April 23, 2009

AND...a very revealing piece given the outburst of torture memos this past week:

A New York Times Op-Ed submitted by a former FBI supervisory special agent on the supposed "effectiveness" of torture and details of the actual Abu Zubaydah interrogation:

Op-Ed Contributor
My Tortured Decision

Published: April 22, 2009

FOR seven years I have remained silent about the false claims magnifying the effectiveness of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding. I have spoken only in closed government hearings, as these matters were classified. But the release last week of four Justice Department memos on interrogations allows me to shed light on the story, and on some of the lessons to be learned.

One of the most striking parts of the memos is the false premises on which they are based. The first, dated August 2002, grants authorization to use harsh interrogation techniques on a high-ranking terrorist, Abu Zubaydah, on the grounds that previous methods hadn’t been working. The next three memos cite the successes of those methods as a justification for their continued use.

It is inaccurate, however, to say that Abu Zubaydah had been uncooperative. Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence.

We discovered, for example, that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Abu Zubaydah also told us about Jose Padilla, the so-called dirty bomber. This experience fit what I had found throughout my counterterrorism career: traditional interrogation techniques are successful in identifying operatives, uncovering plots and saving lives.

There was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah that wasn’t, or couldn’t have been, gained from regular tactics. In addition, I saw that using these alternative methods on other terrorists backfired on more than a few occasions — all of which are still classified. The short sightedness behind the use of these techniques ignored the unreliability of the methods, the nature of the threat, the mentality and modus operandi of the terrorists, and due process.

Defenders of these techniques have claimed that they got Abu Zubaydah to give up information leading to the capture of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a top aide to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and Mr. Padilla. This is false. The information that led to Mr. Shibh’s capture came primarily from a different terrorist operative who was interviewed using traditional methods. As for Mr. Padilla, the dates just don’t add up: the harsh techniques were approved in the memo of August 2002, Mr. Padilla had been arrested that May.

One of the worst consequences of the use of these harsh techniques was that it reintroduced the so-called Chinese wall between the C.I.A. and F.B.I., similar to the communications obstacles that prevented us from working together to stop the 9/11 attacks. Because the bureau would not employ these problematic techniques, our agents who knew the most about the terrorists could have no part in the investigation. An F.B.I. colleague of mine who knew more about Khalid Shaikh Mohammed than anyone in the government was not allowed to speak to him.

It was the right decision to release these memos, as we need the truth to come out. This should not be a partisan matter, because it is in our national security interest to regain our position as the world’s foremost defenders of human rights. Just as important, releasing these memos enables us to begin the tricky process of finally bringing these terrorists to justice.

The debate after the release of these memos has centered on whether C.I.A. officials should be prosecuted for their role in harsh interrogation techniques. That would be a mistake. Almost all the agency officials I worked with on these issues were good people who felt as I did about the use of enhanced techniques: it is un-American, ineffective and harmful to our national security.

Fortunately for me, after I objected to the enhanced techniques, the message came through from Pat D’Amuro, an F.B.I. assistant director, that “we don’t do that,” and I was pulled out of the interrogations by the F.B.I. director, Robert Mueller (this was documented in the report released last year by the Justice Department’s inspector general).

My C.I.A. colleagues who balked at the techniques, on the other hand, were instructed to continue. (It’s worth noting that when reading between the lines of the newly released memos, it seems clear that it was contractors, not C.I.A. officers, who requested the use of these techniques.)

As we move forward, it’s important to not allow the torture issue to harm the reputation, and thus the effectiveness, of the C.I.A. The agency is essential to our national security. We must ensure that the mistakes behind the use of these techniques are never repeated. We’re making a good start: President Obama has limited interrogation techniques to the guidelines set in the Army Field Manual, and Leon Panetta, the C.I.A. director, says he has banned the use of contractors and secret overseas prisons for terrorism suspects (the so-called black sites). Just as important, we need to ensure that no new mistakes are made in the process of moving forward — a real danger right now.

Ali Soufan was an F.B.I. supervisory special agent from 1997 to 2005.

International hurdles with regards to closing Gitmo...

As seen in today's NYTimes:


Yemen Dispute Slows Closing of Guantánamo

Published: April 23, 2009

The Obama administration’s effort to return the largest group of Guantánamo Bay detainees to Yemen, their home country, has stalled, creating a major new hurdle for the president’s plan to close the prison camp in Cuba by next January, American and Yemeni officials say.

“We’re at a complete impasse,” said one American official who is involved in the issue but was speaking without authorization and so requested anonymity. “I don’t know that there’s a viable Plan B.”

The Yemeni government has asked Washington to return its detainees and has said that it would need substantial aid to rehabilitate the men. But the Obama administration is increasingly skeptical of Yemen’s ability to provide adequate rehabilitation and security to supervise returned prisoners. In addition, American officials are wary of sending detainees to Yemen because of growing indications of activity by Al Qaeda there.

The developments are significant for the Obama administration because the 97 Yemeni detainees make up more than 40 percent of the remaining 241 prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. The question of what to do with them “is integral to the process of closing Guantánamo,” said Ken Gude, an associate director at the Center for American Progress who has written about closing the prison camp.

The standoff over the Yemeni detainees comes on top of other difficulties that have emerged since President Obama announced his intention to close the prison that has drawn international criticism for years.

Some Republicans in Congress have mounted stiff resistance to closing Guantánamo, and officials in some American communities, fearing that terrorism suspects could be tried or held in their courts or prisons, said they would fight any such plans. Also, while some European governments have promised to resettle detainees, specific agreements have been slow in coming.

The Yemenis not only are the biggest group of detainees, but also are widely seen as the most difficult to transfer out of Guantánamo. Other countries are wary of many of the Yemeni detainees because jihadist groups have long had deep roots in Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the Arab world and the homeland of Osama bin Laden’s father. If the Yemenis are not sent home, there may be few other options for many of the 97 men, detainees’ lawyers and human rights groups say.

Still, Muhi al-Deen al-Dhabi, Yemen’s deputy foreign affairs minister, said in an interview that the United States was now trying to persuade other countries to accept Yemeni detainees and appeared to have rejected Yemen’s request to have its citizens at Guantánamo returned.

“If the United States is going to transfer the Yemeni detainees to a third party, we cannot stop that,” Mr. Dhabi said.

Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, met last month with Mr. Obama’s deputy national security adviser, John O. Brennan. The State Department said Mr. Brennan raised “the U.S. government’s concerns about the direct return of detainees to Yemen.”

