The Long War Journal reported in its post, “Former Guantanamo detainee killed while leading jihadist group in Syria,” that:
Ibrahim Bin Shakaran, a Moroccan who spent more than three years at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility before being released to Moroccan custody, has been killed while leading a jihadist group that fights Syrian government forces.
Bin Shakaran, who is also known as Abu Ahmad al Maghribi, Abu Ahmad al Muhajir, and Brahim Benchekroune, was “martyred, Insha’Allah, in battles for Hilltop # 45 in Latakia,” according to Kavkaz Center, a propaganda arm of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate.
The Pentagon official in charge of Guantanamo Bay has admitted that if he had his time over, he would have argued that the notorious detention camp should never have been built.
William Lietzau, America’s Deputy Assistant Defence Secretary for Detainee Affairs, told The Mail on Sunday in an exclusive interview that Guantanamo’s detainees should have been legally designated as prisoners of war and held in Afghanistan, or if charged with crimes, taken to prisons in America.
Mr Lietzau – who, after three and a half years in his job, last week announced he will be stepping down to take a private sector job in September – added that the best way for President Obama to close Guantanamo would be to announce that the ‘war’ with Al Qaeda is over.
Under international law, this would end any justification for continuing to hold prisoners who had not been charged with crimes.
Lietzau’s words will be seen as explosive, because alone of senior officials who serve the Obama administration in this field now, he played a key role in creating Guantanamo under George W. Bush.
Back in May, I covered the hunger strikes at Guantanamo Bay, which at the time consisted of 100 of 166 detainees. I noted how the American Medical Association (AMA) expressed concern that the force feeding of many of these detainees was contrary to medical ethics. A lawyer for one of the detainees described the force feeding practice thus:
“It can be extremely painful. One of my clients said that it’s like having a razor blade go down through your nose and into your throat,” Remes said.
An American lawyer representing detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp has been found dead in an apparent suicide.
The body of Andy P. Hart, a 38-year-old US federal public defender, was found last week with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. According to Truthout, an investigative blog, news of the attorney’s death came only this Wednesday from an investigator working on Guantanamo detainees’ habeas corpus petitions. That investigator requested anonymity.
What’s happening in Guantanamo Bay right now is bad, very bad. For those of you who aren’t paying attention, 100 of the 166 prisoners at Gitmo are engaged in a hunger strike and some of them are in such dire straights they are being brutally force fed. No big deal you say? Well the American Medical Association (AMA) disagrees and they are concerned that such treatment is contrary to medical ethics. In fact, the AMA’s president sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel asking him “to address any situation in which a physician may be asked to violate the ethical standards of his or her profession.”
And yes, this is on Obama. While he blames Congress (as usual) for not closing the facility, in reality all he ever wanted to do was just move it to the United States. The man is a pathological liar.
Torture brings forth unreliable information and false confessions, apart from the fact that it is a serious violation of all manner of international agreements, former CIA officer Ray McGovern told RT.
“You can’t get reliable information from torture. But torture works beautifully if you want unreliable information” says McGovern.
His comments come amid the trial of John Kiriakou, a CIA veteran sentenced to two years in prison, after leaking sensitive information about Washington’s torture program.
Kiriakou, the man who oversaw the capture of Al-Qaeda’s third-in-command, blew the lid on America’s torture program, revealing the name of an alleged torturer at Guantanamo Bay.
Kiriakou came out against Washington’s torture program supporting the notion that torture is illegal, says McGovern adding that the accusations against Kiriakou are political andhe is being punished out due to rank-hypocrisy.
RT: John Kiriakou says he is not punished for what he did but for what he is. What are your thoughts on this? Continue reading »
Recently-declassified US documents point to the forcible administration of a ‘truth serum’ of severe side effects to all the detainees at the US notorious prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The documents detailed operating procedures for nursing staff at the facility, including the use of the drug, named scopolamine, The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Sunday.
