China Matters this week marked, here, the tenth anniversary of the U.S. Government’s founding of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp for illegal enemy combattants…
China Hand [Peter Lee] wrote in his blog post that “January 2012 marks the 10th melancholy anniversary of the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay … Meanwhile, Guantanamo remains open and an embarrassing symbol, both of US reliance on extrajudicial detention and harsh interrogation (which will continue on US military bases and in black offshore prison no matter what happens to the flagship enterprise in Guantanamo) and American political gridlock”.
The post, published on 16 January, gives a brief but interesting account of how U.S. Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich managed to ignite “the firestorm of criticism that prevented the public release of 17 Uighur captives from Guantanamo to Germany and the United States in early 2009″…
After reading that account, it would be interesting to compare it to this account of the release of one Uighur, “From Guantánamo to Palau: Exchanging One Prison for Another“, reported by Seema Saifee [a lawyer representing four Uighur detainees, including the one whose situation is described in this article], and published on 19 January on Spiegel Online here [found via a Tweet by the Miami Herald’s Guantanamo correspondent, Carol Rosenberg, @carolrosenberg]
There are now reports that Osama/Usama Bin Laden’s wife was wounded, not killed, in the U.S. raid that killed him [and that another woman was wounded as well].
What happened to her, and to any others wounded, or simply present, inside the compound?
Apparently, the U.S. special forces [Navy Seals???] took “computers” from the compound to search them for leads.
Does it make any sense that if, as U.S. officials said, they will be pursuing other al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan or elsewhere, they would have left anybody in the compound?
UPDATE: Reports Tuesday night say that a wounded women and Usama’s children who were in the room with him when he was killed “resisting” are now in Pakistani custody. [A woman seized as a hostage by another man — not Obama — in another room was killed, together with the man who grabbed her…]
The Associated Press reported Tuesday night that “The White House says Osama bin Laden was not armed when a Navy SEAL raiding party confronted him during an assault on his compound in Pakistan. White House press secretary Jay Carney acknowledged that bin Laden did not have a weapon even though administration officials have said that bin Laden resisted during the raid. Carney said resistance does not require a firearm. Bin Laden was shot in the head and in the chest during the encounter. Carney said that a woman in the room with bin Laden confronted the U.S. forces and was shot but not killed”. This report is posted here.
UPDATE TWO: The Atlantic magazine has published a post by Garance Franke-Ruta entitled “The Slippery Story of the bin Laden Kill”, here, which notes that “the history of misstatements from U.S. government officials about various combat operations raises questions about whether briefers also were subjecting us to a counterterrorism strategy and not just completely confused in their initial statements”.
Avner Cohen posted the link on Facebook, with this comment: “Does the Slippery Story of OBL killing matter? Yes, it does! Slipping the truth on this matter undermines the very credibility and the moral ground of the United States, the very raison d’etre of this act.”
For full transparency and disclosure, I’ll post below my own comments in participation and interaction on this thread:
Because, for sure, there’s no way to ask any questions about this.
[Though, there are probably videos that will be shown later…]
U.S. President Obama said it was a “targetted operation”… which “took care to avoid civilian casualties”.
After 9/11, our time of grief, Americans came together, Obama said. “We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice. We quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al-Qaeda, an organization headed by Osama Bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and committed to killing innocents in our country and around the globe. So, we went to war against Al-Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends and our allies … In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government which had given Bin Ladan and Al-Qaeda safe haven and support, and around the globe, we worked to capture or kill scores of Al-Qaeda terrorists, including several who were a part of the 9/11 plot”, he said. “Shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the Director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of Osama Bin Laden the top priority in our war against al-Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle or defeat his network”…
Obama never once said the word “terrorist” or “terror” [this was one of the significant style changes in his administration]. No, this is a war against Al-Qaeda, Obama said, several times.
“There is no doubt that Al-Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us”, Obama added, so the U.S. “must be vigilant, at home and abroad”…
The U.S. then issued a worldwide travel alert and advisory to all U.S. citizens.
A warden message received on Monday afternoon from the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem says: “Given the uncertainty and volatility of the current situation, U.S. citizens in areas where recent events could cause anti-American violence are strongly urged to limit their travel outside of their homes and hotels and avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations … We urge U.S. citizens to keep in regular contact with family and friends”.