The Bush administration also failed to reach a deal with President Saleh, but the Obama administration had hoped to get increased cooperation from Yemen, which critics say has a history of coddling Islamic extremists and releasing convicted terrorists. Complicating the task is the fact that security in Yemen has been deteriorating for more than a year, with several terrorist attacks, including a suicide bombing outside the American Embassy compound in September that killed 13 people.

Among the 97 Yemeni detainees are some men who appear to be candidates for transfer to other countries, including about a dozen with ties to Saudi Arabia. American officials have described some of the Yemenis as jihadist foot soldiers and have suggested that a few, like a student captured while visiting other Yemenis in Pakistan, may simply have been at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Perhaps a dozen or more Yemeni detainees could face prosecution in the United States, including Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who was charged in the Bush administration’s military commission system with being a coordinator of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

But with just nine months remaining before Mr. Obama’s January 2010 deadline for closing the prison, some lawyers for the men say they are becoming convinced that there may be no viable strategy to relocate them.

David H. Remes, a lawyer for 16 Yemeni detainees, said it appeared that many of the men might remain in American custody. “Unless President Obama reconsiders his decision to close Guantánamo,” Mr. Remes said, “the Yemeni detainees would have to be brought to the U.S. and put in some sort of prison.”

Although administration officials would not comment on the talks with Yemen, a senior administration official said the government was “working to ensure that any detainee who is transferred abroad will be appropriately monitored, rehabilitated, and assimilated back into their society.”

The complexities of the issues surrounding the detainees are a reflection of Yemen’s tangled domestic and international problems. It is a state that often appears on the verge of chaos. A weak central government is fighting a persistent insurgency in the north, restive separatists in the south and a growing Qaeda presence.

Some Yemeni officials say President Saleh, a wily former army officer, has used the internal threats — and perhaps even nurtured them — to press the United States and Yemen’s neighbor Saudi Arabia for more aid.

As a result, people who have discussed the detainee issues with Yemeni officials say the Obama administration’s frustration with the Yemeni government may be well founded.

Mr. Saleh has publicly demanded the return of the detainees. But Joanne Mariner, director of Human Rights Watch’s terrorism and counterterrorism program, said that after meeting top Yemeni officials, it appeared that the Saleh government seemed to see the detainees as a potential source of security and financial problems.

“Politically, they need to give the impression that they’re fighting to get their people back,” Ms. Mariner said, but she added that it was not clear whether the Yemeni officials were working to meet any American requirements.

One senior Yemeni official, she said, seemed to suggest that Yemen would require a huge payment from the American government to resettle the detainees. A proper rehabilitation program, the official claimed, could cost as much as $1 million for each detainee, totaling nearly $100 million.

In the recent interview, Mr. Dhabi, the deputy foreign affairs minister, did not mention a price tag. But he said that creating a rehabilitation program would be “long, costly and would require cooperation.” He said the Americans were “disappointed” to hear that.

Every option for the Yemenis at Guantánamo seems to have its roadblocks. There have long been reports that many Yemeni detainees may go to Saudi Arabia’s rehabilitation program for former jihadists. That program has been widely praised in the Middle East, despite recent disclosures that some graduates who are former Guantánamo detainees have returned to terrorism.

But the Saudis have noted that Yemen demands that its citizens be sent home, and a high-level Saudi official said his country would not take any of the detainees unless Yemen asked it to.

William Glaberson reported from New York, and Robert F. Worth from Beirut, Lebanon. Margot Williams contributed reporting from New York.

February 22, 2009

Still some progress needed on the foreign front, because...

Obama Upholds Detainee Policy in Afghanistan
By CHARLIE SAVAGE at the New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has 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.

In a two-sentence filing late Friday, the Justice Department said that the new administration had reviewed its position in a case brought by prisoners at the United States Air Force base at Bagram, just north of the Afghan capital. The Obama team determined that the Bush policy was correct: such prisoners cannot sue for their release.

“Having considered the matter, the government adheres to its previously articulated position,” wrote Michael F. Hertz, acting assistant attorney general.

The closely watched case is a habeas corpus lawsuit on behalf of several prisoners who have been indefinitely detained for years without trial. The detainees argue that they are not enemy combatants, and they want a judge to review the evidence against them and order the military to release them.

The Bush administration had argued that federal courts have no jurisdiction to hear such a case because the prisoners are noncitizens being held in the course of military operations outside the United States. The Obama team was required to take a stand on whether those arguments were correct because a federal district judge, John D. Bates, asked the new government whether it wanted to alter that position.

The Obama administration’s decision was generally expected among legal specialists. But it was a blow to human rights lawyers who have challenged the Bush administration’s policy of indefinitely detaining “enemy combatants” without trials.

The power of civilian federal judges to review individual decisions by the executive branch to hold a terrorism suspect as an enemy combatant was one of the most contentious legal issues surrounding the Bush administration. For years, President Bush’s legal team argued that federal judges had no authority under the Constitution to hear challenges by detainees being held at the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere.

The Supreme Court rejected the Bush administration’s legal view for prisoners held at Guantánamo in landmark rulings in 2004 and 2006. But those rulings were based on the idea that the prison was on United States soil for constitutional purposes, based on the unique legal circumstances and history of the naval base.

Rights lawyers have been hoping that courts would extend those rulings to allow long-term detainees being held at United States military bases elsewhere in the world to sue for release, too. There are about 600 detainees at Bagram and several thousand in Iraq.

Jack Balkin, a Yale Law School professor, said it was too early to tell what the Obama administration would end up doing with the detainees at Bagram. He said some observers believed that the Obama team would end up making a major change in policy but simply needed more time to come up with it, while others believed that the administration had decided “to err on the side of doing things more like the Bush administration did, as opposed to really rethinking and reorienting everything” about the detention policies it inherited because it had too many other problems to deal with.

“It may take some time before we see exactly what is going on — whether this is just a transitory policy or whether this is really their policy: ‘No to Guantánamo, but we can just create Guantánamo in some other place,’ ” Mr. Balkin said.

Continue reading "Still some progress needed on the foreign front, because..." »

British Detainee Who Claims Abuse is Returning Home

From the New York Times:

LONDON — A Guantánamo detainee whose case has drawn international attention because of his claims that he was tortured while in C.I.A. custody, is scheduled to arrive back in Britain on Monday, according to his lawyers and British officials.

The detainee, Binyam Mohamed, has been in American custody for nearly seven years, held and interrogated first in Pakistan, then for 18 months in Morocco, before being sent to the Guantánamo Bay prison camp.

His return will end an 18-month stand off between the United States and Britain, which has been seeking his release since August 2007.