According to the paper, information released by the CIA has shown that scopolamine had been disqualified as a truth drug because of its many undesirable side effects, including hallucinations, disturbed perception, headaches, rapid heartbeat, and blurred vision.
But nationally-recognized constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley (the second most cited law professor in the country, one of the top 10 lawyers handling military cases, who has served as a consultant on homeland security and constitutional issues and is a frequent witness before the House and Senate on constitutional and statutory issues, who ranked 38th in the top 100 most cited ‘public intellectuals’ in a recent study by a well-known judge) said yesterday on C-Span (starting at 15:50):
It’s even worse than coming into your house. President Obama has just stated a policy that he can have any American citizen killed without any charge, without any review, except his own. If he’s satisfied that you are a terrorist, he says that he can kill you anywhere in the world including in the United States.
Two of his aides just were just at a panel two weeks ago and they reaffirmed they believe that American citizens can be killed on the order of the President anywhere including the United States.
You’ve now got a president who says that he can kill you on his own discretion. He can jail you indefinitely on his own discretion
“An evil exists that threatens every man, woman, and child of this great nation. We must take steps to insure our domestic security and protect our homeland.” - Adolf Hitler, proposing the creation of the Gestapo in Nazi Germany
Their (AC/DC) songs were among the loud music played to detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison facility in preparation for interrogations, the Associated Press reported in October 20009, citing the National Security Archive in Washington.
Let’s just say the US or Israel is really behind this cyber attack.
What would happen if Iran would do the same to us or Israel?
Iran’s nuclear facilities have suffered a cyber attack that shut down computers and played music from the rock band AC/DC, the F-Secure Security Labs website said.
A new worm targeted Iran’s nuclear program, closing down the “automation network” at the Natanz and Fordo facilities, the Internet security site reported, citing an e-mail it said was sent by a scientist inside Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization.
The virus also prompted several of the computers on site to play the song “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC at full volume in the middle of the night, according to the e-mail, part of which is published in English on the website.
Detainees in custody of the US military were interrogated while drugged with powerful antipsychotic and other medications that “could impair an individual’s ability to provide accurate information,” according to a declassified Department of Defense (DoD) inspector general’s report that probed the alleged use of “mind altering drugs” during interrogations.
In addition, detainees were subjected to “chemical restraints,” hydrated with intravenous (IV) fluids while they were being interrogated and, in what appears to be a form of psychological manipulation, the inspector general’s probe confirmed at least one detainee – convicted “dirty bomb” plotter Jose Padilla – was the subject of a “deliberate ruse” in which his interrogator led him to believe he was given an injection of “truth serum.”
Over the past decade, dozens of current and former detainees and their civilian and military attorneys have alleged in news reports and in court documents that prisoners held by the US government in Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan were forcibly injected with unknown medications and pills during or immediately prior to marathon interrogation sessions in an attempt to compel them to confess to terrorist-related crimes of which they were accused.
“A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have” - Thomas Jefferson
Something odd and not quite as planned happened as America grew from its “City on a Hill” origins, on its way to becoming the world’s superpower: government grew. A lot. In fact, the government, which by definition does not create any wealth but merely reallocates it based on the whims of a select few, has transformed from a virtually invisible bystander in the economy, to the largest single employer, and a spending behemoth whose annual cash needs alone are nearly $4 trillion a year, and where tax revenues no longer cover even half the outflows. One can debate why this happened until one is blue in the face: the allures of encroaching central planning, the law of large numbers, and the corollary of corruption, inefficiency and greed, cheap credit, the transition to a welfare nanny state as America’s population grew older, sicker and lazier, you name it. The reality is that the reasons for government’s growth do not matter as much as realizing where we are, and deciding what has to be done: will America’s central planners be afforded ever more power to decide the fates of not only America’s population, but that of the world, or will the people reclaim the ideals that the founders of this once great country had when they set off on an experiment, which is now failing with every passing year?
