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Why the U.S. Wants Military Commission Show Trials for 9/11 Suspects

5:17 pm in Military, Terrorism, Torture by Jeff Kaye

A number of commentators have replied to Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement today that five suspects in the 9/11 attacks, including alleged Al Qaeda mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, will not be tried in civilian courts for the terrorist attacks almost ten years ago, but will be tried by President Obama’s revamped military commissions tribunals. What no commentator has stated thus far is the plain truth that the commissions’ main purpose is to produce government propaganda, not justice. These are meant to be show trials, part of an overarching plan of “exploitation” of prisoners, which includes, besides a misguided attempt by some to gain intelligence data, the inducement of false confessions and the recruitment of informants via torture. The aim behind all this is political: to mobilize the U.S. population for imperialist war adventures abroad, and political repression and economic austerity at home.

Holder claims he wanted civilian trials that would “prove the defendants’ guilt while adhering to the bedrock traditions and values of our laws.” The Attorney General blamed Congress for passing restrictions on bringing Guantanamo prisoners to the United States for making civilian trials inside the United States impossible. Marcy Wheeler has noted that the Congressional restrictions related to the Department of Defense, not the Department of Justice, and there is plenty of reason to believe the Obama administration could have pressed politicians on this issue, but chose not to. (Others see it differently.)

Human rights organizations have responded with dismay, if not outrage. Center for Constitutional Rights, whose attorneys have been active in the legal defense of a number of Guantanamo prisoners, stated, “The announcement underscores the fact that decisions about whether to try detainees in federal court or by military commission are purely political. The decision is clearly driven not by the nature of the alleged offense, or where and when it was committed, but by the unpopularity of the detainee and the political culture in Washington.” CCR also compared the precedent-setting behavior to “Egypt’s apparent plans to use military trials for protesters at Tahir Square.”

Human Rights First spokesperson Daphne Eviatar said, “Decisions on where to prosecute suspected terrorists should be made based on careful legal analysis, not on politics. This purely political decision risks making a second-class justice system a permanent feature U.S. national security policy – a mistake that flies in the face of core American values and would undermine U.S. standing around the world.”

Most organizations stressed the fact that this was an about-face for the Obama administration. Indeed, one of the oldest human rights organizations in the United States, Human Rights Watch, called the decision a “blow to justice.” HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth said, “The military commissions system is flawed beyond repair. By resurrecting this failed Bush administration idea, President Obama is backtracking dangerously on his reform agenda.”

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers statement concentrated on the faults of the military commissions themselves, headlining their press release, “At Guantanamo, “Detainees Are Presumed Guilty”:

“Despite some cosmetic changes since the Bush-era commissions, the commission rules still permit the government to introduce secret evidence, hearsay and statements obtained through coercion,” said the association’s Executive Director, Norman Reimer. “NACDL maintains that the rules and procedures for these commission trials raise serious questions about the government’s commitment to constitutional principles upon which our country was founded. “

Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU, echoed this today when he called the military commissions “rife with constitutional and procedural problems,” noting the outstanding cases “are sure to be subject to continuous legal challenges and delays, and their outcomes will not be seen as legitimate.”

The Origins of the Military Commissions

CCR, HRF, HRW, and NACDL are all correct, so far as they go. It is evident to many observers that only peculiar military exigency, backed by facts, could allow for military tribunals, as the Supreme Court’s 2006 Hamden decision made clear. It is a matter of historical record that the Bush-era military commissions policy, adopted by President Barack Obama, was initially pushed by former CIA employees William Barr and David Addington, with the encouragement of former Vice President Dick Cheney, along with other “War Council” participants John Yoo, Defense Department counsel under Donald Rumsfeld, William Haynes, and Bush lawyers Alberto Gonzales and Timothy Flanigan.

At the same time the military commissions proposal was initiated, via a military order by Bush, the Bush administration was stripping detainees of Geneva Conventions protections, as well as implementing a program of torture, with Haynes soliciting the Pentagon’s Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) as early as December 2001 for techniques used in the “exploitation” of prisoners.

In a recent article by Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye, it was shown that the JPRA program that was “reverse-engineered” was Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) course SV-91, “Special Survival for Special Mission Units,” whose mission was to train U.S. military and intelligence personnel to withstand torture meant to “exploit” them for enemy purposes. Those purposes went far beyond the gathering of intelligence. As then-SERE psychologist Bruce Jessen, who was later to work as a contract psychologist and interrogator for the CIA beginning in 2002, noted in notes for SV-91 written in 1989:

“From the moment you are detained (if some kind of exploitation is your Detainer’s goal) everything your Detainer does will be contrived to bring about these factors: CONTROL, DEPENDENCY, COMPLIANCE AND COOPERATION,” Jessen wrote. “Your detainer will work to take away your sense of control. This will be done mostly by removing external control (i.e., sleep, food, communication, personal routines etc. )…Your detainer wants you to feel ‘EVERYTHING’ is dependent on him, from the smallest detail, (food, sleep, human interaction), to your release or your very life … Your detainer wants you to comply with everything he wishes. He will attempt to make everything from personal comfort to your release unavoidably connected to compliance in your mind.”

Jessen wrote that cooperation is the “end goal” of the detainer, who wants the detainee “to see that [the detainer] has ‘total’ control of you because you are completely dependent on him, and thus you must comply with his wishes. Therefore, it is absolutely inevitable that you must cooperate with him in some way (propaganda, special favors, confession, etc.).”

A former colleague of Dr. Jessen, and along with him a founder of the SV-91 SERE class, former Captain Michael Kearns told Leopold and Kaye:

“What I think is important to note, as an ex-SERE Resistance to Interrogation instructor, is the focus of Jessen’s instruction. It is exploitation, not specifically interrogation. And this is not a picayune issue, because if one were to ‘reverse-engineer’ a course on resistance to exploitation then what one would get is a plan to exploit prisoners, not interrogate them. The CIA/DoD torture program appears to have the same goals as the terrorist organizations or enemy governments for which SV-91 and other SERE courses were created to defend against: the full exploitation of the prisoner in his intelligence, propaganda, or other needs held by the detaining power, such as the recruitment of informers and double agents. Those aspects of the US detainee program have not generally been discussed as part of the torture story in the American press.”

The Stalinist governments of the USSR and East Europe used to make a great practice of show trials, one of the most famous being the trial of Hungarian Cardinal Mindszenty. Arthur Koestler’s famous book Darkness at Noon is about the show trial and confession of an “old Bolshevik” under Stalin’s regime. Such show trials still occur in many parts of the world, from China and Vietnam, to Indonesia, Burma, Iran, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, and the list could go on and on.

That list now includes the United States, where most recently, former child prisoner Omar Khadr was tried in a military commission, pleading guilty with a coerced confession, after years of torture and imprisonment in solitary confinement, his penalty phase of the military tribunal amounting to a show trial, complete with psychiatric “expert” testimony about Khadr’s supposed propensity for “terrorism.” The result? A 40-year sentence for the young man who never spent a free day as an adult, part of a staged deal with the U.S. military prosecutors, who presumably will release Khadr to Canadian authorities in a year or so, where he will continue to be imprisoned, pending any appeals there. But the penalty “trial” got a lot of press, and the U.S. was able to garner a propaganda “victory.”

Without Accountability, Whither America?

The United States is only a small step away from some kind of dictatorship. This may sound like hyperbole to some, but the lack of a clear and strong opposition to military and intelligence community institutional pressures has driven the Obama administration to the right even of the Bush administration on matters of secrecy and executive power. Proposals for “terrorist” or “national security” courts continue to be seriously considered, while the public uproar over the use of torture on prisoners has died down ever since Barack Obama told his Democratic Party followers not to “look back,” and made clear that accountability for war crimes would not happen on his watch. Meanwhile, tremendous inroads are made on privacy rights, while surveillance of private citizens, strip searches at airports, seizures of personal computers, and gathering of personal data from emails and phone calls are now everyday occurrences.