It will not, however, end an effort by Mr. Mohamed’s lawyers and some members of Parliament here to obtain photographs that Mr. Mohamed said were taken by an American woman and that showed his injuries, according to notes of his conversations with his lawyer, who provided them to The New York Times.

At the time of his arrest, in April 2002, American officials said that Mr. Mohamed, who has a brother and two sisters living in the United States, was part of a conspiracy to detonate a dirty bomb on American soil. But he will leave Guantánamo without having been charged with any terrorist activity, or other crimes.

“I am confident he will be home tomorrow,” said Clive Stafford-Smith, his lawyer, “and it is not a moment too soon.” A British government official who declined to be identified confirmed this, but would give no other details. On Friday, the British Foreign Office issued a statement that final arrangements were under way for Mr. Mohamed’s release.

American Embassy officials in London refused to comment on the situation, saying that as a matter of policy they could talk about Guantánamo releases that had not happened yet.

The British government began concentrated efforts for Mr. Mohamed’s return in August 2007, but was rebuffed by the Bush administration.

One stumbling block was the restrictions to be put on Mr. Mohamed when he was released. The British government said it could not impose the conditions wanted by the United States, which included electronic surveillance and an official control order, because they violated British and European human rights law.

Mr. Mohamed has agreed to voluntary restrictions, including a lifetime prohibition on travel to the United States, people who have seen the restrictions said. Those people spoke on condition of anonymity, and gave no more details about the restrictions, because the terms of Mr. Mohamed’s release had not been publicly released.

Mr. Mohamed was born in Ethiopia, but his family fled for political reasons in the early 1990s. Mr. Mohamed moved to Britain in 1994, where he was unemployed and into drugs, his lawyer said. In 2000, he went to Afghanistan, to get off drugs (the Taliban had a strict policy against domestic drug use) and to decide whether it was a “good Islamic country or not,” he told his lawyer.

American officials have said that he attended military training camps in Afghanistan. Mr. Mohamed has said he was training to fight in support of Muslim insurgents in Chechnya, and not to carry out terrorist attacks in the United States.

After the fighting broke out between the United States and Taliban in late 2001, Mr. Mohamed fled Afghanistan. He was picked up in Karachi, trying to get on a plane back to Britain, with a false British passport. He said his had been lost.

After several months of interrogation in Pakistan, he was secretly taken on a C.I.A.-chartered plane to Morocco, according to the plane’s flight logs and British officials. The C.I.A. has repeatedly declined to say if he was ever held in Morocco, and has steadfastly denied that Mr. Mohamed, or anyone else in its custody, was ever tortured.

At a news conference here last week, his military lawyer, Lt. Col. Yvonne Bradley of the United States Air Force, said that what Mr. Mohamed endured at Guantánamo “makes waterboarding look like child’s play.”

For 18 months, “I never went outside, I never saw the sun, not even once,” Mr. Stafford-Smith quoted Mr. Mohamed as saying during one of their many sessions at the prison camp. Immediately after each interview, Mr. Stafford-Smith would write down what he had been told and submit it to the military for clearance.

Mr. Stafford-Smith provided the Times with a 25-page memorandum of his interviews with Mr. Mohamed, which had been cleared by the military.

Interrogators in Morocco showed him pictures of various Al Qaeda leaders and asked him if he knew them. He insisted he did not.

One night, three men in black masks and military trousers came in, Mr. Mohamed told Mr. Stafford-Smith. “One stood on each of my shoulders and the third punched me in the stomach,” Mr. Mohamed said. “It seemed to go on for hours,” he said. “I vomited within the first few punches.”

Other times, they tied him to a wall, his feet just off the floor, he said. They brought in women, “naked or part naked,” he said.

On one occasion, while tied to the wall, his clothes were stripped off, he said. Then, one man took a scalpel and made cuts on his chest. Then they cut his genitals, Mr. Mohamed said.

“I suffered the razor treatment about once a month,” Mr. Mohamed said, according to Mr. Stafford Smith’s declassified notes of the interview.

In January 2004, five soldiers, wearing face masks and Timberland boots, dragged him from his cell and stripped him. He heard an American accent.

There was a female in the group. She took pictures of his wounds with a digital camera, he said. “She was one of the few Americans who ever showed me any sympathy,” Mr. Mohamed told his lawyer. “When she saw the injuries I had she gasped. She said, ‘Oh my God, look at that!’”

He was taken to American-run Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, his lawyer said, where more photos were taken. One of the soldiers told him it was “to show Washington it’s healing,” Mr. Mohamed told his lawyer.

Mr. Mohamed’s lawyers have been trying to obtain the pictures as well as other documents, which they say support Mr. Mohamed’s allegations. A British court has said that the classified documents support Mr. Mohamed’s claims, but the American and British governments have objected to their release.

February 18, 2009

A bit of a stalemate re: the situation of 17 Uighur Gitmo detainees cleared of all charges

Last week, our chapter of Amnesty International wrote an Urgent Action letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, amongst other officials, regarding the case of 17 Uighur detainees who have been cleared of all charges, yet have remained in Guantanamo (this is their seventh year in detention) for lack of a safe country that will accept them, as the Uighurs are a fairly persecuted minority group in China. Today, the US Court of Appeals ruled that a previous judge's verdict in October, declaring that the Uighurs were free of all charges and should be released into the U.S., was too hasty, and have declared that the Uighurs should currently remain in the Guantanamo Bay camp. Given President Obama's executive proclamation/attempt to have Gitmo closed within a year, it will be interesting to see how he resolves this judicial conflict and whether or not he decrees that the Uighurs may be given refuge in the US.

From the New York Times:

Release of Guantánamo Detainees to U.S Barred

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that 17 Turkic Muslims cleared for release from Guantanamo Bay must stay at the prison camp, raising the stakes for an Obama administration that has pledged to quickly close the facility and free those who have not been charged.

In a showdown over presidential power, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said a judge went too far last October in ordering the U.S. entry of the 17 men, known as Uighurs (WEE'-gurz), over the objections of the Bush administration.

The three-judge panel suggested the detainees might be able to seek entry by applying to the Homeland Security Department, which administers U.S. immigration laws. But the court bluntly concluded the detainees otherwise had no constitutional right to immediate freedom after being held in custody at the facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, without charges for nearly seven years.

''Such sentiments, however high-minded, do not represent a legal basis for upsetting settled law and overriding the prerogatives of the political branches,'' wrote Judge A. Raymond Randolph, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush.

Attorneys for the detainees said they were considering whether to appeal the decision to the full appeals court or the Supreme Court. But they made clear it was now time for President Barack Obama to take action after eight years of Bush administration detention policies.

