On Prisoners, torture, etc
Some information, news, analysis and commentary on this subject for further investigation.
To be convinced of any truth one must investigate and reflect for himself or herself …
[ see disclaimer in “about”]
<> Some links about political prisoners of conscious, torture, etc
The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terror shows how the FBI has, under the guise of engaging in counterterrorism since 9/11, built a network of more than 15,000 informants whose primary purpose is to infiltrate Muslim communities to create and facilitate phony terrorist plots so that the bureau can then claim victory in the war on terror.
An outgrowth of Trevor Aaronson’s work as an investigative reporting fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, which culminated in an award-winning cover story in Mother Jones magazine, The Terror Factory reveals shocking information about the criminals, conmen and liars the FBI uses as paid informants, as well as documents the extreme methods the FBI uses to ensnare Muslims in phony terrorist plots—which are in reality conceived and financed by the FBI.
The book offers unprecedented detail into how the FBI has transformed from a reactive law enforcement agency to a proactive counterterrorism organization–including the full story of an accused murderer who became one of the FBI’s most prolific terrorism informants–and how the FBI has used phony terrorist plots to justify spending $3 billion every year on counterterrorism.
“Compelling, shocking, and gritty with intrigue.”
“A real eye-opener that questions how well the country’s security is being protected.”
–Kirkus Book Reviews
“This is investigative reporting at its best. This is a story that the major media has been afraid to look at, much less commit the resources to report it out. Now Trevor Aaronson has done it. For the first time a documented investigation into the domestic terrorism program is available to the general public. And the story this dogged reporter tells has been garnering growing attention. Is it possible that we have in fact created the very threat we fear? Are we in danger of destroying the fabric of our freedom in our panic to preserve it? Read Aaronson’s groundbreaking report and make up your own mind.”
–Lowell Bergman, Pulitzer Prize-winning Professor of Investigative Reporting
“Aaronson explains just how misguided and often deceptive FBI terrorism sting operations have become. In case after case, he demonstrates how the money being spent is more about producing theater than about federal agents arresting suspected terrorists.”
–James J. Wedick, former FBI Supervisory Agent
“This is the kind of journalism that should prompt Congressional hearings. The Terror Factory offers a rare combination of meticulous data-driven reporting with personal narratives about the lives ruined – and careers made – by the FBI’s rampant use of informants. Aaronson is an expert guide through a hidden counter-terrorism network of con men, and through the changes in technology and the FBI itself that paved the way for this new era of law enforcement. The Terror Factory is a damning exposé of how the government’s front line against terrorism has become a network of snitches at the end of their ropes, and FBI agents desperate to thwart a terrorist plot even if it means creating one.”
–Will Potter, Green is the New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege
“A disturbing window into America’s war on terror. In story after story, Aaronson reveals in detail how the FBI and its informants are creating crime rather than solving it. This is an important piece of journalism.”
–Alexandra Natapoff, author of Snitching: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice
Gitmo Doctors Hid Evidence of Torture
Fri 29 Apr 2011
They explained away the bone fractures, didn’t ask what caused the lacerations, and called the hallucinations routine. Rather than blowing the whistle, medical professionals entrusted with the care of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay turned a blind eye when there were clear indications of abuse.
That’s according to a newly published report from two physicians with unprecedented access to the medical records of nine Gitmo detainees.
Writing in the online journal PLoS Medicine, Physicians for Human Rights senior medical adviser Vincent Iacopino and retired Brig. Gen. Stephen Xenakis, a psychiatrist now in private practice, found that medical personnel at Guantanamo concealed mental and physical ailments that signaled abusive treatment.
The report — which represents the first independent review of any Guantanamo detainee’s medical record — is the clearest evidence yet that members of the base’s medical staff were complicit in the torture regime there.
“Medics have an independent, professional responsibility to identify and report incidences of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and torture,” Xenakis tells Danger Room. “They had a responsibility to speak up.”
“Personality disorders” and “routine stressors of confinement” were catch-all explanations for psychological disturbances, according to the report. “Temporary psychotic symptoms and hallucinations did not prompt consideration of abusive treatment.”
Neither did apparent physical symptoms. Three of the detainees showed evidence of physical maltreatment: contusions, bone fractures, lacerations, peripheral nerve damage and sciatica. But the medical staff turned a blind eye in their reports. “There was no mention of any cause for these injuries,” Iacopino and Xenakis write.
In their professional opinion, “the specific allegations of torture and ill treatment were highly consistent with and supported by physical and psychological evidence observed in all cases.”
Ever since it became public that psychologists were involved in creating abusive interrogation practices for detainees, Physicians for Human Rights and other medical professional organizations have expressed fears that military medical staff were complicit in abuse at Guantanamo. Last month, Truthout published the handwritten notes of a former Air Force psychologist, Bruce Jessen, who reverse-engineered military programs on surviving the “stresses” of detention” for use against terrorism detainees. (“If these stresses are manipulated and increased against us, the cumulative effect can push us out of the optimum range of functioning.”)
Jessen’s work on a psychology-heavy detention and interrogation regimen started with the CIA; a Senate report revealed the CIA instructed the military on these tatics at Guantanamo Bay. Detainees at the facility have gone so far as to claim that medical staff forcibly administered them drugs that made them woozy ahead of interrogation sessions.
But the medical records of detainees haven’t been made public, leaving little evidence to settle the question of medical staff complicity in detention operations. Iacopino and Xenakis, however, have served as medical experts for defense lawyers at Guantanamo. That’s given them unique, privileged access to detainee medical records, which form the basis of their assessment. (They don’t substantiate the allegation of forcible injections.)
Xenakis is dismayed by what he’s found. The great majority of the medical lassitude he says he’s witnessed occurred between 2002 and 2006. But, he says, “the implications of this conduct, including the fact that the medics did not identify it, still has an effect on what happens there.”
In some cases, medical treatment appeared to be conditionally administered. “Several detainees indicated that access to medical care was linked to cooperation with the interrogators,” Iacopino and Xenakis write. In one case, medical personnel certified a detainee as fit to continue being interrogated “after several periods of unconsciousness.”
Neither the Pentagon nor Joint Task Force-Guantanamo, which oversees detention operations at the base, have seen Iacopino and Xenakis’ article. (See update below.) But Maj. Tanya Bradsher, a Pentagon spokeswoman, says the task force’s medics treat detainees “regardless of disciplinary status, level of cooperation or legal status.”
“The Joint Medical Group conducts humane care of detainees,” Bradsher says. “The JMG operations are completely independent of Joint Detention Group and Joint Intelligence operations. Detainees are treated at a dedicated medical facility with state-of-the-art equipment and an expert medical staff.”
Not being a lawyer, Xenakis says he’s not accusing any medical staff at the base of breaking the law. Nor can he specify which detainees have been subject to treatment he considers torture without violating the rules of the military commissions before which he’s testified. But as much as he’s concerned with upholding his profession’s ethical obligations, he says his article is also motivated by a concern for the ways torture jeopardizes the ability to bring detainees to trial for a final adjudication.
“How do we make decisions today about what’s going to be the disposition of these people when they’ve been subjected to such treatment?” Xenakis asks. “How does that help our national security?”
The Joint Medical Group is committed to providing unconditional appropriate comprehensive medical care to all detainees regardless of their disciplinary status, cooperation, or participation in a hunger strike. The healthcare provided to the detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay rivals that provided in any community in the United States. Detainees receive timely, compassionate, quality healthcare and have regular access to primary care and specialist physicians. The care provided to detainees is comparable to that afforded our active duty service members. All medical procedures performed are justified and meet accepted standards of care. A detainee is provided medical care and treatment based solely on his need for such care and the level and type of treatment is dependent on the accepted medical standard of care for the condition being treated. Diagnosis of such conditions and medical care and treatment for them are not affected in any way by a detainee’s cooperation, or lack thereof, during an interrogation session. Similarly, medical care is not provided or withheld based on a detainee’s compliance or noncompliance with detention camp rules or on his refusal to end a hunger strike. Medical decisions and treatment are not withheld as a form of punishment. Additionally, the medical staff has no involvement in discipline decisions made by detention personnel. DoD personnel working in detention facilities operate under a high level of scrutiny and consistently provide the most humane and safe care and custody of individuals under their control.
pencer Ackerman is Danger Room’s senior reporter, based out of Washington, D.C., covering weapons of doom and the strategies they’re used to implement. – Follow
April 27, 2011, Wired
Guantanamo files’: Dozens held were innocent
Fri 29 Apr 2011
Leaked files reveal details of interrogations of “high-risk” detainees, but suggest many innocents were also rounded up.
The United States released dozens of so-called “high-risk” detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison facility and held more than 150 innocent men for years, according to new reports about a trove of leaked military documents.
The more than 700 classified military files, part of a massive cache of secret documents leaked to the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, were made available to select US and European media outlets and made public on Sunday.
It was not clear if the media outlets published the documents with the consent of WikiLeaks – and it was not immediately possible to independently verify all of the leaked documents.
The files are reported to reveal new information about some of the men held at the US prison facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, including details of the more than 700 detainee interrogations and evidence the US had collected against the “terror” suspects.
The files – called Detainee Assessment Briefs or DABs – describe the security intelligence value of the detainees and whether they would be a threat to the US and its allies if released.
To date, 604 inmates have been transferred out of Guantanamo while 172 remain detained.
Thousands of pages of the files are reported to reveal that most of the prisoners who remain at Guantanamo – 130 of them – have been rated as posing a “high-risk'” threat to the US if they are freed without rehabilitation or supervision.
Even more of the George W Bush-era “war on terror” suspects were branded “high-risk” before being released or handed to other governments, The New York Times, one of the newspapers that received the documents, reported.
The documents show some inmates were described as more dangerous than previously known to the public and could complicate efforts by the US to transfer detainees out of the prison.
However, the documents also show that dozens of detainees were found to be innocent, after being held for lengthy periods.
At least 150 people were innocent Afghans or Pakistanis, including drivers, farmers and chefs, who were rounded up as part of frantic intelligence gathering, and then detained for years.
In several cases, senior US commanders were said to have concluded that there is “no reason recorded for transfer”.
Al Jazeera file
The documents also show instances in which authorities were concerned less with containing dangerous suspects than on extracting intelligence.
One file shows that Sami al-Hajj, an Al Jazeera journalist held at Guantanamo for six years, was detained partly in order to be interrogated about the news network.
His file states that one of the reasons he was detained was “to provide information on … the Al Jazeera news network’s training programme, telecommunications equipment, and newsgathering operations in Chechnya, Kosovo and Afghanistan, including the network’s acquisition of a video of UBL [Osama bin Laden] and a subsequent interview with UBL”.
Al-Hajj was released in 2008 and has since returned to work for Al Jazeera.
Hundreds of other detainees reportedly underwent aggressive interrogation techniques before it was determined that they were low-level fighters.
The administration of US president Barack Obama criticised the publication of the files as “unfortunate”, calling them “sensitive information”.
“It is unfortunate that several news organisations have made the decision to publish numerous documents obtained illegally by WikiLeaks concerning the Guantanamo detention facility,” ambassador Daniel Fried, the Obama administration’s special envoy on detainee issues, and Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell, said in a joint statement.
But they added that the documents were out of date, and that the administration’s Guantanamo review panel, established in January 2009, had made its own assessments.
“The assessments of the Guantanamo Review Task Force have not been compromised to WikiLeaks. Thus, any given DAB (Detainee Assessment Briefs) illegally obtained and released by WikiLeaks may or may not represent the current view of a given detainee.”
Obama pledged two years ago to close the prison, but it remains in legal limbo.
April 25, 2011, Aljazeera
Some of the “etc” of interest and for further investigation:
And Lest We (not) Forget:
(Q. Who controls the past, present and future?)
