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Will the US end Torture?   [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2013-12-21 00:19:32 |Display all floors
We were subjected to 'meticulous, daily torture'

After years of being held at the US Naval Base in Cuba without trial, Ibrahim Idris, one of two Sudanese detainees released on Thursday, said US prison officials had "systematically tortured" him in the course of his 11-year imprisonment at Gitmo.

Idris, who has been described by US officials as mentally ill, delivered his comments in a news conference in Khartoum, just hours after returning home courtesy of a US military plane.

Appearing weak and speaking with apparent difficultly, Idris gave a brief account of his lengthy imprisonment at Gitmo.

“We have been subjected to meticulous, daily torture," he said. "We were helpless…on an isolated island, surrounded by weapons."

He praised the Sudanese government and human rights organizations for working to secure the release of prisoners at Gitmo, which has been called “the GULAG of our times” by Amnesty International. Closed-door military tribunals, for example, have been riddled with problems, including courtroom speakers that have a mysterious tendency for being blocked during key testimony.

Another released detainee, Noor Othman Muhammed, was unable to attend the conference because he was recovering in the hospital, Idris said.

On Feb. 18, 2011, Muhammed pleaded guilty in a military tribunal to offenses under the Military Commissions Act of 2009, and was sentenced to 14 years confinement, according to a Defense Department news release. In exchange for his guilty plea and Muhammed's cooperation with prosecutors, the military court agreed through a pre-trial agreement to suspend all confinement in excess of 34 months.

Idris, who had been designated for transfer since 2009, said some of the former prisoners had pled guilty in a bid to secure their freedom.

As Barack Obama wins congressional approval to transfer some prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to their home countries, a released Sudanese inmate spoke of the torture he and others endured at the hands of their American jailers. Approval for a partial detainee release is contained in the National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the Senate by an 84-15 vote on Thursday night.

"While the bill does not address all of the administration's concerns, its provisions ... will provide the administration additional flexibility to transfer detainees abroad consistent with our national security interests," White House spokesman Jay Carney said earlier Thursday.

Of those still held in the prison, five individuals stand accused of participating in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. At the same time, some four dozen detainees are considered “too dangerous” to be released.

About half of Gitmo's 158 detainees have been cleared to be released since 2009, yet congressional restrictions prevented that from happening.
‘Special’ treatment for hunger strikers

A new outbreak of hunger strikes happened in early 2013. By July, 106 of the 166 detainees were on hunger strike, with 45 of them being force-fed.

According to Idris, those inmates who participated in these protests were “doubly tortured.”

In November, a 19-member task force concluded in a 269-page report, entitled 'Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the ‘War on Terror', that since September 11, 2001, the Department of Defense (DoD) and CIA ordered medical professionals to assist in intelligence gathering, as well as forced-feeding of hunger strikers, in a way that inflicted “severe harm.”

Gitmo officials announced earlier this month that the US military will no longer disclose to the media and public whether prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are on hunger strike, explaining that "the release of this information serves no operational purpose."

This decision has deprived detainees of an effective means of protesting the conditions of their detention.

As Obama moves to release more detainees, he can expect strong opposition from many Republican lawmakers, including not least of all former Vice President Dick Cheney, who has argued strongly that Guantanamo should be kept open.
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Post time 2013-12-27 08:26:17 |Display all floors
US court: No right for Bagram prisoners

An appeals court in the United States has approved the indefinite detention without trial of prisoners held by the US military in Afghanistan.

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in a 44-page decision on Christmas Eve that habeas corpus petitions filed by five prisoners who are held by the US military at the Bagram prison in Afghanistan are “beyond the reach” of the US Constitution.

The petitions invoked the prisoners’ right to challenge unlawful detention. While the right is not fully implemented in practice, it is recognized by the US Supreme Court for prisoners held at the notorious US-run Guantanamo prison in Cuba.

However, the US appeals court rejected on Tuesday Bagram prisoners’ petition citing administration claims that there are differences between Guantanamo and Bagram, which is also known as “Afghanistan’s Guantanamo.”

According to the three-judge panel of the appellate court, Guantanamo “does not lie in a theater of war” while “our forces at Bagram…are actively engaged in a war with determined enemy.”

“Orders issued by judges thousands of miles away would undercut the commanders' authority,” the panel stated.

