Friday, February 27, 2009

musical interlude

Happy belated to George...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Road Ahead

It is really easy to complain about what is going on... and I am embarrassed to say that I too have been caught up in this. I am stopping, for now.
My clients have been held in hell for seven years because of Bush and his criminal gang. Obama has been president for five weeks, it will take time not only to undo all of the mess but to figure out who is part of the problem. We can complain or we can help. I believe helping is the most productive thing I can do at this time.
For the next few weeks I will try to use this Blog to focus on not only what can be done to clear out the criminals (from the Bush regime) as quickly as possible so that we can all move forward but also to point out the positive changes, so that we all understand this is not a continuation of Bush.
I am starting with something I discussed a few blogs back "window dressing". I admit, I was pissed: changes were going into effect at Guantanamo quickly and without acknowledging not only the horrors of the past, but that the changes were only now being implemented. However, upon further reflection these are really two different subjects and they need to be dealt with separately. The horrors of Guantanamo and the treatment of these men needs to be examined and the people responsible need to be held accountable... but the fact remains that change is taking place... and it is a welcome change.
For the first time in more than two years my client Al-Ghizzawi is allowed to sit around and just shoot the shit with the other men in camp 6. For the first time in seven years he can actually sit and watch a movie and read a real newspaper (well except for the fact that he can't see anymore ...but lets not go there). For the first time in more than two years he can spend time totally outside camp 6, where he can see the trees, mountains, sun. And that is because Obama announced that a team was coming in to inspect.... and the military knew that it better get its collective ass in gear... Obama has begun the process of fixing things and we must encourage and demand the continuation of that process.
Yeah, I want to see the people responsible for this criminal enterprise prosecuted. But right now what I really want to see is Mr. Al-Ghizzawi and the other men start to heal. Socialization, nature, a semblance of normality will start the healing process...... and for that I am grateful.
I for one will focus my energy on encouraging the change that must happen to help the men at Guantanamo... later I will go after the criminals with a vengeance.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Khadr's Attorneys (updated)

Khadr, the Canadian that we have been holding since he was 15 years old, should be sent back to Canada... and a few weeks ago it looked like that was ready to happen. Now there seems to be a new twist: at least some of Khadr's attorneys (the military attorneys) have been barred from seeing him... . This is very distressing news, it is difficult enough for anyone held at Guantanamo to have confidence in anything that is going on... and having some of your attorneys taken away without an explanation can be the last straw to the already frail mental health of the prisoner(s). Seems the controversy stems from criticism by Khadr's military attorneys about the cozy relationship that the prosecution attorneys are attempting with the new Obama people.
The military has long been out of control at Guantanamo and with this development we know that will not end soon.
Click on the title for more.
and for another take on this click here...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

International Red Cross Must be Allowed to Release its Findings on Conditions at Guantanamo

There are only two choices: accept the whitewash of a report on conditions at Gitmo or allow the ICRC to publicly release its findings on conditions over the past seven years. Clearly, as I noted earlier this week, there has been a rush to improve conditions over the last two months in preparation for the review. Camp 4, the best of the camps, has actually been improving over the last six or eight months but even Camp 4 got many of its new perks in the last month. So we can either quietly accept the lie or make a public call for the release of findings by the only outside group allowed to monitor conditions (a group that was only allowed in if it kept what it saw confidential). Click on the title to read the Pentagon's review of itself.
Click here to read the Center for Constitutional Rights report on conditions.

same old, same old...

OK, so I am not patient,but I will say that for the first month I kept telling myself, "it has only been two weeks" "it has only been three weeks" ....etc
But some of the things that are going on in the litigation (or I guess I should say, that are not going on) very clearly needed quick direction... and really are not all that difficult. I will start with the definition of "enemy combatant" the bushies defined it in such a way as just about anyone, anywhere could be deemed an enemy combatant and held forever without charge. There was a much more limited definition of enemy combatant prior to the bushies and the U.S. Supreme Court (in the Hamdi case) gave us a working definition during the bushie years...and yet the Obama administration is apparently unprepared to deal with this question. And I have to say it is not just the habeas counsel that are miffed, the judges don't understand it either. Were they not doing their homework?
Well five weeks in and they still can't get that definition together...this does not bode well....and it has also stalled all of the Court proceedings.
More on the lack of direction from the new administration later.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Andy Worthington interviews Stephen Abraham

As you may have noticed I am busy playing catch-up on all the things that are happening and that happened during this past week. Andy Worthington's website should already be on your list to check every day. I am directing you to this particular article of his because he is interviewing Stephen Abraham, one of the members of Al-Ghizzawi's first CSRT when Al-Ghizzawi was determined not to be an enemy combatant back in 2004. CLICK ON THE TITLE FOR MORE.

Binyam Goes Home (updated)

During the night a plane left Guantanamo headed for London and on it was Binyam Mohamed, a British resident who has been held for almost seven years and subjected to horrific torture. Click on the title to read more....and if that is not enough read the book by Clive Stafford Smith (depending on which side of the ocean you are on called "bad men" or "8 o'clock ferry from the windward side").
Congrats to Binyam's hard working military attorney Lt. Col. Yvonne Bradley(Yes another of those heroes on the military side)and the Reprieve attorneys, for their long and difficult work getting Binyam out of Guantanamo.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Col. Darrel Vandeveld speaks...

