Archive for October, 2010

“Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week: Day Six – Education, Human Experimentation and a Grand Finale

Getting up at the crack of dawn to visit a high school to discuss Guantánamo could hardly have been a less appealing idea after the exhausting events of the day before — four radio interviews, and a forum on torture — and the cumulative effects of five days of speaking and campaigning as part of “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week.

However, the high school visit last Friday morning, to a public school in San Francisco, was one of the high points of the week, and the contrast between the high school students and the university students at UC Berkeley School of Law, where the student activists of Boalt Alliance Against Torture struggle to overcome the depoliticized avarice of the majority of their colleagues, could hardly have been greater.

Thanks to the efforts of an interested teacher, two classes had been primed with reading material — an introduction to Guantánamo that I wrote two years ago, and the World Can’t Wait’s “Crimes Are Crimes No Matter Who Does Them” poster, which featured as an ad in the New York Times the week before. They had also seen excerpts of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” the day before, so when Debra Sweet (the National Director of the World Can’t Wait) and I rolled up in class to tell them more, to watch a few more clips of “Outside the Law,” featuring former prisoners Omar Deghayes and Moazzam Begg describing the horrors of the 24-hour flight to Guantánamo, and to answer questions, we encountered a level of engagement that was deeply refreshing. Despite elements of feigned indifference, the majority of the students — about 30 in each class — had involved themselves with the issues, and came up with questions that showed they had really thought about the parameters of the “War on Terror,” arbitrary detention, torture and the human cost of these experiments in detention and interrogation on those involved.

In another school, peace activist and former CIA analyst Ray McGovern and author and activist Larry Everest also made an impression, and the events were not only an indication that more school visits should be undertaken — to counter the pro-military propaganda that the government likes to sell to students — but also an insight into how the building blocks of dissent and resistance are noticeably present in neighborhoods where the words “racial profiling” evoke noises of recognition, and elite privileges are unlikely to extend, and I hope very much that Debra and I managed to leave a little focused outrage that can be nurtured to create the activists of tomorrow.

Torture, human experimentation and the Department of Defense

From the high school, we returned to Berkeley and to the final events in Boalt Hall, the home of torture professor John Yoo, beginning with an excellent presentation by Jason Leopold of Truthout and the psychologist and blogger Jeffrey Kaye on their exclusive exposé — in Truthout — of a memorandum dated March 25, 2002, approved by deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz, which authorized human experimentation on detainees in the “War on Terror,” and which followed some little-noticed maneuvering in Congress in December 2001, when the requirement of “informed consent” in any experimentation by the Defense Department (introduced in 1972) was quietly dropped.

I’ve cross-posted the article here, because it deserves to be read as widely as possible, and its publication during “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week was a wonderful boost to the week’s events, adding, as I explained in an introduction to the cross-post of Leopold and Kaye’s article, to “a compelling catalog of the many reasons why the acceptance of torture must continue to be opposed, which I developed during the week: namely, that it is not only illegal, morally corrosive, counterproductive and unnecessary, but also that, at its heart, the Bush-era torture program continued work in the field of human experimentation that the US took over from the Nazis, and also involved treasonous lies on the part of senior officials, who pretended that the program was designed to prevent future terrorist attacks, when, from the very beginning (in late November 2001, according to Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff), it was actually being used to extract false confessions about connections between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein that could be used in an attempt to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq in March 2003.”

Psychology and Torture: Complicity, Resistance and Accountability

Jason and Jeff’s presentation was followed by another powerful panel discussion, “Psychology and Torture: Complicity, Resistance and Accountability,” featuring psychologists Adrianne Aron and Ruth Fallenbaum, Haitian activist Pierre LaBossiere, and Patricia Isasa, the Argentinian torture survivor whose compelling testimony was a key part of a radio show with Rose Aguilar that I appeared on the day before.

Adrianne Aron discussed “The political purpose of torture and the psychological effects on individual victims and entire communities, with emphasis on the historical context of current US torture practices,” Ruth Fallenbaum discussed the important campaign by ethical psychologists against the complicity of the American Psychological Association in the Bush administration’s torture program, and Pierrre LaBossiere discussed the case of psychologist Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, who was “disappeared” in Haiti for organizing and advocating for survivors of torture. In her talk, entitled “The Healing Power of Resistance,” Patricia Isasa had the audience entranced, as she spoke about “why the struggle to bring torturers to justice is good therapy,” and how judicial victory is “simply wonderful” (in her case, involving the conviction of eight of her torturers) and also contributes significantly to the healing process.

Reckoning with Torture — An Evening of Conscience

Friday’s grand finale, “Reckoning with Torture — An Evening of Conscience,” brought together many of the week’s participants — plus some wonderful new guests — for a reading of memos and testimonies from the “War on Terror,” based on a powerful script, originated by the ACLU and American PEN Center, which has been produced in New York and Washington, D.C., but had never before been performed on the West Coast. The evening was organized by Susan Harman of Progressive Democrats of America, and joining myself, Ray McGovern, Marjorie Cohn, Jason Leopold, Peter Selz, Shahid Buttar and Jeffrey Kaye were the actress, author and activist Mimi Kennedy, Pamela Merchant, the Executive Director of the Center for Justice and Accountability, activist and lawyer Renee Saucedo, poet and novelist devorah major, UC Berkeley law student Gretchen Gordon, one of the founders of Boalt Alliance to Abolish Torture, the inspirational Father Louis Vitale, a Franciscan priest who has been imprisoned on numerous occasions during nearly 40 years of civil disobedience in the pursuit of peace and justice, and peace activist and former US Army colonel Ann Wright, one of three State Department officials to resign in protest at the illegal invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

The evening’s readings (which also included video clips of former prisoners Moazzam Begg and Omar Deghayes talking about their experiences) were introduced by Abdi Soltani, the Executive Director of the ACLU of Northern California, and the entire event was filmed, and will be made available soon on DVD. In addition, there are also plans for a revival of the event in Los Angeles (for which I’m willing to travel!)

POSTSCRIPT: The video is below!

Those involved, and those who attended this powerful event will have their own high points in what was a well-chosen selection of documents. Personally, I was thrilled to share the stage with Mimi, playing CIA “ghost prisoner” Abu Zubaydah to Mimi’s John Yoo, in a moving juxtaposition of Zubaydah’s testimony about his torture in secret CIA prisons with Yoo’s clinical and legally manipulative approval of the torture techniques used on Zubaydah, as endorsed in the UC Berkeley law professor’s notorious “torture memos” of August 2002, written while he was working for the Office of Legal Counsel, and violating that office’s responsibility to provide impartial legal advice to the Executive.

I was also moved by Jeff Kaye’s reading of a letter written by Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen who was just 15 years old when he was seized after a firefight in Afghanistan in July 2002 (whose trial by Military Commission is scheduled to resume at Guantánamo next week), devorah major’s poem about torture, and Father Louis Vitale’s reading of a list of individuals murdered in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, in which the detached accounts by military officials and coroners, recording in bloodless prose some of the 100+ murders in US custody that are known about, became a sonorous indictment of the wars, when delivered sequentially.

At the end, we each filed up to the mike to provide the audience with ways in which they can become involved in the struggle to eradicate the acceptance of torture in the US, and to hold accountable those, like John Yoo, whose baleful presence haunts Boalt Hall, who authorized its use. These closing comments included particular thanks to the organization and individuals who had pushed for the establishment of “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week, and had secured its adoption in a resolution by the City Council — the World Can’t Wait, the National Lawyers Guild (San Francisco), Progressive Democrats of America, Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute, National Accountability Action Network, Code Pink, FireJohnYoo.org, Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Social Justice Committee and the Rev. Kurt Kuhwald.

This was not quite the end of the week’s events. On Saturday afternoon, at Revolution Books, Jeffrey Haas discussed his book The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther, and talked about his experiences as a people’s lawyer, and on Saturday evening there was a dramatic reading of the play “Pedro and the Captain” by Mario Benedetti, with Mark McGoldrick and Youseef Elias, and directed by Angelina Llongueras.

For me, however, the week was nearly over. My flight back to London departed at lunchtime on Saturday, and my last social event was a post-reading reception at a local hotel, where I mingled with some of the performers I hadn’t met previously, and some of the evening’s guests, and was thrilled to discover how widely known my work is in activist circles. As the chatter turned to plans to consolidate this week’s bringing together of so many different groups and individuals with further action, and plans to mark Guantánamo’s ninth anniversary on January 11, 2011 were mentioned, I left not only with the warm feeling of being part of a network or family of exceptionally motivated groups and individuals, but also with the reinforced conviction that — as I mentioned in a previous article — the struggle for truth, justice, peace and accountability must continue, however long it takes, because it is nothing less than a struggle for the very soul of America.

My thanks to everyone involved in the week’s events — and particularly to Debra Sweet, Stephanie Tang and Curt Wechsler of the World Can’t Wait for their dedication to my work, for looking after me and for working me so hard, and to Ruth, Zeese, Cindy, Josh, Stephanie and Joey for putting me up and providing me with care, comfort and excellent company.

I hope to see you all again in the not too distant future.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

How Paul Wolfowitz Authorized Human Experimentation at Guantánamo

Last week, Truthout published an important article by Jason Leopold, Truthout’s Deputy Managing Editor, and psychologist and blogger Jeffrey Kaye, revealing, for the first time, a secret memorandum dated March 25, 2002, approved by deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz, which authorized human experimentation on detainees in the “War on Terror.” The release of the memo followed some little-noticed maneuvering in Congress in December 2001, when the requirement of “informed consent” in any experimentation by the Defense Department (introduced in 1972) was quietly dropped.

The article — which involved over a year of research, as Leopold and Kaye persuaded former officials to open up to them — not only adds to Leopold’s important work and to Kaye’s formidable track record as a chronicler of the development of human experimentation in the Bush administration’s “War on Terror” torture program (which he has also revealed as part of an obsession with human experimentation reaching back to the 1950s), but also confirms the existence of an important new front in the struggle to raise awareness of the horrors of torture, and the requirement that those who authorized it be held accountable for their crimes.

