Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Guantanamo: Old and Busted; Bagram: New Hotness

Wow, you know you've got a hit on your hands when you're rated worse than Gitmo and Abu Ghraib. This is from Monday's Democracy Now...since there have been some legal victories over the concentration camp in Gitmo, people are instead being routed to Kabul and Bagram for detaining without charges, torture, rape and all those other things that make America the shining bastion of freedom.

Courtesy of the Something Awful Forums, some excerpts from the segment:

AMY GOODMAN: Now, can you, though, explain? I mean, it sounds like the reason Bagram is growing is because of all of the international outcry around Guantanamo, but also Guantanamo's legal relationship with the United States on a U.S. air base in Cuba. Can you explain the legality of Afghanistan, where Bagram is and Guantanamo, these two detention camps?

MICHAEL RATNER: Well, both Clive and I were in the early case about Guantanamo, in which the U.S. tried to say Guantanamo was like Bagram, that there were no legal rights there. You couldn't go to court for people in Guantanamo. They had no constitutional rights, and the U.S. said it could do what it wanted to people at Guantanamo. We won a big case in the Supreme Court, the Rasul case in June of 2004, that opened the courts to people at Guantanamo and opened them so people like Clive and Center lawyers could go to Guantanamo.

Even with that, those set of rights, the administration, in the Graham-Levin Bill and the Detainee Treatment Act, is trying to eliminate even those rights we won in the Supreme Court. But as far as Bagram is concerned, the legal position of the administration is similar to what it was about Guantanamo. There are no legal rights, but they have the additional argument, that they would make, that because it’s not on a U.S. permanent military base like the one in Cuba, that there’s even fewer rights.

I don't think they're correct. I think that any person detained anywhere in the world has a right to go into a court, has a right to be visited by an attorney, but the administration's view is whatever Guantanamo rights are, the rights at Bagram are nil, absolutely none, and so what they did, according to the Times report, was a few months after we won the Rasul case, they said they stopped sending people to Guantanamo and started to send them to other places – Bagram is the one that we know the most about at this point – because the administration's view is that no court, no lawyer, no one, has any right to visit anyone in Guantanamo -- anyone in Bagram, and that nobody --and that the people at Bagram have no legal rights at all. An extraordinary statement in today’s world.

quote:AMY GOODMAN: Clive Stafford Smith, I wanted to ask you about a piece that appeared in a paper in your country in the Guardian by Suzanne Goldenberg and James Meek. It says, “New evidence has emerged that U.S. forces in Afghanistan engaged in widespread Abu Ghraib-style abuse, taking trophy photographs of detainees and carrying out rape and sexual humiliation. Documents obtained by the Guardian contain evidence that such abuse took place in the main detention center at Bagram, near the capital, Kabul, as well at a smaller U.S. installation near the southern city of Kandahar. A thousand pages of evidence from U.S. Army investigations released to the ACLU after a long battle, made available to the Guardian.”

And then inside, it says, “The latest allegations from Afghanistan fit a pattern of claims of brutal treatment made by former Guantanamo Bay prisoners and Afghans held by the U.S. In December, the U.S. said eight prisoners had died in custody in Afghanistan,” and this is according to you, “A Palestinian says he was sodomized by American soldiers in Afghanistan. Another former prisoner of U.S. forces, a Jordanian, describes a form of torture which involved being hung in a cage from a rope for days. Hussein Abdelkader Youssef Mustafa, a Palestinian living in Jordan, told Clive Stafford Smith he was sodomized by U.S. soldiers during detention at Bagram in 2002. He said, ‘They forcibly rammed a stick up my rectum – excruciatingly painful. Only when the pain became overwhelming did I think I would ever scream, but I could not stop screaming when this happened.’”

CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: Yeah, you know, Hussein Mustafa, I met with him in Jordan, and he was an incredibly credible person. He is a dignified older gentleman, about now 50 years old, and he wanted to talk about what had happened to him, but he really didn’t want to talk about that sexual stuff, and in the end, you know, I said to him, “Look, you don’t have to, but it’s very important if things happened, that the story get out, so they don't happen to other people,” and in the end he did, and it was in front of half a dozen people who were just transfixed as he described how four soldiers took him, one on each shoulder, one bent down his head and then the fourth of them took this broomstick and shoved it up his rectum.

