Monday, February 13, 2006

Three or Four Things We Know About Torture 

1.) The Bush administration's policy of open torture proves the need for U.N. reform:
A United Nations inquiry has called for the immediate closure of America's Guantanamo Bay detention centre and the prosecution of officers and politicians "up to the highest level" who are accused of torturing detainees.

The UN Human Rights Commission report, due to be published this week, concludes that Washington should put the 520 detainees on trial or release them.

It calls for the United States to halt all "practices amounting to torture", including the
force-feeding of inmates who go on hunger strike.

The report wants the Bush administration to ensure that all allegations of torture are investigated by US criminal courts, and that "all perpetrators up to the highest level of military and political command are brought to justice".

It does not specify who it means by "political command" but logically this would include President George W Bush.

Washington officials yesterday denounced it as "a hatchet job" when informed of the contents by this newspaper.

"This shows precisely what is wrong with the United Nations today," said a senior official. "These people are supposed to be undertaking a serious investigation of the facts relating to Guantanamo . . . .

"When the UN produces an unprofessional hatchet job like this it discredits the whole organisation."
2.) If you can't stand the torture, get out of the dungeon:
The CIA’s top counter-terrorism official was fired last week because he opposed detaining Al-Qaeda suspects in secret prisons abroad, sending them to other countries for interrogation and using forms of torture such as “water boarding”, intelligence sources have claimed.

Robert Grenier, head of the CIA counter-terrorism centre, was relieved of his post after a year in the job. One intelligence official said he was “not quite as aggressive as he might have been” in pursuing Al-Qaeda leaders and networks.

Vincent Cannistraro, a former head of counter-terrorism at the agency, said: “It is not that Grenier wasn’t aggressive enough, it is that he wasn’t ‘with the programme’. He expressed misgivings about the secret prisons in Europe and the rendition of terrorists” . . . .

[CIA director Porter] Goss is believed to have blamed Grenier for allowing leaks to occur on his watch . . . .

AB “Buzzy” Krongard, a former executive director of the CIA who resigned shortly after Goss’s arrival, said the leaks were unlikely to stop soon, despite proposals to subject officers to more lie detector tests.

Krongard said it was up to President George Bush to stop the rot. “The agency has only one client: the president of the United States,” he said. “The reorganisation is the way this president wanted it. If he is unwilling to reform it, the agency will go on as it is.”

“History will judge how good an idea it was to destroy the teams and the programmes that were in place.”
3.) Is torture really for the "worst of the worst," or can just anybody climb on the old waterboard?
A new and statistical report, authored and released by Seton Hall Law Professor Mark Denbeaux and attorney Joshua Denbeaux, counsel to two of the detainees at Guantanamo, contains the first objective analysis of the background of those held at Guantanamo. The report is based entirely on data supplied by the Defense Department, and is intended to provide "a more detailed picture of who the Guantanamo detainees are, how they ended up there, and the purported bases for their enemy combatant designation" . . . .

Fifty-five percent (55%) of the detainees are not determined to have committed any hostile acts against the United States or its coalition allies.

Only 8% of the detainees were characterized as al Qaeda fighters. Of the remaining detainees, 40% have no definitive connection with al Qaeda at all and 18% are have no definitive affiliation with either al Qaeda or the Taliban.

Only 5% of the detainees were captured by United States forces. 86% of the detainees were arrested by either Pakistan or the Northern Alliance and turned over to United States custody. This 86% of the detainees captured by Pakistan or the Northern Alliance were handed over to the United States at a time in which the United States offered large bounties for capture of suspected enemies.
4.) But Straight-Talkin' John McCain fixed all that with his anti-torture amendment to the Defense Appropriation Bill, didn't he? Well, didn't he?
Alfred McCoy, an expert on the CIA and its history of torture, has some actual news -- the sort that's been sitting unnoticed right in front of our collective, reportorial eyes. Last year's clash between John McCain and the Bush administration over the senator's successful attempt to attach a ban on torture and other abusive interrogation techniques to the Defense Appropriations Bill was heavily reported. After all, it was a heroic tale of a man -- himself tortured pitilessly earlier in his life -- who held off the powers-that-be, rejected their attempts to amend his ban, and finally triumphed by a handy margin in Congress. The ban, now in place, is the law. End of story. Only one problem, reality turns out to lurk in the fine print -– and the McCain amendment has some striking fine print that mainstream reporters failed to attend to; in fact, McCoy tells us, it has a loophole big enough to absolve torturers of their acts and, in combination with an amendment by Senator Lindsey Graham, drive testimony obtained by torture directly into our courts. I would call that news.
UPDATE: Courtesy of our esteemed colleague Jed at Days, a thing we didn't know about torture:
THE United States is helping Morocco to build a new interrogation and detention facility for Al-Qaeda suspects near its capital, Rabat, according to western intelligence sources.

The sources confirmed last week that building was under way at Ain Aouda, above a wooded gorge south of Rabat’s diplomatic district. Locals said they had often seen American vehicles with diplomatic plates in the area.

The construction of the new compound, run by the Direction de la Securité du Territoire (DST), the Moroccan secret police, adds to a substantial body of evidence that Morocco is one of America’s principal partners in the secret “rendition” programme in which the CIA flies prisoners to third countries for interrogation.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other groups critical of the policy have compiled dossiers detailing the detention and apparent torture of radical Islamists at the DST’s current headquarters, at Temara, near Rabat.
They thought they were going to Casablanca for the waters. They were misinformed . . . .

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