You are browsing the archive for Pentagon.

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.


Guantanamo Detainees Know America’s New Normal Far Too Well

10:44 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Flickr Photo by Peter Burgess

Mentally Ill Detainee Ordered to Be Released in 2004 Still at Guantanamo

Carol Rosenberg, a journalist for the Miami Herald and one of the few journalists who continue to follow operations and proceedings at the Guantanamo Bay prison reports "an emotionally ill detainee still being held at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was first recommended for release by the Pentagon in 2004."

Rosenberg writes:

"Despite the Pentagon’s recommendation, it wasn’t until 2007 that the Bush administration adopted the military assessment and put Adnan Abdul Latif, now about 34, on an approved transfer list. By then, however, the issue of transferring prisoners to Yemen, Osama bin Laden’s ancestral homeland, was mired in a diplomatic standoff over whether the Arabian Peninsula nation could provide security assurances and rehabilitate suspected radicalized Guantanamo detainees.

U.S. District Court Judge Henry Kennedy disclosed the timeline in a heavily censored 28-page ruling made public on Monday night that ordered Latif set free. Latif is the 38th Guantanamo captive to be found by a federal judge to be illegally detained at the remote U.S. Navy base."

Ordered to be released by Kennedy on July 21, the Justice Department has been deciding whether to appeal the decision.

Latif’s lawyer, David Remes, says "why they continue to defend holding him is unfathomable" and contends, "Adnan’s case reflects the Obama administration’s complete failure to bring the Guantanamo litigation under control."

The detention of Latif is yet another incredibly disturbing indictment of a system developed to aid U.S prosecution of the "war on terror." Andy Worthington, author of The Guantanamo Files, detailed Latif’s capture:

"26-year old Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif (identified by the Pentagon Ab Aljallil Allal or Allal Ab Aljallil Abd Al Rahman Abd) stated that he had sustained a serious head injury in an automobile accident in 1994, and had spent years trying to find affordable medical treatment. After being told about the health-care office of a Pakistani aid worker in Afghanistan who would treat him, he said that he traveled to Afghanistan in 2001, and explained that, when the US-led invasion began, he fled to the border town of Khost and then made his way into Pakistan, where he was arrested by Pakistani forces, along with about 30 other Arabic-looking men. He told his lawyer, Marc Falkoff, that he later learned that each of them had been turned over to the US military for a bounty of $5000.

In his tribunal at Guantánamo, Latif appeared bewildered, refuting what he believed was an allegation that he came from a place called al-Qaeda by saying, "I am from Orday City in Yemen, not a city in al-Qaeda. My city is very far away from the city of al-Qaeda," which perhaps reinforces his claim that he had traveled to Afghanistan to receive treatment for a fractured skull."

In a recent post, Worthington illuminates his attorney, Marc Falkoff’s, reaction to the "unclassified summary of evidence"

"[W]hen I first saw the accusations, I thought they looked serious [but] when I looked at the government’s evidence, I was amazed. There was nothing there. Nothing at all trustworthy. Nothing that could be admitted into evidence in a court of law. Nothing that was remotely persuasive, even leaving legal niceties aside." At most, he added, "there was incredibly unreliable hearsay, often taken from other detainees who were — in the words of a military representative — "known liars,’ or else whom we now know to have been tortured."

Latif’s detention has driven him mad and turned him into a hazard to himself. An appeal issued in May 2009 by Amnesty International, as Worthington notes, described a "suicide attempt that took place on May 10, 2009, when he cut one of his wrists during a meeting" with Remes, his attorney.

"After the incident, Remes explained that Latif "chipped off a piece of the stiff veneer on the underside of our conference table and used it to saw into a vein in his left wrist " As he sawed, he drained his blood into a plastic container and, shortly before it was time for me to leave, he hurled the blood at me from the container." As Amnesty also explained, "A spokesman at Guantánamo confirmed the incident took place but said it could not be classified as a suicide attempt."

Amnesty also noted that Latif had been "held in solitary confinement in the psychiatric ward at Guantánamo since at least November 2008," and that he told his lawyers that "when he is awake he sees ghosts in the darkness, hears frightening voices and suffers from nightmares when he is asleep." He also told his lawyers that he had "ingested all sorts of materials including garbage bags, urine cups, prayer beads, a water bottle and a screw," that he had "eaten his own excrement and smeared it on his body" and that he had "used his own excrement to cover the walls of his cell door, the camera on the ceiling of his cell and the air vent in his cell."