As the following video created by New America Now, using content by Brandon Smith whose work has been featured extensively on the pages of Zero Hedge, notes, “we tend to view government as an inevitability of life, but the fact is government is not a force of nature. It is an imperfect creation of man and it can be dismantled by man just as easily as it can be established.” Unfortunately, the realization that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and absolute central planning leads to epic catastrophes without fail, seems a long way away: most seem content with their lot in life, with lies that their welfare money is safe, even as the future is plundered with greater fury and aggression every passing year, until one day the ability to transfer wealth (benefiting primarily the uber rich, to the detriment of the middle class which is pillaged on an hourly basis), from the future to the present is gone, manifesting in either a failed bond auction or hyperinflation. The timing or shape of the transition itself is irrelevant, what is certain is that America is now on collision course with certain collapse unless something changes. And one of the things that has to change for hope in the great American dream to be restored, is the role, composition and motivations of government, all of which have mutated to far beyond what anyone envisioned back in 1776. Because America is now saddled with a Government Out Of Control.
Watch the two clips below to understand just how and why we have gotten to where we are. Also watch it to, as rhetorically asked by the narrator, prompt us to question whether the government we now have is still useful to us and what kind of powers it should be allowed to wield.
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan’s first term. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
Dr. Paul Craig Roberts
By Paul Craig Roberts:
Is Obama a hypocrite or merely insouciant? Or is he an idiot?
According to news reports Obama’s White House meeting on Valentine ’s Day with China’s Vice President, Xi Jinping, provided an opportunity for Obama to raise “a sensitive human rights issue with the Chinese leader-in-waiting.” The brave and forthright Obama didn’t let etiquette or decorum get in his way. Afterwards, Obama declared that Washington would “continue to emphasize what we believe is the importance of realizing the aspirations and rights of all people.”
Think about that for a minute. Washington is now in the second decade of murdering Muslim men, women, and children in six countries. Washington is so concerned with human rights that it drops bombs on schools, hospitals, weddings and funerals, all in order to uphold the human rights of Muslim people. You see, bombing liberates Muslim women from having to wear the burka and from male domination.
One hundred thousand, or one million, dead Iraqis; four million displaced Iraqis; a country with destroyed infrastructure and entire cities, such as Fallujah, bombed and burnt with white phosphorus into cinders is the proper way to show concern for human rights.
Ditto for Afghanistan. And Libya.
In Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, Washington’s drones bring human rights to the people.
Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and secret CIA prison sites are other places to which Washington brings human rights. Obama, who has the power to murder American citizens without due process of law, is too powerless to close Guantanamo Prison.
He is powerless to prevent himself from supplying Israel with weapons with which to murder Palestinians and Lebanese citizens to whom Obama brings human rights by vetoing every UN resolution passed against Israel for its crimes against humanity.
Instead of following Washington’s human rights lead, the evil Chinese invest in other countries, buy things from them, and sell them goods.
In the past, journalist Chris Hedges has worked for NPR, The New York Times and the Christian Science Monitor. In his latest endeavor, however, he is teaming up with an unlikely pair: a couple of attorneys that will help him take on the president.
US President Barack Obama is the target of a suit filed by Pulitzer Prize-winner Hedges, and the reasoning seems more than obvious to him. The decision to take the commander-in-chief to court comes as a response to President Obama’s December 31 signing of the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, a legislation that allows the US military to detain American citizens indefinitely at off-site torture prisons like Guantanamo Bay.
Obama amended the NDAA with a signing statement on New Year’s Eve, insisting that while the Act does indeed give him the power to detain his own citizens indefinitely without charge, that doesn’t mean he will do so. Specifically, Obama wrote that his administration “will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens.” Under another piece of legislation, however, the government is being granted the right to suspend citizenship of any American if the Enemy Expatriation Act joins the ranks of the NDAA as an atrocious act approved by the president.
