Category Archives: U.S. extraterritorial prisons

Huge concentration camps are built in the USA

KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton Co. received a $385 million contract from the Department of Homeland Security to build concentration camps to cope with an "emergency influx of immigrants to the U.S." or to support "the rapid development of new programs."

KBR awarded Homeland Security contract worth up to $385M
By Katherine Hunt
Jan 24, 2006
http://www.marketwatch.com/News/Story/Story.aspx?guid=%7B62C8724D%2DAE8A%2D4B5C%2D94C7%2D70171315C0A0%7D&dist=SignInArchive&print=true&dist=printTop

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — KBR, the engineering and construction subsidiary of Halliburton Co.

Lawyer in the Hell of Guantanamo

If you accidentally crush an iguana on the base, you are fined ten thousand dollars, while if you beat up a prisoner, your act will be described as 'non-detrimental benign contact' and there will be no consequences." "Two years ago," he relates, "the lawyers pleaded with the Supreme Court to align Guantanamo prisoners' rights with those of the animals. Our slogan? 'Equality with the iguanas!'"
Lawyer in the Hell of Guantanamo
 
By Annick Cojean
Le Monde
(original in French at http://www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1-0@2-3230,36-834304,0.html)

Tuesday 14 November 2006

     When the little Air Sunshine airplane begins its landing on Guantanamo military base, after describing a large curve around Cuba's easternmost point to avoid Fidel Castro's air space, lawyer Clive Stafford Smith always feels the same mixture of emotion and excitement. In a few hours, he will meet several of the most cloistered prisoners on the planet. In several hours – but the time will be clocked against him – he will meet their eyes and be able to speak with them, hear them, observe the degradation of their physical and mental state, give them news of their families in Algeria, Libya, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Pakistan.

     He'll be able to listen to the recital of the daily sufferings inflicted at this island-tip prison the United States president has wanted to transform into a no-law zone. He'll try to reconstruct the itinerary of these men, who for the most part have no connection with al-Qaeda, who were captured far from their homes and sold to the American Army without realizing what was happening to them. And he will do his best to give them a little hope. Their lawyers – when they have any – have been the prisoners' only link to the outside world for close to five years.

     Soldiers surround the plane as soon as it stops on the runway, and the passengers' bags are exhaustively searched: Guantanamo is a military base. "The slightest joke will be regarded as a security threat," smiles Clive Stafford Smith, habituated to the extreme tension in this place and to the hostility with which the lawyers are greeted. An officer presents himself to him – his "escort" for the length of his stay – and drops him off at a motel situated on the east side of the base, far from the penal camp, located on the other side of the bay. The level of comfort there is rough ($20 a night), but that does not prevent the motel from proudly displaying the camp's motto, which is also posted at the entry to the prison and chanted by the soldiers: "Honor bound to defend freedom."

     Clive Stafford Smith sees a terrible irony in it. "What freedom are they talking about? The iguanas' freedom is better protected than humans' here! If you accidentally crush an iguana on the base, you are fined ten thousand dollars, while if you beat up a prisoner, your act will be described as 'non-detrimental benign contact' and there will be no consequences." "Two years ago," he relates, "the lawyers pleaded with the Supreme Court to align Guantanamo prisoners' rights with those of the animals. Our slogan? 'Equality with the iguanas!'"

     The lawyer, like the other rare motel residents, will go to bed early to take the first ferry to the prison at 7 a.m. They will spend twenty minutes crossing a turquoise sea before penetrating what Tom Wilner, another American lawyer, does not hesitate to describe as an "American Gulag." There are now 400 lawyers who take care of the Guantanamo prisoners. Four hundred jurists with different experience and profiles, voluntarily engaged in the defense of one or several detainees. Some, like Clive Stafford Smith (British, but also a United States citizen) are famous human-rights militants and have won renown notably in their defense of death penalty condemnees. Others, employed by several of the most powerful American law firms, manage their Guantanamo case loads in the context of their "pro bono" activities, a tradition of commitment to community service.

     Some are Republicans, some Democrats; some are former military, others conscientious objectors; but all, in the circle of what they call the "Guantanamo bar," are now in solidarity with one another, connected by a visceral attachment to the law and to public freedoms as well as by a common revulsion for the way the Bush administration has decided to rip the law and those freedoms apart since the day after September 11, 2001.

     The group was not constituted in a day. For, in the fall of 2001, the moment when Clive Stafford Smith, shocked by Bush's first military decree on indefinite detention, began to telephone his colleagues in the hope of a common initiative, reactions were reserved, even frigid. America was under the immediate influence of September 11; the idea of a secret prison for terrorist suspects didn't shock anyone. And the fear of being accused of being insufficiently patriotic paralyzed a number of lawyers.

     No matter. The indefatigable Joe Margulies, who had long striven for the detainees in the corridors of Texas's Death Row, immediately counted himself in for the endeavor, as did the Center for Constitutional Rights, based in New York. The Guantanamo prisoners deserved a defense. The legal marathon to obtain their rights began. There were setbacks, appeals, counterattacks – up until June 28, 2004, when the Supreme Court recognized the Guantanamo prisoners' right to contest their detention in American courts. Consequently, they needed lawyers.

     But the Bush administration continued to refuse to communicate the identities of the detainees for a long time (It did so in April 2006 only under pressure from a Federal judge sued by the Associated Press.). And it required the obstinacy of the initial trio, appeals for help from several families in the Gulf, and Clive Stafford Smith's trips to Yemen, Jordan, and Bahrain – where the prisoners' relatives came from all over to meet him – for a first list of prisoners to see the light of day and for the little group to be officially charged with the defense of sixty men. Then, of three hundred. The Center for Constitutional Rights then took on responsibility for parceling the clients out between the law firms, now numerous, to volunteer. All wanted to go to Guantanamo.

     But it would take many months yet as the Department of Justice multiplied its administrative roadblocks and delayed giving the lawyers, after raking through their pasts, the security services' green light. Once the safe-conduct was obtained, they still had to organize the dates of their stays with Washington, obtain the right to meet with the specific clients, make provision for bringing along a translator (difficult – and expensive! – to recruit American citizens who speak Arabic, Urdu, Dari, Pashtun, and Uighur, and who agree to undergo the scrutinizing police examination) and finally go to Miami, the point of departure for Guantanamo flights.

     "A descent into hell," is the description given by Tom Wilner, whose firm, Shearman & Sterling, has defended Kuwaitis since 2002.

     "It took me two and a half years to get access to my clients! And my twelve visits have taken me into a universe where the principles on which America is based are flouted. I could never have imagined that my country would practice torture, humiliate and annihilate other men. Guantanamo is an unbelievable sorrow!" David Remes, from the firm Covington & Barling, in charge of Yemenite detainees, feels the same disgust and disillusionment after twelve trips. "People beat them, crush them, debase them. As though they were subhuman. Kafka could not imagine anything worse." Wells Dixon, of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, says he is stunned by the war atmosphere: "Barbed wire, machine guns, hostility, suspicion. The camp is under infernal tension."