In his announcement, Obama also said that Bin Laden’s “demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity … justice has been done”.
Osama Bin Laden has been killed, somehow, in a “showdown with U.S. forces” in a luxurious villa in a heavily-fortified compound in Pakistan — a country which insisted he was not there, and where U.S. forces have been operating for years, while supposedly searching for Osama Bin Laden and his amorphous Al-Qaeda Organization, which any misfit or rebel who wanted to antagonize could claim to be part of (whether true or not, claims were accepted, usually without question, if convenient).
The villa was reportedly in, or on the outskirts of, Abbotabad, about two hours north of Islamabad. [And, the villa was reportedly about 800 yards from the Pakistan Military Academy.]
According to a report in The Guardian, here, the villa was identified last August, the U.S. was certain in February that Bin Laden and family were there, and Obama gave the order to get him on 29 April.
The same report added that “It was a surgical operation, he said, carried out by a small team and lasted only 40 minutes … The US force ran into a problem with one of their helicopters which had to be abandoned, but only after being destroyed by explosives set by the American troops”.
Some Pakistani forces reportedly accompanied the U.S. soldiers. Now, they say they’re not sure who fired the shot that actually killed Osama Bin Laden. But, there can never be another autopsy, a forensic examination, because, the U.S. says, his body has been “buried at sea” — according to Muslim tradition (which is NOT to bury a dead person at sea, but in the earth).
This happened within a very few hours — at 0200 in Washington DC time — and that would be according to Muslim (and Jewish) tradition which prefers burial (in earth) within 24 hours. The military operation apparently started just after 8pm, and Obama made his announcement after 10:30 pm, the time it was supposed to take place …
The U.S. took charge [“custody”, Obama said] of the body, and then said no country was willing to take the body for burial…
That’ll make it easy, they must have thought.
UPDATE: At a White House briefing after 9pm Monday night (Jerusalem time), with the White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and John Brennan of the President’s National Security team, Brennan said that “we were able to monitor it [the operation] in real time”. He said the COAs [Course of Actions] were determined over the past couple of months: if he’s captured, what do we do with him? And, if he’s killed what do we do. Arrangements for the burial were ready. The appropriate people were there. A decision was taken that the burial in the way it was done was the appropriate thing to do. He would not say exactly where it happened. He said that there have been differences between the U.S. and Pakistan on counterterrorism policy, and that the Pakistani authorities were briefed immediately after the operation. They were appreciative of the fact that there were no Pakistani casualties”.
Brennan, a “counterterrorism” advisor, said that “we are talking to the Pakistanis” about the location where Bin Laden was found, but initially “they seemed as surprised as we were”…
Brennan said that Bin Laden did participate in the firefight when the U.S. raid occurred, but when asked specifically, Brennan said he didn’t know if Bin Laden got his hand on a weapon or fired any rounds.
Others died, too, including “the two al-Qaeda facilitators” [two brothers], one of his sons [Khaled], and “a woman being used as a hostage shield”… presumed to be one of Osama Bin Laden’s wives, Brennan later said, adding that he did not know how it was she was interposed in the line of fire in front of Bin Laden, including whether she put herself in that position herself.
It is not clear whether Bin Laden was buried alone, at sea, or with this wife, and his son…
But, in the best post-Second-World-War American tradition, the U.S. is leader of “the free world”, and no questions can be asked. [Or, as happened on Monday evening, there will be a press conference with dozens of questions, and not too many full answers…]
There will be no trial. Osama will not be water-boarded in Camp Guantanamo to extract “the facts” in a full investigation. We will never know what really happened, and we will believe what suits us.
There is no body to show = no need to know: just accept our word, we’re the “good guys”?
Just trust the leaders. Or, what’s wrong with you — get the hell out! Go… to Gaza!