''The ball is in President Obama's court,'' said Emi MacLean, an attorney with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights. ''If he is genuinely committed to closing Guantanamo, one clear and immediate step he should take is release the Uighurs into the U.S.''

The White House declined to comment on the ruling, citing its ongoing review on closing the Guantanamo prison. Within days of taking office, Obama ordered Guantanamo closed in a year. But he has since been largely quiet on where the hundreds of prisoners -- most of whom are being held without charges -- should be released if no country is willing to take them.

The State Department has said it is continuing diplomatic efforts to resettle the Uighurs and other detainees in other countries.

At issue in the case was whether a federal judge has the authority to order the release of prisoners at Guantanamo who were unlawfully detained by the United States and cannot be sent back to their homeland. The Muslims were cleared for release from Guantanamo as early as 2003 but fear they will be tortured if they are returned to China.

Earlier this month, Beijing warned other countries not to accept the men.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina in October ordered the government to release the 17 men into the United States, noting that they were no longer considered enemy combatants. He sternly rebuked the Bush administration for a detention policy toward the Uighurs that ''crossed the constitutional threshold into infinitum.''

But in Wednesday's decision, the three-judge panel made up of one Democratic and two Republican appointees disagreed.

''The government has represented that it is continuing diplomatic attempts to find an appropriate country willing to admit petitioners, and we have no reason to doubt that it is doing so,'' Randolph wrote. ''Nor do we have the power to require anything more.''

Judge Judith Rogers, who was appointed by former President Bill Clinton, wrote in a separate opinion that Urbina might have constitutional authority to release the men based on recent Supreme Court rulings. But Rogers said Urbina's decision was premature because he had not yet heard from U.S. immigration officials.

The Supreme Court has held that Guantanamo Bay detainees can go to court to challenge their imprisonment. Wednesday's appeals court ruling effectively means that a judge can hear the case but in some instances have no authority to actually free the detainees.

''Today's decision represents a disappointing step back towards the Bush administration's unlawful Guantanamo policies,'' said Jameel Jaffer, director of the American Civil Liberties Union National Security Project. ''These men were cleared for release but have been held without charge in a system that utterly disregards the fundamental tenets of due process.''

Roughly 20 percent of about 250 detainees who remain at Guantanamo fear torture or persecution if they return to their home countries, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights. The Bush administration had maintained that, unless another country agrees to take them, the detainees should stay at Guantanamo.

Uighurs are from Xinjiang -- an isolated region that borders Afghanistan, Pakistan and six Central Asian nations -- and say they have been repressed by the Chinese government. China has long said that insurgents are leading an Islamic separatist movement in Xinjiang. The Uighur detainees were captured in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2001.

Albania accepted five Uighur detainees in 2006 but has since balked on taking others, partly for fear of diplomatic repercussions from China.

A Swedish immigration court initially granted asylum to one of those men on Wednesday, although the Swedish migration board is now appealing the decision to a higher court. Adil Hakimjan applied for asylum in Sweden because his sister lives there.


Associated Press writer Matthew Barakat contributed to this report.

January 22, 2009


Update: Article reviewing news of the official signature of the orders today: Obama Orders Secret Prisons and Detention Camps Closed

NYTimes: Obama to Close Foreign Prisons and Guantánamo Camp

Published: January 21, 2009

WASHINGTON — President Obama is expected to sign executive orders Thursday directing the Central Intelligence Agency to shut what remains of its network of secret prisons and ordering the closing of the Guantánamo detention camp within a year, government officials said.

The orders, which would be the first steps in undoing detention policies of former President George W. Bush, would rewrite American rules for the detention of terrorism suspects. They would require an immediate review of the 245 detainees still held at the naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to determine if they should be transferred, released or prosecuted.

And the orders would bring to an end a Central Intelligence Agency program that kept terrorism suspects in secret custody for months or years, a practice that has brought fierce criticism from foreign governments and human rights activists. They will also prohibit the C.I.A. from using coercive interrogation methods, requiring the agency to follow the same rules used by the military in interrogating terrorism suspects, government officials said.

But the orders would leave unresolved complex questions surrounding the closing of the Guantánamo prison, including whether, where and how many of the detainees are to be prosecuted. They could also allow Mr. Obama to reinstate the C.I.A.’s detention and interrogation operations in the future, by presidential order, as some have argued would be appropriate if Osama bin Laden or another top-level leader of Al Qaeda were captured.

The new White House counsel, Gregory B. Craig, briefed lawmakers about some elements of the orders on Wednesday evening. A Congressional official who attended the session said Mr. Craig acknowledged concerns from intelligence officials that new restrictions on C.I.A. methods might be unwise and indicated that the White House might be open to allowing the use of methods other the 19 techniques allowed for the military.

Details of the directive involving the C.I.A. were described by government officials who insisted on anonymity so they could not be blamed for pre-empting a White House announcement. Copies of the draft order on Guantánamo were provided by people who have consulted with Mr. Obama’s transition team and requested anonymity for the same reason.

The executive order on interrogations is certain to be received with some skepticism at the C.I.A., which for years has maintained that the military’s interrogation rules are insufficient to get information from senior Qaeda figures like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The Bush administration asserted that the harsh interrogation methods were instrumental in gaining valuable intelligence on Qaeda operations.

The intelligence agency built a network of secret prisons in 2002 to house and interrogate senior Qaeda figures captured overseas. The exact number of suspects to have moved through the prisons is unknown, although Michael V. Hayden, the departing director of the agency, has in the past put the number at “fewer than 100.”

The secret detentions brought international condemnation, and in September 2006, President Bush ordered that the remaining 14 detainees in C.I.A. custody be transferred to Guantánamo Bay and tried by military tribunals.

But Mr. Bush made clear then that he was not shutting down the C.I.A. detention system, and in the last two years, two Qaeda operatives are believed to have been detained in agency prisons for several months each before being sent to Guantánamo.

A government official said Mr. Obama’s order on the C.I.A. would still allow its officers abroad to temporarily detain terrorism suspects and transfer them to other agencies, but would no longer allow the agency to carry out long-term detentions.

Since the early days after the 2001 attacks, the intelligence agency’s role in detaining terrorism suspects has been significantly scaled back, as has the severity of interrogation methods the agency is permitted to use. The most controversial practice, the simulated drowning technique known as water-boarding, was used on three suspects but has not been used since 2003, C.I.A. officials said.

