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Rendition Victim Mamdouh Habib Sues Omar Suleiman for Torture

7:56 am in Uncategorized by Jeff Kaye

The other day I wrote about the fight back by former Guantanamo detainee David Hicks regarding the lies told about him by the Detainee Assessment Brief released as part of large and ongoing document leak by Wikileaks. Another Australian also previously incarcerated at Guantanamo, and even more horrifically tortured, if that’s possible, by the U.S. and its allies, has filed suit in an Egyptian court against his tormenter, former Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman, who for 15 years or more was chief of intelligence in that country. Habib’s JTF-GTMO summary is also available at the Wikileaks site.

The summary states that Habib admitted “under extreme duress” various terrorist activities and knowledge while under interrogation in Egypt, where he was sent via the U.S. program of “extraordinary rendition.” Habib recanted these confessions once at Guantanamo. This didn’t keep intelligence officials of labeling him as of “high” intelligence value, maintaining that Habib had knowledge of Al Qaeda financing, safe houses, training and tactics, operations in Thailand and Singapore, along with associations with the 9/11 German terrorist cell. All of these were lies, induced by torture.

While Mr. Habib has not released a fact sheet to answer these charges, he has been aggressively pursuing a redress for the lies and crimes done to him. His lawsuit against the powerful Suleiman, who until recently was fully supported by the Obama administration during the Egyptian uprising, goes along with articles, speaking engagements, and his own book on his life and treatment in the U.S. gulag, My Story: the Tale of a Terrorist Who Wasn’t. Mubarak’s son, Gamal, is also named in the suit.

Habib has now spoken out on the claims cited in his Guantanamo assessment brief, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Referring to claims that he was planning the hijacking of a Quantas airplane, and other assertions in the Guantanamo document, the ABC article says:

Mr Habib, who was released from Guantanamo Bay without charge in 2005, says it is possible he admitted to things he did not do because Egyptian interrogators drugged him.

But he says he would not have said he was going to hijack a Qantas plane, because it is not true and he was being set up.

“Maybe some stuff happened by me under drugs, I’m not aware of it, to be honest,” he said.

“But as to a wake up person, I’m talking as very awake and I know, I’m knowledge, what’s going on, I never admit to anything, no.”

What follows is a little from Habib’s book, from the section where he was tortured by Suleiman:

He [Suleiman] continued, ‘If you tell us you knew about the attacks on the Trade Center on September 11th — that you were involved and that you were planning further attacks when you were picked up — if you tell us this, we can sell this information to the Americans for 10 million dollars. We’ll give you 4 million and we’ll keep the rest. You will then be under a witness-protection program…’

At this time, all I knew was that the World Trade Center in New York had been hit, but I had no idea about the other hit on the Pentagon and the failed hit on the White House. I had no idea of the immensity of 9/11…

I was sitting in a chair, hooded, with my hands handcuffed behind my back. He came up to me. His voice was deep and rough. He spoke to me in Egyptian and English. He said, ‘Listen, you don’t know who I am, but I am the one who has your life in his hands. Every singles person in this building has his life in my hands. I just make the decision.’

I said, ‘I hope your decision is that you make me die straight away.’

‘No, I don’t want you to die now. I want you to die slowly.’ He went on, ‘I can’t stay with you; my time is too valuable to stay here. You only have me to save you. I’m your saviour. You have to tell me everything, if your want to be saved. What do you say?’

‘I have nothing to tell you’….

Then they took me to another room, where they tortured me relentlessly, stripping me naked and applying electric shocks everywhere on my body. The next thing I remember was seeing the general again. He came into a room with a man from Turkistan; he was a big man but was stopped over, because his hands were chained to the shackles of his feet, preventing him from standing upright.

‘This guy is no use to us anymore. This is what is going to happen to you. We’ve had him for one hour, and this is what happens.

Suddenly, a guy they called Hanish, which means snake, came at the poor man from behind and gave him a terrible karate kick that sent him crashing across the room. A guard went over to shake him, but he didn’t respond. Turning to the general, the guard said, ‘Basha, I think he’s dead.’

‘Throw him away then. Let the dogs have him.’

They dragged the dead man out. [pp. 111-114]

Ex-Guantanamo Detainee Fights Back Against Gitmo Lies in New Wikileaks Release

9:48 am in Military, Torture by Jeff Kaye

The new release of Guantánamo documents from Wikileaks is a veritable Sargasso Sea of lies, half-truths, undigested intel, and tortured “evidence.” I do not cheer this particular release, as the energy it will take to set the record straight will be mammoth, and most of the detainees have no one in their corner to rescue the truth from U.S. government lies. One who has been fighting for years to tell the truth about the Guantánamo detainees is Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files, and I was heartened to see that Wikileaks made him the sole “partner” in their media release of the records.

