Thursday, February 26, 2015


Hicks: the questions that should have been asked

The biggest questions about the Howard government's blunders and crimes against Hicks are unasked.
For starters, why did the Australian government of the day refuse to provide effective consular assistance to one of its citizens, when it does no less for drug smugglers, murderers and rapists in trouble overseas?  
Why did Australia accept, without question, US assurances that Hicks was guilty, and not mistreated?
Can it ever be lawful for another country to seize an Australian citizen, question him on its ship on the high seas and then intern him in a prison camp, without any Article 5 hearing on prisoner of war status as required by the Geneva Conventions (and in Hicks' case, the US Uniform Code of Military Justice)?
Does the US president have the authority to unilaterally suspend the Geneva Conventions (or any other treaty)? Or flout parallel UCMJ provisions that track Geneva, word-for-word?  
After the initial decision in Hicks' favour in DC district court, how could the Howard Government take the side of the US government on subsequent appeals? Why weren't briefs filed on Hicks' behalf in Rasul - his own case that he ultimately won?  
Why wouldn't any government want to support its citizen's right to habeas corpus in a foreign court?
As for the military trials, is it possible that the Howard Government never took advice as to the legality of the prosecution of Hicks under either presidential or statutory military commissions? 
Did George Bush have power to create a system of military commissions outside the UCMJ? When the Supreme Court, in Hamdan, ruled he did not, finding instead that the Bush commissions violated both US law and Geneva Conventions, why didn't the Australian government demand Hicks' repatriation?
Incredibly, the government then supported and encouraged Hicks' re-prosecution under the new Military Commissions Act, an Act which also purported (unsuccessfully) to denyhabeas, and contained the novel Material Support for Terrorism, a "war crime" any first year law student could have assessed invalid.  
Aside from Hicks' own suffering, the worst thing about the Howard government's hostile mishandling of the affair was the terrible precedent it set, not least a presumption of guilt in "terror" cases and a reflexive deferral to the imperial demands of the US. 



Yesterday the military judge presiding over the 9/11 military commission trials concluded that a Defense Department order requiring him and other commission judges to move to Guantanamo in order to speed up the trials constituted an appearance of unlawful command influence stating  “An objective, disinterested observer fully informed of all the facts and circumstances would harbor a significant doubt about the fairness of the proceeding.”  (Order, p. 8). Really? Ya think? Someone could actually doubt the fairness of the military commission proceedings? I mean we have learned that the FBI has infiltrated defense teams, that they have put listening devices in attorney client meeting rooms, CIA interpreters have infiltrated the defense teams-- the sound was cut off in the courtroom during discussions between the judge and defense counsel--by unknown people- because something was said on the public record that some unknown individual far from the courtroom did not apparently think should be on the record--- and now there is finally a recognition that someone might think things are not fair? Well anyway, better late than never right? 
The military Judge suspended the trial indefinitely pending rescission of the order requiring the judges to move to the base.  Dismissal of the charges could follow if the move order isn’t rescinded and/or the prosecution doesn’t appeal within five days. 
Read the entire amazing order here.  
Could this be the final straw that shuts down the military commissions?

The new rule requiring the judges to move to gitmo was rescinded. Read more here.
I guess we have to wait for more interference and doubt about the fairness of the proceedings before the commission shuts down!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Chicago has its own "Black Site" UPDATED....

The Guardian reported yesterday on the Chicago Police Department's black site-- a place used to hold and torture people before they are charged... This is what we refer to as a parallel site-- as the men at Guantanamo have never been charged with any crime (except for the very few in the military commission). Seems the detainees in Chicago's black site don't have the longevity of Guantanamo (a few days of detention instead of 14 years!) but given time I think Chicago is up to the challenge.

More on Chicago's black site here.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Talking Dog interviews Joseph Hickman

Joseph Hickman is the author of

Murder at Camp Delta:  A Staff Sergeant's Pursuit of the Truth About Guantanamo Bay

Click on the title to purchase a copy of this must read book.

And read the interview here.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

From Chicago to Gitmo and back again....

No I am not talking about my travels.... I am talking about the Chicago cop who had a reputatation of  using excessive force and torturing people into confessing here in Chicago. He was also in the military reserves-- and as a military reservist he was sent to Guantanamo where he allegedly used those same techniques on men being held at Guantanamo. One of those men was Mohamedou Slahi a current detainee at Guantanamo and coincidently- the man whose book was recently released. I wrote about his book here and here. It was from Slahi's book that Guardian reporter Spencer Ackerman determined that a man who was one of Slahi's main torturers was a Chicago cop with a similar reputation of abusive tactics here in Chicago.