“Once again, you just have to be accused of supporting hostilities which could be defined any way the government sees fit. Then the government can strip your citizenship and apply the indefinite detention section of the NDAA without the benefit of a trial,” journalist Stephen Foster Jr. wrote earlier this month of the Act.
The federal prison in Florence, Colo., has long held terrorists. The justice system has absorbed a surge of terrorism cases since 2001 without the international criticism that Guantánamo Bay has attracted.
WASHINGTON — It is the other Guantánamo, an archipelago of federal prisons that stretches across the country, hidden away on back roads. Today, it houses far more men convicted in terrorism cases than the shrunken population of the prison in Cuba that has generated so much debate.
An aggressive prosecution strategy, aimed at prevention as much as punishment, has sent away scores of people. They serve long sentences, often in restrictive, Muslim-majority units, under intensive monitoring by prison officers. Their world is spare.
Among them is Ismail Royer, serving 20 years for helping friends go to an extremist training camp in Pakistan. In a letter from the highest-security prison in the United States, Mr. Royer describes his remarkable neighbors at twice-a-week outdoor exercise sessions, each prisoner alone in his own wire cage under the Colorado sky. “That’s really the only interaction I have with other inmates,” he wrote from the federal Supermax, 100 miles south of Denver.
There is Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, Mr. Royer wrote. Terry Nichols, who conspired to blow up the Oklahoma City federal building. Ahmed Ressam, the would-be “millennium bomber,” who plotted to attack Los Angeles International Airport. And Eric Rudolph, who bombed abortion clinics and the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
In recent weeks, Congress has reignited an old debate, with some arguing that only military justice is appropriate for terrorist suspects. But military tribunals have proved excruciatingly slow and imprisonment at Guantánamo hugely costly — $800,000 per inmate a year, compared with $25,000 in federal prison.
“The Senate is going to vote on whether Congress will give this president—and every future president — the power to order the military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians anywhere in the world. The power is so broad that even U.S. citizens could be swept up by the military and the military could be used far from any battlefield, even within the United States itself,”writes Chris Anders of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.
WASHINGTON — The Senate voted Tuesday to keep a controversial provision to let the military detain terrorism suspects on U.S. soil and hold them indefinitely without trial — prompting White House officials to reissue a veto threat.
The measure, part of the massive National Defense Authorization Act, was also opposed by civil libertarians on the left and right. But 16 Democrats and an independent joined with Republicans to defeat an amendment by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) that would have killed the provision, voting it down with 61 against, and 37 for it.
“I’m very, very, concerned about having U.S. citizens sent to Guantanamo Bay for indefinite detention,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), one of the Senate’s most conservative members.
A bipartisan group of senators is poised to force through dramatic changes to how the US government handles suspected terrorists—over the objections of the White House and Senate Democratic leadership.
Legislative language that emerged from the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday afternoon would mandate the automatic, indefinite military detention of noncitizens apprehended in the United States who are suspected members of Al Qaeda or associated groups. The wording, which is part of a must-pass bill to fund the military, also appears to allow the indefinite military detention of citizens and legal permanent residents. The bill would also extend restrictions on transfers of detainees from Guantánamo Bay, though only for one year.
Obama administration officials fear that the mandatory detention provisions could force the FBI to interrupt ongoing investigations in order to hand suspected terrorists over to the military. They also worry that the new rules could interfere with the prosecution of suspected terrorists in federal courts. At a homeland security and counterterrorism conference in September, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan warned that “this approach would impose unprecedented restrictions on the ability of experienced professionals to combat terrorism.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) held up the defense funding bill in mid-October on the basis of the those objections. The latest changes to the bill appear to address some of the administration’s concerns by claiming that designating an individual a terrorist “does not require the interruption of ongoing surveillance or intelligence gathering activities.” But civil liberties advocates are disappointed.
“The problems with these provisions have not been fixed—they’ve been made worse,” says Chris Anders, legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union. “There is absolutely no reason for Congress to now pass legislation that would put in indefinite military detention American citizens and other suspects apprehended far from any battlefield, even within the United States itself. ” (Sure? How many reasons do you want to hear?)