Leopold and Kaye delivered a presentation about their article the day after its publication, as part of “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week, and their work on human experimentation added to a compelling catalog of the many reasons why the acceptance of torture must continue to be opposed, which I developed during the week: namely, that it is not only illegal, morally corrosive, counterproductive and unnecessary, but also that, at its heart, the Bush-era torture program continued work in the field of human experimentation that the US took over from the Nazis, and also involved treasonous lies on the part of senior officials, who pretended that the program was designed to prevent future terrorist attacks, when, from the very beginning (in late November 2001, according to Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff), it was actually being used to extract false confessions about connections between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein that could be used in an attempt to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

The article is cross-posted below (and I’ve added some additional links).

Wolfowitz Directive Gave Legal Cover to Detainee Experimentation Program
By Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye, Truthout, October 14, 2010

In 2002, as the Bush administration was turning to torture and other brutal techniques for interrogating “war on terror” detainees, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz loosened rules against human experimentation, an apparent recognition of legal problems regarding the novel strategies for extracting and evaluating information from the prisoners.

Wolfowitz issued a little-known directive on March 25, 2002, about a month after President George W. Bush stripped the detainees of traditional prisoner-of-war protections under the Geneva Conventions [PDF]. Bush labeled them “unlawful enemy combatants” and authorized the CIA and the Department of Defense (DoD) to undertake brutal interrogations.

Despite its title — “Protection of Human Subjects and Adherence to Ethical Standards in DoD-Supported Research” (PDF) — the Wolfowitz directive weakened protections that had been in place for decades by limiting the safeguards to “prisoners of war.”

“We’re dealing with a special breed of person here,” Wolfowitz said about the war on terror detainees only four days before signing the new directive.

One former Pentagon official, who worked closely with the DoD’s ex-general counsel William Haynes, said the Wolfowitz directive provided legal cover for a top-secret Special Access Program at the Guantánamo Bay prison, which experimented on ways to glean information from unwilling subjects and to achieve “deception detection.”

“A dozen [high-value detainees] were subjected to interrogation methods in order to evaluate their reaction to those methods and the subsequent levels of stress that would result,” said the official.

A July 16, 2004 Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) report obtained by Truthout shows that between April and July 2003, a “physiological warfare specialist” attached to the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) program was present at Guantánamo. The CID report says the instructor was assigned to a top-secret Special Access Program.

In his book The Terror Presidency, Jack Goldsmith, the former head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, said Wolfowitz was “put in charge of questions regarding detainees” at Guantánamo. Goldsmith also previously worked with Haynes at the Pentagon.

It has been known since 2009, when President Barack Obama declassified some of the Bush administration’s legal memoranda regarding the interrogation program, that there were experimental elements to the brutal treatment of detainees, including the sequencing and duration of the torture and other harsh tactics.

However, the Wolfowitz directive also suggests that the Bush administration was concerned about whether its actions might violate Geneva Conventions rules that were put in place after World War II when grisly Nazi human experimentation was discovered. Those legal restrictions were expanded in the 1970s after revelations about the CIA testing drugs on unsuspecting human subjects and conducting other mind-control experiments.

For its part, the DoD insists that it “has never condoned nor authorized the use of human research testing on any detainee in our custody,” according to spokeswoman Wendy Snyder.

However, from the start of the war on terror, the Bush administration employed nontraditional methods for designing interrogation protocols, including the reverse engineering of training given to American troops trapped behind enemy lines, called the SERE techniques. For instance, the controlled-drowning technique of waterboarding was lifted from SERE manuals.

Shielding Rumsfeld

Retired US Air Force Capt. Michael Shawn Kearns, a former SERE intelligence officer, said the Wolfowitz directive appears to be a clear attempt to shield then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from the legal consequences of “any dubious research practices associated with the interrogation program.”

Scott Horton, a human rights attorney and constitutional expert, noted Wolfowitz’s specific reference to “prisoners of war” as protected under the directive, as opposed to referring more generally to detainees or people under the government’s control:

“At the time that Wolfowitz was issuing this directive, the Bush administration was taking the adamant position that prisoners taken in the’ war on terror’ were not ‘prisoners of war’ under the Geneva Conventions and were not entitled to any of the protections of the Geneva Conventions. Indeed, it called those protections ‘privileges’ that were available only to ‘lawful combatants.’ So the statement [in the directive] that ‘prisoners of war’ cannot be subjects of human experimentation … raises some concerns — why was the more restrictive term ‘prisoners of war’ used instead of ‘prisoners,’ for instance?”

The Wolfowitz directive also changed other rules regarding waivers of informed consent. After the scandals over the CIA’s MK-ULTRA program and the Tuskegee experiments on African-Americans suffering from syphilis, Congress passed legislation known as the Common Rule to provide protections to human research subjects.

The Common Rule “requires a review of proposed research by an Institutional Review Board (IRB), the informed consent of research subjects, and institutional assurances of compliance with the regulations.”

Individuals who lack the capacity to provide “informed consent” must have an IRB determine if they would benefit from the proposed research. In certain cases, that decision could also be made by the subject’s “legal representative.”

However, according to the Wolfowitz directive, waivers of informed consent could be granted by the heads of DoD divisions.

Professor Alexander M. Capron, who oversees human rights and health law at the World Health Organization, said the delegation of the power to waive informed consent procedures to Pentagon officials is “controversial both because it involves a waiver of the normal requirements and because the grounds for that waiver are so open-ended.”

The Wolfowitz directive also changes language that had required DoD researchers to strictly adhere to the Nuremberg Directives for Human Experimentation and other precedents when conducting human subject research.

The Nuremberg Code, which was a response to the Nazi atrocities, made “the voluntary consent of the human subject … absolutely essential.” However, the Wolfowitz directive softened a requirement of strict compliance to this code, instructing researchers simply to be “familiar” with its contents.

“Why are DoD-funded investigators just required to be ‘familiar’ with the Nuremberg Code rather than required to comply with them?” asked Stephen Soldz, director of the Center for Research, Evaluation and Program Development at Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis.

Soldz also wondered why “enforcement was moved from the Army Surgeon General or someone else in the medical chain of command to the Director of Defense Research and Engineering” and why “this directive changed at this time, as the ‘war on terror’ was getting going.”

Soldz is co-author of a report published in June by the international doctors’ organization Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), which found that high-value detainees who were subjected to brutal torture techniques by the CIA were used as “guinea pigs” to gauge the effectiveness of the various “enhanced interrogation” methods. PHR told Truthout it first examined the Wolfowitz directive and changes Congress made to 10 USC 980, the law that governs how the Defense Department spends federal funds on human experimentation, in 2008 while preparing its report, but did not cite either because the group could not explain its significance.

Treating Soldiers

The original impetus for the changes seems to have related more to the use of experimental therapies on US soldiers facing potential biological and other dangers in war zones.

The House Armed Services Committee proposed amending 10 USC 980 prior to the 9/11 attacks. But the Bush administration pressed for the changes after 9/11 as the United States was preparing to invade Afghanistan and new medical products might be needed for soldiers on the battlefield without their consent, said two former officials from the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Yet, there were concerns about the changes even among Bush administration officials. In a September 24, 2001 memo to lawmakers, Bush’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said the “administration is concerned with the provision allowing research to be conducted on human subjects without their informed consent in order to advance the development of a medical product necessary to the armed forces.”

The OMB memo said the Bush administration understood that the DoD had a “legitimate need” for “waiver authority for emergency research,” but “the provision as drafted may jeopardize existing protections for human subjects in research, and must be significantly narrowed.”

However, the broader language moved forward, as did planning for the new war on terror interrogation procedures.

In December 2001, Pentagon general counsel Haynes and other agency officials contacted the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA), which runs SERE schools for teaching US soldiers to resist interrogation and torture if captured by an outlaw regime. The officials wanted a list of interrogation techniques that could be used for detainee “exploitation,” according to a report released last year by the Senate Armed Services Committee (PDF).

These techniques, as they were later implemented by the CIA and the Pentagon, were widely discussed as “experimental” in nature.

Back in Congress, the concerns from the OMB about loose terminology were brushed aside and the law was amended to give the DoD greater leeway regarding experimentation on human subjects.

A paragraph to the law, which had not been changed since it was first enacted in 1972, was added authorizing the defense secretary to waive “informed consent” for human subject research and experimentation. It was included in the 2002 Defense Authorization Act passed by Congress in December 2001. The Wolfowitz directive implemented the legislative changes Congress made to 10 USC 980 when it was issued three months later.

The changes to the “informed consent” section of the law were in direct contradiction to presidential and DoD memoranda issued in the 1990s that prohibited such waivers related to classified research. A memo signed in 1999 by Secretary of Defense William Cohen called for the prohibitions on “informed consent” waivers to be added to the Common Rule regulations covering DoD research, but DoD never implemented it.

Congressional Assistance

As planning for the highly classified Special Access Program began to take shape, most officials in Congress appear to have averted their eyes, with some even lending a hand.

The ex-DIA officials said the Pentagon briefed top lawmakers on the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee in November and December 2001, including the panel’s chairman Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and his chief of staff Patrick DeLeon, about experimentation and research involving detainee interrogations that centered on “deception detection.”

To get a Special Access Program like this off the ground, the Pentagon needed DeLeon’s help, given his long-standing ties to the American Psychological Association (APA), where he served as president in 2000, the sources said.

According to former APA official Bryant Welch, DeLeon’s role proved crucial.

“For significant periods of time DeLeon has literally directed APA staff on federal policy matters and has dominated the APA governance on political matters,” Welch wrote. “For over twenty-five years, relationships between the APA and the Department of Defense (DOD) have been strongly encouraged and closely coordinated by DeLeon … When the military needed a mental health professional to help implement its interrogation procedures, and the other professions subsequently refused to comply, the military had a friend in Senator Inouye’s office, one that could reap the political dividends of seeds sown by DeLeon over many years.”

John Bray, a spokesman for Inuoye, said in late August he would look into questions posed by Truthout about the Wolfowitz directive and the meetings involving DeLeon and Inuoye. But Bray never responded nor did he return follow-up phone calls and emails. DeLeon did not return messages left with his assistant.

Legal Word Games

Meanwhile, in January 2002, President Bush was receiving memos from then-Justice Department attorneys Jay Bybee and John Yoo as well as from Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Bush’s White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, advising Bush to deny members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban prisoner-of-war status under the Geneva Conventions.