As a result, Obama has been the active creature of militarist forces within the government, and on point after point, has given way to lobbying by the military and intelligence establishments, themselves beholden to a power elite that holds the economic reins of the country, from oil to finance, in their hands. Obama’s role is most evident in his recent military actions against Libya.

The courts, too, have stepped back from their gesture towards judicial independence under Bush, with the Supreme Court ruling today that it would not hear three Guantánamo detainee cases, appeals on rejected habeas reviews regarding Fawzi Khalid Abdullah Fahad Al Odah, Ghaleb Nassar Al-Bihani and Adham Mohammed Ali Awad. While the cases concerned issues surrounding use of hearsay, other evidentiary standards, the role of international law, and the right to a meaningful challenge to detention, the Court gave no explanation for denial of cert. Courthouse News noted, by the way, that new Justice Elena Kagan “does not appear to have recused herself from consideration of two of the cases because of her prior work as U.S. Solicitor General.”

Meanwhile, some anti-torture activists are trying to pursue accountability the best they can, going after the licensure status of mental health professionals who participated in the Bush torture regime. Complaints against former Guantanamo Chief Psychologist Larry James and CIA contract interrogator James Mitchell have not gotten very far, with their cases dismissed.

Another case against former Major John Leso, a psychologist working for the DoD Behavioral Science Consultation Team at Guantanamo, who in 2002 helped write an interrogation protocol that relied in part on SERE “reverse-engineered” torture techniques, was also dismissed, but according to Raw Story, this Tuesday the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) and the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) will ask the New York Supreme Court to reconsider the decision of the New York State Office of Professional Discipline (OPD) not to investigate the misconduct complaint against Leso.

The issue of the military commissions must be considered in the context of its embedded existence as part of a full-scale exploitation plan upon prisoners, implemented as part of a war policy with strong imperialist ambitions, initiated by the United States in the aftermath of 9/11. The agitation for such a war preceded 9/11. The terrorist attack set lose this militarist policy, whose appurtenances — military tribunals, exploitation of prisoners, psychological warfare, secret prisons, false confessions, experimental torture programs, and unchecked executive power — threaten to end the semblance of democracy in the United States once and for all.

Means and Ends: Newly Published Notes of Bruce Jessen Reveal Real Purpose of Bush’s Torture Program

2:06 pm in Military, Torture by Jeff Kaye

As part of a new investigative story, Truthout has published documents written by the former psychologist for SERE, and later CIA contract interrogator for the Bush torture program, Bruce Jessen. Before going to work for the CIA with his former SERE partner, psychologist James Mitchell, Jessen authored a 2002 “draft exploitation plan” for military use, based on his experiences as a SERE instructor. The newly-discovered documents, provided to Truthout by former SERE Air Force Captain Michael Kearns, were written back in 1989 when Jessen was transferred from his clinical role elsewhere in SERE to help staff a new survival training course for Special Mission Units undertaking dangerous assignments for Special Operations forces abroad.

Jason Leopold and I co-authored the new story, which includes a video interview with Captain Kearns, who helped hire Jessen back in 1989 for his new SERE role helping put together the class titled SV-91. The documents include notes for a portion of that class, known as “Psychological Aspects of Detention.” The other document is a paper by Jessen, “Psychological Advances in Training to Survive Captivity, Interrogation and Torture,” which was prepared for a symposium at that time: “Advances in Clinical Psychological Support of National Security Affairs, Operational Problems in the Behavioral Sciences Course.”

Jessen’s notes, in particular, demonstrate that this course material, which was “reverse-engineered” to provide a blueprint for the interrogation and detention policies of the Bush administration — some of which remain in use today — emphasized not just the ways to coercively interrogate an individual for intelligence purposes, but to “exploit” the detainee for a number of uses. As Jessen wrote (and those following the Bradley Manning torture case will find this quite chilling, I suspect):

“From the moment you are detained (if some kind of exploitation is your Detainer’s goal) everything your Detainer does will be contrived to bring about these factors: CONTROL, DEPENDENCY, COMPLIANCE AND COOPERATION,” Jessen wrote. “Your detainer will work to take away your sense of control. This will be done mostly by removing external control (i.e., sleep, food, communication, personal routines etc. )…Your detainer wants you to feel ‘EVERYTHING’ is dependent on him, from the smallest detail, (food, sleep, human interaction), to your release or your very life … Your detainer wants you to comply with everything he wishes. He will attempt to make everything from personal comfort to your release unavoidably connected to compliance in your mind.”

Jessen wrote that cooperation is the “end goal” of the detainer, who wants the detainee “to see that [the detainer] has ‘total’ control of you because you are completely dependent on him, and thus you must comply with his wishes. Therefore, it is absolutely inevitable that you must cooperate with him in some way (propaganda, special favors, confession, etc.).”

What is “Exploitation”?

If one were to search for the term “exploitation” in the Senate Armed Services Committee report on detainee abuse, published with numerous redactions in late 2009 (PDF), you would find numerous mentions of the term. While at times the word “exploitation” appears to be used as a synonym for the “breaking down” of prisoners, it doesn’t usually explain for what purpose. Indeed, many have noted that such “breaking down” is antithetical to the production of information from an interrogation suspect. Jessen says as much in his notes. But there are other reasons to break someone down.

For instance, the SASC report notes that “The ‘Al Qaeda Resistance Contingency Training’ presentation described methods used by al Qaeda to resist interrogation and exploitation…” (p. 39 of the PDF). “The presentation on detainee “exploitation” described phases of exploitation and included instruction on initial capture and handling, conducting interrogations, and long-term exploitation.” “Another slide describing captor motives states: establish absolute control, induce dependence to meet needs, elicit compliance, shape cooperation…. techniques designed to achieve these goals include isolation or solitary confinement, induced physical weakness and exhaustion, degradation, conditioning, sensory deprivation, sensory overload, disruption of sleep and biorhythms, and manipulation of diet” (p. 40 of the PDF). When intelligence is the aim of the “exploitation process”, it is specifically called “intelligence exploitation” in the report.

One of the primary reasons exploitation is used on prisoners is to produce false confessions. Indeed, it was the torture of Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi that was used to provide the false intelligence about Saddam Hussein seeking nuclear materials that was to provide a major casus belli for the United States for their war with Iraq.

Other examples of exploitation include the recruitment of prisoners as intelligence assets, i.e., as snitches and spies. Indeed, the Truthout article notes a number of cases of attempting just such recruitment of former Guantanamo detainees, while they were still incarcerated. Another long-standing example of such exploitation is the use of prisoners in show trials, which have been used in a number of countries as a means of squashing dissent and offering a faux-legitimate function to governmental security forces. This was the case in the famous 1949 show trial of Cardinal Mindzenty of Hungary by the Stalinist government there.

It was also the case more recently in the military commissions show trial of former “child soldier” Omar Khadr, who was tortured, held in solitary for years, then forced to sign a confession and endure a military show trial which sentenced him to 40 years in prison (while a backroom deal supposedly has reduced that to 8 years and release from Guantanamo to Canada sometime next year).

Show Trials, False Confessions, Spying, Medical Experimentation

In a little remarked aspect of the Khadr case, his brother, Abdurahman, who was also held as a prisoner at Guantanamo while also working as a spy for the CIA, trying to get intelligence from prisoners there, testified under oath in 2004 that Omar had agreed to collaborate with the FBI, but was returned to onerous torture conditions after he changed his mind. We don’t know the kind of collaboration he was ready to provide, though it’s noteworthy that his brother had already been working for a few years as a CIA asset.

