Filling in the Gaping Holes in WikiLeaks' Guantanamo Detainee Files
by: Jason Leopold, Truthout
Imagine that the more than 700 Guantanamo files released two weeks ago by WikiLeaks contained information explaining how interrogators obtained "intelligence" from "war on terror" detainees captured or sold to US forces after 9/11, such as this firsthand account:
"On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves and had been left there for 18, 24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. When I asked the (military police) what was going on I was told that interrogators from the day prior had ordered this treatment and the detainee was not to be moved. On another occasion, the (air conditioner) had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room probably well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his own hair out throughout the night."
That description was taken directly from an email written by an FBI agent on August 2, 2004and sent to officials at the agency's headquarters in Washington, DC, describing the torture of one detainee as witnessed by the agent while he or she was stationed at Guantanamo.
After reading those horrific details, would you take at face value the information this detainee, who may have been a teenager, an elderly man or a person who suffered from mental problems, gave up to his interrogator?
Well, that's the impression one is left with after reading the Guantanamo files, identified by the government as Detainee Assessment Briefs (DAB). The documents, prepared between 2002 and 2008 and signed by top military officials stationed at the prison facility, certainly bolster the Bush administration's case that the detainees in custody of the US military are the "worst of the worst," despite the subtle caveats about the veracity of the information.
Nowhere in the files does it state that dozens of detainees were tortured prior to and during their interrogation sessions, which may well have resulted in false confessions, one of the cornerstones of the "enhanced interrogation" program, that the Defense Department then used to justify the detainees' continued detention.
Instead, the Guantanamo files seem to suggest that detainees, the vast majority of who were either innocent or low-level foot soldiers and have since been released, were treated humanely during the course of their interrogations and willingly confessed to a wide-range of crimes, such as being members of al-Qaeda and that they participated in or planned attacks against the US and/or its interests in other parts of the world.
A Backdrop of Torture
Several years ago, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) obtained emails from the FBI in connection with the organization's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the government related to the treatment of detainees in custody of the CIA and Department of Defense.
The emails are the first-hand accounts of agents who were stationed at Guantanamo and said they witnessed detainees being abused or tortured by military personnel and interrogators under contract to the CIA and Department of Defense. The emails, of which the names of agents and detainees are redacted, were written in response to a request issued in 2004 by the FBI's Office of General Counsel requesting information from agents who "observed any aggressive mistreatment, interrogations or interview techniques of GTMO [Guantanamo] detainees by representatives of any law enforcement, military or Bureau personnel."
The agency received more than 434 responses. Two dozen were "positive" and documented incidents of abuse agency personnel witnessed, but said they did not take part in. While there is not enough evidence in the agents' reports to suggest that all 779 Guantanamo detainees were treated brutally, the details the agents described closely match the accounts given by former guards and numerous detainees who have been released from the prison. Moreover, some agents said they took part in briefings conducted by Guantanamo officials who said certain types of abusive treatment, such as keeping detainees chained to the floor in freezing cold or hot cells prior to an interrogation, was the policy in place at the time.
But a report issued in 2009 by the Senate Armed Services Committee on the treatment of detainees in US custody concluded that the abuse of Guantanamo prisoners was systematic, widespread and ordered from the top. When the emails and the Senate report are held up alongside the DAB, they complete the picture and underscore why the veracity of the information in the DAB should be called into question.
For example, one email written by an FBI agents states, "during my assignment at GTMO [in 2003] I received a briefing from the military personnel assigned to operations at GTMO, that non-cooperative detainees could be placed on a list for a specific interrogation technique involving interruption of a sleep pattern called the 'frequent flyer program,'" which was designed to disorient prisoners and break them down physically and mentally prior to being interrogated.
"With this particular technique, identified detainees were moved frequently from cell block to cell block at intervals that appeared to be every hour or every two hours depending on the shifts and availability of military personnel to move the detainee," says the email, noting that Guantanamo officials maintained a "detainee movement database." "Detainees were moved along with all of their personal belongings. Due to the movement to different cells the detainees had their sleep interrupted throughout a 24 hour period. The duration of the program for particular detainees seemed to depend on the cooperativeness of the detainees."
