Saturday, March 28, 2009

British Binyam Mohamed Torture Case May Have Major Fall Out On Both Sides Of The Atlantic. This Is A Heads Up Eyes On Development.

British Binyam Mohamed Torture Case May Have Major Fall Out On Both Sides Of The Atlantic.  This Is A Heads Up Eyes On Development.




MI5 and MI6 have identified at least 15 cases of possible complicity by British officers in the torture or mistreatment of terror suspects following the case of the Guantánamo detainee Binyam Mohamed.

Inquiries have revealed British security and intelligence officers have raised concerns about the treatment of several detainees, interviewed while in US custody abroad.

Earlier this week, in the first investigation of its type, police launched a criminal inquiry into allegations made by Mr Mohamed that MI5 was aware he was being tortured in a secret prison and that British officers fed questions to the CIA.

Baroness Scotland, the Attorney General, asked Scotland Yard to investigate following a review of “highly sensitive” material surrounding the case.

But senior officials in both MI5 and MI6 have reviewed their files and fear that 15 similar cases could also lead to police investigations.

It raises the prospect of a series of criminal investigations into the security and intelligence services and will add to pressure from some quarters for a full inquiry into the allegations. Gordon Brown has already ordered a review of procedures.

The 15 individuals, thought to include British and foreign nationals, were all interrogated under US control by British officers keen to acquire intelligence that could reveal plans for attacks in Britain.

During the interrogations, the British officers were instructed to operate under the terms of the Geneva Conventions – unlike their US counterparts. In several cases they reported fears that the suspects were being mistreated but their concerns were not followed up.

As in Mr Mohamed’s case, there is no suggestion that British officers participated in the mistreatment, but officials are concerned they could still be held accountable.

Sources concede the rules governing the conduct of the British had to be tightened after the interrogations, most of which were conducted in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks when officers were not ready for the many cases they faced or the US approach to the detainees.

They also say they were not aware that the US had a rendition programme in which prisoners were moved to third countries for interrogation.

However, security sources say the cases have been reviewed in the light of Mr Mohamed’s allegations.

A senior security source said: “Officers conducted a significant number of interviews after 9/11 to acquire life saving intelligence and we have kept those cases under review. The aim is to improve procedures and training and to see where lessons can be learned but where there has been significant concern we have brought the cases to the notice of others.”

Most of the cases date to a period between 2002 and 2004 when officers were interrogating a large number of terrorist suspects captured during the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, including Mr Mohamed.

It is understood that MI5 and MI6 conducted more than 100 interviews in Afghanistan more than 100 at Guantanamo Bay and more than 2,000 in Iraq.

In one case, cited in a report to the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, an officer from MI5 reported to his superiors that a US official in Afghanistan in July 2002, had told him they were “getting a detainee ready” for interrogation, which appeared to involve hooding him, depriving him of sleep and making the suspect stand in painful “stress positions” before shining bright lights into his eyes during questioning.

Another case, in which an MI6 officer attended an interrogation by the US military in Afghanistan, involved a man who had previously had a nervous breakdown, who was kept in isolation.

Other concerns involved prisoners in Iraq during June 2003 where officers reported that they had seen suspects in US detention who were variously shackled and hooded, kept in inhumane conditions, punched and denied contact with their families.

During a visit to Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in February 2004, a British military intelligence officer saw a prisoner being manhandled from his cell to an interrogation room.

MI5 officers who conducted their last interviews at Guantanamo Bay in February 2004, reported that some of the detainees were depressed and withdrawn and that their mental condition was deteriorating.

One had complained about being held in solitary confinement for over a year, not seeing daylight for four months, being denied reading material and restriction of mail.

The first concerns were raised on January 10 2002, the first day that MI6 officers were given access to US-held detainees in Afghanistan, many of whom had been captured during the battle at Mazar-e-Sharif.

A memo sent to the officer involved the following day, and copied to all agents, said: “With regard to the status of the prisoners, under the various Geneva Conventions and protocols, all prisoners, however they are described, are entitled to the same levels of protection.

“You have commented on their treatment. It appears from your description that they may not be being treated in accordance with the appropriate standards. Given that they are not within our custody or control, the law does not require you to intervene to prevent this.