     So a lawyer's day at Guantanamo begins with the arrival of the ferry, where his escort is waiting. After a stop at Starbucks and passing by way of a golf course studded with cacti, the lawyer is dropped in front of Camp Echo, an establishment where the hermetically closed cells are divided into two parts: one side – equipped with a bed rack, a table and a toilet – where the prisoner lives; the other, where he is brought for interrogation and for lawyer visits.

     Initially authorized from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week, these visits are now restricted: from 9 to 11:30 a.m., then from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., five days out of seven. "We've gone from sixty-five possible hours of work a week to thirty-five!" deplores Clive Stafford Smith. "We don't go to Guantanamo for a vacation, but to be effective! Now, everything is done to complicate, slow down, and hobble the lawyers' work." Wells Dixon had to wait four days for authorization to show his client a simple photo. As he had to wait a week for the camp administration's response – negative – to his request for a doctor's visit.

     The detainee is not always in the best frame of mind to receive his counsel. He would not have been forewarned of the visit, but would have been brutally awakened in the middle of the night several days earlier to be transferred – handcuffed and hooded – to Camp Echo, where he is subjected to complete isolation. So it starts with punishment. And that continues, for after the lawyer's departure, the prisoner remains cloistered in his cell for 10 days, subjected to 30, even 40 interrogations afterwards. And then, Clive Stafford Smith explains, "a formidable undermining operation is effected. First, the Army interrogators have often tried to pass themselves off to the detainees as their lawyers, leading to legitimate suspicion when we arrive. Then, they assert that their lawyers are Jews. Or even … homosexuals! It would make me laugh if I didn't know the seriousness of that stigmatization in certain Islamic countries, and I rush to show my wedding ring as a refutation."

     Consequently, gaining the prisoners' trust may take some time. Some lawyers who have traveled to the East are assisted by letters given by the family. Tom Wilner even had recourse to DVDs in which his clients' parents encourage them to trust him. "Some of them cried when they viewed the pictures. One had become a father and saw his son for the first time. Another observed the absence of his father and we had to tell him that he was dead."

     Since they can't discuss the accusations preferred against their clients, the lawyers listen to recitals of their biographies, the circumstances of their capture, and the treatment to which the American Army has subjected them. All of them leave deeply distressed. "Frankly," Tom Wilner admits, "before I met them, I expected the worst. And what have I found? Good boys trapped by bounty hunters in Pakistan and treated like shit ever since! Beatings, insults to the Koran and their religion, sexual provocations from women interrogators …" "The greatest shock?" Wells Dixon, in charge of seven Chinese Uighurs, asks himself. "To discover that my clients are perfectly innocent! That the American administration knew that from the first days and that that did not, in the end, have the slightest importance. Three detainees committed suicide in the spring of 2006 at Guantanamo. What surprises me is that there haven't been more! These men are sick, traumatized, totally desperate!"

     All the lawyers I questioned share this concern. "The three suicides threw the administration into a panic, since it didn't want to be held responsible for them in any case," observes Clive Stafford Smith, one of whose clients was subjected to blackmail and pressure to denounce his defender as the big manipulator of the hunger strikes and instigator of the suicides. During a recent visit, the lawyer, introduced into an empty cell by an officer in black sun glasses, even found himself threatened with being shut up inside. "He thought he was in Hollywood," the lawyer laughs, "but the objective was nonetheless to intimidate me. My wife has instructions to call my own lawyer if I don't send any news for two days. Guantanamo is one of the places on the planet where I feel least secure."

     Every night, before they take the ferry, the lawyers must hand their notes, taken during their visits, over to the military. The pages are numbered, placed in sealed envelopes, and sent by mail at the end of their stay to Washington, where Justice Department lawyers will decide on their classification as defense secrets or their possible declassification: the whole [process] can take weeks.

     "In the beginning, all my notes on torture were censored, like our clients' mail, and like a letter I had written on the subject to Tony Blair," relates Clive Stafford Smith. "It has also happened that the administration 'loses' precious documents in the mail. It's enough to make you crazy!" Frightening hindrances to unpaid lawyers who know that the best way to help their clients is to spread information about what really happens at Guantanamo, but who, at the same time, risk heavy sentences in prison if they override the censorship.

     Given the blockage of their recourse to American courts, the lawyers exert themselves on the diplomatic level. They contact embassies and governments of their clients' countries of origin, or desperately seek a receiving country in cases where a return to native soil (Libya, China, Uzbekistan …) would mean persecution, even execution. Some are suing in other jurisdictions, like the European Human Rights Court. Many write articles and participate in conferences.

     "We've succeeded in getting 330 prisoners released from Guantanamo, essentially through political pressure," deems Clive Stafford Smith. "There remain 460, of whom 330 have not yet seen a lawyer. Which is unbearable. Without even mentioning the 14,000 men shut up in other American prisons in Iraq or in Afghanistan that no one ever hears about." Discouraging? "Come, on! What do we live for if not to fight this kind of battle?"

Who?s at Guantanamo, anyway?

Who is at Guantanamo? …Eighty-six percent were sold to us by people who were offered "wealth and power beyond your dreams? You can receive millions of dollars helping the anti-Taliban forces catch al-Qaida and Taliban murderers."

Woodrow Wilson School
Princeton University
Lecture

February 27, 2006

WHO”S AT GUANTANAMO, ANYWAY?

P. SABIN WILLETT
(partner in Bingham McCutchen LLP)


Who’s at Guantanamo, anyway?

That’s what I was wondering one hot day last July when I walked across a prison yard so
silent and sterile as to be a little eerie. Nothing grew in the yard: no grass or flower or tree or
even weed. A sailor had offered my escort the formal greeting: “Honor Bound.” The soldier
returning salute was supposed to respond, “To Defend Freedom,” but he mumbled. It’s hard
to get the word, “freedom? out there.

We were walking toward a hut. Inside was a man chained to the floor. His name was Adel.
My firm had filed a habeas case for him the previous March, but I?d never seen him or
spoken to him before. Was he a terrorist? One of the worst of the worst?

You might be excused for thinking so. Three weeks before I got to Guantanamo, the Vice
President said, “The people that are there are people we picked up on the battlefield,
primarily in Afghanistan. They?re terrorists. They?re bomb makers. They?re facilitators of
terror. They?re members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.” Even Karl Kastle on National Public
Radio describes Guantanamo as a “terrorist detention facility.”

But something was off, right from the first minute. Something about the young man’s gentle
smile, his calm didn’t fit. On that day last July I discovered what our President, and his
lawyers at the justice department, had kept secret from the public, and even from the court.
That the military had concluded that Adel was innocent. Not a terrorist. Not an enemy
soldier. Not a criminal. Never been on a battlefield. He’d been sold to U.S. forces from the
soil of Pakistan, a nation with whom we have never been at war.

That’s who’s at Guantanamo. And he’s not alone.

The Geneva Conventions

Let us begin with a few readings from scripture. Todax’s lessons are taken from the
international law of armed conflict. Here is the first. From the third Geneva Convention. A
soldier of the enemy is no criminal. When he tries to kill an American soldier on the
battlefield, he engages in an honorable profession. Any soldier, of any enemy. He may be a
Nazi of the Third Reich; a suicide bomber of the Empire of the Rising Sun; he may be a Viet
Cong fighter who wore no uniform; he may be a member of the Taliban. When you declare a
war you make of your opponent a soldier, which is to say, a person of honor. It is not for me
to question the wisdom of Congress’s decision to authorize the military to go after Al Qaeda
and those responsible for the 9/11 attacks. But they did. And under Geneva, the enemy
soldier must be treated as our own soldier would, housed, fed, attended by doctors, as a
soldier would; granted letters from home, as a soldier would; sent home when hostilities end,
as a soldier would be.