Also, about a month before the Wolfowitz directive was issued, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) asked Joint Forces Command if they could get a “crash course” on interrogation for the next interrogation team headed out to Guantánamo, according to the Armed Services Committee’s report. That request was sent to Brig. Gen. Thomas Moore and was approved.

Bruce Jessen, the chief psychologist of the SERE program, and Joseph Witsch, a JPRA instructor, led the instructional seminar held in early March 2002.

The seminar included a discussion of al-Qaeda’s presumed methods of resisting interrogation and recommended specific methods interrogators should use to defeat al-Qaeda’s resistance. According to the Armed Services Committee report, the presentation provided instructions on how interrogations should be conducted and on how to manage the “long term exploitation” of detainees.

There was a slide show, focusing on four primary methods of treatment: “isolation and degradation,” “sensory deprivation,” “physiological pressures” and “psychological pressures.”

According to Jessen and Witsch’s instructor’s guide, isolation was the “main building block of the exploitation process,” giving the captor “total control” over the prisoner’s “inputs.” Examples were provided on how to implement “degradation,” by taking away a prisoner’s personal dignity. Methods of sensory deprivation were also discussed as part of the training.

Jessen and Witsch denied that “physical pressures,” which later found their way into the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program, were taught at the March meeting.

However, Jessen, along with Christopher Wirts, chief of JPRA’s Operational Support Office, wrote a memo for Southern Command’s Directorate of Operations (J3), entitled “Prisoner Handling Recommendations,” which urged Guantánamo authorities to take punishment beyond “base line rules.”

So, by late March 2002, the pieces were in place for a strategy of behavior modification designed to break down the will of the detainees and extract information from them. Still, to make the procedures “legal,” some reinterpretations of existing laws and regulation were needed.

For instance, attorneys Bybee and Yoo would narrow the definition of “torture” to circumvent laws prohibiting the brutal interrogation of detainees.

“Vulnerable” Individuals

In his directive, Wolfowitz also made subtle, but significant, word changes. While retaining the blanket prohibition against experimenting on prisoners of war, Wolfowitz softened the language for other types of prisoners, using a version of rules about “vulnerable” classes of individuals taken from regulations meant for civilian research by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

This research and experimentation examined physiological markers of stress, such as cortisol, and involved psychologists under contract to the CIA and the military who were experts in the field, the ex-DIA officials said.

One study, called “The War Fighter’s Stress Response,” was conducted between 2002 and 2003 and examined physiological measurements of mock torture subjects drawn from the SERE program and other high-stress military personnel, such as Special Forces Combat Divers.

Researchers measured cortisol and other hormone levels via salivary swabbing and blood samples, a process that also was reportedly done to war on terror detainees.

Three weeks after the Wolfowitz directive was signed, SERE psychologist Jessen produced a Draft Exploitation Plan for use at Guantánamo. According to the Armed Services Committee’s report, JPRA was offering its services for “oversight, training, analysis, research, and [tactics, techniques, and procedures] development” to Joint Forces Command Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. Robert Wagner. (Emphasis added.)

There were other indications that research was an important component of JPRA services to the DoD and CIA interrogation programs. When three JPRA personnel were sent to a Special Mission Unit associated with Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in August 2003 for what was believed to be special training in interrogation, one of the three was JPRA’s manager for research and development.

Three former top military officials interviewed by the Armed Services Committee have described Guantánamo as a “battle lab.”

According to Col. Britt Mallow, the commander of the Criminal Investigative Task Force (CITF), he was uncomfortable when Guantánamo officials Maj. Gen. Mike Dunleavy and Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller used the term “battle lab,” meaning “that interrogations and other procedures there were to some degree experimental, and their lessons would benefit DoD in other places.”

CITF’s deputy commander told the Senate investigators, “there were many risks associated with this concept … and the perception that detainees were used for some ‘experimentation’ of new unproven techniques had negative connotations.”

In May 2005, a former military officer who attended a SERE training facility sent an email to Middle East scholar Juan Cole stating that “Gitmo must be being used as a ‘laboratory’ for all these psychological techniques by the [counter-intelligence] guys.”

The Al-Qahtani Experiment

One of the high-value detainees imprisoned at Guantánamo who appears to have been a victim of human experimentation was Mohammed al-Qahtani, who was captured in January 2002.

A sworn statement filed by Lt. Gen. Randall M. Schmidt, al-Qahtani’s attorney, said Secretary Rumsfeld was “personally involved” in the interrogation of al-Qahtani and spoke “weekly” with Major General Miller, commander at Guantánamo, about the status of the interrogations between late 2002 and early 2003.

The treatment of al-Qahtani was cataloged in an 84-page “torture log” (PDF) that was leaked in 2006. The torture log shows that, beginning in November 2002 and continuing well into January 2003, al-Qahtani was subjected to sleep deprivation, interrogated in 20-hour stretches, poked with IVs and left to urinate on himself.

Gitanjali S. Gutierrez, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights who represents al-Qahtani, had said in a sworn declaration that her client was subjected to months of torture based on verbal and written authorizations from Rumsfeld.

“At Guantánamo, Mr. al-Qahtani was subjected to a regime of aggressive interrogation techniques, known as the ‘First Special Interrogation Plan,'” Gutierrez said. “These methods included, but were not limited to, 48 days of severe sleep deprivation and 20-hour interrogations, forced nudity, sexual humiliation, religious humiliation, physical force, prolonged stress positions and prolonged sensory over-stimulation, and threats with military dogs.”

In addition, the Senate Armed Services Committee report said al-Qahtani’s treatment was viewed as a potential model for other interrogations.

In his book Oath Betrayed, Dr. Steven Miles wrote that the meticulously recorded logs of al-Qahtani’s interrogation and torture focus “on the emotions and interactions of the prisoner, rather than on the questions that were asked and the information that was obtained.”

The uncertainty surrounding these experimental techniques resulted in the presence of medical personnel on site, and frequent and consistent medical checks of the detainee. The results of the monitoring, which likely included vital signs and other stress markers, would also become data that could be analyzed to understand how the new interrogation techniques worked.

In January 2004, the Director of Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E) initiated a DoD-wide review of human subjects protection policies. A Navy slide presentation at DoD Training Day on November 14, 2006, hinted strongly at the serious issues behind the entire review.

The Navy presentation framed the problem in the light of the history of US governmental “non-compliance” with human subjects research protections, including “US Government Mind Control Experiments — LSD, MK-ULTRA, MK-DELTA (1950-1970s)”; a 90-day national “stand down” in 2003 for all human subject research and development activities “ordered in response to the death of subjects”; as well as use of “unqualified researchers.”

The Training Day presentation said the review found the Navy “not in full compliance with Federal policies on human subjects protection.” Furthermore, DDR&E found the Navy had “no single point of accountability for human subject protections.”

DoD refused to respond to questions regarding the 2004 review. Maj. Gen. Ronald Sega, who at the time was the DDR&E, did not return calls for comment.

Ongoing Research

Meanwhile, the end of the Bush administration has not resulted in a total abandonment of the research regarding interrogation program.

Last February, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, who recently resigned, disclosed that the Obama administration’s High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG) planned on conducting “scientific research” to determine “if there are better ways to get information from people that are consistent with our values.”

“It is going to do scientific research on that long-neglected area,” Blair said during testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. He did not provide additional details as to what the “scientific research” entailed.

As for the Wolfowitz directive, Pentagon spokeswoman Snyder said it did not open the door to human experimentation on war on terror detainees.

“There is no detainee policy, directive or instruction — or exceptions to such — that would permit performing human research testing on DoD detainees,” Snyder said. “Moreover, none of the numerous investigations into allegations of misconduct by interrogators or the guard force found any evidence of such activities.”

Snyder added that DoD is in the process of updating the Wolfowitz directive and it will be “completed for review next year.”

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

Cross-posted on Cageprisoners, Another World Is Possible and Uruknet.

Wikileaks’ 400,000 Classified Iraq War Documents Reveal 15,000 Previously Unreported Civilian Casualties, and Extensive Torture

Announcing the release of the largest collection of classified US military documents leaked by an insider — 391,832 field documents relating to the war in Iraq from 2004 to 2009 — Wikileaks founder Julian Assange said at a press conference in London today, “This disclosure is about the truth. We hope to correct some of that attack on the truth that occurred before the war, during the war, and which has continued on since the war officially concluded. While I am not sure we have achieved the maximum possible [political impact] I think we are getting pretty close.”

As the Guardian explained, “Assange highlighted how the reports documented 109,000 deaths — including 66,000 civilians, of which 15,000 were previously undocumented,” and also stated, “That tremendous scale should not make us blind to the small human scale in this material. It is the deaths of one and two people per event that killed the overwhelming number of people in Iraq.”

Several major media outlets — more than were entrusted with similar material relating to the war in Afghanistan in July, when 92.000 classified field documents were released to the Guardian, the New York Times and Der Spiegel — were given the Iraq documents two weeks ago, and their research into what the documents contain was revealed today, as Assange gave his press conference.

Of particular importance are the reports of civilian deaths (both those that were previously documented, and the 15,000 that have not been disclosed before), not just because they provide a shocking insight into how many civilians have died in unreported circumstances (although these figures are still far less than those cited in other reports), but also because they flatly contradict the military’s assertions that, as General Tommy Franks claimed in 2002, “We don’t do body counts.” As the Guardian explained, in flat contradiction of Gen. Franks’ claim, “Troops on the ground filed secret field reports over six years of the occupation, purporting to tot up every casualty, military and civilian.” In response to the revelations, Iraq Body Count, the London-based group that monitors civilian casualties, stated, “These logs contain a huge amount of entirely new information regarding casualties. Our analysis so far indicates that they will add 15,000 or more previously unrecorded deaths to the current IBC total. This data should never have been withheld from the public.”

However, as well as containing information about 15,000 previously unreported civilian deaths, the documents reveal information about the ongoing abuse of detainees by US forces, a systematic failure by the US authorities to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and murder by Iraqi police and soldiers, and the revelation that a US helicopter gunship involved in the cold-blooded murder of a dozen people in July 2007, including two Iraqis working for Reuters (released on video by Wikileaks in April), had previously killed two Iraqi insurgents after they tried to surrender.

