Saturday, February 14, 2009

When "holding President Obama's feet to the fire" may not be a phrase in the best of taste...

... especially when the administration's rather convoluted and downright disturbing position on torture is the issue at hand.

The attorney defending Binyan Mohamed claims--and this one's got to go into Ripley's--that either Homeland Security or Defense Department people actuall redacted a letter he sent President Obama complaining of his client's torture after the US allow Mohamed's rendition to Morocco:

A prominent British-American lawyer who represents an Ethiopian-born Guantánamo detainee is charging that U.S. Defense Department officials are intentionally concealing evidence of his client's rendition and torture from President Barack Obama.

The lawyer is Clive Stafford Smith, director of the legal charity Reprieve. He says he sent a letter to Obama through the Defense Department detailing "truly medieval" abuse inflicted on Binyam Mohamed, but that much of it was blacked out, preventing the president from reading it.

In the letter to the president, Stafford Smith urges Obama to be aware of the "bizarre reality" of the situation. "You, as commander in chief, are being denied access to material that would help prove that crimes have been committed by U.S. personnel. This decision is being made by the very people who you command."

Not surprisingly, the US has not commented publicly, although the administration is citing Bush administration state secrets concerns to keep the case from being reinstated:

A Gallup Poll released February 12 revealed that 62 percent of Americans want to investigate or criminally prosecute Bush administration officials who authorized torture in the so-called “war on terror.” But even though President Obama has said numerous times that “nobody's above the law,” on February 10 he used the Bush administration’s “state secrets” gambit to quash a lawsuit attempting to penalize some of those involved in renditioning torture subjects.

That lawsuit sought damages against a private airline used by the CIA to rendition low-value suspects for torture by dictatorial regimes abroad. One of the five plaintiffs, Benyam Muhammed (a British and Ethiopian citizen), alleged he was renditioned to Morocco where torturers made razor cuts on his penis. The lawsuit alleges that San Jose-based Jeppesen DataPlan Inc. should have known that its planes were being used to ferry suspects for torture and is therefore liable for damages.

But because the Obama administration invoked the “state secrets” policy at the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, the lawsuit’s likelihood of revealing felony torture on the part of Bush officials is now remote.

“This is not change,” ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero correctly told the Associated Press. “Candidate Obama ran on a platform that would reform the abuse of state secrets, but President Obama's Justice Department has disappointingly reneged on that important civil liberties issue.”

Razor cuts to .. wha--?

Here's an extract from the suspect's diary about his interrogation in Morocco, take it for what it's worth:

They cut off my clothes with some kind of doctor's scalpel. I was naked. I tried to put on a brave face. But maybe I was going to be raped. Maybe they'd electrocute me. Maybe castrate me.

They took the scalpel to my right chest. It was only a small cut. Maybe an inch. At first I just screamed ... I was just shocked, I wasn't expecting ... Then they cut my left chest. This time I didn't want to scream because I knew it was coming.

One of them took my penis in his hand and began to make cuts. He did it once, and they stood still for maybe a minute, watching my reaction. I was in agony. They must have done this 20 to 30 times, in maybe two hours. There was blood all over. "I told you I was going to teach you who's the man," [one] eventually said.

They cut all over my private parts. One of them said it would be better just to cut it off, as I would only breed terrorists. I asked for a doctor.

Doctor No 1 carried a briefcase. "You're all right, aren't you? But I'm going to say a prayer for you." Doctor No 2 gave me an Alka-Seltzer for the pain. I told him about my penis. "I need to see it. How did this happen?" I told him. He looked like it was just another patient. "Put this cream on it two times a day. Morning and night." He gave me some kind of antibiotic.

Of course, I recognize that there is a natural tendency to discount the diary of an accused terrorist, but...

Amnesty International has been complaining about the need for investigations about the routine use of torture in Moroccan prisons for years.

The LA Times followed this story in 2005 of a French teacher tortured in Morocco:

CASABLANCA, Morocco -- He calls them the ''citadels of death," the prisons where he watched his friends die, one by one. He was tortured and starved until even the parasites abandoned his body. And when he was finally released from the government's secret detention centers, he was warned: Never speak of this, or we will put you someplace even worse.

Three decades later, Chari el Hou, a French teacher with a carefully knotted necktie and owlish glasses, broke his silence -- at the government's behest.

''No one can digest these pains indefinitely," Hou told a room packed tight with officials, academics, and citizens in testimony broadcast late last year throughout this North African country. ''And years later, I wanted to interrogate the memory of men, I wanted to get out of myself, I wanted to write. I had absolutely to have an end to that agitated past."

It is important to report, as well, that Morocco is apparently cleaing up its act with regard to torture:

Together with the Moroccan Ministry of Justice, the APT organised a second seminar on the criminalisation of torture in the country, which took place in Rabat on 15-16 December. Morocco has taken an important step to bring its legislation in line with the UN Convention against Torture (CAT) in 2006, by criminalising torture in national law. In the framework of the implementation of this reform, the seminar brought together over 40 judges, prosecutors, police officers, prison staff and the gendarmerie royale.