In addition, Amnesty noted that Latif reportedly suffered from "a number of physical health problems, including a fractured cheekbone, a shattered eardrum, blindness in one eye, a dislocated shoulder blade, and a possibly dislocated knee." Latif also said that he suffered "constant throat and stomach pain which [made] it difficult for him to eat," but that, instead of dealing with this in an appropriate manner, the authorities strapped him in a restraint chair and force-fed him up to three times a day through a tube pushed up his nose into his stomach"

Rosenberg reports that recently Latif met his lawyer in "a padded green garment held together by Velcro called a "suicide smock." He had "been stripped of his underwear," and put into this "smock" which have been display for "reporters during camp tours." And, the "5-feet-4-inches" detainee" is now 93 pounds having lost more than twenty pounds since his arrival at the prison in January 2002.

As reported by AP in May 2009, after Latif’s suicide attempt, "the military says many incidents are not actual suicide attempts but merely "self-harm incidents" intended to gain attention."

The only problem with that argument is that "self-harm" is haram, which means it is not allowed in Islam. Muslims do not think their body is theirs. It belongs to Allah. If they do not treat their body properly, their body will be a testimony against their day of judgment before Allah. Latif’s desecration of his body affirms his attorney’s belief that Latif "sees death as his only way out."

Scott Horton with Harper’s Magazine has written about how the "suicides" are likely part of a cover-up of military wrongdoing at Guantanamo.

Latif’s case is but another example of what "the New Normal" does to human beings who get caught up in its inner workings. While presidential candidate Barack Obama said, after a Supreme Court ruling on June 12, 2008, that detainees held in Guantanamo Bay have a constitutional right to challenge their detention, "Today’s Supreme Court decision ensures that we can protect our nation and bring terrorists to justice, while also protecting our core values. The Court’s decision is a rejection of the Bush Administration’s attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantanamo – yet another failed policy supported by John McCain," President Obama has continued to attempt to create "a legal black hole at Guantanamo."

As the ACLU noted in their condemning report, "Establishing a New Normal":

"It was a promising beginning, but eighteen months [since Obama's Inauguration] Guantanamo is still open and some 180 prisoners remain there. The administration is not solely responsible for missing this one-year deadline; Congress has obstructed any possible relocation of even indisputably innocent detainees like the Chines Uighurs to the United States, thereby rendering diplomatic efforts to relocate detainees in Europe and elsewhere more difficult. And the administration deserves credit for releasing some 67 detainees from Guantanamo. But the Obama administration’s decision to halt all detainee releases to Yemen–even when the detainees have been cleared for release after years of harsh detention–has been a major factor in the prison’s remaining open; a majority of the remaining detainees are Yemeni. Moreover, the administration bears responsibility for opposing in court the release of detainees against whom the government has scant evidence of wrongdoing.

A FEW NOTES ON THE NEW NORMAL

Whether it’s the case of Latif or the case of 15-year old Omar Khadr, who was threatened with gang rape if he didn’t confess to committing a war crime, or the case of Canadian Maher Arar, who was interrogated and tortured (beaten with an electrical cable), or countless others who pursue release from detention because there is no evidence against them, the U.S. continues to have a moral imperative to close Guantanamo (and other prisons).

The system of detention and the Kafkaesque legal system detainees are being put through serves as a way of entrenching America in a permanent state of war. It strengthens this idea that some humans, in this global war, are less free than others.

If we think the uproar against the "Ground Zero Mosque" in this country upsets the Muslim World, we should shudder at the thought of what radical effect America’s extralegal system for detainees has had on Muslims. Not only should America make peace with Islam and uphold religious tolerance by allowing mosques to be built in America, but it should also end the factory of crimes against humanity that is Guantanamo Bay Prison.

Gen. Petraeus’ Directive: Another Example of American Empire’s Fetish for Black Operations

6:17 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Flickr Photo by Kevin Gosztola | You may know Gen. David Petraeus. You may even know Jack Bauer. But, do you know Gen. Jack Petraeus?

Gen. Jack Petraeus favors secret military operations. He is the leading cause of death in Middle Eastern men and, when taking action, he doesn’t need a translator. Torture is the same in every language (except maybe American English which refers to torture as "enhanced interrogation techniques").

