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Decision in Julian Assange Extradition Appeal Postponed: Sweden Created This Standoff, Says Assange Lawyer

10:34 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

A decision in WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange’s extradition appeal hearing is not expected for three weeks, as the court has reserved judgment whether he should be extradited to Sweden to be questioned for allegedly committing sex crimes. The postponement came as the hearing wrapped up after being in session for two days.

Assange’s appeal hearing challenged a lower court ruling, where a judge decided he should be extradited to Sweden. The process itself is part of the European arrest warrant (EAW) system, which is an “adopted framework” under the European Union that was developed to simplify and speed up extradition among member states. The allegations of sex crimes are part of the extradition process but not necessarily dependent or relevant to whether Assange is eventually extradited.

The Guardian, in its blow-by-blow documentation of hearing on its website, reports Clare Montgomery, appearing on behalf of Swedish authorities, argued “public prosecutors have long issued arrest warrants that were processed by UK courts as grounds for extradition” and it doesn’t matter if Assange is wanted for questioning and not for charges. Assange’s legal team, however, suggested there existed “more proportionate” ways to handle this situation than using the EAW system.

The judge said, “We are not concerned with whether this is a good case or a bad case but whether what is charged amounts to a crime.” Mark Summers, an attorney for Assange, said, “The prosecutor has never sought to explain why she has not engaged all other mechanisms [ie other than extradition] to progress this investigation … The reason there is a stand-off is entirely of Sweden’s making. What a waste of time.”

Yesterday, Assange’s legal team made claims that the European arrest warrant, which led to the hearing, contained “fundamental misstatements.” The team argued he had consensual sex with the two women who claim they were raped or sexually violated. And, the team argued Swedish authorities could use other means to investigate and pursue Assange that were not as “disproportionate.”

Assange had a new legal strategy and team for this hearing. Tom Hayden for The Nation wrote in June, “Until now, the Assange defense team has disparaged the Swedish assault charges and suggested that once in Swedish hands, the WikiLeaks founder might face extradition to the United States on conspiracy charges carrying a life sentence.” Gareth Peirce, a “renowned British human rights advocate who has defended Guantanamo detainees and Irish republicans in previous decades,” was brought on along with Ben Emmerson, “also a respected human rights attorney who has served as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism.”

Peirce told Hayden before the extradition appeal hearing:

The history of this case is as unfortunate as it is possible to imagine, in which encounters, undoubtedly believed by all parties at the time to be private, became inappropriately the subject of publicity and thereafter in consequence no doubt the more difficult to resolve. Each of the human beings involved deserves respect and consideration. It is hoped that whatever steps as are required to be taken in the future will be taken thoughtfully, with sensitivity and with such respect.

[*Note: Peirce has previously come out strongly against the United States on the issue of extradition. Read her article, which was published in the London Review of Books in May 2010.]

The change in legal team and strategy may explain why Assange did not give any speeches on either day of the appeal hearing.

Assange’s extradition case has called attention to irregularities and unjust aspects of the EAW system. A parliamentary committee, the Joint Committee on Human Rights, singled out the case of hacker Gary McKinnon, who has spent nine years fighting extradition to America, and urged that Britons not be sent overseas for offenses “committed wholly or mainly inside the UK” or for cases “without any evidence against them.”

EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding spoke out in April and said, according to The Guardian, “crossborder pursuits of bicycle thieves, piglet rustlers and those accused of trivial offences was damaging the authority of the European arrest warrant (EAW).” The EU Commission planned legislation to address some of the problems that have stemmed from the process.

Duncan Campbell, for The Guardian, detailed in June how the EAW has been a “very blunt instrument.”

The EAW was first introduced at the beginning of 2004 as a way of expediting the extradition across European borders of wanted criminals and those who had fled countries rather than stand trial for serious offences. That was its intention, anyway, and it is fair to say that, on many occasions, it has been very helpful in the speedy capture of violent and dangerous people who have sought to avoid a country’s justice by hiding abroad…

… While there can be no argument on behalf of some of those who have had their collar felt in some foreign land, the warrant has been too readily used in cases that were very minor, flimsy or nonexistent. It is time to rework it, so that the warrant is only employed when there is a clear, credible case against an alleged offender and when a speedy trial and proper legal representation is assured.

On June 9th,  the European Parliament held a debate on the EAW system. Gerard Batten MEP detailed how the EAW was being used to oppress political dissidents, like Assange and said, “There are many irregularities in the case against him.”

He listed the irregularities: failure of prosecutor to interview witnesses that could clear Assange, allegations against Assange would not constitute “rape” in England, complainants’ lawyer has stated the ladies in question cannot tell if what happened constitutes “rape” because they are not lawyers, Assange was in Sweden for five weeks but was not questioned, etc. And, he went on to provide context for an argument that the EAW is being used to suppress the efforts of Assange and WikiLeaks and is feeding into US efforts to investigate and go after Assange for espionage.

Assange has not hid his fear that he might be extradited from Sweden to the United States. The legal team may not be describing this possibility in court or publicly to fuel support for Assange’s case, but it is widely known that Assange finds it possible he could end up in US custody.

In a chat with Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet in February explained why he thinks Sweden would extradite him to the US:

This is an interesting question that few people have looked at with any depth. Onwards extradition – to the United States – entirely a matter of politics. The Swedish Prime Minister has refused to block such an extradition, saying, falsely, that it is a matter entirely for the judiciary, while at the same time pathetically pandering with his other commentary on the case. Infact, he has the power, in the Swedish extradition relationship with the US, to disqualify my extradition. He refuses. According to what I have been told of the protocol between Sweden and the UK, and the US and the UK, the Home Secretary of the UK, simiarly has such power to politically veto such an extradition. The British government, thus far, has refused to do so. Now, while it is convention that an extradition from the UK or Sweden to the US would require the US to agree to not execute or torture me or other european based WikiLeaks staff, any such diplomatic guarentee would be meaningless. Sweden went through that formalism with its CIA assisted extraditions to Egypt, which were immediately ignored. In the US many senior politicians have called for our assassination or life imprisonment. There are three bills before Congress and the Senate to do such things as declare us a “transnational threat”, so all our staff can be treated like al-Quada – as “enemy combatants” and shipped off to Bagram or Guantanamo, etc. Nothing Sweden can politely ask for can stop this legislative risk.