A July 9, 2004, email written by an FBI agent states that in mid-2002, one detainee, who had a full beard, was found in an interrogation room, his head wrapped entirely in duct tape because, an Army contractor said, laughing, according to a separate email describing the incident, he was "chanting the Koran and would not stop."
The email written on July 9, 2004, also discusses how an interrogator "commanded" a German shepherd "to growl, bark and show his teeth" in front of an individual believed to be high-value detainee because the helpless prisoner "failed to provide any substantive information" during the course of a 24-hour interrogation session.
The FBI report on this incident as recounted by the agent in an interview with his superiors said, "based on conversations with [redacted] [redacted] believed Department of Defense authorization for the permitted use of harsh/aggressive interrogation techniques may have come from Secretary [of Defense] [Donald] Rumsfeld."
The detainee in question is believed to be Mohammed al-Qahtani, the alleged 20th hijacker in the 9/11 attacks. What's notable about this email is that it states the torture al-Qahtani was subjected to took place between September and October 2002, but Rumsfeld did not formally approve of specific interrogation techniques used against al-Qahtani, as highlighted in the FBI email, until December 2002 with the issuance of an action memorandum.
Gitanjali S. Gutierrez, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights and the lead attorney defending al-Qahtani, said in a sworn declaration that his client was subjected to months of torture based on verbal and written authorizations from Rumsfeld, which match up with the details contained in the FBI emails.
"Mr. al-Qahtani was subjected to a regimen of aggressive interrogation techniques, known as the 'First Special Interrogation Plan,'" Gutierrez said. "Those techniques were implemented under the supervision and guidance of Secretary Rumsfeld and the commander of Guantánamo, Major General Geoffrey Miller.
"These methods included, but were not limited to, 48 days of severe sleep deprivation and 20-hour interrogations, forced nudity, sexual humiliation, religious humiliation, physical force, prolonged stress positions and prolonged sensory over-stimulation and threats with military dogs."
An email written by another FBI agent said Miller "requested permission to utilize 'special interrogative techniques on" the detainee believed to be al-Qahtani, who by December 2002according to the same email, was "admitted to the base hospital for hypothermia."
Miller's signature can be found on many of the DAB, but those files, include al-Qahtani's, fail to cite the torture techniques he implemented as a matter of policy at Guantanamo.
In January 2009, Susan Crawford, the retired judge and a close confidant of Dick Cheney who, until last year, headed military commissions at Guantanamo, said al-Qahtani's interrogation met the legal definition of torture and, as a result, she would not allow a war crimes tribunal against him to proceed.
Another FBI agent wrote in an email dated July 14, 2004, that the agent saw detainees being subjected to "sleep deprivation, interview with strobe lights and two different kinds of loud music."
Bill Maher to GOP: President Obama Just Ate Your Lunch
Congress must crack down on prosecutors run amok, says John Paul Stevens
Retired Justice John Paul Stevens said Supreme Court decisions have given local prosecutors impunity for violating constitutional rights, and urged Congress to respond by authorizing victims of misconduct to sue.
In a speech Monday night to the Equal Justice Initiative, which advocates for indigent defendants, Justice Stevens criticized the court’s March decision overturning a jury’s $14 million award to an innocent man who spent 14 years on death row after prosecutors concealed evidence that could have cleared him. (Click here to see the full text of Stevens’ speech.)
The case of Connick v. Thompson saw the court split 5-4 along its conservative-liberal divide. Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas rejected the freed man’s theory that the New Orleans district attorney’s office was negligent for failing to train its staff to comply with longstanding precedents requiring prosecutors to disclose exculpatory evidence to defendants.
Lawyers for the wrongly imprisoned man, John Thompson, made that argument because Supreme Court precedent requires proof that it was the local government’s policy to violate constitutional rights before it can be held liable.