A. My brother Omar cooperated with the FBI and he was ready, they were being ready to release him and then he was in his cellblock and people saw that he was being ready to be released so they told him: “Oh, you told everything. You are going to hell. So if you don’t change you are going to go to hell.” So the next time he went to interrogation he denied everything so they took away everything from him and he is still there till now.

Q. Because he decided not to continue the collaboration?

A. Not to continue the cooperation.

Perhaps one of the most heart-rending accounts of a prisoner being broken and used for false confessions is in the autobiography of David Hicks. Hicks also discussed his torture in an interview recently with Jason Leopold at Truthout, describing his experience of solitary confinement, beatings, stress positions, being drugged, and having “every aspect of our lives” controlled by the Guantanamo authorities. In particular, he describes another aspect of exploitation of prisoners I haven’t mentioned thus far, medical experimentation, as he was constantly given different pills, injections, blood tests. His sense of being an experimental guinea pig has been echoed by a number of other former detainees, most recently the German-born ethnic Turk, Murat Kurnaz.

The following is from Mr. Hicks’ book, Guantanamo: My Journey. It could be used as a teaching text on the meaning of “exploitation,” and what the U.S. government implemented at Guantanamo. But we cannot forget that an innocent human being was the subject of this evil.

As time passed, the threat of ‘special treatment’ and psychological conditioning took its toll. The interrogators wore me down so that when they said, ‘So when you attended the al-Qaeda training camp…’ I would answer the question without denial or protest. I became too exhausted to argue. I allowed the interrogators to frame my words and say anything they wanted….

The interrogator’s associate, who had remained quiet until now, said they had a proposal for me: they would place me next to the various English-speaking detainees over a period of time, and I was to milk each one for information and report it back to the interrogators. If I agreed to do this, I would be allowed fifteen minutes with a lady from the Philippines. I instantly refused and requested to be sent back to my cage….

A goal of interrogation is to repeatedly break you and then put you back together until the parts can be manipulated. You become the interrogators’ creation…. The memory of what I have described depresses me deeply to this day. It does something to the soul; it felt like something had died inside me….

My end of the bargain was that I had to verbally repeat my story, agreeing with anything they added, even when they dictated my thoughts, beliefs and actions incorrectly. They also fed me things to say about other detainees as well. I did so obediently, even though I knew they were all lies. I struggled terribly with this and hated every minute of it, especially when they brought up other detainees. I searched desperately for the courage to resist and renege on the deal. I had no recourse. I had crumbled and was fully theirs.

Up until now, the primary narrative surrounding the torture scandal has been about the purported efficacy of using torture to produce intelligence in the “war on terror.” But the new Jessen material demonstrates that the program used as the basis for the “reverse-engineering” of the SERE torture techniques was a full-blown exploitation program, whose aims went far beyond the mere elicitation of information, but included the physical and psychological pressures to produce absolute compliance in prisoners for the purpose of false confessions, show trials, recruitment of spies, and medical experimentation.

As Capt. Kearns is quoted in the Truthout article, “The Jessen notes clearly state the totality of what was being reverse-engineered – not just ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ but an entire program of exploitation of prisoners using torture as a central pillar.”

It will be up to the press and the blogosphere to make the full reality of the Bush-era torture program fully understood to the population at large, to weave the kinds of information provided here into the narrative of events. Only when the full extent of this program is revealed, can we begin to take steps to end such heinous activities, and bring to justice those who sought a number of nefarious ends through means almost too awful to recount.

Propaganda Kabuki in Jury Verdict on Omar Khadr

10:14 pm in Military, Torture by Jeff Kaye

Andy Worthington has posted his take on the Khadr verdict last Sunday, where a 7-person military jury ignored all evidence of torture and sentenced former child soldier Omar Khadr to 40 years in prison. For more on my take on the verdict, see my live-blogging of the event at Firedoglake.

While a plea bargain with the Pentagon allowed Khadr to plead guilty in exchange for an 8-year sentence, making the jury deliberation a fancy piece of propagandistic kabuki, he will spend one more year at Guantanamo before being transferred to Canada (if everything works out, and in my opinion that’s a big “if”). Meanwhile, the 24-year-old prisoner, who has spent all of his adult years at Guantanamo, was sent upon announcement of the sentence, back to solitary confinement, itself a hideous form of sensory and social deprivation torture.

In Andy’s article, Omar Khadr Jury Hammers the Final Nail Into the Coffin of American Justice, he notes that the plea bargain, with its admission of guilt, followed by the jury’s 40 year sentence (even if shaved by the plea bargain to 8 years), was a major propaganda coup for the government. As I noted in my “live-blogging” article the other day,  “This propaganda show is one example of how prisoners are used for exploitation, i.e., psychological warfare purposes. It is no different than the Stalinists using show trials of dissenters, complete with confessions and fake juries, the entire panoply of juridical proceedings, but with none of the content.”

From Andy Worthington’s article:

In other words, then, a former child prisoner, who should have been rehabilitated rather than punished, because the responsibility for his actions lay with his militant father, was convicted on war crimes charges that were invented by Congress and were then reworked by the Obama administration so that the glaring contradiction between real war crimes and invented war crimes could be papered over with a veneer of legitimacy.

Small wonder then that, in the “Statement of Fact” that Khadr signed as part of his plea deal, he was also obliged to waive his right to appeal, in a passage that stated that he “does not have any legal defense to any of the offenses to which he is pleading guilty.”

With such grotesque distortions of justice taking place over the last week, it is easy to forget that the judge, Army Col. Patrick Parrish, had also prevented Khadr’s lawyers from drawing on their client’s well-chronicled reports of his torture and abuse in US custody….

n their closing comments, his lawyers managed to introduce a statement, written by Khadr, referring to the terror he felt when an interrogator, Sgt. Joshua Claus, threatened him with being sent to a US jail where he would be raped by “four big black guys”….

In conclusion, while those who exult in the depths to which America has sunk over the last nine years, since “the gloves came off” following the 9/11 attacks, will rejoice in Khadr’s 40-year sentence (and will complain that his real sentence is only eight years), anyone who retains a shred of decency and respect for the rule of law will be more inclined to accept the words of Dennis Edney, one of Khadr’s long-term Canadian civilian lawyers, who stated after the military jury announced its sentence:

The fact that the trial of a child soldier, Omar Khadr, has ended with a guilty plea in exchange for his eventual release to Canada does not change the fact that fundamental principles of law and due process were long since abandoned in Omar’s case. Politics also played a role. To date, there have been in excess of 1,200 US troops killed in Afghanistan, yet it is only Omar who has been put on trial.

In a comment at the Emptywheel blog the other day, I noted some strange threads hanging from the government’s Khadr story:

The question of how Omar Khadr got to the compound where he would later experience the firefight, and perhaps participate (although his family is clear he was sent only as a translator), is an interesting one because it involves, as the stipulation notes, the appearance of “Sheikh Abu Leith al-Libi, a senior LIFG and al Qaeda military commander.” Somehow, Sheikh al-Libi was to absent himself from this firefight, only to be killed as one of the numerous ostensible number threes of Al Qaeda by CIA airstrike in January 2008.

Al-Libi was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) which the stipulation document noted, with some strained language, “is a designated terrorist organization and was associated with Al Qaeda at the time of Omar Khadr’s offenses. “Is?” “Was?” In fact, the LIFG was not considered a terrorist organization prior to 9/11, and according to numerous accounts in the British Press (based on a document leak and the testimony of ex-MI5 agent David Shayler, had received British funds and arms in an attempt to overthrow Libyan leader Colonel Moammar al-Qadhafi.