George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld covered up that hundreds of innocent men were sent to the Guantánamo Bay prison camp because they feared that releasing them would harm the push for war in Iraq and the broader War on Terror, according to a new document obtained by The Times.
Exclusive: Mamdouh Habib interview on new US/Israeli Egyptian pet Omar Suleiman
Omar Suleiman and Benjamin Netanyahu
Australian citizen Mamdouh Habib was captured and tortured in the years after September 11 in both Egypt and Guantanamo Bay.
For years, “war on terror” supporters defamed Habib and claimed he was lying about his allegations of mistreatment. However last year in just one case against the Australian Murdoch press, he won a small victory:
The courts have delivered another win to former Guantanamo Bay inmate Mamdouh Habib, declaring that he was defamed by News Ltd columnist Piers Akerman, paving the way for a hefty payout.
The New South Wales Court of Appeal overturned a 2008 judgment in favour of Mr Akerman’s publisher Nationwide News and yesterday ordered them to pay Mr Habib’s legal costs in the five-year-old battle.
It was the second win for Mr Habib in a month after the full court of the Federal Court upheld an appeal in his mammoth compensation case against the federal government for allegedly aiding and abetting his torture by foreign agents.
Another hearing will now be held to determine what damages he will receive for the 2005 article in The Daily Telegraph and other News Ltd newspapers, headlined ”Mr Habib, it’s time to tell the full story”.
I interviewed Habib exclusively tonight in Sydney about Suleiman, his calls for the torturer-in-chief to be charged, his knowledge about all the figures complicit in his rendition and his support for the Egyptian protests. He stressed that Suleiman was a CIA/Mossad agent who was willing to do anything for a price:
The guard quickly told me that the very big boss was coming to talk to me, and that I must be well behaved and co-operate. Everyone was nervous. I have since found out that the boss was Omar Suleiman, head of all Egyptian security. He was known for personally supervising the interrogation of al-Qaeda suspects and sending reports to the CIA. In the beginning, he was often present during my interrogations. He must have thought that he had a big fish when I was sent to him by the Americans and Australians.
I was sitting in a chair, hooded, with my hands handcuffed behind my back. He came up to me. His voice was deep and rough. He spoke to me in Egyptian and English. He said, “Listen, you don’t know who I am, but I am the one who has your life in his hands. Every single person in this building has his life in my hands. I just make the decision.”
Former President George W. Bush laughs while answering questions about his presidency at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, November 18, 2010.
Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
GENEVA (Reuters) – Former President George W. Bush has canceled a visit to Switzerland, where he was to address a Jewish charity gala, due to the risk of legal action against him for alleged torture, rights groups said on Saturday.
Bush was to be the keynote speaker at Keren Hayesod’s annual dinner on February 12 in Geneva. But pressure has been building on the Swiss government to arrest him and open a criminal investigation if he enters the Alpine country.
Criminal complaints against Bush alleging torture have been lodged in Geneva, court officials say.
Human rights groups said they had intended to submit a 2,500-page case against Bush in the Swiss city on Monday for alleged mistreatment of suspected militants at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. naval base in Cuba where captives from Afghanistan, Iraq and other fronts in the so-called War on Terror were interned.
Congress blocks president from bringing accused terrorists before US courts, meaning new trials will begin at Guantánamo
The move to begin new military trials is a defeat for Obama, who had promised to close Guantánamo within year of taking office in January 2009 after describing the prison there as damaging to the US. Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
The Obama administration is abandoning attempts to close the Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba and will shortly begin new trials there after Congress blocked the president from bringing accused terrorists before courts in the US.
The defence secretary, Robert Gates, is shortly expected to lift an order imposed on the day of Obama’s inauguration two years ago halting the start of new military tribunals, according to the New York Times. New charges against some of the more than 30 detainees identified for prosecution are expected within weeks.