Here is a second inflexible premise of Geneva. Torture is unthinkable. The prisoner,
whether a lawful combatant under article 17 of the third, or unlawful under article 31 of the
fourth convention, cannot even be coercively interrogated. That means no beatings, no
waterboardings, no smearing of menstrual blood, no threats, no intimidation, no stress
positions, no round-the-clock assaults with light or Limp Bizkit or Rotweilers, no
withholding of benefits or even promises of privileges.

To round us out, a third rule. A nation engaging in international armed conflict must release
prisoners of war promptly upon the end of hostilities, or determination that a given prisoner
is not an enemy soldier. This rule follows from the first. You hold a prisoner of war in
protective custody to stop him shooting at you. When the shooting stops, you let him go.

For long years, these rules were honored in this Country. No more.

On December 22, 2005, a federal judge ruled in Adel’s case. It was the first ruling on the
merits of any Guantanamo habeas case. The judge said the imprisonment was illegal. But he
went on to say that it could do nothing about it. Adel is a refugee from communist china, a
dissident. He cannot be returned there because the Chinese would torture him, or worse. The
judge concluded he could not order his release within the continental US, because that would
be to infringe on the President’s control of immigration.

For the first time in the history of our judiciary, a federal judge concluded that he was
powerless to relieve an illegal imprisonment.

Our military has known that Adel is not an enemy soldier for years. It concluded a review
process, which was a formality, on March 26, 2005. Three days later, it filed a paper in the
court meant to suggest he was a terrorist. The paper fooled the court until we met him last
July. That month we asked for his immediate release. The President refused, arguing that he
has a “wind up power.” Releasing the innocent is “winding up? his warmaking power and so
he can do it in an “orderly? fashion. How long does this power last, the judge asked? “As
long as it takes,” said the president’s lawyer.

What authority was there for this? The authority of history, the government said. When
World War II ended, it took some time to repatriate the German and Italian and Japanese
prisoners of war. This was the same thing. Hearing of this later, one of my partners said,
“You should talk to Louie.”

Was he a lawyer?

Better: a barber, and like all barbers, an historian.

Louie is an old barber ? he remembers Boston of 1944, when, before VE day, the Italian
POWs had been turned loose on the streets. The resonant fact in Louie’s mind half a century
ago was that these Italians were permitted to flirt with young girls, a fact made more
intolerable by the failure of the young girls to mind.

Turned loose? We dug into the archives. When Italy surrendered in 1943, eighteen months
before VE day, Italian prisoners held at Fort Mackay in South Boston could not be repatriated
? the Italian peninsula remained in chaos ? but yet they had to be released under Genev
predecessors, the Geneva Convention of 1929 and Hague IV Convention of 1907. So they
were released from the camps, billeted in a soldier’s barracks, and given jobs and leave
among the community. There were no reports of torture, although there were some of
betrothal.
Our Justice Department cited only one written authority for unlimited detention power, an
article. We looked everywhere for it. We went to the Boston Public Library and the
Atheneum and because up in Boston we have no access to Princeton we had to settle for the
Widener Library at Harvard and none of them had this article. Finally we found it, deep in
the stacks of the New York Public Library. The article talked about this wind up power. It
cited one historical example. This example indeed dealt with the power of indefinite postwar
incarceration of prisoners. The example was Joseph Stalin.

If it makes anyone else here a little uneasy when our Department of Justice ? when your
Department of Justice relies on Stalin as authority for its conduct, you are in good company.
The former general counsel of the Navy agrees with you. A major assigned to prosecute a
war crimes case writes,

“When I volunteered to assist with this process and was assigned to this office, I expected
there would at least be a minimal effort to establish a fair process and diligently prepare cases
against significant accused. Instead, I find a half-hearted and disorganized effort by a
skeleton group of relatively inexperienced attorneys to prosecute fairly low-level accused in a
process that appears to be rigged."

Who is at Guantanamo?

A professor at Seton Hall this month published a study analyzing the data from the Militarx’s
own tribunals. He ignored completely and utterly anything and everything any prisoner or
prisoner’s lawyer contended. He relied exclusively on the militarx’s conclusions. Here’s
what he found.

Vice President Cheney says these men were picked up on the battlefield. What do the data
show? Five percent were picked up on the battlefield. Ninety five percent were not.

How did we get the rest? We distributed leaflets. Here is a smiling Afghan. He says:

“Get wealth and power beyond your dreams? You can receive millions of
dollars helping the anti-Taliban forces catch al-Qaida and Taliban murderers.
This is enough money to take care of your family, your village, your tribe for the
rest of your life. Pay for livestock and doctors and school books and housing for
all your people.”

Eighty-six percent were sold to us by people who got the flyers.

Vice President Cheney says they men are Al Qaeda fighters. What do the data show? Eight
percent are al Qaeda fighters. Ninety two percent are not.

Vice President Cheney says they committed hostile acts against Americans or their allies.
What do the data say? 55% of the detainees committed no hostile act against the US or its
allies or any one else. By the way, “hostile act? is construed extremely broadly. Fleeing from the bombing by US forces is a hostile act. Being sold to US forces is a hostile act. Possessing a Kalashnikov rifle is a hostile act. It has been estimated that there were upwards of 10 million Kalashnikovs in Afghanistan in 2001, and only 8 million adult males. An adult
Afghan male who hadn’t possessed a Kalashnikov was harder to find than an adult Texan
male who hadn’t possessed a hunting rifle. If you walked into a restaurant in Kabul, you
found Kalashnikovs hanging on the coat rack.

So how many, say, fired a shot at US forces? A vanishingly small percentage.

For 60% of the detainees, the only hook by which they are deemed enemy combatants is that
they were “associated with? the Taliban. But you have to understand that in 2001 in
Afghanistan, the Taliban was pervasive. Except in a few strongholds of the Northern
Alliance, they controlled every village, every town, every guesthouse. If you traveled to
Kabul and stayed in a guesthouse, you associated with the Taliban. If you were conscripted
against your will into a Taliban militia, you “associated with? the Taliban. For two Saudis
held at Guantanamo, their association with the Taliban is that the Taliban held them in prison
as enemies of its regime.

 I?m not making this up.

Who’s at Guantanamo? Privates, orphans, the poor, conscripts, cooks, drivers. The mayors,
the ministers, the Taliban generals ? they?re not there. Take Sayed Rahmutullah Hashemi.
He joined the Taliban as a young man. He became a party spokesman. Osama bin Laden
came to his office. Is Rahmutullah at Guantanamo? No. He is a Freshman at Yale.

Some of his former Taliban colleagues are now in the Afghan parliament we helped create.
The desperately poor kids they employed as drivers and cooks sit in Guantanamo.