Col. Vandeveld is another of our heros on the military side. He was the seventh prosecutor in the Military Commissions at Guantanamo to Just Say No. Vandeveld refused to move ahead with the prosecution of Mohammed Jawad for the noble and courageous reasons he discusses in his interview with the Talking Dog....instead he resigned. Like the others before him Vandeveld has been attacked by the right wingers but in my view the attack against Vandeveld is the most personal and vicious... perhaps the attack against him is directly related to how powerful his refusal to prosecute really is. Please click on the title to read the interview.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Window Dressing

In light of the report this week that Guantanamo conforms with the Geneva conventions (and therefore it is quite ok for other countries to keep our civilians and military personnel in similar conditions) I would like to mention two things... well actually more than two things but right now I will restrict myself to these two. First, there have been many changes at Guantanamo during the last approximately six weeks. Not the kind of changes that would make you say "hey, this really is not a bad place." but the kind of changes that show just how horrendous things were in camp 6 (I can't speak to 5) and how the military really needed to do a few things pretty quickly when the Obama administration was coming in: in camp 6, they have now started "movie night". Imagine my surprise when Mr. Al-Ghizzawi mentioned a movie he was watching the week before my arrival (I saw him the 4th of February). I actually stopped him in mid-thought and said "excuse me, movie night? When did that start?" He then explained that they have had movie nights once a week for a couple of weeks. I of course asked if there was anything else that was new and he told me that the four cages that were the outdoor rec area for camp 6 were torn down and now there was one big cage and one little cage.... now 8 men can go out together in the big cage and the small cage is for prisoners on punishment. How sad it is that this is a major improvement but it is... it gives the men a chance to socialize.... a chance to be a part of humanity, instead of being stuck in total isolation. The last change he told me about was the opening of a new rec area... completely outside of camp 6, a rec area where they can actually see the mountains in the distance, the trees, the sky, the sun (for four hours once every four or five days). The camp 6 rec area is confined to the courtyard of camp 6, so it is surrounded by the concrete facility that is several stories tall, all they could see in that outdoor area was the sand floor and the concrete building.
The second thing I want to mention is just how dishonest this is... (what a surprise, huh?) and I wonder if the Obama people will continue with this charade? I understand that Gates is still secretary of defense so it does not paint a pretty picture to announce that your secretary of defense is guilty of violating the Geneva conventions but hey, do we really want to say that the way these men have been held and treated is just fine?
Unfortunately when it comes to the litigation there is no window dressing.... same old, same old.
More on that later...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Will Canada rescue it's young son?

I watch Canadian politics almost as much as I watch US politics. Perhaps it is because I always want to have one ear to the ground in case of emergency... but perhaps it is also because of my Canadian roots. Both of my grandfathers were Canadian and the log cabin that was the Gorman homestead in Quebec since the early 1800's is still inhabited by a Gorman, a distant cousin that I also claim as a friend. For me, watching the Harper years unfold has been almost as disheartening as watching the Bush years... fortunately for the world Harper can only wreak havoc on the Canadians, if only I could say the same about Bush. There is one particular Canadian that the Harper years have been particularly insensitive about and this should be a national tragedy for Canada. Canadians, at least to me, had never been as complacent about politics as the people in the United States have been, but they have shown the same disinterest in human rights as Americans when it came to their own young Mr. Khadr, one of the too many children that have been held at Guantanamo. Young Khadr has been tortured and beaten by my country and Canada, up at least until the last few days, has closed its eyes to this child victim. Shame on us and shame on them. Yesterday a tiny light of hope emerged from Canada when the leaders from the three opposition parties in Canada together wrote a letter to President Obama asking Obama to send their child home (I don't want to digress but those three opposition parties could stop their bickering and become the majority party... but yes that would be a digression). Thanks to my new Canadian friend Douglas for sending the letter and thanks to Charly at the PEGC for posting the letter for me and providing the link: read a copy of the letter here.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Abe Lincoln on Gitmo

Well I am from the "land of lincoln" so this seems to me to be more than appropriate. Lincoln was a complicated guy (kind of like our current president) .... anyway, this is from my friend and fellow habeas attorney Steve Sady in honor of Abe's birthday this week.
Click on the title to read it.


When I read the article about Obama keeping "ordinary" rendition but disavowing "extraordinary" rendition I was disturbed.... but I couldn't quite get around to putting my thoughts in writing. Well now I don't have to: click on the title and read what Dan has to say.

Friday, February 6, 2009


I got back from my latest trip to Guantanamo yesterday. Until my notes are "cleared" I cannot tell you what my clients said to me but I can tell you what I saw. I did see both of my clients. Mr. Razak Ali is doing ok, he is the one in camp 4 and therefore his living arrangement is not too difficult. But it has been 7 years since he was taken captive by us and even the good natured Razak has grown weary. Mr. Al-Ghizzawi looks awful. He can no longer read and he had a difficult time understanding my words. Not because of the language problem, he does speak english, but because his brain is not quite working the way it should. Two plus years of solitary confinement has been too much for this man. I will provide more of an update when my notes are cleared.

An Open Letter To Jeh Johnson

Jeh Johnson is the new General Counsel to the Department of Defense. Click on the title to read my letter to him.