Scott Horton: Yes, They Hid Torture Evidence from Obama

(noon. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Scott Horton has followed up on the UK Guardian story, which I also wrote on last night, describing how Reprieve attorney Clive Stafford Smith, whose organization is helping defend Guantanamo detainee and British resident Binyam Mohamed, had information he was sending to President Obama on Mohamed’s torture censored by the U.S. Department of Defense.

At Daily Kos, a number of readers were incredulous at the claims I, and by implication, Stafford Smith was making about Obama being kept out of the information loop, suggesting that I was prone to conspiracy theories, or a dupe for grandstanding by Mohamed’s attorneys. Some suggested either the Guardian or myself or both had completely misunderstood the situation.

But Horton, who has been following this story carefully, and is known to have excellent sources, reported on the Guardian article much as I had, and added this:

During the transition period, Obama staffers were regularly denied access to information relating to the Bush Administration’s torture programs. Stafford Smith notes that a number of Bush Administration officials involved in administering these programs, although political appointees, subsequently “burrowed” into career positions where they continue to have on-going responsibility and appear to be obstructing disclosure of what has happened.

Horton goes on to describe the continuing fallout around the Mohamed case in Britain, where

Today the High Court in London agreed to reopen the most recent case, involving British Guantánamo detainee Binyam Mohamed, making clear that it was highly dissatisfied with Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

For those looking to understand the timeline and characters associated with Binyam’s case, which has engendered controversies from London to San Francisco — where the other day, Obama’s Department of Justice invoked, Bush-style, state secrets to throw a case out of court where Binyam was one of five plaintiffs in a rendition/torture civil suit — the interested reader should check out Andy Worthington’s excellent article, “Hiding Torture And Freeing Binyam Mohamed From Guantánamo”.

Worthington comments on the circumstances that unfolded around the Binyam Mohamed case this week:

However, bitter though the truth may be, when it came down to it President Obama and his team must, I think, have been literally besieged by supplicants – from the CIA, from Boeing, from Jeppesen, and from countless other government departments and contractors involved in “extraordinary rendition” and torture in the last seven years – urging them not to open up the floodgates to what David Miliband has been striving, on a smaller scale, to prevent in the UK: prosecution for complicity in war crimes.

Quite where this leaves the struggle for the disclosure of evidence relating to “extraordinary rendition” and torture is unclear, although from my point of view, the most appropriate course of action would be for those directly responsible for implementing America’s “War on Terror” policies – a list that includes George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, David Addington, John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, and William J. Haynes II, to name but a few – to be pursued for the prosecutions that President Obama is obliged to follow up on, after the admission in February 2008 by Gen. Michael Hayden, the director of the CIA, that waterboarding – a form of torture – was used on a number of “high-value detainees,” and last month’s confession by Susan Crawford, the Convening Authority of the Military Commission trial system at Guantánamo, that she had dropped the charges against Mohammed al-Qahtani, the alleged 20th hijacker for the 9/11 attacks, because “His treatment met the legal definition of torture.”

ACLU Suit’s Bitter Fruit: More Evidence of Prisoner Killings

Jason Leopold has published an article describing the latest batch of declassified documents obtained from the ACLU in its FOIA suite against the government. (H/T Scott Horton)

ACLU has released a two-page previously unseen portion of the Church Report that describes the torture and murdering of prisoners by U.S. armed forces, as well as by contract interrogation personnel.

According to the declassified Church Report documents, on Dec. 4, 2002, a prisoner died while in U.S. custody in Afghanistan. Six days later, another prisoner died. Two days before the detainees were tortured and died, on Dec. 2, 2002, Rumsfeld authorized “aggressive interrogation techniques,” leading to “interrogation policies and plans approved by senior military and civilian officials [that] conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody,” the Senate Armed Services Committee report said.

Both deaths, the documents say, “share some similarities.”

