Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Correcting Col. Moe

Some of our favorite people (Mark, Wells, Gita) wrote letters to the editor of the NY Times in response to Col. Morris Davis' laughable op-ed.

Here is a selection:

Col. Morris D. Davis (“The Guantánamo I Know,” Op-Ed, June 26) describes a pristine prison where detainees are given three meals a day. What he ignores is that Guantánamo’s new prison facilities subject detainees to virtually total and continuous isolation in tiny windowless cells.

Particularly galling is Colonel Davis’s assertion that David Hicks, the only person to be convicted by military commissions, stipulated that he had been “treated properly.” In fact, this carefully worded statement, which Mr. Hicks had to make as a condition of his plea agreement, said only that he had not been “illegally treated.” This concession means little for a government that has interpreted waterboarding as compliant with United States law.

In a previous court filing, Mr. Hicks alleged being beaten repeatedly, sodomized and forced into painful stress positions while in United States custody. If one of Colonel Davis’s soldiers were picked up by Iran or North Korea and held for years in solitary confinement in a small, windowless room, do you think he would be praising the detention as “clean, safe, and humane”?

Jennifer Daskal

Senior Counterterrorism Counsel

Human Rights Watch

Washington, June 26, 2007

To the Editor:

Col. Morris D. Davis paints Guantánamo as a model, humane prison in which the rule of law reigns. If only it were so.

My clients are enduring their sixth year of detention at Gitmo. None have even been charged with a crime. Because they are unlikely to ever face trial, they will never have the opportunity to see the secret evidence against them. They will never have a chance to refute the coerced, hearsay statements that have so far justified their detention.

The government claims that it can hold them in this legal limbo for the duration of our war on terror. The extreme isolation and conditions my clients face are unbearable.

Many have been punished for disciplinary infractions by having their beards shaved. Most have been stripped of their trousers so that they cannot pray while modestly dressed. Some have been interrogated at gunpoint and threatened with rendition.

One of my clients recently tried to slit his wrists, explaining to me afterward that death would be more merciful than life here.

There is nothing “contrived” about these facts. Marc Falkoff

Chicago, June 26, 2007

The writer, an assistant professor of law at Northern Illinois University, represents 16 Yemeni detainees at Guantánamo.

To the Editor:

The Guantánamo that Col. Morris D. Davis knows is obviously not the same prison where our clients have been held without charge or trial for more than five years.

Majid Khan and Mohammed Al Qahtani have been tortured so badly that any evidence against them would be inadmissible under any legal standard.

Hundreds of men waste away in isolation in small metal cells that any regularly constituted court would reject as a violation of United States and international law. None have received a fair hearing. The results are predictable: four detainees are dead, nearly a hundred suffer from mental illness, and countless others continue to suffer abuse daily.

Guantánamo Bay is a failure. Its existence demeans and threatens our nation. It must be closed now.

J. Wells Dixon

Gitanjali S. Gutierrez

New York, June 26, 2007

The writers are staff attorneys at the Center for Constitutional Rights.

To the Editor:

Col. Morris D. Davis paints a rosy picture of Guantánamo Bay and the military commissions. I traveled there three weeks ago; the Guantánamo I came to know is starkly different from the place he describes.

The commissions fall well short of international standards, including by permitting the use of evidence obtained under coercion. The likelihood is high that someone on trial before the military commissions will have been coerced during his detention.

The Defense Department’s own investigations document that detainees have been kept awake all night, subjected to loud music and extreme hot and cold temperatures, and beaten.

Regardless of actual conditions, the arbitrary deprivation of liberty is inherently inhumane. When people can be held without being charged, and denied real opportunities to challenge their detention, America’s image and authority in the world are undermined.

Guantánamo and the military commissions are unworthy of a nation that prizes justice and aspires to lead the world.

Priti Patel

Associate Attorney

Law and Security Program

Human Rights First

New York, June 26, 2007

Dick the Torturer

It should come as no suprise that Dick Cheney's people played a key role in setting the interrogation guidelines for prisoners captured in the "war on terror." According to the Washington Post,
Cheney and his allies ... pioneered [emphasis added] a distinction between forbidden "torture" and permitted use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading" methods of questioning. They did not originate every idea to rewrite or reinterpret the law, but fresh accounts from participants show that they translated muscular theories, from Yoo and others, into the operational language of government.
These brave pioneers in Office of the VP have now homesteaded well beyond the frontiers of fantasy. As we have learned in recent days, Dick Cheney now functions as senator at large and operates within the legislative as well as executive branch. What future powers will the VP assume? Supreme Court Justice? Commissioner of Baseball? Holy Roman Emperor? Pope?

