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?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Ridenhour award to Matthew Diaz

Click on the title to go to the webpage and sign up to attend the award luncheon in DC on April 3rd
from noon to 2.
One of the awards goes to Matthew Diaz a Jag officer who tried to get the list of the names of detainees to attorneys when the government refused to release the names to protect the "privacy" of the prisoners...

The Nation Institute and The Fertel Foundation are pleased to honor the winners of the 2008 Ridenhour Prizes:

Bill Moyers is awarded the 2008 Ridenhour Courage Prize in recognition of his fierce embrace of the public interest and his advocacy of media pluralism, and for contributing an unyielding moral voice to our national discourse.
Learn More...

James D. Scurlock is awarded the 2008 Ridenhour Book Prize honoring an outstanding work of social significance from the prior publishing year. Scurlock’s book, Maxed Out: Hard Times in the Age of Easy Credit is a disturbing account of America’s unsustainable relationship with debt, revealing the vulnerability of the average person to the predatory and unethical lending methods of banks and credit card companies.
Learn More...

Matthew Diaz has been awarded the 2008 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling. Diaz is a former JAG officer who, while stationed at Guantánamo Bay, was the first person to release the names of the prisoners at the detention camp. In early January 2005, on the last night of his tour, he mailed a list—with the names and corresponding serial numbers of the 551 prisoners—in a Valentine’s Day card to a lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights. Diaz hoped that his actions would help lawyers file habeas corpus petitions on the prisoners’ behalf.
Learn More...

The prizes will be presented at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on April 3, 2008.

The Ridenhour Prizes seek to recognize and encourage those who persevere in acts of truth-telling that protect the public interest, promote social justice or illuminate a more just vision of society. The prizes memorialize the spirit of fearless truth-telling that one-time whistleblower and lifetime investigative journalist Ron Ridenhour reflected throughout his extraordinary life and career. Each award carries a $10,000 stipend.

Soldier Speaks Out About Guantanamo Torture

The link below (or you can click on the title) is to a video of a brief but telling testimony given by Chris Arendt at the Winter Soldier Hearings in Washington, D.C., on March 15. Arendt joined the military at age 17 and soon found himself guarding detainees at the U.S. prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

American War Crimes....

--(hats off to Robert for sending me this....)

The latest is that the torturer of Khadr (the canadian kid who was 15 when we picked him up and sent him to Guantanamo) is being offered immunity in order to be a witness for the prosecution

Lets hope some of the media will connect the dots as to what that means: that perhaps there was something irregular about his questioning if the interrogator had to get immunity from criminal prosecution in order to talk about it.

At least the officer freely admitted he was considering committing murder and a war crime, which may prove helpful for pattern behaviour testimony in some other extrajudicial military murder case...and it seems the lawyers for Khadr are now going to argue that it was the American soldiers who should be charged with war crimes

And then there is this astonishing story

No wonder that the Canadian Supreme Court is about to get involved

Begging the European Community

For those of you who have been wondering what else I have been doing to help secure the release of Mr. Al-Ghizzawi you can listen to this interview.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Government's Response

The government filed its response last week. They continue to claim that Al-Ghizzawi does not want medical help... and anyway he isn't that ill anyway! (The fact that he can't swallow the pills because they won't give him warm water is further evidence, according to these war criminals, that Al-Ghizzawi is refusing medical care....)
I don't know when the judge will rule but I will post something when he does.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Withholding medical treatment

This story was sent to me yesterday and today I received the actual underlying court order... what it shows is that the medical treatment that is being withheld from Al-Ghizzawi is U S government policy.... whether you be at guantanamo or on the mainland....

Click on the title to read the story...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Amnesty report on military commission hearing for Mohammed Jawad

Click on the title to review the report from Amnesty International from the Military Tribunal Hearing on March 12, 2008 for Mohammed Jawad. Jawad, like Khadr, should be protected under international law, as he was only 16 years old when he was arrested and sent to Guantanamo.


Pulicharkhi is the old russian prison outside of Kabul where the american's opened up their own wing. Most of the afghani prisoners that were released from Guantanamo have been held there...another attempt by the US to avoid the US federal courts...

Afghanistan: Riot in US-run prison

Kabul, 13 March (AKI) - By Syed Saleem Shahzad - Prisoners held in Kabul’s controversial Pul-i-Charkhi jail rioted late on Thursday when NATO forces tried to shift Taliban inmates for interrogation.

Unnamed sources told Adnkronos International (AKI) that inmates in block 4 of the prison resisted their removal by NATO personnel, alleging that NATO officials wanted to carry out an extrajudicial killing.

The protest soon spread all over the jail. Inmates in another part of the prison (block 7) turned violent and around five were wounded when NATO personnel opened fire on the prisoners, according to AKI's sources.

Pul-i-Charkhi, where political prisoners are held, is located outside the Afghan capital. Most Taliban prisoners are currently held there.