Below: Abu Ghuraib [and these were called just a few “bad apples” (spoiling the others presumably)];
<> Oh,,, And remember this picture of the “Guard” at Abu Ghuraib prison in Iraq, but well of course they would be called as civilian “contractors” since have lots of experience interrogating Palestinians in the Arabic Language and in enhanced techniques of interrogation, like water boarding, stress, and other torture techniques etc.
<> And what about Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, and so many others, and those even more notorious “black prisons” not ever seen, heard or mentioned in public?
Below: Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan
<> Bagram: Obama’s Gitmo, only worse
<> Day 2: U.S. abuse of detainees was routine at Afghanistan bases
<> Bagram – the granddaddy of US terror camps
<> This is a US torture camp
Evidence of prisoner abuse at Guantánamo is overwhelming – and it hasn’t made anyone safer
<> Afghanistan: Obama’s Camp Bagram Challenge
Pressure Rising on Obama to Address Bagram Prison
<> US illegally detains more Afghans than ever at Bagram military base
< Torture Now an Afghanistan Issue
<> The Other Bad War: More Torture in Occupied Afghanistan
<> CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons
Debate Is Growing Within Agency About Legality and Morality of Overseas System Set Up After 9/11
In Afghanistan, the largest CIA covert prison was code-named the Salt Pit, at center left above.
(Space Imaging Middle East)
<> Black site From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
<> Ghost flights to black sites 27 February 2006, 05:25PM Mona Samari looks at the CIA’s use of rendition in the war against terror. Ghost flights The Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) extradition program—now commonly referred to as extraordinary rendition— involves removing suspects without court approval and rendering them to countries that have a record of torturing suspects in order to extract information… Black sites…Both Amnesty International’s Torture and Secret Detention: Testimony of the ‘Disappeared’ in the ‘War on Terror’ report and Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) Getting away with torture? report address the issue of rendering suspects to black sites….Torture by proxy… Such ‘disappearances’ often go hand-inhand with torture and other ill-treatment….
<> New account sheds light on CIA disappearances and ‘black sites’
<> Mapping the black sites > Public Broadcasting interactive maps
Explore the interactive map to find out which countries are part of the CIA’s worldwide network of “black sites” and foreign prisons where the Agency has rendered dozens of terror suspects for “enhanced interrogations.” Also, see some of the U.S. front companies and aviation contractors whose planes have been used by the CIA to transport prisoners.
<> Some of the whiter black sites since we know a little bit about them
The U.S. and suspected CIA “black sites” Extraordinary renditions allegedly have been carried out from these countries Detainees have allegedly been transported through these countries Detainees have allegedly arrived in these countries Sources: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Black sites article on Wikipedia
<> Visiting A CIA ‘Black Site’ : from NPR: National Public Broadcasting
“… The U.S. government spends around $50 billion a year on covert activities. That’s according to Trevor Paglen. He’s the author of a book called “Blank Spots on the Map.”… secrecy involves creating spaces that are outside of the law but are outside the normal channels of oversight…. the larger that this secret world grows, the more that it bends the state in its own image, the more that it transforms the state around it to look more like itself….”
A map of black sites across the U.S. based on Trevor Paglen’s research. Courtesty Trevor Paglen
<> Chalmers Johnson and The “Blowback” trilogy
Johnson sees that the enforcement of American hegemony over the world constitutes a new form of global empire. Whereas traditional empires maintained control over subject peoples via colonies, since World War II the US has developed a vast system of hundreds of military bases around the world where it has strategic interests. A long-time Cold Warrior he applauded the collapse of the Soviet Union, I was a cold warrior. There’s no doubt about that. I believed the Soviet Union was a genuine menace. I still think so. But at the same time he experienced a political awakening after the USSR 1989 collapse, noting that instead of demobilizing its armed forces, the US accelerated its reliance on military solutions to problems both economic and political. The result of this militarism (as distinct from actual domestic defense) is more terrorism against the US and its allies, the loss of core democratic values at home, and an eventual disaster for the American economy. The books of the trilogy are:
- Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire
- The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic
- Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic.
|Picture Credit: Photobucket|
Barack Obama always said he would maintain for the US “the strongest military on the planet.” His national security team is committed to “rebuilding and re-strengthening alliances around the world to advance American interests and American security.” Today, with Obama as commander-in-chief, Washington is expanding its military base network. After the declaration of war on terror and right to pre-emptive war, the US military has an unprecedented global reach.
By Catherine Lutz Newstatesman July 30, 2009
Below: new CIA HQ:
<> 100 Days To Restore The Constitution
See for yourself: search, seek, ask, reflect …
“It is obligatory upon the Muslims to release their prisoners, even if it exhausts every penny of their wealth”
The renowned Muslim Jurist: Imam Malik bin Anas
One Day We’ll All Be Terrorists
By Chris Hedges
December 28, 2009 “Truthdig“
December 28, 2009 “Truthdig” — Syed Fahad Hashmi can tell you about the dark heart of America. He knows that our First Amendment rights have become a joke, that habeas corpus no longer exists and that we torture, not only in black sites such as those at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or at Guantánamo Bay, but also at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Lower Manhattan. Hashmi is a U.S. citizen of Muslim descent imprisoned on two counts of providing and conspiring to provide material support and two counts of making and conspiring to make a contribution of goods or services to al-Qaida. As his case prepares for trial, his plight illustrates that the gravest threat we face is not from Islamic extremists, but the codification of draconian procedures that deny Americans basic civil liberties and due process. Hashmi would be a better person to tell you this, but he is not allowed to speak.
This corruption of our legal system, if history is any guide, will not be reserved by the state for suspected terrorists, or even Muslim Americans. In the coming turmoil and economic collapse, it will be used to silence all who are branded as disruptive or subversive. Hashmi endures what many others, who are not Muslim, will endure later. Radical activists in the environmental, globalization, anti-nuclear, sustainable agriculture and anarchist movements—who are already being placed by the state in special detention facilities with Muslims charged with terrorism—have discovered that his fate is their fate. Courageous groups have organized protests, including vigils outside the Manhattan detention facility. They can be found at www.educatorsforcivilliberties.org or www.freefahad.com. On Martin Luther King Day, this Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. EST, protesters will hold a large vigil in front of the MCC on 150 Park Row in Lower Manhattan to call for a return of our constitutional rights. Join them if you can.
The case against Hashmi, like most of the terrorist cases launched by the Bush administration, is appallingly weak and built on flimsy circumstantial evidence. This may be the reason the state has set up parallel legal and penal codes to railroad those it charges with links to terrorism. If it were a matter of evidence, activists like Hashmi, who is accused of facilitating the delivery of socks to al-Qaida, would probably never be brought to trial.
Hashmi, who if convicted could face up to 70 years in prison, has been held in solitary confinement for more than 2½ years. Special administrative measures, known as SAMs, have been imposed by the attorney general to prevent or severely restrict communication with other prisoners, attorneys, family, the media and people outside the jail. He also is denied access to the news and other reading material. Hashmi is not allowed to attend group prayer. He is subject to 24-hour electronic monitoring and 23-hour lockdown. He must shower and go to the bathroom on camera. He can write one letter a week to a single member of his family, but he cannot use more than three pieces of paper. He has no access to fresh air and must take his one hour of daily recreation in a cage. His “proclivity for violence” is cited as the reason for these measures although he has never been charged or convicted with committing an act of violence.
“My brother was an activist,” Hashmi’s brother, Faisal, told me by phone from his home in Queens. “He spoke out on Muslim issues, especially those dealing with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His arrest and torture have nothing to do with providing ponchos and socks to al-Qaida, as has been charged, but the manipulation of the law to suppress activists and scare the Muslim American community. My brother is an example. His treatment is meant to show Muslims what will happen to them if they speak about the plight of Muslims. We have lost every single motion to preserve my brother’s humanity and remove the special administrative measures. These measures are designed solely to break the psyche of prisoners and terrorize the Muslim community. These measures exemplify the malice towards Muslims at home and the malice towards the millions of Muslims who are considered as non-humans in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The extreme sensory deprivation used on Hashmi is a form of psychological torture, far more effective in breaking and disorienting detainees. It is torture as science. In Germany, the Gestapo broke bones while its successor, the communist East German Stasi, broke souls. We are like the Stasi. We have refined the art of psychological disintegration and drag bewildered suspects into secretive courts when they no longer have the mental and psychological capability to defend themselves.
“Hashmi’s right to a fair trial has been abridged,” said Michael Ratner, the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. “Much of the evidence in the case has been classified under CIPA, and thus Hashmi has not been allowed to review it. The prosecution only recently turned over a significant portion of evidence to the defense. Hashmi may not communicate with the news media, either directly or through his attorneys. The conditions of his detention have impacted his mental state and ability to participate in his own defense.
“The prosecution’s case against Hashmi, an outspoken activist within the Muslim community, abridges his First Amendment rights and threatens the First Amendment rights of others,” Ratner added. “While Hashmi’s political and religious beliefs, speech and associations are constitutionally protected, the government has been given wide latitude by the court to use them as evidence of his frame of mind and, by extension, intent. The material support charges against him depend on criminalization of association. This could have a chilling effect on the First Amendment rights of others, particularly in activist and Muslim communities.”
Constitutionally protected statements, beliefs and associations can now become a crime. Dissidents, even those who break no laws, can be stripped of their rights and imprisoned without due process. It is the legal equivalent of preemptive war. The state can detain and prosecute people not for what they have done, or even for what they are planning to do, but for holding religious or political beliefs that the state deems seditious. The first of those targeted have been observant Muslims, but they will not be the last.
“Most of the evidence is classified,” Jeanne Theoharis, an associate professor of political science at Brooklyn College who taught Hashmi, told me, “but Hashmi is not allowed to see it. He is an American citizen. But in America you can now go to trial and all the evidence collected against you cannot be reviewed. You can spend 2½ years in solitary confinement before you are convicted of anything. There has been attention paid to extraordinary rendition, Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib with this false idea that if people are tried in the United States things will be fair. But what allowed Guantánamo to happen was the devolution of the rule of law here at home, and this is not only happening to Hashmi.”
Hashmi was, like so many of those arrested during the Bush years, briefly a poster child in the “war on terror.” He was apprehended in Britain on June 6, 2006, on a U.S. warrant. His arrest was the top story on the CBS and NBC nightly news programs, which used graphics that read “Terror Trail” and “Web of Terror.” He was held for 11 months at Belmarsh Prison in London and then became the first U.S. citizen to be extradited by Britain. The year before his arrest, Hashmi, a graduate of Brooklyn College, had completed his master’s degree in international relations at London Metropolitan University. His case has no more substance than the one against the seven men arrested on suspicion of plotting to blow up the Sears Tower, a case where, even though there were five convictions after two mistrials, an FBI deputy director acknowledged that the plan was more “aspirational rather than operational.” And it mirrors the older case of the Palestinian activist Sami Al-Arian, now under house arrest in Virginia, who has been hounded by the Justice Department although he should legally have been freed. Judge Leonie Brinkema, currently handling the Al-Arian case, in early March, questioned the U.S. attorney’s actions in Al-Arian’s plea agreement saying curtly: “I think there’s something more important here, and that’s the integrity of the Justice Department.”
The case against Hashmi revolves around the testimony of Junaid Babar, also an American citizen. Babar, in early 2004, stayed with Hashmi at his London apartment for two weeks. In his luggage, the government alleges, Babar had raincoats, ponchos and waterproof socks, which Babar later delivered to a member of al-Qaida in south Waziristan, Pakistan. It was alleged that Hashmi allowed Babar to use his cell phone to call conspirators in other terror plots.