Three of the five Bagram prisoners who filed the petitions had been involved in an earlier 2010 case with the same result. The three appellants were actually captured outside of Afghanistan and US authorities transported them to Bagram to avoid legal scrutiny for their indefinite detention.

The US is reportedly holding non-Afghan detainees at Bagram. There have been numerous allegations of serious prisoner abuse by US forces at the notorious prison.

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Post time 2014-1-9 08:07:47 |Display all floors
CIA lawyer: Stopping torture 'would have been easy,' but I approved it anyway

John Rizzo, the chief legal counsel for the Central Intelligence Agency during the Bush presidency in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 has been opening up about what he experienced during those years as the administration, the agency, and its operatives, in the words of former Vice President Dick Cheney, "took the gloves off" in their war against terrorism.

In his latest confessional piece, titled "I Could Have Stopped Waterboarding Before It Happened," published in Politico Magazine, Rizzo recounts a visit from unnamed members of the White House's Office of Legal Council (OLC) in April of 2002 and how they described for him the series of what they called "enhanced interrogation techniques" or EITs they were hoping to employ on CIA-held detainees.

Asked to approve them, Rizzo contemplated rejecting the "most frightening and terrifying" techniques—including the well-known water torture the OLC lawyers called 'waterboarding.' However, even though he admits forbidding them "would have been a relatively easy thing to do," he decided (while smoking a cigar and walking around CIA headquarters) that use of most of the practices should go forward.

That euphemism of "enhanced interrogation techniques" became a famous fill-in for torture sanctioned by the Bush White House, but even before the techniques became public knowledge (years later), Rizzo acknowledges he knew immediately that the CIA was about to go over the line.

"I had been around the CIA long enough," Rizzo writes at Politico, "to develop a gut instinct about what could get the Agency—and its people—into trouble down the road. And this had huge, unprecedented trouble written all over it."

And here's what the OLC described to Rizzo, in his own words, about the techniques they were about to use on captured terrorism suspects, including Abu Zubaydah, already being held at a secret CIA black site:

• Attention grasp: The interrogator would grab Zubaydah by the collar with both hands, pulling him closer to the interrogator.
• Walling: The interrogator would shove Zubaydah backward shoulder blades first, into a flexible false wall that would be designed to produce a loud noise. Zubaydah would have a protective collar placed on him to protect against whiplash.
• Facial hold: The interrogator, holding Zubaydah’s head immobile, would put one open palm on each side of his face, keeping fingertips away from Zubaydah’s eyes.
• Insult slap: The interrogator would slap Zubaydah in the face, taking care to keep his fingers spread and to strike between the chin and the earlobe. The idea would be to startle/humiliate Zubaydah and disabuse him of the notion that he wouldn’t be physically hit.
• Cramped confinement: The interrogator would put Zubaydah in a box—either a “big” one (allowing him to stand) for up to 18 hours, or a “small” one (where he would have to curl up) for up to two hours. For the small box, the interrogator would have the option to place a harmless insect inside. (At this point, I couldn’t resist interjecting: “Why an insect?” The response: “Zubaydah hates bugs. It’ll be something harmless, but he won’t know that.” The bug gambit, apparently, was not something ever done by the U.S. military in its SERE training.)
• Wall standing: The interrogator would have Zubaydah stand facing a wall from about four feet away, have him stretch his arms straight out in front of him, so that his fingers were touching the wall and could support his weight. He would be made to hold that position indefinitely, so as to induce discomfort or fatigue.
• Stress positions: The interrogator would have Zubaydah either sit on the floor with his legs extended in front of him and his arms raised over his head, or kneel on the floor while leaning back at a 45-degree angle. Again, the intent would be to cause discomfort or fatigue.
• Sleep deprivation: Zubaydah would be made to stay awake for up to 11 days at a time.
• Waterboarding: The interrogator would strap Zubaydah to an inclined bench, with his feet slightly elevated. A cloth would be placed over his forehead and eyes, and water would be applied to the cloth in a controlled manner—for 20 to 40 seconds from a height of 12 to 24 inches. The intention would be simulate the sensation of drowning. There was also another technique that I’m barred from describing that was so gruesome that the Justice Department later stopped short of approving it.

