Wednesday, September 20, 2017


In Our Prison on the Sea

I tried to copy the beautiful painting by Mohammed Ansi, a former Guantánamo detainee that accompanied this essay by former Guantanamo detainee Mansoor Adayfi in Sunday's New York Times. I am copying a few excerpts from the essay- Click here to read the entire essay and to view the painting- and then I will tell you a story about my own client and the sea. 

"After the plane landed, a bus took us to a ferry, and beneath it we felt the sea. We were tired, hungry, in pain, and in fear about it all. We were gagged, blindfolded and shackled. We were dragged from the ferry to our cages. When we arrived at our cages, we whispered to one another, “There is a sea around.” We could feel it despite all of the pain, confusion and fear. All we were waiting for at the beginning was the sea......
....Some of the camps in Guantánamo were closer to the sea than others. After a few months, we were moved from Camp X-Ray to Camp Delta, which was closer to the sea, but we weren’t allowed to see it. The many fences around us were covered with green tarp to block us from seeing the sea. Once, I tried to tear off the tarp, but guards saw me and I was sent to isolation. We tried many times to tear off that tarp. When we did, we saw that there were more walls of fences and tarps, so it was useless....
...It was hard not seeing the sea, despite its being only a few hundred feet away from us. At the recreation area, if we lay on our stomach, we could get glimpses of the sea through small openings below the tarp. When the guards found out, they blocked the openings. In some cells, in some blocks, we could stand on the windows at the back of our cells to see the sea, but that was risky, because the guards punished us every time they saw us standing and looking out. Whenever any of us wanted to look at the sea, we needed to ask one of the other detainees to watch for the guards and warn us if they came around the block. It wasn’t long before the administration made higher covers, blocking us from seeing the sea."

Mr. Al-Ghizzawi had been at Guantanamo more than eight years when this particular meeting took place. We had met probably twenty or more times but this particular day was the first time that we had our meeting at camp Iguana. Like most of the places where we had attorney/client meetings with our clients Camp Iguana had been used as a location where the men had been tortured and it was a place that brought back bad memories for our clients. On this, my first visit to camp Iguana I was astounded by the furniture in the meeting room- big overstuffed chairs, a big overstuffed couch and a coffee table- not the usual decor for the meeting spaces.
I never used a translator with Mr. Al-Ghizzawi because he spoke engish- but one of the translators was on the bus with me and as we waited to go into the camp he asked me if I had been to Camp Iguana before. I told him "no." He then told me that if my client asks to use the washroom tell him that if he looks around the corner on the stairs to the left he can see the ocean. The translator told me that the men liked it when they could see the ocean as views of the ocean were forbidden. Sigh.
During the meeting Mr. Al-Ghizzawi asked to use the washroom and before I went to get the guard I told him what the translator had told me about seeing the ocean. He made no comment. When he came back I asked him if he was able to see the ocean and he looked at me and said "I don't care about seeing the ocean I want to see my little girl."
It still makes me incredibly sad to think about that day. Mr. Al-Ghizzawi's daughter was only a few months old when he was kidnapped and sold to my country for the bounty that we were offering for Arabs.  He had not seen or spoken to his wife or daughter all of those years. As I sat there I felt foolish and small for suggesting that he might enjoy seeing the ocean but more than that I was angry that this was what we had done- we had locked up innocent men and the best thing that could happen to them was to catch a glimpse of the sea. Mr. Al-Ghizzawi just wanted to see his daughter and I just wanted my country back. Or what I thought was my country.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A dissappointing Book....

It has taken me a long time to get around to writing about this book. Let me start out by saying that I have great respect for both authors. The importance of John Kiriakou's whistleblowing on the torture program cannot be over stated- and the Obama administration's treatment of this hero is a shameful example of that administrations ineptitude. Joseph Hickman's exposure of the murders/cover-up at Guantanamo (described in his book Murder at Camp Delta) is a detailed investigation into the deaths of three men at Guantanamo- an expose that was promptly ignored by the corporate media, the politicians in this country of mine and of course the public- the book is a must read for anyone interested in our gulag known as Guantanamo.
Both men are heroes in their own right.