Thompson’s lawyers “did not prove a pattern of similar violations” that was “the functional equivalent of a decision by the city itself to violate the Constitution,” Justice Thomas wrote.
Stevens said Monday that the nature of the American criminal justice system—where most local prosecutors are elected—“creates a problem of imbalanced incentives that ought to be addressed at the state and national level.”
Because district attorneys often run on tough-on-crime platforms, the pressures to ensure convictions far outweigh the rewards for respecting rights of the accused, Stevens said.
That could be fixed, he said, by making district attorneys liable when their subordinates commit outrageous violations of constitutional rights. Private-sector employees already are liable for their employees’ misconduct, under a legal doctrine called respondeat superior.
The doctrine “provides a powerful continuing incentive for employers to make sure that their employees are adequately trained,” Stevens said, something “especially important where electoral incentives encourage abuse.” More important, he said, “it would produce a just result in cases like Thompson’s in which there is no dispute about the fact that he was harmed by conduct that flagrantly violated his constitutional rights.”
One of the many big problems in this country is the absolute power of prosecutors. THEY NEVER ADMIT TO MAKING ANY ERRORS. PEOPLE HAVE BEEN EXECUTED AFTER EVIDENCE APPEARS TO EXONERATE THEM. PROSECUTORS FIGHT ATTEMPTS TO CORRECT THEIR CONTINUED VICIOUS AND IMPROPER PROSECUTIONS. THEY DON'T WANT TO APPEAR MISTAKEN IN ANY WAY. PEOPLE SPEND TIME IN PRISON AND DIE BECAUSE OF THIS.
Republican FCC commissioner to resign, and join the team (also Republicans) at
Federal Communications commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker announced Wednesday that she will resign from the FCC on June 3 and join Comcast-NBC Universal as its senior vice president of governmental affairs.
Baker, a Republican, joined the FCC in 2009 after working at the National Telecomunications and Information Administration under President George W. Bush. While at the NTIA, Baker oversaw a $1.5 billion coupon program to help consumers make the transition to digital-only television.
The commissioner’s announcement comes four months after she voted to approve a merger between Comcast and NBC Universal. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/pos...ons_com_8.html
In a March speech on the FCC merger process, she said that, in her opinion, “the NBC/Comcast merger took too long.”
The media reform advocacy group Free Press issued a statement criticizing Baker’s move. “This is just the latest -- though perhaps most blatant -- example of a so-called public servant cashing in at a company she is supposed to be regulating,” said Free Press president and CEO Craig Aaron. “The continuously revolving door at the FCC continues to erode any prospects for good public policy.”
Plenty of government staffers have gone on to work for high-profile tech companies, bolstering company knowledge of the regulatory and lobbying landscape. In November, Comcast hired National Cable & Telecommunciations Association head Kyle McSlarrow — Baker’s new boss — to head its D.C. lobbying office. McSlarrow was a former deputy secretary in the Energy Department and ran former Vice President Dan Quayle’s 200 presidential campaign. Other former government staffers now in the tech world include James Cicconi, AT&T’s lead lobbyist and former staffer for George W. Bush, and Arts &Labs head Mike McCurry, who served as press secretary under President Bill Clinton.
Facebook, Google and Twitter have also all hired former White House staffers as the companies wrestle with consumer privacy issues and are called to defend their practices before government panels.
In a statement announcing her resignation, Baker said she is most proud of the work she has done with FCC on spectrum reform. “It is the most important step we can take to ensure our nation’s competitiveness in an increasingly interconnected world,” she said.
In a statement, McSlarrow said, “Meredith’s executive branch and business experience along with her exceptional relationships in Washington bring Comcast and NBCUniversal the perfect combination of skills.”
Yet ANOTHER example of the cozy relationship government has with business. Does anybody think this is dangerous? Pay attention to her approval of the merger just before her departure from the FCC.