A former prisoner who has been trying to get his story out is former Guantánamo internee David Hicks. Released as part of deal to plead guilty in the military commissions trials, Hicks has returned to his native Australia to heal from the years of torture he endured at the U.S. Naval Base prison. He has written a book on his experiences, but no publisher has seen fit to release it in the United States. So unless one wishes to purchase and ship it from Australia, you will have to make do with the excellent interview of Hicks by Jason Leopold at Truthout earlier this year.

After the release of Wikileaks Guantánamo Files Detainee Assessment Brief on Hicks, a group that is working to support him and clear his name released a statement last night. In the name of clarifying the lies retailed by JTF Guantánamo personnel, I’m going to post most of their document, as a matter of public record, and to give readers an opportunity to see how poisoned the Guantánamo “record” is on these prisoners.

The Hicks assessment file from Guantánamo is dated September 17, 2004. He was released from Guantanamo in May 2007, having pleaded guilty to the U.S. favorite all-purpose charge of providing “material support for terrorism.” In the Guantánamo document, Hicks is portrayed as having “direct involvement with senior Al-Qaida leadership, including Usama Bin Laden.” He is portrayed as “a highly skilled and advanced combatant, as well as a valuable asset and possible leader for extremist organizations.”

Here is the response from the Hicks camp:

The file released on the Wikileaks website only confirms the inaccuracy of information that has been released by the former U.S. administration to the public in relation to David Hicks. The incompetence of the interrogators to obtain reliable and factual information is clear – they failed get Mr Hicks’ name correct, where he was captured, or the name of their own Navy ship – even when utilising interrogation techniques tantamount to torture. Much of the inaccuracies in the file have been addressed in Mr Hicks’ book, however, following is a list for your convenience.

➢ David Hicks’ middle name is Matthew, not Michael
➢ Jama’at Al Tablighi is a peaceful Islamic organisation – this has long been confirmed
➢ Mr Hicks has at no time flown to East Timor – to engage in hostilities, or otherwise
➢ LeT ["the Pakistan-based Kashmiri separatist group Lashkar-e-Tayyiba"] was not listed as a terrorist organisation until 2002, long after Mr Hicks had been detained. The report confirms that no member of LeT had engaged in a terrorist act- they allege an intention, which there is no evidence of. As Mr Hicks explains in his book, LeT dissolved after 2001. The group that calls themselves LeT now is not the same group as it was over a decade ago as it is made up of different people.
➢ Allegations of meeting senior al-Qaeda leadership – Mr Hicks explains in his book that did not hear the word al-Qaeda until he reached Guantanamo Bay – and this was from the mouth of an interrogator. Mr Hicks has not met any people by the names of Abu-Hufs or Mohammed Atef, and the U.S. has not provided any evidence of this.
➢ Mr Hicks did not go to Bagram at all – Mr Hicks was captured by the Northern Alliance at a Taxi stand in Baglan on his way back to Australia. He was then sold to the U.S. for approximately US$5000.
➢ There is no such ship as the Pettiloo – Mr Hicks was transferred to two U.S. Navy ships, the U.S.S. Bataan and the U.S.S Peleliu- what they failed to mention in this report was the 10 hour beatings inflicted on Mr Hicks and the other detainees, and the photos depicting Hicks naked with a bleeding wound on his head due to having his head rammed into the tarmac several times.
➢ As for the report stating that Mr Hicks ‘admitted’ to being a member of al-Qaeda – Any and all statements were obtained under torture, this is why he was not taken through a regularly constituted court. In the final Military Commissions hearing, David’s legal team submitted what is called the Alford Plea. This is a US based plea in which an accused person can agree to plead guilty whilst maintaining innocence. David has always maintained his innocence and strongly denies that he was involved with any terrorist organisations- he did what he had to do to come home.
➢ The report alleges that Mr Hicks led in prayer and was held in high regard by other Guantanamo detainees – Mr Hicks cannot speak Arabic, and his knowledge of the religion would not qualify him to lead prayer. Some detainees thought that Mr Hicks was a spy, so any allegation that he was a leader is simply outrageous.
➢ Any allegation that Mr Hicks was unruly or created disturbances is simply untrue. Former Guantanamo bay guard, Brandon Neely who was on the ground with Mr Hicks has confirmed this recently (link below).
➢ As documents have revealed, detainees were forced to take medication and David was injected in the spine (see link)
➢ All charges that they quote in the document and the Military Commissions process were ruled as unconstitutional and illegal by the U.S. Supreme Court. Even the final Military Commissions Act of 2006 has been replaced by President Obama due to the unfairness of the system, and the fact that it did not establish a legitimate legal framework.
➢ The report alleges that if Mr Hicks is released, he would be a threat to the U.S. and its allies – Mr Hicks has been a free member of society for over three years, and has proven this to be completely false.