“Hashmi grew up here, was well known here, was very outspoken, very charismatic and very political,” said Theoharis. “This is really a message being sent to American Muslims about the cost of being politically active. It is not about delivering alleged socks and ponchos and rain gear. Do you think al-Qaida can’t get socks and ponchos in Pakistan? The government is planning to introduce tapes of Hashmi’s political talks while he was at Brooklyn College at the trial. Why are we willing to let this happen? Is it because they are Muslims, and we think it will not affect us? People who care about First Amendment rights should be terrified. This is one of the crucial civil rights issues of our time. We ignore this at our own peril.”
Babar, who was arrested in 2004 and has pleaded guilty to five counts of material support for al-Qaida, also faces up to 70 years in prison. But he has agreed to serve as a government witness and has already testified for the government in terror trials in Britain and Canada. Babar will receive a reduced sentence for his services, and many speculate he will be set free after the Hashmi trial. Since there is very little evidence to link Hashmi to terrorist activity, the government will rely on Babar to prove intent. This intent will revolve around alleged conversations and statements Hashmi made in Babar’s presence. Hashmi, who was a member of the New York political group Al Muhajiroun as a student at Brooklyn College, has made provocative statements, including calling America “the biggest terrorist in the world,” but Al Muhajiroun is not defined by the government as a terrorist organization. Membership in the group is not illegal. And our complicity in acts of state terror is a historical fact.
There will be more Hashmis, and the Justice Department, planning for future detentions, set up in 2006 a segregated facility, the Communication Management Unit, at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind. Nearly all the inmates transferred to Terre Haute are Muslims. A second facility has been set up at Marion, Ill., where the inmates again are mostly Muslim but also include a sprinkling of animal rights and environmental activists, among them Daniel McGowan, who was charged with two arsons at logging operations in Oregon. His sentence was given “terrorism enhancements” under the Patriot Act. Amnesty International has called the Marion prison facility “inhumane.” All calls and mail—although communication customarily is off-limits to prison officials—are monitored in these two Communication Management Units. Communication among prisoners is required to be only in English. The highest-level terrorists are housed at the Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility, known as Supermax, in Florence, Colo., where prisoners have almost no human interaction, physical exercise or mental stimulation, replicating the conditions for most of those held at Guantánamo. If detainees are transferred from Guantánamo to the prison in in Thomson, Ill., they will find little change. They will endure Guantánamo-like conditions in colder weather.
Our descent is the familiar disease of decaying empires. The tyranny we impose on others we finally impose on ourselves. The influx of non-Muslim American activists into these facilities is another ominous development. It presages the continued dismantling of the rule of law, the widening of a system where prisoners are psychologically broken by sensory deprivation, extreme isolation and secretive kangaroo courts where suspects are sentenced on rumors and innuendo and denied the right to view the evidence against them. Dissent is no longer the duty of the engaged citizen but is becoming an act of terrorism.
Chris Hedges, whose column is published on Truthdig every Monday, spent two decades as a foreign reporter covering wars in Latin America, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. He has written nine books, including “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle” (2009) and “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning” (2003).
Copyright © 2009 Truthdig, L.L.C.
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Solitary confinement is torture!
Solitary confinement is torture!
Solitary confinement is torture!
Solitary confinement is torture!
What is prolonged solitary confinement?
Nothing less that torture, as the experts inform us, and as seen below.
<> “Torture . . . any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person . . . .” – U.N. Convention Against Torture, Article 1.1
<> Hmm,,, The LAW
18 U.S.C. § 2340 : US Code – Section 2340: Definitions
As used in this chapter –
(1) “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under
the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical
or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering
incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his
custody or physical control;
(2) “severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged
mental harm caused by or resulting from –
(A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of
severe physical pain or suffering;
(B) the administration or application, or threatened
administration or application, of mind-altering substances or
other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or
(C) the threat of imminent death; or
(D) the threat that another person will imminently be
subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the
administration or application of mind-altering substances or
other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or
(3) “United States” means the several States of the United
States, the District of Columbia, and the commonwealths,
territories, and possessions of the United States.
18 U.S.C. § 2340A : US Code – Section 2340A: Torture
(a) Offense. - Whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life. (b) Jurisdiction. - There is jurisdiction over the activity prohibited in subsection (a) if - (1) the alleged offender is a national of the United States; or (2) the alleged offender is present in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged offender. (c) Conspiracy. - A person who conspires to commit an offense under this section shall be subject to the same penalties (other than the penalty of death) as the penalties prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy.
<> A New Yorker article entitled,
with the subtitle
“The United States holds tens of thousands of inmates in long-term solitary confinement. Is this torture?”
“…. Most hostages survived their ordeal… Yet none saw solitary confinement as anything less than torture. This presents us with an awkward question: If prolonged isolation is—as research and experience have confirmed for decades—so objectively horrifying, so intrinsically cruel, how did we end up with a prison system that may subject more of our own citizens to it than any other country in history has? …..”
<> Dept. of Amplification: Charles Dickens on Solitary Confinement
This week, Atul Gawande writes about the rise of solitary confinement, long held to be among the most cruel forms of punishment, throughout the United States prison system. He cites the 1890 Supreme Court case In re Medley, in which Justice Samuel Miller noted the extreme penalty of the practice in deciding whether the punishment could be applied ex post facto in the case of a man who had already been sentenced to death. Miller quoted from the American Encyclopedia to explain how solitary confinement had come into use:
The first plan adopted, when public attention was called to the evils of congregating persons in masses without employment, was the solitary prison connected with the hospital of San Michele at Rome, in 1703, but little known prior to the experiment in Walnut-Street Penitentiary, in Philadelphia, in 1787. The peculiarities of this system were the complete isolation of the prisoner from all human society…and no employment or instruction.
The dreadful repercussions of the Walnut experiment gave rise to a new system—ironically and perversely, a reform attempt, based on the notion of “penitence” (hence “penitentiary”)—conceived by the Philadelphia Society for Ameliorating the Miseries of Public Prisons. The new system did not do away with the practice but instead refined it. Though still isolated, prisoners were now given the opportunity to work in their cells; and, to insure that they never caught sight of a fellow-inmate, their heads were covered with hoods on leaving or returning from them. It was this modified system that was in place when Charles Dickens, in 1842, made his great tour of the United States, which included a visit to the Eastern Prison, outside Philadelphia. In his travelogue, “American Notes for General Circulation,” he wrote about his experience inside the prison’s walls:
Looking down these dreary passages, the dull repose and quiet that prevails, is awful. Occasionally, there is a drowsy sound from some lone weaver’s shuttle, or shoemaker’s last, but it is stifled by the thick walls and heavy dungeon-door, and only serves to make the general stillness more profound. Over the head and face of every prisoner who comes into this melancholy house, a black hood is drawn; and in this dark shroud, an emblem of the curtain dropped between him and the living world, he is led to the cell from which he never again comes forth, until his whole term of imprisonment has expired….He is a man buried alive; to be dug out in the slow round of years….
And though he lives to be in the same cell ten weary years, he has no means of knowing, down to the very last hour, in what part of the building it is situated; what kind of men there are about him; whether in the long winter night there are living people near, or he is in some lonely corner of the great jail, with walls, and passages, and iron doors between him and the nearest sharer in its solitary horrors.
Dickens visited with several of the penitents, all of whom exhibited a similar disturbed affect. One of them had been confined for a mere two years, and his release was imminent. Curious about how prisoners conducted themselves just before they were to be freed, he speculated to his guide that “they trembled very much”:
“Well, it’s not so much a trembling,” was the answer—“though they do quiver—as a complete derangement of the nervous sytem. They can’t sign their names to the book; sometimes can’t even hold the pen; look about ’em without appearing to know why, or where they are; and sometimes get up and sit down again, twenty times in a minute. This is when they’re in the office, where they are taken with the hood on, as they were brought in. When they get outside the gate, they stop, and look first one way and then the other: not knowing which to take. Sometimes they stagger as if they were drunk, and sometimes are forced to lean against the fence, they’re so bad:—but they clear off in course of time.”
The tour had a profound effect on Dickens’s views on solitary confinement; it did away with any traces of ambivalence he formerly had, and cleared the way for him to set forth his own opinion as to why the practice was unconscionable, an opinion that Justice Miller himself would likely have joined:
I believe that very few men are capable of estimating the immense amount of torture and agony which this dreadful punishment, prolonged for years, inflicts upon the sufferers; and in guessing at it myself, and in reasoning from what I have seen written upon their faces, and what to my certain knowledge they feel within, I am only the more convinced that there is a depth of terrible endurance in which none but the sufferers themselves can fathom, and which no man has a right to inflict upon his fellow creature. I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body; and because its ghastly signs and tokens are not so palpable to the eye and sense of touch as scars upon the flesh; because its wounds are not upon the surface, and it extorts few cries that human ears can hear; therefore the more I denounce it, as a secret punishment which slumbering humanity is not roused up to stay.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF EASTERN STATE PENITENTIARY
<> About Solitary Confinement
What Is Solitary Confinement?
Solitary confinement of prisoners exists under a range of names; isolation, control units, supermax prisons, the hole, SHUs, administrative segregation, maximum security or permanent lockdown. Prisoners can be placed in these units for many reasons; as punishment, while they are under investigation, as a mechanism for behavior modification, when suspected of gang involvement, as retribution for political activism or to fill expensive, empty beds, to name but a few.
Although conditions vary from state to state and in different institutions, systematic policies and conditions of control and oppression used in isolation and segregation include:
- confinement behind a solid steel door for 23 hours a day
- limited contact with other human beings
- infrequent phone calls and rare non-contact family visits
- extremely limited access to rehabilitative or educational programming
- grossly inadequate medical and mental health treatment
- restricted reading material and personal property
- physical torture such as hog-tying, restraint chairs, and forced cell extraction
- mental torture such as sensory deprivation, permanent bright lighting, extreme temperatures, and forced insomnia
- sexual intimidation and violence
Recent History of Isolation
Beginning in the early 1970s, prison and jail administrators at the federal, state, and local level have relied increasingly on isolation and segregation to control men, women and youth in their custody.
In 1985 there were a handful of control units across the county. Today an estimated 44 states have supermax facilities confining more than 30,000 people. Prisoners are often confined for months or even years, with some spending more than 25 years in segregated prison settings. As with the overall prison population, people of color are disproportionately represented in isolation units.
(AFSC’s Justice Visions Briefing Paper, Prison Inside the Prison provides a more complete history.)
Mental Health Effects of Isolation
Increasingly isolation units house the mentally ill who struggle to conform to prison rules. An independent investigation from 2006 reported that as many as 64% of prisoners in SHUs were mentally ill, a much higher percentage than is reported by states for their general prison populations. Contrary to the perception that control units house “the worst of the worst’, it is often the most vulnerable prisoners, not the most violent who end up in extended isolation. The AFSC Healing Justice staff worked with 60 Minutes on the production of The Death of Timothy Souders, a riveting testimony. Numerous studies have documented the effects of solitary confinement on prisoners giving them the name; Special Housing Unit Syndrome or SHU Syndrome. Some of the many SHU Syndrome symptoms include:
- visual and auditory hallucinations
- hypersensitivity to noise and touch
- insomnia and paranoia
- uncontrollable feelings of rage and fear
- distortions of time and perception
- increased risk of suicide
If one is not mentally ill when entering an isolation unit, by the time they are released their mental health has been severely compromised. Many prisoners are released directly to the streets after spending years in isolation. Because of this, long-term solitary confinement goes beyond a problem of prison conditions, to pose a formidable public safety and community health problem.
Solitary Confinement Violates Basic Human Rights
Prison isolation fits the definition of torture as stated in several international human rights treaties, and thus constitutes a violation of human rights law. For example, the U.N. Convention Against Torture defines torture as any state-sanctioned act “by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person” for information, punishment, intimidation, or for a reason based on discrimination.
For all these reasons – for the safety of our communities, to respect our responsibility to follow international human rights law, to take a stand against torture wherever it occurs, and for the sake of our common humanity – prison isolation and segregation must end.