But at the urging of the Bush administration, Congress in 2006 authorized the agency to continue using harsher interrogation methods than those permitted for use by other agencies, including the military. Those exact methods remain classified. The order on Guantánamo says that the camp, which received its first hooded and chained detainees seven years ago this month, “shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than one year from the date of this order.”

The order calls for a cabinet-level panel to grapple with issues including where in the United States prisoners might be moved and what courts they could be tried in. It also provides for a new diplomatic effort to transfer some of the remaining men, including more than 60 that the Bush administration had cleared for release.

The order also directs an immediate assessment of the prison itself to ensure that the men are held in conditions that meet the humanitarian requirements of the Geneva Convention. That provision appeared to be a pointed embrace of the international treaties that the Bush administration often argued did not apply to detainees captured in the war against terrorism.

The seven years of the detention camp have included four suicides, hunger strikes by scores of detainees, and accusations of extensive use of solitary confinement and abusive interrogations, which the Department of Defense has long denied. Last week a senior Pentagon official said she had concluded that interrogators at Guantánamo had tortured one detainee, who officials have said was a would-be “20th hijacker” in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The report of Thursday’s expected announcement came after the new administration late Tuesday night ordered an immediate halt to the military commission proceedings for prosecuting detainees at Guantánamo and filed a request in Federal District Court in Washington to stay habeas corpus proceedings there. Government lawyers described both delays as necessary for the administration to make a broad assessment of detention policy.

The cases immediately affected include those of five detainees charged as the coordinators of the 2001 attacks, including the case against Mr. Mohammed, the self-described mastermind.

The decision to stop the commissions was described by the military prosecutors as a pause in the war-crimes system “to permit the newly inaugurated president and his administration time to review the military commission process generally and the cases currently pending before the military commissions, specifically.”

More than 200 detainees’ habeas corpus cases have been filed in federal court, and lawyers said they expected that all of the cases would be stayed.

Mr. Obama had suggested in the campaign that, in place of military commissions, he would prefer prosecutions in federal courts or, perhaps, in the existing military justice system, which provides legal guarantees similar to those of American civilian courts.

Some human rights groups and lawyers for detainees said they were concerned about the one-year timetable. “It only took days to put these men in Guantánamo; it shouldn’t take a year to get them out,” said Vincent Warren, the executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, which has coordinated detainees’ lawyers.

But several groups that had criticized the Bush administration’s policies applauded the rapid moves by the new administration. Mr. Obama’s actions “reaffirmed American values and are a ray of light after eight long, dark years,” said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Mark Mazzetti reported from Washington, and William Glaberson from New York. Carl Hulse contributed reporting from Washington.

January 12, 2009

BIG NEWS: Obama Plans to Order Closing of Guantánamo on 1st Full Day in Office

I think this man really CAN make you believe in something as broad as hope and change when he takes such immediate action on a human rights situation that has been stunted for years. Of course, he will face a major legal/political quagmire in deciding how to deal with the trials/potential release/displacement of all of the remaining detainees, but for now, we can, I think, celebrate the fact that he has at least taken a decisive, sweepingly symbolic step to rectify America's standards of respect for human rights. GLORY BE:

NYTimes - Obama Plans to Order Closing of Guantánamo on 1st Full Day

Published: January 12, 2009

President-elect Barack Obama plans to issue an executive order on his first full day in office directing the closing of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba, people briefed by Obama transition officials said Monday.

But experts say it is likely to take many months, perhaps as long as a year, to empty the prison that has drawn international criticism since it received its first prisoners seven years ago this week. One transition official said the new administration expected that it would take several months to transfer some of the remaining 248 prisoners to other countries, decide how to try suspects and deal with the many other legal challenges posed by closing the camp.

People who have discussed the issues with transition officials in recent weeks said it appeared that the broad outlines of plans for the detention camp were taking shape. They said transition officials appeared committed to ordering an immediate suspension of the Bush administration’s military commissions system for trying detainees.

In addition, people who have conferred with transition officials said the incoming administration appeared to have rejected a proposal to seek a new law authorizing indefinite detention inside the United States. The Bush administration has insisted that such a measure is necessary to close the Guantánamo camp and bring some detainees to the United States.

Mr. Obama has repeatedly said he wants to close the camp. But in an interview on Sunday on ABC, he indicated that the process could take time, saying, “It is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize.” Closing it within the first 100 days of his administration, he said, would be “a challenge.”

The president-elect drew criticism from some human rights groups Monday who said his remarks suggested that closing Guantánamo was not among the new administration’s highest priorities. But even if the detention camp remains open for months, the decision to address Guantánamo on the day after his inauguration seemed intended to make a symbolic break with some of the most controversial policies of the Bush administration.

Several national security and legal analysts have argued in recent weeks that Mr. Obama is in a delicate political position after having committed himself to closing the prison. Sarah Mendelson, the author of a report for the Center for Strategic and International Studies on how to close the prison, said Mr. Obama’s remarks on Sunday appeared intended to indicate the difficulty of the task, which she said it could take a year to complete.

“I thought he was trying to manage expectations of how quickly those detainees who remain can be sorted into two categories: those who will be released and those who will be prosecuted,” Ms. Mendelson said.

Aside from analyzing intelligence and legal filings on each of the remaining detainees, diplomats and legal experts have said the new administration will need to begin an extensive new international effort to resettle as many as 150 or more of the remaining men. Portugal and other European countries have recently broken a long diplomatic standoff, saying they would work with the new administration and might accept some detainees who cannot be sent to their home countries because of concerns about their potential treatment.

The transition official, who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the plans, said the administration expected to announce its Guantánamo plans next Wednesday.

Brooke Anderson, a transition spokeswoman, declined to comment on any plans, saying only, “President-elect Obama has repeatedly said that he believes that the legal framework at Guantánamo has failed to successfully and swiftly prosecute terrorists, and he shares the broad bipartisan belief that Guantánamo should be closed.”

In formulating their policy in recent weeks, Obama transition officials have consulted with a variety of authorities on legal and human rights and with military experts. Several of those experts said the officials had expressed great interest in alternatives to the military commission system, like trying detainees in federal courts, and appeared to have grown hostile to proposals like an indefinite detention law.

They also said the transition officials were intensely focused on new international efforts to transfer many of the detainees to other countries.

Continue reading "BIG NEWS: Obama Plans to Order Closing of Guantánamo on 1st Full Day in Office" »

January 5, 2009

Ex-Detainee Describes a 6-Year Ordeal, including Extraordinary Rendition)

Ex-Detainee of U.S. Describes a 6-Year Ordeal
Published: January 5, 2009

Click here for a video interview with Muhammad Saad Iqbal

LAHORE, Pakistan — When Muhammad Saad Iqbal arrived home here in August after more than six years in American custody, including five at the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, he had difficulty walking, his left ear was severely infected, and he was dependent on a cocktail of antibiotics and antidepressants.