“In both cases, for example, [the prisoners] were handcuffed to fixed objects above their heads in order to keep them awake,” the documents say. “Additionally, interrogations in both incidents involved the use of physical violence, including kicking, beating, and the use of “compliance blows” which involved striking the [prisoners] legs with the [interrogators] knees. In both cases, blunt force trauma to the legs was implicated in the deaths. In one case, a pulmonary embolism developed as a consequence of the blunt force trauma, and in the other case pre-existing coronary artery disease was complicated by the blunt force trauma.”

“In both instances, the [detainee] deaths followed interrogation sessions in which unauthorized techniques were allegedly employed, but in both cases, these sessions were followed by further alleged abusive behavior outside of the interrogation booth,” the declassified documents say….

Moreover, the declassified documents names a private contractor, David Passaro, who conducted at least one interrogation that allegedly led to the death of a prisoner

Senator Patrick Leahy is pushing for a congressional “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” to investigate the Bush Administration’s crimes. Meanwhile, others are pushing for indictments and prosecutions. Obama keeps saying he wants to look ahead and not backward, even as his own people pull the rug out from under him.

The effects of the torture crimes will not go away. The torture virus has become firmly embedded in the political corpus of this society, and it will take strenuous efforts to extirpate it. Wishful thinking will not be enough. Even a “Truth and Reconciliation” Commission will not be enough (although it may have its importance after the big wigs are indicted). The reestablishment of the rule of law, and the end of torture, which is still practiced by the United States, demands the prosecutions of those who have seriously broken national and international law. Only deterrence of this sort, in this instance, will have the needed effect.

Also posted at Invictus and Daily Kos


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    • Valtin on February 13, 2009 at 08:44

    Too tired to make a decent comment… just… prosecute the bastards and send them to Napoleon’s old pad at St. Helena.

  1. Although I’d prefer a special prosecutor, I have also signed Sen. Leahy’s petition.  If there is no taste for prosecuting them here, then the truth must be revealed at all costs…and considering the scope of the crimes, maybe there’s a tiny hope that the International Criminal Court will take up the case?

  2. I think that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission is a great tool for developing nations that don’t have a solid legal system.  But using a TRC in the US just seems to me to be an evasion of responsibility to prosecute law breakers.  It feels akin to mass immunity from prosecution.  I just don’t think that’s appropriate.  

  3. … most of your comments over at the Orange.  Each one was so illuminating, and I thank you for them.

    This is kind of way out, so if it makes no sense, the responsibility is mine and no one else’s.

    Under our Constitution, our laws protect us.  They even protect Bush and Cheney.  The alternative is mob justice, pitchforks and torches, which although they may satisfy a thirst for revenge, do not produce justice.

    It’s clear that during the Bush-Cheney years, the process of legislation under the Constitution was completely subverted, first by the Republican majority and then by Democratic weakness.  Further, the “unintary executive” basically legislated by his signing statements and blew away the checks and balances under the Constitution.  IOW, the laws that were passed and acted upon were unconstitutional and now we see where that has led us.

    The irony to me is that the Constitution and the laws passed in accordance with it, is what will both protect and hold accountable those who have tortured.

    Boggles the mind.

  4. community (what oxymoron that is) hid torture evidence does not surprise me. What does surprise me is the DOJ under Holder supported the state secret doctrine.

    Obama is not excused by faulty intelligence, we’ve heard that before. It’s the who could have known all over again. Obama can read and if you and I know what went on believe me he does. If he had any interest in unburrowing these sadists or prosecuting the criminals who authorized and legalized these crimes against humanity why would the DOJ adhere to the same doctrine that seeks to keep these crimes outside the law, and calls them ‘tools’ we need? Moving ahead with the ability to use the same tools for our security.      

  5. I think a Truth and Reconciliation Commission would simply be a means of appeasing the American people who are calling for investigations.  But I see it as simply a “softer” way for our representatives to deal with the crimes of the Bush Administration. The reality is that they really don’t want to deal with it at all and will look for easier means to pursue any findings — but, it’s for their benefit, not anything else.  The easy way out!

    I think we have to stick by what WE WANT and not be told what we might or should have.  We need to just keep screaming about all of this.  The legal and moral impetus is overwhelmingly in favor of investigations and prosecutions.

    Thanks again, Valtin!

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