The Guardian’s coverage is here, Der Spiegel’s is here, and the New York Times’ coverage, which unfortunately dwells too much on revelations about the military’s fears of Iranian involvement in the insurgency (as this was an inevitable fallout from the ill-conceived invasion, and should not be used to assist those seeking war against Iran) is here. In addition, Channel 4 will be covering the leaked documents in a Dispatches programme on Monday.

Following the release of the documents, both the Pentagon and the British Ministry of Defense issued statements. In Britain, where human rights lawyer Phil Shiner told the press conference this morning that “Some of these deaths will be in circumstances where the UK have a very clear legal responsibility,” and that “This may be because the Iraqis died while under the effective control of UK forces — under arrest, in vehicles, helicopters or detention facilities,” the MoD stated that “any unauthorised release” of classified material “can put the lives of UK service personnel and those of our allies at risk and make the job of armed forces in all theatres of operation more difficult and more dangerous.”

Meanwhile, in the US, the Pentagon stated, “We deplore WikiLeaks for inducing individuals to break the law, leak classified documents and then cavalierly share that secret information with the world, including our enemies. We know terrorist organizations have been mining the leaked Afghan documents for information to use against us and this Iraq leak is more than four times as large. By disclosing such sensitive information, WikiLeaks continues to put at risk the lives of our troops, their coalition partners and those Iraqis and Afghans working with us. The only responsible course of action for Wikileaks at this point is to return the stolen material and expunge it from their websites as soon as possible.”

Given the extensive media coverage of the reports, it would be difficult to imagine how this particular genie could be reinserted in the bottle, or, indeed, why it should be, as the significance of these revelations, and those regarding the Afghan war, is to expose the horrendous brutality of the wars — and their many cover-ups, lies and distortions — rather than to provide any comfort whatsoever to those who believe that the military occupation of either country should continue one day longer.

As Manfred Nowak, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, explained, there was “now a duty on the US to investigate whether its officials were involved in or complicit in torture.” Nowak told the BBC’s Today programme, “President Obama came to power with a moral agenda, saying “we don’t want to be seen to be a nation responsible for major human rights violations.” He added, as the Guardian described it, that a “failure to investigate credible claims of US forces’ complicity in torture would be a failure of the Obama government to recognize the US’s obligations under international law.”

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

Judge Denies Guantánamo Prisoner’s Habeas Petition, Ignores Torture in Secret CIA Prisons

On September 22, in the District Court in Washington D.C., Judge Reggie B. Walton denied the habeas corpus petition of Tawfiq al-Bihani (described in court documents as Toffiq al-Bihani), a Yemeni who was raised in Saudi Arabia, giving the government its 18th victory out of 56 cases decided, with the other 38 having been won by the prisoners.

However, as in the majority of the cases in which the prisoners have lost, there was nothing in the ruling that could be construed as representing the delivery of justice after the eight and a half years that al-Bihani has spent in US custody, as he has been consigned to indefinite detention in Guantánamo, on an apparently legal basis, despite the fact that there is no evidence that he ever took up arms against anyone, or had any contact with anyone involved in preparing, facilitating or supporting acts of international terrorism.

Moreover, in examining his habeas corpus petition, Judge Walton appeared to remain blissfully unaware that, despite being, at most, a lowly foot soldier, al-Bihani was held in a variety of secret CIA prisons in Afghanistan before his transfer to Guantánamo, where he was subjected to torture.

As revealed in the background to al-Bihani’s case, accepted by both al-Bihani and the government, he cut a depressing figure prior to traveling to Afghanistan in the summer of 2000. As Judge Walton explained, “During the time he resided in Saudi Arabia, the petitioner was abusing various drugs, including alcohol, marijuana, hashish, crystal methamphetamine, and depression pills,” Judge Walton also noted, “The petitioner began to ‘increase [his] intake of alcohol and drugs,’ when his fiancee ended their engagement due to her concerns that ‘she would fall out of grace with her father if she married a Yemeni against his wishes.’”

Apparently persuaded to travel to Afghanistan by his brother Mansour, described as “an experienced fighter who fought against the Russians in Chechnya,” and who “had close relationships with senior Chechen fighters and other individuals who were engaged in training men to fight in Chechnya and in other countries,” he traveled to Afghanistan with his brother, where, as Judge Walton concluded, he “received, at a minimum, weapons training” at the al-Farouq training camp, established by the Afghan warlord Abdul Rasul Sayyaf in the early 1990s, but associated with Osama bin Laden in the years before the 9/11 attacks, and also stayed in Afghan guest houses reportedly associated with al-Qaeda.

In authorizing al-Bihani’s ongoing detention, Judge Walton gave weight to al-Bihani’s admission that he “became, and was part of, al-Qaeda at least during the five months period he was training at al-Farouq,” even though he also noted that his training was far from rigorous. “Although he was enrolled at al-Farouq for approximately five months,” Judge Walton explained, “he only ‘received approximately two months of training,’ because he would train for approximately ‘a week or two weeks’ before feigning illness in order to leave and ‘do hashish or tobacco.’” Judge Walton added that al-Bihani “repeated this cycle several times,” and also explained, “Towards the end of his time at al-Farouq, the trainers at the camp informed him that he was ‘not ready physically because [he] keep[s] leaving and going back, — adding that the trainers reportedly “concluded that he was of ‘no use,’ and ‘they kick[ed him] out of the camp.’”

Personally, I find it troubling that an obviously drug-addled, inconsistent and unreliable recruit can nevertheless be regarded as “part of” al-Qaeda, as it tends to render meaningless the supposed threat posed by al-Qaeda if useless recruits can legitimately be held, even when, as with al-Bihani, they had no knowledge of international terrorism, and not even a demonstrable commitment to al-Qaeda’s military activities in Afghanistan.

Judge Walton, however, seemed unconcerned that there appeared to be no basis for concluding that al-Bihani had ever posed a threat to the United States. Proceeding to an explanation of how he was captured, he explained that, in late 2001, having become separated from his brother Mansour (who was “ill” and was transported to Quetta in “a tractor-trailer truck” for those “who appeared sick or injured”), al-Bihani traveled through Pakistan to Iran, “with a group of other men.” Near Zahedan, he was supposed to be reunited with his brother, and with Hamza al-Qa’eity, who ran a guest house in Kabul described by al-Bihani as “one that jihad fighters used as a transition point.” However, as Judge Walton explained, at “the exact time” that al-Qa’eity arrived to pick him up from the house of an Iranian family, where he was staying, the Iranian police — or intelligence services — “descended on the house and apprehended” him — and, presumably, Hamza al-Qa’eity as well.

The hidden story of ten men rendered from Iran to Afghanistan — including Tawfiq al-Bihani

As I mentioned in the introduction to this article, what Judge Walton appeared not to know — or ignored in his ruling — was the fact that, after al-Bihani was subsequently “flown to Afghanistan” and “transferred to United States custody,” he was held in a variety of secret CIA prisons.

This information is readily accessible, because I explained in my book The Guantánamo Files that al-Bihani was one of ten men seized in Iran who were flown to Afghanistan and then handed over to US forces. One of these men, Aminullah Tukhi, an Afghan released from Guantánamo in December 2007, explained that six Arabs, two Afghans, an Uzbek and a Tajik had been delivered to the Americans, and I was able to identify six of them — Tukhi, Tawfiq al-Bihani, Walid al-Qadasi, a Yemeni transferred to the custody of his home government in April 2004, Wassam al-Ourdoni, a Jordanian released in April 2004, Rafiq Alhami, a Tunisian released in Slovakia in January this year, and Hussein Almerfedi, a Yemeni who won his habeas petition in July this year. Unaccounted for are the other four men mentioned by Aminullah Tukhi — an Arab, an Afghan, the Uzbek and the Tajik — although it seems possible that one of the disappeared was Hamza al-Qa’eity.

Confirmation that al-Bihani was one of the men came from an unexpected source. Abu Yahya al-Libi, one of four prisoners who escaped from Bagram in July 2005, described, in a post on an obscure French language website, which has since disappeared from the Internet, 12 prisoners who were held with him in Bagram, one of whom was Tawfiq al-Bihani. He also explained how all the men had passed through a network of secret CIA prisons in Afghanistan, where they had endured “hard torture,” and added, in al-Bihani’s case, that he was captured in Iran at the start of 2002, that he had met him in June 2002 in a prison he identified as “Rissat 2,” and that he was taken to another prison in September 2002, after which he never saw him again, and thought that he may have been transferred to Guantánamo.

Al-Libi also explained that Tawfiq al-Bihani thought that his brother Ghaleb, who had also been in Afghanistan, had been killed, but that the Americans had told him that he had been captured — and it later emerged that this was correct. Ghaleb al-Bihani lost his habeas corpus petition in January 2009, on the basis that he was a cook for Arab forces supporting the Taliban, and also had his appeal denied in January this year, consigning him to the same form of court-approved indefinite detention as his brother.

The torture in secret CIA prisons of three men rendered from Iran to Afghanistan

The accounts of three of the men rendered from Iran to Afghanistan are publicly available, and they are, to be blunt, horrific. Al-Ourdoni, a missionary seized with his wife and new-born child, explained after his release that his American captors “put me in jail under circumstances that I can only recall with dread. I lived under unimaginable conditions that cannot be tolerated in a civilized society.” He said that he was first placed in an underground prison for 77 days, and stated, “this room was so dark that we couldn’t distinguish nights and days. There was no window, and we didn’t see the sun once during the whole time.” He added that he was then moved to “prison number three”, where the food was so bad that his weight dropped substantially, and was then held in Bagram for 40 days before being flown to Guantánamo.

In an interview with a UN rapporteur, Walid al-Qadasi provided the following explanation of his treatment, which, like al-Ourdoni’s account, was included in a major UN report on secret detention earlier this year:

He was held in a prison in Kabul. During US custody, officials cut his clothes with scissors, left him naked and took photos of him before giving him Afghan clothes to wear. They then handcuffed his hands behind his back, blindfolded him and started interrogating him. The apparently Egyptian interrogator, accusing him of belonging to al-Qaeda, threatened him with death. He was put in an underground cell measuring approximately two meters by three meters with very small windows. He shared the cell with ten inmates. They had to sleep in shifts due to lack of space and received food only once a day. He spent three months there without ever leaving the cell. After three months, Walid al-Qadasi was transferred to Bagram, where he was interrogated for one month.