“That said, Her Majesty’s Government’s stated commitment to human rights makes it important that the Americans understand that we cannot be party to such ill treatment nor can we be seen to condone it. In no case should they be coerced during or in conjunction with an [MI6] interview of them.

“If circumstances allow, you should consider drawing this to the attention of a suitably senior US official locally.”

The memo told the officer it was “important that you do not engage in any activity yourself that involves inhumane or degrading treatment of prisoners” and explained that if he did so he could face prosecution “in the same way as if you were carrying out those acts in the UK” under the Criminal Justice Act.

It added that he was “obliged to act in accordance with the Human Rights Act 2000 which prohibits torture, or inhumane or degrading treatment.”

Rules governing the interrogation of prisoners, which banned the use of hooding, stress positions and “physical and mental torture” were not issued to the military until September 2003 and copied to MI5 and MI6 in June 2004, when ministers were made aware for the first time of the concerns of some agents.

The Intelligence and Security Committee, a cross-party committee of MPs appointed by the Prime Minister, recommended in 2005 that ministers should be informed where security and intelligence officials had concerns about the interrogation of detainees, that clear guidelines should be issued beforehand and that these concerns should be “followed up by the UK authorities and, so far as it is within their power, fully investigated.”

It is not known who the prisoners referred to were, but several terrorism suspects were transferred to Guantanamo Bay around the same time, including Moazzam Begg, Feroz Abbasi, Martin Mubanga and Richard Belmar along with the so-called “Tipton Taliban” Shafiq Rasul, Ruhal Ahmed and Asif Iqbal.

The British government will publicly disclose for the first time the guidelines its intelligence officers use when interrogating suspects


Glenn Greenwald

FRIDAY MARCH 27, 2009 06:54 EDT


(updated below - Update II)

One of the problems for the U.S. Government in releasing Guantanamo detainees has been that, upon release, they are free to talk to the world about the treatment to which they were subjected.  When the Bush administration agreed to release Australian David Hicks after almost 6 years in captivity, they did so only on the condition that he first sign a documenting stating that he was not abused and that he also agree -- as The Australian put it -- to an "extraordinary 12-month gag order that prevent[ed] Hicks from speaking publicly about the actions to which he has pleaded guilty or the circumstances surrounding his capture, interrogation and detention," a gag order which "also silence[d] family members and any third party."

Last month, in response to increasing pressure in Britain overreports of British resident Binyam Mohamed's deterioration in Guantanamo, the Obama administration released him back to Britain.  Ever since, he has been detailing the often brutal torture to which he was subjected over several years, torture in which British intelligence officials appear to have been, at the very least, complicit.  As a result, despite the efforts of both the British Government and the Obama administration to keep concealed what was done to Mohamed, the facts about his treatment have emerged and a major political controversy has been ignited.

That's because torture is illegal in Britain, as it is in the United States.  But unlike the United States:   Britain hasn't completely abandoned the idea that even political officials must be accountable when they commit crimes; their political discourse isn't dominated and infected by the subservient government-defending likes of David Ignatius, Ruth Marcus, David Broder and Stuart Taylor demanding that government officials be free to commit even serious war crimes with total impunity; and they don't have "opposition leaders" who are so afraid of their own shadows and/or so supportive of torture that they remain mute in the face of such allegations.  To the contrary, demands for criminal investigations into these episodes of torture (including demands for war crimes investigations from conservativesspan the political spectrum in Britain:

The Conservative leader, David Cameron, called for a "targeted and clear review . . . to get to the bottom of whether Britain was knowingly or unknowingly complicit in torture".

The Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, said: "It is not enough for Gordon Brown to say the government does not endorse torture. There remain serious questions concerning how far senior political figures were implicated in these alleged practices."

Because of those facts, the British Government has now been forced to commence a criminal investigation into whether British government agents colluded in Mohamed's torture:

The attorney general, Lady Scotland, announced the unprecedented move in light of damning evidence that Britain's security and intelligence agencies colluded with the CIA in Mohamed's inhuman treatment and secret rendition.

She said the police inquiry would look into "possible criminal wrongdoing" in what the high court described as Mohamed's unlawful questioning.