Tom Hayden, in another article on Assange’s case, explained, “If American authorities eventually indict Assange and demand his extradition, the proceedings could raise a firestorm of protest. But any extradition from Sweden would have to be approved by both Stockholm and London—under extradition law, an individual may not be extradited on one charge from nation A to nation B, and then extradited to nation C on a different charge. The prosecutors will be faced with strong opposition from the United States, the United Kingdom and Sweden.”

The postponement of a decision naturally invites speculation. Why couldn’t the court give an immediate decision? The public does not know the backroom conversations and power politics, which might be playing out. But, read Peirce’s article published in the London Review of Books and one can assume there are power politics involved in most extradition cases.

If Assange loses his appeal, he will have one more avenue for appeal and could take his case to the UK Supreme Court. The Swedish authorities, of course, could also end their pursuit of an extradition and use the other avenues the Assange legal team has outlined to give the women, who allege sex crimes, justice.

Obama Has Decriminalized Torture: Do Americans Care?

7:07 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

From President Barack Obama’s inauguration to now, he has treated the issue of torture and the legalization of this supreme violation of human rights as an inconvenience. Obama has kept the possibility of holding former Bush Administration officials accountable for torture shrouded in remarks that contain platitudes on nobody being above the rule of law, yet, in those same remarks, he has shifted the responsibility to people like Attorney General Eric J. Holder to prosecute Bush officials, effectively freeing him of any obligation or liability that might stem from having to launch an investigation.

A new report from Human Rights Watch, “Getting Away with Torture: The Bush Administration and Mistreatment of Detainees,” provides opportunity to reflect on the reality that Bush Administration officials committed and effectively legalized torture and the Obama Administration, in its failure to hold these officials accountable, has in a way decriminalized torture.

As a number of news organizations and blogs have noted, the critical thing about the report is that it appears to give up on any possibility of a thorough investigation being launched by the Obama Administration. It encourages “judicial systems in foreign states to pursue investigations” and prosecute “under the doctrines of ‘universal jurisdiction’ and ‘passive personality’ jurisdiction. Under the principle of international that states have an interest in bringing to justice “perpetrators of particular crimes of international concern.” And, it notes that under the Geneva Conventions of 1949, which the US has ratified, “grave breaches” including “willful killing; torture or inhuman treatment; willfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health; and willfully depriving a prisoner of war or other protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial” puts an obligation on countries that have signed to search for those alleged to have committed “grave breaches” and even push for extradition of officials suspected of violations.

While urging foreign countries to prosecute may show human rights groups are desperate, that human rights groups are now pursuing this as an option says a lot about America’s contempt for the rule of law. Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch explained on Democracy Now! torture is the “intentional infliction of severe pain and suffering, whether physical or mental.” Mock executions, like waterboarding, have been prosecuted by the US previously. But, the political class and establishment lawyers argue that prosecuting violations under the law will “politicize criminal law.” Or, they display as much interest in addressing the misconduct as those who know the war in Libya is a downright illegal war.

Those who were opposed to Bush Administration policies of torture, like human rights groups and lawyers, have been understandably disappointed with the Obama Administration. It has failed to close Guantanamo, indicated support for indefinite detention of terror suspects without a trial, bowed to the rancor of neoconservatives and decided to prosecute terror suspects with military commissions, refused to release “torture photos” and chosen to not charge any former CIA officials with the destruction of interrogation tapes.

Human rights groups have been very patient with the administration. Not only has the Obama Administration failed to uphold its duty to investigate and prosecute Bush officials under signed treaties like the Convention against Torture but it has let Bush officials tour around with their memoirs—books which contain prideful admissions of torture.

When Osama bin Laden was killed in a targeted operation, the administration put up with people like former Vice President Dick Cheney, who suggested torture had likely helped the Obama Administration kill him. And, with the news that the Justice Department was dropping ninety-nine of the one hundred and one cases against the CIA for abuse and torture, Bush officials were effectively absolved of any real threat of prosecution from the Obama Administration.

Jeff Kaye draws attention to how the “fight for transparency” makes this renewed push for prosecutions important. Kaye highlights how the Department of Defense is now considering a new policy for unclassified information that would enable less openness and more secrecy. This proposal is to be expected from an administration that has derailed torture lawsuits by invoking “states secrets” privileges. For example, in Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc., in a suit brought by five survivors of the CIA’s rendition program, the ACLU reports, the Obama Administration argued against a lower court ruling, claimed the “case could not be litigated without the disclosure of state secrets.”

What’s more striking is how this report further demonstrates the US has no culture of accountability for those in power who do not commit crimes that involve sexual misbehavior. Probe after probe and investigation after investigation can produce pages of evidence that would fill an entire room. Recommendations on what to do and blueprints for moving forward can be drafted. Nobody in Washington wants to be bothered with the business of correcting injustice.

Today, President Obama could call for a criminal investigation into US government detention practices, as recommended in the HRW report. But, in America, those guilty of crimes in the national security establishment are permitted to commit crimes so long as it appears it happened while trying to protect America from terrorism. They can trash people’s civil liberties, torture people and violate treaties that are law and get away with it just like bank executives on Wall Street can get away with collapsing the US economy.

The effect of not investigating and prosecuting torture is not only that laws are violated but that torture becomes normalized. A rot spreads throughout the American population as Americans find power should be granted the benefit of the doubt and be allowed to torture terror suspects. Ignoring the number of people detained by the US, who are innocent and have no relationship to any terror group, they remember the mythology of 9/11 that has been seared into their brain by leaders like President Bush and President Obama, who countlessly retell the story of 9/11 in war speeches, and see no problem dehumanizing people.

Torture legalized as a tool for those carrying out “counterterrorism operations” becomes legitimate for use throughout America. Guards in Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantanamo Bay, who tortured detainees, can come home and become guards at prisons like the Pelican Bay prison and torture prisoners by subjecting them to solitary confinement in a prison-within-the-prison called the Security Housing Unit or the SHU. They can get away with using interrogation techniques, which are tantamount to torture, on political prisoners like Bradley Manning, the alleged military whistleblower to WikiLeaks.

As reported yesterday, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez has been restricted from having access to detainees in the US so he can conduct inquiries into torture or inhumane treatment. Mendez reports:

I am assured by the US Government that Mr. Manning’s prison regime and confinement is markedly better than it was when he was in Quantico. However, in addition to obtaining first hand information on my own about his new conditions of confinement, I need to ascertain whether the conditions he was subjected to for several months in Quantico amounted to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. For that, it is imperative that I talk to Mr. Manning under conditions where I can be assured that he is being absolutely candid.

