Campaign for Guantánamo Detainee, Torture Survivor, Reaches Directly to Obama


Lawyers for the Guantánamo detainee whose case we documented in a previous episode of Boing Boing Video are appealing directly to Barack Obama to release classified information about his treatment while in US custody. They faxed a letter to the White House asking the president to review the case of detainee Binyam Ahmed Mohamed, who they claim was tortured "in truly medieval ways" for more than two years after "extraordinary rendition" to secret foreign prisons. Snip from NYT story:

Attached to the letter was a two-page memorandum outlining the alleged torture; the memorandum was first reviewed by the Pentagon, which redacted it, saying it contained classified information. A copy of the letter and redacted memorandum was provided to The Times by Mr. Mohamed’s legal team, which appeared at a news conference here on Wednesday to publicly press for his release and transfer to Britain, where he lived as a teenager and is a legal resident. At the news conference, one of the lawyers, Air Force Lt. Col. Yvonne Bradley, said that Mr. Mohamed had been on a hunger strike since Jan. 5 and was being fed through a tube; she said that when she saw him two weeks ago, he was “skin and bones.”

The Pentagon confirmed that Mr. Mohamed was on a hunger strike, along with 40 other detainees. “We recognize it as a form of protest,” Cmdr. Pauline Storum of the Navy said Wednesday in an e-mail response to questions. She said that Mr. Mohamed “was in good physical and mental condition.”

Mr. Mohamed’s lawyers are also pressing for the details of his treatment to be declared unclassified, contending that what the government considers state secrets are not secret at all, having been revealed in news reports and in the work of investigations around the world. “To reach any other conclusion conflates national security with national embarrassment,” the lawyers say in their letter to Mr. Obama.

(...) The tortured he endured there “would make waterboarding seem like child’s play,” [Air Force Lt. Col. Yvonne] Bradley said. Court papers in the San Francisco lawsuit describe horrific abuse in overseas prisons. Mr. Mohamed claimed that during his detention in Morocco he was routinely beaten and that once his interrogators cut his genitals with a scalpel then poured a hot stinging liquid over the wound. He said he was frequently threatened with rape, electrocution and death.

Guantánamo Detainee’s Campaign Reaches to Obama (New York Times)

Previously: Boing Boing Video: "OUTLAWED" excerpts, pt. 1 -- Guantánamo Detainee Who Survived Torture. (Thanks, Wesly Varghese)

Update: Boing Boing Commenter Stef says,

One of Binyam's lawyers is the truly remarkable, wonderful gentleman who is Clive Stafford Smith. Somewhat strangely, he's not named directly in the article, even though he signs the letter they so heavily reference. (He founded and is the Director of Reprieve.) The closing paragraphs of this letter, which serve to highlight how heavily censored the information provided to the President of the United States on this case is, are brilliant:

"[President Obama]…you should be aware of the bizarre reality of the process under which we operate: That you, as Commander-in-Chief, are being denied access to material that would help prove that crimes have been committed by US personnel. This decision is being made by the very people who you command. This is a state of affairs that you may wish to redress."

Direct links to the letter (PDF 1, PDF 2)

17

  1. Yeah, that’s going to be one big problem I have with Obama if he doesn’t do the right thing re: torture.

  2. Hmmm it does seem that President Obama’s tune has changed a lot from the promises of the campaign trail…I also hope that this is one he makes good on. We don’t need incompetent intelligence officials…and if they are competent they would know how ineffective torture is in most cases.

    Some bad news in that direction…..Obama is pre-selecting reporters to ask questions at news conferences…

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123431418276770899.html

    So much for being a more open administration….if this sets the tone we are in for a disastrous and disappointing presidency.

  3. @pecoto

    WSJ opinion page = laughably delusional right wing propaganda.

    I could list any number of WSJ OpEds that openly twist and ignore facts to advance the Republican meme-of-the-day, but a line from the piece you linked bears out the asshattery:

    We doubt that President Bush, who was notorious for being parsimonious with follow-ups, would have gotten away with prescreening his interlocutors.

    Is the WSJ OpEd board stupid, counting on its readers to be stupid, or both?

    And a list of reporters for a President to call on in press conferences is hardly anything new, although you and the WSJ OpEd page obviously would like it to be.

  4. One of Binyam’s lawyers is the truly remarkable, wonderful gentleman who is Clive Stafford Smith:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clive_Stafford_Smith

    Somewhat strangely, he’s not named directly in the article, even though he signs the letter they so heavily reference. (He founded and is the Director of Reprieve.) The closing paragraphs of this letter, which serve to highlight how heavily censored the information provided to the President of the United States on this case is, are brilliant:

    “[President Obama]…you should be aware of the bizarre reality of the process under which we operate: That you, as Commander-in-Chief, are being denied access to material that would help prove that crimes have been committed by US personnel. This decision is being made by the very people who you command. This is a state of affairs that you may wish to redress.”