Mr Hicks has never been accused of hurting anyone, participating in, supporting, preparing for or knowing of a terrorist act. The final charge in the Military Commissions hearing was one count under the material support for terrorism charge- which was foreign to Australian and international law- that did not accuse him of personally supporting terrorism, rather, it was alleged that he supported an organisation that supported terrorism. Of note is the fact that it has never been proven that the camps he attended were in fact al-Qaeda. Mr Hicks has never gone through a fair trial process.

This document shows that even back in 2004, Mr Hicks was not suspected and/or accused of hurting any person, or involved in any terrorist acts. The Australian government has always maintained that Mr Hicks has not broken any Australian Law.

One hopes the rest of the Guantánamo detainees get such a chance to respond, and we owe a debt of gratitude to David Hicks’ supporters for showing just how mendacious and unreliable these reports out of Guantánamo are. I’ll note in passing that the Australian group also presents as evidence of forced medication an article by Jason Leopold and I on the administration of treatment doses of the controversial antimalarial drug mefloquine on all incoming detainees at Guantánamo, from January 2002 onward.

The U.S. Government Responds

Former Guantánamo guard Brandon Neely, who knew David Hicks personally, told me today that “If you didn’t know about Gitmo, and looked at these files, you’d think everyone was guilty.” And that is precisely the point about the summaries being released. They are prosecution amalgams of assorted “facts,” many of them obtained under torture, for the purpose of justifying the unjustifiable incarceration of hundreds of innocent men. If there are terrorists or criminals in this bunch, and no doubt there are some, the case against them is irrevocably soiled both for standard judicial proceedings (hence the turn to kangaroo court military commissions), and in the eyes of history.

The Defense Department and State Department have put out a joint press release of their own, stating that the Guantánamo Detainee Assessment Briefs (DABs) were “obtained illegally” by Wikileaks, and that they “were written based on a range of information available” between 2002 and 2009.

The Guantanamo Review Task Force, established in January 2009, considered the DABs during its review of detainee information. In some cases, the Task Force came to the same conclusions as the DABs. In other instances the Review Task Force came to different conclusions, based on updated or other available information. The assessments of the Guantanamo Review Task Force have not been compromised to WikiLeaks. Thus, any given DAB illegally obtained and released by WikiLeaks may or may not represent the current view of a given detainee.

The press release concludes that the U.S. government “will continue to work with allies and partners around the world to mitigate threats to the U.S. and other countries and to work toward the ultimate closure of the Guantanamo detention facility, consistent with good security practices and our values as a nation.”

The mendaciousness of this statement cannot be overemphasized. In fact, the U.S. has given up on its attempts to close Guantánamo, and there is to be no accounting for the torture done in its “work with allies and partners around the world,” nor for the torture and mistreatment meted out by the CIA and Department of Defense. The ACLU has written in a press release today that the Wikileaks document release “underscores the need for independent judicial review of the cases of men being held at Guantánamo.”

Perhaps if nothing else, the Wikileaks release will put the lies and crimes of the U.S. government back into the headlines for a time, and the issue of investigations and prosecutions for crimes of torture and murder will again touch the public mind. If only this time, something at long last would be done to address these crimes.

For more on the Wikileaks release, Marcy Wheeler is dissecting their strange concatenation of lies over at Emptywheel. ProPublica has also posted a review of some other ways in which the public record on Guantánamo and the CIA black sites is being distorted and rewritten.

I’ve written an article now posted at Truthout that looks at an otherwise little commented-upon aspect of the Wikileaks document release: Guantanamo Detainee Reports Hint at Psychological Research, Production of False Intel and Informing as “Areas of Potential Exploitation”.

Update, 5/16/11: The group of Hicks’s supporters campaigning for “an independent investigation into the David Hicks case, with special consideration given to allegations of torture and the political interference associated with his eventual plea deal,” have a website, The Justice Campaign. The group was formed by The Hon John Dowd AO QC, President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Australia.

UK on U.S. Rendition: “Is it clear that detention, rather than killing, is the objective of the operation?”

9:29 pm in Uncategorized by Jeff Kaye

A series of documents released on July 14 in the UK Binyam Mohamed civil case, Al Rawi and Others v Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Others, have produced a series of explosive revelations, reported in Britain and as yet unknown here in the U.S. The story has been reported at the UK Guardian, while the British advocacy group Reprieve has posted links to all the documents on its site.