The US Department of Defense has said they would allow Mendez to visit but that he would not be able to have an unmonitored visit, violating “long-standing rules that the UN applies to prison visits.” Mendez reluctantly agreed to a monitored visit, but Manning declined to agree to speaking to Mendez while under close watch by any agents or guards. Now, Mendez concludes the US may no longer wish to allow him to visit detainees in any US prisons if he makes a country visit to the United States.

This prevention of access is not unique to the Obama Administration, as the Bush Administration also put unacceptable conditions on UN visits to Guantanamo Bay. This is part of the “new normal,” an era where officials who commit crimes are shielded from accountability for engaging in warrantless wiretapping, torture, or rendition; state secrets are invoked to prevent transparency; detainees are denied habeas corpus; prisons like Guantanamo and Bagram (along with black prison sites that likely still exist) continue to hold detainees perhaps indefinitely; navy ships hold prisoners that can no longer be sent to Guantanamo because there will be public outrage; the right to target and kill U.S. civilians and bypass due process is asserted; and military commissions or “kangaroo courts” force detainees into Kafkaesque proceedings that make it nearly impossible to not be found guilty.

America purports to have moral authority in the world to push for prosecutions for crimes in Third World countries. It condemns Middle Eastern and African countries (excluding Israel), which do not allow access to their countries for investigations of human rights violations. But, it does not investigate and prosecute its own officials, who are responsible for committing and legalizing torture.

The country appears to care little when it is suggested that what happened under Bush could happen again because all too many fail to see how shopping around for legal arguments to create justification for torture or “enhanced interrogation techniques” was wrong. The idea of moving forward instead of looking backward to hold Bush officials accountable enchants the population. And so, the population presses on without collectively confronting the system that has been put in place over the past ten years.

The Guantanamo Children: These Aren’t What You’d Call ‘Little League’ Terrorists

3:28 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

(Photo:Omar Khadr)

Pakistani national Naqib Ullah (also Naqibullah) was 14 years old and out doing an errand for his father when he was kidnapped from his village in Khan, Afghanistan by 11 men that called themselves, “Samoud’s people.” The men, according to Ullah, “forcibly raped him at gunpoint”. He was taken back to the men’s village encampment and “forced to do manual work.”

Ullah was in the camp for three days when, in December 2002, US forces raided the camp. The group had been forewarned. They ordered Ullah and others to stay behind and fight US forces. He was captured and had a weapon but it had not been fired. He was transported to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in January 2003 because the military believed he might have knowledge of “Taliban resistance efforts and local leaders.”

This teenager is just one of twenty-two juveniles who wound up in Guantanamo. And, with the release of the Gitmo Files by WikiLeaks, more details on the capture, transfer, detention and release of juvenile detainees are becoming known.

Article 1 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as “every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.”

UN officials have called on the US to “respect the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” which “aims to increase the protection of children during armed conflicts. It requires that all States parties ‘take all feasible measures’ to ensure that members of their armed forces under the age of 18 do not take a direct part in hostilities.” The UN has tried to remind the US “that children under 18 are entitled to special protection and so any voluntary recruitment under the age of 18 must include sufficient safeguards.” But, the Pentagon has effectively shrugged off the concerns of the UN in the same way they shrugged off the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture’s concerns about Bradley Manning when he was being held at Quantico.

For example, eight years prior to the release of the Gitmo Files, then-Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld, when asked about “the juveniles in Guantanamo,” complained, “This constant refrain of “the juveniles,” as though there’s a hundred of children in there — these are not children. Dick Myers responded to that. There are plenty of people who have been killed by people who were still in their teens.”

Indeed, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dick Myers did respond. This was his characterization of the children in Guantanamo:

I would say, despite their age, these are very, very dangerous people. They are people that have been vetted mainly in Afghanistan and gone through a thorough process to determine what their involvement was. Some have killed. Some have stated they’re going to kill again. So they may be juveniles, but they’re not on a little-league team anywhere, they’re on a major league team, and it’s a terrorist team. And they’re in Guantanamo for a very good reason — for our safety, for your safety.

These remarks represent the Pentagon’s disregard for the reality that “juveniles” or children might be armed and exploited by terrorist groups. They may have no way out. They may be assaulted sexually or violently if they refuse to fight.

Seventeen year-old Abdullah R. Razaq was with a group of thirty-one other “Arabs, which consisted mostly of Usama Bin Laden bodyguards,” when Pakistani authorities captured him in December 2001. He was transferred to a prison facility in Peshawar and then transferred into the custody of US forces on December 26, 2001, and transported to Kandahar.

His continued detention rests on JTF-GTMO’s assessment that he is “an al-Qaida member” and has “associated with numerous other al-Qaida members, including senior al-Qaida operatives.” It also rests on JTF-GTMO’s assessment that he was “selected and prepared by al-Qaida senior leadership for a special mission to attack US forces at PSAB in Saudi Arabia” and is “a former member of UBL’s 55th Arab Brigade who engaged in combat action against US and Coalition forces at Tora Bora.”

Razaq, however, denies being a member of al-Qaida. JTF-GTMO’s “Evaluation of Detainee’s Account,” reads:

Detainee has denied that he was a member of al-Qaida, but admitted that he traveled to Afghanistan to join the jihad and become a martyr, trained extensively at al-Qaida training camps, was selected by senior al-Qaida leaders for a mission to attack PSAB, and fought on the Bagram battle lines. He has also acknowledged having been present at Tora Bora during meetings of senior al-Qaida commanders during the battle. Detainee has reported about his brother SA-231, and has provided much of what is known about SA-231’s timeline. However, he continues to omit specific details regarding SA-231’s activities and his associates at Tora Bora, and has not acknowledged being a UBL bodyguard or a member of UBL’s security detail. He has provided very little information of value about UBL, Sayf al-Adl, or other senior al-Qaida figures to whom he had access, and it is not clear whether he has no valuable information about them or if he is deliberately withholding important information. Detainee has been generally cooperative, though he has used resistance techniques to protect certain past activities and associates, such as periodically changing his account and filling in recent chronological gaps in his timeline with activities conducted at earlier times.