Besides Abu Leith al-Libi, another leader of LIFG was Anas Al-Libi, who worked closely with the dubious Ali Mohamed (who worked closely with portions of the U.S. government and military, as a double or triple agent, no one can be sure). It was a raid on Anas Al-Libi’s house that brought us the famous Manchester document, otherwise known as the Al Qaeda manual, including its interrogation component.

Omar Khadr’s link to Sheikh al-Libi isn’t necessarily sinister or anything more than it seems (apparently, Omar’s father was later furious with al-Libi for endangering his son), but it does point to some strange connections. You can’t probe too closely on any of these affairs and not find something nefarious; in this case, the Judge’s reticence to notice that the man who brought Omar Khadr to the compound in 2002 was only a few years before a paid coup plotter, if not assassin, for the British government. And Omar Khadr showed poor judgment?

—— Khadr’s case is one of the more egregious of countless cases of torture, false imprisonment, kidnapping and murder by the U.S. government. The fact this was done to someone who would not even have been tried in an adult court in most of the United States only adds to the special nature of the Khadr case. It speaks personally to many, and says, this is a vulnerable human being. This person should not be used as a piece of propaganda. His fate dehumanizes all of us.

Liveblogging Twitter: Khadr Jury Deliberations

11:12 am in Military, Torture, Uncategorized by Jeff Kaye

Breaking, 5:30pm. After 8 hours of deliberations by the seven-person military jury, the jury reached a decision, sentencing Omar Khadr to prison for 40 years. The decision is subject, reportedly, to the plea deal made with Khadr and his legal team, whereby the young man confessed to murder and other crimes, for a promise of an eight year sentence — one year in Guantanamo, followed by seven years in Canada. The following liveblogging started earlier today.


After a day’s break in the proceedings of the Omar Khadr military commissions trial, and five hours of jury deliberation yesterday, the trial picked up at 12: 27pm today, Eastern time. The trial is being live-tweeted by a number of journalists present in Guantanamo, most notably Carol Rosenberg, Andrew Mayeda, Michelle Shephard, Derek Stoffel, French journalist Malorie Beauchemin, and others, who are watching proceedings on a video feed. Other journalists and observers, such as Daphne Eviatar, are in the courtroom, and we can expect reports from them later.

It has been a contentious week, and I’ll assume if you’re reading this you have already been following the trial. I should mention up front, that I find the military commissions trial of Omar Khadr to be a kangaroo court, meant to produce a false confession for show trial, propaganda purposes. The purpose of liveblogging this proceeding via twitter-feed is to give as up-to-date information on the breaking news of this important trial — the first trial of a former child soldier in modern, Western history — and a forum for readers to discuss and process the proceedings.

For those interested in such things, Twitters own license, agreed to by those who sign up via Twitter, says that anyone using Twitter agrees “to make your Tweets available to the rest of the world and to let others do the same.” The two relevant feeds from Twitter can be directly accessed here and here.

Right now, it appears the 7-person military jury has asked to have the video replayed of the testimony of Captain Patrick McCarthy, the former legal adviser at Guantanamo, who testified earlier that Omar Khadr had the “potential to rehabilitate.”

The following are not inclusive of all the Tweeting being done, but selected samples. Besides the journalists, I’m adding what I feel are relevant or interesting tweets from others following on Twitter:

@DerekStoffelCBC Derek Stoffel
#Khadr jury wants to see transcript of Cpt. McCarthy’s testimony. Court has no transcript but Judge Parrish offers to let them see it again. [~1:02pm ET]

@JulietONeill Juliet O’Neill
Following my colleague @mayeda at #Khadr jury deliberations at #Gitmo. Will report Ottawa #cdnpoli reaction to jury decision/plea bargain. [~1:03pm ET]

@carolrosenberg Carol Rosenberg
At 30 minutes into deliberation jury revisiting testimony of Capt McCarthy, the 06-08 prison staff lawyer who spoke by video from Kabul. [~1:05pm ET]

@shephardm Michelle Shephard
They don’t have transcript so #GTMO judge is now re-playing a recording of his testimony for 7-member #Khadr jury from earlier this week. [~1:07pm]

@carolrosenberg Carol Rosenberg
While jury watches, we can see prosecutors Jeffrey Groharing and Michael Grant are talking to each other behind their hands. On video…

Now this seems of special interest:

@carolrosenberg Carol Rosenberg
Human Rights Watch observer spotted four #Khadr jurors and widow of soldier he killed taking brunch in same #Guantanamo dining room today. [~12:17pm ET]

This would be before court had resumed for the day.

@carolrosenberg Carol Rosenberg
Debating difference in definition of sequestration between civilian juries, war court. Factoring in #Guantanamo has one Sunday brunch venue. [~1:19pm ET]

@DerekStoffelCBC Derek Stoffel
#Khadr jury spent an hour re-listening to Cpt. McCarthy's testimony. They're now back deliberating. We're back to waiting. [2:07pm ET]

@amayeda Andrew Mayeda
McCarthy testified that #Khadr appeared to have a "positive" influence on other inmates [2:11pm ET]

@carolrosenberg Carol Rosenberg
#Khadr's jury is back deliberating after 1-hour re-run. McCarthy urged different "standard of accountability" for 15 year old than adult. [~2:14pm ET]

@amayeda Andrew Mayeda
#Khadr was originally housed in camp 5, highest security facility at #Gitmo; but eventually transferred to camp 4. for "compliant" inmates [~2:14pm ET]

@amayeda Andrew Mayeda
McC notes that #Khadr never kicked out of camp 4, despite zero tolerance on misbehaviour under #Gitmo rules [~2:14pm ET]

@amayeda Andrew Mayeda
But McC seemed to back down under prosecution cross-examination; prosecution read him several reports by prison guards on #Khadr
[~2:16pm ET]

The deliberations over the potential rehabilitation of Omar Khadr is a staple portion of the sentencing phase of a criminal trial. According to news reports, Khadr has already made a stipulation to guilt, one that has been seriously questioned by many, and it’s worth looking at Marcy Wheeler’s blog post on this, as well as Daphne Eviatar at the Huffington Post.

Back to it…

@amayeda Andrew Mayeda
“15 year olds, in my opinion, shouldn’t be held to the same standard of accountability as adults should be,” McCarthy said [~2:26pm ET]

@amayeda Andrew Mayeda
The jury has now resumed deliberations; they’re now approaching their sixth hour … [~2:27pm ET]

@m_beauchemin Malorie Beauchemin
Procès #Khadr. Les journalistes auront 15 min pour se rendre en Cour entendre la sentence. On sursaute chaque fois que le téléphone sonne. [~2:40pm ET] [Google translator: "Journalists will have 15 minutes to go to court to hear the sentence. We jump every time the phone rings."]

Some other commentary on Twitter:

@BridgetGuevara Bridget Guevara
Whaaaat?! // MT @vickersty #Khadr prsctrs trying to use forced plea as evidence he can’t be rehabilitated. YOU can’t be rehabilitated

@CanadaLiberty CanadaLiberty
If Khadr had been a15 yr.oldAmericanDefendingtheAlamo,He’dBeAnAmerican Hero! #ondp #lpc #khadr

@GeorgieBC Georgie BC
It is ok for US soldiers to murder children, but it is a war crime for children to murder US soldiers. .. #Khadr

Now, here’s a curious point I had not noticed:

@amayeda Andrew Mayeda
@LadyLibertine22 #Khadr defence never called their mental-health experts to testify

I know that one of the people who had been prepared to testify was Brig. Gen. (ret.) Stephen Xenakis, “Omar Khadr’s unlikely defender.” See Michelle Shephard’s story in The Star:

Xenakis, now 62 and retired from the army, is one of the court-approved medical experts granted access to Khadr over the last few years. He has spent more than 100 hours meeting with the Toronto-born captive and considered an important witness for the defence in the trial that is finally set to begin on Monday….