Portrait Of A Gitmo Propagandist

(Originally on Huffington Post)

Colonel Moe is at it again. Perhaps you remember when Moe wanted Major Mori, the military attorney that was appointed to represent the Guantánamo detainee from Australia, brought up on charges for doing too good of a job for his client? Aside from the fact that Moe apparently prefers intimidation as a legal technique, the Colonel also fancies himself a master of spin. In 2004 the chief prosecutor for the Office of Military Commissions wrote a how-to guide for manipulating the media complete with a six-point plan, "Effective Engagement in the Public Opinion Arena: A Leadership Imperative in the Information Age" which he published in Air & Space Power, an official journal of the Air Force.

In this telling little treatise, Moe concedes that the public has "questions about operations in Iraq, prisoner abuse allegations at military confinement facilities, etc. Moe maintains that these challenges require the Armed Services to seriously beef up their public relations campaign. As the Colonel so eloquently puts it,
For better or worse, public opinion matters. Public opinion affects the political arena and can influence funding, oversight and direction to the Department of Defense ... military's historical approach to responding to controversy is inadequate in today's instantaneous information age. The military's rules of engagement in the competition for the public's opinion need to be reassessed.
Moe reminds military authorities to craft a message and "stay on the offensive" and notes approvingly that Air Force training now involves extensive media relations instruction including such courses as The War for Public Opinion: Propaganda, Public Affairs and the Military-Media Relationship, which might as well be called Misinformation 101.

Today, Moe was given one of the most prized bullhorns in American media, an op-ed in the New York Times, the "paper of record." In his editorial, Moe maintains that the Guantánamo he knows really isn't that bad; he brags that the facilities are similar to high security prisons in Indiana and Michigan! Of course, the crucial difference between lawful civilian jails in the United States and Bush's illegal prison camp is not the architecture but the fact that prisoners in the United States have been charged or convicted of crimes whereas the vast majority of Guantánamo's inmates have never and, according to the government, will never be charged with anything at all. Many of these men have been cleared for release by the government's own procedures and yet they continue to languish in Bush's gulag in solitary confinement under the harshest of conditions. Many of these men are being held in cells constructed entirely of metal. The cells admit no natural light or air and they cannot converse with anyone while in their cell unless they kneel on the floor and attempt to shout greetings through the tiny gap where the food is pushed in. They pass their days in tedium and loneliness.

Unlike the prisoners being held in our supermax facilities the men at Guantánamo are not allowed any family visits or phone calls, they are only allowed one book per week, they are given no newspapers, they are not allowed to watch television, they cannot listen to a radio, they cannot take classes (they are forbidden from learning English) and most of these men are not allowed to touch another human being...not even thru the mesh link fence of the outdoor pens.

Moe is quite simply lying when he says that Guantánamo prisoners are offered "at least two hours of outdoor recreation each day." First, there is nothing recreational about standing outside in the blistering sun in a six foot by four foot pen (no shade allowed). Second, prisoners in Guantánamo's newest Camp 6 have gone for days and weeks without being allowed into those stifling pens. It is also a regular practice of the authorities to wake prisoners in their sleep and offer them outdoor "recreational time" time in the middle of the night. In the spirit of dignified resistance, the prisoners often refuse.

The Colonel touts Guantánamo's medical services, which are administered by "the same practitioners who treat American service members." In fact, Guantánamo's medical authorities have been cruelly negligent with my Libyan client, Al-Ghizzawi who is racked with abdominal pains that may indicate life-threatening liver cancer. The GTMO medical staff keeps the prisoners entirely in the dark about their medical condition and my client was not informed that he had been diagnosed with hepatitis b and tuberculosis until these facts were revealed in a government brief. I was the one to give Mr. Al-Ghizzawi the news of his condition. Finally and perhaps most egregiously, medical personnel in Guantánamo violate their Hippocratic oaths by participating in punitive force-feeding, an excruciating and degrading procedure in which a tube is forced down a prisoner's esophagus long before the prisoner is in any health risk from a hunger strike (which is itself an act of conscience undertaken by powerless and victimized persons throughout history).

Moe refers to PR work as "engagement in the public opinion arena." In military terminology, "engagement" means combat or a hostile exchange and indeed, Moe's articles and interviews constitute a propaganda assault on the American people. The Colonel has become a central figure in a DoD propaganda campaign against a public that is growing increasingly aware of, and hostile to, the Bush administration's program of illegal indefinite detention, endless war and secrecy. Colonel Moe Davis: remember his name and remember that he is a propagandist by trade.