Penny Lane: What We Learned This Week About Double Agents at Guantánamo

29.11.13

On Tuesday, out of nowhere, the Associated Press ran a story about a secret prison at Guantánamo that attracted a huge amount of attention from the media around the world — more attention, in fact, than at any time since the prison-wide hunger strike earlier this year, which, surprisingly, managed to retain much of the media’s attention for several months.

That, however, was a current story, whereas the AP’s story dealt with a secret facility that apparently existed between 2003 and 2006, in a now overgrown clearing at the end of a dirt road behind a ridge near the administrative offices of the prison.

There, in eight small cottages, the CIA housed and trained a handful of prisoners they had persuaded to become double agents, according to Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, who spoke to around ten current and former US officials for their story. All spoke anonymously “because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the secret program.”

Goldman and Apuzzo described the program as “a risky gamble,” because although the double agents might locate terrorist leaders for them, they might also turn against their employers. That, of course, is always a problem with double agents, although the AP was correct to note the stench of hypocrisy when it came to recruiting double agents at Guantánamo. “At the same time the government used the threat of terrorism to justify imprisoning people indefinitely,” Goldman and Apuzzo wrote, “it was releasing dangerous people from prison to work for the CIA.”

As they described it, “only a handful” of prisoners, from a variety of countries, “were turned into spies who signed agreements to spy for the CIA,” although dozens of prisoners were evaluated for the program. The officials told the AP that some of these men “helped the CIA find and kill many top al-Qaida operatives,” while others “stopped providing useful information and the CIA lost touch with them.”

According to Goldman and Apuzzo’s sources, there were a number of reasons that prompted prisoners to cooperate. “Some received assurances that the US would resettle their families,” they wrote, adding, “Another thought al-Qaida had perverted Islam and believed it was his duty as a Muslim to help the CIA destroy it.”

Another only agreed to cooperate “after the CIA insinuated it would harm his children,” according to a former official, which, the AP claimed, was similar to threats made against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of the five prisoners currently at Guantánamo who are charged with involvement in the 9/11 attacks. This, however is not an accurate statement, as Mohammed’s children were captured in September 2002 and interrogated before their father was seized six months later, and, according to a statement by the father of Majid Khan, another “high-value detainee” at Guantánamo, were “denied food and water,” and had “ants or other creatures put on their legs to scare them and get them to say where their father was hiding.”

Goldman and Apuzzo also noted that all the double agents were paid for their services, with payments totaling millions of dollars, which, officials said, “came from a secret CIA account, codenamed Pledge,” that is “used to pay informants” — which is rather ironic, given that Tariq al-Sawah and Mohamedou Ould Slahi, two of the most useful informants at Guantánamo, according to the authorities, have been paid nothing, are still held, and, in 2010, were recommended for prosecution by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established shortly after taking office in 2009.

According to the AP, both the program and the agents “had various official CIA codenames,” but the secret camp was generally known as “Penny Lane.” For anyone aware of Guantánamo’s darker secrets, this was obviously a play on another secret camp at the prison, codenamed “Strawberry Fields,” whose name was exposed in another Associated Press report by Goldman and Apuzzo in August 2010. In existence from September 24, 2003 until March 27, 2004, it held four “high-value detainees,” according to the AP — Mustafa al-Hawsawi, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Abu Zubaydah and Ramzi Bin al-Shibh — and was closed when the Bush administration realized that the Supreme Court was likely to grant habeas corpus rights to the prisoners at Guantánamo (which it did in Rasul v. Bush in June 2004, opening the prison’s doors to lawyers for the first time). Sent to the prisons the CIA operated in eastern Europe and Morocco, these four men men did not return to Guantánamo until September 2006, when they were flown back with ten other men, emptying — or mostly emptying — the CIA’s “black sites.”