What goes around comes around.
The Quakers first believed that solitary confinement could reform criminals, and to that end Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, was built, At one time among the most infamous and expensive prisons in the world, ESP opened in 1829 and remained in operation for 142 years, closing in 1971. Its radiating, spoke-like panopticon design of individual cell blocks guarded by a central rotunda kept its prisoners in near-constant solitary confinement (but for light work and their Bibles) and was based on the Quaker notion of penitence, and the assumption that once so confined, criminals would revert to a stage of “natural” innocence. The prisoners housed at ESP faced sentences of very little human interaction and most turned mad as a result.
<> Timeline: Solitary Confinement in U.S. Prisons by Laura Sullivan Library of Congress
The Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, where the first American experiment in solitary confinement took place.
Pentonville is a prison built in 1842 in North London. Its design was influenced by the “separate system” developed at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia.
San Francisco Bay Area Press Photographers Association
Thirteen years ago, Pelican Bay State Prison was cut out of a dense forest near Crescent City, Calif. The highlight of the Supermax prison was the Security Housing Unit (SHU), where 1,300 of the state’s most hardened criminals are kept in near isolation.
July 26, 2006
An overview of key moments in the history of solitary confinement.
1829 – The first experiment in solitary confinement in the United States begins at the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. It is based on a Quaker belief that prisoners isolated in stone cells with only a Bible would use the time to repent, pray and find introspection. But many of the inmates go insane, commit suicide, or are no longer able to function in society, and the practice is slowly abandoned during the following decades.
1890 – In an opinion concerning the effects of solitary confinement on inmates housed in Philadelphia (Re: Medley, 134 U.S. 160), U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Freeman Miller finds, “A considerable number of the prisoners fell, after even a short confinement, into a semi-fatuous condition, from which it was next to impossible to arouse them, and others became violently insane; others still, committed suicide; while those who stood the ordeal better were not generally reformed, and in most cases did not recover sufficient mental activity to be of any subsequent service to the community.”
1934 – The federal government opens Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay to house the nation’s worst criminals. Most inmates spend many hours outside in the yard and on required work details. But a few dozen are kept in “D Block,” the prison’s solitary-confinement hallway. One cell in particular is called “The Hole” — a room of bare concrete except for a hole in the floor. There is no light, inmates are kept naked, and bread and water is shoved through a small hole in the door. Although most inmates only spend a few days in the hole, some spend years on D Block. Conditions are better than in The Hole — inmates have clothes and food — but they are not permitted contact with other inmates and are rarely let out of their cells. The most famous inmate on D Block is Robert Stroud, known as the “Birdman of Alcatraz,” who spends six years there. A 1962 movie about Stroud — and subsequent media reports on the conditions on D Block — made solitary confinement a fixture of the American imagination for the first time.
1983 – Two correctional officers at a Marion, Ill., prison are murdered by inmates in two separate incidents on the same day. The warden at the time puts the prison in what he calls “permanent lockdown.” It is the first prison in the country to adopt 23-hour-a-day cell isolation and no communal yard time for all inmates. Inmates are no longer allowed to work, attend educational programs, or eat in a cafeteria. Within a few years, several other states also adopt permanent lockdown at existing facilities.
1989 – California builds Pelican Bay, a new prison built solely to house inmates in isolation. By most accounts, it is the first Supermax facility in the country. There is no need to build a yard, cafeteria, classrooms or shops. Inmates spend 22 1/2 hours a day inside an 8-by-10-foot cell. The other 1 1/2 hours are spent alone in a small concrete exercise pen.
1990s – The building boom of Supermax or control-unit prisons begins. Oregon, Mississippi, Indiana, Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin and a dozen other states all build new, free-standing, isolation units.
1994 – The U.S. Bureau of Prisons builds ADX Florence, the federal government’s first and only Supermax facility, in Florence, Colo. It’s known popularly as the “Alcatraz of the Rockies.” It currently houses 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh, Unibomber Ted Kaczynski, former FBI agent and convicted spy Robert Hanssen, Olympic Park and abortion-clinic bomber Eric Rudolph, and many others.
1995 – A federal judge finds conditions at Pelican Bay in California “may well hover on the edge of what is humanly tolerable” (Madrid v. Gomez). But he rules that there is no constitutional basis for the courts to shut down the unit or to alter it substantially. He says the court must defer to the states about how best to incarcerate offenders.
1999 – A report by the Department of Justice finds that more than 30 states are operating a Supermax-type facility with 23-hours-a-day lockdown and long-term isolation. The study finds that some states put 0.5 percent of their total inmates in this kind of facility, while other states lock up more than 20 percent of their inmates this way.
2005 – Daniel P. Mears, an associate professor at Florida State University, conducts a nationwide study and finds there are now 40 states operating Supermax or control-unit prisons, which collectively hold more than 25,000 U.S. prisoners.
And now the Quakers are in the forefront of those condemning this form of torture!!!
The U.N. Commission on Human Rights in an April 2003 resolution noted that “prolonged incommunicado detention may facilitate the perpetration of torture and can itself constitute a form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or even torture.”48 In interpreting Article 7 of the ICCPR on torture and other mistreatment, the U.N. Human Rights Committee stated that “prolonged solitary confinement of the detained or imprisoned person may amount to acts prohibited by article 7.”[ U.N. Human Rights Committee, General Comment 20, Article 7, Compilation of General Comments and General Recommendations Adopted by Human Rights Treaty Bodies, U.N. Doc. HRI/GEN/1/Rev.1 at 30 (1994), para. 6. Article 7 of the ICCPR states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”]
The harm inflicted by solitary confinement is exacerbated by other aspects of the detention. Cell conditions are especially poor: underground cells and cells filled with artificial light 24-hours a day appear designed to inflict maximum physical and psychological discomfort. Incommunicado detention deprives detainees of access to family and counsel, allowing sole contact with interrogators and guards. This is psychologically damaging. Furthermore, incommunicado confinement is considered the single highest risk factor for torture because of the absence of external monitoring of the interrogation process. [See Camille Giffard, The Torture Reporting Handbook (Human Rights Centre, Univ. of Essex 2000), p. 17.]
The European Commission on Human Rights has stated that, “complete sensory isolation coupled with total social isolation, can destroy the personality and constitutes a form of treatment which cannot be justified by the requirements of security or any other reason.” [European Commission on Human Rights, Kröcher and Möller v. Switzerland, Application No. 8463/78 (1983); See also Nigel Rodley, The Treatment of Prisoners Under International Law (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 294-297 (citing the view of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture that ‘solitary confinement can, in certain circumstances, amount to inhuman and degrading treatment.’)]
<> Solitary Confinement: The Invisible Torture
Wired Science interviews UCSC’s Craig Haney, a psychologist who’s an expert on long-term solitary confinement, and concludes that solitary confinement is unequivocally torture. It makes people go insane. And 25,000 Americans are in long-term solitary in the US penal system…. solitary confinement has historically been a part of torture protocols. It was well-documented in South Africa. It’s been used to torture prisoners of war.
Read the article here
SOLITARY CONFINEMENT TORTURE IN THE U.S.
Survivors of Solitary Confinement
June 3rd, 2009
President Obama recently declared that “we have banned torture without exception.” However, some would take exception to this claim. The practice of isolating a person in solitary confinement for extended periods of time causes severe sensory deprivation and has been denounced as torture by the United Nations. But tens of thousands are locked up in solitary confinement in American prisons. Producer Claire Schoen met nine formerly incarcerated people, who described what it’s like not to talk to or touch another person, for years at a time
<> Solitary Confinement in U.S. Prisons is ‘Torture’
July 29, 2008 Earl Ofari Hutchinson, New America Media
OneWorld.net note: The removal of three wrongly-convicted Louisiana prisoners from solitary confinement after more than thirty years is a small victory for human rights, but more needs to be done to protect the mental and physical well-being of prisoners in America, writes author Earl Ofari Hutchinson.
<> Solitary Confinement In U.S. Prisons Making Thousands Psychotic March 26, 2009
www.opednews.com, March 24, 2009
TheUnited States today is housing tens of thousands of inmates in long-term solitary confinement, a form of numbing mental torture that drives about one-third of them psychotic, induces irrational anger in 90 percent, and ups the likelihood they will commit violent crimes upon release.
“It’s an awful thing, solitary,” U.S. Senator John McCain once wrote of his two years spent in a fifteen by fifteen foot prison cell in Viet Nam. “It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment.” Testimony from other notables that have endured long stretches in solitary have elicited like comments….
Sherwood Ross worker as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and as a columnist for wire services. He currently operates a public relations company for worthy causes. Reach him at email@example.com.
Solitary Confinement: A Brief History
Solitary confinement at Guantanamo
The National Security Archive is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University
torturing democracy at
Moazzam Begg, a British citizen, was seized in January 2002 by Pakistani officers who burst into the Islamabad apartment were he and his family were living. As recounted in his 2006 book, “Enemy Combatant: My Imprisonment at Guantanamo, Bagram and Kandahar,” after first being sent to the U.S. prison at Kandahar, he was transferred to the military detention facility at Bagram Air Base. Here he witnessed prisoners being subjected to strappado, and was himself hog-tied, sleep deprived, and led to believe his wife was being tortured in a nearby cell. In Guantanamo, Begg was held for almost two years in solitary confinement…..
for lots more
Solitary Confinement at Guantanamo Bay
Approximately 70% of the men imprisoned in Guantánamo are in solitary confinement or isolation. 2
Virtually none have ever been charged, and most will never be charged or tried. Yet, they remain in “super-maximum security confinement” conditions – held by a federal judge to “press the outer bounds of what most humans can psychologically tolerate.” 3
<> Document – USA: Three years on — Ali al-Marri remains in solitary confinement without charge or trial
from the August 13, 2007 edition – http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0813/p01s03-usju.html
US terror interrogation went too far, experts say
Reports find that Jose Padilla’s solitary confinement led to mental problems.
By Warren Richey | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
Jose Padilla had no history of mental illness when President Bush ordered him detained in 2002 as a suspected Al Qaeda operative. But he does now.
The Muslim convert was subjected to prison conditions and interrogation techniques that took him past the breaking point, mental health experts say.
Two psychiatrists and a psychologist who conducted detailed personal examinations of Mr. Padilla on behalf of his defense lawyers say his extended detention and interrogation at the US Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, S.C., left him with severe mental disabilities. All three say he may never recover.
Padilla’s psychological condition is important because his situation marks the first time an enemy combatant in the war on terror is in a position to present a verifiable claim of abuse at the hands of US interrogators. Padilla’s mental health itself is a form of evidence, mental-health experts say, and it strongly suggests that – at least in Padilla’s case – the government’s harsh interrogation and confinement tactics went too far……
<> Judge Allows Civil Lawsuit Over Claims of Torture
Published: June 13, 2009
The decision issued late Friday by a judge in San Francisco allowing a civil lawsuit to go forward against a former Bush administration official, John C. Yoo, might seem like little more than the removal of a procedural roadblock.
John C. Yoo
But lawyers for the man suing Mr. Yoo, Jose Padilla, say it provides substantive interpretation of constitutional issues for all detainees and could have a broad impact.
Mr. Padilla was held as an “enemy combatant” in solitary confinement for more than three years in the Navy brig in Charleston, S.C. Mr. Padilla, who was convicted of supporting terrorism and other crimes, demands that Mr. Yoo be held accountable for actions that Mr. Padilla claims led to his being tortured……
<> U.S. wartime prison network grows into legal vacuum for 14,000
… Captured on battlefields, pulled from beds at midnight, grabbed off streets as suspected insurgents, tens of thousands now have passed through U.S. detention, the vast majority in Iraq.
Many say they were caught up in U.S. military sweeps, often interrogated around the clock, then released months or years later without apology, compensation or any word on why they were taken. Seventy to 90% of the Iraq detentions in 2003 were “mistakes,” U.S. officers once told the international Red Cross.