The last lie, the whopper, the huge one, is that Guantanamo holds terrorists. The President,
the Vice President, their amen chorus in the Senate, they all tell you relentlessly, that these
people are terrorists. I don’t say that there is no terrorist there, although four years later not a
single person has been convicted of a single terrorist act ? but when you review the data,
when you search it for anything remotely like a terrorist act ? an act of violence against
persons or property, when you search the military records for bombing or bombmaking or the
teaching of bombmaking or the fundraising for it ? when you search hundreds and hundreds
of military records for this, you find that that is, most of all, who isn’t at Guantanamo.

Here let me make a confession to you, not as a lawyer, but as a citizen. If there is anyone in
Guantanamo who conspired in the 9/11 murders, then I would like to see him tried. If he is
guilty I hope he is convicted. If tried and convicted by a court martial duly constituted under
the Uniform Code of Military Justice, I would shed no tear for the ultimate sentence.

All that we lawyers have been asking for, for four years, is a hearing. A chance to show
whether someone really is an enemy combatant or not.

Odd things used to happen when Guantanamo cases used to come up for an actual hearing,
and there was a chance of finding out who’s at Guantanamo. Shafiq Rasul is an example.
After the government had worked to dismiss the habeas case, and succeeded, and succeeded
again, and through two years held Rasul in prison, what happened after his case came under
Supreme Court scrutiny?

They released him.

What happened to Moazzem Begg? Another worst of the worst? What happened to
Moazzem Begg after the fortuity that he happened to get a lawyer and she started doing the
fearless things lawyers do, and the story of what our government had done to Moazzem Begg
became public?

They released him.

Mamdouh Habib?

When the story of his torture in Egypt surfaced, they released him.

They told us these people were the worst of the worst, and yet rather than prove it, rather than
protect you and me from them, they released them before a judge could see any facts.

The Nazi war criminals were tried in the sunlight. When Robert Jackson summed for the
prosecution, he said this:

“Of one thing we may be sure. The future will never have to ask, with misgiving:
“What could the Nazis have said in their favor”? History will know that whatever
could be said, they were allowed to say. The extraordinary fairness of these
hearings is an attribute of our strength.”

The world has never doubted the judgment at Nuremberg. But in no Gitmo habeas case has
the President been willing to let a federal judge hear a single fact about the worst of the
worst.

The War on Terror

I invite you to examine for a moment this global war on terror. The proposition is that so
long as an undeclared global war is pending against a common noun, the President has the
following powers.

First, he can seize anyone, anywhere in the world, and transport him or her to Guantanamo
Bay, where he may hold him without criminal charge or process. He may do so even after he
has determined that the person was taken by mistake, as in Adel’s case. As long as the war
on terror lasts.

Second, he can bug your phone, or your computer, or your bedroom, without a warrant, as
long as the war on terror lasts.

Third, although on December 30, 2005 he signed an act of Congress that forbids anyone in
our government from participating in torture, anywhere on earth, he can ignore this law as
long as the war on terror lasts.

So I want you to ask a question. How long will the war on terror last?

One way to get a sense of how long it will last, is to consider how long terror has lasted
already.

We can all agree that terrorism has flourished in the Middle East since the Balfour
Declaration in 1917. Palestinians engaged in terrorist acts against Jews and, latterly, Israelis.
Israelis, and before 1948, Zionists, engaged in terrorist acts against Palestinians. Palestinians
murdered 59 Jews in Hebron in August, 1929, to pick one obscenity from a thousand. The
Israeli Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 Palestinians at prayer in February 1994, to pick another
from a thousand more.

How far do you want to go back with terrorism? To Tsarist Russia, when the “anarchists? ?
we’d call them terrorists today ? attacked civilians and in 1881, murdered Tsar Alexander II?

To 1867, when the Fenians, precursors of the Irish Republican Army, began bombings in
England?

To the Paris of the 1790s, when the Committee of Public Safety wreaked havoc on civilians ?
a time known as the “Terror”?

To 1717, when the pirate Blackbeard terrorized Charleston, South Carolina?

Shall we go back to the 17th Century, when the murder of civilians, the destruction of homes
and crops and livestock was the commonest form of conflict on this continent between the
indigenous people and the invading Europeans, and an English general won naming rights for
a small college in my home state ? perhaps you?ve heard of Amherst ? a general whose chief
exploit was the deployment of bioterrorism through distribution of smallpox-infested
blankets to the natives.

Shall we go back to the late 15th Century, and ask the Arawaks ? if we could find one ?
whether terrorism was practiced by Columbus?

Or shall we simply go all the way back to the Zealots, in the 1st Century A.D., murdering
Romans and Jewish citizens viewed as collaborators?

How long has terror lasted? Since history was recorded.

Where is terror today? In Chechnya and Tibet, in India and Indonesia and the Philippines,
the Basque areas of Spain, Somalia, Rwanda, El Salvador, in regions of Turkey, all over Iraq,
Israel, the Palestinian territories, In the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
In Oklahoma City. In a farmer’s field in Pennsylvania and on Manhattan Island.

You never quite know who might be a terrorist. Egyptian President Anwar Al-Sadat in the
1940s founded a “murder society? to attack British civilians in the canal zone. Ariel Sharon,
stood at the gates of Sabra and Shatilla. Menachem Begin, another Prime Minister of Israel,
in 1946 he blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem and laid waste to the village of Deir
Yassin.

We need to acknowledge, if we are thoughtful people, that terror is everywhere, and has been
with us always, and involves all kind of people who later get called “men of peace.”

My point is not that we should not struggle against terrorism. It is to ask, does any person in
this room, does any single thoughtful person on this campus think she will live to see the end
of terrorism? And thus the end of the global war against it? Do you think you?ll watch on
TV as the Emperor of Terror comes aboard a Navy warship to sign the instrument of surrender? A phenomenon that has run down from the 1st Century to the 21st, you think
George Bush is the measure of? Your grandchildren will never see that ticker-tape parade.
So can we at least be honest with ourselves. When we say the President has special powers
during the global war on terror, we are saying he has them forever. Always and forever can
the President lock people up at Guantanamo without meaningful judicial review. Always and
forever he can ignore the Congress’s ban of torture, as he vowed to do last December 30.
Always and forever he can ignore the FISA court, and tap your phone, download your I-Mac,
and go snuffling through your trash. Especially here. There are all kinds of strange people
wandering around old Nassau with funny hats on their heads, talking strange languages.
Muslims, I hear. Who knows what they?re up to? And the non-Muslims talk to the Muslims
sometimes. Better bug their phones too. Or maybe we should just detain them. Take them
to Guantanamo, where the writ of habeas corpus has been abolished.

The Writ of Habeas Corpus

Now what is habeas corpus? A quaint Latin subjunctive, I used to think, the last refuge of a
serial murderer who has exhausted all the courts of Texas or Florida.

But the writ of habeas corpus is much more than that. For seven centuries it protected the
least of us from the greatest, the humble subject or citizen from her king or president. Its
roots run back to Runnymede itself. This ancient common-law right is so important that it is
the only one singled out by the Constitution of the United States for recognition.

Habeas is this simple proposition: that whenever it imprisons a human being, the executive
can be required to justify that imprisonment in law. Power, desire, fiat ? these are not
justifications. There must be law. And if there is no law, a judge must order the prisoner
freed.

