More word from the ongoing attempt to bring the people responsible for years of CIA torture to justice: one of the three waterboarding specialists at Guantanamo was called "The Preacher" because while he was drowning suspects to the point of near death, he "would at random times put one hand on the forehead of a detainee, raise the other high in the air, and in a deep Southern drawl say things like, 'Can you feel it, son? Can you feel the spirit moving down my arm, into your body?'"
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United Airlines is already dealing with intense public backlash after a doctor was beaten, knocked out, and dragged off one of its plane for refusing to give up a seat he'd paid paid for because United wanted his seat for one of its employees. Now, the LA Times is reporting that another man, who'd purchased a full-fare first class ticket and was sitting is his seat on a United Flight, was threatened with handcuffs if he did't give up his seat for a "higher-priority" traveler.
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[Geoff Fearns] boarded the aircraft at Lihue Airport on the island of Kauai, took his seat and enjoyed a complimentary glass of orange juice while awaiting takeoff.
Then, as Fearns tells it, a United employee rushed onto the aircraft and informed him that he had to get off the plane.
“That’s when they told me they needed the seat for somebody more important who came at the last minute,” Fearns said. “They said they have a priority list and this other person was higher on the list than me.”
“I understand you might bump people because a flight is full,” Fearns said. “But they didn’t say anything at the gate. I was already in the seat. And now they were telling me I had no choice. They said they’d put me in cuffs if they had to.”
As the scandal over a United passenger who was beaten unconscious and dragged off a plane when he refused to give up his seat for a deadheading crewmember unspools, there's a predictable torrent of bullshit about how United was in the right because something something private property, and let us not forget the great American sport of victim-blaming. Read the rest
Even the extreme legal theories of the George W Bush administration were mild compared to some of the "compromise" positions Obama's DoJ argued for, and now Donald J Trump gets to use those positions to further its own terrifying agenda of mass deportations, reprisals against the press, torture and assassination, and surveillance based on religious affiliation or ethnic origin. Read the rest
ABC News reports that President Obama has sent a plan to close Guantanamo Bay to congress. Good luck, Mr. President!
"We recognize that this is going to be a challenge," he said. "We are going to keep making the case to Congress."
The president’s plan has four primary element, including transferring to other countries detainees who are already designated for transfer. Although 91 detainees are now at Guantanamo, 35 are already eligible for transfer if the administration can find another country to take them. Officials anticipate getting the prison’s population below 60 later this year.
The plan aims at accelerating periodic reviews of authority to detain an individual, prosecuting detainees who are facing charges, and working with Congress to establish a location in the homeland to securely hold detainees who cannot be transferred. Lastly, the president wants to move all remaining detainees to the United States.
Guantanamo Bay, a tiny slice of Cuba maintained as a prison camp to house suspected terrorists, has long been an embarrassment to the U.S. Government, which is accused of abusing, torturing and inappropriately detaining dozens of inmates. But few legislators want its prisoners moved to U.S. soil, and some see its conditions as just desserts for national enemies. Read the rest
James Mitchell and John "Bruce" Jessen are psychologists who took in almost $85 million in CIA contracts to design and oversee torture programs used on CIA prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and around the world. The contracts ran from from 2001 to 2010. The ACLU is representing Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and Gul Rahman, three of the prisoners who were tortured at CIA black sites. Rahman was murdered by his torturers and the ACLU is representing his estate. Read the rest
DOJ lawyer Catherine Dorsey: "We don’t think there is a First Amendment right to classified documents" -- she was seeking to suppress evidence of force-feeding torture in Gitmo. Read the rest
Homan Square is the Chicago Police Department's "secure site" where people as young as 15 are detained without charge and without access to counsel, subject to beatings that result in head wounds, and, in one case, death. Read the rest
Andy writes, "This is the promotional video for a new campaign, We Stand with Shaker, aimed at securing the release from Guantanamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who is still held despite being approved for release in 2007 and 2009." Read the rest
With Obama pledging in the latest State of the Union address to finally shutter the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay -- something he's been promising to do since his 2008 election campaign -- it's worth revisiting the people who remain imprisoned there, more than a decade after the GW Bush administration declared its War on Terror.
There are 155 men in Guantanamo. 77 have been cleared for transfer but there is no country to which they can be sent. 45 men are in "indefinite detention" -- unable to be prosecuted, often because of the brutal torture inflicted on them by Guantanamo's jailers, but unable to be released because the US government considers them to be a threat. 31 more are awaiting prosecution.
This month, the American Psychology Association dropped all proceedings against a member who designed, oversaw, and participated in the torture at Guantanamo. They had previously denied a request to censure other members who participated in torture.