The Guardian has been running a story about this now retired chicago cop, Richard Zuley, and the trail of dubious murder convictions in cases where he was the main detective. Seems he was just what they wanted at Guantanamo along with the likes of Major General Geoffrey Miller, the commander of join task force-Guantanamo, during Zuley's tenure at Guantanamo.  Just to remind everyone Miller moved on from Guantanamo to lead the activities at Abu Ghraib and the other Iraq prisons around the time when torture was rampant at Abu Ghraib. The Guardian reported at that time that "The US commander in charge of military jails in Iraq, Major General Geoffrey Miller, has confirmed that a battery of 50-odd special "coercive techniques" can be used against enemy detainees. The general, who previously ran the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, said his main role was to extract as much intelligence as possible."   

The introduction to the latest Guardian reporting can be found here. Part one is here. Part two is here.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

David Hicks is officially exonerated... UPDATED

Yesterday the military commission threw out the conviction of David Hicks, the Australian man who pled guilty to a crime that was not a crime at the time of his "detention." Hicks pled guilty because that was the only ticket out of Guantanamo. My government tried hard to keep Hick's conviction from being tossed because also as part of his ticket out of Guantanamo he had to agree not to appeal. Fortunately the military commission saw the folly in that logic.
Read more here.
The Talking Dog has the decision by the military commission and a short history here.
And firedoglake has more here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Poland's complicity in U.S. torture affirmed

The European Court of Human Rights today confirmed that the Polish government was complicit in the CIA’s secretive programme of rendition, detention and interrogation.
The Court in Strasbourg today rejected a challenge from the Polish government to a landmark ruling from last July, a decision which now makes that original judgement final.
July’s judgment said that two current Guantánamo inmates, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, were held in a CIA prison in Poland, that they had been subject to torture, and that Poland failed in its duty under European human rights law to protect them or investigate what happened.
Read the rest here.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Gitmo attorneys speak out about their clients and our clueless senators.....

Two weeks ago in senate hearings two of our more ignorant senators (and believe me it is a real contest to determine who in the senate is the most ignorant...) made some comments about the men at Guantanamo. Senator Cotton thinks the men should all rot in hell (as though Guantanamo is not hell enough) and Senator Graham suggested that the men still at Guantanamo are probably still there because they are a high risk. Really senators? I mean the reason these men are still there is because Graham, Cotton and others have passed legislation making it all but impossible for Obama to release the men-- despite the fact that more than 50 of the men still held have been cleared for release by the federal agencies connected to the hell hole-- including the pentagon, homeland security, justice and national intelligence (an oximoron if I ever heard one....) Each has long ago concluded that the men were not a risk and should be released. 
But I digress....  
Read what several of the Gitmo attorneys have said in response to those senators here, here, and here....

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Military Commissions have to be shut down....

The latest revelation concerning the military commisions is that one of the interpreters working for the defense was a CIA operative and had been involved in interrogations of some of the detainees. Seems the person neglected to mention that little detail when agreeing to work for the defense-even though defense lawyers asked him if he had ever worked for the government in any capacity. This fact only came to light when he was brought in to translate for someone who had seen him translating during brutal interrogations.
This follows revelations that the defense computers files have been hacked and that secret recordings were made of meetings between defense counsel and their clients. There is nothing even remotely fair about these proceedings.
NPR has more here.

Friday, February 6, 2015

"Back to the battlefield" the republican song.....

For as long as I have been representing Guantanamo detainees (10 years now--sigh) the republican's have claimed that detainees have "returned" to the battle field- the numbers have gone up and down but the rallying cry has always been the same.So I guess we should not be surprised that this rallying cry has reared its ugly (and false) head again in senate hearings. Fortunately the pentagon is not listening as expressed by the department of defense "The question on closing the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is not whether to do it, but rather is how to do it, a senior Defense Department official said on Capitol Hill yesterday." Read the rest here.
Al-Jazeera has more here on the "recidivists." The Guardian reports that there are six men known to have engaged in hostilities after being released. Six out of 900--- and that is reason enough for some to suggest that the remaining men should never be released.....

Monday, February 2, 2015


Jason Leopold reports on locating a document in which the military admits that force feeding violates medical ethics and international law. Read his report here.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Back Story on new Gitmo Book.

As I posted two weeks ago- a detainee still held at Guantanamo published a book (Mohamedou Slahi). A first time for a detainee still being held and the book shows the nonsense that the detainees and the lawyers put up with as afar as "secrecy"..... and also shows the horrors that these men have been subjected to.
Now Intercept has the back story on how the book managed to be published. Read the account here.