So why did they write this book? "The Convenient Terrorist" is about Zain Abidin Mohammed Husain, a man known in our press as Abu Zubaydah. [I am purposely not linking to the book- if you want to read it you will have to find it yourself!] I cannot answer that question- I can only say that these authors lacked information that would have been important in telling the complete story of Abu Zubaydah--it is information the authors probably did not know or could not say-- because it is "classified." However, that is the very reason why this book should not have been written--it is not a complete and accurate portrayal of the story surrounding Abu Zubahdah. The details that are left out not only paint a much more damning light on the whole capture of Abu Zubahdah but also miss out on painting a much more accurate and sympathetic look at the man himself. Those details and Abu Zubahdah's story must wait until this country of mine declassifies everything- and I mean everything.

Some of you may recall that I have written about Abu Zubaydah many times on this blog. Most recently last year when the judge in his federal case cowardly and shamefully refused to allow the man to have a habeas hearing.If anyone is the poster child for my country's travesty, known at Guantanamo, it would be Abu Zubaydah. The reason I have written about Abu Zubaydah so often on this blog, and the reason I am so critical of this book, is because Abu Zubaydah is a man I know a lot about. My own client-Saeed Bakhouche (also known as Razak Ali) was arrested in the same house where Abu Zubaydah was staying when they and every other Arab in the house was arrested (the non Arabs were promptly released). My client is on the "forever list" (never to be charged with a crime and never to be set free) because he is Arab and was in the same guesthouse as Abu Zubaydah (keep this in mind when you stay at an airbnb- you too could be held responsible for being associated with someone you do not know). [However, even my client was allowed a habeas hearing- even though it was a sham, complete with some of the most rank malfeasance by defense counsel, in this case DOJ, that I have ever seen or read about- and trust me I have seen quite a lot.] Because of my client I have spent a great deal of time researching Abu Zubaydah- to show the courts that not only should my own client be released- but the man that my government and military have used as an excuse to hold my client (and many others) is also not what he has been portrayed to be. But all of that information is classified. I cannot correct the mistakes in this book because I am subject to a court order protecting that information from the public.

The details that have emerged over time have not mattered to the courts and I must say that the title of the book is a very accurate title- Abu Zubaydah was and is- the convenient terrorist. My country needed, and apparently continues to need, scary people to justify our wars against Muslims.  Unfortuantely this book perpetuates many of those myths.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Monday, September 11, 2017

September 11 2017- and it continues.

I wonder if my remaining client at Gitmo would not have been happy to just have hurricane Irma blow the place away and put an end to the endlessness. But alas, word has it that all have survived at the gulag.

As I do every September 11th, I turn this over to my friend The Talking Dog- a person who was actually closer to the New York devastation than most of us- to put all of this in perspective.

Read was he has to say here.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

From Our Friends Down Under at Justinian...