George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld covered up that hundreds of innocent men were sent to the Guantánamo Bay prison camp because they feared that releasing them would harm the push for war in Iraq and the broader War on Terror, according to a new document obtained by The Times.
Setback for Obama as first former Guantánamo detainee to be tried in civilian court is convicted on just one of 285 charges
A US jury finds former Guantánamo detainee Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani not guilty on all but one count in the African embassy bombings of 1998 Barack Obama’s plans to try accused terrorists in civilian courts experienced a major setback last night when the first former Guantánamo detainee to be tried in one was convicted on just one of 285 charges over the 1998 attack on US embassies in East Africa which killed 224 people.
Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a 36-year-old Tanzanian, was found guilty of conspiracy to destroy US government buildings and property for helping an al-Qaida cell to buy a lorry and bomb parts in the attacks on the American embassies in Kenya and Dar-es-Salaam. But a US federal jury acquitted him of all the more serious charges of murder and conspiracy.
Ghailani faces 20 years to life in prison when he is sentenced in January. He had already been told that even if he was acquitted on all counts he would not be freed so long as America remains “at war” with al-Qaida.
A group of former Guantanamo Bay detainees who claim they were tortured with the complicity of the British security services have been paid millions of pounds to drop legal action against the Government.
Ministers will announce on Tuesday that a deal has been reached with the men, at least one of whom is expected to receive more than £1 million of taxpayers’ money.
The former terrorism suspects, some of whom were foreign residents claiming asylum in Britain, were suing the Government for damages over their treatment while in custody. The security services are thought to have pushed for the settlement in order to avoid details of their secret activities being disclosed in court.
Both MI5 and MI6 could have been forced to disclose information that could have threatened national security. Already some information from the defence was starting to slip out, causing anxiety among some senior officials.
The cost of a long running court case – which could have run into tens of millions of pounds – are also likely to have been a factor.
MPs are expected to be told of the finalised deal on Tuesday, ITV news reported, but details are likely to remain vague.
Binyam Mohamed, a British resident who was returned to this country last year is expected to receive one of the biggest payouts. He claims he was tortured while at the Guantanamo Bay facility and has gained high profile backing for his case from civil rights campaigners.
David Cameron announced in July that an official inquiry would only begin once the outstanding legal claims were settled. But that investigation, under former Appeal Court judge Sir Peter Gibson, will now be free to start.
The CIA has admitted to having videotapes of interrogations in a secret Moroccan prison of 9/11 plotter Ramzi Binalshibh.
An explosion rips through the South Tower of the World Trade Towers after the hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into it Photo: AP
Discovered in a box under a desk at the Central Intelligence Agency, the tapes could reveal how foreign governments aided the United States in holding and interrogating suspects. And they could complicate US efforts to prosecute Binalshibh, who has been described as one of the “key plot facilitators” in the 2001 attacks.
Apparently the tapes do not show harsh treatment – unlike videos the agency has destroyed of the questioning of other suspected terrorists.
The two videotapes and one audiotape are believed to be the only existing recordings made within the clandestine prison system and could offer a revealing glimpse into a four-year global odyssey that ranged from Pakistan to Romania to Guantanamo Bay.
The tapes depict Binalshibh’s interrogation sessions in 2002 at a Moroccan-run facility the CIA used near Rabat, according to several current and former US officials. Continue reading »
Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, oversees a populist intelligence network. Digitally altered photograph by Phillip Toledano.