The protocol designed by John Leso, the doctor that the APA will not censure, involved intravenously hydrating a victim until he urinated on himself; sleep deprivation; forcing the victim to bark like a dog; keeping the victim naked and subjecting him to extreme cold; spinning the victim in a swiveling chair to disorient him; putting the victim into stress positions; depriving the victim of mattresses and other bedding; keeping the victim in isolation from all human contact; and more. Read the rest
Writing from Guantanamo Bay via his lawyer, Shaker Aamer, the last UK citizen imprisoned at the camp, describes the Kafkaesque regime of censorship practiced by the camp guards. His lawyer brings him books every three months, but so far, guards have confiscated Russell Brand's memoirs (too sweary), "The Gulag Archipelago" and "The Rule of Law" by Lord Bingham. They allowed Dershowitz's "Blasphemy: How the Religious Right Is Hijacking Our Declaration of Independence," but redacted certain passages. Unsurprisingly, Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment" did not attain the Gitmo stamp of approval. Aamer's favorite book is (of course), "Nineteen Eighty-Four."
The piece is written with admirable resilience and humour, but it's a reminder that the US government is still maintaining a torture camp where people who haven't been convicted of any crime are imprisoned indefinitely. Read the rest
Post-9/11 detainee interrogration policies of the US Defense Department and CIA forced medical professionals to abandon the ethical obligation to "do no harm" to the humans in their care, and engage in prohibited practices such as force-feeding of hunger strikers, according to a report out this week. "Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror" [PDF Link] was produced by 19-member task force of Columbia University's Institute on Medicine as a Profession and the Open Society Foundations. The LA Times has a summary here. Read the rest
Artist Molly Crabapple visited Guantanamo Bay and documented the bizarre conditions in which men cleared of all crimes are held without charge at a cost of millions, forever, in some of the harshest conditions imaginable. Crabapple documents the boondoggle that is Gitmo with admirable clarity, and her illustrations are especially poignant.
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Afghans sold Nabil to Afghan forces from his hospital bed. Injured and terrified, he huddled together with five other men in the underground cell of a prison in Kabul. Interrogators whipped him. The screams of the tortured kept him awake at night. According to a statement filed by Clive Clifford Smith, Nabil’s lawyer at the time, “Someone—either an interpreter or another prisoner—whispered to him, ‘Just say you are al Qaeda and they will stop beating you.’”
At Bagram, Americans held Nabil naked in an aircraft hanger that was so cold he thought he’d die of exposure, while military personal in warm coats sipped hot chocolate. When Nabil tried to recant confessions he’d made under torture, the soldiers just beat him more, according to a statement filed by Clifford Smith. Finally, the military transferred Nabil to Kandahar, and then to Guantánamo Bay.
Nabil arrived at Gitmo’s Camp X-Ray in February 2002. With its watchtowers, clapboard interrogation huts, and rings of barbed wire, X-Ray looks nothing but surreal—a concentration camp on the Caribbean. For the four months it took the JTF to build permanent prisons, Nabil lived in a metal cage under the burning Cuban sun. For hygiene, he had one bucket for water and another for shit.
Charlie Savage writes in the New York Times of the books on offer to prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, which include a set of Indiana Jones novelizations, some Star Trek: TNG novels, Ender's Game, Arabic editions of Danielle Steele, and some Captain America graphic novels. Some of the prisoners arrived in Gitmo able to read English, other have learned during their 10-year incarceration. One lawyer brought in copies of Nineteen Eighty-Four for his client, Shaker Aamer, who said, "it perfectly captured the psychological reality of being at Gitmo."
The library has about 18,000 books — roughly 9,000 titles — the bulk of which are in Arabic, along with a smaller selection of periodicals, DVDs and video games. Religious books are the most popular, Milton said, but there is also a well-thumbed collection of Western fare — from Arabic translations of books like “News of a Kidnapping,” by Gabriel García Márquez, and “The Kiss,” by Danielle Steel, to a sizable English-language room, which boasts familiar titles like the “Harry Potter” and “Lord of the Rings” series, “Watership Down” and the “Odyssey.” Some detainees arrived knowing English, while a few others have learned over time. Most have now been held without trial for over a decade.
You can see photos of the books at the Gitmo Books Tumblr, which was started by Charlie Savage lawyers for some of the prisoners.
Invisible Men [Charlie Savage/NYT]
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Filmmaker Laura Poitras follows the tragic return home to Yemen of a Guantánamo Bay prison detainee, Adnan Latif.
President Obama isn't closing Guantánamo any time soon, but prisoners will be well-taken-care-of in the entertainment department, according to this Miami Herald article: they have an endless supply of of Will Smith’s 1990s TV comedy, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, with which to while away the years. The sitcom has become a "popular way to pass time among the 168 captives now in their second decade of U.S. detention." Guards say it now eclipses the Harry Potter books as most-requested entertainment. (via @kgosztola) Read the rest
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