Osama bin Laden's welcome death has ignited debate over whether the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques used on enemy prisoners were instrumental in locating bin Laden, and whether they are a justifiable means for gathering intelligence.
Much of this debate is a definitional one: whether any or all of these methods constitute torture. I believe some of them do, especially waterboarding, which is a mock execution and thus an exquisite form of torture. As such, they are prohibited by American laws and values, and I oppose them.
A growing number of ex-Peace Corps volunteers are speaking out via blogs and in news interviews about having survived rape and other forms of sexual assault while assigned overseas. They say the agency ignored their concerns for safety or requests for relocation, and tried to blame rape victims for their attacks. Their stories, and support from families and advocates, are drawing attention from lawmakers and promises of reform from the agency.
One of the women whose story is receiving renewed attention is Kate Puzey (shown in the photo at left). The Peace Corps volunteer was murdered in Benin, apparently by a contractor for the agency she was attempting to anonymously report for the rape of girls at the village school. As I blogged in 2009, I was in Benin, pretty close to that village, the same day she was killed. I remember our local friends from that region expressing horror and sadness at her murder. But we didn't know the backstory yet. More on her case follows.
The Peace Corps 2010 budget: $400 million, government funding, your tax dollars at work. The current director today apologized for the agency's poor response to victims, and specifically the Puzey case.
First: In today's New York Times, an article about the volunteers who are speaking out on sexual assault:
In going public, they are exposing an ugly sliver of life in the Peace Corps: the dangers that volunteers face in far-flung corners of the world and the inconsistent -- and, some say, callous -- treatment they receive when they become crime victims.From 2000 to 2009, an average of 22 Peace Corps women each year reported being the victims of rape or attempted rape, according to the agency's own records. During that period a total of over 1,000 volunteers reported sexual assaults, including 221 rapes or attempted rapes.
The boy was never charged with any crime. US forces captured him in Afghanistan just days after he'd reportedly been sexually assaulted and kidnapped by a group of 11 Afghan men, in a village near his family's home. The US military brought the boy to Guantánamo Bay as a prisoner "because of his possible knowledge of Taliban resistance efforts and local leaders." They held him as a prisoner there for more than a year, despite knowing he was innocent.
The Telegraph seems to take the same position as Wikileaks: the public has a right to know the fullest array of facts exposing the horror and human rights abuses at Gitmo. Other publications, like the Guardian (which was not a direct recipient from Wikileaks, after finding itself more or less at odds with Julian Assange) published the boy's Guantánamo file, but blacked out details of his sexual assault. More at journalism.co.uk.
China says Tibetan Buddhist monks "disrupt social order," forces "patriotic re-education" camps after suicide protest
Click for large. In this file photo from 2007, Tibetan monks debate Buddhist philosophy at the Kirti Monastary. (REUTERS/Reinhard Krause)
Today, the government of China for the first time confirmed a crackdown by authorities at Kirti monastery (Kirti Gompa) in Sichuan province, but would not comment on reports by human rights groups that two monks at the monastery were murdered by armed government agents. Some 2,500 monks live at the monastery. Founded in 1472, it is considered a very important site in Tibetan Buddhism.
"In recent days, a small number of monks in Kirti Monastery in Aba county, Sichuan have disrupted social order and disobeyed Tibetan Buddhist rules," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters. They have "disrupted local normal order, defamed the image of Tibetan Buddhism and harmed the feelings of Buddhist followers."
According to the US-based International Campaign for Tibet, unrest in the Chinese region erupted in March when a young monk set himself on fire and died in an apparent anti-government protest. On Thursday last week, paramilitary police raided the monastery and took away more than 300 monks. Authorities also started a re-education programme at Kirti, the group said.
Police also beat a group of laypeople who had been standing vigil outside the monastery, leading to the deaths of two Tibetans aged in their sixties, ICT said. "People had their arms and legs broken, one old woman had her leg broken in three places, and cloth was stuffed in their mouths to stifle their screams," an exiled Kirti monk was quoted as saying by the rights group.
Read the full item by Agence-France Presse.