He is assessed to be a “HIGH risk” but, Razaq’s testimony before an Administrative Review Board in 2006 raises doubts about whether Razaq’s was ever involved and cooperated with al-Qaida. During Round 2, he does not appear to have any information that would connect him to al Qaida other than the fact that he went to fight in Chechnya and trained at the al Farouq Training Camp, where others connected to al Qaida have trained. He explicitly says he is not “friends with Usama Bin Laden.” He is alleged to be on a “list” but corrects the military charging him with being on a list of suspected al Qaida members by stating the list is a print-out from a computer in Karachi that was taken by a person who “took all the prisoners’ names to see if they were listed as being missing.”

A Designated Military Officer at the hearing claims again that he and his brother received specialized training on SAM-7A and B missiles. He says it is not true. Then, he explains that “psychological torture” has been used on him to find out if he had trained on the weapon.

This is not the first board I have attended. I attended three other boards. For each Board, I get a new interrogator. Each new interrogator made the allegation that I had trained on SAM-7. Three years ago I was at Camp III and they interrogated me for a month. The air conditioning temperature was 54 degrees. It was very cold. They let me sit there for long hours and they brought big speakers with loud noises. They tortured me while standing up and they insulted me and my religion. They have done many things to me. They have done worse to my brother. While I was being tortured, they asked me whether I had trained on SAM-7 and I told them no. Up to this point, they still ask me and this allegation is still in my folder. If I wanted to lie and say yes, I would have told them when I was being tortured. Please excuse me for what I just said, but this is what happened.

Razaq says he told the interrogators at Camp V about the torture but they wrote it down and did not change anything. He told the interrogators it was cold and he wanted to go back to his cellblock. But, “there was no use in telling them.”

Keeping Razaq in detention becomes further dubious when reading this part of the “Intelligence Assessment” from his report:

Detainee has provided no information regarding UBL, UBL’s security practices and bodyguards, or any of the other information expected as a result of placement as a UBL bodyguard or security detail member. Detainee has not yet been confirmed to have been a UBL bodyguard, and it is not clear whether he is specifically withholding valuable information about UBL and the bodyguards or whether he had only limited exposure to them. Detainee has been partially exploited but remains of significant intelligence value.

Razaq was transferred back to Saudi Arabia, where he was born, in September of 2007.

It’s worth noting with regards to Razaq’s age the assessment has what appears to be a discrepancy error that calls into question whether the military really knew his age. In his “Prior History,” it reads, “In early 2000, when detainee was 18 years old, his 22-year old brother, Abd Abdallah Ibrahim Latif al-Sharakh, aka (Abbad), was killed while participating in jihad in Chechnya.” However, his date of birth is listed as “18 January 1984.” He could not have been 18 years old when his brother died if he was actually born in 1984.

The most well known juvenile detainee to be imprisoned at Guantanamo is Omar Ahmed Khadr. His assessment report from January 2004 explains the reason for his continued detention was because “his father is a senior Al-Qaida financier and reportedly the fourth in command underneath Usama Bin Laden in the Al-Qaida organization.” His brother and him were encouraged to go to Afghanistan and fight the US with the support of Al-Qaida and the Taliban. And, according to JTF-GTMO, though just sixteen years old at the time of his travel, he is “intelligent and educated and understands the gravity of his actions and affiliations.” And, he admitted to participating in mining operations and “harassing attacks” against US forces.

This assessment stands in stark contrast to then-UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy’s contention that Khadr is a child soldier whom the US should help rehabilitate.

“Like other children abused by armed groups around the world who are repatriated to their home communities and undergo re-education for their reintegration, Omar should be given the same protections afforded these children…Trying young people for war crimes with regard to acts committed when they are minors could create a dangerous international precedent.”

Fortunately, the world did not see the US—the first nation since World War II to prosecute an alleged child soldier for war crimes—proceed with the trying of a child soldier in a military tribunal. Khadr accepted a plea deal. His defense attorney, Dennis Edney, thought a plea deal was the only way Khadr would get out of Guantanamo Bay.

Khadr was not only faced with the prospect of a military tribunal that rested on dubious charges like “Murder in Violation of the Law of War” but he also faced a situation where the judge had allowed the prosecution to admit evidence obtained when he was tortured into the trial.

The torture of Khadr is worth explicitly noting. Just what he experienced is harrowing to revisit. From an affidavit submitted by Khadr in February 2008, here’s just some of the torture Khadr describes:

…Around the time of Ramadan in 2003, an Afghan man, claiming to be from the Afghan government, interrogated me at Guantanamo. A military interrogator was in the room at the time. The Afghan man said his name was “Izmarai” (Lion), and that he was from Wardeq. He spoke mostly in Farsi, and a little in Pashto and English. He had an American flag on his trousers. The Afghan man appeared displeased with the answers that I was giving him, and after some time both the Afghan and the military interrogator left the room. A military official then removed my chair and short-shackled me by my hands and feet to a bolt in the floor. Military officials then moved my hands behind my knees. They left me in the room in this condition for approximately five to six hours, causing me extreme pain. Occasionally, a military officer and the interrogators would come in and laugh at me.

During the course of his interrogation of me, the Afghan man told me that a new detention center was being built in Afghanistan for non-cooperative detainees at Guantanamo. The Afghan man told me that I would be sent to Afghanistan and raped. The Afghan man also told me that they like small boys in Afghanistan, a comment that I understood as a threat of sexual violence. Before leaving the room, the Afghan man took a piece of paper on which my picture appeared, and wrote on it in the Pashto language, “This detainee must be transferred to Bagram.”

Khadr’s detailing of torture would not provoke any judicial empathy. What the juvenile shared would be completely and callously overlooked by a judge who, on August 17, 2010, turned down his motion to prevent statements that were “the product of torture, involuntary [and] unreliable” from being used against him.

Judge Parrish contended, “There is no credible evidence that the accused was ever tortured,” and added,“While the accused was 15 years old at the time he was captured, he was not immature for his age.”

As Andy Worthington, who has partnered with WikiLeaks to cover the Gitmo Files, wrote, “All this really demonstrates is how spectacularly [the judge] missed the point. Held for two years without access to a lawyer, for three years without ever being charged, and at no point treated as a juvenile deserving of rehabilitation, Khadr’s entire experience of US detention has been lawless and abusive, and, in any case, it should be irrelevant whether a 15-year old apparently made self-incriminating statements, when the focus should be on his father, Ahmed Khadr, an alleged fundraiser for Osama bin Laden, who was responsible for indoctrinating his child in the first place.”