Human rights groups count dozens of detainee deaths for which no one has been punished or that were never explained. The secret prisons — unknown in number and location — remain available for future detainees. The new manual banning torture doesn’t cover CIA interrogators. And thousands of people still languish in a limbo, deprived of one of common law’s oldest rights, habeas corpus, the right to know why you are imprisoned….
<> The systematic destruction of Jose Padilla
|Written by Stephen Soldz|
|Saturday, 09 December 2006 08:00|
“……In the brig, Mr. Padilla was denied access to counsel for 21 months. Andrew Patel, one of his lawyers, said his isolation was not only severe but compounded by material and sensory deprivations. In an affidavit filed Friday, he alleged that Mr. Padilla was held alone in a 10-cell wing of the brig; that he had little human contact other than with his interrogators; that his cell was electronically monitored and his meals were passed to him through a slot in the door; that windows were blackened, and there was no clock or calendar; and that he slept on a steel platform after a foam mattress was taken from him, along with his copy of the Koran, “as part of an interrogation plan.”
Was this treatment because Padilla was violent, a threat to the guards or to others? Evidently not:
One of Mr. Padilla’s lawyers, Orlando do Campo, said, however, that Mr. Padilla was a “completely docile” prisoner. “There was not one disciplinary problem with Jose ever, not one citation, not one act of disobedience,” said Mr. do Campo, who is a lawyer at the Miami federal public defender’s office.
In his affidavit, Mr. Patel (another attorney) said, “I was told by members of the brig staff that Mr. Padilla’s temperament was so docile and inactive that his behavior was like that of ‘a piece of furniture.’ ”
Rather than any necessity to control him, Jose Padilla experienced the total isolation that is at the core of the U.S. government’s decades-under-development program of psychological torture. According to Padilla’s attorneys:
“his interrogations… included hooding, stress positions, assaults, threats of imminent execution and the administration of ‘truth serums.’”
Compare this with Alfred McCoy’s description of the CIA’s psychological torture techniques:
While these CIA drug experiments led nowhere and the testing of electric shock as a technique led only to lawsuits, research into sensory deprivation proved fruitful indeed. In fact, this research produced a new psychological rather than physical method of torture, perhaps best described as “no-touch” torture.
The Agency’s discovery was a counterintuitive breakthrough, the first real revolution in this cruel science since the seventeenth century — and thanks to recent revelations from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, we are now all too familiar with these methods, even if many Americans still have no idea of their history. Upon careful examination, those photographs of nude bodies expose the CIA’s most basic torture techniques — stress positions, sensory deprivation, and sexual humiliation.
We don’t know about sexual humiliation, but the rest of these techniques were apparently used upon Padilla.
[An excellent account of these these techniques, with extensive quotes from the CIA’s now declassified KUBARK interrogation manual are provided by Daily Kos diarist Valtin in his Torture 101: CIA text on teaching “coercive interrogation”]
As the Times article indicates, Padilla is textbook case of what these techniques accomplish:
Dr. Angela Hegarty, director of forensic psychiatry at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens, N.Y., who examined Mr. Padilla for a total of 22 hours in June and September, said in an affidavit filed Friday that he “lacks the capacity to assist in his own defense.”
“It is my opinion that as the result of his experiences during his detention and interrogation, Mr. Padilla does not appreciate the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him, is unable to render assistance to counsel, and has impairments in reasoning as the result of a mental illness, i.e., post-traumatic stress disorder, complicated by the neuropsychiatric effects of prolonged isolation,” Dr.
Hegarty said in an affidavit for the defense….
Mr. Padilla’s lawyers say they have had a difficult time persuading him that they are on his side…….
Military Torture, Legal Fig Leaves & Premature Exculpation…
By Ernest A. Canning on 5/6/2009 12:07PM
“When any modern state tortures even a few victims, the stigma compromises its majesty and corrupts its integrity. Its officials must spin an ever more complex web of lies that, in the end, weakens the bonds of trust and the rule of law that are the sine qua non of a democracy. And, beyond its borders, allies and enemies turn away in collective revulsion.” – Prof. Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture (2006).
Truth and justice are essential components of democracy and the rule of law. We cannot move forward unless we honestly examine our past. Accuracy is vital to every decision we make, be it impeachment, prosecution or a restoration of our nation’s honor and integrity.
This is the first in a five-part series of articles which will strive to correct misperceptions arising from the erroneous blending of military and CIA torture. This task has become especially relevant now that the Justice Department’s the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), the very section which had issued the torture memos, tasked by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey with investigating itself, has now released a recommendation that none of the authors of the torture memos be prosecuted. This recommendation stands in stark contrast to our nation’s post-World War II decision to prosecute German judges for war crimes at Nuremberg…..
US PRISON TORTURE AND YOU
<> Document – USA: Conditions must be improved at Tamms Correctional Center in Illinois
AI index: AMR 51/042/2009 25 March 2009
USA: Conditions must be improved at Tamms Correctional Center in Illinois
Amnesty International is calling for measures to improve conditions at Tamms Correctional Center, Illinois – the state’s only super-maximum security facility – stating that the harsh conditions of isolation endured by many prisoners for years on end appear to be unnecessarily punitive and may breach international standards for humane treatment.
<> Mentally Ill Inmate Gets Nine Months in Solitary
During his confinement, Horton was not allowed to bathe, exercise, or see a doctor, according to reports. The video and news
News Channel 5.com – October 30, 2008
<> IN THE CELLARS OF THE HOLLOW MEN: USE OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT IN U.S. PRISONS AND ITS IMPLICATIONS UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAWS AGAINST TORTURE*
By Tracy Hreskot
PACE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW — INTERNATIONAL LAW REVIEW
Volume XVIII, Number I Spring 2006
<> Torture Is Now Part of the American Soul
<> Case Study: Omar Khadr
He was captured by American forces at the age of 15 following a four-hour firefight with militants in the village of Ayub Kheyl, Afghanistan. He has spent six years in the Guantanamo Bay detention camps charged with war crimes and providing support to terrorism after allegedly throwing a grenade that killed a US soldier.
….In February 2008, the Pentagon accidentally released documents that revealed that although Khadr was present during the firefight, there was no other evidence that he had thrown the grenade. In fact, military officials had originally reported that another of the surviving militants had thrown the grenade just before being killed…..
Courtesy from “Fire John Yoo” dot com
John Yoo wrote the famous (Bush-Cheney ?) “torture memo,” a legal opinion filed on Aug. 2, 2002, by the Office of Legal Counsel, a section of the U.S. Department of Justice. The memo examined what methods of inflicting pain and suffering constitute torture, legal basis for so-called “enhanced” interrogation …
….Yoo concluded that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) could not “restrict the president’s ability to engage in warrantless searches that protect the national security” and that “unless Congress made a clear statement in FISA that it sought to restrict presidential authority to conduct warrantless searches in the national security area – which it has not – then the statute must be construed to avoid such a reading.”
<> Mordechai Vanunu (Hebrew: מרדכי ואנונו, born in Marrakech, Morocco on 14 October 1954) is an Israeli former nuclear technical assistant who revealed details of Israel’s nuclear weapons program to the British press in 1986. He was subsequently lured to Italy and kidnapped by Israeli intelligence operatives. He was transported to Israel and ultimately convicted of treason and espionage. According to Norwegian lawyers’ support group, Vanunu is a political prisoner, denied democratic freedom of speech.
Mordechai Vanunu spent 18 years in prison, including more than 11 years in solitary confinement.
…. Vanunu said Israel’s Mossad spy agency and the Shin Bet security services tried to rob him of his sanity by keeping him in solitary confinement…..
<> A Thousand Little Gitmos
How the federal courts turned into star chambers for terrorism cases—and why Obama may keep them that way.
…..Today Hashmi, who is 29, sits in a windowless cell, in solitary confinement. He is not allowed to watch television or listen to the radio or read a newspaper unless it is at least 30 days old and censored. He is not allowed to speak to guards, other inmates, or the media, or to write anyone but his attorney and his family (once a week on three single-sided pages). The only people cleared to visit, besides his lawyer, are his mother and father, but he couldn’t see them for three months after he was caught shadowboxing in his cell—an infraction that cost him visiting privileges. Hashmi’s lawyer, Sean Maher, says the isolation is slowly driving his client mad.
Hashmi is not in Guantanamo Bay, nor is he an enemy combatant. He’s a US citizen, born in Pakistan and raised in Flushing, Queens, facing trial in federal court in Manhattan. His home for the past two years has been the Special Housing Unit at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a stone’s throw from the Brooklyn Bridge. Hashmi might be guilty, he might not. We may never know—because when he goes before judge and jury later this year he won’t get a fair trial. Much of the government’s evidence against him is secret, and he can’t see it because he doesn’t have a security clearance. Maher, who does have a security clearance, can’t see much of it either. Maher finds this incredible…..
…. Prosecutors have also had wide latitude to use secret witnesses, as well as information of questionable origin. A 2005 case involving Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, a US citizen, hinged on a coerced confession obtained by Saudi authorities. During the trial, which Amnesty International declared unfair, prosecutors used a controversial tactic called the “silent witness” rule to show some evidence to jurors but not defense attorneys…..
…All the secrecy might make sense if it involved truly sensitive information. But when such evidence has been exposed, it’s often proved to be flawed or irrelevant….
…the fact that most of the people tried on terrorism charges since 9/11 have only been charged with “material support,” which can mean helping terrorists or merely thinking about doing so someday….
By the way water boarding torture has a long history in the USA military, as this Life magazine front page testifies , and note the date:
hmm,,, those were the days of the Philippines “conquest” (for an Asian extension of the empire into the ‘open door’ of markets in China) after the Spanish American War, and some say that the sinking of the the USS Maine was a false flag operation. Mark Twain in those days was one of the notable members of Anti Imperialist League: but who remembers these historical things anyways, and reflects on their bearings upon our current situation?
OBAMA CONTINUES TORTURE POLICIES
YESWECANISTAN By William Blum
- Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
- Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower
- Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire
|Yeswecanistan By William Blum|
December 09, 2009 “Information Clearing House” — All the crying from the left about how Obama “the peace candidate” has now become “a war president” … Whatever are they talking about? Here’s what I wrote in this report in August 2008, during the election campaign:
We find Obama threatening, several times, to attack Iran if they don’t do what the United States wants them to do nuclear-wise; threatening more than once to attack Pakistan if their anti-terrorist policies are not tough enough or if there would be a regime change in the nuclear-armed country not to his liking; calling for a large increase in US troops and tougher policies for Afghanistan; wholly and unequivocally embracing Israel as if it were the 51st state.
Why should anyone be surprised at Obama’s foreign policy in the White House? He has not even banned torture, contrary to what his supporters would fervently have us believe. If further evidence were needed, we have the November 28 report in the Washington Post: “Two Afghan teenagers held in U.S. detention north of Kabul this year said they were beaten by American guards, photographed naked, deprived of sleep and held in solitary confinement in concrete cells for at least two weeks while undergoing daily interrogation about their alleged links to the Taliban.” This is but the latest example of the continuance of torture under the new administration.
But the shortcomings of Barack Obama and the naiveté of his fans is not the important issue. The important issue is the continuation and escalation of the American war in Afghanistan, based on the myth that the individuals we label “Taliban” are indistinguishable from those who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, whom we usually label “al Qaeda”. “I am convinced,” the president said in his speech at the United States Military Academy (West Point) on December 1, “that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak.”