REPORT: Koch Fueling Far Right Academic Centers At Universities Across The Country
Yesterday, ThinkProgress highlighted reports from the St. Petersburg Times and the Tallahassee Democrat regarding a Koch-funded economics department at Florida State University (FSU). FSU had accepted a $1.5 million grant from a foundation controlled by petrochemical billionaire Charles Koch on the condition that Koch’s operatives would have a free hand in selecting professors and approving publications. The simmering controversy sheds light on the vast influence of the Koch political machine, which spans from the top conservative think tanks, Republican politicians, a small army of contracted lobbyists, and Tea Party front groups in nearly every state.
As reporter Kris Hundley notes, Koch virtually owns much of George Mason University, another public university, through grants and direct control over think tanks within the school. For instance, Koch controls the Mercatus Center of George Mason University, an institute that set much of the Bush administration’s environmental deregulation policy. And similar conditional agreements have been made with schools like Clemson and West Virginia University. ThinkProgress has analyzed data from the Charles Koch Foundation, and found that this trend is actually much larger than previous known. Many of the Koch university grants finance far right, pro-polluter professors, and dictate that students read Charles Koch’s book as part of their academic study:
– West Virginia University: As ThinkProgress reported last year, Koch funds an array of academic programs at West Virginia University, a public university. One Koch-funded academic at WVU, economics professor Russell Sobel, has written a book blasting regulations of all types. He even argues that less mine safety regulations will make coal miners more safe. As the St. Petersburg Times reported, a similar arrangement has been made with WVU as with FSU in accepting at least $480,000 from Koch.
– Brown University: The Charles Koch Foundation funds the Political Theory Project at Brown, which provides funding for “Seminar Luncheons for undergraduates, academic conferences, research fellowships for graduate students, support for faculty research, and a postdoctoral fellowship program.” Amity Shales, a pop-conservative writer who argues that the New Deal made the Great Depression worse, an odd theory promoted by Charles Koch himself, has been a featured speaker at the Koch-funded Project at Brown. Moreover, Koch’s donation of at least $419,254 to Brown has underwritten a number of research projects in the Economics and Political Science deparments, including a paper arguing that bank deregulation has helped the poor.
– Troy University: The Charles Koch Foundation, along with the Manuel Johnson and the BB&T Foundation, provided Troy University, a public university, a gift of $3.6 million to establish the Center for Political Economy last year. The Center’s stated goal is to push back against the belief following the financial crisis that markets need regulation. Notably, the entire Advisory Council for the Center is made up of Koch and BB&T-funded professors at other universities, including Russell Sobel at West Virginia University and Peter Boettke at George Mason University. Currently, the Center’s only staffer, Professor Scott Beaulier, is a board member of the ExxonMobil-funded attack group, American Energy Alliance, and a former staffer for Koch’s think tank at George Mason.
– Utah State University: The Charles Koch Foundation has given nearly $700,000 to Utah State University, mostly for the Huntsman School of Business. The money has been used to hire five new faculty members, and establish a program for undergraduates to enroll and learn about Charles Koch’s “Science of Liberty” management theory. Professor Randy Simmons, the “Charles G. Koch Professor of Political Economy” at the school, helps select students — who must provide information about their ideological interests in their application form — to the Koch program. Simmons also works for several Koch-funded front groups, and writes papers against environmental regulations. Charles Koch’s book, “The Science of Success,” a book Forbes mocked for proclaiming a “Marxist faith in ‘fixed laws’ that govern ‘human well-being,’” is part of the required reading list for the program. A representative for Utah State did not return ThinkProgress’ calls about conditional strings attached to the Koch grant.
Charles Koch Foundation grants, along with direct Koch Industries grants, are distributed to dozens of other universities around the country every year, to both public and private institutions. Some of the programs, like the Charles Koch Student Research Colloquium at Beloit College, are funded by grants of little over $130,000 and simply support conservative speakers on campuses. We have reached out to several of the schools to learn more about the agreements, but none so far have returned our calls.