On the basis of presentations made by national and international experts, participants analysed the definition of torture as it is described in the CAT and the Moroccan penal code. They also discussed the necessary procedures to make the absolute prohibition of torture valid, insisting on the fact that torture can’t be justified in any case. Based on the fruitful discussions which took place during the seminar, the APT and the Ministry of Justice are going to draft a guide for legal administration staff in Morocco.

To my mind, however, that only makes Mohamed's diary and claims more credible. It is not believable that the United States was unaware that he would be tortured when he was transferred to Morocco.

It is, unfortunately, all too believable that the current administration is trying to cover up the misdeeds of the previous one.

Because, perhaps you never know when you might need to have somebody tortured by our friends and allies around the world.

I can't decide if it's the practice or the sanctimony with which the current administration condemned its predecessor that makes me more ill.


Waldo said...

Maybe when you have to run the world, three weeks is a hard deadline for fixing everything that's not right.

Y'alls sounding a lot like the Republican National Committee these days...NO, NO and some more NO.

Somewhere, Bob Barr must be laughing.

Steve Newton said...

Perhaps we-all would not be so willing to look at these issues so quickly if three conditions didn't apply:

1) Strident claims of an administration "ready to govern on day one"....

2) Contradiction of major campaign claims in the first days of the administration....

3) The example between 2000-2008 of what happens when you don't pay attention to the details from the start.

That having been said, bring me a single piece of evidence that the RNC actually gives a shit about the administration's conduct of foreign policy and I'll give you the point.

Somewhere Bob Barr is licking whipped cream off an exotic dancer's tits for all I care.

Tyler Nixon said...

Only the pie-eyed Obama worshippers ever believed that Obama would actually bring real change to the despicable "anything goes" approach that George W. Bush brought to the conduct of our foreign policy and our national security, in particular.

Personally, I never believed it for a second. All through the election, especially the Democrat debates, Obama mouthed the right buzzwords about getting out of Iraq and rolling back the outrages of Bush. But reading between the lines all I saw was a bunch of semantic hedging.

Frankly he was the most wishy-washy of all the candidates on this particular front, which left me with a profound unease that he was simply accommodating his masses with hollow rhetoric, while nod-winking the military-intelligence-industrial establishment.

This is a litmus issue for me, for which Obama's duplicity and his betrayal of what he would have had us all believe he would do is simply unforgivable.

He owns the Bush administration's crimes now.

Tyler Nixon said...

Sorry, Waldo, but Obama spent two years pining to be president. He should have had a helluva lot figured out by day one. Torture is particularly a no-brainer and one that cries for "bold, decisive" action in reverse of what we have seen for 7+ years.

How long does it take to reverse a policy that is both immmoral and criminal.

I mean gimme a fucking break.

Waldo said...

Your comments prove my point. Especially Mr Nixon's. Might just as well call up Michael Steele every morning and see what the daily talking point instructions are.

Strange, I thought we used to want our presidents to succeed. Y'all have a good time with Mr Boehner the next few years. See ya in 2012.

Tyler Nixon said...

LOL. How predictable. The last refuge for those with no answers for Obama's duplicity : just call the arguments "talking points", make a partisan flourish and exit, stage left.

Steve Newton said...

Strange, in a post which--among other things--relies on the supporting opinion of that Old Confederacy and Buffalo Commons stalwart the American Civil Liberties Union, to have it suggested, as Waldo types furiously in his bath, that criticizing any administration for condoning or covering up torture is a partisan issue.

Stranger still, one would think, when yesterday we published "smoking gun" type evidence of the deaths by torture of two individuals in American captivity in Afghanistan in December 2002, and a call for the appropriate war crimes investigations against officials in the former administration. Perhaps, among the suds, the keys have become somewhat wet.

We used to want our presidents to succeed makes charming, almost wistful reading, except that the bar has been horribly lowered over the past two decades. Now, for the most part, we want Presidents who will not humiliate us or lead us into massive disasters.

NO, NO and some more NO is also artful, but methinks a bit ... pretentious in the folksy way of Carolina lawyers. I'll admit to three particular NOs...

NO torture or the willingness to cover up same

NO continued, de-stablizing interventionism that seeks primarily to prop up the economics of the defense industry and the interests of American corporations operating in the developing world

NO panaceas based on poorly modeled economic and historical examples that must be passed right now, without time for any due consideration in much the same fashion as the drumbeats for invasion were pounded out in 2003, giving us all time to repent in leisure....

Tis strange, tis most passing strange to find iconoclastic rejection of unthinking majoritarian thinking that would send most blue-haired GOP matrons to the couch with the vapors considered as, well ... Republican.

The water in the tub may need refreshing, lest it grow too cloudy for clear viewing....