“There’s nothing that makes me think this guy’s dangerous in any way,” says Xenakis. “For us to use him as a symbol or icon of us being hard on terrorists, which is something that has been the position all along, is wrong.”….

“I think it’s wrong to take a person who’s a 15-year-old, who’s basically a child soldier, and for us to treat him as something other than an adolescent who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time,” says Xenakis.

3:01 pm ET, via Carol Rosenberg. Jury still out. Total deliberation time: 6.5 hrs.

For readers who may not know, whatever the jury decides, if it is more than the amount of years agreed in the plea bargain (8 years, with approx. one more in Guantanamo, and then supposed transfer to Canada), the plea deal will be honored. If the amount of time decided is less, then Khadr could go free in under 8 years, theoretically. However, the U.S. really threw the book at Khadr to get him to stipulate guilt for their phony show trial.

Additionally, the U.S. has a habit of going back on its deals, most recently in the case of Ibrahim al-Qosi. See this posting by Marcy Wheeler.

3:34pm ET

@m_beauchemin Malorie Beauchemin
Sept heures de délibérations pour le jury d’Omar Khadr, chargé de déterminer la sentence. Toujours pas de décision. [Google Translator: "Seven hours of deliberation the jury of Omar Khadr, charged with determining the sentence. Still no decision."

More background:

@uruknet uruknet
Canada’s role in the persecution of child soldier Omar #Khadr #guantanamo #humanrights [~2:57pm ET]

bmaz is answering some questions, with his legal expertise, over at Emptywheel, lots of interesting commentary re possibility of a Khadr appeal, other matters:

A few new tweets in past half hour, reminding us…

@Perkel Colin Perkel
If sentencing jury at #Khadr can’t agree, then convening authority can order new sentencing hearing or impose no punishment.

@Perkel Colin Perkel
Further, for a sentence of 10 years or more, six of seven #Khadr jurors must agree . . .

It’s now 4:30 pm, ET, and Michelle Shephard is reporting from Gitmo:

@shephardm Michelle Shephard
Coming up eight hours for #Khadr jury. Past #Gitmo sentence deliberations for Australian, Yemeni and Sudanese detainees was under two hours

BREAKING: Jury will have decision in 14 minutes, reported via multiple tweets — It’s now 4:50pm ET

@brynweese Bryn Weese
#Khadr jury has sentencing decision. About to tell court in 15 mins.

@DerekStoffelCBC Derek Stoffel
Media being told a sentencing decision in #Khadr case will come in 15 minutes.

@amayeda Andrew Mayeda
Reporters at #Gitmo scrambling to get up to court to hear the #Khadr sentence

@carolrosenberg Carol Rosenberg
The Omar #Khadr jury has returned a sentencing verdict in slightly over 8 hours. Media scrambling to #Guantanamo war court.

@amayeda Andrew Mayeda
He will be the first detainee convicted of murder (in violation of the laws of war) by the #Gitmo tribunal

Convicted? Is that how it will be spun? How apart, first detainee to be forced to confess for the Gitmo show trial?

More Mayeda:

@amayeda Andrew Mayeda
Also, #Khadr is the first #Gitmo detainee to be sentenced who committed his crimes as a juvenile

Flash – 40 years sentence:

@DerekStoffelCBC Derek Stoffel
BREAKING: #Khadr military jury recommends 40 years in prison.

@DerekStoffelCBC Derek Stoffel
#Khadr jury recommends 40 years… BUT plea deal Khadr signed limits his sentence to 8 years – can apply for transfer to Canada after 1 yr.

At first they couldn’t hear it:

@carolrosenberg Carol Rosenberg
Omar #Khadr is standing. The sentence was announced but the jury wasn’t miked and we in #Guantanamo’s filing center didn’t hear it.

So, the military jury says it will ignore the child status of Omar Khadr at the time of capture, or ignore the torture of Omar Khadr. They appear to be channeling the racist demagoguery of hand-picked psych expert, Dr. Michael Welner. What was the purpose of this show?

More from Guantanamo, 5:11pm:

@carolrosenberg Carol Rosenberg
Tabitha Speer, #Khadr’s victim’s widow cheered at the sentence. The Toronto-born war criminal looked straight ahead.

@carolrosenberg Carol Rosenberg
RECAP: Omar #Khadr’s military jury returned a 40-year sentence and the judge told him, out of earshot of the panel, that he will serve 8.

And the reaction on Twitter at #khadr? A sampling:

@habibahamid habiba hamid
Breaches UN convention on rights of child @amayeda #Khadr sentenced to 40 years, military confirms

@RS_Chang Richard S. Chang
Really wonder how jury came to 40-year sentence for Omar #Khadr, who was a 15-year-old child soldier when he was caught on battlefield.

@dgardner Dan Gardner
A fitting conclusion for an unconscionable and unjust proceeding. RT @DerekStoffelCBC: #Khadr military jury recommends 40 years in prison.

@progress_report Brodie Conley
are you f*cking kidding me? 40 years recommended sentence. what do you expect from a jury made up of military personnel. #khadr

@rmazar Rochelle
WTH this is how we deal with child soldiers?! RT @DerekStoffelCBC: BREAKING: #Khadr military jury recommends 40 years in prison

Michelle Shephard notes:

#Guantanamo sentence 15 more than even Pentagon prosecutors asked for in #Khadr case.

The verdict will be used by right-wing commentators to “prove” that Khadr was “worst of the worst,” and by implication all of the prisoners at Guantanamo. This propaganda show is one example of how prisoners are used for exploitation, i.e., psychological warfare purposes. It is no different than the Stalinists using show trials of dissenters, complete with confessions and fake juries, the entire panoply of juridical proceedings, but with none of the content.

A sad, shameful day for America. A country that will not own up to its own use of torture. How much irritating crap will I have to read about this or that little political mini-tempest on various blogs, while the soul of the country shades into infamy?

What now?

@carolrosenberg Carol Rosenberg
#Khadr attorney: “Omar was given a choice to plead guilty or be prosecuted in an unfair process with the possibility of a life sentence.”

@carolrosenberg Carol Rosenberg
#Khadr is #Guantanamo’s youngest and last Western detainee among 174 now held in the prison camps. He is now the convicted 3rd war criminal.

@amayeda Andrew Mayeda
Am told by military spokeswoman here that the plea-deal docs (and hopefully diplomatic notes between Canada-US) will be released

@carolrosenberg Carol Rosenberg
He had been held in #Guantanamo’s communal camp for cooperative detainees. Now he goes into single cell, maximum security confinement.

Back into solitary confinement, i.e., back into torture, since isolation is a very specific kind of torture. What a massive clusterfuck! Submit Khadr to this charade, kill his sense of self-integrity via false confession, then shove him into solitary with the “belief” (and how can I not this put this word into quotes?) that he will be released to custody in Canada for another seven years…

Omar Khadr is you or me. This is what the U.S. rulers have in store for anyone who they decide to make an example of.

More on the reality that solitary confinement constitutes torture. From a Wired interview with psychologist Craig Haney, who has worked on this subject for a long-time:

…let me note that solitary confinement has historically been a part of torture protocols. It was well-documented in South Africa. It’s been used to torture prisoners of war.

There are a couple reasons why solitary confinement is typically used. One is that it’s a very painful experience. People experience isolation panic. They have a difficult time psychologically coping with the experience of being completely alone.