In a lawsuit filed in April 2009, Rafiq Alhami stated that, for a year, he was held in three CIA “dark sites,” where “his presence and his existence were unknown to everyone except his United States detainers,” and where, at various times, he was “stripped naked, threatened with dogs, shackled in painful stress positions for hours, punched, kicked and exposed to extremes of heat and cold.” Moreover, at Guantánamo, he told a military review board that one of the prisons was the “Dark Prison” near Kabul, which I have previously described as “a medieval torture dungeon with the addition of ear-splittingly loud music and noise, which was pumped into the cells 24 hours a day,” based on accounts by prisoners who were held there, including the British resident Binyam Mohamed, who described his time there as “the worst days of his captivity” — worse than the 18 months in Morocco, where the CIA’s proxy torturers regularly sliced his genitals with a razorblade.

Alhami told his review board that he was tortured for three months in the “Dark Prison,” where, he said, “I was threatened. I was left out all night in the cold … I spent two months with no water, no shoes, in darkness and in the cold. There was darkness and loud music for two months. I was not allowed to pray … These things are documented. You have them.”

The torture of Tawfiq al-Bihani

However while Judge Walton may not have come across my book, or the inclusion of this information in the UN report on secret detention earlier this year, I can’t understand how he would not have known about al-Bihani’s treatment from his lawyer, George M. Clarke III, because, in the book The Guantánamo Lawyers: Inside a Prison, Outside the Law, published last year, Clarke reproduced a letter from al-Bihani in which he provided a detailed explanation of what had happened to him after he was delivered to Afghanistan from Iran.

In his letter, al-Bihani explained that he was initially held in a vile Afghan prison in Kabul, where he and the other prisoners from Iran were hidden from Red Cross representatives until one of their fellow prisoners informed them of their existence. His first encounters with US agents — he believes they were from the FBI — took place in this prison, and he described his first interrogation as follows:

I was handcuffed behind and they put a hood on my head so that I could not see anything. When I entered the interrogation room, the American guards pushed me down to the ground in a very savage manner. They started to cut my clothing with scissors. They undressed me completely and I was nude. They made me sit on a chair and it was very cold. I was also afraid and terrorized because the guards were aiming their weapons towards me. The interrogator put his personal gun on my forehead threatening to kill me.

Al-Bihani explained that he stayed in this prison for around ten weeks, and was then moved to another prison where he was held in solitary confinement for “approximately five months and ten days.” He added that the guards were Afghan, that they handed out “very bad treatment,” and that “The interrogation was also very savage.” He was then moved to a third prison, which appears to have been the “Dark Prison,” and en route US soldiers “started to hit me and strangle me, they would put a rope around my neck and I was about to die.” This is his description of the “Dark Prison”:

This was absolutely the worst prison. It was a very dark prison and there was no light, no bed or a carpet, the floor was semi cement. The restraints on my feet were very tight; they put me into a cell and kept me hanging tied to the wall for almost ten days. […]

The irritating music 24 hours a day was very loud and hard banging on the door. When I used to go for interrogations, I was unable to walk because of the restraints on my legs and tightness on my feet.  Would fall down to the ground and scream that I cannot walk. They would pick me up from the ground and I would walk with them while they were hitting me on the way to the interrogation until I would bleed from my feet. When I would fall to the ground, they would drag me while I am on the ground. Then they would bring me back to the cell and sprinkle cold water on me. Sometimes they would put a weapon on my head threatening to kill me using some provocative statements which I cannot mention in this letter.

After ten days, they brought me down from the hanging position and made me sit on the floor. Then they tied my hands upwards for approximately one month so that I could not lie down on the floor for comfort, therefore I was unable to sleep except for quarter of an hour every day.

After one month and ten days, they removed all my restraints, however I was unable to rest or sleep because of extreme hunger and cold and the loud irritating music and the banging on the door. I stayed in this prison for approximately two months and a half and I had no idea whether it is day or night as it was extremely dark and oppressive conditions.

After this, al-Bihani was moved to Bagram, where, he said, “the treatment was very bad there as well,” and was then flown to Guantánamo.

A bleak conclusion

Beyond a rather obvious question raised by the accounts above — did Tawfiq al-Bihani confess that he was “part of” al-Qaeda (when he so obviously wasn’t) because of the torture to which he was subjected in Afghanistan? — what this apparently overlooked torture account most vividly and balefully demonstrates is how effortlessly the torture of al-Bihani has become irrelevant to his case.

The exposure of torture has derailed other habeas petitions challenged by the government — in, for example, the cases of Mohamed Jawad and Fouad al-Rabiah (who were subsequently released), Farhi Saeed bin Mohammed, an Algerian who is still held, and, less successfully, in the cases of Saeed Hatim and Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman (whose successful petitions are being appealed by the government).

However, in Tawfiq al-Bihani’s case it is difficult to escape the conclusion that, even had Judge Walton known, or chosen to pay attention to these reports, it would not have fundamentally altered his conclusion that this failed recruit was sufficiently involved with al-Qaeda to justify his ongoing detention. That, as I concluded above, already demonstrates that the classification process for determining who may be legally detained is far too loose, but when evidence that al-Bihani was tortured in secret prisons is also removed from the picture, the end result is far bleaker.

Somewhere along the line, questions need to be raised not only regarding the justification for continuing to hold insignificant individuals at Guantánamo who never raised arms against anyone and were not involved in terrorism, but also regarding the ease with which detailed information about the torture of prisoners in a series of secret prisons run by the CIA can be so thoroughly ignored that Judge Walton failed to mention it at all.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

As published exclusively on Cageprisoners. Cross-posted on FiredoglakeThe Public Record, The Smirking Chimp, Anti-Fascist Encyclopedia, Antemedius, Op-Ed News and Uruknet.

For an overview of all the habeas rulings, including links to all my articles, and to the judges’ unclassified opinions, see: Guantánamo Habeas Results: The Definitive List. For a sequence of articles dealing with the Guantánamo habeas cases, see: Guantánamo and the Supreme Court: the most important habeas corpus case in modern history and Guantánamo and the Supreme Court: What Happened? (both December 2007), The Supreme Court’s Guantánamo ruling: what does it mean? (June 2008), Guantánamo as Alice in Wonderland (Uighurs’ first court victory, June 2008), What’s Happening with the Guantánamo cases? (July 2008), Government Says Six Years Is Not Long Enough To Prepare Evidence (September 2008), From Guantánamo to the United States: The Story of the Wrongly Imprisoned Uighurs (October 2008), Guantánamo Uyghurs’ resettlement prospects skewered by Justice Department lies (October 2008), Guilt By Torture: Binyam Mohamed’s Transatlantic Quest for Justice (November 2008), After 7 Years, Judge Orders Release of Guantánamo Kidnap Victims (November 2008), Is Robert Gates Guilty of Perjury in Guantánamo Torture Case? (December 2008), A New Year Message to Barack Obama: Free the Guantánamo Uighurs (January 2009), The Top Ten Judges of 2008 (January 2009), No End in Sight for the “Enemy Combatants” of Guantánamo (January 2009), Judge Orders Release of Guantánamo’s Forgotten Child (January 2009), How Cooking For The Taliban Gets You Life In Guantánamo (January 2009), Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics (February 2009), Bad News And Good News For The Guantánamo Uighurs (February 2009), The Nobodies Formerly Known As Enemy Combatants (March 2009), Farce at Guantánamo, as cleared prisoner’s habeas petition is denied (April 2009), Obama’s First 100 Days: A Start On Guantánamo, But Not Enough (May 2009), Judge Condemns “Mosaic” Of Guantánamo Intelligence, And Unreliable Witnesses (May 2009), Pain At Guantánamo And Paralysis In Government (May 2009), Guantánamo: A Prison Built On Lies (May 2009), Free The Guantánamo Uighurs! (May 2009), Guantánamo And The Courts (Part One): Exposing The Bush Administration’s Lies (July 2009), Obama’s Failure To Deliver Justice To The Last Tajik In Guantánamo (July 2009), Obama And The Deadline For Closing Guantánamo: It’s Worse Than You Think (July 2009), How Judge Huvelle Humiliated The Government In Guantánamo Case (Mohamed Jawad, July 2009), As Judge Orders Release Of Tortured Guantánamo Prisoner, Government Refuses To Concede Defeat (Mohamed Jawad, July 2009), Guantánamo As Hotel California: You Can Check Out Any Time You Like, But You Can Never Leave (August 2009), Judge Orders Release From Guantánamo Of Kuwaiti Charity Worker (August 2009), Guantánamo And The Courts (Part Two): Obama’s Shame (August 2009), Guantánamo And The Courts (Part Three): Obama’s Continuing Shame (August 2009), No Escape From Guantánamo: The Latest Habeas Rulings (September 2009), First Guantánamo Prisoner To Lose Habeas Hearing Appeals Ruling (September 2009), A Truly Shocking Guantánamo Story: Judge Confirms That An Innocent Man Was Tortured To Make False Confessions (September 2009), 75 Guantánamo Prisoners Cleared For Release; 31 Could Leave Today (September 2009), Resisting Injustice In Guantánamo: The Story Of Fayiz Al-Kandari (October 2009), Justice Department Pointlessly Gags Guantánamo Lawyer (November 2009), Judge Orders Release Of Algerian From Guantánamo (But He’s Not Going Anywhere) (November 2009), Innocent Guantánamo Torture Victim Fouad al-Rabiah Is Released In Kuwait (December 2009), What Does It Take To Get Out Of Obama’s Guantánamo? (December 2009), “Model Prisoner” at Guantánamo, Tortured in the “Dark Prison,” Loses Habeas Corpus Petition (December 2009), Judge Orders Release From Guantánamo Of Unwilling Yemeni Recruit (December 2009), Serious Problems With Obama’s Plan To Move Guantánamo To Illinois (December 2009), Appeals Court Extends President’s Wartime Powers, Limits Guantánamo Prisoners’ Rights (January 2010), Fear and Paranoia as Guantánamo Marks its Eighth Anniversary (January 2010), Rubbing Salt in Guantánamo’s Wounds: Task Force Announces Indefinite Detention (January 2010), The Black Hole of Guantánamo (March 2010), Guantánamo Uighurs Back in Legal Limbo (March 2010), Guantánamo and Habeas Corpus: The Torture Victim and the Taliban Recruit (April 2010), An Insignificant Yemeni at Guantánamo Loses His Habeas Petition (April 2010), With Regrets, Judge Allows Indefinite Detention at Guantánamo of a Medic (April 2010), Mohamedou Ould Salahi: How a Judge Demolished the US Government’s Al-Qaeda Claims (April 2010), Judge Rules Yemeni’s Detention at Guantánamo Based Solely on Torture (April 2010), Why Judges Can’t Free Torture Victims from Guantánamo (April 2010), How Binyam Mohamed’s Torture Was Revealed in a US Court (May 2010), Guantánamo and Habeas Corpus: Consigning Soldiers to Oblivion (May 2010), Judge Denies Habeas Petition of an Ill and Abused Libyan in Guantánamo (May 2010), Judge Orders Release from Guantánamo of Russian Caught in Abu Zubaydah’s Web (May 2010), No Escape from Guantánamo: Uighurs Lose Again in US Court (June 2010), Does Obama Really Know or Care About Who Is at Guantánamo? (June 2010), Guantánamo and Habeas Corpus: 2 Years, 50 Cases, 36 Victories for the Prisoners (June 2010), Obama Thinks About Releasing Innocent Yemenis from Guantánamo (June 2010), Calling for US Accountability on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture (June 2010), Judge Orders Release from Guantánamo of Yemeni Seized in Iran, Held in Secret CIA Prisons (July 2010), Innocent Student Finally Released from Guantánamo (July 2010), Guantánamo and Habeas Corpus: Prisoners Win 3 out of 4 Cases, But Lose 5 out of 6 in Court of Appeals (Part One) (July 2010), Obama and US Courts Repatriate Algerian from Guantánamo Against His Will; May Be Complicit in Torture (July 2010), In Abu Zubaydah’s Case, Court Relies on Propaganda and Lies (July 2010), Guantánamo and Habeas Corpus: Prisoners Win 3 out of 4 Cases, But Lose 5 out of 6 in Court of Appeals (Part Two) (July 2010), Judge Orders Release from Guantánamo of Mentally Ill Yemeni; 2nd Judge Approves Detention of Minor Taliban Recruit (August 2010), Judge Denies Habeas Petition of Afghan Shopkeeper at Guantánamo (September 2010), Nine Years After 9/11, US Court Concedes that International Laws of War Restrict President’s Wartime Powers (September 2010), Fayiz Al-Kandari, A Kuwaiti Aid Worker in Guantánamo, Loses His Habeas Petition (September 2010), Heads You Lose, Tails You Lose: The Betrayal of Mohamedou Ould Slahi (September 2010), First Guantánamo Habeas Appeal to US Supreme Court (Fawzi al-Odah, October 2010).