US unwillingness to release Khadr is even more atrocious when considered alongside JTF-GTMO’s assessment of Naqib Ullah, who was recommended for release on August 15, 2003. JTF-GTMO conclude, eight months after he had been brought to Guantanamo, Ullah is a “kidnap victim and a forced conscript of a local warring tribe, affiliated with the Taliban.” They further conclude:

Though the detainee may still have some remaining intelligence, it’s been assessed that that information does not outweigh the necessity to remove the juvenile from his current environment and afford him an opportunity to “grow out” of the radical extremism he has been subject to. Based on the detainee folder, the knowledgeability brief, and interrogations by JTF Guantanamo, the detainee has no further intelligence value to the United States. Detainee has not expressed thoughts of violence or made threats toward the US or its allies during interrogations or in the course of his detention. He is considered low threat to the US, its interest and its allies.

Anyone who reads that and considers the assessment in conjunction with the case of Khadr must conclude that Khadr’s crime is really being born to a father with ties to al Qaeda. One must also conclude that perhaps it was less taboo for the Bush Administration in 2003 to release detainees without trying them or keeping them in indefinite detention than it is for the Obama Administration now. And, perhaps, that’s why JTF-GTMO labeled as a “HIGH” value intelligence asset in their assessment: to justify not giving him an opportunity to “rehabilitate” and “grow out” of his “extremism.”

At 7:00 AM New York Time, files on Omar Khadr, Naqib Ullah, Abdulrazzaq al-Sharekh, Yasser al-Zahrani, Abdul Qudus, Mohammed Ismail,  have all been released.

Here’s a list of juveniles whose reports have yet to be released:

Mohamed Jawad (ISN 900) Born 1985, seized December 2002
Mohammed El-Gharani (ISN 269) Born 1986, seized October 2001
Faris Muslim al-Ansari (ISN 253) Born 1984, seized December 2001
Hassan bin Attash (ISN 1456) Born 1985, seized 11 September 2002
Shams Ullah (ISN 783) Born 1986, arrived in Guantánamo October 2002
Qari Esmhatulla (ISN 591) Born 1984, seized March 2002
Peta Mohammed (ISN 908) Born 1985, seized December 2002
Yousef al-Shehri (ISN 114) Born 8 September 1985, seized November 2001
Abdulsalam al-Shehri (ISN 132) Born 14 December 1984, seized November 2001
Rasul Kudayev (ISN 82) Born 23 January 1984, seized November 2001
Haji Mohammed Ayub (ISN 279) Born 15 April 1984, seized December 2001
Mohammed Omar (ISN 540) Born 1986, seized December 2001
Saji Ur Rahman (ISN 545) Born 1984, seized December 2001 (Rahman said he was 15 when captured)
Khalil Rahman Hafez (ISN 301) Born 20 January 1984, seized December 2001
Sultan Ahmad (ISN 842) Born 1 November 1984, seized before November 2002

As Combat Brigades Leave Iraq, NBC News Corporation Helps Pentagon Manufacture Support for Withdrawal

12:36 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Soldiers from the 17th Fires Brigade and 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. Taken in August 2009. by The U.S. Army

On the same night that the NBC news corporation had the "inside scoop" on America’s withdrawal of combat brigades from Iraq to Kuwait, Andrew Bacevich, a professor of international relations at Boston University and a retired career officer in the U.S. Army, discussed his new book Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War at the First United Methodist Church in downtown Chicago.

 

During the discussion, Bacevich explained to a room packed with standing room only that the Obama Administration’s movement of troops from Iraq is part of a plan to make Americans (and others in the world) think of this as some end point. But, the fact is that the Iraq War will continue, violence will continue, and the insurgency will still exist.

 

Bacevich added the officers likely believe this outcome is as good as it will get. The troops will now move into an "advise-and-assist" role not much different from a role troops had during part of the Vietnam War. And, this is because much of the military establishment and foreign policymakers no longer believe in "military solutions." The "officer corps" have resigned themselves to the fact that true victory, in the sense that Americans understand it, is impossible; they accept the fact wars from this point on will be protracted, dirty, costly, and will from now on end in an ambiguous way if they end at all.

 

Cue Richard Engel, who, embedded with the combat brigades that were leaving Iraq and claiming "victory," reported live for NBC. Cue Rachel Maddow who had been in hiding the past few days because she didn’t want anyone to know the "withdrawal" was going to begin Thursday night and she’d be reporting from the scene. And, cue MSNBC’s special coverage of the "end" of the Iraq War, which featured the all-star panel that many know from MSNBC’s Election Coverage.

The exit of brigades was heavily orchestrated. NBC had the express permission from the Pentagon to give the "official announcement" that war was "over"(although the Pentagon now claims nobody said the war was over) and troops were coming home (well, some of them; some are going to Afghanistan). The Associated Press reported "NBC Executive Phil Griffin said "Given the access, a decision to devote the entire evening to the story was a "no-brainer," Griffin said. "We’ve got something unique and it’s an important story. We said, ‘Let’s go for it.’"

It was an opportunity to manufacture support for the withdrawal and help the Pentagon sell this as victory. It was an opportunity to convince those watching that soldiers had done a good deed for humanity and that, despite fears, Iraqis will be able to secure the country.

Little time was spent trying to argue this was a complete withdrawal, however, NBC News Chief Correspondent Richard Engel reported "50,000 troops remaining, noncombat troops would stay behind and will have a "mandate" to be "trainers." Here, Engel essentially helped the Pentagon re-brand the war by explaining troops would not to be called into "direct combat operations." If there were incidents and the U.S. wished to respond, he said, they would have to file a "formal request for troops."

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Hill, said "there’s a worry that Iraqis may continue to fail to gain political traction and put together a government that can properly run Iraq." Hill also made clear "Iraq is important" to "American interests." He called it a "major league country" and expressed the belief that the U.S. must have a presence and mentioned America’s "impressive" embassy.

The all-star panel did not focus on whether it was right or wrong to fight the war. Criticisms were limited to tactical mistakes the military had made in the war.

 

Lawrence O’Donnell contended, initially, there was "no comprehension of the rebuilding required." O’Donnell noted how Coalition Provisional Authority leader Paul Bremer decided to completely disband the Iraqi military, the Iraqi police force and the bureaucracy of the government, "the people who knew how to deliver electricity, water, things like that throughout the country."