In November, a Pakistani surgeon operated on his ear, physical therapists were working on lower back problems and a psychiatrist was trying to wean him off the drugs he carried around in a white, plastic shopping bag.

The maladies, said Mr. Iqbal, 31, a professional reader of the Koran, are the result of a gantlet of torture, imprisonment and interrogation for which his Washington lawyer plans to sue the United States government.

The coming administration of President-elect Barack Obama is weighing whether to close the Guantánamo prison, which many critics have called an extralegal system of detention and abuse.

But the full stories of individual detainees like Mr. Iqbal are only now emerging after years in which they were shuttled around the globe under the Bush administration’s system of extraordinary rendition, which used foreign countries to interrogate and detain terrorism suspects in sites beyond the reach of American courts.

Mr. Iqbal was never convicted of any crime, or even charged with one. He was quietly released from Guantánamo with a routine explanation that he was no longer considered an enemy combatant, part of an effort by the Bush administration to reduce the prison’s population.

“I feel ashamed what the Americans did to me in this period,” Mr. Iqbal said, speaking for the first time at length about his ordeal during several hours of interviews with The New York Times, including one from his hospital bed in Lahore.

Mr. Iqbal was arrested early in 2002 in Jakarta, Indonesia, after boasting to members of an Islamic group that he knew how to make a shoe bomb, according to two senior American officials who were in Jakarta at the time.

Mr. Iqbal now denies ever having made the statement, but two days after his arrest, he said, the Central Intelligence Agency transferred him to Egypt. He was later shifted to the American prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, and ultimately to Guantánamo Bay.

Much of Mr. Iqbal’s account could not be independently corroborated. Two senior American officials confirmed that Mr. Iqbal had been “rendered” from Indonesia, but could not comment on, or confirm details of, how he was treated in custody. The Pentagon and C.I.A. deny using torture, and American diplomatic, military and intelligence officials agreed to talk about the case only on the condition of anonymity because the files are classified.

After Mr. Iqbal was picked up in Jakarta and interrogated for two days, American officials generally concluded that he was a braggart, a “wannabe,” and should be released, one of the senior American officials in Jakarta said. “He was a talker,” the senior American official said. “He wanted to believe he was more important than he was.”

There was no evidence that he had ever met Osama bin Laden, or had been to Afghanistan, the two senior American officials said. But in the atmosphere of fear and confusion in the months after Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Iqbal was secretly moved to Egypt for further interrogation, said one of the senior American officials.

Mr. Iqbal said he had been beaten, tightly shackled, covered with a hood and given drugs, subjected to electric shocks and, because he denied knowing Mr. bin Laden, deprived of sleep for six months. “They make me blind and stand up for whole days,” he said in halting English, meaning that he had been covered with a hood or blindfolded.

The Pentagon and the C.I.A. have a policy of not talking about the detainees, but a C.I.A. spokesman, Paul Gimigliano, said, “The agency’s terrorist detention program has used lawful means of interrogation, reviewed and approved by the Department of Justice and briefed to the Congress.

“This individual, from what I have heard of his account, appears to be describing something utterly different,” Mr. Gimigliano added. “I have no idea what he’s talking about. The United States does not conduct or condone torture.”

Mr. Iqbal said he traveled to Jakarta in November 2001 on a personal odyssey to inform his stepmother that her husband — Mr. Iqbal’s father — had died of a stroke in Pakistan.

He fell in with members of the Islamic Defenders Front, according to his statement to the combatant status review tribunal at Guantánamo in 2004. The group is an Indonesian urban-based organization. It is not banned in Indonesia and has not been connected to any terrorist attacks.

Continue reading "Ex-Detainee Describes a 6-Year Ordeal, including Extraordinary Rendition)" »

December 11, 2008

This took them long enough to confirm...

Senate Report Blames Rumsfeld for Detainee Abuses

Published: December 11, 2008

WASHINGTON — A report released Thursday by leaders of the Senate Armed Services committee said that top Bush administration officials, including Donald H. Rumsfeld, the former defense secretary, bear major responsibility for the abuses committed by American troops in interrogations at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other military detention centers.

The report was issued jointly by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the Democratic chairman of the panel, and Senator John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican. The report represents most thorough review by Congress to date of the origins of the abuse of prisoners in American military custody, and it explicitly rejects the Bush administration’s contention that tough interrogation methods have helped keep the country and its troops safe.

The report also rejected previous claims by Mr. Rumsfeld and others that Defense Department policies played no role in the the harsh treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 and in other incidents of abuse.

The abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the report says, “was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own” but grew out of interrogation policies approved by Mr. Rumsfeld and other top officials “conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees.”

By the time of the abuses at Abu Ghraib, Mr. Rumsfeld had formally withdrawn approval for use of the harshest techniques, which he authorized in December 2002 and then ruled out a month later. But the report said that those methods, including the use of stress positions and forced nudity, continued to spread through the military detention system. It added that their use “damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.”

Most of the report, the product of an 18-month inquiry and interviews of more than 70 people by committee staff, remains classified. But the 29-page summary offers the clearest timeline to date linking the acts of Pentagon officials, including William J. Haynes II, the former Defense Department general counsel, to abusive treatment in the field.

Committee staff members said the report was approved by a voice vote without dissent, but only 17 of the committee’s 25 members were present for the vote. Mr. McCain, who was tortured while being held as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, has been an outspoken opponent of harsh interrogation tactics, but some other Republicans have defended such methods as legal and necessary.

Most of the facts in the report summary have been previously made public, notably at hearings the Senate committee held in June and September. But the report documents how the military training program called Surveillance, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, or SERE, became a major source for interrogation methods as the Bush administration looked for tougher methods after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The SERE training was based on methods used by “a ruthless, lawless enemy,” Mr. Levin said in a statement. “The techniques were never intended to be used against detainees in U.S. custody,” he said.

Mr. McCain called the adoption of SERE methods “inexcusable.”

“These policies are wrong and must never be repeated,” said Mr. McCain, who led the successful fight in Congress in 2005 to prohibit military interrogators from using coercive methods.