 

The New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti reports Gen. David H. Petraeus has signed a "secret directive" that orders a "broad expansion of clandestine military activity in an effort to disrupt militant groups or counter threats in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and other countries in the region."

According to Mazzetti, the directive was signed in September and would send "small teams of American troops" to "both friendly and hostile nations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa to gather intelligence and build ties with local forces." More importantly, "the order also permits reconnaissance that could pave the way for possible military strikes in Iran if tensions over its nuclear ambitions escalate."

Gen. Petraeus suggested at the bottom that this would give troops, foreign businessmen, academics and others "persistent situational awareness." This may be something like "total information awareness."Most likely it’s the general’seuphemism for paranoia.

Out of context, it might seem like permission for secret operations is going in a direction that America may want to consider not going in. Secret operations, especially if so-called terrorists knew to expect them, might lead to more destabilization of the world, more deaths and destruction. Do people really want that?

This would be a huge revelation if history didn’t indicate that departments handling foreign and domestic defense or security operations have claimed the authority to engage in covert activity time and time again.

Mazzetti ends the article reminding Americans, "During the Bush administration, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld endorsed clandestine military operations, arguing that Special Operations troops could be as effective as traditional spies, if not more so."

In 2004, The Jerusalem Post reported that Rumsfeld considered provoking Syria by deploying U.S. Special Forces to attack Hezbollah bases near the Syrian border. It outlined how this could satisfy U.S. strategy by pressuring Damascus into ending support for anti-Israel Palestinian groups, persuade Syria to abandon its WMDs and withdraw troops from Lebanon, stimulate a situation where Syrian leader Bashir Assad could be ousted, and crush Hezbollah and end Syria’s connections to al Qaeda.

Such a plan can be linked to those within the Pentagon who believe in order to fight the "war on terror" elite secret armies with permission to use all covert capabilities must be utilized. In 2002, William Arkin reported for the Los Angeles Times on Rumsfeld’s fetish for black ops and a briefing drafted by the Defense Science Board called the "2002 Summer Study on Special Operations and Joint Forces in Support of Countering Terrorism."

The Board recommended, according to Arkin, the "creation of a super-Intelligence Support Activity, an organization it [dubbed] the Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group, (P2OG), to bring together CIA and military covert action, information warfare, intelligence, and cover and deception.

P2OG would "launch secret operations aimed at "stimulating reactions’ among terrorists and states possessing weapons of mass destruction — that is, for instance, prodding terrorist cells into action and exposing themselves to "quick-response’ attacks by U.S. forces."

One might remember news from June 2009 uncovered by Seymour Hersh that an "executive assassination ring reporting directly to Vice President Dick Cheney" existed.

Of the ring, the Guardian reported, "Dick Cheney, the former vice president, ordered a highly classified CIA operation hidden from Congress because it pushed the limits of legality by planning to assassinate al-Qaida operatives in friendly countries without the knowledge of their governments." The "hidden operation [also] involved plans by the CIA and the military to launch operations, similar to those by Israel’s Mossad intelligence service, to hunt down and kill al-Qaida activists abroad without informing the governments concerned, even though some were regarded as friendly if unreliable."

The news made headlines for a day or two and then quickly dissipated as everyone went back to viewing their regularly scheduled programming. Most probably assumed that the program was over. No. Glenn Greenwald reported for Salon in January and April of this year that the Obama Administration was claiming the authority to assassinate U.S. citizens without according U.S. citizens who might be terrorists due process.

"No due process is accorded. No charges or trials are necessary. No evidence is offered, nor any opportunity for him to deny these accusations (which he [American-born Anwar al-Awlaki] has done vehemently through his family). None of that.

Instead, in BarackObama’s America, the way guilt is determined for American citizens — and a death penalty imposed — is that thePresident, like the King he thinks he is, secretly decrees someone’s guilt as a Terrorist. He then dispatches his aides to run to America’s newspapers — cowardly hiding behind the shield of anonymity which they’re granted — to proclaim that the Guilty One shall be killed on sight because the Leader has decreed him to be a Terrorist. It is simply asserted that Awlaki has converted from a cleric who expresses anti-American views and advocates attacks on American military targets (advocacy which happens to be Constitutionally protected) to Actual Terrorist"involved in plots." These newspapers then print this ExecutiveVerdict with no questioning, no opposition, no investigation, no refutation as to its truth. And the punishment is thus decreed:this American citizen will now be murdered by the CIA because BarackObama has ordered that it be done.What kind of person could possibly justify this or think that this is a legitimate government power?"