While the “Strawberry Fields” reference was horribly clear, as a “forever” prison, from the lyrics, “Strawberry Fields Forever,” the reference to “Penny Lane” might only have been because both songs were on a double A-side single issued by the Beatles in 1967. It’s rather disturbing, I think, to imagine Guantánamo’s unpleasant experiments being dreamt up by people who enjoyed the Beatles, and who, perhaps, when their work was done, went home and listened to these songs with their families.

Unlike “Strawberry Fields,” “Penny Lane” was apparently intended to replicate the feeling of a hotel. Officials told Goldman and Apuzzo that the cottages in the camp “had private kitchens, showers and televisions,” and each one “had a small patio.” The biggest luxury, they said, was “a real bed with a mattress.” They also spoke of privileges being made available to some of the men — pornography, for example. Officials also told Goldman and Apuzzo that some CIA officials “jokingly referred to” the cottages as “the Marriott.”

The AP article also noted that the double agent program had drawn the attention of both President Bush and President Obama. Bush, apparently, “personally interviewed a junior CIA case officer who had just returned home from Afghanistan, where the agency typically met with the agents.,” and, shortly after taking office, Obama “ordered a review of the former detainees working as double agents,” because, apparently, “they were providing information used in Predator drone strikes.”

I’m not quite sure what to make of the whole “Penny Lane” story. Clearly, there were double agents at Guantánamo. Omar Khadr’s brother, Abdurahman, was one, and his file was one of 14 that were missing when WikiLeaks obtained classified military files on almost all the prisoners, which were published in April 2011. I wrote an article about the missing files, “WikiLeaks and the 14 Missing Guantánamo Files,” and it may be that some of these men were also used as double agents, although it seems unlikely in most of these cases. Over the years, I have had my suspicions about other prisoners, and there have been a variety of rumors about others, but nothing that I would want to commit to print.

Now that I have had a few days to reflect on this story, I find a few aspects of it to be troubling — beyond its unexplained timing. The first, noted by my friend and colleague Jeff Kaye, is that the location of “Penny Lane” corresponds with the location identified in 2009 as “Camp No” by a number of soldiers working at Guantánamo, who told Scott Horton that they believed it was connected to the deaths of three prisoners in June 2006, allegedly as the result of a triple suicide. Horton subsequently wrote an award-winning article for Harper’s Magazine about the men’s claims, although the establishment closed ranks and refused to acknowledge the story.

To be honest, I don’t know what to make of this information although it unnerves me. If “Camp No” is “Penny Lane,” for example, then where was “Strawberry Fields” located, as some observers have thought that “Camp No” was “Strawberry Fields”? What I do know, however, is that I am saddened that a story relating to events that took place many years ago attracted the attention of the world’s media in a way that the plight of the men still held at Guantánamo no longer does. After the interest sparked by the hunger strike earlier this year, when, for a moment, it seemed as though, in newsrooms all around the world, journalists and their editors had remembered the injustice of Guantánamo we are now back to square one, with the media, for the most part, interested only in stories that have a whiff of scandal.

The men still held at Guantánamo — the 84 long cleared for release but still held, and the 80 others, for whom, in most cases, justice has gone AWOL — deserve more than this as the 12th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo approaches, on January 11, 2014. I will be interested to see if more information emerges about the story of Penny Lane and the double agents, but I now intend to turn my attention back to the men who are still held — and I invite you to join me.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and 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. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here – or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the four-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

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35 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Sonia Chaisson wrote:

    Thank you for constantly shining the light on these men and especially the 84 prisoners who have been cleared for release.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    You’re welcome, Sonia. I do believe that continuing to hold prisoners cleared for release nearly four years ago by a high-level task force appointed by the president is a disgrace that must be addressed, and that mentioning it incessantly is necessary. President Obama shouldn’t have convened a task force if he didn’t want to abide by its recommendations.

  3. arcticredriver says...

    Thanks Andy, for covering this important story. I think Apuzzo and Goldman deserve a hats-off too.