November 25, 2008

List of Guantanamo Detainees - Compiled by The Times:

This is pretty impressive...from government documents, court records and media reports, the New York Times has attempted to compile an unofficial list of all the detainees that have been held or are currently being held at Guantanamo (the Pentagon refuses to disclose an official list, but the Times seems fairly confident in their researched estimate.) The list attempts to catalogue the current status of the 779 detainees who have been in Guantanamo at some point (around 250 currently remain, at least 525 have been transferred/released) and identifies all detainees by name and country of origin, date and place of capture/transfer if available, etc. It's very interesting to see the demographic distribution of those who have been detained....

The New York Times: The Guantanamo Docket

Hamdan released from Guantánamo; will be sent to Yemen to serve out remainder of sentence

From Robert F. Worth at the New York Times:

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The United States military has decided to release a former driver for Osama bin Laden whose trial became a test case for the Bush administration’s system of military commissions for accused terrorists, Yemeni officials said.

The driver, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, who was captured in Afghanistan in 2001 and convicted and sentenced in August, will be released from the Guantánamo Bay detention center in the coming days and transferred to his native Yemen, where he will serve the remaining month of his sentence, according to the Yemeni officials.

Once considered a dangerous terrorist by the Bush administration, Mr. Hamdan was convicted only on lesser charges in August and given what amounted to a four-month sentence by a military jury. At that time, a military judge gave Mr. Hamdan credit for at least the 61 months he was held after being charged, reducing his sentence to a matter of months. The verdict was a sharp setback for Pentagon officials, who had contended they could detain him indefinitely.

“The Yemeni government is very pleased by the announcement to transfer the Yemeni detainee Saleh Ahmed bin Hamdan,” said Mohammed al-Basha, a spokesman for the Yemeni Embassy in Washington. “We hope that this will be a positive first step to the transfer of the remaining detainees.”

The decision avoids what could have been a difficult issue for President-elect Barack Obama, who has said he wants to close the United States military prison in Cuba.

Continue reading "Hamdan released from Guantánamo; will be sent to Yemen to serve out remainder of sentence" »

November 20, 2008

More good news!

Judge Orders Five Detainees Freed From Guantánamo
William Glaberson, The New York Times:

In the first hearing on the government’s justification for holding detainees at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, a federal judge ruled Thursday that five Algerian men were held unlawfully for nearly seven years and ordered their release.

By reviewing government documents, court records and media reports, The Times was able to compile an approximate list of detainees currently at Guantánamo.

The judge, Richard J. Leon of Federal District Court in Washington, also ruled that a sixth Algerian man was being lawfully detained because he had provided support to the terrorist group Al Qaeda.

The case was an important test of the Bush administration’s detention policies, which critics have long argued swept up innocent men and low-level foot soldiers along with high-level and hardened terrorists.

The six men are among a group of Guantánamo inmates who won a Supreme Court ruling that the detainees have constitutional rights and can seek release in federal court. The 5-4 decision said a 2006 law unconstitutionally stripped the prisoners of their right to contest their imprisonment in habeas corpus lawsuits.

The hearings for the Algerian men, in which all of the evidence was heard in proceedings that were closed to the public, were the first in which the Justice Department presented its full justification for holding specific detainees since the Supreme Court ruling in June.

Judge Leon, in a ruling from the bench, said that the information gathered on the men had been sufficient to hold them for intelligence purposes, but was not strong enough in court.

“To rest on so thin a reed would be inconsistent with this court’s obligation,” he said. He directed that the five men be released “forthwith” and urged the government not to appeal.

Continue reading "More good news!" »

November 11, 2008

Two good links re: Obama & Gitmo:

First, a great, very clearly outlined BBC analysis of the fundamental legal and practical issues Obama will face in attempting to close Gitmo:

BBC: Obama wrestles with Guantanamo problem

...and Amnesty's 100 Days Petition/Human Rights Challenge to President-Elect Obama: read and sign the petition here.

Obama Plans Guantanamo Closure

Though Obama's plans are not finalized, he has pledged to close Guantanamo (as a "top priority") and wishes to transfer detainees to the US to face criminal trials and get away from the military commissions process in Guantanamo. HOWEVER, there is talk amongst his advisers about possibly creating a new court system for detainees whose cases involve highly classified information, which has drawn sharp criticism from detainee lawyers, who believe that the creation of a new system is not the answer and could lead into territory as dangerous as the current "new creation" of the military commissions courts. Plans are still in-process, however, so we'll see what evolves from this!

Obama plans Guantanamo closure, US terror trials

WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Obama's advisers are quietly crafting a proposal to ship dozens, if not hundreds, of imprisoned terrorism suspects to the United States to face criminal trials, a plan that would make good on his promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison but could require creation of a controversial new system of justice.

During his campaign, Obama described Guantanamo as a "sad chapter in American history" and has said generally that the U.S. legal system is equipped to handle the detainees. But he has offered few details on what he planned to do once the facility is closed.

Under plans being put together in Obama's camp, some detainees would be released and many others would be prosecuted in U.S. criminal courts.

A third group of detainees — the ones whose cases are most entangled in highly classified information — might have to go before a new court designed especially to handle sensitive national security cases, according to advisers and Democrats involved in the talks. Advisers participating directly in the planning spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans aren't final.

The move would be a sharp deviation from the Bush administration, which established military tribunals to prosecute detainees at the Navy base in Cuba and strongly opposes bringing prisoners to the United States. Obama's Republican challenger, John McCain, had also pledged to close Guantanamo. But McCain opposed criminal trials, saying the Bush administration's tribunals should continue on U.S. soil.

The plan being developed by Obama's team has been championed by legal scholars from both political parties. But it is almost certain to face opposition from Republicans who oppose bringing terrorism suspects to the U.S. and from Democrats who oppose creating a new court system with fewer rights for detainees.

The plan drew criticism from some detainee lawyers shortly after it surfaced Monday.

"I think that creating a new alternative court system in response to the abject failure of Guantanamo would be a profound mistake," said Jonathan Hafetz, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who represents detainees. "We do not need a new court system. The last eight years are a testament to the problems of trying to create new systems."

Continue reading "Obama Plans Guantanamo Closure" »

October 20, 2008


I know that wasn't a very mature or eloquent response expressed in the headline, but it was necessary to get out:

Bush Chooses to Keep Guantánamo Open, Officials Say
--Stephen Lee Myers

WASHINGTON: Despite his stated desire to close the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, President George W. Bush has decided not to do so, and never considered proposals drafted in the State Department and the Pentagon that outlined options for transferring the detainees elsewhere, according to senior administration officials.

Bush's top advisers held a series of meetings at the White House over the summer after a Supreme Court ruling in June cast doubt on the future of the American detention center. But Bush adopted the view of his most hawkish advisers that closing Guantánamo would involve too many legal and political risks to be acceptable, now or anytime soon, they said.