You?d think that point was settled. And yet we find the President’s lawyers advocating the
proposition that he may seize people on the streets of Sarajevo or Doha or Bangkok, shackle
them, hood them, send them to a desert island, and there hold them in prison, forever, without
saying why. That he may conduct tribunals in which the defendant never sees a lawyer ? or
even the critical evidence. We find all of this done in the name of security, under the premise
that our generation faces a threat that our grandfathers did not: as if Americans were not
killed at Pearl Harbor and Normandy; as if Americans did not fear the U-boats off Long
Island or the Japanese Kamikazis; as if Washington felt no threat in 1862 by the encampment
of an enemy army at Sharpsburg, Maryland, fifty-six miles away. And we find, on December
30, a pliant and docile Congress, a parliament of mice, doing his bidding and trying to
abolish a legal right that has been a hallmark of freedom for seven centuries.

The Uighurs

Which brings me back to Adel, who is a strange footnote to this whole sordid business. He is
at Guantanamo this afternoon, and will be there tonight, and when you wake up in the
morning, and the next day, and the next.

Adel’s case demonstrates it’s all a show. It doesn’t matter whether they are enemy
combatants or not, whether the military tribunals clear them or they don’t. They sit in prison
at the President’s pleasure anyway.  But the Uighurs are a distant people. They come from a part of central Asia none of us has
ever seen. And in the dark corners of our hearts, maybe a few of us are willing to forget that
these Uighurs bleed if you cut them, that they have children, and parents and wives, that they
long for a good joke and nice lamb kebab, and a six-year old to wiggle in the lap, and a
garden to dig in, and the noise and clatter of a family meal, and the touch of a hand that
wears no rubber glove. If a few Uighurs get caught up in the war on terror, well, stuff
happens. Small price to pay, eh?

Captain Yee

So let’s talk about the price in more approachable terms. Since we are in the Garden State,
let’s talk about a real son of New Jersey. His name is James Yee. He used to be a captain in
the United States Army. Yee is an all-American story. Lutheran church. High school
wrestling team. Joined the long gray line at West Point.

In his twenties he converted to Islam. He was assigned to be the chaplain at Guantanamo
Bay in 2002. In September 2003, in Jacksonville Florida, on his way to join his wife and
daughter on his first leave from the base, He was arrested. They took his papers and his
laptop. They cuffed him and hooded him as they do to the Guantanamo prisoners, and they
took him to the brig at the Charleston Navy Yard, where he was put in solitary. He was
charged with treason, with aiding the enemy, and with taking classified information from the
base.

Imagine being Captain Yee for a moment. You have sworn an oath to defend the
constitution. You have promised to do so with your life. You have devoted your whole
education, your entire career, to the Army. You have been promoted to captain. And in the
space of 24 hours you are put in solitary confinement, accused of betraying your nation, and
held to face the death penalty.

Base Commander Major Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller led the charge against Captain Yee. This is
the same General Miller who exported Guantanamo torture tactics to Abu Ghraib. Who
recently beat a retreat to the Fifth Amendment during the courts martial of soldiers under his
command. General Miller was up to his medals in Captain Yee’s case. He all but wrote the
press release. And how the press responded ? they bayed for Captain Yee like hounds. It
was all over Fox and CNN and USA Today. Traitor ! Terrorist! Muslim! Classified
documents! They staked out his home in Seattle. They interviewed his neighbors. Yee’s
wife was frightened half to death. General Miller’s people told her he was a terrorist, he was
disloyal, he was having affairs with other women.

After a month of this hysteria, Captain Yee’s lawyer made a request. The classified
documents that my client took from the base, may I see them? No, said the military. The
lawyer is a former Lt. Commander in the Coast Guard, but the military said, you don’t have
clearance. All right, said the lawyer, show me the nonsecret documents. We haven’t
determined which is which yet, said the military. This was more than a month after Capt.
Yee had been thrown in solitary. Chew on that one for a bit.

The lawyer pressed for a hearing, the prosecutors for delay. Captain Yee’s solitary
imprisonment continued.

But here is the difference between Captain Yee and my client, Adel. Captain Yee is a citizen.
The government has not yet succeeded in stripping all rights from citizens. They?ve tried ?  ask Messrs. Hamdi and Padilla ? but they haven’t yet succeeded. There is, at least in theory,
still a constitution that protects citizens, global war on terror notwithstanding. So finally the
military judge insisted that the government proceed to trial. At this point, what did General
Miller do? First, he came skulking around for a deal. Plead guilty and we’ll reduce the
sentence. But General Miller was dealing with something unfamiliar to him: a man of honor.
Captain Yee said, you can throw me in solitary for seventy days or seventy thousand, and I
will not plead guilty. You charged me with treason, General. You threatened me and my
wife and wrecked my career. Bring it.

He didn’t bring it. General Miller dropped it. The treason, the classified information, the
aiding the enemy. All dropped. He didn’t proceed to trial on those charges, or lesser
charges, because there was no evidence, none, of the slightest wrongdoing. There was never
any evidence. Not a shred. Not one iota. Not a single witness. Not a single piece of paper.
Nothing. Ever. From beginning to end it was a public relations exercise, a conscious and
deliberate falsehood, a lie conceived and prosecuted by the architect of Abu Ghraib, Major
General Geoffrey D. Miller. Please remember that name. It deserves to be remembered.

When the charges were dropped, it wasn’t much of a story on Fox, or CNN, or in USA
Today.

Did General Miller apologize to this Army Captain, this officer under his command whom he
had betrayed? Whom he’d thrown in to the brig for 76 days? No, he slunk ahead with one
last charge: adultery. Adultery is indeed an offence under the Uniform Code of Military
Justice. In the military it generally is ignored. Sometimes there are quiet administrative
reprimands. There’s your war on terrorism: a trumped up charge against a Muslim, with a lot
of noisy press, followed by a shameful retreat, and one last parting shot, a mean-spirited
adultery charge. That is your government, hard at work on the war on terror, here in New
Jersey.

The adultery was reversed, by the way, by a more senior general.

Why Care?

Now you might ask, why care about this? I don’t mean legally, I mean ethically. Why
volunteer your time to represent these men? It’s the war on terror, isn’t it? So what if
somebody is roughed up a little in Kandahar or Bagram ? there are horrors in Darfur and
New Orleans. So what if a few Uighurs pay the price ? we have reservists from Vermont
losing mortgages. Injustices abound in the world. Why care about this particular one? The
question ought to be asked.

I can tell you why the JAG officers care. Because of American troops in the field. You want
19-year-old Americans treated like human beings? Or do you want to see Iraqi thugs
dressing up prisoners in Gitmo orange and cutting off their heads on the Internet? Does
anyone think there isn’t a connection? Not JAG.

With me there is another point, and I make no bones about it. I want my flag back. My
country has been hijacked and I want it back. If we care about being a civilized people, then
it is precisely in times of fear that we have to hold fastest to our rule of law. We already have
the tools to deal with fanatics who blow up buildings and murder the innocent. We knew
how to deal with Timothy McVeigh and not surrender our souls. During the Viet Nam war, a protestor stood outside the White house, with a candle. Every
night, for weeks. He stood in the cold, in the rain. One day a reporter came up to him, and
asked, “Do you really think, with your candle, you’re going to change White House Policy”?
“No,” he said, “I?m sure I won’t change White House policy. But that’s not why I’m doing
this.”