In addition, solitary confinement imposes conditions of social and perceptual stimulus deprivation. Often it’s the deprivation of activity, the deprivation of cognitive stimulation, that some people find to be painful and frightening.

Some of them lose their grasp of their identity. Who we are, and how we function in the world around us, is very much nested in our relation to other people. Over a long period of time, solitary confinement undermines one’s sense of self. It undermines your ability to register and regulate emotion. The appropriateness of what you’re thinking and feeling is difficult to index, because we’re so dependent on contact with others for that feedback. And for some people, it becomes a struggle to maintain sanity.

That leads to the other reason why solitary is so often a part of torture protocols. When people’s sense of themselves is placed in jeopardy, they are more malleable and easily manipulated. In a certain sense, solitary confinement is thought to enhance the effectiveness of other torture techniques.

And, no press appearance from the jury:

@shephardm Michelle Shephard
#Guantanamo prosecutors, #Khadr lawyers on the way to media hangar for press conferences. #Military jurors have declined to be interviewed.

@carolrosenberg Carol Rosenberg
Pentagon spokeswoman advises: All seven military officers on #Khadr jury were asked if they’d take questions from the media and all refused.

For those who felt Omar Khadr should not have taken the plea deal, consider this from Michelle Shephard:

@shephardm Michelle Shephard
If #Khadr had not taken the plea deal of 8 years and was instead given the jury sentence he would be 64 when released.

It’s time for me to sign off here. Carol Rosenberg and others are headed for the news conference. Carol tweets:

@carolrosenberg Carol Rosenberg
Off to a press conference in the Camp Justice hangar with prosecutors, observers. Story updating regularly here.

My thanks again to all the reporters and commentators who have worked on this story. I look forward to what those in the courtroom saw and felt, the feedback from Khadr’s attorneys, the prosecutors (gag), and assorted media.

A low and sad day for justice. A terrifying day for Omar Khadr. And to Mrs. Speer and others, who thought they would never see this day, a thought or two:

“Vengeance taken will often tear the heart and torment the conscience.”
Arthur Schopenhauer

“The noblest vengeance is to forgive.”

Postscript, thanks to harpie:

DoD Statement on Khadr’s sentence

Exchange of Diplomatic notes on Khadr

Jury sentences ‘child soldier’ to 40 years at Guantanamo; Carol Rosenberg; 10/31/10

from US Diplomatic note to Canada:

The Government of the United States proposes that were Mr. Khadr to request a transfer to Canada to serve any sentence there, the United States and Canada could implement such a transfer under the Treaty between Canada and the United States of America on the Execution of Penal Sentences (the “‘Treaty”) and existing domestic authorities….

The Government of the United States specifically understands that such transfer would result in Mr. Khadr being subject to Canadian law pertaining to detention and in Mr. Khadr being able to apply to the National Parole Board (an independent administrative tribunal operating autonomously from the Government of Canada) for parole following the completion of one-third of his sentence. The Government of the United States understands that eligibility for parole does not mean that the release will be granted; only that it will be considered.

from Canada’s Diplomatic Note to the US:

The Government of Canada shares the view of the United States that were Mr. Khadr to request a transfer to Canada to serve any part of his sentence in Canada, the United States and Canada could implement such a transfer….

The Government of Canada therefore wishes to convey that, as requested by the United States, the Government of Canada is inclined to favourably consider Mr. Khadr’s application to be transferred to Canada to serve the remainder of his sentence, or such portion of the remainder of his sentence as the National Parole Board determines, provided the aforementioned conditions are met and the Government of the United States approves Mr. Khadr’s transfer to Canada.

“Inclined to favorably consider…” “Could implement such a transfer” — Perhaps this is simply diplomatic language, but I look forward to hearing more analysis on this. Not that I trust what I hear anymore, or even what I see. But there it is, and I hope the U.S. and Canada hold to their agreement.

None of this takes away from the truth Mr. Khadr lives at this very moment, returned to solitary confinement, a form of torture, having had to endure the ignominy of a forced confession and the huzzah of blood lust from his purported victims.

Nice country, this, eh?

Final addition (really):

Omar Khadr’s Oct. 13 Plea Deal Agreement (PDF) (my bold emphasis)

I understand that this agreement permits the Military Commission to find me guilty for all offenses to which I plead guilty without the need for the government to present evidence that would prove my guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. I offer to plead guilty because it will be in my best interest that the Convening Authority grants me the relief set forth in this agreement. I understand that I waive my right to a trial of the facts and to be confronted by the witnesses against me, and my right to avoid self:incrimination insofar as a plea of Guilty wilI incriminate me.

Some more interesting material there. For instance, as Carol Rosenberg notes, “Omar #Khadr’s plea bargain spelled out the only four people who could testify on his behalf at #Guantanamo sentencing hearing. Page 4 C3″.

I will not seek to offer the testimony, either in court or via VTC of any witness, other than: (I) Dr. Katherine Porterfield: (2) Dr. Steven Xenakis. (3) Captain McCarthy; and (4) Dr. Arlette Zinck, all of whom the Government has agreed to produce at U.S. Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay. Cuba for sentencing. [understand that sentencing proceedings will not be delayed to of these witnesses are unavailable.

But they certainly did not all testify. Where was Dr. Xenakis?

The Psychiatric Demonization of Omar Khadr

3:49 pm in Uncategorized by Jeff Kaye

As the intense negotiations over a possible plea bargain for former child "soldier" Omar Khadr come to a head, "internationally acclaimed" forensic psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner has given an exclusive interview to Steven Edwards of the Canadian National Post. Khadr, captured at age 15, has been imprisoned for eight years in U.S. custody, and tortured at both Bagram and Guantanamo, accused of killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan in a firefight in July 2002. Dr. Welner has consulted for the FBI, and is a frequent guest on network television. He is a vigorous self-promoter and has been a forensic examiner on a number of high-profile criminal cases.

From Edwards story:

There is no evidence that Omar Khadr has ever independently sought to promote peace with the West and renounce Muslim Jihad, the internationally acclaimed forensic psychiatrist who pioneered efforts to quantify evil reveals ahead testifying about his examination of the Canadian-born terror suspect….

“When one leaps to the conclusion about Omar Khadr’s future because he is friendly, one might recall that Osama bin Laden has always been described as gentle, likeable and charming,” New York-based Welner told Postmedia News.

“There is no record of (Khadr’s) publicly repudiating al Qaida, as civilized Muslims should, not even a letter composed for him by Dennis Edney,” he added in a reference to one of Khadr’s two Canadian lawyers. There is “no call… to radical Islamists to mature beyond their elemental intolerance.”

By the use of terms such as "elemental intolerance", Dr. Welner exposes his bias and political animus towards Mr. Khadr. It carries the same whiff of fanaticism as the statements of former Chief of Neuropsychiatry at Guantanamo Bay, Dr. William Anderson, who wrote that Islamic "hard-core zealots" had "brains that are structurally and functionally different from us," and that 100,000 "zealots" within the Muslim body politic would have to be eliminated, the way "malignant [cancer] cells" are removed from a healthy body.

One wonders what responsibility the young Mr. Khadr had to reach out to "radical Islamists." The entire accusation is preposterous on its face. The attempt to link Mr. Khadr to Osama bin Laden is even worse. It is character assassination, and the evident bias shown by Dr. Welner should be more than enough reason to have his entire testimony and evaluation thrown out of court.

But then this isn’t any old court. It’s the kangaroo proceedings that are the Obama revamped Military Commissions, a judicial setting that allows no courtroom observers, that banned reporters for stating the name of a witness that was otherwise a matter of public record, that allows the judge to admit hearsay evidence from third parties who were coerced, as long as the judge finds it doesn’t cross over into "cruel, inhuman, or degrading" treatment as defined in the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005.