Butchering the Poor, the Ill, the Weak, the Dispossessed and the Marginalized: Welcome to Cameron and Osborne’s Heartless Britain

For those who think the new coalition government’s much-vaunted promise of “fairness” means using the deficit triggered in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis as an excuse to destroy the welfare state, and to take an axe to the State in general, George Osborne’s unprecedented assault on the poor in yesterday’s spending review will have come as welcome news.

Personally, however, I feel both sick and wretchedly angry that a party that didn’t even win a mandate in May’s General Election — and is propped up by the suicidal Liberal Democrats — has gone much further than promised in its manifesto, and is using the deficit as an excuse to undertake a malignant ideological transformation of the UK into a more divided nation than at any time since the Victorians.

The alarm bells rang early, when the Butchers of the Bullingdon Club demonstrated a worryingly gleeful enthusiasm for launching an assault on the unemployed at the same time as promising horrendous job losses — 490,000 public sector jobs, according to the government’s own estimates, with an equal number of losses expected in private sector companies reliant on the public sector.

Not only is this butchery likely to backfire, reducing tax receipts still further, requiring government assistance to the dispossessed, and risking a dreaded “double-dip” recession, but lacking in any of it is a realistic proposal of where the government’s promised 2.5 million new private sector jobs, to replace the million jobs lost, will actually come from. Back in 1979, Margaret Thatcher at least had a vision — however bitter — of how to crush workers while embarking on wholesale privatization and removing regulation for those driven by greed. The much-touted “trickle-down effect” never materialized, of course, and communities — and the sense of community — were destroyed, paving the way for our current dystopia of selfishness and self-absorption, but at least there was a plan.

Now that Thatcher’s revolution has turned full circle, and the banking sector has shown what unfettered greed means, taking down whole economies with its unprecedented short-termism and insatiable greed, we have run out of miracles. The message of Cameron and Osborne — backed up by Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander and all the other LibDems who have bought into this malignant ideology — is relentlessly negative. Far from being saviours of any kind, they comprise the harshest and least inspiring government in living memory, with job creation unimaginable while all the Western economies suffer, when consumer confidence has no reason to recover, and while the banking sector has been free to resume its deadly intrigues, and is planning a new wave of huge bonuses for its most energetic thieves.

The launch of attacks on welfare at the same time as promising swingeing job losses is a combination of factors that, if compassion were not in such short supply, would be regarded as unprecedentedly cruel. In a kinder world, politicians can only really justify an assault on the poor at a time of maximum employment, and need to protect the unemployed during the fragile years of a serious and ongoing economic crisis.

However, by tapping into the baser instincts of today’s citizens (for whom compassion and empathy appear to be alien concepts), Cameron and Osborne have, to date, successfully sold a deeply unpleasant narrative of modern life, in which workshy scroungers can be blamed for all of society’s ills, and everyone can overlook the fact that those at the bottom of society actually include large numbers of the ill and the vulnerable. The sheer scale of the assault beggars belief. Slashing benefits for those with mental or physical disabilities, capping housing benefit as though it were those claiming the benefit — and not the landlords — who are to blame for extortionate rents, and proposing a tripling of rents for new social housing tenants are just part of the torrent of abuse flowing from the Exchequer.

To sweeten the pill for those whose hearts have not yet turned to ice, George Osborne pretends that the pocket money skimmed off the rich, in capping child benefit for those in the highest tax bracket, somehow compensates for this disproportionate assault on the poor, but no one should be fooled. By some alchemical sleight of hand that has not yet been explained, Osborne claimed yesterday that cutting child benefit from the rich would save £2.5 bn rather than £1 bn, as previously stated, but even if this is the case, it pales in comparison to the £7 bn welfare cut, added yesterday to the £11 bn cut to the welfare budget that was announced in June.

If the Chancellor was really interested in “fairness,” he could have cut further universal benefits — child benefits for the over-16s, and, as Mark Littlewood explained in the Guardian, “stopping elderly, affluent people from receiving free bus passes, winter fuel payments and free TV licences.” As it is, however, the middle classes have only been mildly inconvenienced (except, of course, for those who face losing their jobs), and the poor, the ill, the weak, the dispossessed and the marginalized have been hit the hardest.

I hope that this injustice will be a step too far, and that people will realize, in significant numbers, that resistance is required. On a personal level, we need to discover compassion and empathy, and if we can embrace the bigger picture we need to challenge the shameful manipulation involved in the Tories’ hatred of the State, to point out who caused this crisis in the first place, and to set our sights on the City, and on corporate boardrooms, asking why the poorest people are losing money that they can ill afford to lose, when so many of the wealthiest still pay nothing at all.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

Great Malvern Gives Resounding Welcome to “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo”

Congratulations to the Malvern Hills Amnesty International Group for demonstrating, on Tuesday evening, that compassion and empathy are not dead.

Less than 24 hours before the coalition government announced its spending review, which demonstrated a notable absence of compassion and empathy for the poor and the disadvantaged, several hundred people turned up at Malvern Theatres to watch “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” the documentary film that I co-directed with filmmaker Polly Nash, which tells the story of Guantánamo, and of the Bush administration’s secret prison program, through the stories of three British residents: Shaker Aamer, who is still held, Omar Deghayes (released in December 2007), and Binyam Mohamed (released in February 2009).

In turning up in force, the members of the Malvern group, other members from surrounding areas, and the many sixth-formers from local schools, whose presence was deeply appreciated, bucked a trend that has seen Guantánamo slip off the mainstream media’s radar, and showed that, as Amnesty International prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary next year, founder Peter Benenson’s belief in the power of “common action” against arbitrary imprisonment, torture and extrajudicial killings remains as important, and as powerful as ever.

As Peter Benenson stated in an article for the Observer on May 28, 1961 that led to the creation of Amnesty International, “Open your newspaper any day of the week and you will find a report from somewhere in the world of someone being imprisoned, tortured or executed because his opinions or religion are unacceptable to his government … The newspaper reader feels a sickening sense of impotence. Yet if these feelings of disgust could be united into common action, something effective could be done.”

I was delighted that the audience responded to the film with enormous support and enthusiasm — and also that they were able to overlook the absence of both Omar Deghayes and Moazzam Begg, who had also been scheduled to appear — and I was particularly pleased that some of the sixth-formers expressed an interest in showing the film in their schools, as it is young people who will carry Peter Benenson’s struggle forward, and their engagement in human rights issues, in a world that tries incessantly to sideline them into more trivial pursuits, is both commendable and worthy of unconditional support.

In the question and answer session that followed the film, I was unable to tell the Malvern audience that Guantánamo would be closing anytime soon, because of the ways in which President Obama has allowed his promise to close the prison to be undermined by his opponents, and by his own excessive caution. However, I am aware that the importance of action has always been crucial to Amnesty International, and I was pleased to be able to tell the crowd that they can — and should — write to the government to ask why Shaker Aamer has not been freed, despite being cleared for release in 2007 (a template of a letter is here), and I also explained how he may well be “the man who knows too much,” and that, as a result, both the British and American governments appear to be putting off his release as long as possible. This also allowed me to point out to audience members that they should not put up with risible arguments that the US authorities still have “security concerns” about Shaker Aamer, as these could be safely and adequately addressed by the British government if ministers were genuinely prepared to press for his return.