Obama used one form or another of the word “extremist” eleven times in his half-hour talk. Young, impressionable minds must be carefully taught; a future generation of military leaders who will command America’s never-ending wars must have no doubts that the bad guys are “extremists”, that “extremists” are by definition bad guys, that “extremists” are beyond the pale and do not act from human, rational motivation like we do, that we — quintessential non-extremists, peace-loving moderates — are the good guys, forced into one war after another against our will. Sending robotic death machines flying over Afghanistan and Pakistan to drop powerful bombs on the top of wedding parties, funerals, and homes is of course not extremist behavior for human beings.
And the bad guys attacked the US “from here”, Afghanistan. That’s why the United States is “there”, Afghanistan. But in fact the 9-11 attack was planned in Germany, Spain and the United States as much as in Afghanistan. It could have been planned in a single small room in Panama City, Taiwan, or Bucharest. What is needed to plot to buy airline tickets and take flying lessons in the United States? And the attack was carried out entirely in the United States. But Barack Obama has to maintain the fiction that Afghanistan was, and is, vital and indispensable to any attack on the United States, past or future. That gives him the right to occupy the country and kill the citizens as he sees fit. Robert Baer, former CIA officer with long involvement in that part of the world has noted: “The people that want their country liberated from the West have nothing to do with Al Qaeda. They simply want us gone because we’re foreigners, and they’re rallying behind the Taliban because the Taliban are experienced, effective fighters.” 1
The pretenses extend further. US leaders have fed the public a certain image of the insurgents (all labeled together under the name “Taliban”) and of the conflict to cover the true imperialistic motivation behind the war. The predominant image at the headlines/TV news level and beyond is that of the Taliban as an implacable and monolithic “enemy” which must be militarily defeated at all costs for America’s security, with a negotiated settlement or compromise not being an option. However, consider the following which have been reported at various times during the past two years about the actual behavior of the United States and its allies in Afghanistan vis-à-vis the Taliban, which can raise questions about Obama’s latest escalation: 2
The US military in Afghanistan has long been considering paying Taliban fighters who renounce violence against the government in Kabul, as the United States has done with Iraqi insurgents.
President Obama has floated the idea of negotiating with moderate elements of the Taliban. 3
US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, said last month that the United States would support any role Saudi Arabia chose to pursue in trying to engage Taliban officials. 4
Canadian troops are reaching out to the Taliban in various ways.
A top European Union official and a United Nations staff member were ordered by the Kabul government to leave the country after allegations that they had met Taliban insurgents without the administration’s knowledge. And two senior diplomats for the United Nations were expelled from the country, accused by the Afghan government of unauthorized dealings with insurgents. However, the Afghanistan government itself has had a series of secret talks with “moderate Taliban” since 2003 and President Hamid Karzai has called for peace talks with Taliban leader Mohammed Omar.
Organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross as well as the United Nations have become increasingly open about their contacts with the Taliban leadership and other insurgent groups.
Gestures of openness are common practice among some of Washington’s allies in Afghanistan, notably the Dutch, who make negotiating with the Taliban an explicit part of their military policy.
The German government is officially against negotiations, but some members of the governing coalition have suggested Berlin host talks with the Taliban.
MI-6, Britain’s external security service, has held secret talks with the Taliban up to half a dozen times. At the local level, the British cut a deal, appointing a former Taliban leader as a district chief in Helmand province in exchange for security guarantees.
Senior British officers involved with the Afghan mission have confirmed that direct contact with the Taliban has led to insurgents changing sides as well as rivals in the Taliban movement providing intelligence which has led to leaders being killed or captured.
British authorities hold that there are distinct differences between different “tiers” of the Taliban and that it is essential to try to separate the doctrinaire extremists from others who are fighting for money or because they resent the presence of foreign forces in their country.
British contacts with the Taliban have occurred despite British Prime Minister Gordon Brown publicly ruling out such talks; on one occasion he told the House of Commons: “We will not enter into any negotiations with these people.”
For months there have been repeated reports of “good Taliban” forces being airlifted by Western helicopters from one part of Afghanistan to another to protect them from Afghan or Pakistani military forces. At an October 11 news conference in Kabul, President Hamid Karzai himself claimed that “some unidentified helicopters dropped armed men in the northern provinces at night.” 5
On November 2, IslamOnline.net (Qatar) reported: “The emboldened Taliban movement in Afghanistan turned down an American offer of power-sharing in exchange for accepting the presence of foreign troops, Afghan government sources confirmed. ‘US negotiators had offered the Taliban leadership through Mullah Wakil Ahmed Mutawakkil (former Taliban foreign minister) that if they accept the presence of NATO troops in Afghanistan, they would be given the governorship of six provinces in the south and northeast … America wants eight army and air force bases in different parts of Afghanistan in order to tackle the possible regrouping of [the] Al-Qaeda network,’ a senior Afghan Foreign Ministry official told IslamOnline.net.” 6
There has been no confirmation of this from American officials, but the New York Times on October 28 listed six provinces that were being considered to receive priority protection from the US military, five which are amongst the eight mentioned in the IslamOnline report as being planned for US military bases, although no mention is made in the Times of the above-mentioned offer. The next day, Asia Times reported: “The United States has withdrawn its troops from its four key bases in Nuristan [or Nooristan], on the border with Pakistan, leaving the northeastern province as a safe haven for the Taliban-led insurgency to orchestrate its regional battles.” Nuristan, where earlier in the month eight US soldiers were killed and three Apache helicopters hit by hostile fire, is one of the six provinces offered to the Taliban as reported in the IslamOnline.net story.
The part about al-Qaeda is ambiguous and questionable, not only because the term has long been loosely used as a catch-all for any group or individual in opposition to US foreign policy in this part of the world, but also because the president’s own national security adviser, former Marine Gen. James Jones, stated in early October: “I don’t foresee the return of the Taliban. Afghanistan is not in imminent danger of falling. The al-Qaeda presence is very diminished. The maximum estimate is less than 100 operating in the country, no bases, no ability to launch attacks on either us or our allies.” 7
Shortly after Jones’s remarks, we could read in the Wall Street Journal: “Hunted by U.S. drones, beset by money problems and finding it tougher to lure young Arabs to the bleak mountains of Pakistan, al-Qaida is seeing its role shrink there and in Afghanistan, according to intelligence reports and Pakistan and U.S. officials. … For Arab youths who are al-Qaida’s primary recruits, ‘it’s not romantic to be cold and hungry and hiding,’ said a senior U.S. official in South Asia.” 8
From all of the above is it not reasonable to conclude that the United States is willing and able to live with the Taliban, as repulsive as their social philosophy is? Perhaps even a Taliban state which would go across the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which has been talked about in some quarters. What then is Washington fighting for? What moves the president of the United States to sacrifice so much American blood and treasure? In past years, US leaders have spoken of bringing democracy to Afghanistan, liberating Afghan women, or modernizing a backward country. President Obama made no mention of any of these previous supposed vital goals in his December 1 speech. He spoke only of the attacks of September 11, al Qaeda, the Taliban, terrorists, extremists, and such, symbols guaranteed to fire up an American audience. Yet, the president himself declared at one point: “Al Qaeda has not reemerged in Afghanistan in the same numbers as before 9/11, but they retain their safe havens along the border.” Ah yes, the terrorist danger … always, everywhere, forever, particularly when it seems the weakest.
How many of the West Point cadets, how many Americans, give thought to the fact that Afghanistan is surrounded by the immense oil reserves of the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea regions? Or that Afghanistan is ideally situated for oil and gas pipelines to serve much of Europe and south Asia, lines that can deliberately bypass non-allies of the empire, Iran and Russia? If only the Taliban will not attack the lines. “One of our goals is to stabilize Afghanistan, so it can become a conduit and a hub between South and Central Asia so that energy can flow to the south …”, said Richard Boucher, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs in 2007. 9
Afghanistan would also serve as the home of American military bases, the better to watch and pressure next-door Iran and the rest of Eurasia. And NATO … struggling to find a raison d’être since the end of the Cold War. If the alliance is forced to pull out of Afghanistan without clear accomplishments after eight years will its future be even more in doubt?
So, for the present at least, the American War on Terror in Afghanistan continues and regularly and routinely creates new anti-American terrorists, as it has done in Iraq. This is not in dispute even at the Pentagon or the CIA. God Bless America.
Although the “surge” failed as policy, it succeeded as propaganda.
They don’t always use the word “surge”, but that’s what they mean. Our admirable leaders and our mainstream media that love to interview them would like us to believe that escalation of the war in Afghanistan is in effect a “surge”, like the one in Iraq which, they believe, has proven so successful. But the reality of the surge in Iraq was nothing like its promotional campaign. To the extent that there has been a reduction in violence in Iraq (now down to a level that virtually any other society in the world would find horrible and intolerable, including Iraqi society before the US invasion and occupation), we must keep in mind the following summary of how and why it “succeeded”:
- Thanks to America’s lovely little war, there are many millions Iraqis either dead, wounded, crippled, homebound or otherwise physically limited, internally displaced, in foreign exile, or in bursting American and Iraqi prisons. Many others have been so traumatized that they are concerned simply for their own survival. Thus, a huge number of potential victims and killers has been markedly reduced.
- Extensive ethnic cleansing has taken place: Sunnis and Shiites are now living much more than before in their own special enclaves, with entire neighborhoods surrounded by high concrete walls and strict security checkpoints; violence of the sectarian type has accordingly gone down.
- In the face of numerous “improvised explosive devices” on the roads, US soldiers venture out a lot less, so the violence against them has been sharply down. It should be kept in mind that insurgent attacks on American forces following the invasion of 2003 is how the Iraqi violence all began in the first place.
- For a long period, the US military was paying insurgents (or “former insurgents”) to not attack occupation forces.
- The powerful Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr declared a unilateral cease-fire for his militia, including attacks against US troops, that was in effect for an extended period; this was totally unconnected to the surge.
We should never forget that Iraqi society has been destroyed. The people of that unhappy land have lost everything — their homes, their schools, their neighborhoods, their mosques, their jobs, their careers, their professionals, their health care, their legal system, their women’s rights, their religious tolerance, their security, their friends, their families, their past, their present, their future, their lives. But they do have their surge.
The War against Everything and Everyone, Endlessly
Nidal Malik Hasan, the US Army psychiatrist who killed 13 and wounded some 30 at Fort Hood, Texas in November reportedly regards the US War on Terror as a war aimed at Muslims. He told colleagues that “the US was battling not against security threats in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Islam itself.” 10 Hasan had long been in close contact with Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born cleric and al Qaeda sympathizer now living in Yemen, who also called the US War on Terror a “war against Muslims”. Many, probably most, Muslims all over the world hold a similar view about American foreign policy.
I believe they’re mistaken. For many years, going back to at least the Korean war, it’s been fairly common for accusations to be made by activists opposed to US policies, in the United States and abroad, as well as by Muslims, that the United States chooses as its bombing targets only people of color, those of the Third World, or Muslims. But it must be remembered that in 1999 one of the most sustained and ferocious American bombing campaigns ever — 78 days in a row — was carried out against the Serbs of the former Yugoslavia: white, European, Christians. Indeed, we were told that the bombing was to rescue the people of Kosovo, who are largely Muslim. Earlier, the United States had come to the aid of the Muslims of Bosnia in their struggle against the Serbs. The United States is in fact an equal-opportunity bomber. The only qualifications for a country to become an American bombing target appear to be: (a) It poses a sufficient obstacle — real, imagined, or, as with Serbia, ideological — to the desires of the empire; (b) It is virtually defenseless against aerial attack.