 

Chris Matthews argued Iraq was always an "ideological war" and talked of the "neocons and those who drank the Kool-Aid like Rumsfeld" and thought "the government in Iraq would topple the minute we went in there." Matthews suggested the neocons thought, "it wouldn’t take a long, protracted struggle to subdue the country because we would be liberators — we were liberators. They really believed that ideology that we’re going in there to free those people from the scourge of Baathism and then it proceeded to get rid of the Baathist army, get rid of the Baath Party politically throughout the agency."

 

Interestingly, Col. Jacobs stated he couldn’t remember a "single" country that America ever fought an unconventional war or limited war in and left better than when America went in. In contrast, O’Donnell directed attention to the fact that Vietnam is now a "vacation spot for American tourists" as if to suggest things could work out after all a Middle East Disneyland and other resorts could potentially stabilize this country.

 

Engel spoke on the issue of Iran and its influence on Iraq and how the war had helped increase Iran’s influence in Iraq. And, finally, there was attention paid to the Iraqis. Engel said:

 

I’ve been listening not only to what the soldiers say but some of your guests and we’re hearing this mantra building over and over again that the U.S. won the war in Iraq and then the Iraqis lost it or are potentially losing it. And I think that is true to a degree. But you also have to be cautious with that argument.

 

The United States in these last several years made quite a few mistakes in this country. And not to blame the people who are in these trucks, these sergeants and privates and first sergeants, they didn’t. But there were policy errors — there was the dissolving of the Iraqi army, which forced them to rebuild an army. There was the outbreak of civil war in this country which troops were then called in to try and pacify. But for many reasons, that civil war broke up because there were never enough troops here to begin with.

 

This mantra is not new and could be heard years ago when news organizations managed to find time in their newscasts to cover the Iraq War. This narrative implied Iraqis were ungrateful for the liberation (or war and occupation) America had brought to their country.

 

Soldiers interviewed, for the most part, contended Iraqis were better off and they were glad the U.S. was able to do something good for them and were able to come around and close it on a good note. They contended Iraqi army and police would be able to handle their situation as they did in 2007 and could hold their own without American support now.

There is a sober reality that cannot be forgotten in the midst of the patriotic cheering for troops who are homeward bound. Thousands of contractors will remain in the country. How they cooperate with the Iraqi army and police will likely determine the level of stability Iraq manages to achieve in the coming months.

Up to a million Iraqis are dead. At least 100 trillion dollars was spent. More than 4,000 U.S. soldiers died in combat (and a number of contractors died as well). The Independent reports "human rights groups say extra-judicial killings, kidnappings, torture, bribery and corruption are still endemic with little accountability for perpetrators" and "more than 5 million Iraqis have been turned into refugees since the invasion, with 2.7 million of those displaced internally. Some live with relatives, others in public buildings."

Furthermore, The Independent notes that while Iraqis may have some economic prosperity to look forward to as foreign companies flock to the region to take advantage of the country’s natural resources, "unemployment runs at close to 40 per cent and GDP per capita remains a paltry $3,200." More importantly, "The presence of an occupying non-Muslim force in the heart of the Middle East sent Islamist militants flocking to Iraq with devastating consequences for both Iraq and its neighbours. Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon have all seen al-Qa’ida-inspired militant activity increase with varying levels of success."

Robert Fisk, who recently reported on the impact America’s use of chemical weapons had in Fallujah, wrote a damning editorial on America saying "goodbye." An excerpt:

"…the millions of American soldiers who have passed through Iraq have brought the Iraqis a plague. From Afghanistan in which they showed as much interest after 2001 as they will show when they start "leaving" that country next year they brought the infection of al-Qa’ida. They brought the disease of civil war. They injected Iraq with corruption on a grand scale. They stamped the seal of torture on Abu Ghraib a worthy successor to the same prison under Saddam’s vile rule after stamping the seal of torture on Bagram and the black prisons of Afghanistan. They sectarianised a country that, for all its Saddamite brutality and corruption, had hitherto held its Sunnis and Shias together…"

Few politicians will have the courage to say anything like that and interrupt what the Obama Administration will likely demand liberals or progressives celebrate as an end to the war or else. Few politicians except Dennis Kucinich, the politician White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs happens to think the "professional left" would not be satisfied with if he was president. Kucinich put out this press release proclaiming the "war in Iraq has entered a new stage of public relations":

Who is in charge of our operations in Iraq, now? George Orwell? A war based on lies continues to be a war based on lies. Today, we have a war that is not a war, with combat troops who are not combat troops. In 2003, President Bush said ‘Mission Accomplished’. In 2010, the White House says combat operations are over in Iraq, but will leave 50,000 troops, many of whom will inevitably be involved in combat-related activities.

Just seven days ago, General Babaker Shawkat Zebari, the commander of Iraq’s military, said that Iraq’s security forces will not be trained and ready to take over security for another 10 years. One story is being told to the military on the ground in Iraq and another story is being told to their families back home.

You can’t be in and out at the same time.

This is not the end of the war; this is simply a new stage in the campaign to lull the American people into accepting an open-ended presence in Iraq. This is not an honest accounting to the American people and it diminishes the role of the troops who will put their lives on the line. This is not fair to the troops, their families or the American people.

The Administration and the Pentagon would be wise to level with the American people about our long-term commitment to Iraq.

The cost of the wars has been estimated to be around $1 million per soldier per year. Each year the troop levels stay at 50,000 means another $50 billion is wasted. I object to spending billions of dollars to maintain a charade in Iraq while our own economy is failing and over 15 million Americans are out of work. I object to keeping any level troops in Iraq to maintain a war based on lies. It is time that Congress sees through the manipulation and finally acts to truly end the war by stopping its funding."

NBC’s cooperation with the Pentagon to bring Americans "closure" to the Iraq War Thursday night—to bring families with loved ones serving in the Iraq War "closure"—provided more evidence that U.S. media is solely concerned with the American perspective of war and cares little about the impact war has on the people many of the troops think they have liberated.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) reported in 2008, the percentage of news coverage devoted to the Iraq War was 4% down from 24% in January 2007 when President Bush announced the "surge" strategy. And, PEJ reported in 2007 that "although the bloodshed [was] occurring about 6,000 miles from Washington, coverage of the conflict [had] been overwhelmingly U.S.-centric. More than 80% of war news focused on Americans — those shaping policy, fighting or affected at home. Only about one in six stories about the war was about Iraqis, whether about their government, their lives, or their casualties.