Click here to read the full text of the International Herald Tribune article. Both the McCain & Obama camps have declined to comment on this news as of today, but their stances thus far on Gitmo are displayed below:

McCain has suggested moving the detainees to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, home of the U.S. Army's prison. His remarks prompted a public letter in June from the two Republican senators from Kansas, Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts, objecting to the idea on a variety of grounds, mostly involving security. McCain's campaign did not respond to repeated requests for comments about plans for Guantánamo.

Obama's declined to comment specifically, but his platform promises to abolish military tribunals and conduct a review to determine which prisoners to prosecute, which to hold under the laws of war and which to release. His proposal does not specify where detainees would be held before or after that review.

Click here to join Amnesty International and strengthen the message to Tear It Down - Let's Counter Terror with Justice.

October 15, 2008

It's Official: CIA Torture Tactics Endorsed in Secret Memos - Gitmo + Abu Ghraib

Waterboarding Got the White House Nod - Joby Warrick, The Washington Post:

The Bush administration issued a pair of secret memos to the CIA in 2003 and 2004 that explicitly endorsed the agency's use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding against al-Qaeda suspects -- documents prompted by worries among intelligence officials about a possible backlash if details of the program became public.

The classified memos, which have not been previously disclosed, were requested by then-CIA Director George J. Tenet more than a year after the start of the secret interrogations, according to four administration and intelligence officials familiar with the documents. Although Justice Department lawyers, beginning in 2002, had signed off on the agency's interrogation methods, senior CIA officials were troubled that White House policymakers had never endorsed the program in writing.

The memos were the first -- and, for years, the only -- tangible expressions of the administration's consent for the CIA's use of harsh measures to extract information from captured al-Qaeda leaders, the sources said. As early as the spring of 2002, several White House officials, including then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Cheney, were given individual briefings by Tenet and his deputies, the officials said. Rice, in a statement to congressional investigators last month, confirmed the briefings and acknowledged that the CIA director had pressed the White House for "policy approval."

Click here
to read the rest..

October 13, 2008

Revelations (non-religious, of course): Gitmo prosecutor who quit had 'grave misgivings' about fairness

Convinced that key evidence was being withheld from the defense, Lt. Col. Darrel J. Vandeveld went from being a 'true believer to someone who felt truly deceived' by the tribunals.

From Josh Meyer at the Los Angeles Times:

WASHINGTON -- Darrel J. Vandeveld was in despair. The hard-nosed lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, a self-described conformist praised by his superiors for his bravery in Iraq, had lost faith in the Guantanamo Bay war crimes tribunals in which he was a prosecutor.

His work was top secret, making it impossible to talk to family or friends. So the devout Catholic -- working away from home -- contacted a priest online.

Even if he had no doubt about the guilt of the accused, he wrote in an August e-mail, "I am beginning to have grave misgivings about what I am doing, and what we are doing as a country. .

"I no longer want to participate in the system, but I lack the courage to quit. I am married, with children, and not only will they suffer, I'll lose a lot of friends."

Two days later, he took the unusual step of reaching out for advice from his opposing counsel, a military defense lawyer.

"How do I get myself out of this office?" Vandeveld asked Major David J.R. Frakt of the Air Force Reserve, who represented the young Afghan Vandeveld was prosecuting for an attack on U.S. soldiers -- despite Vandeveld's doubts about whether Mohammed Jawad would get a fair trial. Vandeveld said he was seeking a "practical way of extricating myself from this mess."

Last month, Vandeveld did just that, resigning from the Jawad case, the military commissions overall and, ultimately, active military duty. In doing so, he has become even more of a central figure in the "mess" he considers Guantanamo to be.

Vandeveld is at least the fourth prosecutor to resign under protest. Questions about the fairness of the tribunals have been raised by the very people charged with conducting them, according to legal experts, human rights observers and current and former military officials.

Vandeveld's claims are particularly explosive.

Continue reading "Revelations (non-religious, of course): Gitmo prosecutor who quit had 'grave misgivings' about fairness" »

October 8, 2008

In Blow to Bush, Judge Orders 17 Guantánamo Detainees Freed!

From William Glaberson at the Times:

WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the Bush administration to release 17 detainees at Guantánamo Bay by the end of the week, the first such ruling in nearly seven years of legal disputes over the administration’s detention policies.

The judge, Ricardo M. Urbina of Federal District Court, ordered that the 17 men be brought to his courtroom on Friday from the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where they have been held since 2002. He indicated that he would release the men, members of the restive Uighur Muslim minority in western China, into the care of supporters in the United States, initially in the Washington area.

“I think the moment has arrived for the court to shine the light of constitutionality on the reasons for detention,” Judge Urbina said.

Continue reading "In Blow to Bush, Judge Orders 17 Guantánamo Detainees Freed!" »

August 6, 2008

Hamdan Found Guilty by Military Commission in Split Decision

From New York Times Guantanamo specialist William Glaberson, providing a little insight on the highly complicated case and journey of Salim Ahmed Hamdan:

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — A panel of six military officers convicted a former driver for Osama bin Laden of a war crime Wednesday, completing the first military commission trial here and the first conducted by the United States since the end of World War II.

But the commission acquitted the former driver, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, of a conspiracy charge, arguably the more serious of two charges he faced. His conviction came on a separate but lesser charge of providing material support for terrorism.

UPDATE: Hamdan Speaks at Sentence Hearing

Continue reading "Hamdan Found Guilty by Military Commission in Split Decision" »

June 14, 2008

VICTORY! Justices, 5-4, Back Detainee Appeals for Guantánamo

From the New York Times comes the news of a landmark decision in the case of Boumediene v. Bush. The ruling does leave some issues unresolved, but nonetheless proclaims and reaffirms a foreign detainee's right to habeas corpus and finally strikes down that provision of the MCA as unconstitutional:


WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday delivered its third consecutive rebuff to the Bush administration’s handling of the detainees at Guantánamo Bay, ruling 5 to 4 that the prisoners there have a constitutional right to go to federal court to challenge their continued detention.

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that Guantánamo inmates could use the federal courts.

The court declared unconstitutional a provision of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that, at the administration’s behest, stripped the federal courts of jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus petitions from the detainees seeking to challenge their designation as enemy combatants.

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said the truncated review procedure provided by a previous law, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, “falls short of being a constitutionally adequate substitute” because it failed to offer “the fundamental procedural protections of habeas corpus.”

Continue reading "VICTORY! Justices, 5-4, Back Detainee Appeals for Guantánamo" »