Presumably, the same infrastructure, individuals, and teams that were employed for Cheney’s assassination squads would be used for Obama’s assassination squads. And, this type of activity by government in the name of freedom and preservation of national security has been a feasible option for decades.

ABC News officially reported in 2001 (although it had been known long before 2001) that back in the 1960s, under President Kennedy, "America’s top military leaders reportedly drafted plans to kill innocent people and commit acts of terrorism in U.S. cities to create public support for a war against Cuba."

The plan known as Operation Northwoods "included the possible assassination of Cuban émigrés, sinking boats of Cuban refugees on the high seas, hijacking planes, blowing up a U.S. ship, and even orchestrating violent terrorism in U.S. cities." All of this was to be done "to trick the American public and the international community into supporting a war to oust Cuba’s then new leader, communist Fidel Castro."

Perhaps, thirst for glory, super-patriotism, and the hyper-masculinity of all those involved in the military and defense agencies that put together secret operation plans has something to do with the willful disregard of human life and rule of law.

Members of the Pentagon and CIA probably view themselves as players in a Tom Clancy novel, stars in a Hollywood espionage-action-thriller, or perhaps consider their selves to be Jack Bauer-like heroes. They see themselves as actors who could be thrown into a ticking time bomb scenario at any moment.

Whatever motivations within defense and intelligence departments may be, it’s important to understand that Gen. Petraeus isn’t abruptly taking the Pentagon in a questionable direction; the Pentagon (and other parts of government) have been supportive of murky and illegitimate operations as long as the end justified the means for some time.

Allowing Gen. Petraeus to do this isn’t a mistake by President Obama either. This is what conventional wisdom within military and defense deems permissible in the "war on terror." This is what Congress allows to go on without any noticeable objection at all (that is, unless the public becomes aware of it. Then they can’t wait to put a stop to secret operations that have been happening without proper oversight.)

And, Congress wasn’t always this permissive of secret operations. Stephen F. Knott, author of Secret and Sanctioned: Covert Operations and the American Presidency wrote, "in the aftermath of Vietnam, Watergate, and revelations of CIA assassination plots and domestic spying, Congress moved in the mid-1970s to "reassert’ its role in shaping American foreign policy, including the most controversial tool of that policy, covert action."

"Secrecy was seen as antithetical to the American way, and there was widespread agreement that "rogue" agencies such as the CIA were a threat to liberty. Proponents of congressional intelligence oversight argued that openness and accountability were the cornerstone of a legitimate foreign policy, and it was believed that Congress, due to its diversity of opinion, possessed greater wisdom than the executive branch. Spurred on by the sensational revelations of the Church Committee hearings in the Senate and the Pike Committee in the House, both bodies established permanent intelligence committees.

It is still widely believed that the Church and Pike reforms were an attempt to cure a "cancerous" growth on the Constitution that had developed during the Cold War, an era which witnessed an increasing reliance on executive secrecy and the creation of a "private army" for the president in the form of the CIA"

…"On some occasions, members of Congress threatened to leak information in order to derail covert operations they found personally repugnant. Leaks are a recurring problem, as some member of Congress, or some staff member, demonstrated in the aftermath of the September 11th attack. President Bush’s criticism of members of Congress was fully justified, despite the protests from Capitol Hill. Leaks have occurred repeatedly since the mid-1970s, and in very few cases has the offending party been disciplined. One of the Founding Fathers of the new oversight regime, former Representative Leo Ryan, held that leaks were an important tool in checking the "secret government."

Until the "war on terror" comes to an end, any number of fantastical and reprehensible plans will be drafted and implementedin secret until someone like Mazaretti publishes information about the plans. Then, they will be stalled, redrafted, altered, and reformed to seem new and different and unlike anything done before. This will go on and on and on as long as we are fighting "terrorists" over there so we don’t have to fight them over here or as long as we are accepting less liberty for more safety from people above described operations have radicalized.

From where I’m sitting, it looks like America’s going to be fighting this "perpetual war for perpetual peace" for the next century, which means anyone the U.S. wants to target will be put in the crosshairs.