U.S. media helped deceive the public into buying the Iraq War. They helped the Pentagon construct a case for war in Iraq just over seven years ago. So, how fitting is it that the endpoint of this travesty in American history would involve the media asking Americans to buy the "victory."

In the end, Brian Stelter, writing for the New York Times‘ Media Decoder Blog, characterizes what happened best (and affirms Rep. Kucinich’s contentions on the withdrawal):

The images from NBC and other outlets are important for the United States as a public relations tool, as they reaffirm with color and sound that the country is winding down a widely unpopular combat mission. But they are in part a media construct. Though the media may yearn for a dramatic finish to the war, there is not likely to be one, at least not yet.


More on How Physicians Became Torture Doctors for CIA

9:01 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

 

 

 

A good amount of documentation on the involvement of psychologists in the torture and abuse of detainees or “terror suspects.” And, a new study provides even more revelations on the involvement of physicians making it increasingly clear that medical professionals put limits on ethical standards they were expected to follow in order to help the CIA interrogate detainees.

 

The study, titled “Roles of CIA Physicians in Enhanced Interrogation and Torture of Detainees,” authored by Leonard S. Rubinstein, the president of Physicians for Human Rights, and Brigadier General (ret.) Stephen N. Xenakis, a former Army psychiatrists (who is now with the Center for Public Health and Human Rights), utilizes a previously secret document from 2004 and lays out the “guidelines for detainee interrogation” that physicians, psychologists, and other health care professionals developed and followed so they could serve the CIA.

 

Guidelines indicate the doctors, who were working for the CIA’s Office of Medical Services, conducted medical evaluations [experimentations] on detainees “before and during interrogations” and waterboarding “required the presence of a physician.”

 

Physicians documented the effects of “enhanced interrogation techniques” [torture] like waterboarding and decided waterboarding “created risks of drowning, hypothermia, aspiration pneumonia, or laryngospasm.” They ignored “clinical experience/research” and assured lawyers “there was no ‘medical reason’ to believe that waterboarding [would] lead to physical pain.”

 

It was established that “cramped confinement could result in deep vein thrombosis” and death could result from “lengthy exposure to cold water.” And, the physicians, psychologists, and other health care professionals working for the CIA developed “limitations” so that techniques like waterboarding, cramped confinement, sensory deprivation, stress positions, etc could be used on detainees.

 

Limitations included: “exposure to specified temperature either up to time of hypothermia would develop or on evidence of hypothermia,” dietary restrictions up to “body weight loss of 10% or evidence of significant malnutrition,” “exposure to noise just under decibel levels associated with hearing loss,” up to 48 hours of exposure to stress positions “provided hands were no higher than the head” of a detainee, and no more than eight consecutive hours or eighteen hours per day of “confinement in a box.”

 

Much of this took place after 2003, after a CIA Inspector General investigation of “enhanced interrogation techniques” [torture], OMS physicians were asked to provide “opinions to the agency and lawyers on whether techniques used would be expected to cause severe pain or suffering and thus constitute torture.” Slowly, OMS physicians’ work for the CIA transformed into work, which violated “ethical standards,” prohibiting physicians from using “medical skills to facilitate torture or be present when torture is taking place.”

 

The physicians consulted directly with Department of Justice lawyers and were asked to provide legal cover by supporting “legal decisions” that “interrogators who applied enhanced interrogation techniques neither inflicted sever mental or physical pain or anguish and thus did not commit torture.” For techniques like sleep deprivation, they claimed the use thereof “could not lead to profound disruption in the detainees’ senses or personality (the legal definition of psychological torture).”

 

As suggested in the opening paragraph, it has been evident that physicians and psychologists have been involved in torture for some time, especially since Wikileaks leaked the Guantanamo Standard Operating Procedures Manual in November 2007.

 

The manual indicated that, “incoming prisoners were to be held in near-isolation for the first [four] weeks to foster dependence on interrogators and `enhance and exploit the disorientation and disorganization felt by a newly arrived detainee in the interrogation process.’” It outlines how isolation was to be used on detainees, a technique Physicians for Human Rights said can lead to symptoms of “`bewilderment, anxiety, frustration, dejection, boredom, obsessive thoughts or ruminations, depression, and, in some cases, hallucination’” and, if prolonged, could result in “increased stress, abnormal neuroendocrine function, changes in blood pressure and inflammatory stress responses.”

 

Then, it was known those involved understood how they could be prosecuted for violating international law. As an April 16, 2003, memo from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld explained 

"Caution: the use of isolation as an interrogation technique requires detailed implementation instructions, including specific guidelines regarding the length of isolation, medical and psychological review, and approvals for extension of the length of by the appropriate level in the chain of command. This technique is not know to have been generally used for interrogation purposes for longer than 30 days. Those nations that believe that detainees are subject to POW protections may view use of this technique as inconsistent with the requirements of Geneva III, Article 13 which provides that POWs must be protected against acts of intimidation; Article 14 which provides that POWs are entitled to respect for their person; Article 34 which prohibits coercion and Article 126 which ensures access and basic standards of treatment. Although the provisions of Geneva are not applicable to the interrogation of unlawful combatants, consideration should be given to these views prior to application of this technique."

  

The report is yet another indication of the need for more investigation, accountability, and reform from the Obama Administration. Yet, as demonstrated by a comprehensive report ("Establishing the New Normal") from the ACLU, the Obama Administration has avoided its obligation to accountability for torture and chosen to follow the dangerous mantra of “looking forward, not back,” a false choice because, as the ACLU states in the report:

 

“a strong democracy rests not on the goodwill of its leaders but on the impartial enforcement of laws. Sanctioning impunity for government officials who authorized torture sends a problematic message to the world, invites abuses by future administrations, and further undermines the rule of law that is the basis of any democracy.”

 

What’s It Gonna Take for America to Shut Down the Prisons at Guantanamo?

9:33 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

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Flickr Photo by Damon Lynch| This is a picture from an Amnesty International "Close Gitmo" demonstration outside the US Embassy at Grosvenor Square in London on January 11, 2008. It had been six years since the U.S. authorities first transported ‘war on terror’ detainees to Guantanamo


When we consider the indignity and inhumane treatment that detainees at Guantanamo have experienced and the torture and abuse which has surely inflamed Islamists who fill the ranks of al-Qaeda-like networks, what is our nation’s collective reaction? How do we respond? Does the thought of Guantanamo even matter to us?