The fate of the "ghost prisoners" in the U.S. rendition torture program has been the subject of much speculation. It was a central mystery explored in the recently released best-selling thriller by Barry Eisler, Inside Out, which takes the CIA’s secret black site torture and disappearances as the real-world scandal around which the book’s plot revolves. Eisler’s book implies that there were more killings in the secret prisons than we know.

Now, one of the most incendiary revelations in the documents concerns instructions given to MI6 Special Intelligence Service (SIS) over detention operations. According to Chapter 32 of MI6′s general procedural manual, "Detainees and Detention Operations", "the following sensitivities arise" (PDF – bold emphasis added):

a. the geographical destination of the target. Where will she or he be held? Under whose jurisdiction? Is it clear that detention, rather than killing, is the objective of the operation?

b. what treatment regime(s) for the detainees can be expected?

c. what is the legal basis for the detention?

d. what is the role of any liaison partner who might be involved?

The "objective" of "killing" points to the existence of extrajudicial murders carried out by the intelligence services. It’s not clear if the killings are by UK or liaison — including United States — forces. "Liaison partners" refers to instances of operational cooperation with non-UK intelligence agencies.

Both the Guardian and Reprieve make it clear, as does a perusal of the documents themselves, that official British policy was to cooperate with the U.S. rendition program. At more than one point, the UK government, led then by Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair, intervened to facilitate the rendition of prisoners, including UK citizens. At one point, in 2002, British officials discuss how to spin the leaks about UK cooperation with the rendition program: "Our line — that we are seeking information and reassurances and that the US is aware of our opposition to the death penalty — is not strong, but a stronger line is difficult until policy is clearer."

From the Reprieve report:

In a January 10, 2002, telegram from the FCO [Foreign Office], officials made clear that the Blair Government wanted British nationals taken to lawless detention in Guantanamo Bay: “we accept that the transfer of UK nationals held by US forces in Afghanistan to the US base in Guantánamo is the best way to meet out counter-terrorism objective by ensuring that they are securely held"….

An FCO official recognized in an August 22, 2002, email that “we are going to be open to charges of concealed extradition” and that as a result of direct interference by Number 10 “we broke our policy” on consular access by failing to help Martin Mubanga. Mubanga, who was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing after years in lawless detention without charge, was rendered first to Afghanistan and then to Guantanamo because Number 10 specifically refused to allow him to come home.

The Guardian article details a number of other details about "the Labour government’s involvement in the illegal abduction and torture of its own citizens." The UK government says it has identified half a million documents relevant to the Mohamed disclosure requests. The government’s request to stop the release of documents and force mediation with the plaintiffs was turned down by the British court.

Cameron Touts Secrecy for UK Torture Inquiry

The avalanche of documents has not escaped the notice of the new Cameron/Clegg coalition government. Just last week they announced the formation of a UK "judge-led investigation" regarding the complicity of intelligence personnel in the torture and rendition of detainees. The investigation is being conducted by a panel of three, whose head is the intelligence-connected Sir Peter Gibson, who is Intelligence Services Commissioner, responsible for monitoring secret bugging operations by MI5, MI6 and GCHQ (Britain’s version of the NSA). Many questions have been raised by the appointment of Gibson, and it is startling to think that British human rights groups will accede to the appointment, given Gibson’s likely bias, not to mention his track record in other "judge-led" investigations.

In any case, the six cases involved in the Mohamed civil proceedings are among those to be considered by the Gibson inquiry. While the government may not be able to stop the flow of documents in the Mohamed case, the Prime Minister was not going to let this be a precedent for the upcoming torture investigation.

From the UK Guardian:

Cameron also made clear that the sort of material that has so far been made public with the limited disclosure in the Guantánamo cases would be kept firmly under wraps during the inquiry. "Let’s be frank, it is not possible to have a full public inquiry into something that is meant to be secret," he said. "So any intelligence material provided to the inquiry panel will not be made public and nor will intelligence officers be asked to give evidence in public."

Maybe Cameron will be mollified if he looks at released documents like this one (PDF), in which almost 29 of 36 pages are totally redacted.

Exposing U.S. Torture

While on the surface this appears to be a story about Britain and torture, it is really about the United States. Tony Blair bent British rules and policies, including adherence to international treaties, such as the Convention Against Torture, at the behest of and to placate and cooperate with the United States.

At many points in the documents, it’s evident that British intelligence agents were witnessing serious abuse of prisoners. While they were told not to participate (actively) in the torture and cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment, the policies were written such that cooperation could proceed with ministerial approval.

