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Prison Ships, Ghost Prisoners, and Obama’s Interrogation Program

1:52 pm in Military, Torture by Jeff Kaye

It was back in June 2008 that the British legal charity Reprieve issued a report alleging “the United States may have used as many as 17 ships as floating prisons.” Moreover, the group claimed “about 26,000 people are being held by the U.S. in secret prisons — a figure that includes land-based detention centers.” The Defense Department, of course, denied anything untoward.

“We do not operate detention facilities on board Navy ships,” said Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman. “Department of Defense detention facilities are in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.”

Of course, these were the bad, old days of the Bush/Cheney administration, and things were supposed to be different under the new Obama administration. But since Obama came into office, despite claims things would be different, and executive orders issued by the then-incoming President, evidence continues to grow that many of the old habits of torture and illegal detention remain part of the arsenal of the Obama Defense Department.

Egregious practices amounting to torture still remain in the Army Field Manual, and in particular its Appendix M. Reports have been made by major U.S. press about ongoing abuse or torture at the U.S. Bagram facility in Afghanistan. The administration continues to support a rendition program (with its paper-thin guarantee of “promises” by torturing nations that they won’t torture). And of course, Guantanamo remains open.

Now, with the news about Somali prisoner Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, we are hearing that — at least — this detainee (and it begs the question how many more like this), was held for two months as a ghost prisoner on a U.S. ship in international waters, uncharged, without access to attorneys or notification of the International Red Cross. In other words, he was held illegally. Now he’s being charged in U.S. courts with terrorism. Read the rest of this entry →

CIA Training Intelligence Agents for “State Sponsor of Terrorism” Sudan

11:58 am in Uncategorized by Jeff Kaye

The government of Sudan has been miffed that it cannot get off of the U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism. It could be because of the history of arbitrary arrests, killings and torture by the administration of Sudan President Omar Al Bashir, as documented in a recent report by Amnesty International. Or it could be because the Sudanese government is widely reported to back the Jangaweed militia attacks against citizens of Darfur, a campaign that has killed over 300,000 people and displaced approximately three million more. Or perhaps it is Sudan’s political support (and possibly military aid) to Hamas, foe of the U.S., the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority? In any case, the Obama administration has not seen fit to take Sudan off their list of bad guy countries.

So what is one to make of Jeff Stein’s report today at his Spy Talk blog at the Washington Post that the CIA has been training and equipping Sudan’s notorious National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS)?

“The U.S. government is training the Sudanese intelligence services and conducting bilateral operations with them — all in the name of the long war,” said a former intelligence officer who served in Sudan….

Another knowledgeable former U.S. intelligence official said the CIA-NISS partnership began even earlier, in the Clinton administration, and called it "incredibly valuable."

While Erik Prince and his Blackwater Worldwide company is being fined for ignoring sanctions against Sudan and trying to "secure lucrative defense business in Southern Sudan," the central government in Khartoum is having its security forces — one the most brutal in the Arab world — trained by the CIA.

According to Stein, U.S. officials maintain the operations are limited to counterterrorism. But one wonders how the NISS separates out such training from its general operations of domestic oppression. Earlier this year, NISS arrested six doctors, members of the Doctors Strike Committee, and tortured at least two, before releasing them after being held without charges for almost a month. As recently as June 27, NISS agents were reported to be roaming "hospitals in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, ensuring that the doctors had returned to work."

According to a report by Amnesty International, referenced by Stein in his article, NISS seems to have it in for doctors.

Ahmed Ali Mohamed Osman, a doctor also known as Ahmed Sardop, was arrested by the NISS on March 20, 2009 in Khartoum after criticizing rapes in the Darfur region and the government’s decision to expel humanitarian organizations from Sudan….

"They leaned me over a chair and held me by my arms and feet while others hit me on the back, legs and arms with something similar to an electrical cable," he told Amnesty International. "They kicked me in the testicles repeatedly while they talked about the report on rape in Darfur."

Ahmed Sardop filed a complaint with the police and was examined by a doctor who confirmed his allegations of torture. A few days later, he started receiving telephone death threats: "We will soon find you and we will kill you." He now lives in exile.

But it isn’t only doctors, as NISS has targeted journalists, human rights activists, and students. The agents of the NISS operate in an atmosphere of near-impunity, as they "have immunity for all the violations they commit, under the 2010 National Security Act."