Now there was no one in that room -- and they were from a variety of places -- who didn't believe that what this man was saying was true, but I am afraid, I’ve got to tell you, that that’s far from the worst that’s happened. When you talk about Bagram, when you talk about Kandahar, those aren’t the worst places the U.S. has run in Afghanistan. The dark prison, sometimes called “Salt Pit,” in Kabul itself, which is separate from Bagram, has been far worse than that, and I can tell you stories from there that just make your skin crawl.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, why don't you tell us something about this place?

CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: Yeah, I'll tell you some of the ones, for example, that Binyam Mohammed told me. He was the man who had the razor blade taken to him. He was then taken, and again, we can prove it. We’ve got the flight logs. He was taken on January 25, 2004, to Kabul, where he was put in this dark prison for five months, and he was shackled. You just get this vision of the Middle Ages, where he’s shackled on the wall with his hands up, so he can't quite sit down. It’s totally dark in that place.

When the U.S. says that people are being treated nicely in Bagram, you’ve got to be kidding me. It’s the middle of winter, and they're freezing to death, and this man was in this cell, no heating, absolutely freezing, no clothing, except for his shorts, totally dark for 24 hours a day with this howling noise around him. They began with Eminem music, interestingly enough; they played him Eminem music for 24 hours a day for 20 days. Seems to me Eminem ought to be suing them for royalties over that, but then it got worse and they started doing these screeching noises, and this is going on 24 hours a day, and in the mean time they would bring him out very briefly just to beat him, and this is to try to get this man to confess to stories that they now want him to repeat in military commissions in Guantanamo, and they want to say, “Oh, everything's nice now.”

And what he went through, he said, was far worse than the physical torture, this psychological torture that some pervert was running in the dark prison in Kabul was worse to him, and he still suffers from it day in, day out, because of what it has done to his mind, and this is the – what we have to remember is there is someone out there who is thinking this stuff up and who is then saying that we need to do it, and this isn’t some lowly guard who loses control and does something terrible that’s physical. I mean, that’s awful. But you’ve got someone out there who is thinking through how we’re going to torture these people with this excruciating noise and these other things, and they're doing this very, very consciously, and the story has a long way before it’s going to be out fully.

quote:AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to talk about this article in the New Yorker that Jane Mayer had written about Colonel Louie Morgan Banks, a senior Army psychologist who played a significant advisory role in interrogations at Guantanamo Bay. Asked to provide details of his consulting work, he said, quote, “I just don't remember any particular cases. I just consulted generally on what approaches to take. It was about what human behavior in captivity is like.”


MICHAEL RATNER: Well, what’s remarkable about Banks is he also consulted on Guantanamo. So here you have this guy who is a psychologist, consulting really on how to break people through psychological -- psychological torture is what I would call it, and then he goes from Guantanamo to Bagram. This is not chance. This is not a few bad apples. This is high-level military people working with our military, our C.I.A., in how to break people through torture.

CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: When you're talking “break people,” and I think that’s a very important word. You know, people bang on about whether it’s torture or whether it’s coercion. Well our highest officials have said that the purpose of all of this is to, quote, “break” somebody, and we get people to confess to stuff that’s absolute drivel. You take, for example, Binyam Mohammed, again. You have a razor blade taken to you, you have the psychological stuff, you’re going to say anything.

They got Binyam Mohammed to confess that he had dinner with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramsey bin al-Shaid, Abu Zubaydah, Sheikh al-Libbi, and Jose Padilla all together on April 3, 2002, in Pakistan. Well, you know, quite apart from anything else, two of them, Abu Zubaydah and Sheikh al-Libbi were in U.S. custody at the time when he confessed to that and at the time that he was meant to be having dinner, and you know, this is a guy that didn’t speak Arabic who was meant to be hobnobbing with half of al-Qaeda. You get this total drivel out of this breaking of people, and yet, for some reason, the people who are designing Guantanamo think we should carry on breaking them, as did the Spanish Inquisition. It’s very odd.


CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: Don’t you think though, Michael – I tell you, I think there’s a slightly bigger danger here, which is the people who are doing this abuse believe the stuff they get. This is what’s frightening to me, that we end up making decisions based on this nonsense.

MICHAEL RATNER: You know, it’s true. They do believe it. I think, when you talk to your clients or we talk to ours, the people who are interrogating them actually believe what they're telling them, even though it’s utterly and complete drivel.

Posted by crimnos @ 3:26 PM