court, and could result in some of Britain’s leading defence figures facing prosecution for “systematic” war crimes.
General Sir Peter Wall, the head of the British Army; former defence secretary Geoff Hoon; and former defence minister Adam Ingram are among those named in the report, entitled “The Responsibility of UK Officials for War Crimes Involving Systematic Detainee Abuse in Iraq from 2003-2008″.
The damning dossier draws on cases of more than 400 Iraqis, representing “thousands of allegations of mistreatment amounting to war crimes of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”.
They range from “hooding” prisoners to burning, electric shocks, threats to kill and “cultural and religious humiliation”. Other forms of alleged abuse include sexual assault, mock executions, threats of rape, death, and torture.
The formal complaint to the ICC, lodged yesterday, is the cumulation of several years’ work by Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) and the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR). It calls for an investigation into the alleged war crimes, under Article 15 of the Rome Statute.
The dossier, seen by The Independent on Sunday, is the most detailed ever submitted to the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor on war crimes allegedly committed by British forces in Iraq. The court has already acknowledged that there was little doubt that war crimes were committed.
One of America’s best friends and allies is torturing children, even as they continue to receive U.S. aid, weapons, training, and defense guarantees [according to a new report by Amnesty International].
These are not the first revelations of Bahraini children being abused by the U.S. backed regime. “Bahrain security forces routinely detain children without cause and subject them to ill-treatment that may rise to the level of torture,” Human Rights Watch said in a report last September.
[...] And it’s not just the children. The regime continues to imprison political dissidents. Protests have been outlawed, specifically “sit-ins, rallies and gatherings in the capital Manama.” It is also illegal to “incite hatred” against the security forces (whatever that means), and people can be thrown in prison for calling the king a “dictator” on Twitter (something that has happened to at least eleven people).
A group known as the Hooded Men have claimed that new evidence has emerged that proves the UK government subjected them to torture in Northern Ireland.
Fourteen men, arrested under the policy of internment in 1971, were taken to a secret location and subjected to what was called “deep interrogation”.
It has since been confirmed the secret location was Ballykelly Army base.
The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has consistently rejected allegations that it used torture.
It has also pointed out that it has “always fully co-operated” with statutory inquiries.
In 1978, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the men had been subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment, but not torture.
However, the 14 men and their lawyers have now said that documents, recently discovered in the public records office in London, could lead to that decision being reversed.
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
Dick Cheney is ready to laugh about waterboarding.
Conservatives gathered at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan Monday night to roast the former vice president at an event where many of the biggest laugh lines touched on the most controversial policies of a key architect of his administration’s war on terror. At the gathering, hosted by Commentary, figures including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey drew a mix of chuckles and winces with jokes that left few lines uncrossed, according to three guests.
Former Sen. Joe Lieberman “said something to the effect that it’s nice that we’re all here at the Plaza instead of in cages after some war crimes trial,” recalled one person who was there.
Other major targets included former Secretary of State Colin Powell, mocked for leaking, and President Barack Obama, who was mocked, repeatedly, for the relative strength of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The event, sponsored by Rupert Murdoch, Paul Singer, and other top conservatives (listed here) also starred Lieberman and Scooter Libby, the Cheney aide convicted of lying to investigators in a leak hunt. Two attendees said the edgy jokes were in appropriate spirit of a roast; the third found them in poor taste, even in that setting. The dinner was, to the surprise of some guests, punctuated by a live performance of Yiddish songs and by an video featuring Cheney’s face on others’ bodies, which emcee and Commentaryeditor John Podhoretz joked he would release only for $1 million in an email to BuzzFeed.
‘Defense’ contractor CACI International has taken the shocking step of suing four former Abu Ghraib detainees who are seeking redress in U.S. courts for the company’s role in torturing, humiliating and dehumanizing them, with the U.S. corporation recently requesting that the judge order the plaintiffs—all of whom are Iraqi—to pay CACI for legal costs.
CACI is demanding over $15,000 in compensation, mostly for witness fees, travel allowances and deposition transcripts, according to court documents.
“Given the wealth disparities between this multi-billion dollar entity and four torture victims, given what they went through, it’s surprising and appears to be an attempt to intimidate and punish these individuals for asserting their rights to sue in U.S. courts,” Baher Azny, legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is working on the case, told Common Dreams.
Just weeks ago, a federal judge dismissed the former Abu Ghraib prisoners’ lawsuit against CACI International on the grounds that because Abu Ghraib is oversees, it is beyond the jurisdiction of U.S. courts.
The plaintiffs are appealing the decision, with their lawyers arguing that a U.S. corporation operating in a U.S. military prison should be subject to U.S. law.
The ruling is expected to have far-reaching ramifications for the shadowy networks of private contractors who operate in war-torn Iraq under veils of secrecy and with near-immunity, despite widely documented war crimes.
MORE RECENT WAR ON TERROR NEWS:
- Report says DNA test verified bin Laden’s identity (AP)
- CIA finds 1 in 5 flagged job applicants come from Hamas, Hezbollah, al Qaeda (Washington Times)
- Senate told war on terrorism’s price tag, $17.82b (IHT)
- Muslims challenging U.S. ‘no fly’ list win partial court victory (Reuters)
- UK investigates porn DVDs sent to mosques, fears religious strife (RT)
- Tony Blair attacks Islam as “fundamentally extremist” religion (Press TV)
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)
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”
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.”
by Coleen Rowley
The New York Times
WHEN President Obama nominated James B. Comey to lead the F.B.I., he lauded Mr. Comey as someone who understands the challenge of “striking a balance” between security and privacy, and had been “prepared to give up a job he loved rather than be part of something he felt was fundamentally wrong.”