I also pointed out that it would be useful to ask the government to offer asylum to Ahmed Belbacha, a cleared Algerian, who lived in the UK from 1999 to 2001, and who is terrified of returning to Algeria, and that, given Britain’s distressing role as America’s closest ally in the “War on Terror,” it would also make sense to press the government to take other cleared prisoners, who cannot be repatriated because they face the risk of torture, and to follow the lead established by 16 other countries — including Albania, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland — who have all given homes to men who had no prior connection to their countries.

I’d like to particularly thank Trevor Trueman and Sue Wolfendale of the Malvern group for looking after me, and for putting together and publicizing such a well-attended event, and if there are any sixth-formers out there who would like to show “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” then please get in touch.

Please see here for further information about the film, and see here for details of how to order it on DVD. Information about previous screenings can be found here, and I’ll shortly be publicizing new screenings in November and December.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

Nick Davies and Andy Worthington debate “Is print media dying a slow death?” in Brighton, Wednesday October 27, 2010

Debate: Is print media dying a slow death? If so, what is the future of respectable journalism? With Nick Davies, Andy Worthington, Dr. An Nguyen and Paula O’Shea
Where: Red Roaster Coffee Shop, 1d St. James’s Street, Brighton, BN2 1RE
When: Wednesday October 27, 2010, 7.30 pm

Next Wednesday I’ll be in Brighton for a fascinating debate organized by The Badger, the magazine of the University of Sussex Students’ Union, asking, “Is print media dying a slow death? If so, what is the future of respectable journalism?”

From the traditional media, the star panellist is Nick Davies of the Guardian, an investigative journalist for whom I have an enormous amount of respect. I first encountered Nick’s work in 1985, when he was one of the few journalists to cover the Battle of the Beanfield, the brutal assault on Britain’s traveller/protest movement, directed by Margaret Thatcher after her success in crushing the Miners’ Strike the year before, and I hope that I was able to thank him for his work when I compiled my book The Batttle of the Beanfield in 2005.

With an admirable record of investigative journalism — including a detailed analysis of Britain’s prison system a few years ago, and a central role this year in exposing the News of the World phone-hacking scandal — Nick epitomizes the strengths of the mainstream media over the new media, by putting serious money into detailed, long-term investigative journalism. However, as he explained in his best-selling book Flat Earth News, cost-cutting has dealt a savage blow to the authority of traditional print journalism, leading to the rise of what he calls “churnalism” (the largely unmediated recycling of press releases and PR stories), and investigative journalism, and the most basic reporting on everyday events in the courts, in councils, and in other places where scrutiny is required, has suffered as a result.

In debating Nick, I come not to bury print journalism, but to explain how the new media offers fresh opportunities as the world of professional journalists shrinks, and I’ll be drawing on my own experiences as an independent investigative reporter, focusing on Guantánamo and related issues, describing the self-starting opportunities of blogging, how bloggers are filling some of those holes left by traditional journalism’s retreat from everyday reporting, and how bloggers can also maintain a focus on issues of importance that the rolling 24-hour news culture ignores. I’ll also talk about the democratizing influence of the Internet, building up an audience on the Internet, and seeking out new media outlets establishing viable economic models through subscribers and donations rather than through advertising.

I look forward to a lively discussion, not only with Nick, but also with Dr. An Nguyen, Senior Lecturer in New Media/Journalism Studies at the University of Sussex, and Paula O’Shea, director of Brighton Journalist Works, and a tutor on the Journalism MA at Sussex.

It should be a great evening, so please come along if you’re in the area.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

“Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week: Day Five – Humanizing Torture Victims and Fighting for the Soul of America (+ Videos)

In the five years that I have spent researching Guantánamo and writing about it, my aims have been simple: to close Guantánamo (with the remaining 174 prisoners either released or put forward for federal court trials), to make sure no experimental prison like Guantánamo is ever allowed to exist again, and to hold accountable those who conceived it, and who attempted to justify its existence and its use for arbitrary detention, coercive interrogation and torture.

My project began because I wanted to know the stories of the individuals held in Guantánamo, hidden from the world for so many years, and as I learned these stories through my research (mainly by casting an analytical eye on the Pentagon’s own documents) and began publicizing them, first through my book The Guantánamo Files, and, since May 2007, through my relentless journalism about Guantánamo and related issues, I have, whenever possible, tried to portray the prisoners as human beings, to tell their stories, and to reclaim them from the regime responsible for imprisoning and torturing them, which did not care that its screening process was virtually non-existent, and which has depended for its success on dehumanizing them, both in the prisons and in the message sent out to the world — that they were “the worst of the worst.”

Whether subjected to arbitrary detention, coercive interrogation or torture, a prisoner whose identity and humanity is denied — through being labeled a “detainee” or a “package” or an “enemy combatant,” and through being assigned an Internment Serial Number instead of a name — is far easier to abuse than someone with a name and a family, and with hopes and fears.

Talking torture with Rose Aguilar, Justine Sharrock and Argentinian torture survivor Patricia Isasa

Humanizing the prisoners has been a harder sell in the United States than, say, in the UK, where 14 former Guantánamo prisoners — nine British nationals, and five British residents — have told their stories, and, in some cases, appear regularly in public to talk about their experiences, and I was vividly reminded of the power of personal testimony on Thursday morning — Day Five of “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week — when, as part of a round of media appearances, I was invited onto Rose Aguilar’s “Your Call” show on KALW Public Radio in San Francisco with Justine Sharrock, author of Tortured: When Good Soldiers Do Bad Things (with whom I had previously appeared at a book reading and a panel discussion on torture), and Patricia Isasa, a survivor of the reign of terror in Argentina from the 1970s until 1983.

When she was just 16 years old, Patricia was seized and tortured, and in profoundly moving testimony she described how she had been determined that her torturers would not destroy her. She also spoke animatedly, and with great authority, about how torture does not produce the truth, and only produces lies.

Patricia also spoke with Rose about how, 30 to 35 years after these atrocities, those responsible for the torture in Argentina are finally being held to account for their crimes against humanity, which gave us all the hope that, although the struggle for justice may take decades, it is possible to imagine a world in which the Bush administration’s torturers are finally brought to account.

Patricia’s testimony also reinforced my notion (sharpened by the week’s events) that the battle to hold America’s torturers to account — which is part of the wider struggle against endless war, the sidelining of the Geneva Conventions, and the acceptance of arbitrary detention without charge or trial at Guantánamo — is nothing less than a battle for the soul of America.

After Patricia spoke, Justine and I discussed our work and our aims with Rose, who was a wonderfully engaged presenter. I was pleased to have the opportunity to explain how important it has been this year to travel throughout the UK showing the documentary “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and myself) with former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Deghayes (still, like all the former prisoners, regarded as an “enemy combatant”), and how disappointing it was that plans to bring two cleared prisoners to live on the US mainland were shelved by President Obama last year, in the face of Republican opposition, when their presence in the US would have done more than anything to puncture the prevailing myths about the prison holding “the worst of the worst,” and would also have demonstrated, without a shadow of a doubt, that enormous mistakes were made in rounding up the 779 men held in the prison over the last eight years and nine months.

I’m delighted to report that the whole show is available here as an MP3 (introduction here), and to note that, after the show, Rose asked me to elaborate on some of the points I had made in a further interview that she filmed on a funky little Flip video recorder. This two-part interview, in which I presented a brief synopsis of who the Guantánamo prisoners are, and told a few particularly pertinent stories (of Fayiz al-Kandari, a Kuwaiti aid worker who is still held, and of Adel Hassan Hamad, a Sudanese hospital administrator freed in December 2007) is posted below, via YouTube.

A visit to Peter B. Collins

From KALW, Stephanie Tang and Debra Sweet of the World Can’t Wait, who had done their utmost to keep me busy (and who, with my undying gratitude, had actually shaped many of the week’s events around my presence in the Bay Area) took me sightseeing, to the extent that I saw the Golden Gate Bridge while being driven to my next appointment, in Marin County, with the veteran progressive radio host Peter B. Collins, who produces his own intelligent in-depth podcasts, uninterrupted by ad breaks. Peter and I have spoken many times before (most recently here), but on this occasion we were meeting to work on an important project involving two former Guantánamo prisoners, released in third countries, who were speaking publicly for the first time since they were freed. This insight into the problems facing prisoners released in third countries, including the harrowing story of a man whose serious physical ailments, sustained in Guantánamo, have been inadequately addressed by surgeons, with the result that his life is at risk, is available here — and here as an MP3.

An interview with Cindy Sheehan

While we were with Peter B. Collins, facilitating his interview, Debra and I did a phone interview with the celebrated antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan, whose relentless, frontline campaigning, in response to the death of her son Casey in Iraq in 2004, is legendary. I’m honored that Cindy, who I met for the first time at “The Giant John Yoo Debate” last Tuesday, and who had kindly put me up on Wednesday evening, during my peripatetic travels around the Bay Area, described me as the “famous independent journalist Andy Worthington,” and stated that Debra and I are “very knowledgeable and very distressed by our country’s continued embrace of torture” and “deliver a LOT of good insights!” and I’m thrilled to report that the entire show, “Tortuous Logic — Tortured Law,” which was initially broadcast on Sunday, is available here as an MP3.

More torture talk with Dennis Bernstein, Marjorie Cohn and Ray McGovern

From Peter B.’s, Stephanie and Debra then drove me back to Berkeley for another show with Dennis Bernstein on “Flashpoints” on Pacifica Radio’s flagship KPFA channel (available here as an MP3, and also see here for my first appearance last Monday), where I had the very great pleasure of finally meeting in person two long-term correspondents (via email), whose work I have admired for many years — peace activist and former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, and Marjorie Cohn, author and former President of the National Lawyers Guild — for a punchy, hour-long show, in which Marjorie spelled out how the Bush administration had broken the law regarding torture, Ray delivered some powerful anecdotes and stories, and I made sure that listeners understood that Guantánamo was part of the equation.

