Monday, March 31, 2008


(click on title to go to original)

Roger Fitch Esq • March 23, 2008

Our Man in Washington

As President Bush vetoes an anti-torture Bill the CIA pays liability insurance for its employees who face the prospect of lawsuits over their “harsh interrogation techniques” ... Further discredit for military commissions as the government is found to have doctored Guantánamo trial documents

imageGeorge Bush’s torture problem continues to bubble along, helped by a new ruling against torture by the European Court of Human Rights and fresh human rights reports condemning “extraordinary rendition” and torture.

One report, by Amnesty, deals with the personal nightmare of Khaled al-Maqtari, who was rendered to CIA “black sites” and lived to tell about it.

Human Rights First also has a report, Tortured Justice, with a handy list of Bush’s favourite “enhanced interrogation” techniques.

Washington Monthly and Mother Jones have devoted whole issues to torture.

Meanwhile, the ACLU has sued for the interrogation records of the “High Value Detainees” at Gitmo.

Despite all this, George Bush sent a new “HVD” to Gitmo from somewhere in the CIA gulag.

The new man, Muhammad Rahim, was bin Laden’s translator, so his crimes must be serious indeed.

Naturally, Mr Bush vetoed the Intelligence Act in which Congress explicitly outlawed water torture by the CIA.

Bush accompanied his veto with offensive remarks called shameful by the Los Angeles Times.

Among other things the President said that CIA interrogators can’t be confined to techniques allowed by the Army Field Manual, “because the manual is publicly available and easily accessible on the internet”, which deprived the United States of the element of surprise.

The New York Times, on the other hand, attracted wide criticism with the headline, “Bush’s Veto of Bill on CIA Tactics Affirms His Legacy”, followed by a story that said Bush had “cemented his legacy of fighting for strong executive powers”.

imageThe Washington Post’s Dan Froomkin (pic) was one of many who disagreed with the Times’ characterisation: “The legacy that Bush affirmed … was one of torture.”

The media now talk incessantly about Bush’s “legacy”, but more apt expressions spring to mind. Toxic fall-out, for instance.

The CIA is more worried about the fall-out, and has announced it will now pay the entire cost of legal liability insurance for its employees.

As the AP reported:

“A change in administrations could make it more likely lawsuits will be filed against CIA interrogators for … the use of harsh interrogation techniques and the secret movement of prisoners.”

* * *

In my last post, I referred to the Guantánamo lawyer Eric Lewis and his client who was sent to Pol-i-Charkhi prison in Afghanistan. I mistakenly said the transfer was from Gitmo, when it fact it was from Bagram prison.

While not considered as bad as P-i-C, the Bagram prison has an evil history as well. That history has now caused problems for Gitmo prosecutors due to the time spent in Bagram by the defendants in this month’s proceedings.

imageThe military commissions have been hearing motions by the Canadian Omar Khadr (pic), and two other cases.

One was an arraignment for Ahmed al-Darbi, who is charged with “war crimes” occurring mostly before there was any war and, in any case, outside any theatre of war – two requirements of the Hamdan decision.

The other case involved Mohamed Jawad, an Afghan who was 16 when he is alleged to have thrown a grenade that injured two US soldiers and their Afghan translator.

Ben Wizner of the ACLU covered the hearings here and here. Human Rights First also filed a report.

The Khadr case took centre stage, and this time the Canadian media were keenly interested. The Toronto Star has a two-part profile on Khadr here
and here.

However, just when it seemed impossible to further discredit the Guantánamo military commissions, the high-profile Khadr case began to implode.

In my post of February 8, I related the history of Khadr’s detention and how US soldiers, after bombing an al Qaeda house, had charged into the ruins and killed one survivor while shooting the other (the 15-year old Khadr) twice in the back, while he was hors de combat – formerly, a war crime.

Now it seems that, two months later, the government changed its initial report, which had identified the dead “terrorist” as having killed an American, in order to implicate the injured Khadr for the “crime” of throwing the fatal grenade.

The LA Times headlined the story, Pentagon Accused of Doctoring Guantanamo Tribunal Evidence.

imageNext, it emerged that a well-known thug at the US prison at Bagram, Damien Corsetti (pic), had been Khadr’s principal inquisitor and that another likely interrogator, Sgt Joshua Claus, had been jailed for mistreating prisoners.

Sgt Claus was even reported to have used the water cure on the prisoner Dilawar who died at Bagram.

All this resulted in rulings for the Khadr defence lawyers that constituted a “victory” of sorts.

Incredibly, however, the Pentagon succeeded in blocking public release of defence motions that contained “negative information”.

The Miami Herald has more.

* * *

Guantánamo lawyers are also representing clients jailed in Iraq. Last year (June 4 and July 5) I reported how two US citizens in Iraq had been charged, and in the case of one of them, summarily tried and sentenced to death, in Baghdad’s Central Criminal Court.

Shawqi Omar and Mohammed Munaf have been held in US prisons in Iraq such as Abu Ghraib and Camp Cropper, but the Bush administration perversely claims they are held pursuant to a UN resolution and therefore enjoy no protections as US citizens, for example, habeas corpus hearings on their confinement.

The families of Omar and Munaf filed habeas cases in Washington DC. Omar’s case was allowed to proceed by the Court of Appeals.

A different panel of the DC Circuit, however, ruled for the government in Munaf’s case.

The Munaf case has since been appealed to the Supreme Court, where it will be argued on March 25, along with the Omar case, which the government is appealing.

NYU Law School’s Brennan Center is representing both men and has filed a combined brief.

imageThe Times’ Linda Greenhouse (pic) reported the Supreme Court’s decision last year to accept the case.

In a late development, an Iraqi appellate court has overturned Mohammed Munaf’s dodgy death sentence.

* * *

The Attorney General’s support for waterboarding has spread to the private sector. A Utah newspaper reports that it is now used as a “motivational” technique by one private company.

The waterboard victim is suing the company, Prosper Inc, whose president, Dave Ellis, defended the practice:

“The exercise was a dramatization of a story in which a young man asks Socrates to become his teacher. Socrates responds by plunging the student’s head underwater and telling him he will learn once his desire for knowledge is as great as his desire to breathe.”

The Socratic Method, perhaps?