As Daphne Eviatar pointed out last year:

While that sounds good, remember that the Detainee Treatment Act was interpreted by the Bush administration’s Justice Department to allow such “enhanced interrogation techniques” as sleep deprivation, food deprivation, shackling, forced standing in stress positions, and a variety of “corrective techniques” that include physical slaps and grabs – either alone or in combination. The new “protections” in the MCA amendments are therefore not all that reassuring.

Omar Khadr was to be the first sample of "justice" in the new Obama-blessed military commissions. We got a sample of what kind of justice that would be when last August, the MC judge, Army Col. Patrick Parrish, announced there was "no credible evidence" of torture upon Mr. Khadr. And yet, even in the testimony in the case thus far, early interrogations of the then-15 year old prisoner were proven to contain theats of violent rape. Moreover, the U.S. has been contemptuous of international protocols that juveniles under 18 years of age require "special attention", and that "the physical and psychosocial rehabilitation and social reintegration of children who are victims of armed conflict" of such child prisoners is of essential importance.

Andy Worthington described the torture of Omar Khadr in an article last May (or read Mr. Khadr’s own affadavit describing his treatment – PDF):

Khadr stated that he was short-shackled in painful positions and left for up to ten hours in a freezing cold cell, threatened with rape and with being transferred to another country where he could be raped, and, on one particular occasion, when he had been left short-shackled in a painful position until he urinated on himself:

Military police poured pine oil on the floor and on me, and then, with me lying on my stomach and my hands and feet cuffed together behind me, the military police dragged me back and forth through the mixture of urine and pine oil on the floor. Later, I was put back in my cell, without being allowed a shower or a change of clothes. I was not given a change of clothes for two days. They did this to me again a few weeks later.

Ethical Transgressions?

The rest of the Welner interview continues the doctor’s rant. "Civilized Muslims" have repudiated Al Qaeda, implying that without a strong statement from Mr. Khadr doing the same, he is not "civilized." According to Edwards, Dr. Welner states in the interview that "Khadr is known to have expressed peace-loving intentions only to “those advancing [h]is public image…” Even more, Dr. Welner describes Mr. Khadr as "socially agile, charming and more sophisticated," only to remind us — "lest we forget" — that Omar’s father looked "good" enough to gather money for an orphanage, "’yet he was raising money for al Qaida, and (was) a high-ranking member’ of the terror group."

In reference to Dr. Welner’s last example, what should people think who believed once that the politicians who told them they were activating the defense of the United States and promoting the safety of their loved ones from a WMD-armed Iraq, only to find out their tax money was used to invade a country that had no WMD, that the entire story was gamed by the top leaders of the United States to destroy the infrastructure of another nation, kill 100,000s of people, and turn millions more into homeless refugees? These crimes make Omar Khadr’s father look like a mere amateur.

It is difficult to discern the motives behind Dr. Welner’s interview, but the fact there is pending a possible sentencing hearing for Mr. Khadr, or that the issue of Canadian repatriation of the former child soldier is currently a matter of some controversy in Canada (Prime Minister Stephen Harper is adamantly against it), calls Dr. Welner’s actions into some question.

One wonders if Dr. Welner has ever read the Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychology (PDF):

Ordinarily, forensic psychologists avoid making detailed public (out-of-court) statements about particular legal proceedings in which they have been involved. When there is a strong justification to do so, such public statements are designed to assure accurate representation of their role or their evidence, not to advocate the positions of parties in the legal proceeding. Forensic psychologists address particular legal proceedings in publications or communications only to the extent that the information relied upon is part of a public record, or consent for that use has been properly obtained from the party holding any privilege.

Perhaps Dr. Welner, who is a forensic psychiatrist and not a forensic psychologist, does not feel himself bound by the ethics of his sister profession. Even so, the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law’s Ethical Guidelines for the Practice of Forensic Psychiatry state that as a matter of confidentiality in a forensic, legal setting, "A forensic evaluation requires notice to the evaluee and to collateral sources of reasonably anticipated limitations on confidentiality. Information or reports derived from a forensic evaluation are subject to the rules of confidentiality that apply to the particular evaluation, and any disclosure should be restricted accordingly." Moreover, the process of gaining consent for an evaluation should include "notice… to the evaluee of the nature and purpose of the evaluation and the limits of its confidentiality."

Did Dr. Welner tell Omar Khadr that he planned to give a public interview to the press on certain aspects of his evaluation of him, an interview moreover on the eve of an important legal hearing for him?

Edward’s interview liberally cites Dr. Welner’s credentials, but never mentions that he has worked closely with the FBI, or that his highly-touted "Depravity Scale" project is the subject of much academic controversy.

It is hard to believe the extent to which the advocates of the demonization of Omar Khadr will go. The U.S. government, and their ally in the Canadian Prime Minister’s office, evidently will go to no end to press their vendetta against the Khadr family. This is the morality of the mob, the morality of true moral depravity. Dr. Welner, look in the mirror.

Or better yet, review this videotape of an interrogation of Omar Khadr in 2004. Did the young man, then age 16, use the opportunity to "call… to radical Islamists to mature beyond their elemental intolerance"? You tell me.

H/T to skdadl for tipping me to the Welner interview

Sgt. Joshua Claus, Racist Rape Threats, & Supposed Rapport Techniques of Interrogation

2:34 pm in Uncategorized by Jeff Kaye

This is posted under a different title at Daily Kos and Invictus

(See note on Rachel Maddow’s claims about the use of the "Fear Up" interrogation technique at end of this article)

It is difficult to write about this outrage without descending into mere shouts of anger about the perfidy of the Obama administration and the Pentagon’s insults against justice and the first amendment. The outrageous attempts by Obama and his military subordinates to legitimate a kangaroo court aka military commissions is similar to the actions of the previously hated Bush/Cheney regime.

The first of Obama’s trials is of the former child soldier, Omar Khadr, captured after a U.S. raid on his family’s compound, and then interrogated from his hospital bed, where he was laying seriously wounded from being shot in the back and in his shoulder. His first interrogator was the notorious Sgt. Joshua Claus, later implicated and briefly imprisoned for his role in the death of the prisoner Dilawar at Bagram Prison.

The journalists who dared report Claus’s name in their reports from Guantanamo — even though Claus’ name had been reported in a number of published media over the years — were banned by the Pentagon from all further Guantanamo hearings, since Barack Obama’s Pentagon decided that now they would make Claus’s name classified. This move to erase the past and make illegal what was formerly public domain is the worst sort of dictatorial action, and typical of tyrannies around the world. If allowed to stand, it is an evil harbinger of what we can expect of this and future administrations.

The reporters banned are Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald/McClatchy; Steven Edwards of Canwest, Paul Koring of the Globe & Mail, and Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star. Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent has posted the DoD letter to the reporters. Meanwhile, other great articles reporting on the affair have been written by Scott Horton, Marcy Wheeler, Jim White, and Dan Froomkin.

To demonstrate the totally arbitrary and unfair aspect of the ban, the announcement of the ban on reporting Claus’s identity was made nearly 24 hours after the article noting Claus’s name was published. The subsequent banning of the reporters can only be understood as a deliberate and manufactured attack against the press for reporting the travesty of these military commissions. The entire affair is described in a report for McClatchy last Thursday by Nancy Youssef.