The Forum on Torture and the Law, Torture and Human Rights

After Dennis’s show, with Ray, Marjorie, Stephanie and Debra, I traveled back to Boalt Hall, where “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week finally occupied the building where John Yoo works, when he is not mysteriously unavailable or hiding out from those seeking his dismissal and prosecution, for the first of four events on his home turf. The “Forum on Torture and the Law, Torture and Human Rights” was moderated by Ray, and featured Marjorie, Debra and myself, along with Shahid Buttar, the executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. By now punch-drunk from my punishing itinerary, I nevertheless managed to summon up a last burst of energy to join the debate, as Marjorie once more laid out the case for prosecution, and Shahid and Debra weighed in, and after a lively discussion (available here), I even managed to maintain my composure when, during our closing remarks, I had to follow Shahid, who decided to deliver a powerful rap about torture as some sort of lyrical gauntlet.

It was a powerful evening, and with our presence firmly established in Boalt Hall, a precursor to a full-scale invasion of anti-torture experts and activists on Day Six, culminating in the first West Coast performance of “Reckoning with Torture — An Evening of Conscience,” a compilation of memos and testimonies from the “War on Terror,” initially conceived by the ACLU and American PEN Center, and previously performed in New York and Washington D.C.

But first, I finally got some sleep …

POSTSCRIPT: Here’s the “Reckoning with Torture” video, via YouTube!

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

Video: “The Giant John Yoo Debate” at “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week, October 12, 2010

Just up on YouTube (and posted below) are three edits of “The Giant John Yoo Debate,” which took place last Tuesday as part of “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week. This excellent piece of political theater involved a group of legal experts and activists, introduced by Stephanie Tang of the World Can’t Wait, and led by Sharon Adams of the National Lawyers Guild (San Francisco), responding to filmed statements and interviews with John Yoo, the UC Berkeley law professor who wrote the notorious “torture memos” in August 2002, which purported to redefine torture so that it could be used by the CIA (and then by the US military). Yoo narrowly avoided charges of “professional misconduct” in an internal Justice Department investigation that was cynically manipulated earlier this year, so that he and his immediate boss, Jay S. Bybee, who now serves as a judge in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, were merely adjudged to have exercised “poor judgment.”

The images of John Yoo were projected onto the wall of Boalt Hall, where Yoo teaches when he is not hiding out from protestors calling for his prosecution, and those joining Sharon Adams to debate the giant images included Ann Fagan Ginger of the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute, author and activist Larry Everest, Shahid Buttar, the executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, and antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan, who memorably described Yoo as “a baby-faced, twisted piece of human excrement.”

I also took part, as I explained in a previous article here, and among the other speakers were law student Yanin Senachai, part of the student group Boalt Alliance to Abolish Torture, who said, “International law establishes an absolute prohibition on torture. We shouldn’t even be allowed to practice law if you don’t understand that.” Another extraordinarily passionate student called for John Yoo’s prosecution and told the crowd that many other students felt the same way, but were afraid of speaking out.

Note: See here for a report on the event by Nadia Prupis of Truthout.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

Former Guantánamo Prisoner David Hicks Describes His First Two Weeks at Camp X-Ray

As publicity for the newly-published memoir, Guantánamo: My Journey by the Australian David Hicks, who was held at Guantánamo from January 2002 until April 2007, when he was repatriated after accepting a plea deal at his trial by Military Commission, Hicks’ publishers have released three excerpts from the book to the media. All three excerpts were published by Hicks’ local paper in Adelaide (dealing with events before he became interested in Islam and the struggles in Bosnia, Kashmir and Afghanistan, the circumstances of his capture and his first two weeks in Guantánamo), and I have chosen to cross-post the latter, as it captures particularly well the primitive violence of the early days of Camp X-Ray — the open-air cages, resembling animal pens, in which the prisoners were held until the first, more permanent structures of Camp Delta were completed in May 2002.

Hicks’ memoir has prompted some of his opponents in Australia to argue that he should not benefit financially from the book’s publication, because of legislation that prevents anyone from profiting from the proceeds of crime, and the Associated Press reported on Sunday that the Australian police are considering whether Hicks “should be sued for any profits he makes from his autobiography.” This is an interesting argument, and one that I hope will be thoroughly challenged, as Hicks’ status as a former criminal is seriously in doubt. The plea deal that secured his return from Guantánamo (followed by a short prison term in Australia) was not only politically motivated — intended to help John Howard secure re-election (which failed), and, more importantly, to prevent Hicks from revealing the brutal treatment to which he was subjected in Afghanistan and in Guantánamo — but was also of dubious legality.

Hicks accepted a charge of providing material support to terrorism, but as numerous experts, including senior lawyers within the Obama administration, have explained (or conceded, in the government’s case), providing material support to terrorism is an invented war crime, inserted into the Military Commissions Act of 2006 by Congress (when the Commissions were revived, after the Supreme Court ruled them illegal), and retained in 2009 (in spite of the government’s complaints) when the Commissions were again revived. Challenges to the material support convictions are currently being considered by the US courts in the cases of two other prisoners who were tried by Military Commission, and as Hicks’ former lawyer, Adelaide-based Steve Kenny, explained in July this year, “It has always been my position that he never committed any crime. We looked at Australian law, international law and Afghani law, and we were unable to identify any breach of those laws. The law that he eventually pleaded guilty to was not actually an international war crime at all. In fact it was a crime that didn’t exist.”

“A blur of hardships”: an excerpt from Guantánamo: My Journey by David Hicks

I awoke on a concrete slab with the sun in my face. I looked around and saw that I was in a cage made out of cyclone fencing, the same as the boundary fence around my old primary school. Internal fences divided the cage into ten enclosures, and I was in one of the corner-end cells. Around me, I saw five other concrete slabs with what looked like bird cages constructed on top. A fence covered in green shadecloth and topped with rolls of razor wire was wrapped around these six concrete slabs, able to house sixty unfortunate human beings. Hanging on the inside of this fence were signs saying, “If you attempt escape, you will be shot,” complete with a featureless person with a target for a head.

All around the outside of the shadecloth, civilian and uniformed personnel cleared and flattened grass and trees. They poured cement and assembled the wire cages, calling them “blocks.” There was nothing much else around us except guard towers boasting large, painted American flags and manned by armed marines.

My block was only the second to have been built, but that would change over time. As this prison grew out of the grass, more “detainees,” as they liked to call us, rather than POWs, arrived. About a month later, around 360 of us lived in these outdoor enclosures. They were open to the wind, sun, dust and rain and offered no respite. The local wildlife was being disturbed as their homes were bulldozed to make room for the concrete blocks, and scorpions, snakes and 23 centimetre-long tarantulas tried to find shelter in what were now our enclosures.

My cage, like all the cages, was three steps wide by three steps long. I shared this space with two small buckets: one to drink out of, the other to use as a toilet. There was an “isomat” (a five-millimetre-thin foam mat), a towel, a sheet, a bottle of shampoo that smelt like industrial cleaner, a bar of soap (I think), a toothbrush with three-quarters of the handle snapped off and a tube of toothpaste. When I held this tube upside down, even without squeezing, a white, smelly liquid oozed out.

This bizarre operation was called Camp X-Ray. Our plane was the first to arrive on this barren part of the island, and we remained the only detainees for the first three or four days. We had been spaced apart because of the surplus of cages. Every hour of the day and night we had to produce our wristband for inspection, as well as the end of our toothbrush, in case we had “sharpened it into a weapon.” These constant disturbances prevented us from sleeping. We were not allowed to talk, or even look around, and had to stare at the concrete between our legs while sitting upright on the ground. If we did lie flat on the concrete, we had to stare at a wooden covering a foot or so above our cages, which served as some type of roof. Apart from blocking the sun for about two hours around noon, the roof offered no other benefit.

Sitting or lying in the middle of the cage, away from the sides, were the only two positions we were allowed to assume. We could not stand up unless ordered to, and the biggest sin was to touch the enclosing wire. If we transgressed any of these rules, even if innocently looking about, we were dealt with by the IRF team, an acronym for Instant Reaction Force. The Military Police nicknamed this procedure being “earthed” or “IRFed,” because they would slam and beat us into the ground.

I first witnessed the IRF team a day or two after my arrival. An MP stopped outside the cage of an Afghan, my closest neighbour at the time. The MP demanded to know what the Afghan had scratched into the cement. He had not scratched anything and could not even speak or understand English. I heard the MP read, “Osama will save us.” The detainee had no idea what the guard was on about, yet the MP was furious when he did not respond. “I’ll teach you to resist,” the MP threatened and stormed off. Suddenly six MPs in full riot gear formed a line outside his cage. The first one held a full-length shield. He entered the cage first, slamming the detainee, pinning him to the cement floor with the shield, while the others beat him in the torso and face. The last to enter the cage was a dog handler with a large German shepherd. The dog was encouraged to bark and growl only centimetres from the Afghan’s face while he was being beaten. In later cases, the dogs bit detainees.

When they had finished, they chained him up and carried him out. His face was covered in blood. A few hours later an MP washed the blood off the cement with a scrubbing brush and hose. To add to that injustice, an MP told me some weeks later that he himself had scratched that statement into the cement before any of us had arrived at Guantánamo, while they had been training and awaiting our arrival.

Every two or three days a planeload of detainees would arrive. They were always made to kneel and lean forward on the gravel while being yelled at and struck in the back of the head. They had to balance in this position while one detainee at a time was picked up from the line, escorted into a block and deposited into a cage. Those who were moved first were lucky not to have to endure the stress position for hours. It was around this time that helicopters hovered above, and very large groups of civilians walked through the camp to view us in our cages — specimens in an international makeshift zoo.

The first two weeks of Camp X-Ray was a blur of hardships: no sleeping, no talking, no moving, no looking, no information. Through a haze of disbelief and fear, pain and confusion, we wondered what was going to happen. To pass time and relieve the pressure on my ailing back, I chose to lie down rather than sit up. During the day I would look slightly to my right, focusing my vision just beyond the wooden roof, and lose myself in the sky beyond. It was an escape, so peaceful, so blue and full of sunlight. I gazed at the odd cloud and spied big, black birds circling high above, called vulture hawks. It was never long, though, before a hostile face blocked the view, screaming, “What are you looking at? Look up at the roof.” All I could do was sigh and avert my gaze from the infinite, blue sky to a piece of wood.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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