Earlier this month, China placed the monastery on lockdown after a young monk committed suicide by setting himself on fire on March 16 to protest Chinese policies in areas with high Tibetan populations (NYT). That same week, a China Foreign Ministry spokesman described interactions between the Kirti monks and police as "harmonious." (BBC)
Read the rest
Read the rest
Creepy handwritten notes of CIA psychologist who helped design US torture techniques for terror detainees
Above: One of the items identified as notes produced by the infamous Dr. Bruce Jessen, a psychologist whose work was used to design the so-called "Enhanced interrogation techniques Program," which amounted to torture of "war on terror" detainees in custody of the CIA and Department of Defense. Truth-out.org published these a few weeks ago, but the Wikileaks dump of secret US documents on Guantánamo provide good reason to revisit. Dr. Jessen created this work as part of a US Air Force Survival Training study. You can download his handwritten and typed notes here in PDF, and a portion here in .zip.
This item in the Guardian's coverage of the latest Wikileaks dump is not the first time I've heard that the Casio F-91W digital watch is thought to be "the sign of al-Qaida," and "a contributing factor to continued detention of prisoners by the analysts stationed at Guantánamo Bay."
But like so much revealed by Wikileaks, when stuff like this is proven out in the State Department's own pen, the absurdity levels really spike:
Briefing documents used to train staff in assessing the threat level of new detainees advise that possession of the F-91W - available online for as little as £4 - suggests the wearer has been trained in bomb making by al-Qaida in Afghanistan.
The report states: "The Casio was known to be given to the students at al-Qaida bomb-making training courses in Afghanistan at which the students received instruction in the preparation of timing devices using the watch.
Next: a global movement to show solidarity with detainees by wearing the F-91W?
Guantánamo Bay files: Casio wristwatch 'the sign of al-Qaida' (guardian.co.uk)
"A Libyan woman burst into the hotel housing the foreign press in Tripoli Saturday morning and fought off security forces as she told journalists that she had been raped and beaten by members of the Qaddafi militia. After nearly an hour, she was dragged away from the hotel screaming." (New York Times)
Her name is Eman al-Obeidy. CNN's Nic Robertson was present, and his tweeted account is screengrabbed here. "CNN camera was violently snatched, systematically smashed to pieces and video footage stolen," he wrote. "Some journalists were beaten in blatant display of regime thuggery."
"Journalists are demanding to see her. David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times and I went to officials in charge who claimed they don't know who took her, or where she was taken."
Bahrain awoke to a violent crackdown by police on demonstrators camped out at the country's iconic Lulu (Pearl) roundabout on Wednesday. That afternoon, I boarded a flight from Doha, Qatar to Bahrain, to see for myself what was unfolding in the island nation I once called home.
Hours later, I found myself on a flight back to Doha, without having been allowed to set foot out of Bahrain's airport in Muharraq.
The flight itself was quite uneventful. The plane - an Airbus A321, with a listed 177 passenger capacity - carried less than 30 people. A short line to immigration meant I was at the desk in minutes. Immigration officer asks, "Where are you coming from? Qatar? OK, 5 Bahraini Dinars."
Thumbing through my passport, he suddenly stops and looks me in the eye. "Wait, where are you from? Who do you work for? ... Please have a seat - over there." I can't be sure if it was the Iraq visa, the India visa, or the numerous Qatar & Saudi visas in my American passport he found suspicious. Or perhaps it was my telling him in Arabic that "my origin" is half Indian, half Hispanic.
So my wait began. There were quite a number of other people on the benches too. Anyone who'd arrived with the intention of driving across the King Fahad causeway into Saudi Arabia was being told they'd have to fly. There is a curfew in effect on Bahrain's main highway from 4pm-4am, and last I heard, the bridge to Saudi was closed indefinitely. This of course, due to the month-long protests against the government by opposition groups calling for democratic reforms, a constitutional monarchy and basic human rights.
After about an hour of waiting, and checking in a couple times to see if there was any problems, one of the immigration officers asked, "You used to work for Al Jazeera, right?"