“Then why are you doing this”? the reporter asked.

“So that White House policy doesn’t change me.”

Can I bring you any good news? Only a little. Adel’s story made its way to the press, and
thence to Sweden, where a Uighur woman was living as a refugee. On July 28, 2005, I
listened on a telephone as she wept. She is Adel’s sister, and for long years thought he was
dead. You see, no one knows who is in Guantanamo. A few weeks later, with the help of
some judicial pressure, we organized a very unusual event at Gitmo. A phone call between
these two people, Adel and his sister. I saw Adel again late in August, after that call. The
sleepy-eyed man had come to life. Before, he told me, “it was as though I had evaporated
from the earth.” A phone call ? so small a thing.

Closing

May I say, by the way that you have invited to speak to you this afternoon the least
competent lawyer in America. This is a rather dismaying to me, and not without its
disagreeable implications for the Wilson School, but it is an objective fact. Incompetence
may be all around you, but only I have failed to obtain release of men whose imprisonment a
federal judge says is unlawful. And so I count myself lucky to have received your invitation,
and fear you may think me ungracious if I close with you truthfully.

Because the truth is, I hold you responsible for Guantanamo. Personally. Until you close it
down, you’re the ones keeping it open. It is no good wringing one’s hands about the Bush
administration. Democracy is the civic expression of the law of principal and agent. You
and I are responsible for what he does. If at Bagram Air Base they murder a taxi driver
called Dilawar by hanging him from his arms, if at Abu Ghraib they leer at naked men
stacked like cordwood and take their photographs, if at Guantanamo they leave a man in
solitary confinement until he talks to himself and tears the hair from his scalp, if a woman
smears on a devout muslim what she says is her menstrual blood, if they ship a man to Egypt
and there make shift to drown him until he signs a confession, if they use the strappado on a
man in Morocco, if they imprison men in secret even after their own tribunal has acquitted
them, and hide that fact from court and countrymen, and if you and I have not done all that
we can to renounce this, and to stop it happening ? if we have not written and telephoned and
emailed our congressman and our senators and our president and our local newspapers, and if
we have not given a hundred dollars or fifty or even ten to Amnesty International and the
Center for Constitutional Rights, then you and I are responsible for it. We might as well have
done it ourselves.

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold,” Yeats wrote. “Mere anarchy is loosed upon the
world ? The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.”

The best lack all conviction. We make wars for lies and the best do not demand the truth.
We watch our young men killed, maimed, paralyzed every day and the best do not demand an
end. A habeas corpus judge rules that innocent men are held at guantanamo and eight days later the Congress abolishes habeas corpus. The best lack all conviction. We drop bombs on
villages in Pakistan oblivious even to our own interest. Do we think the dozens of women
and children slain that day had no fathers, brothers, sons? Do we not think that for every
enemy it struck down, America in that bombing gave birth to a dozen, two dozen, to fifty
people sworn to hate us forever, sworn to believe forever the worst that is said of us?

The best lack all conviction. That is the problem.

A nation that hides behind the high water mark and permits its stewards to act like animals so
long as they do it just over the horizon is not a strong nation, but a puny and a feeble one.
And it is a damned foolish nation if it does not think it will soon reap at home what it sows
abroad.

The rule of law is not coming back on its own. It will come back only when the best get
conviction again. When you go out and grab hold of it by the ears and drag it back. In the
ballot box and the courtroom and the newspaper and the classroom and the public street. You
in this room are young and bright and strong and you can, if you choose, drag it back. But
only if you have conviction.

I have a favor to ask. Can you remember where you were in January, 2002? Think back.
Now reflect for a moment on what has happened in your life since then. Where you?ve been.
What you?ve done. Whom you?ve loved. Who has loved you. With me? Have that in mind?
Okay, here’s my request. On behalf of Adel, who is a real man, with real people to love, and
real people who love him, grant me thirty seconds. Imagine that none of those things in your
life happened, none of those events, because every single one of those days since January
2002, you had been cut off in a prison, just outside the map of the world. Even though the
military determined there was no basis to hold you. And imagine the Congress of the United
States voted to deny you the chance to ask a judge to make it right. Spend thirty seconds
thinking about that.

Thirty seconds is longer than you think. Thank you. I am grateful for that half a minute.
And for your kind invitation to come here today.

So who’s at Guantanamo? The truth is, the answer to the question, is ? You. And me. Until
we shut it down, it imprisons all of us.

One more thing. I was last at Guantanamo in January. As my escort led me into the prison
facility, to Camp Five, where I was to meet a client, we saw big construction cranes against
the sky. You see, they?re building Camp Six.

Thank you very much.

* **

Innocent people sold for $5000 to Guantanamo

Zakirjan Hassam, an Uzbek refugee who was sold to U.S. forces in Afghanistan for $5,000 in May 2002 by people he mistakenly believed would shelter him (…) ended up in Guantanamo Bay the following month and is still there today.
4 Men Cleared of Terrorism Links but Still Detained
No Explanation Or Timetable for Release Given

By Josh White and Julie Tate
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, May 20, 2006; Page A18

The May 5 release of Chinese Muslims from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, leaves four men there who have been cleared of all connections to terrorism but continue to live in a legal limbo, with no indication of when they will be freed, according to the captives’ attorneys and military documents.

The government considers the men ready for outright release — "no longer enemy combatants" (NLECs) in military jargon. In fact, 38 detainees, 5 percent of the 759 prisoners ever held at Guantanamo Bay, have officially earned NLEC status since the island prison opened in early 2002.

They are men such as Zakirjan Hassam, an Uzbek refugee who was sold to U.S. forces in Afghanistan for $5,000 in May 2002 by people he mistakenly believed would shelter him. He ended up in Guantanamo Bay the following month and is still there today.

According to the U.S. military, Hassam is not an enemy, and a military tribunal decided in 2004 that his stay at Guantanamo Bay had been based on inaccurate information. There is no evidence that Hassam took up arms against anyone or that he ever supported terrorism, and his only apparent link to alleged terrorist groups were conversations with fellow detainees during his imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay, according to testimony by Hassam that is not disputed by the government.

"He’s lost four years of his life for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and for being sold to U.S. forces," said Christopher Moore, a New York lawyer who represents Hassam.

Earlier this month, the government released five Chinese Uighurs who were among the last nine NLECs at Guantanamo Bay. After years of detention and, ultimately, government efforts to find them a home in a third country, the men were sent to Albania. The U.S. had feared that they would be jailed or tortured if returned to China.

Beijing, which considers Uighur separatists to be terrorists, demanded that they be returned.

The accounts of NLECs, contained in hearing transcripts, show that many were rounded up by profiteers along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and sold to U.S. or Northern Alliance forces. Some were Arabs who stood out in local populations, while others were arrested by overzealous Pakistani police forces seeking to cooperate with the U.S. effort to root out terrorists. The Uighurs were in transit to other countries or training for action against the Chinese government.