The house on Grettisgata Street, in Reykjavik, is a century old, small and white, situated just a few streets from the North Atlantic. The shifting northerly winds can suddenly bring ice and snow to the city, even in springtime, and when they do a certain kind of silence sets in. This was the case on the morning of March 30th, when a tall Australian man named Julian Paul Assange, with gray eyes and a mop of silver-white hair, arrived to rent the place. Assange was dressed in a gray full-body snowsuit, and he had with him a small entourage. “We are journalists,” he told the owner of the house. Eyjafjallajökull had recently begun erupting, and he said, “We’re here to write about the volcano.” After the owner left, Assange quickly closed the drapes, and he made sure that they stayed closed, day and night. The house, as far as he was concerned, would now serve as a war room; people called it the Bunker. Half a dozen computers were set up in a starkly decorated, white-walled living space. Icelandic activists arrived, and they began to work, more or less at Assange’s direction, around the clock. Their focus was Project B-Assange’s code name for a thirty-eight-minute video taken from the cockpit of an Apache military helicopter in Iraq in 2007. The video depicted American soldiers killing at least eighteen people, including two Reuters journalists; it later became the subject of widespread controversy, but at this early stage it was still a closely guarded military secret.
Few issues highlight Barack Obama’s extreme hypocrisy the way that Bagram does. As everyone knows, one of George Bush’s most extreme policies was abducting people from all over the world — far away from any battlefield — and then detaining them at Guantanamo with no legal rights of any kind, not even the most minimal right to a habeas review in a federal court. Back in the day, this was called “Bush’s legal black hole.” In 2006, Congress codified that policy by enacting the Military Commissions Act, but in 2008, the Supreme Court, in Boumedienev. Bush, ruled that provision unconstitutional, holding that the Constitution grants habeas corpus rights even to foreign nationals held at Guantanamo. Since then, detainees have won 35 out of 48 habeas hearings brought pursuant to Boumediene, on the ground that there was insufficient evidence to justify their detention.
Immediately following Boumediene, the Bush administration argued that the decision was inapplicable to detainees at Bagram — including even those detained outside of Afghanistan but then flown to Afghanistan to be imprisoned. Amazingly, the Bush DOJ — in a lawsuit brought by Bagram detainees seeking habeas review of their detention — contended that if they abduct someone and ship them to Guantanamo, then that person (under Boumediene) has the right to a habeas hearing, but if they instead ship them to Bagram, then the detainee has no rights of any kind. In other words, the detainee’s Constitutional rights depends on where the Government decides to drop them off to be encaged. One of the first acts undertaken by the Obama DOJ that actually shocked civil libertarians was when, last February, as The New York Times put it, Obama lawyers “told a federal judge that military detainees in Afghanistan have no legal right to challenge their imprisonment there, embracing a key argument of former President Bush’s legal team.”
But last April, John Bates, the Bush-43-appointed, right-wing judge overseeing the case, rejected the Bush/Obama position and held that Boumediene applies to detainees picked up outside of Afghanistan and then shipped to Bagram. I reviewed that ruling here, in which Judge Bates explained that the Bagram detainees are “virtually identical to the detainees in Boumediene,” and that the Constitutional issue was exactly the same: namely, “the concern that the President could move detainees physically beyond the reach of the Constitution and detain them indefinitely.”
But the Obama administration was undeterred by this loss. They quickly appealed Judge Bates’ ruling. As the NYT put it about that appeal: ”The decision signaled that the administration was not backing down in its effort to maintain the power to imprison terrorism suspects for extended periods without judicial oversight.” Today, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals adopted the Bush/Obama position, holding that even detainees abducted outside of Afghanistan and then shipped to Bagram have no right to contest the legitimacy of their detention in a U.S. federal court, because Boumediene does not apply to prisons located within war zones (such as Afghanistan).
So congratulations to the United States and Barack Obama for winning the power to abduct people anywhere in the world and then imprison them for as long as they want with no judicial review of any kind. When the Boumediene decision was issued in the middle of the 2008 presidential campaign, John McCain called it “one of the worst decisions in the history of this country.” But Obama hailed it as “a rejection of the Bush Administration’s attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantanamo,” and he praised the Court for “rejecting a false choice between fighting terrorism and respecting habeas corpus.” Even worse, when Obama went to the Senate floor in September, 2006, to speak against the habeas-denying provisions of the Military Commissions Act, this is what he melodramatically intoned: Continue reading »