- Video on Information Clearinghouse ↩
- For the news items which follow if not otherwise sourced, see:
- The Independent (London), December 14, 2007
- Daily Telegraph (UK) December 26, 2007
- The Globe and Mail (Toronto) May 1, 2008
- BBC News, October 28, 2009 ↩
- New York Times, March 11, 2009 ↩
- Kuwait News Agency, November 24, 2009 ↩
- Pakistan Observer (Islamabad daily), October 19, 2009; The Jamestown Foundation (conservative Washington, DC think tank), “Karzai claims mystery helicopters ferrying Taliban to north Afghanistan”, November 6, 2009; Institute for War and Peace Reporting (London), “Helicopter rumour refuses to die”, October 26, 2009 ↩
- IslamOnline, “US Offers Taliban 6 Provinces for 8 Bases“, November 2, 2009↩
- Washington Times, October 5, 2009, from a CNN interview ↩
- Wall Street Journal, October 13, 2009 ↩
- Talk at the Paul H. Nitze School for Advanced International Studies, Washington, DC, September 20, 2007. ↩
- Christian Science Monitor, November 17, 2009 ↩
William Blum is the author of:
- Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
- Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower
- West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
- Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire
Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at www.killinghope.org
Ouch, knowledge can hurt..
We never said that truth would not be painful.
Gasbag Hillary Blasts China on
By Mike Whitney
May 11, 2011 “Information Clearing House” — — Is there anything more irritating than listening to US officials blabber about “human rights”?
I mean, really, doesn’t it drive you crazy? Here’s Hillary Clinton bashing China for their “deplorable” human rights record, and meanwhile Bradley Manning sits naked and freezing in a 6′ by 8′ cinderblock cell in some far-flung American gulag waiting to get fingernails yanked out. Can you see the hypocrisy?
And that’s just for starters. What about Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram and the myriad other dungeons, concentration camps and black sites the US has scattered across the planet. Seriously, the United States is the biggest human rights abuser in the world today. No one else even comes close. Clinton’s in no position to be giving other people lectures.
Remember, all the phony indignation over Saddam gassing his people in Halabja? What a joke. Obama probably kills more people in his sleep every night than Hussein killed in a year. And Halabja’s small potatoes anyway. Just look at Falluja; a city of 300,000 that had about 40,000 of its people wiped out by US bombs, 80% of its buildings and infrastructure reduced to rubble, and a legacy of cancers and birth defects until the end of time. Now that’s how you kill people!
And then there’s the drone attacks. In fact, another 5 people were killed on Tuesday when US missiles blew up their vehicle in northwest Pakistan. What about their human rights? And what about the rights of the other 957 people who’ve been killed in 2010 alone? Don’t they count?
And, can we please stop talking about democracy? Everyone knows it’s just shorthand for capitalism. And–not even capitalism really, but slash-and-burn, take-no-prisoners, scorched-earth predatory capitalism, the hybrid strain of the virus that’s particular to America’s ‘oligarchy of racketeers’. So, can we just put a sock in it for a while?
Here’s a clip of Hillary moaning about the “repressive Chinese system of government.”
“We have made very clear, publicly and privately, our concern about human rights. We see reports of people, including public interest lawyers, writers, artists, and others, who are detained or disappeared. And we know over the long arch of history that societies that work toward respecting human rights are going to be more prosperous, stable, and successful.”
Can you believe this gibberish? The United States has a higher percentage of its population in prison than any other country in the world. And, Clinton dares to scold China about “detained or disappeared” people? Now that’s the pot calling the kettle black.
But, yes, it’s true; the Chinese haven’t mastered democracy like we have in the good old USA, where 5 right-wing jurists pick the president, and where the government taps your phoneline, sifts through your e mail, and gropes your scrotum before hopping on a flight to Boise. That’s capital “D” democracy; land of the free and home of the Ponzi-scamster. We might boot you out of your home, kick you out of your job, and fleece you out of your retirement, but we’ve got our principles, dammit!
Can you see how crazy this is?
But, let’s cut to the chase. Do you know what this is really all about, all this duplicitous foot-stomping and pontificating by Ms. Clinton?
The Obama team is trying to pressure China into opening their markets to Wall Street so Big Finance can peddle their garbage paper to 1.5 billion new suckers. That’s what it’s all about. I’ll bet you even-money that Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon spent the better part of Sunday evening quaffing single malt scotch and high-fiving while they put the finishing touches on Clinton’s speech. That’s how incestuous the Obama-Wall Street relationship is now.
Just take a look at this report from Bloomberg and decide for yourself.
Bloomberg: “Geithner will say China should relax controls on the financial system and give foreign banks and insurers more access, said David Loevinger, the Treasury Department’s senior coordinator for China. Officials from both nations are meeting in Washington today and tomorrow as part of the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue.
….Senators Charles Schumer of New York and Jeff Merkley of Oregon called May 6 for a “rebalancing” in the U.S.-China economic relationship. The two lawmakers, who just returned from a trip to China, said the Chinese need to open their financial sector, address “abnormally low deposit and lending rates” and allow broader market access to foreign firms….
The American Chamber of Commerce in China said last month that foreign banks play an “insignificant role” in China.
Foreign lenders’ market share in China has dropped since the government first opened the industry in December 2006. Banks such as New York-based Citigroup Inc. (C) and London-based HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA) want to tap household and corporate savings that reached $10 trillion in January as China overtook Japan to become the world’s second-biggest economy” (“U.S. Will Urge China to Boost Interest Rates as Talks Start”, Bloomberg)
Repeat: “Banks…. want to tap household and corporate savings that reached $10 trillion in January.”
That says it all, doesn’t it? Wall Street is already licking its chops over its next victim. They can’t wait to sink their teeth into all that luscious money that Chinese workers have been scrimping and saving for the last decade or so. That’s why they’ve ordered Clinton to castigate China’s leaders in public, because they think it will help them pry the door open wide enough to set up shop in the world’s fastest growing market.
So this isn’t about “human rights” at all. It’s about coercion; forcing China to do what we want so Wall Street can rake in even bigger profits.
Are you surprised?
When an upstate imam named Yassin Aref was convicted on a suspect terrorism charge, he was sent to a secretive prison denounced by civil libertarians as a Muslim quarantine.
- By Christopher S. Stewart
- Published Jul 10, 2011
(Photo: Will Waldron/Albany Times Union)
On August 4, 2004, Yassin Aref was walking along West Street in a run-down part of downtown Albany. It was about 11 p.m., and he had just finished delivering evening prayer at the storefront mosque around the corner, where he had been the imam for nearly four years. Caught up in his thoughts, he might not have noticed the car parked across from his two-story building if a man hadn’t called out his name.
Aref instantly recognized the FBI agents inside the darkened vehicle. They had been monitoring him for years now, maybe longer. Sometimes they stopped and asked questions about his views on Saddam Hussein or the mosque. As part of Bush’s war on terror, the FBI had been talking to other Muslims in Albany, too. When Aref climbed into the back seat, he figured that the agents simply wanted to talk some more. Instead, they told him he was under arrest.
It took a long time for this to settle in. Aref was silent as they drove to FBI headquarters, a fortlike concrete-and-glass building on the south side of town. The agency has spoken only vaguely about what happened when they questioned him, and there are no recordings, though Aref would later describe the time as the “hardest, darkest, and longest night of my life”—scarier, he said recently, than the hardships he and his wife suffered as Kurds in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
His hands and feet were chained. One of the agents spoke some Kurdish. Aref heard questions about terrorism, money laundering, a missile launcher. He refused a lawyer, believing that he had nothing to hide. “It is against my religion to lie,” he told them. The interrogation lasted much of the night. He says he never heard specific charges. At some point they told him his house and mosque were being raided, and all he could think about was his wife and three children, who had arrived in Albany with him as U.N. refugees in 1999.
When morning broke, he was loaded into another car, bleary-eyed and weakened, and taken to the federal courthouse. As the vehicle moved through the streets, Aref was astonished by the sudden commotion. Helicopters swarmed overhead. There were scores of local and national news reporters, cameras angling to get his picture. He saw snipers.
During his three-week trial in 2006, he learned that he was the target of a controversial FBI sting, which involved a Pakistani informant with a history of crime. In the end, he was convicted of, among other things, conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. He spent weeks in solitary confinement, days shackled in different vehicles, which shuffled him from prison to prison. Time coalesced, became unrecognizable, until, in the spring of 2007, Aref landed at a newly created prison unit in Terre Haute, Indiana, that would change his life again. It already had a nickname: Little Gitmo.
Aref didn’t know anything about Little Gitmo, or a Communication Management Unit (CMU), as it’s formally called. Once a death-row facility where Timothy McVeigh was executed, the Terre Haute CMU was quietly opened by the Bush administration in December 2006 to contain inmates with links, in particular, to “terrorist-related activity.” A year later, another unit opened in Marion, Illinois.
Although inmates and guards refer to CMUs as Little Gitmos, the comparison to Guantánamo is imprecise: The units are not detention centers, and the inmates inside have already been convicted of crimes in the U.S. legal system. But what differentiates CMUs from all other facilities in the U.S. are the prisoners. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) estimates that 66 to 72 percent of them are Muslims, a staggering number considering that Muslims represent only 6 percent of the entire federal-prison population.
As of June, there are 82 men in the two CMUs, according to federal-prison officials, including a man convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the American Taliban John Walker Lindh, and the lone survivor of an EgyptAir hijacking in 1985. All inmates are kept under 24-hour surveillance in near-complete isolation. “If the government has intelligence that links you to terrorist activity, then that’s something that the prison authority should be able to take into account,” says Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, in defense of the measures. “We give them an array of privileges that most other places in the world are shocked by.”
Legal activists agree that restrictive rules can be applied to high-security prisoners, but many in the CMUs, they say, are low-security inmates. One Muslim man was placed in a CMU for perjury, while another was locked up, in part, for violating U.S. sanctions by donating to a charity abroad without a license. According to CCR, many don’t fully know why they ended up in the segregated units or how they might appeal their placement. In the words of Kathy Manley, one of Aref’s defense attorneys, the CMUs are a “quarantine,” and Alexis Agathocleous, a lawyer at CCR, calls them “an experiment in social isolation.” “There is this story being told in this country now about the threat of homegrown terror and of radicalization related to Muslim prisoners, and the CMU is a story about law enforcement controlling that dangerous threat,” says Rachel Meeropol, a lawyer at CCR. “An allegation that someone is somehow connected to terrorism, without evidence and without an actual conviction [for terrorism], allows them to be treated in this whole different system of justice.”
The federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, where a Communication Management Unit is located.
To gather intelligence from CMU inmates, correspondence is combed through by a counterterrorism unit in West Virginia. Regular group prayer is prohibited, and communications must be in English unless there’s a live translator. Phone calls are limited to two fifteen-minute conversations a week (most maximum-security prisoners get 300 minutes a month). Immediate families of CMU inmates can visit only twice a month for a total of eight hours (general-population prisoners at Terre Haute get up to 49 hours of visits a month), and those conversations are monitored, recorded, and conducted through Plexiglas. Physical contact is forbidden, a permanent ban not imposed on most violent felons in maximum-security prisons.
As a result, critics say, those familiar markers—family, language, and religious identity—are being stripped away. “This is more than just being cut off from the world,” says Nina Thomas, a psychologist-psychoanalyst at NYU who has studied the CMUs. “Inmates are being shut into a very narrow universe.”
While the stated purpose of the CMUs, according to prisons spokesperson Traci Billingsley, is to “protect the public,” Meeropol thinks that they “spread fear.” Shamshad Ahmad, a physics lecturer at the University of Albany and president of Aref’s mosque, says that CMUs “send a message that the whole justice system [is] geared to take revenge of the events of 9/11 on anyone belonging to the Muslim community”—a message that, essentially, any Muslim could become Aref.
And especially because Aref’s conviction is itself a matter of controversy, CCR has chosen the imam to become its lead plaintiff in a case against the CMUs, one of the major lawsuits, including the ACLU’s in Indiana, meant to challenge the units and change the way they operate. Along with five other plaintiffs, Aref now sits at the center of a civil-liberties battle against the prison system. To a growing number of supporters in Albany—who have rallied to get him out; have published his pre-CMU memoir, Son of Mountains; have raised money for his family—he is a symbol of the inequities Muslims still endure as collateral damage in the war on terror.