"In Afghanistan they heard that American forces are providing $25,000 to capture each Arab and $15,000 to capture each Afghan," Haji Shahzada, an Afghan NLEC who was released last year, told his military tribunal.

The NLECs are from 14 countries. One was captured in Mexico. Half are from Afghanistan, with the others from Pakistan, France, the Maldives, Jordan, Sudan, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkey and China.

"Nobody ever asked who I am, what did I do, or where did I live," said Padsha Wazir, an Afghan detainee who was released. "They just handcuff me. . . . It has been three years, and it shouldn’t take that long for Americans to find the truth."

In fact, Pentagon officials say that 121 of the approximately 460 detainees currently at Guantanamo Bay are now eligible for release or transfer to the custody of their home countries. The government still considers 104 of them threats to the United States and its allies. They are scheduled to be returned to the control of other nations, where they probably would be imprisoned. Many are waiting to go to Afghanistan, where the United States is helping to build a prison for some of them.

U.S. military officials have decided that they can free 13 other detainees, though they have not been given NLEC status. The remaining four are NLECs. But there are no immediate plans to release them.

Just this week, 15 other detainees were released into the custody of the Saudi government.

"At Guantanamo, the United States only holds enemy combatants that were members of or supporting Taliban, al-Qaeda and associated forces," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. J.D. Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, who added that detainees’ status is regularly reviewed. "We have no interest in detaining anyone longer than necessary."

The 38 NLECs earned their status through the military’s Combatant Status Review Tribunal process between August 2004 and March 2005. Those hearings allowed detainees to learn the unclassified allegations against them and to tell their personal stories to a panel of military officials.

While their identities have not been released, The Washington Post obtained the NLECs’ testimony, with names redacted, through a Freedom of Information Act request and compared it to the testimony of named detainees released by the Pentagon to the Associated Press in March.

Mustaq Ali Patel, a French detainee who was released in March 2005, told his hearing panel that he was simply trying to visit Afghanistan when he was arrested at the Iranian border. He said he was beaten by Afghan government officials who threatened to kill him if he did not say he was a Saudi citizen.

"I just want to say that I want to go home, and please set me free," Patel told his captors. "I have nothing to do with this; there’s nothing more they could’ve written badly about me, except that I lied."

Gordon, the Pentagon spokesman, said that "everyone who is or has been detained at Guantanamo was sent there for a valid reason." He noted that of the 10,000 people captured in and around Afghanistan since 2002, fewer than 10 percent have ended up at Guantanamo Bay.

But many cases take years to resolve.

Fethi Boucetta, for example, is an Algerian national who was arrested in Pakistan when local authorities came looking for another man. According to his tribunal records, Boucetta sought asylum in Pakistan in 1996 after leaving Algeria to avoid military service. A doctor who was teaching at an embassy in Pakistan, Boucetta had not entered Afghanistan after 1992 and told a military representative that he did not organize or belong to any extremist groups, as U.S. officials alleged.

"They went to his house and asked to speak with somebody else, and Fethi said he didn’t know that person and that he wasn’t there," said Danielle R. Voorhees, a U.S. lawyer representing Boucetta, who is still held at Guantanamo Bay. "Pakistani police came back with Americans in plain clothes, and they said they wanted to question him. That’s when he was arrested."

According to his attorneys, Boucetta was told in May 2005 that he was no longer considered an enemy combatant and could go home, but he has learned nothing since of efforts to have him released. His first contact with his wife in Algeria in four years was a telephone conversation in late April.

"It’s easy for us to say ‘Just release him,’ but it’s a difficult situation," said Don Degnan, another lawyer who represents Boucetta. "There’s not a lot of First World countries that want a Guantanamo detainee released into their country."

Lawyers from the Justice Department have told federal judges that there are continuous discussions with other nations about transferring detainees but that the government has a strict policy of not releasing them to countries likely to mistreat them. The same lawyers have said that they do not want any of the men, even those not considered threats, released in the United States.

In one unusual NLEC case, lawyers have asked federal courts to order the government not to release their client so that he will not be sent to his native Egypt, where they fear he would be arrested, jailed and possibly tortured.

Late last year, Justice Department lawyers said that Ala Abdel Maqsud Muhammad Salim, an NLEC still held at Guantanamo Bay, would be released to Egypt. But, in January, they filed a motion stating that new information warranting further investigation had resulted in there no longer being "immediate plans to transfer, repatriate, or release" him.

Salim — also referred to in documents as Alladeen — was born in Egypt in 1967 and spent his first 22 years there, a period that included several arrests that never resulted in charges, according to briefs filed by his Washington-based attorney, Carol Elder Bruce. He left Egypt for Saudi Arabia in 1989 and later went to Pakistan, where he worked for the Islamic Relief Organization distributing aid to Afghanistan. He was arrested by Pakistani authorities in 2002 and transferred to U.S. custody; he was later sent to Guantanamo Bay.

At Guantanamo Bay, Bruce asserts in legal papers, Salim was interrogated by Egyptian officials who chained him to the floor and threatened to harm him when he is released. "We will take you somewhere and they will never see you again," Bruce wrote, quoting Salim’s interaction with the Egyptian delegation.

In a November hearing, U.S. District Judge James Robertson expressed concern that the United States would "release" Salim to Egypt, where he could face pressure from the government because he had been detained at Guantanamo Bay.

CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons

CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons

Debate Is Growing Within Agency About Legality and Morality of Overseas System Set Up After 9/11

By Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 2, 2005; Page A01

The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement.

The secret facility is part of a covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, according to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents.

In Afghanistan, the largest CIA covert prison was code-named the Salt Pit, at center left above. (Space Imaging Middle East)

 Detainees Database

The Pentagon has declined to identify the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, most of whom were captured in Afghanistan during and after the 2001 war there. The Post has compiled a list of names made public thus far, encompassing 434 men whose identities have appeared in media reports, on Arabic Web sites…
         Names of Guantanamo Bay Detainees  

WHAT DO YOU THINK?
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THURSDAY AT 12:30 P.M. ET
National Security and Intelligence
Washington Post staff writer Dana Priest discusses the latest developments in national security and intelligence.

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Priest on Secret Prisons
The Washington Post’s Dana Priest talks about the CIA’s secret compounds that have been used to hide and interrogate some of its al Qaeda captives.

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Secret world of US jails

Secret world of US jails

Jason Burke charts the worldwide hidden network of prisons where more than 3,000 al-Qaeda suspects have been held without trial – and many subjected to torture – since 9/11

Sunday June 13, 2004
The Observer

 
 The United States government, in conjunction with key allies, is running an ‘invisible’ network of prisons and detention centres into which thousands of suspects have disappeared without trace since the ‘war on terror’ began.

 In the past three years, thousands of alleged militants have been transferred around the world by American, Arab and Far Eastern security services, often in secret operations that by-pass extradition laws. The astonishing traffic has seen many, including British citizens, sent from the West to countries where they can be tortured to extract information. Anything learnt is passed on to the US and, in some cases, reaches British intelligence.

 The disclosure of the shadowy system will increase pressure on the Bush administration over its ‘cavalier’ approach to human rights and will embarrass Tony Blair, a staunch ally of President George Bush.