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The CIA's rendition plane. Yours for $27.5m
For those wanting to own a piece of history, the infamous aircraft N313P, one of the planes used for CIA torture renditions, was recently put on sale for $27.5 million. N313P ferried torture victims to US vassal states such as Poland and human rights violators like Uzbekistan, Egypt and Libya.
Neither the US government nor American courts have provided any civil remedy for the victims of such CIA operations, and both the Bush and Obama administrations invoked the state secrets doctrine - along with other shameful ruses - to block any recovery of damages by those affected.
Except for a settlement some Abu Ghraib abuse victims obtained from the US government contractor L-3 Services (and others may possibly achieve in a pending suit against the contractor CACI International), victims of US abduction and torture have only received compensation from a few of the accomplices such as Macedonia and Poland, through claims in the European Court of Human Rights.
A new avenue has now opened up, however, through which the CIA could be indirectly obliged to pay compensation, even though the former head of the CIA's Thai torture camp, Gina Haspel, is now the top official at the agency. 
CIA torture gurus: Jessen & Mitchell
When we last visited Ms Haspel (see March Fitch), she'd been evading a deposition in Salim v Mitchell, the lawsuit brought by two CIA-tortured men and the family of a third who was tortured to death (the depositions of other CIA identities were successfully taken).  
Venue for the civil damages suit lay in the progressive enclave of Washington state, due to the Spokane residency of the defendants, the CIA's contract "psychologists" James Mitchelland Bruce Jessen, who designed and implemented the (shudder) "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" used by the CIA.
While these plaintiffs were tortured at Bagram, in Afghanistan, Mitchell and Jessen began their highly unethical experiments on Gina Haspel's turf in Thailand, with the very first man tortured by the CIA, Abu Zubaydah, as their guinea pig.  
The psychologists relied on worthless "legal" authorisations they received, some from the odious Stephen Bradbury, now Trump's General Counsel at the Transportation Department (see June Fitch). 
Thanks in part to the stubborn persistence of a long-serving federal judge, the crusty 88-year-old Justin Quackenbush, the case of Salim v Mitchell was set for trial in September, after the judge refused the defendants' motions for summary judgment.
Unmoved by the defendants' startling reliance on the Nazi-era acquittal of a gas technician for Zyklon-B, the judge ruled that the Alien Tort Statute was applicable to the charges, including torture, involuntary human experimentation and war crimes.  
The psychologists quickly settled, more here and here.  

Quackenbush: opened up settlements against the CIA
The settlement against Mitchell and Jessen suggests that other men (the Feinstein Report lists over 100),  tortured by the CIA under the psychologists' protocols, could receive compensation at the expense of the agency.  
How? The psychologists wisely obtained an indemnity from the CIA, now activated by settlement of the initial case against them.
As promised, the Trump administration has now returned all copies of the Senate's full 6,700-page Feinstein Report to the Senate in the hope that the "torture report" will be undiscoverable in civil or criminal litigation. 
*   *   *
In June, the five defendants in the Guantánamo "9/ll" military commission appealed a decision of the Court of Military Commission Review that had reinstated dismissed chargesfor which limitations had run. Lawfare had more on this order and the al Qosi order, below.
The 9/11 men appealed on grounds that included a claim that one of the CMCR judges should have recused himself, and the DC court of appeals, agreeing, reversed. More here from Steve Vladeck
In the other order, the renegade CMCR remanded the al Qosi appeal to the commission with an odd sua sponte direction to determine whether the now freed "convict" might have since re-offended (i.e. become an "enemy combatant"), as indeed it appears he has, and implied his post-release conduct might affect his appeal. There was no statutory basis for the direction, and surely, post-conviction behaviour is irrelevant. 
At the pretrial hearings at another of Guantanamo's farcical military commissions - that of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the government's own witness, Ahmed al Darbi, has been testifying about the depraved treatment he received at the hands of his US interrogators. 
The prosecution must have reasoned this would lessen the effect such damning testimony would have if obtained in cross-examination. Al-Nashiri, it will be recalled, is on trial for sundry fake "war crimes" - offences not committed in a time, or a place, of war - trivial matters to the Pentagon. 
Judge Pohl: allowed prosecution to destroy protected evidence
The 9/11 defence lawyers are asking that the presiding judge, Col James L Pohl withdraw from the case, based on the secret, ex parte permission he gave to the prosecution to destroy evidence that was under a protective court order. 
In the meantime, the 9/11 prosecutors are diabolically claiming that Judge Pohl can't read the defence brief, for "security" reasons.  
The lead defendant, Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, responded:
"I'm used to the idea that they can kill me based on things I can't see. But now it seems they want to kill me based on things the judge can't see."  
Franz Kafka was, after all, a lawyer. 

Read the rest here.