    I’ve been intensely curious as to what this reporting means.

    If the CIA thought they had to close down Camp Strawberry Fields, in early 2004, and hide its existence, because they anticipated the SCOTUS ruling in Rasul v. Bush would provide habeas access to captives at Guantanamo — and if Apuzzo and Goldman’s reporting is correct that Camp Penny Lane remained open until 2006 — then it must have only held captives drawn from the military camp. Mustafa al-Hawsawi, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Abu Zubaydah and Ramzi Bin al-Shibh were not on the full official list of all captives the DoD published on May 15 2006.

  4. arcticredriver says...

    What may have happened to some of these double agents? I suspect that US officials regarded these double agents as completely expendable. They were probably issued a cell phone by their handlers — one that looked totally ordinary, but which officials could direct a missile to use as its target.

    PBS Frontline did a show on the Bush administration’s attempt to “decapitate” the Saddam regime. By “decapitation” they meant rendering the Saddam regime leaderless by killing Saddam or his senior leaders. To prevent the delay that contacting senior civilian leaders for final permission to act on time-sensitive intelligence leads that would allow Saddam to slip away, Bush gave the military authorization, in advance.

    There was some coverage of these aerial bombardments, at the time. I remember a military spokesmen answering some questions about one failed strike. In answer to one question he said something like, “Saddam moves around, every night. We thought we had an intelligence source who indicated Saddam would be staying at this location last night.” He was then asked why intelligence officials didn’t go back to that intelligence source, and seek an explanation as to why Saddam hadn’t been there. I don’t think he answered that question. Maybe he gave a half-answer, or a funny look. But I was struck by a sudden suspicion that it was too late to check back with that intelligence source, as US officials had considered him expendable, and the missiles had zeroed in on his cell phone.

    If I ever had a friend who was considering becoming a double agent, I’d strongly recommend against doing so, whatever the pay offered. The intelligence lead I mentioned above may have been no more reliable than Agent Curveball. He may have told his handlers that he had some contact with Saddam, that he would meet with him that night, and would learn where Saddam would be sleeping tomorrow night, but he wouldn’t have the privacy to phone until next morning. Under circumstances like that a guy like Cheney would recommend “Don’t wait until morning. Since we can track his cell phone, we’ll track him tonight. When he leaves home tonight we’ll assume it is to meet Saddam, and when his cell indicates he arrived at his destination, for the meeting with Saddam, we’ll target his cell.”

    Given that US intelligence officials were routinely unable to distinguish between real sources, and phonies or the delusional, they were very likely to have killed many innocent civilian bystanders.

    The Frontline program said the military made exactly 50 of these decapitation attempts. The guidelines for these strikes said analysts could recommend the strike, even if they expected it would kill innocent civilian bystanders. For Saddam’s lieutenants an estimate of up to 30 innocent civilian bystanders were considered acceptable. For Saddam or his sons any number of innocent civilian bystanders were considered acceptable.

    The only success claimed for these decapitation attempts was Saddam’s cousin, “Chemical Ali”. That claim turned out to be incorrect. Ali survived the invasion, and was tried and hanged several years later.

    So, these double agents — knowing the DoD’s record of both self-deception and willful deception of the public — I suspect their handlers would have been willing to sacrifice them if they thought they were going to meet with someone senior enough that, on balance, was worth losing their agent. I suspect it is quite likely that many of these double agents were quickly sacrificed in attempts to kill more senior leaders.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, arcticredriver, for the thoughtful comments, as ever. I hadn’t heard about that disturbing Frontline program, but I have no doubt that you are correct, and that double agents were disposable. Maybe, as you say, they were even specifically disposed of by having their phones used to target bombs. I do, however, think it’s worth noting that some agents were still operating in 2009, because Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo stated that President Obama “ordered a review of the former detainees working as double agents,” because, apparently, “they were providing information used in Predator drone strikes.”
    I do hope more information emerges about this story, and it doesn’t just have its 48-hour life in the news cycle and then disappears without any of the questions it raises being answered.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Gulka H-eva wrote:

    thank you Andy, you are great person

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    That’s very kind, Gulka. Thank you.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Elizabeth Ferrari wrote:

    Imo, there’s something wrong with that story. It sounds like an official selling point to keep Gitmo open. And the way the press corps has seized on it only makes me more suspicious.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Elizabeth. Great to hear from you. Yes, I keep wondering why this story emerged now, and if something’s being hidden as a result, or, in particular, if someone involved in making the information available wanted to demonstrate how “useful” Guantanamo has been, when that isn’t how the wretched place should be regarded at all.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    I also wouldn’t think that, if anything useful came out of this program, it involved anything more than a very small number of individuals. Mostly US intelligence efforts in relation to Guantanamo and the “war on terror” have been a complete disaster, and people who have ended up being useful informants (Mohamedou Ould Slahi and Tariq al-Sawah) have been rewarded with nothing other than continued detention, while others, like Abu Zubaydah, were tortured when humane treatment and interrogators skilled in rapport-building would have yielded useful information that, as a result, was never secured.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Dessie Harris wrote:

    Gets better and better…..perhaps the next US President will promise to close it down…!!!

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Ha, yes, Dessie. That would be something, wouldn’t it?

  13. Scott Carter says...

    Obviously, Penny Lane was a R&R whorehouse facility for the prison cadre at Gitmo.

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Now there’s an angle not being mentioned by the mainstream media, Scott.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Dessie Harris wrote, in response to 12, above:

    It certainly would, I am thinking of putting my name forward for the presidential elections and then I WILL KEEP MY PROMISE AND CLOSE THE DAMN THING DOWN AND THAT’S FOR SURE!!

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks again, Dessie. Very well put!

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    J.d. Gordon wrote:

    I’d hardly call it a “secret prison,” though the recent AP report shows that a handful of investigative reporters are still interested in whatever “secrets” they can still pry from Gitmo visits after all these years. Separately, I don’t know what’s so troubling about sharing Beatles fans… I’ve always enjoyed their music, and don’t believe they discriminate in their fan base, nor should you. Countless reporters sang Beatles songs routinely at many a Karaoke nights in the Gitmo officers club.

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Well, J.d., I don’t know a single civilian who had mentioned “Penny Lane” before this story was published, which makes it “secret” in my book. Also, it’s obvious that anyone can like the Beatles, but although I have no idea what Paul and Ringo would think of “Strawberry Fields” and “Penny Lane” being used as names for secret prisons, I doubt they would approve, and I’m absolutely certain that John Lennon would have been sickened that one of his most celebrated songs was used to name a secret facility that was part of the Bush administration’s program of rendition and torture.

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Laura Sandow wrote:

    It is odd

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Laura. Yes, very odd indeed. I’ve just noticed that RT have followed up on the story: http://rt.com/op-edge/penny-lane-guantanamo-cia-531/

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    Walter Malinowski wrote:

    About ten minutes into http://www.infowars.com/webster-tarpley-cia-has-fingerprints-all-over-benghazi-assault/, Webster Tarpley says that a way out of Guantanamo is by becoming a double agent. — Not Guantanamo, but I have a hard time believing that Aafia Siddiqui was involved in any terrorist activity and I doubt that she shot at any U.S. government personnel.

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for that, Walter. Interesting. As for Aafia Siddiqui, yes, I agree. The story that she allegedly shot at US personnel in Afghanistan has always sounded completely unconvincing, and the fact that it got her rendered to the US, where she received an 86-year sentence, has always looked profoundly suspicious. If she had any connection to terrorism, why was that not the basis for her trial? Because she was disappeared and tortured, or because there was no case?

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    Walter Malinowski wrote:

    Often people are not convicted of the underlying crimes for which they were initially accused but for subsequent crimes such as perjury or obstruction of justice – as in the case of one of our celebrities, Martha Stewart.

