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Did the US Intend to Torture Bin Laden’s Children?

5:01 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Did the US torture children by placing ants on their bodies? (photo: wizardhat on Flickr)

In the midst of the ongoing orgy of adulation for Seal Team Six killing Osama Bin Laden and the former Vice President appearing on television to advocate a return to waterboarding as official US torture policy, there has been little attention to the fact that Pakistan took several wives and children of Bin Laden into custody after the US raid of the compound. The US now seeks access to these family members. Did the US intend to torture these children with insects as they did Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s children, if the helicopter on which they would have flown had not been destroyed?

Here is Reuters reporting on the children in the immediate aftermath of the raid:

A senior Pakistani intelligence official said one of Osama bin Laden’s daughters had seen her father being shot dead by U.S. forces, and was one of about 10 relatives of the al Qaeda leader in custody pending interrogation.

The official, who declined to be identified, said the daughter, aged 12 or 13, was one of the people who had confirmed that the mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks had been killed by U.S. commandos in a raid early on Monday.

The relatives — one of bin Laden’s wives and up to eight children — will be interrogated and then probably turned over to their countries of origin, and not the United States, in accordance with Pakistani law, he said.

The article notes that these family members were left behind because the US had to destroy one of the helicopters used in the raid.  The US now wants these family members (note that now more than one wife is mentioned, although there is only one in the initial Reuters report):

National security adviser Thom­as E. Donilon said Pakistan remains a critical partner in battling al-Qaeda, despite new strains in the relationship a week after the raid in Abbottabad. But he acknowledged that Pakistani officials have not granted Americans access to important information gathered since the raid or allowed interviews with bin Laden family members now in Pakistan’s custody.

“We’ve asked for access, obviously, to those folks,” Donilon said on ABC’s “This Week,” one of four television news shows he visited Sunday.

A Pakistani intelligence official said Sunday that his government needed permission from the wives’ home countries before Pakistan could allow U.S. officials to question them. One of the wives is from Yemen; the official said he did not know the other wives’ nationalities.

Note how the US handled KSM’s sons:

Two young sons of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the September 11 attacks, are being used by the CIA to force their father to talk.

Yousef al-Khalid, nine, and his brother, Abed al-Khalid, seven, were taken into custody in Pakistan last September when intelligence officers raided a flat in Karachi where their father had been hiding.


“His sons are important to him. The promise of their release and their return to Pakistan may be the psychological lever we need to break him.”

Yup, trying to “break” KSM consisted of, in addition to waterboarding him 183 times and telling him that if the US were attacked, “We’re going to kill your children“.

In addition, the US may have used insects to torture KSM’s children and other children:

At a military tribunal in 2007, the father of a Guantanamo detainee alleged that Pakistani guards had confessed that American interrogators used ants to coerce the children of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed into revealing their father’s whereabouts.

The statement was made by Ali Khan, the father of detainee Majid Khan, who gave a detailed account of his son’s interrogation at the hands of American guards in Pakistan. In his statement, Khan asserted that one of his sons was held at the same place as the young children of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

“The Pakistani guards told my son that the boys were kept in a separate area upstairs and were denied food and water by other guards,” the statement read. “They were also mentally tortured by having ants or other creatures put on their legs to scare them and get them to say where their father was hiding.

Also lost somewhere in the maze of being held by Pakistan or the US are one or more of Aafia Siddiqui’s children.

No matter the crimes of the parents, detaining and torturing children is a crime that can only hasten the decline of our country into complete lawlessness. Where is the outcry against such base behavior? What does the US plan to do with Bin Laden’s children if access is granted? What would the US have done with these children if the helicopter on which they would have flown had not been destroyed?

Note to John Durham: No Statute of Limitations on Murder

7:32 am in Torture by Jim White

Known torturer and evidence destroyer Jose Rodriguez. (CIA photo)

As bmaz has pointed out in language blunt enough that one presumes even the willfully obtuse Holder Justice Department might understand it, many of us are bearing witness to investigator John H. Durham intentionally allowing the statute of limitations to expire on Jose Rodriguez’s crime of destroying videotaped evidence of torture. Marcy Wheeler’s torture timeline links to the documentation that the tape destruction occurred on November 8, 2005. The five year statute of limitations on that charge will expire in just a few days. Further, my understanding of the timeline is that the last known waterboardings took place in March, 2003. Some aspects of the torture statutes carry an eight year statute of limitations, so that deadline for waterboarding prosecutions will expire in just a few months. However, with over a hundred deaths of prisoners during US interrogations, there are a number of potential murder charges that are not subject to a statute of limitations.

Just for review, here is a piece of the strongest evidence against Jose Rodriguez for him to charged with conspiracy to commit torture. He was head of the Counterterrorism Center (CTC) at the time that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded. From the CIA OIG report, as I first mentioned in this diary, we have the following passage, where it is clear that Rodriguez’s CTC assessments “were unsupported by credible intelligence” and resulted in the “application of EIT’s without justification”.  That means people were tortured without basis in credible intelligence, but were instead tortured, on Rodriguez’s order, based on his belief of “what the individual might or should know”.  At that time, March 2003, Bush wanted evidence of Saddam Hussein working with al Qaeda on the 9/11 attacks, so that is the best guess on what CTC thought that KSM “should know” and therefore should have divulged during the 183 waterboardings.

CTC torture responsibility

It is difficult to imagine why Durham and by extension, Eric Holder and Barack Obama, all believe that they will be able to wrap up this whitewash by saying that nothing can be done once the statutes of limitations have expired.

Lurking in the shadows behind the torture and obstruction of justice charges, we still have the ugly truth of over a hundred deaths of prisoners during interrogations.  There is no statute of limitations on murder, so there is no way to run out the clock on these charges.   How will David Margolis be able to downgrade these crimes, to follow onto his degrading the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility report, where he reduced offenses by John Yoo and Jay Bybee to mere “bad judgment” from the original professional misconduct charges in their drafting of the torture memos?

What Durham, Holder and Obama need to know is that there is a community of people who believe that our country should abide by the rules of civilization and that when torture occurs, those responsible for giving the orders need to be held accountable.  They should also know that the international community considers these crimes to be war crimes, and under that framework there are no statutes of limitations and no possibility for pardons or mitigating circumstances.  By actively suppressing the investigation of war crimes, are Durham, Holder and Obama making themselves accessories to them?

OLC Torture Memos Prove that Waterboarding is Drowning

2:35 pm in Uncategorized by Jim White

I’m just starting, along with everyone else, to work through the OLC torture memos. Here are a few things I’ve found so far about waterboarding.

One note before presenting passages from the memos. Previous public descriptions, as far as I recall, have suggested that plastic wrap was used to prevent water actually getting into the prisoner’s lungs. There is no mention of use of anything other than a cloth in the waterboard passages I’ve found so far.

First, here is a passage from pages 3 and 4 of Bybee’s August 1, 2002 memo:

Bybee p 3

Bybee p 4

Notable statements are that the "The inidividual does not breathe any water into his lungs" and "…it is likely that this procedure would not last more than 20 minutes in any one application."

Now let’s look at the Bradbury Memo from May 30, 2005. Here is a passage from page 15:

Bradbury p 15

Note that now we can have people on the board for up to two hours, with up to six applications of water on five days over a 30 day period. How did they go from 20 minutes to two hours and come up with such arbitrary numbers for the number of times a person can be waterboarded? Does torture occur only once these thresholds are exceeded?
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