The prison gained notoriety for its treatment of prisoners as long ago as during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (1978-1989).

Experts have said the prison is one of several around the world holding repatriated Afghans detained by the United States including former inmates from the notorious US military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo has caused international concern and prompted calls for its closure.

On Salon Today.

Please read my opinion piece on Salon today by clicking on the title. I did have a bit of a misunderstanding with Salon about how Seth Farber who helped me draft this initially would be credited and I thank Seth for his help on this.
That being said I do want to thank Salon's Mark Follman who had a keen understanding of the issues and worked hard to get this on-line in a timely fashion.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mother Jones on another innocent detainee

Writer Mariah Blake does an in-depth look at the plight of German detainee Murat Kurnaz in an article on line at Mother Jones. (click on the title to go straight to the article) Like Al-Ghizzawi the evidence showing Murat's innocence was ignored and Murat languished at Guantanamo for five years.... unlike Al-Ghizzawi he finally was released. Kudos to Blake for unraveling the story made complicated by the attempts of two governments (US and German) to hide the truth.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


For completeness I am putting this on the blog... click on the title to view....

Monday, March 10, 2008

Yes, I think it is fair to say I am Mad and I will not take it any longer

ok... I no longer have a tv... so I cannot throw it out the window....


I do not know why I have to beg the courts of the United States of America to provide life sustaining medical care to a man we are holding in our gulag...

but beg I continue to do...
and of course I will continue until his dying breath...
(which will most likely be sooner rather than later)

I guess it is because I am a lawyer
and remarkably
I still (kind of) believe in the rule of law.....

(perhaps because there is no other reasonable substitute)

today my notes were "cleared" from the military censors
and I can share with you
what I shared with Judge Bates on Friday...
the most up to date medical condition on my client Mr.Al-Ghizzawi:

read it and weep ...
or laugh..
or whatever it is you do when you see how a country ...
my country
(and maybe yours...)
treats its fellow human beings

Is this torture?
Or do we have some new word for this that somehow explains what we are doing?
Do you you feel safer?

So click on the title and read what it is that we have become...

Sunday, March 9, 2008

U.S. Hiding its Malfeasance behind the Cloak of ICRC Visits

As many of you know I have given lots of public talks both in the US and in Europe on the interference by the US with the ICRC mission at Guantanamo especially as it relates to the lack of medical care for my Client Al-Ghizzawi. Many of you have asked me to put my speech onto my blog. As I just had reason to put some of this information into writing I decided to complete the project.

(Click on the title to go to the rest of the article....)

Meet me in Guantanamo

If you are in the mood for a short tune and some facts about guantanamo click on the title.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Arresting the Criminals for Their Crimes Against Our Constitution

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Voters in two Vermont towns on Tuesday approved a measure that would instruct police to arrest President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for "crimes against our Constitution," local media reported.

The nonbinding, symbolic measure, passed in Brattleboro and Marlboro in a state known for taking liberal positions on national issues, instructs town police to "extradite them to other authorities that may reasonably contend to prosecute them."
Vermont, home to maple syrup and picture-postcard views, is known for its liberal politics.
State lawmakers have passed nonbinding resolutions to end the war in Iraq and impeach Bush and Cheney, and several towns have also passed resolutions of impeachment. None of them have caught on in Washington.
Bush has never visited the state as president, though he has spent vacations at his family compound in nearby Maine.
Roughly 12,000 people live in Brattleboro, located on the Connecticut River in the state's southeastern corner. Nearby Marlboro has a population of roughly 1,000.
(Writing by Andy Sullivan, editing by David Wiessler)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


(Click on the title to go to the original)

Roger Fitch Esq • March 4, 2008

Our Man in Washington

If Gitmo closes what becomes of the inmates? Refoulement is the answer, i.e. even worse US prisons in Afghanistan … Lawyers who advised the administration on torture now under (soft) investigation … Bush lawyers at DoJ advising Iraqis on “justice and the rule of law”

It’s been a bruising fortnight for the dwindling tribe of military commission supporters.

First, Col. Morris Davis, the former Chief Prosecutor at Guantánamo, wrote “Unforgivable Behavior, Inadmissible Evidence”, an op-ed about torture, in The New York Times.

Soon after, Davis announced he would be a witness for the defence at Salim Hamdan’s military commission.

Next, Col Davis gave an interview with Ross Tuttle of the Nation in which he tipped on William “Jim” Haynes, the notorious Pentagon general counsel who has been the stationmaster for military commission railroading.

Harper’s Scott Horton has more on these events.

Within days, Haynes – after seven years on the Bush barricades – abruptly quit his job for private life, perhaps to enter corporate law.

If so, his options would seem pretty limited. Haynes (pic) already has been charged once with war crimes in Germany, and he could still lose his law licence – two penalties beyond the reach of a presidential pardon.

The resulting confusion at the Guantánamo commission circus was summarised by Andy Worthington.