Budget constraints and other problems at universities have allowed a small set of oligarchs to use school donations to interfere with academic integrity on campuses. A group of hedge fund managers, working through the Manhattan Institute’s Veritas Fund, have created entire departments dedicated to advancing failed supply side ideas and climate skepticism. John Allison, the former CEO of BB&T Bank, a bailout recipient, has used his corporation’s money to force college campuses to adopt Ayn Rand readings into their programs.
Overall, Koch is still a dominant player when it comes to meddling with academic integrity. Part of the effort is coordinated through operatives like Richard Fink, who doubles as a vice president at Koch’s corporate lobbying office. Through an organization called the Association of Private Enterprise Education, Koch organizes these corporate-funded university departments into a powerful intellectual movement. The organization allows Koch staffers in Washington DC to request certain types of studies, interfere with hiring decisions, and reward loyal free market academics with hefty research grants.
Money can get you anything, regardless of the consequences for the rest of us.
Los Alamitos Unified will require teachers of controversial subjects to prove
political balance to the school board each year.
Before Los Alamitos High School science teachers can tackle topics such as global warming, they will have to demonstrate to the school board that the course is politically balanced.
A new environmental science course prompted the Los Alamitos Unified School District on Tuesday to rewrite its policy for teaching controversial subject matter. Concerned that "liberal" faculty members could skew lessons on global warming, the board of education unanimously voted to make teachers give an annual presentation on how they're teaching the class.
“I believe my role in the board is to represent the conservative voice of the community and I’m not a big fan of global warming,” said board member Jeffrey Barke, who led the effort. “The teachers wanted [the class], and we want a review of how they are teaching it.”
The high school will begin offering an advanced-placement environmental science course next fall. Based on demand elsewhere in California, district officials expect it to be popular—more than 15,000 public school students enrolled in the class in 2008-09.
Although there is a consensus among scientists, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, that global climate change exists, the board of education said the topic is controversial enough to require a change in the district's policy.
The new class will be the first for which district teachers must prove political balance to the school board.
“Most teachers are left to center, and if we leave it to teachers to impose their liberal views, then it would make for an unbalanced lesson,” Barke said. “Some people believe that global warming is a crock of crap, and others are zealots.”
The course also covers topics such as population dynamics, evolution and biodiversity, pollution, ozone depletion and human health and toxicity.
“We define a topic to be controversial if it has more than one widely held view,” said Assistant Superintendent Sherry Kropp, who will take the district's helm when Superintendent Gregory Franklin steps down at the end of the school year. “There are many issues regarding the environment that have become politicized these days and we want kids to be exposed to all sides.”
School officials said the class is a good alternative for students looking to add an alternative AP course to their schedules.
“Our goal is to have every high school student complete at least one AP course, and this is a good one to take because it is not heavily math-based,” said Kropp. “We are excited to offer it.”
The textbook that will be used, “Living in the Environment,” asks students to analyze why some issues are deemed controversial (such as wilderness protection) and explores how population growth and climate change can cause species extinctions.
“If the textbook talks about the evil adventures of humanity, we want teachers to describe an opposing view,” Barke said. “Teachers and textbooks are biased.”
Los Alamitos Unified isn't the first district to raise concerns regarding how environmental science courses are taught. The Texas board of education, for example, mandated that teachers present “all sides” of issues that include global warming. South Dakota public schools are also required to teach climate skepticism, according to a report from the New York Times.
Still, this might be the first time a California public school takes such a stand.
“I don’t have data to share on this, but every subject area has its own set of controversies,” said Thomas Adams, director of standards, curriculum frameworks and instructional resources for the California Department of Education.
Kropp said, “An unbalanced lesson would portray only one side. All we want is to have teachers teach the various scientific theories out there.”
Yes, there should never be any scientifically based, objective info presented to children (or anyone else) unless conservatives agree with it.
There it is. Do it our way or we will fight you. There are not any liberal or conservative 'facts'. Only scientifically supported, objective facts. Let the chips fall...
Nah Too easy.