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, good point, Walter. And although Aafia Siddiqui wasn’t given the option, far too often people agree to plea deals for crimes they didn’t commit, because they’re told that they’re likely to be convicted, and will face some horribly punitive sentence (like 70 years, for example), whereas with a plea deal they’ll “only” receive a 15 or 20 year sentence.

  25. arcticredriver says...

    Dr Aafia’s story is so heartbreaking. So much of it is hard to believe.

    Early in her custody on US soil her new lawyers inform the judge that she was very severely wounded, and that her wounds are bleeding, right through her bandages, right there in the court-room. They inform the judge that she has received no medical attention during the week or so she has been on US soil, even though she had been very severely wounded.

    The judge asks the Prosecutor if this is true.

    The Prosecutor confirms Dr Aafia has received no medical attention — offering the excuse that, given who she is, it is TOO DANGEROUS for nurses or doctors to treat her.

    Of course Dr Aafia was petite, prior to her disappearance, and was even skinnier and more frail then. When the Justice system can find ways to provide medical attention to huge muscular bikers, it is hard to imagine how frail and wounded Dr Aafia could pose an insurmountable threat.

    I have read that, during her trial, Dr Aafia made some outbursts that were characterized as “anti-semitic” (“Anti-semitic” is an odd term, as, technically, Arabs are also “semitic”.) If she did make anti-jewish statements I can’t help wondering if her treatment from 2003-2008 triggered this anti-jewishism. I got the impression that, while she was a grad student in the USA, she was generally well-liked, and I wonder whether someone who was a bigot towards jews could be well-liked.

    Sadly, I am afraid five years of torture in Bagram broke her sanity, and that even if she were released she could never take care of herself due to the after-effects of her treatment.

    One of the comments above referred to “R&R.” During World War 2 the Japanese enslaved women for R&R, and called them “comfort women”. Many of these now elderly women are still fighting for compensation, or even to have the Japanese government acknowledge their enslavement was wrong.

    So far as we can tell the USA only held one woman in Bagram, and it is likely it was Dr Aafia. But, in addition to tens of thousands of men who passed through Abu Ghraib, there was a small but significant stream of women prisoners — some of whom were merely captured to serve as hostages to coerce male family members to turn themselves in. I read that when they were released they stood at very high risk of committing suicide because they had been sexually assaulted in captivity, and that this was much more shameful in Iraqi culture than it is in the West. I gather that even having a GI covertly “cop a feel” during a prisoner transfer, or cell inspection, would be deeply shameful.

    I am afraid it is very likely that Dr Aafia was routinely sexually assaulted in US custody in Afghanistan.

    As to whether any guards at Guantanamo dreamed of “R&R” at Guantanamo — there was the case of the contraband underwear that a cell search found at Guantanamo about 6 years ago. Clive Stafford-Smith was accused of somehow smuggling it past all the inspections. He denied this, and I believe him.

    Some of that contraband underwear is a brand called “Under-Armor”. Its design has given this premium underwear two markets. One group is soldiers, like commandos, who will be on long missions in hot climates, where they might get really hot and sweat-soaked, and not have a chance to dry off, or might have to wade through a swamp, and not have a chance to dry off, or change their underwear. The other group is gay men.. The underwear is not made from regular fabric, but from open mesh — what would be called “fishnet” in a lingerie catalog. Conventional cotton briefs, worn wet, too long, in a hot environment, could put the wearer at risk of fungal or yeast infections, where the under-armor wouldn’t.

    I think there might be embarrassment over suggesting that gay soldiers gave sexy briefs to captives they had a crush on.

    I hope if any of the captives were the targets of crushes they weren’t forced to participate in clandestine “R&R”.