Anyone who believes the NISS agents trained by the CIA limit their indelicate actions to "take-downs" of "terrorists" in Sudan knows very little about the omnipresent operations of security forces such as NISS, or the Mukhabarat in Egypt and Jordan, in this part of the world. This kind of training and involvement with some of the world’s more notorious secret police is the real face of U.S. foreign policy, more so than the aid programs that other portions of the government may provide in various countries. (It’s worth noting here, too, that the Palestinian Authority has received training for its security forces from the CIA.) Whatever aid is provided, the U.S. ensures the rule of governments with domestic terror regimes. Along with U.S. support for the forceable suppression of Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and its campaign of wide-spread assassination throughout the region, this is the actual cause for hatred and attacks against the United States.

Apropos of the U.S. policy of widespread assassinations, today the ACLU and Center for Constitutional Rights have filed a lawsuit "challenging the government’s asserted authority to carry out ‘targeted killings’ of U.S. citizens located far from any armed conflict zone."

The groups charge that targeting individuals for execution who are suspected of terrorism but have not been convicted or even charged – without oversight, judicial process or disclosed standards for placement on kill lists – also poses the risk that the government will erroneously target the wrong people. In recent years, the U.S. government has detained many men as terrorists, only for courts or the government itself to discover later that the evidence was wrong or unreliable.

A major change in U.S. policy must involve a significant change in the world-view of the U.S. populace, and a wholesale transformation of its political representatives, who remain meekly subservient to whatever military or intelligence policy that the White House demands, no matter how seemingly contradictory or self-defeating, or how costly to those in other countries who suffer under the police rule of their respective states.

For more information on the ACLU/CCR joint lawsuit, visit visit: and

ICE Uses Threats of Deportation to Produce Terrorism “Intel”

5:53 pm in Uncategorized by Jeff Kaye

It’s bad enough we know that the government tortured Abu Zubaydah, Binyam Mohamed, and countless others in an attempt to produce false confessions, faked intel about Iraq, and in general hype up a "terrorism" threat that would justify the billions bilked from the U.S. treasury for the bogus "war on terror."

But now apparently the campaign to find terrorist boogie-men has come home with a vengeance. Just ask Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) informants Emilio and Analia Maya of Saugerties, New York. According to a fascinating Associated Press report by Helen O’Neill, on November 17, 2009, Emilio was surrounded by nine ICE officers in flak jackets with guns.

"We are deactivating you"

"We are deactivating you," the officers told their former Argentinian immmigrant informer. The prisoner, who recognized agents who some years earlier had recruited him, was taken to jail over 100 milies away, and held over two weeks without charges.

Emilio and his sister Analia had made a deal with ICE back in March 2005. They could get S visas, "often known… as the ‘snitch visa’… because [it's] given to aliens who assist US law enforcement to investigate and prosecute crimes and terrorist activities."

But as O’Neill reports, quoting New York immigration lawyer Claudia Slovinsky, ICE and parent agency the Department of Homeland Security never actually award anyone the S visa. Instead, "they use the most vulnerable people to do dangerous work, make them all sorts of promises and then just abandon them."

The AP story relates how the Mayas got involved with ICE, the dangerous missions they went on, the undercover work. When the brother and sister tried to back out of the informant game, they were told they had to continue or they would be deported. In fact, it turned out later that a deportation order for Emilio had been shuttling around ICE since December 2005, while for years they used him as an informant.

The Coerced Production of "Intelligence" on Terrorism

But the most interesting part of the story concerns what happened after Emilio and Analia had been working for ICE for some three years (emphases added):

In 2008, they say, the agents began demanding information on terrorism and guns – information the Mayas simply couldn’t provide. The brother and sister continued offering tips about local activities, but they were no longer sent on undercover jobs….

At a meeting in the Price Chopper parking lot [in May 2009], Emilio says, agents bluntly told him that unless he delivered information on weapons and terrorism, his work permit would not be renewed and he would be deported.

What seems clear is that the government, failing to get the easily controlled Mayas to drum up some kind of terrorist plot in order to feed the agency’s need promote itself and get a larger slice of the anti-terrorism funds sloshing around Washington, D.C., put the strong-arm on these immigrants, and when they couldn’t get them to produce, has prepared to deport them.