As The Guardian reported, the British Government was, in essence, forced into the criminal investigation once government lawyers "referred evidence of possible criminal conduct by MI5 officers to home secretary Jacqui Smith, and she passed it on to the attorney general."  In a country that lives under what is called the "rule of law," credible evidence of serious criminality makes such an investigation, as The Guardian put it, "inevitable."  British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has clearly tried desperately to avoid any such investigation, yet as The Washington Post reported this morning, even he was forced to say in response:  "I have always made clear that when serious allegations are made they have got to be investigated."   

Wouldn't it be nice if our government leaders could make a similar, extremely uncontroversial statement -- credible allegations of lawbreaking by our highest political leaders must be investigated and, if warranted, prosecuted?   In a country with a minimally healthy political culture, that ought to be about as uncontroversial as it gets.  Instead, what we have are political leaders and media stars virtually across the board spouting lawless Orwellian phrasesabout being "more interested in looking forward than in looking backwards" and not wanting to "criminalize public service."  These apologist manuevers continue despite the fact that, as evenconservative Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum recently acknowledged in light of newly disclosed detailed ICRC Reports, "that crimes were committed is no longer in doubt." 

Even in the U.S., each new disclosure of just how pervasive and brutal was our Government's criminality prompts new calls for investigations from previously government-defending precincts, and -- thanks largely to the ACLU and other groups -- some of the most potent new disclosures are imminent.   As a result, it's becoming increasingly difficult for David Ignatius and friends to dismiss advocates of investigations as "liberal score-settlers" when people like Bush 41 U.N. Ambassador Thomas Pickering, Reagan FBI Director William SessionsGen. Antonio Taguba, and Anne Applebaum are now demanding investigations into these crimes of torture. 

As more detainees are released and are thus able to speak publicly about what was done to them, and as more documents are leaked and are formally disclosed, the extent of our Government's depraved criminality will be increasingly difficult to ignore, no matter how eager our current Government might be to do so.  Indeed, even investigations in places like Britian -- which centrally involve receipt of CIA telegrams detailing Mohamed's torture -- are highly likely to lead to the disclosure of even more graphic and incriminating evidence proving that American leaders committed war crimes.  The profoundly incriminating evidence is piling up, and will continue to, on its own.

Still, just look at what is happening in Britain to see how far off course we are from even a pretense to living under the rule of law.  The British have hardly been paragons of human rights and transparency.  They've worked as closely with the Bush administration in most of these abuses as any other country in the world (with the possible exceptions of Egypt and Morocco).  And their government has been almost as desperate as ours to keep secret what was done.

Nonetheless, despite allegations of criminality far less extensive than those that have been made against the U.S., their political system is compelling serious investigations into these crimes.  That's because for countries that aren't completely corrupted to their core, political leaders aren't free to commit serious crimes and then simply be shielded from investigation and accountability.  Credible allegations of high-level criminality -- and only the hardest-core Bush followers deny that we have that -- compel criminal investigations.  As the British controversy demonstrates, that isn't remotely a controversial proposition for anyone who believes in the most basic precepts of the rule of law.

Just as a reminder of two upcoming events:

(1) On the evening of March 31, I'll be at Ithaca College to receive the first annual Izzy Award for independent journalism -- named after the great I.F. Stone -- along with my co-recipient Amy Goodman.  Both Amy and I will be speaking at the event on independent media and related issues, and more than 1,000 people are expected.  The event is free and open to the public and event details are here.

(2) On April 3, beginning at noon, I'll be at the Cato Institute in Washington to present my drug policy report, entitled Drug Decriminalization in Portugal, which details that country's successes with its 2001 decision to decriminalize all drug possession and usage.  Event details and RSVP are on Cato's site (here), where it can also be watched live.  I wrote about the background of the report here.


ACLU Asks Justice Department To Appoint Independent Prosecutor To Investigate Torture

Following Red Cross Report, Group Sends Letter To Attorney General Holder

CONTACT: (212) 549-2666;

WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder reiterating its call for the Department of Justice to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate the authorization to use torture at CIA secret prisons. This follows recent revelations that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) concluded in 2007 that the treatment of detainees being held by American personnel constituted torture, as well as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The ICRC report is based on harrowing accounts from detainees about the treatment to which they were subjected.