High praise, but was it deserved? We may find out today, when the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on his confirmation.
Mr. Comey’s reputation for courage and probity rests largely on a dramatic episode in March 2004 when he and the current F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, tried to squelch the George W. Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. But that was just one night in the 20 months that Mr. Comey served as deputy attorney general.
And while it was not the only time he expressed reservations, Mr. Comey apparently did eventually sign off on most of the worst of the Bush administration’s legal abuses and questionable interpretations of federal and international law. He ultimately approved the C.I.A.’s list of “enhanced interrogation” techniques, including waterboarding, which experts on international law consider a form of torture. He defended holding an American citizen, Jose Padilla, without charges for more than three years as an “enemy combatant,” and subjecting him to interrogation without counsel to obtain information from him. (Mr. Padilla was ultimately convicted of terrorism charges in civilian court.)
Mr. Mueller and Mr. Comey famously thwarted efforts by two Bush officials, Alberto R. Gonzales and Andrew H. Card Jr., to pressure a hospitalized Attorney General John Ashcroft to sign off on Mr. Bush’s warrantless monitoring order after the Justice Department found it illegal. But within days, Mr. Mueller and Mr. Comey, having threatened to resign, spoke with Mr. Bush. Whatever assurances the president may have given them are not (and may never be) known — but we know that the surveillance program continued, perhaps with modification, and certainly without further public dissent from Mr. Mueller and Mr. Comey.
I suggest that the senators ask Mr. Comey these questions…
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 Jonathan Owen and James Hanning
Britain has been accused of abandoning a Foreign Office employee who says he was tortured by the Uzbek authorities and accused of spying for London.
Kayum Ortikov, 44, a married father of four who worked for the British government as a security guard, ended up in a dungeon in Tashkent after being arrested on charges of “human trafficking”. It appears the extent of his “crime” was trying to help arrange visas for some relatives to work in Russia.
Mr Ortikov claims that his refusal to become an informant for Uzbekistan’s secret police led to torture sessions in which he was accused of spying for the British.
The former Tory chairwoman claimed Britain has always condemned the use of torture and inhuman treatment while the British government seeks to bury evidence of its complicity in abusing prisoners during its so-called war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“International action against torture has long been, and continues to be, a priority for the UK,” Warsi said.
However, human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, condemned Warsi’s comments, saying that the British government is seeking to introduce secret evidence in civil cases which would mean that those alleging British complicity in their torture would not be able to defend them in court.
by Hayes Brown
The Central Intelligence Agency has completed its review of a Senate report on its alleged use of torture and opted to reject the findings, leading to a possible showdown within the Obama administration.
Last December, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence completed an extensive review of the CIA’s so-called “enhanced interrogation program” during the Bush administration, compiling its findings into a 6,000-page report. When asked about when the classified findings would make their way into the public, Intelligence Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said that the document must first go to the Obama administration for review and comment before declassification could be considered.
CIA director John Brennan is expected to present his agency’s review of the document — itself classified — to Feinstein and Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) in a closed meeting on Thursday. According to reporting from the Washington Post, however, it doesn’t seem like the visit will be a positive one. Instead, the CIA intends to rebut the central claim of the Senate report: that the harsh methods used against detainees failed to yield significant results.
The UN’s torture watchdog has hit out at the British government for human rights abuses. In its harshest criticism yet of the British government, the panel warned that urgent action is needed for the country to meet international standards.
The UN Committee against Torture focused on human rights abuses during the so-called war on terror and the mistreatment of prisoners in British custody in Iraq. It also flagged up some 40 separate incidents on which the UK government must act.
The findings highlighted the British governments actions following 9/11 and the commission urged the British government to quickly establish an inquiry into whether detainees held overseas were ill-treated or tortured by British officials.
Abby Martin takes a closer look at the Woolwich killing of a British soldier in broad daylight, and the possible connection the UK’s MI5 intelligence service had in the radicalization of the murder suspects. Abby talks to journalists Afshin Rattansi and Assed Baig from London about the latest in the case.
by John Glaser
‘For too long I’ve been focused on the ruthlessness of President Obama’s drone war. Indeed, he targets individuals he can’t even identify and, out of the approximately 4,000 people killed, less than 2 percent have been senior al-Qaeda members. The administration assumes that every military-age male killed in a strikes zone is an enemy combatant, unless posthumously proved innocent. The unprecedented application of this sweeping, unaccountable robot war conducted almost entirely in secret does have its problems.
But in my fixation on Obama’s murderous policies, I’ve forgotten how much more extreme the other end of the political spectrum can be.
At The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf points to a recent National Review piece by John Yoo, George W. Bush’s legal adviser who gave the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld gang the green light on torturing people. Yoo is unsatisfied because Obama’s approach to the drone war – get this – is overly concerned with avoiding civilian casualties.’
by Nafeez Ahmed
The Cutting Edge
‘A letter to the UK Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee by a childhood friend of one of the Woolwich attackers claims that the suspect was subjected to “systematic torture and sexual abuse” by Kenyan troops on behalf of Britain’s security services.
The letter – exclusive excerpts of which are quoted below – is authored by Ibrahim Hassan, otherwise known as “Abu Nusaybah”, who was interviewed by Richard Watson on BBC Newsnight claiming that MI5 had been harassing Woolwich suspect Michael “Mujahid” Adebolajo to join the agency as an informant six months ago. Hassan was arrested by Metropolitan Police under the Terrorism Act 2000 immediately after his BBC interview, and is currently in custody at Southwark Police Station.
A copy of this letter was obtained by this author today, photographs of which are posted at the end of this report, which also contains an exclusive interview with Ibrahim Hassan’s lawyer with previously unknown details of Adebolajo’s alleged ordeal.’