 The practice of ‘renditions’ – when suspects are handed directly into the custody of another state without due process – has sparked particular anger. At least 70 such transfers have occurred, according to CIA sources. Many involve men who have been freed by the courts and are thus legally innocent. Renditions are often used when American interrogators believe that harsh treatment – banned in their own country – would produce results.

 The Observer has obtained details of two incidents in which men have been detained by the US despite being found innocent by courts in their own country. In one, a British businessman called Wahab al-Rami, an Iraqi living in the UK and a Palestinian seeking asylum were arrested by US and local officers in Gambia in November 2002 as they stepped off a flight from London.

 Their seizure, which followed a tip-off from the UK security services – came just days after they had been arrested by British police on suspicion of terrorism and then freed by a British court.

 Two were transported from Gambia to Guantanamo Bay – where they remain today – without any legal process. In the other incident, two Turks, a Saudi, a Kenyan and a Sudanese man were arrested in Malawi in June 2003 on suspicion of funding terrorist networks. Though freed by local courts, the men were handed over to the CIA and held for several months. Campaigners say these incidents are ‘the tip of an iceberg’.

 Few escape the ghost network of detention facilities, which range from massive prison camps such as that at Guantanamo Bay to naval vessels in the Indian Ocean, so accounts of life inside the new gulag are rare.

 One of the most harrowing stories concerns a Syrian-born Canadian, Maher Arar, who was arrested by US authorities in late 2002 during a stopover in New York, on suspicion of terrorist activities.

 After several days of questioning, the 34-year-old IT specialist was flown to Jordan, where the CIA passed him on to local security officials. He was repeatedly assaulted in Jordan before being driven to Syria, where he was kept in solitary confinement in a 6ft by 3ft cell for several months and repeatedly beaten with cables. All charges were dropped on his release. Arar said last week that he was ‘trying to rebuild [his] life’. ‘I never did anything to make me a suspect. I could not believe they would send me back to Syria, but they did,’ he said. ‘They sent me back to be tortured.’

 The ghost prison network stretches around the globe. The biggest American-run facilities are at the Bagram airbase, north of Kabul in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, where around 400 men are held, and in Iraq, where tens of thousands of detainees are held. Saddam Hussein and dozens of top Baath party officials are held in a prison at Baghdad airport.

 However, Washington is relying heavily on allies. In Morocco, scores of detainees once held by the Americans are believed to be held at the al-Tamara interrogation centre sited in a forest five miles outside the capital, Rabat. Many of the detainees were originally captured by the Pakistani authorities, who passed them on to the Americans.

 One is Abdallah Tabarak, a militant who is alleged to have been Osama bin Laden’s bodyguard and was seized in late 2001 by the Pakistanis. Tabarak was handed over to US agents, sent to Bagram and then to Guantanamo, before being flown to Morocco. Last November, Amnesty International criticised the ‘sharp rise’ in torture during 2003 in Moroccan prisons.

 In Syria, detainees sent by Washington are held at ‘the Palestine wing’ of the main intelligence headquarters and a series of jails in Damascus and other cities. Egypt has also received a steady flow of militants from American installations. Many other militants have been sent to Egypt by other countries through transfers assisted by the Americans, often using planes run by the CIA.

 In Cairo, prisoners are kept in the interrogation centre in the general intelligence directorate in Lazoughli and in Mulhaq al-Mazra prison, according to Montasser al-Zayat, an Islamist lawyer in Cairo and former spokesman for outlawed militant groups.

 Terrorists have also been sent to facilities in Baku, Azerbaijan, and to unidentified locations in Thailand. Scores more are thought to be at a US airbase in the Gulf state of Qatar, and a large number are believed to have been sent to Saudi Arabia, where CIA agents are allowed to sit in on some of the interrogations. Elsewhere, security officials merely provide the Americans with summaries.

 The fate of high-value prisoners – such as those directly connected to the 11 September attacks or other al-Qaeda strikes, or senior aides of bin Laden – is unknown. Abu Zubaydah, the Palestinian-born al-Qaeda logistics expert, was arrested after a shoot-out in the Pakistani city of Faisalabad in March 2002 by a joint team of American and Pakistani special forces.

 After a brief interrogation, Abu Zubayda was handed over to the Americans, who took him to Bagram and then, it is believed, flew him on to Jordan, where he has been held, along with several other high-value prisoners, in prisons in the capital, Amman, and in desert locations in the east of the country. Jordanian investigators are seen as ‘professional’ by Western intelligence services, although the nation has been repeatedly criticised for its human rights record.

 Khaled Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who both helped plan the 11 September attacks, were also transferred to American custody soon after their capture by Pakistani security forces in September 2002 and March 2003 respectively. They are believed to have been interrogated in Thailand.

 The whereabouts of Riduan Isamuddin, the Indonesian activist dubbed ‘the bin Laden of the Far East’, who was passed to the Americans following arrest by Thai security forces in August last year, are unknown. Jabarah Mohamed Mansur, allegedly involved in an attempt to bomb the US and Israeli embassies in Singapore, is reported to have been interrogated in Oman.

 What is clear is that the Americans are prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to capture suspects and to ensure that they are taken to an environment where information can be extracted as speedily as possible.

 In March 2003, FBI agents kidnapped a Yemeni al-Qaeda suspect from a hospital in Mogadishu, where he was being treated for gunshot wounds. Two months earlier, a sophisticated operation involving a fake charity lured a 54-year-old Yemeni to Germany, where he was detained and later extradited to the US. To seize Mohammed Iqbal Madni, a suspected al-Qaeda operative, in Indonesia, US investigators worked three states’ legal systems to provide an excuse to pick up the 24-year-old Pakistani. They then flew him to Cairo on a private US-run jet.

 The exact number of prisoners held by the Americans or their allies is unknown, but US officials claim that more than 3,000 al-Qaeda militants have been arrested since 11 September. Only around 350 are held in Guantanamo Bay. Very few have been released.

 The incarceration of prisoners captured by the Americans in jails in the Middle East has enraged militants. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born terrorist leader who is active in Iraq, said in April that prisons in his native land had become ‘the Arab Guantanamo’.

 ‘Whoever the Americans find hard to investigate in Pakistan and Afghanistan, they move to Jordan, where they are tortured in every way,’ he said.

 American officials are unrepentant. ‘You have to break eggs to make omelettes,’ said one last week. ‘The world is a bad place.’

 And Cofer Black, then head of the CIA counter-terrorist centre, said last year that ‘there was a before 9/11 and an after 9/11. After 9/11, the gloves came off.’

 But former intelligence officers criticised the new tactics last week. Milton Bearden, who ended a 30-year career with the CIA in 1994, said that coercion did not work.

 ‘You just get all kinds of confessions that turn out to be completely untrue,’ he said. ‘And rendition to someone who will torture a suspect is as bad as doing it yourself.’

 Wahab al-Rawi, whose brother is still being held in Guantanamo Bay, said that he was angry at both the British government and the US government.

 ‘I just want to know how my own government can just give me up to the Americans. Who do these people answer to?

 ‘I just ask God to punish them, because there is no power on earth that they seem to be afraid of.’

 

Guant

Guant

Truth – Justice – Peace