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, arcticredriver. Your anecdotes about Aafia Siddiqui’s trial, and her appalling treatment, bring back into focus how disgracefully she has been dealt with by the US. That refusal to treat her wounds, while cruel, also reveals the ways in which the US has treated certain terror suspects – mostly those held in “black sites” – as “super-humans” since 9/11, which is both wrong and counter-productive.
    I also fear that all your comments about the sexual abuse of female prisoners are correct.
    As for the underwear smuggling story, involving Clive, I wrote about it at the time, and it remains, I believe, one of Clive’s finest moments: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2007/09/15/guantanamos-ridiculous-underwear-saga-the-full-correspondence/

  27. Anna says...

    Talking about the ‘superhuman’ fiction, recently had a thoroughly disgusting example of that way of thinking from a retired head of the Polish Secret Service on a recent radio discussion about the black site in Poland and the Strasburg court case in that matter (yesterday and today).
    Apart from answering any question -no matter what the subject- with the disclaimer that ‘he simply cannot imagine that the Polish services would have participated in establishing a torture prison in Poland’ (after all, we all know that what we cannot imagine, couldn’t possibly exist, don’t we?) he ranted on about how those Polish secret agents would have been “avid to have information or meet people who were terrorists, the most dangerous terrorists: the possibility to maybe observe their way of thinking, way of arguing, their insolence towards the persons who were interrogating them, as they realized that as prisoners they felt virtually untouchable. In other words, they were allowed everything, while the persons from the so-called civilised world ['so-called' indeed, my comment] are allowed very little.” …

    Even the [rather good] lady journalist who presided over the panel could not take that much callous nonsense and reminded him of ICRC and others which had documented the prisoners’ lack of any power at all and the inhumane, degrading and otherwise lawless treatment they were subjected to. To which the General answered, that those were merely conjectures from US journalists and only concerned prisons in Pakistan and Afghanistan …

    However, on a more positive note, he was the only dissonant during the prime-time live radio show. The audience was amazing and gave this *$%#^ a piece of its mind in a forceful way. The ‘would be James Bond’ cult was litterally ridiculed.

    This is the very strongly worded Reprieve statement after the first (secret) day of the Strasburg court case : http://www.reprieve.org.uk/press/poland_knew_about_cia_torture_prison/
    Do keep your fingers crossed that the Strasburg court won’t chicken out …

  28. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Anna. Your account of the exchanges on the radio show are an important part of the story, and I’m sure many people will be glad to hear them.
    Thanks also for the link to Reprieve’s press release. I plan to write about the hearing soon, but in the meantime the whole text of the press release is as follows:

    Poland knew about CIA torture prison on its soil, secret court session hears

    A court has heard “overwhelming and uncontested evidence” of the existence on European soil of a CIA “black site,” used to torture prisoners – with the knowledge of host-government Poland.

    Sitting in a secret session closed to public and press, the European Court of Human Rights yesterday heard from a range of expert witnesses – who cannot currently be named – that a CIA torture prison existed in Poland, and that the Polish Government was aware of it and the uses to which it was being put.

    The account of yesterday’s secret hearing is provided by Reprieve investigator Crofton Black, who has been researching the issue of secret prisons in Europe during the ‘War on Terror’ and was allowed access.

    Dr Black said: “We have now heard overwhelming and uncontested evidence that the CIA was running a secret torture prison on Polish soil, with the Polish Government’s knowledge. Despite being given many opportunities to do so, the Polish Government has failed to contest that it knew prisoners were being held beyond the rule of law and tortured by the CIA inside their own country. It has also become clear that the Polish Government’s investigation into the issue was in reality nothing more than a smoke-screen, which was neither designed nor intended to get to the truth.

    “European support for the CIA’s torture programme is one of the darkest chapters of our recent history – it is encouraging that the court now looks set to bring it to light, where the government has sought to sweep it under the carpet.”