It doesn’t matter if a Congressman or a Senator intervened, as they did in this case. ICE and DHS apparently have little to fear from congressional inquiry. They are in a bureaucratic war to justify their existence, and in DC, it’s still, in the Obama years, all about terrorism.

Take a look at ICE’s own website, where it touts itself as "A Federal Leader in Combating Terrorism."

As the second largest federal contributor to the nationwide network of Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) plays a critical role in protecting the country against the threat of terrorism. With agents assigned to counter-terrorism investigations across the United States and around the world, ICE lends its expertise in enforcing immigration and customs laws to the over 100 JTTFs to investigate, detect, interdict, prosecute and remove terrorists and to dismantle terrorist organizations.

What are the JTTFs?

Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) are small cells of highly trained, locally based, passionately committed investigators, analysts, linguists, SWAT experts, and other specialists from dozens of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies. It is a multi-agency effort led by the Justice Department and FBI designed to combine the resources of federal, state, and local law enforcement.

The picture is clear: ICE wants its seat at the table with the other 40 or so agencies now associated with the national JTTFs. It’s like a big assembly line feeding raw intel to the FBI and Department of Justice, and what matters is that you keep producing. The quality of the intelligence, as evidenced by the attempt to squeeze "terrorism" "tips" out of the hapless and unconnected Mayas, is evidently not so important. What is important is that everyone get paid and the gravy train keep rolling.

"We’re Going to Change Your Brain"

The saddest thing in the O’Neill story is to read about the impotence members of Congress have when soliciting the protection of their constituents with agencies from the executive branch.

But the scariest thing is to reflect upon similarities between the ICE/Mayas case and the torture of prisoners in the "black sites", rendition hellholes, Guantanamo and Bagram. Rather than the use of blackmail and extortion to coerce informants to produce bogus reports about terrorism, the U.S. abroad has resorted to outright torture.

The torture of prisoners like Binyam Mohamed — much in the news lately with the revelations by UK judges that Mohamed was subjected to CIA "enhanced interrogation technique"-style torture as early as March 2002 — was not about, or at least not solely about, the collection of information. It was about the manufacture of information, including false confessions and fingering others for prosecution or further torture. In an interview a few years back with Binyam Mohamed’s attorney, Clive Stafford Smith of Reprieve:

Binyam explained that, between the savage beatings and the razor cuts to his penis, his torturers “would tell me what to say.” He added that even towards the end of his time in Morocco, they were still “training me what to say,” and one of them told him, “We’re going to change your brain.”

This emphasis on brainwashing — for that is the popular terminology for such an assault on the psyche of a prisoner — is a key component of the kind of psychological torture that was researched by both the United Kingdom and the United States in the years following World War II. It highlighted the use of isolation, sleep deprivation, fear, stress positions, manipulation of the environment, of food, the use of humiliation and both sensory deprivation and sensory overload upon the prisoner. The idea was to overwhelm the nervous system and make a human being collapse without a blow being made, without scars, without evidence usable in court.

In an article at Truthout by H.P. Albarelli and Jeff Kaye, the connections between the old CIA mind control and torture research programs and those of today are documented. The conclusion is that radical change is needed if these crimes are not to consume our nation:

The allegations of drugging by Mohamed and other prisoners are redolent of the use of hallucinogenic and other powerful mind altering drugs by the U.S. in its Artichoke, MK-ULTRA and other programs….

The CIA has been accused of involvement in continuing interrogation experimentation upon prisoners. The recent release of the previously censored summary of Mohamed’s treatment in Pakistan notes that "The effects of the sleep deprivation were carefully observed." As Stephen Soldz notes in an article on the British court revelations, "Why were these effects being ‘carefully observed’ unless to determine their effectiveness in order to see whether they should be inflicted used upon others?"…. The role of doctors, psychologists, and other medical professionals in the CIA/DoD torture program has been condemned by a number of individuals in their respective fields, and by organizations such as Center for Constitutional Rights and Physicians for Human Rights….

This country needs a clear and definite accounting of its past and present use of torture. Like a universal acid, torture breaks down the sinews of its victims, and in the process, the links between people and their government are transformed into the naked exercise of pure sadistic power of rulers over the ruled. The very purpose of civilization is atomized in the process. We need a full, open and thorough public investigation into the entire history of the torture program, with full power to subpoena, and to refer those who shall be held accountable for prosecution under the due process of law.