Following these descriptions and a series of meetings, including one in which OLC lawyer John Yoo—now famous as the unrepentant chief author of the so-called "Torture Memos"—was introduced to the techniques, the torture regime was approved and CIA interrogators holding prisoners were notified the torture could begin.

Later, as senior Bush administration officials met to discuss the program, Rizzo offers a unique description of who attended such meetings and their behavior during discussions about torture. He writes:

As a backbencher in many of these meetings, I found it fascinating to observe the body language and dynamics of the various principals as (CIA Director George) Tenet would give detailed updates on the specifics of the EITs and how they were being administered. Some, such as Andy Card, the White House chief of staff, and Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would sit there stoically. Attorney General John Ashcroft was mostly quiet except for emphasizing repeatedly that the EITs were lawful. Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld was notable more for his frequent, conspicuous absences during these sessions—he kept trying to get his chief intelligence deputy to attend in his place but was always rebuffed by the White House. It was quickly apparent that Rumsfeld didn’t want to get his fingerprints anywhere near the EITs. Understandably, Tenet spent more time talking about waterboarding than anything else. Yet I don’t recall there ever being much in the way of resistance from any of his colleagues around the table. What instead sticks in my mind is how national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, for instance, seemed troubled by the fact that the detainees were required to be nude when undergoing some of the EITs.

But the most interesting figure of all at these meetings was Secretary of State Colin Powell. Now, there was a man giving off an unmistakable vibe of being there out of a sense of duty but intensely uncomfortable about it. At the end of each EIT update session, Powell, who seemed to view sleep deprivation as the most grueling of all the techniques, would bolt out of the Situation Room as fast as he could.

While Vice President Dick Cheney occasionally would sit in on the sessions, the one senior national security official who I believe was not knowledgeable about the EITs was President George W. Bush himself. He was not present at any of the Principals Committee meetings held by the National Security Council (in my experience over the years, it was rare for any president to attend such sessions), and none of the principals at any of the EIT sessions during this period—August 2002 through 2003—ever alluded to the president knowing anything about them or expressing the view that he needed to be told. I also never heard anything to that effect in the numerous other separate discussions on EITs we had with individual principals.

In the end, however, that conspicuous absence of Bush from these key meetings is confounded by Rizzo when he reads in Bush's own memoir that he was, in fact, briefed on the torture techniques. Admitting key details of the process by which the torture regime was approved, Bush seems to take responsibility for the decision even though Rizzo contends he "doesn't believe" that Bush was fully informed or played any role.

Rizzo calls Bush a "stand-up" guy for putting himself "up to his neck in the creation and implementation of the most contentious counterterrorist program in the post-9/11 era."

Well, that's one way to look at it.

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Post time 2014-1-25 18:39:24 |Display all floors
CIA used secret prison in Poland for torture

Jan 24, 2014

The US Central Intelligence Agency has used a secret prison in Poland in order to torture the suspects that it captured following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

According to former CIA officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity with The Washington Post, two senior CIA officers sealed a deal with Polish intelligence officials that allowed the CIA to use a secret prison – a remote villa in the Polish lake district – in exchange for $15 million.

The CIA had already begun using the secret prison before delivering the money which was in a pair of large cardboard boxes that had flown from Germany to the US embassy in Polish capital, Warsaw, via diplomatic pouch.

The CIA prison in Poland was the first of a trio of the agency’s so-called “black sites,” or secret prisons, in Europe used for interrogating and torturing prisoners captured in covert operations.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks who – alongside four other suspects – faces a possible execution if convicted, was waterboarded 183 times at the CIA’s secret prison in Poland.

Last year in October, James Connell, a lawyer for another 9/11 suspect who is jailed in the notorious US-run Guantanamo prison, criticized the limitations imposed on him for even talking about the torture of his client.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to release parts of a 6,000-page report which, according to the committee’s chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), “uncovers startling details about the CIA detention and interrogation program and raises critical questions about intelligence operations and oversight.”

The release of the report was demanded by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that filed a lawsuit in November against the CIA under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

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Post time 2014-1-27 06:58:20 |Display all floors
Contrary to Obama's promises, US military still permits torture

The United States Army Field Manual (AFM) on interrogation (pdf) has been sold to the American public and the world as a replacement for the brutal torture tactics used by the CIA and the Department of Defense during the Bush/Cheney administration.