On Twitter, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, tweeted (@husainhaqqani) just after 1:15 in the afternoon, Jerusalem time:
**”Official Pakistan statement being released in Islamabad on our US bringing Osama bin Laden to justice 14 minutes ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®”
**”Pak statement: In intelligence driven op, Osama Bin Ladin was killed in the surroundings of Abbotabad in the early hours of Mon morning”
**”Operation was conducted by US forces in accordance with declared US policy”
**”Earlier 2day, President Obama telephoned President Zardari on the successful US operation which resulted in killing of OBL”
**”Al-Qaeda had declared war on Pakistan. Scores of Al-Qaeda sponsored terrorist attacks resulted in deaths of 1000s of innocent Pakistanis”
According to a report by AP, Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist who has analyzed Omar Khadr, the now-24-year-old Canadian citizen who has been imprisoned in extreme conditions at Guantanamo Bay prison since he was captured in Afghanistan at the age of 15, “Khadr was an extremist when he was taken to Guantanamo, where he was ‘marinated in radical jihadism’ over eight years in custody and became a leader among prisoners. ‘He’s highly dangerous’, Welner told jurors. ‘He is full of rage’ … ‘He is very angry about being in custody’, he told the jury of seven military officers”…
Weltner was hired as an expert witness by U.S. military prosecutors. He reported interviewed Khadr for 7 hours over the summer — less than one hour for each year that Khadr has spent in captivity at facilities at the U.S. Naval Base on the coast of Cuba. This AP report is posted here
The AP report says that Khadr “pleaded guilty Monday to five war crimes charges as part of a plea deal that spared him from a possible life sentence and calls for sending him back to his homeland after one more year in Guantanamo. The jury cannot impose a sentence greater than the amount set by the agreement, reportedly eight years, but they can issue one that is more lenient … The testimony [by Dr. Weltner] was part of a prosecution attempt to show that Khadr, despite his guilty plea, has no remorse for his past”.
According to AP, “Nathan Whitling, an attorney for Khadr, said they disagree with the prosecution’s assessment and will counter Welner with their own expert testimony. Khadr pleaded guilty to charges that included murder for killing an American special forces medic with a grenade during a four-hour firefight at an al-Qaida compound in southeastern Afghanistan … Defenders said he was a child soldier pushed into militancy by his father, who was killed in Pakistan after his son’s capture, and that killing a soldier during a firefight does not amount to a war crime”.
Khadr entered his guilty plea on Monday, in a surprise move. The reason he did it, his lawyers indicated, is that the deal will get him out of Guantanamo within a year, and back to Canada where he will serve the rest of his sentence — reportedly, another seven more years in jail.
Carol Rosenberg, a journalist who is covering the court proceedings in Guantanamo and other military matters for the Miami Herald, here, has tweeted here, today, that “I still can’t report how many hundreds of thousands of dollars the war court paid Dr. Michael Welner. I’ve asked and asked. Still no reply”.
About Welner’s testimony earlier today, Rosenbert sent these tweets:
Welner just summed up #Khadr: “His future risk is actually more in his capacity to inspire and be incendiary” than to do violence himself.
Omar #Khadr to Pentagon-paid forensic psychiatrist in June at #Guantanamo: “I’m not going to lie to you. I have cursed at guards before.”
Yesterday, Dr. Welner testified #Khadr read Harry Potter and the Koran but had no interest in Western studies. Today we learn, on cross:
Doctor’s notes show these books too: Nelson Mandela: “Walk to Freedom,” Obama: “Dreams of My Father,” John Grisham, Danielle Steele novels.
Doctor’s notes show, at #Guantanamo, #Khadr also read, Ishmael Beah’s “A Long Way Gone: Memories of a Boy Soldier,” “Chronicles of Narnia.”
From Dr. Welner’s June interview of Omar #Khadr: Welner: “What do you think it would be like for you as a devout Muslim living in Canada?”
Omar Khadr: “I’d practice my religion and everyone would practice his own religion.”
Welner accuses defense of cherry picking. Welner said he didn’t ask #Khadr whether he could live with Christians. Khadr offered it up.
“One of US President Barack Obama’s most publicized and internationally applauded first acts upon coming into office was his executive order to shut down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay within a year”, as Sara Kuepfer Thakkar wrote in an analysis for the Zurich-based ISN Security Watch, but “The deadline for closing Guantanamo, which expires today [this was published yesterday, Friday 22 January 2010], has not been met”.