Claus, Racist Rape Threats, and Supposed Rapport Techniques of Interrogation

In the reports of Claus’s interrogation of Omar Khadr, we read the following, from Spencer Ackerman’s reporting ("Interrogator #1" was Sgt. Joshua Claus, Khadr’s primary interrogator at Bagram):

Interrogator #1 would tell the detainee, “I know you’re lying about something.” And so, for an instruction about the consequences of lying, Khadr learned that lying “not so seriously” wouldn’t land him in a place like “Cuba” — meaning, presumably, Guantanamo Bay — but in an American prison instead. And this one time, a “poor little 20-year-old kid” sent from Afghanistan ended up in an American prison for lying to an American. “A bunch of big black guys and big Nazis noticed the little Afghan didn’t speak their language, and prayed five times a day — he’s Muslim,” Interrogator #1 said. Although the fictitious inmates were criminals, “they’re still patriotic,” and the guards “can’t be everywhere at once.”

“So this one unfortunate time, he’s in the shower by himself, and these four big black guys show up — and it’s terrible something would happen — but they caught him in the shower and raped him. And it’s terrible that these things happen, the kid got hurt and ended up dying,” Interrogator #1 said. “It’s all a fictitious story.”

Besides the incredibly racist threats about "big black guys", this was also an implicit death threat, since the case presented to Khadr ends in the prisoner’s horrific death. On the stand, Claus said all he wanted was to create a "symbiotic relationship" with the young prisoner.

But Joshua Claus is not someone who would come up with the idea of forming a “symbiotic relationship” with his prisoner, and even less likely to have made such a conceptual leap at age 21.

In fact, the use of terms like "symbiotic relationship" is closely associated with the formation of a highly dependent relationship, similar to the Stockholm Syndrome, i.e., attempting to create a relationship of close psychological allegiance, in order to exploit [their terminology] the prisoner for information or other purposes. It is an orthodox strategy employed by the intelligence services, and is often the reality behind the polite mask of creating a “rapport” with the prisoner.

For those who might remember, fostering of a Stockholm syndrome in a prisoner was a primary attribute of the alternate CITF interrogation plan for Al Qahtani in Guantanamo. (Michael Gelles of NCIS is briefly noted as speaking of this in the SASC report.) I wrote about this kind of interrogation motive in an article at Firedoglake December.

Ironically, the focus on Claus and First amendment rights, and the outrageousness of administration censorship pulls us away from considering who was conducting policies for government detention and interrogation/torture policies to begin with. The “court” (a word in the instance of the Guantanamo Military Commissions one can only say aloud with gall and vomit in one’s mouth) is duly constituted to do one thing: legitimate the invasions and actions of the U.S. government, including its prisoner and torture policies.

If the lions of the press should happen to read this, then consider this: if you had a semblance of integrity, you would assemble a boycott of the next White House briefing in protest of how your colleagues were unfairly treated.

For more on the Omar Khadr story and the military commissions trial, see "Prosecuting a Tortured Child: Obama’s Guantanamo Legacy" by Andy Worthington, posted at the Future of Freedom Foundation website.

NOTE on use of "Fear Up": The interrogation technique known as "Fear Up" has been a feature of the military’s approved techniques described in the Army Field Manual for almost two decades now, at least. See a discussion of the use of this technique, and it’s dangers within this article. The core of that discussion can be summarized from a quote. Rachel Maddow, please take notice, the use of "Fear Up" was not something recently dreamed up, nor a creation of the Bush administration:

In the last version of the AFM (FM 34-52), published in 1992, the use of fear-based techniques was divided into Fear Up Harsh and Fear Up Mild, with a strong warning issued that the use of Fear Up "has the greatest potential to violate the law of war." In the contemporary version of the AFM, the division of the technique into harsh and mild categories is abandoned, while the cautionary language is weakened.

Obama’s War Crimes Commission Stands Law on its Head

2:56 pm in Uncategorized by Jeff Kaye

The Administration’s decision to press forward with the first war crimes trial of a child soldier in modern history is unfathomable. That the Administration would then try to ensure a conviction by attempting to rewrite the law to create a new war crime is reprehensible. — David Frakt, Associate Professor of Law at Western State University College of Law and a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve JAG Corps; former lead defense counsel with the Office of Military Commissions, Guantanamo.

Lt. Col. Frakt, who was the lead defense counsel in the Guantanamo military commissions trials of Mohammed Jawad and Ali al Bahlul, has written an important analysis of the President Obama’s new military commission rules. These rules, released without public comment and only a day before the trial was to start in the case of former child soldier, Omar Khadr, rewrite law in order to prosecute "war crimes," even where none exist.

Frakt does a good job explaining the Orwellian logic of the new military commission rules. Lost within the arcana of who is or is not a "privileged combatant," and thereby appropriate for war crimes charges or trial by military commission, is the insanely twisted logic of the Pentagon, who has strained at gnats, only to bring forth yet another atrocity of justice. As Lt. Col. Frakt explains:

Now, the Department of Defense has once again attempted to revive this discredited interpretation of the offense with a slight twist. In the new Manual the following official comment has been included in explanation of the offense of Murder in Violation of the Law of War: "an accused may be convicted in a military commission. . . if the commission finds that the accused engaged in conduct traditionally triable by military commission… even if such conduct does not violate the international law of war." Astoundingly, according to the Pentagon, a detainee may be convicted of murder in violation of the law of war even if they did not actually violate the law of war.

So you can be found guilty of violation of the laws of war, even if you never violated the laws of war. In other words, according to the prosecutors, we can pretty well bloody do what we want to do. Catch-22, anyone?

News reports describe how Khadr is being forced to wear black-out goggles and earmuffs when being taken to the trial, and after undergoing humiliating searches. This kind of treatment can only be meant to assert power and omnipotence over Khadr, and influence the military and observers at the trial that this 23-year-old man, captured as a 15-year-old, and tortured at Bagram and Guantanamo, is somehow a danger akin to Hannibal Lecter.

Humiliation and fear together constitute psychological torture. Here it is being done in front of the eyes of the world, but people are inured to it, have been psychologically numbed themselves

This whole trial is emblamatic of the false promise and true face of the Obama administration, which has tried to paper over the worst excesses of the previous administrtion with glitzy wallpaper and superglue, but in the end have nothing new to offer but the same old policies of torture, indefinite detention, bogus military commissions (aka kangaroo courts), and secret prisons, not to mention frame-ups, and draconian attacks on justice, as in the recent case of Syed Fahad Hashmi. A U.S. citizen held in solitary confinement for three years in a NYC jail on trumped-up or exaggerated charges of "material support to terrorism", Hashmi finally pleaded out the other day to a 15-year sentence, even though he never committed a terrorist act. Locked up in a hellhole of a prison in isolation for three years, not even allowed to exercise in fresh air, he must have been a desperate broken man to accept this deal. Or perhaps he looked around at America and thought, these people won’t lift a pinky to help me.

From an important story by Andy Worthington, who describes government attempts to influence the judicial process in the Hashmi case:

Before the trial, Theoharis and Fayad Hashmi’s many supporters had pointed out how the prosecution was trying to rig the proceedings, with the government asking for jurors to be anonymous and kept under extra security (a request that was granted by Judge Loretta Preska) in a filing in which the government’s lawyers claimed that “jurors will see in the gallery of the courtroom a significant number of the defendant’s supporters, naturally leading to juror speculation that at least some of these spectators might share the defendant’s violent radical Islamic leanings.”

With this in mind, Fayad Hashmi may have decided that a plea bargain provided his only opportunity to avoid a 70-year prison sentence, but whatever the truth, his treatment over the last four years, and the paucity of the evidence against him, appears only to demonstrate that the overreaction of the Bush years in relation to the perceived terrorist threat is as exaggerated as ever.

For more on the Khadr trial, follow the coverage by Marcy Wheeler, Spencer Ackerman at The Washington Independent, and his own blog, Attackerman. Spencer is in Guantanamo covering the trial.