The silence meeting these latest revelations in the U.S. press, the lack of ongoing interest in the UK torture inquiry, the failure by the so-called "progressive" components of the Democratic Party to strenuously take up the call by the ACLU, Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, and other human rights groups for greater accountability and official investigations over torture is an ominous development. One can only hope at this point that the continuing revelations about great crimes and cover-up will reach a tipping point, and the outrage over other issues — the BP massive oil blowout, Mel Gibson, etc. — will attach to the torture issue, which goes right to the heart of what this nation is. And right now, that heart is rotten.

U.S. Continues to Block Visa for Irish Anti-Renditions Activist

4:52 pm in Uncategorized by Jeff Kaye

UPDATE: 8am Wednesday: I have been told that Dr. Horgan will be able to get his visa! I don’t believe he has it in hand, as I write, but apparently the promise is there. Apparently, with some quick adjustments with airfare, he should be able to make the Duke conference.

It’s been almost three weeks now since I wrote about the U.S. decision to revoke the visa of prominent Irish anti-renditions activist Edward Horgan, and not much has changed. The revocation came only a month before Dr. Horgan was slated to visit the United States to attend a major conference at Duke University on the battle against the government’s use of extraordinary rendition.

According to conference organizers:

[Scott] Horton’s keynote opens the conference, "Weaving a Net of Accountability: Taking on extraordinary rendition at the state and regional level." Bringing together legal experts, grassroots activists, students and human rights workers, the two-day event explores North Carolina’s role in torture and extraordinary rendition. Participants will discuss setting up a grassroots “commission of inquiry” aimed at creating transparency and accountability.

But it’s looking increasingly like Dr. Horgan, who is the International Secretary of the Irish Peace & Neutrality Alliance , co-founder of the anti-renditions group ShannonWatch, and a well-known Irish activist, as well as former Irish Defense Force officer and election observer for the European Union, will not be able to attend. He was to be a featured speaker at the Duke event. Unless a visa comes through in the next day or two, it will impossible for Horgan to attend. If he can’t be there in person, there are plans to have him speak to attendees via video feed.

Horgan’s group, ShannonWatch, has documented the use of the airport as a stopover for CIA rendition flights (see their page documenting such flights).

According to my sources, Dr. Horgan has the support of personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Dublin. But it appears the U.S. State Department and Department of Homeland Security back in Washington D.C. have slowed down the process to ensure that Horgan, a respected peace activist and retired Commandant with the Irish Defence Forces, cannot speak face to face with Americans, and meet with his associates in the international anti-renditions, anti-torture movement.

Dr. Horgan told the Irish Times back on March 20, “What has happened to me is an indication that anyone who dares criticise US foreign policy will have difficulty getting into the country."

As I wrote back on March 16:

It seems reasonable to assume, lacking any other evidence, that Horgan is being politically targeted by the Obama administration. This is the kind of behavior we came to expect in the days of Bush and Cheney. But it goes with the territory. Barack Obama decided in the first weeks of his administration to maintain the previous administration’s rendition program, complete with fig-leaf assurances that U.S. authorities would receive no-harm promises from Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, and other rendition destination sites known for wide-spread use of torture. No human rights organization believes that promise, and U.S. State Department Human Rights Country Reports have strongly criticized many of these countries for their use of torture, arbitrary detention and prison conditions.

Meanwhile, Horgan’s plight has gotten some coverage back in Ireland. From Eithne Tynan in yesterday’s Sunday Tribune:

What an interesting coincidence, then, that in the very same week in which Obama was acknowledging our plucky commitment to the American war effort, Horgan’s 10-year US visa was unexpectedly revoked. Horgan had been due to speak at a conference against torture and extraordinary rendition at Duke University in North Carolina next month….

It need hardly be said that Horgan is a respectable man – not a terrorist suspect, nor a whining dreadlocked git, nor even a participant in any of those tiresome quilting and drumming workshops on the roundabout leading into Shannon [Airport] . However, he does point out, repeatedly, that the extraordinary rendition story has absolutely not gone away, despite the presence of a goodie in the White House. Shannon is still a US military zone, with 5,000 US troops passing through it every week, and, as Amnesty International points out, the government is still resolutely refusing to search suspected rendition flights landing there.

What does the Obama administration fear from the presence of Dr. Horgan? If there is fear, it is on the side of those who politically oppose U.S. policies, and see the revocation of Horgan’s visa as political retribution against policy critics. On the other side of all Obama’s pretty words about transparency and a new openness, the iron hand of the state is announcing it still holds its trump card, in the form of repression. And apparently, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama are not afraid of using it.