On 22 January 2009, President Obama released an executive order stating that any individual held by any US government agency "shall not be subjected to any interrogation technique or approach, or any treatment related to interrogation, that is not authorized by and listed in Army Field Manual 2 22.3."

But a close reading of Department of Defense documents and investigations by numerous human rights agencies have shown that the current Army Field Manual itself uses techniques that are abusive and can even amount to torture.

Disturbingly, the latest version of the AFM mimicked the Bush administration in separating out "war on terror" prisoners as not subject to the same protections and rights as regular prisoners of war. Military authorities then added an appendix to the AFM that included techniques that could only be used on such "detainees", ie, prisoners without POW status.

Labeled Appendix M, and propounding an additional, special "technique" called "Separation", human rights and legal group have recognized that Appendix M includes numerous abusive techniques, including use of solitary confinement, sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation.

According to Appendix M, sleep can be limited to four hours per day for up to 30 days, and even more with approval. The same is true for use of isolation. Theoretically, sleep deprivation and solitary confinement could be extended indefinitely.

According to a 2003 US Southern Command instruction (pdf) to then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, sleep deprivation was defined "as keeping a detainee awake for more than 16 hours". Only three years later, when a new version of the AFM was introduced, detainees were expected to stay awake for 20 hours. Meanwhile, language in the previous AFM forbidding both sleep deprivation and use of stress positions was quietly removed from the current manual.

The use of isolation as a torture technique has a long history. According to a classic psychiatric paper (pdf) on the psychological effects of isolation (aka solitary confinement), such treatment on prisoners can "cause severe psychiatric harm", producing "an agitated confusional state which, in more severe cases, had the characteristics of a florid delirium, characterized by severe confusional, paranoid, and hallucinatory features, and also by intense agitation and random, impulsive, often self-directed violence."

The application of the Appendix M techniques – which are considered risky enough to require the presence of a physician – are supposed to be combined with other "approaches" culled from the main text of the field manual, including techniques such as "Fear Up" and "Emotional Ego Down". In fact, at the end of Appendix M, a combined use of its techniques with other approaches, specifically "Futility", "Incentive", and "Fear Up", is suggested.

While "Fear Up" and "Incentive" approaches act somewhat like what they sound – using fear and promises to gain the "cooperation" of a prisoner under interrogation – "Futility" has a vague goal of imparting to a prisoner, according to the AFM, the notion that "resistance to questioning is futile".

According to the manual:

This engenders a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness on the part of the source.

A review of documents released under FOIA (the Freedom of Information Act) shows that use of the "Futility" approach in the AFM was the rationale behind the use of loud music, strobe lights, and sexualized assaults and embarrassment on prisoners. The "Futility" technique pre-dates the introduction of the current Army Field Manual, which is numbered 2-22.3 and introduced in September 2006. In fact, the earlier AFM, labeled 35-52 (pdf), was the basis of numerous accusations of documented abuse.

In the executive summary of the 2005 Department of Defense's Schimdt-Furlow investigation into alleged abuse of Guantanamo prisoners, the use of loud music and strobe lights on prisoners was labeled "music futility", and considered an "allowed technique". Defense Department investigators looked at accusation of misuse of such techniques, but never banned them.

Military investigators wrote,

Placement of a detainee in the interrogation booth and subjecting him to loud music and strobe lights should be limited and conducted within clearly prescribed limits.

Those limits were not specified.

Additionally, the Schmidt-Furlow investigators looked at instances where female interrogators had fondled prisoners, or pretended to splash menstrual blood upon them. According to military authorities, these were a form of "gender coercion", and identified as a "futility technique".

President Obama's January 2009 executive order would seem to have halted the use of what the Defense Department called "gender coercion", but not "music futility". But we don't know because of pervasive secrecy exactly what military or other interrogators do or don't do when they employ the "Futility" technique.

Numerous human rights groups, including Amnesty International, Physicians for Human Rights, and the Institute on Medicine as a Profession and Open Society Foundations have called for the elimination of Appendix M and/or the rewriting of the entire Army Field Manual itself.

What has been lacking is a widespread public discourse that recognizes that swapping waterboarding and the CIA's "enhanced interrogation" torture with the Army Field Manual as an instrument of humane interrogation only replaced the use of brutal torture techniques with those that emphasize psychological torture.

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