Do the thoughts of detainees at Guantanamo being subjected to acts that we Americans would probably think could only occur to victims of crimes depicted in Law & Order:SVU or CSI affect anyone? Have we any empathy for those who have not been afforded a trial, or, if innocent, not been released?

Eight years ago, the first detainees arrived at Guantanamo Bay. They arrived dressed in "turquoise blue face masks, orange ski caps and fluorescent orange jumpsuits, their hands in manacles." They were not considered prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention.

Over the course of the past eight years, there have been countless reports of abuse and violations of the law. Guantanamo has provided Americans with an example of the behavior and operations of American forces at other prison sites all over the world that should be far from acceptable.

Days after being inaugurated, Obama issued three executive orders that banned the use of enhanced interrogation techniques (Cheney’s euphemism for torture), pledged to close Guantanamo, and began a review of all pending cases at Guantanamo.

This press event could be considered a publicity stunt that was designed to stave off angry human rights, civil rights, and/or civil liberties advocates who had been ramping up pressure on Obama throughout his presidential campaign so that he would make a promise to close Guantanamo once he got into office. Fortunately, those angry groups did not let up. On top of right wing hysteria and Cheney’s national security speaking tour, the groups forced Obama to further explain how he would take action on Guantanamo in a press event in May 2009.

During the event, Obama declared, "instead of bringing terrorists to justice, efforts at prosecution met setbacks, cases lingered on, and in 2006 the Supreme Court invalidated the entire system." He also stated, "Guantanamo set back the moral authority that is America’s strongest currency in the world."

Obama further explained:

"Instead of building a durable framework for the struggle against al Qaeda that drew upon our deeply held values and traditions, our government was defending positions that undermined the rule of law. Indeed, part of the rationale for establishing Guantanamo in the first place was the misplaced notion that a prison there would be beyond the law – a proposition that the Supreme Court soundly rejected. Meanwhile, instead of serving as a tool to counter-terrorism, Guantanamo became a symbol that helped al Qaeda recruit terrorists to its cause. Indeed, the existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.

So the record is clear: rather than keep us safer, the prison at Guantanamo has weakened American national security. It is a rallying cry for our enemies. It sets back the willingness of our allies to work with us in fighting an enemy that operates in scores of countries. By any measure, the costs of keeping it open far exceed the complications involved in closing it. That is why I argued that it should be closed throughout my campaign. And that is why I ordered it closed within one year."

But, once he took on this issue, it became clear that he would not seek to mold consensus or work to alleviate the disinformed fears of Americans who are afraid of the "terrorists" being held at Guantanamo. It became clear he would not consistently challenge conventional wisdom that Guantanamo was making our country safer (even though he said something along this line in his speech on national security).

Democrats and Obama allowed the issue of health care reform to subjugate the urgency to close Guantanamo. They allowed fears of releasing detainees who might go back home and engage in violence against America dominate the conversation. And, they allowed the idea of transporting detainees out of Guantanamo to a facility somewhere in the U.S. to become a not in my backyard ordeal for representatives, senators, and their respective constituents while at the same time exhibiting a disappointing willingness to use indefinite detention or preventive detention to address issues posed by Guantanamo detainees.

Now, it seems highly unlikely that Obama will be closing the Guantanamo facility anytime soon. Even as news seeps out that what had been thought to be suicides at Guantanamo were probably homicides, the media has collectively allowed the election of Republican Scott Brown to the seat in Massachusetts that Ted Kennedy once held to be more significant than news of possible murder at Guantanamo.

Even if detainees are moved to a facility in Thompson, IL and a Gitmo-North prison is effectively established, Guantanamo Bay will likely remain open. Haitians who flee the devastation from a 7.0 earthquake and hope to get to America will be captured at sea and "housed" at Guantanamo. So, the facility will continue to act as a camp for containing human beings that America does not want to get in the way.

The best chance wrongfully detained human beings at Guantanamo have for escaping the Kafkaesque trial process they face as "terror suspects" lies in the hands of those who hear the stories of detainees who have been held at Guantanamo and shudder and then act.

For example, published recently in The Guardian is the story of British resident Omar Deghayes who was imprisoned in Guantanamo and subjected to brutal torture, which resulted in the loss of sight in one eye.

Deghayes chose to protest along with other prisoners a form of humiliation he and others were being subjected—a form of humiliation that "involved being forced to take off their trousers and walk round in their pants." A group of guards noted the protest and entered the cell to punish him. He was held down and bound with chains.

"I didn’t realise what was going on until the guy had pushed his fingers inside my eyes and I could feel the coldness of his fingers. Then I realised he was trying to gouge out my eyes," Deghayes says. He wanted to scream in agony, but was determined not to give his torturers the satisfaction. Then the officer standing over him instructed the eye-stabber to push harder. "When he pulled his hands out, I remember I couldn’t see anything I’d lost sight completely in both eyes." Deghayes was dumped in a cell, fluid streaming from his eyes."

Deghayes was released two years ago (which indicates that he never posed any threat to America or Americans at all). And, the fact that Barack Obama has not closed the facility, even though 12 months ago he pledged to close it, haunts him. The horrifying and terrifying thought of what might be happening to 200 other detainees at Guantanamo troubles him greatly.

Today, January 21, 2010, is a Day of Action to #CloseGitmo. For those who desire to see justice and accountability and for those who have suffered brutality at the hands of guards at Guantanamo, the ACLU, Amnesty International, and many other organizations like World Can’t Wait and Witness Against Torture will be flooding Twitter with messages about Guantanamo, torture, habeas corpus rights, etc.

Facebook statuses will be donated and social networking sites will be dominated with discussion concerning the need to close Guantanamo.

Actions will also take place in D.C. Veterans affiliated with VoteVets.org will likely be there to lend their support to the need to shut down the prison facilities at Guantanamo.

For the laws that continue to be broken even though Obama pledged to ensure policies and practice were no longer in violation of domestic or international law…

For the lives that have been destroyed as a result of being held at Guantanamo without charge, trial, or, if innocent, any prospect of release…

And, for the promises that have not been kept by the Obama Administration, this virtual and non-virtual Day of Action is a response to the lip service that Obama has paid human rights advocates and concerned citizens. It is a demand for concrete action now, action which those who have been held at Guantanamo and those who are being held at Guantanamo deserve.

For information which may help you formulate a blog posting or diary that could lend support to discussions during this Day of Action, visit the ACLU’s website, Close Gitmo. Also, check out reports and information posted on Amnesty USA’s page on Guantanamo.