The Guantanamo Naval Base Detention Facility was opened on 11 January 2002, to imprison suspects in George W. Bush’s War on Terror.
At the time that this War on Terror was declared, experts warned that it could be a long time before it could be declared over — a fact which could create multiple problems, including what to do with the detainees being held in various covert facilities around the world.
President Obama has ordered an end to the terminology (“War on Terror”), but it seems that the policies and practices die harder.
Sara Kuepfer Thakkar wrote in her ISN analysis that “The prison at Guantanamo Bay had become a symbol of American abuse of Muslims, a convenient recruiting tool for al-Qaida, and thus a real liability for a war that ultimately can only be won by securing the support of Muslims around the world …
The Washington Post, in an article published on Saturday, reported that “previously unpublicized details about the transformation, in 2005-2006, of the man known to U.S. officials as [Khalid Sheik Mohammed ] KSM [was transformed] from an avowed and truculent enemy of the United States into what the CIA called its ‘preeminent source’ on al-Qaeda. This reversal occurred after Mohammed was subjected to simulated drowning and prolonged sleep deprivation, among other harsh interrogation techniques … enduring the CIA’s harshest interrogation methods and spending more than a year in the agency’s secret prisons” before the transformation.
But, what he provided in the first year of his detention (2003-2004) was untrue: ” ‘KSM, an accomplished resistor, provided only a few intelligence reports prior to the use of the waterboard, and analysis of that information revealed that much of it was outdated, inaccurate or incomplete’, according to newly unclassified portions of a 2004 report by the CIA’s then-inspector general released Monday by the Justice Department. The debate over the effectiveness of subjecting detainees to psychological and physical pressure is in some ways irresolvable, because it is impossible to know whether less coercive methods would have achieved the same result. But for defenders of waterboarding, the evidence is clear: Mohammed cooperated, and to an extraordinary extent, only when his spirit was broken in the month after his capture March 1, 2003, as the inspector general’s report and other documents released this week indicate. Over a few weeks, he was subjected to an escalating series of coercive methods, culminating in 7 1/2 days of sleep deprivation, while diapered and shackled, and 183 instances of waterboarding. After the month-long torment, he was never waterboarded again … Mohammed, in statements to the International Committee of the Red Cross, said some of the information he provided was untrue. ‘During the harshest period of my interrogation I gave a lot of false information in order to satisfy what I believed the interrogators wished to hear in order to make the ill-treatment stop. I later told interrogators that their methods were stupid and counterproductive. I’m sure that the false information I was forced to invent in order to make the ill-treatment stop wasted a lot of their time’, he said … After his capture, Mohammed first told his captors what he calculated they already knew. ‘KSM almost immediately following his capture in March 2003 elaborated on his plan to crash commercial airlines into Heathrow airport’, according to a document released by the CIA on Monday that summarizes the intelligence provided by Mohammed. The agency thinks he assumed that Ramzi Binalshibh, a Sept. 11 conspirator captured in September 2002, had already divulged the plan”.
So, what reason is there to think that what he told CIA and other personnel in 2005-2006 about Al-Qaeda is true?
Here is the reasoning given in the Washington Post story: “One former U.S. official with detailed knowledge of how the interrogations were carried out said Mohammed, like several other detainees, seemed to have decided that it was okay to stop resisting after he had endured a certain amount of pressure. ‘Once the harsher techniques were used on [detainees], they could be viewed as having done their duty to Islam or their cause, and their religious principles would ask no more of them’, said the former official, who requested anonymity because the events are still classified. ‘After that point, they became compliant. Obviously, there was also an interest in being able to later say, “I was tortured into cooperating” ‘.'”
Or, he was tortured into lying … and inventing and making up stories …
We previously discussed the reports that KSM and other alleged High Value Detainees implicated each other after being tortured, here and here.