    Abu Zubaydah v. Poland is the first time a European country has been taken to court for allowing the CIA to run a torture site on its territory. Declassified US government documents and Reprieve’s renditions investigations demonstrate that current Guantanamo detainee Mr Zubaydah was flown from a CIA prison site in Thailand to one in Poland in Dec. 2002. The fact that Poland knowingly hosted this prison means that it is directly responsible for the violations of his rights that took place there in 2002-2003.

    Today (3 December) saw the second day of a two-day hearing, the first day of which was held in a closed court.

  29. Andy Worthington says...

    Willy Bach wrote:

    Andy, thanks for this great piece of writing. Like you, I have no idea what the timing indicates and I share your frustration with short-cycle journalism that readily allows memory drop-outs when their attention span is exceeded.

    I do think we can learn a few lessons from Penny Lane. We already know that the CIA and US military have a very simplistic, if not childlike approach to character assessment. They would easily fool themselves into thinking that they had an inmate’s cooperation and then, surprise, surprise, they vanish with all that money in Afghanistan or somewhere. There is no room for admitting mistakes, so they say he is in deep cover – yeh right!

    More importantly, the US government have been banging on for years about the risk of recidivism – so what do they do? They release the only really dangerous guys with wads of money and they hold on to the innocent abductees in case they return to Al Qaeda. You could say they created the problem about which they complain so much.

    Apart from the fact that innocent or non-offending people are being treated unfairly, you could also say that the CIA has unraveled the entire rationale of having this very expensive and extremely cruel facility that achieves none of its stated objectives. The Emperor has no clothes. Shared.

  30. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Willy,
    I didn’t see your comments until now. Thanks for the kind words, and you are exactly right about the US authorities’ “very simplistic, if not childlike approach to character assessment” that led to them trusting people they shouldn’t have trusted and setting them free, while continuing to hold innocent and insignificant prisoners. I absolutely agree with your comment, “You could say they created the problem about which they complain so much.”

  31. Andy Worthington says...

    Willy Bach wrote:

    Andy, and I think that the Pentagon and CIA give themselves away creating joke names for a torture factory. Celebrating that they will never be caught for their crimes, just like the Nazis with their trophy pictures. Yuk!

  32. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, initially I thought “Penny Lane” was a joke, Willy, after the existence of “Strawberry Fields” was exposed back in 2010, but then I figured out this was the level of their so-called humor. I do indeed hope that one day a significant number of people will be appalled at the pet names the US came up with for its torture prisons – others being “Cat’s Eye” for the “black site” in Thailand, “Bright Light” for the secret prison in Romania, and “Quartz,” apparently, for the prison in Poland.

  33. Andy Worthington says...

    Talk about misplaced sensitivities, Willy. I did a quick search for the code names for the “black sites,” and found this from a powerful article about Kyle Foggo of the CIA in 2009: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/13/world/13foggo.html?pagewanted=all
    “In Thailand [in late 2002] local officials were said to be growing uneasy about a black site outside Bangkok code-named Cat’s Eye. (The agency would eventually change the code name for the Thai prison, fearing it would appear racially insensitive.)”
    So torture’s fine, but not racial insensitivity. Unless Muslims are involved …

  34. Andy Worthington says...

    Willy Bach wrote:

    Andy, what a nice, can-do man Kyle Foggo is. He reminds me of the cowboy culture of the CIA’s Secret War in Laos. When mercenaries arrived at the air strip at Long Tieng, Lima Site 20a (the not-existent site) they joined the brotherhood of the Commando Club – which in turn meant abandoning the Geneva Conventions, collecting ears from Pathet Lao soldiers’ corpses, executing prisoners and participating in the heroin trade. Such fun at the club!

  35. Andy Worthington says...

    And we’re supposed to think of ourselves as the great civilized countries, Willy. What a triumph of propaganda that is. Goebbels would have approved.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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The Guantánamo Files book cover

The Guantánamo Files

The Battle of the Beanfield book cover

The Battle of the Beanfield

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion book cover

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

Outside The Law DVD cover

Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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