Adding to the noise, Mother Jones just published a Torture Playlist comprising the appalling music used at Guantánamo and elsewhere to “prolong capture shock and drown out screams”.

* * *

All this has led to renewed talk of closing Guantánamo, bolstered by a manifesto from many of the world’s leading legal professional bodies, but not the American Bar Association, which now seems minded to collaborate with the commissions.

Yet if Gitmo closed, what would become of the inmates? One answer, of course, is repatriation, or, as also happens, refoulement – the internationally forbidden practice of forcibly returning refugees or prisoners to countries where they are in danger of mistreatment or death.

Literally, refoulement is “driving back”. Recently, however, we have learned of a practice that could be called “circular cycling”.

An Afghan, seized in Afghanistan, is taken to Guantánamo for no particular reason and then, also for no particular reason, returned to Afghanistan, only to disappear into the US-Afghan internment camp outside Kabul, the dreaded Pol-i-Charkhi, for further unlimited detention.

Pol-i-Charkhi is a former Russian prison. Eric Lewis (pic) is a lawyer for one of the Guantanameros who was sent to this supposedly “Afghan” prison, and he’s written in Slate about P-i-C and its new “national defence” wing built by the US government and staffed by US jailers and interrogators.

Joanne Mariner has also written about the P-i-C wing, called the Afghan National Detention Facility (ANDF).

The notorious US prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan could be an additional destination for “released” Gitmo inmates. It’s been a dumping ground for prisoners since 2004, when the US stopped sending detainees to Guantánamo.

It was Bagram where, in 2002, US soldiers beat to death two Afghan prisoners, including the innocent taxi driver Dilawar whose story is told in this year’s Oscar-winning documentary, Taxi to the Dark Side.

The International Justice Network, an offshoot of the Center for Constitutional Rights, is fighting for the release of all civilians in Bagram, some of whom have filed habeas actions in Washington, as the Legal Times reports.

After years of buzz about Bagram and its abuses, The New York Times has lately decided to report on the problem.

* * *

You may recall that Attorney General Michael Mukasey told Congress he could not investigate government officials who had “harshly interrogated” prisoners in the “war on terror” as his department’s Office of Legal Counsel had issued opinions purporting to bless waterboarding and other practices as legal.

Harper’s blogger Scott Horton was quick to point out that, in that case, the real objects of investigation should be the lawyers who gave the torture advice.

Now it turns out that the Office of Professional Responsibility at DoJ is in fact investigating the OLC opinions.

According to Slate’s Emily Bazelon (pic), OPR is the wrong watchdog for an investigation: it has neither bark nor bite.

* * *

More motions have been filed in the Omar Khadr military commission, including two that deal with the failure of the US to comply with the fair trial requirements of the Geneva Conventions’ Common Article Three – a specific requirement of the Supreme Court in the Hamdan case – and with the Bush administration’s bizarre claim that killing US soldiers in a war is somehow murder in violation of the law of war.

The Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg is one of the few journalists to examine the Pentagon’s expansive definition of war and war crimes.

As for the “murder” charge, a new law review article by David Glazier of Loyola University (LA) points out:

“The flaw in the US approach is that it wants to have it both ways, treating its adversaries as being both subject to being killed wherever found like traditional combatants, yet also denied legal authority to fight, as are non-combatants. If upheld, Khadr would have the legal status of a deer during hunting season – fair game for coalition forces to kill at will yet possessing no right to fight back.”

Moreover, Glazier says:

“By electing to conduct military commission trials failing to meet international due process standards, the government places participants, including judges, prosecutors, trial panel members, and those involved with post-trial review at risk of subsequent prosecution for war crimes themselves. Although the actual likelihood of such prosecution may be remote, it provides another basis on which the tribunals may be criticized and any remaining moral high ground surrendered.”

* * *

None of this, of course, cramps the style of the Bush Gang. Without a trace of irony, the Bush lawyers at DoJ are solemnly advising the Iraqis on “justice” and the “rule of law”.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department is planning a spring seminar on Investigating and Prosecuting Human Rights Violators in the United States.

Bookings should be heavy: it could prove a useful tool for aspiring prosecutors in a new administration.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Hippocratic Oath Dies in Gitmo

I have been representing Abdul Al-Ghizzawi, one of my Guantánamo clients, for two and a half years. The day I took on his case, I knew little about him other than he was seriously ill. My goal from that day forward has been to ascertain what is wrong with Al-Ghizzawi and get him the medical care he needs.

In the fall of 2006, Dr. Jürg Reichen, a respected liver specialist at the University of Bern in Switzerland, filed an affidavit in which he testified that, based on the symptoms described by Al-Ghizzawi and based on my own observations of Al-Ghizzawi, it seemed likely that he was suffering from hepatitis B and perhaps liver cancer. Reichen would have been able to make a more conclusive diagnosis with my client’s medical records, but the government has refused to turn them over.....

To read the rest of this article click on the title....