The Washington Post report adds that “One former agency official recalled that Mohammed was once asked to write a summary of his knowledge about al-Qaeda’s efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction. The terrorist group had explored buying either an intact nuclear weapon or key components such as enriched uranium, although there is no evidence of significant progress on that front. ‘He wrote us an essay’ on al-Qaeda’s nuclear ambitions, the official said. ‘Not all of it was accurate, but it was quite extensive’. Mohammed was an unparalleled source in deciphering al-Qaeda’s strategic doctrine, key operatives and likely targets, the summary said, including describing in ‘considerable detail the traits and profiles’ that al-Qaeda sought in Western operatives and how the terrorist organization might conduct surveillance in the United States. Mohammed was moved to the U.S. military facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in September 2006, and his loquaciousness is now largely confined to occasional appearances before a military commission. Back in his 86-square-foot cell at the secret Camp 7 at Guantanamo, he spends most of his waking hours in prayer, according to a source familiar with his confinement who spoke on the condition of anonymity”.
The Washington Post report can be read in full here.
One of the documents on interrogation techniques released this week in Washington [[see our previous post here ]] was an internal CIA report that, as AP says, describes “two instances in 2007 in which the CIA was allowed to exceed the guidelines set by Bush administration lawyers allowing prisoners to be kept awake for up to four days”.
It specifies that “CIA operatives used severe sleep deprivation tactics against a terror detainee in late 2007, keeping him awake for six straight days with permission from government lawyers”.
According to the AP story, “The first episode occurred in August 2007, when interrogators were given permission from the Office of Legal Counsel to keep an unidentified detainee awake for five days, a U.S. government official confirmed … According to the documents, the sleep-deprived prisoner was kept awake by being forced to stand with his arms chained above heart level. He wore diapers, allowing interrogators to keep him chained continuously without bathroom breaks. [[One has to ask who, if anyone, changed his diapers? Wearing soiled diapers for even one full causes serious skin burns from the ammonia in urine …]] The second incident occurred in November 2007. After again asking permission from Justice lawyers to keep a detainee awake an extra day, interrogators pressed to extend the treatment for another 24 hours, depriving the prisoner of sleep for six straight days. It is unclear from the documents whether the two incidents involved the same detainee. CIA spokesman George Little would not provide the identity of the prisoner referred to in the document … According to the documents, the prisoner was monitored by closed-circuit television. If he started to fall asleep, the chains jerking on his arms would wake him up. If a prisoner’s leg swelled — a condition known as edema, which can cause blood clots and stroke — interrogators could chain him to a low, unbalanced stool or on the floor with arms outstretched“.
John Sifton has just written in The Daily Beast that in the “Bush-era documents about the CIA’s detention and interrogation program”, just released by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Justice, “it’s difficult to know what they say: Many key sections of the most important documents contain heavy redactions”.
Nevertheless, Sifton, says. “There are some striking new pieces of information. One of the most important parts of the report comes not with grisly details of waterboarding or the program’s excesses with power drills or threats of rape, but confirmations and new revelations about White House involvement in approving the expansion of the CIA interrogation program in the summer of 2003…”
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights calls it the “International Day in Support of Victims of Torture”, and she issued a statement saying that “The prohibition of torture is one of the most absolute to be found anywhere in international law. Article 2 of the Convention against Torture is unequivocal: ‘No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture’. And no one is let off the hook – neither the actual torturers themselves, nor the policy-makers and public officials who define the policy or give the orders”.
On 1 May, Scott Horton, a New York attorney with an interest in international law, especially human rights law, and a contributing editor to Harper’s Magazine, posted an extraordinary recent amateur video, taken from Youtube, on his No Comment blog (located on Harper’s website).
Horton’s post is entitled “Condi’s really bad day“, and can be read in full here.
The Youtube video (uploaded by reynagarcia621) that Horton dissects in his blog post shows former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talking with Stanford University students on 27 April — and denying that she had authorized … well, yes, torture.
“We did not torture anyone”, she said (at 4:07 minutes into the video).
In this video, taken by a student, Rice said that “in terms of enhanced interrogation, rendition, and all the issues around the detainees, Abu Ghraib was not a policy … and it was wrong”.
But, she went on about “enhanced interrogation”, saying that “anything that was legal and that was gonna make this country safer, the President wanted to do — nothing that was illegal and nothing that was gonna make the country less safe … You cannot possibly imagine the dilemmas that we faced … foreign policy is full of a lot of tough choices, very tough choices”.