    Direct links to the letter:
    http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/world/2009/2009-02-10-CSS-ltr-obama.pdf
    (alt)
    http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Guardian/documents/2009/02/11/CSSlettertoObama.pdf

  5. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens as the Obama administration continues to run into conflict with those who feel (and act) as if they were ruling the country.

    Something’s gotta give.

    Get the popcorn.

  6. What’s facinating to me about this is the level of detail concerning the machinations of government that the average citizen is now exposed to. The same thing happened during the primaries–I don’t think I’ve ever had the kind of conversations about minutiae of process that I had then, with people I wouldn’t characterize as political junkies.

    A letter to the President, which gets redacted, that we all get to read immediately? Wonderful! Regardless of your political affiliation or your attitude towards the current President, it should be heartening to see so many people paying such close attention to the details where devils lie.

    My forlorn hope is that this administration will recognize and respond to this informed attention in a way that the prior adminstration refused to, and that this attitude will work its way into the warrens of Capitol Hill as well.

    On the other hand…I remain deeply cynical about politics and politicians in general. Except for saying “I screwed up,” President Obama hasn’t surprised me yet. There’s still that pesky gap between lofty campaign rhetoric and post-election action. He could do a lot to narrow it simply by acknowledging its existence and perhaps letting us in on a rationale or two…

  7. Of course, Obama has said renditions will continue, and so will coercive interrogations of high-value targets in situations where it’s deemed necesary.

    But let’s not pretend anyone really cares about this issue as more than a political football. There are all kinds of daily atrocities being overlooked in civilian prisons both here and abroad, and late night comics just make jokes about them; no one cares.

    Oddly, though, when someone who is accused of being an Al Qaeda terrorist makes these claims instead of, say, an accused rapist or armed robber, suddenly half the country feels there’s a grave injustice here that must be addressed. And they’re treated as credible despite the fact Al Qaeda training manuals specifically instruct them to fabricate such incidents.

  8. “We doubt that President Bush, who was notorious for being parsimonious with follow-ups, would have gotten away with prescreening his interlocutors.”

    I guess they must mean the pres Bush who dressed up a male prostitute as a journalist, one who visited the White House 200 times and serviced god only knows who, and then called on him as if he were part of the official press corps.

    That president Bush?

  9. @Talldave:

    ‘If Binyam Mohamed is not “the worst of the worst” as she originally feared, she says Guantanamo is easily the worst prison she has ever seen – and she has visited many.

    “I’ve done criminal work for 20 years. I’ve been on death row. I’ve been in local prisons, state prisons, federal prisons… I’ve never come across the conditions, the attitude, the way they handle anything at Guantanamo Bay.” ‘

    from the BBC
    (“she” being Lt Col Yvonne Bradley, Binyam Mohamed’s lawyer.)

  10. ever pull a plant out of the ground? You grab the main trunk tight and twist and wrench and haul. Sometimes it slips out of your hand, sometimes the top breaks off. Frequently you get cut and scratched as it fights you and if your are really unlucky, you end up on your ass in the dirt with that godsbedamned shrub smirking at you. If it’s been a long time between weedings, the roots have had a chance to burrow deep and wide and grow fat. More than half the time some break off underground and lurk there, ready to sprout when your back is turned. You have to be patient and thorough and methodical. You can try to skip the hard work by use of fire and poison – but that tends to damage other, beneficial plants. The best policy is to dig wide and deep and get every scrap of root. Shift the dirt as required and backfill with clean. This things do take time.

  11. This reminds me of an old Ad&d game dilema:
    The Paladin captures a bad guy and wants to interrogate him, as he doesnt say anithing usefull he give him to the party and tell them to interrogate him. The others guys said “Oh, we will use torture”, then i yelled at him that a Lawful Legal character could not do that, then the Paladin told me “I dont know if they will torture him or not, but I will be in another room so i dont know what are they doing to him”.
    Such a twisted logic amazed and disgusted me deeply.

    When I see the same in real life…
    …I die a little bit more.

    PD: in none of my games a tortured character gives useful information.

  12. #12: I’m quite serious in saying this: The moral compass of the traditional Dungeons and Dragons games are a greatly unappreciated tool in human development. If you can’t figure out what’s good and evil in a fantasy setting, then you’re not ready for real life.

  13. Obama will do one of to things.

    Either he will do nothing in order to preserve the status quot. Or he will punish some low level straw-man as was done in the case of Abu-Graib where the only people punished were low level military that were following orders

  14. @ #15 T0AD: “only people punished were low level military that were following orders”

    Well, following illegal orders is still illegal so they should have been punished.

    However limiting the investigation/punishment at that level *was* a travesty.

    Regards
    JonS

  15. my son was stationed there and followed orders. he cannot even speak about what went on there, has constant nightmares and is under a doctor’s care. but, to state again, he was following orders given him. the rank and file are not responsible and they need to know that.

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