The ACLU's letter, signed by Executive Director Anthony D. Romero, states in part:

"The fact that such crimes have been committed can no longer be doubted or debated, nor can the need for an independent prosecutor be ignored by a new Justice Department committed to restoring the rule of law … Given the increasing evidence of deliberate and widespread use of torture and abuse, and that such conduct was the predictable result of policy changes made at the highest levels of government, an independent prosecutor is clearly in the public interest. The country deserves to have these outstanding matters addressed, and have the assurance that torture will stop and never happen again. An independent prosecutor is the only sure way to achieve these goals."

A full copy of the letter can be found below and online at:

 Voice Your Outrage: Ask Attorney General Holder to Appoint a Special Prosecutor

CIA Says It Has 3,000 Documents Related To Destroyed Interrogation Tapes (3/20/2009)

Government Refuses To Disclose List Of Summaries, Transcripts, Reconstructions And Memoranda Relating To The Tapes

CONTACT: (212) 549-2666;

NEW YORK – In connection with an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit seeking information on detainee abuse, the CIA today disclosed that it has a list of roughly 3,000 summaries, transcripts, reconstructions and memoranda relating to 92 interrogation videotapes that were destroyed by the agency. The CIA refused, however, to disclose the list to the public. The agency also refused to publicly disclose a list of witnesses who may have viewed the videotapes or retained custody of the videotapes before their destruction. 

"The government is still needlessly withholding information about these tapes from the public, despite the fact that the CIA's use of torture is well known," said Amrit Singh, staff attorney with the ACLU. "Full disclosure of the CIA's illegal interrogation methods is long overdue and the agency must be held accountable for flouting the rule of law."

In December 2007, the ACLU filed a motion to hold the CIA in contempt for its destruction of the tapes in violation of a court order requiring the agency to produce or identify all records requested by the ACLU. That motion is still pending.

The agency's latest submission came in response to an August 20, 2008 court order issued in the context of the contempt motion. That order required the agency to produce "a list of any summaries, transcripts, or memoranda regarding the [destroyed tapes] and of any reconstruction of the records' contents" as well as a list of witnesses who may have viewed the videotapes or retained custody of the videotapes before their destruction. The CIA will provide these lists to the court for in camera review on March 26, 2009.     


 Torture Case Tests Obama Secrecy Policy

One such case, dealing with the gruesome realities of the CIA’s so-called “extraordinary rendition” program, is scheduled for oral argument before a federal appeals court in early February. The position the Obama administration takes in this case may be the first major test of its new policies on transparency in government.

Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc. involves five victims of CIA rendition, or “torture by proxy,” as it’s also known. Abducted abroad, the men were flown by the CIA to cooperating countries whose agents interrogated them under torture. Because federal officials are usually immune from lawsuits, the men later sued the private aviation data company, Jeppesen — a subsidiary of Boeing, one of the largest federal defense contractors — that knowingly provided the flight plans and other assistance necessary for the CIA to carry out its clandestine operations.

The ACLU filed suit on behalf of this group of victims in May 2007, but the Bush administration quickly swooped in, waving the flag of the state secrets privilege. Insisting that the very subject of the lawsuit – the CIA’s rendition program – is itself a state secret, the Justice Department convinced the federal court in California, where Jeppesen is based, to dismiss the case on the grounds that it would harm national security.

U.S. Tried to Get Gitmo Detainee to Waive Rights in Exchange for Release

The U.S. government tried to get Binyam Mohamed — the British resident who was held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay for four years and allegedly tortured in CIA “black sites” — to promise not to speak to the media or sue the United States as a condition of his release, according to documents presented in Britain’s High Court of Justice, reports Reuters.

They also wanted Mohamed, an Ethiopian citizen, to plead guilty — even though he was never charged with a crime.

Given the rising number of lawsuits being filed against the United States charging unlawful detention, torture and abuse in violation of U.S. and international law, the U.S. government’s attempt to get Mohamed to sign a release isn’t all that surprising. And the U.S. government’s pressure to keep the details of Mohamed’s ordeal secret is consistent with its previous pressure on the U.K. court not to release even a summary of his claims of torture.

But it raises the question: how many more former detainees have promised not to talk, or sue, or seek justice of any kind, in order to secure their release?

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