Aref was born in a mountain village in northern Iraq, where he lived through Saddam’s genocide on the Kurds and met his wife, Zuhur. They fled to Syria, where he finished his religious studies, worked at the office of the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan (IMK), and had three kids. Under a U.N. asylum program, the family learned in 1999 that they were going to Albany, a place the 29-year-old Aref had never heard of.
Although he couldn’t speak or understand much English, he managed to support his family as a hospital janitor for more than a year before he became the imam of Masjid As-Salam, the city’s only mosque. During his four years as imam, Aref regularly discussed his anti–Iraq War sentiments and grew to represent the spiritual voice of many Albany Muslims. “People hesitated to criticize the government publicly,” says Ahmad. “But he didn’t.”
It is believed that the FBI decided to target Aref in the summer of 2003, after the American military stormed an armed camp in Iraq and discovered a notebook with his name and number in it, along with the word kak, which the FBI translated as “commander” (the prosecution would later admit that the term actually translates to “mister”). The camp was alleged to be affiliated with Ansar al-Islam, a terrorist organization founded by Mullah Krekar, who was once a member of the IMK, where he had met Aref. Aref’s backers argue that the camp was filled with refugees and that the notebook could have belonged to anyone. Aref claims that he met Krekar only in passing and that he left for Albany long before the mullah founded Ansar al-Islam.
That Aref had a past connection to Krekar was perhaps enough to attract the FBI’s attention, though likely not enough to mount a legal case against him. So, working with expanded surveillance powers, the FBI went about setting up an operation.
Since 9/11, the FBI had begun relying more heavily on informants, under a controversial policy of preemptive prosecution—taking down those thought to possibly become terrorists in the future. It has resulted in the conviction of more than 200 individuals, including four Muslims in Newburgh convicted of plotting to bomb two Bronx synagogues; a 19-year-old Somali charged with attempting to blow up a Christmas-tree-lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon; and a man caught plotting an attack on Herald Square. “These types of operations have proven to be an essential law-enforcement tool in uncovering and preventing potential terror attacks,” Attorney General Eric Holder said at a dinner this winter in defense of the tactics.
Critics, however, point out that in many operations, it’s difficult to determine whether anyone is truly culpable—or inherently dangerous. And intentionally or not, it’s very easy to round up Muslims. “There is a massive ideological, military, and intelligence infrastructure committed to the domestic and international wars on terror. These wars depend on maintaining Muslims as the primary threat to national security,” says Amna Akbar, a senior research scholar at NYU’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice. “The U.S. government seems to rely on widespread use of informants … sending them into mosques and other community spaces without any concrete suspicion of criminal activity.”
Yassin Aref’s wife with an Albany police officer the day after her husband’s arrest.
(Photo: Ron Antonelli/NY Daily News Archive/Getty Images)
In order to pursue Aref, the FBI employed a Pakistani informant named Shahed Hussain, known as Malik, the same informant later used in the Newburgh trial and a man once described by the defense in that case as “an agent provocateur who earned his keep by scouring mosques for easy targets.” Malik had made a deal to avoid years in jail and deportation for helping people cheat on driver’s-license exams. He was also arrested in Pakistan on a murder charge. The operation, scripted by the FBI, started with Mohammed Hossain, a Bangladeshi immigrant who owned a local pizzeria and helped found Aref’s mosque.
Over several months, Malik moved into Hossain’s life, bringing his kids toys and expressing interest in religion. Malik, who claimed to be working for the Islamic terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed, or JeM, eventually said he was buying a shoulder-firing missile launcher to kill then–Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf during a visit in New York City. To complete the purchase, he needed Hossain to launder $50,000 for him. In return, Hossain, whose business was on the skids, would earn $5,000.
Hossain then asked Aref to be the witness to the loan, a tradition in Islamic culture (as the only imam in Albany, Aref had notarized many loans). There were additional months of transactions where Aref documented Hossain’s loan payments to Malik. During those months, Malik would occasionally mention the missile, using the code word chaudry. The government argued that this was evidence that Aref knew about Malik’s terrorist connection, and the jury agreed. Aref was charged with ten of the 30 total counts, and the jury found him guilty of money laundering and supporting a known terrorist organization. “Did [Aref] actually engage in terrorist acts?” William Pericek, assistant U.S. Attorney, asked during a post-sentencing press conference. “Well, we didn’t have the evidence of that. But he had the ideology.”
“Family, language, and religious identity are being stripped away.”
To outside observers of the case, the details that emerged during the trial were troubling. The FBI testified that Aref knew the code word, linking him to the conspiracy, but according to recorded conversations, there was no evidence that either Malik or Hossain informed him of the term. And though Malik had shown a fake missile to Hossain, the FBI decided against showing it to Aref because they worried that he would be “spooked.”
The case, observers noted, ultimately lacked definitive evidence that Aref knew the true nature of the transaction, and the jury was directed to ignore the motives of the FBI’s investigation. As Judge Thomas J. McAvoy instructed them, “The FBI had certain suspicions, good and valid suspicions for looking into Mr. Aref, but why they did that is not to be any concern of yours.”
“I’m not only surprised that the jury convicted him, but I’m sure the judge was surprised too,” says Stephen Gottlieb, a professor at Albany Law School and author of Morality Imposed: The Rehnquist Court and Liberty in America. “They basically turned two decent men into criminals.”
Manley believes he lost on emotional grounds. “I think the fear got to [the jury]. They ended up convicting him out of fear that he might be some kind of shadowy bad guy.” Steve Downs, another member of Aref’s legal team, attributes it to what he calls “the Muslim exception.” The emotion and politics of 9/11 had, they argue, altered the threshold for what constituted reasonable doubt.
In the years since Aref’s trial, critics have identified a pattern. “A whole range of policing, prosecution, and incarceration policies seem to take as a starting point that Muslims pose a particularly uncontainable threat meriting extreme and exceptional treatment by the government,” says Akbar. “Because national security has become an area in which the government is granted an extraordinary amount of deference, these policies are often allowed to stand without much scrutiny.”
After the jury reached a verdict, two local papers published editorials asking for leniency. The editors at the Albany Times Union called the case “unsettling,” with no clear answer to why the men were targeted, and wondered what lives Hossain and Aref would have “continued to lead if they had never been lured into a sting operation.”
The judge sentenced Aref to fifteen years and recommended a local federal prison. Instead, he was sent to the CMU, with little explanation, no hearing, and no obvious way to appeal.
The first time Aref wrote to me, in a heavily monitored e-mail exchange, he said, “I am not spending my time, time is spending me. My family’s situation is driving me insane and eating my patience.” His world was falling apart at the CMU. “It’s really hard for me to talk about what happened,” he wrote.
When Aref was sent to the Terre Haute CMU in May 2007, he was 37 years old. “I arrived to find a small Middle Eastern community,” he said. There were about twenty others inside. The idea of being called a terrorist sickened Aref. Every day he wondered why he was there, and he hoped someone would eventually realize that a mistake had been made. “I don’t understand how the jury found me guilty,” he wrote at one point.
His cell unlocked at 6 a.m., and he could circulate through the small unit comprising a few dozen cells and a common room. At 9 p.m., he’d be locked in for the night. On occasion, he heard screaming, and one day he saw a grown man drop to the floor and begin uncontrollably shaking and sobbing. When Aref asked a nurse later what had happened, she told him, “It’s all fear and stress.”
A peculiar loneliness consumed him. As an imam, Aref was naturally social. He helped solve people’s problems and guide them through their tangled lives. But at Terre Haute, he became reticent, curled inside himself. It was hard to know whom to trust. The FBI was sending agents to the unit to ask questions, and new inmates came every few weeks or so.
All along, he felt his family drifting away. That one fifteen-minute phone call a week (a second call per week was added in January 2010) was never enough. What could you really say in fifteen minutes divided up among at least four people? He tried to be upbeat, avoiding talk of the CMU. With the kids, he spoke about school, a kind of dinner talk. When his wife got on, the reality of their separation was oppressive.
Zuhur “almost lost her mind,” as Aref put it. The case had turned her upside down. Worried about wiretaps, she had disconnected the Internet, TV, and phone. She didn’t have a job and relied on friends and the mosque to pay her rent and buy food. She rarely interacted with strangers, afraid that they might be informants setting her up.
Talking to Aref was a project that required a friend to lend a cell phone to the family on the days he called. And when he spoke to Zuhur, she mostly cried. In the four years that he has been at the CMU, she has cried during every single call.
One of the hardest things was thinking about his young daughter, Dilnia. She was born while Aref was in jail. All he was to her was an abstract concept. “Whenever anyone asks her, ‘Where is your daddy?’ she will point or run to the phone and say, ‘That is my daddy,’ ” Aref said.
His two boys visited that first summer. With surveillance cameras zeroing in on them, it was difficult to be intimate. Salah was 10, Azzam 7. As Aref spoke through the Plexiglas, every word, every gesture was being mined for information.
His demeanor changed dramatically when his boys stepped away and Downs stepped in. Downs had made the two-day car trip with the kids from Albany. “They abuse me,” Aref said. When Downs asked him to explain, Aref wouldn’t. Then suddenly the meeting was terminated. According to Downs, a guard falsely claimed that he was using a pen “as a secret recording device.”
“I’m convinced that they understood I was trying to get info about the CMU,” Downs says. “And they did what [the CMU] was set up to do—prevent information [about the CMU] from getting out.”
The entire family arrived in a minivan the next summer, in 2008. It had been roughly four years since they’d all been together. But seeing his 2-year-old girl on the other side of the glass gave Aref tremendous pain. She didn’t recognize him.
The family spent a total of four hours together, and all seemed well until Zuhur suddenly snapped. In front of the kids, she made an announcement: She wanted to go back to Kurdistan. She felt her safety was at risk in America, even more than in the region from which she had fled.
Aref didn’t want to argue. A part of him understood. “I am not dead in order for them to forget me,” he said to me, “and not really alive to benefit them.” That was the last time he saw his family. They didn’t visit again. Zuhur wouldn’t let them.
On March 27, 2009, at about 4 a.m., a guard entered Aref’s cell and told him to pack. He was being transferred to the second CMU, at the state penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, which had opened a year before. Until recently, Marion had been one of the nation’s only supermax facilities, replacing Alcatraz in 1963.
The move came at a particularly fraught moment for the CMUs. When President Obama came into office in 2009, many hoped the units would be shut down. The Bureau of Prisons wouldn’t say if the new administration had reviewed the units, but they remained open, and their expansion soon inspired a fierce legal battle. In the summer of 2009, the ACLU’s National Prison project filed a lawsuit on behalf of an inmate that disputed the legality of the creation of the units, among other things. Soon after, the ACLU of Indiana filed another lawsuit, about the restrictions on Muslim prayer.
In the meantime, “balancers,” as CMU guards call them, were reportedly blended into the population—environmental activists, sexual predators, bank robbers, people who, prison officials claimed, “recruit and radicalize”—in order to address the criticism that CMUs were housing only Muslims. The Bureau of Prisons says it doesn’t use race or religion to decide placement, and it rejects claims of adding balancers, though Muslim inmates continue to be in the majority.
In April 2010, CCR, with Aref, filed its suit, challenging the constitutionality of the place: the harsh restrictions on phone calls and visits, the ban on physical contact, the alleged absence of due process, and cited growing evidence suggesting that prisoners were being targeted for their religious and political beliefs.
To CCR, Aref’s case was especially poignant. “Aref came to the United States as a refugee and was then subject to a dubious conviction,” says Agathocleous. “Despite the fact that he engaged in no violence, that the prosecution acknowledged at trial that it was not seeking to prove he was a terrorist, and that his conduct in prison was spotless, he has been subject to these incredibly restrictive conditions at the CMU … It just doesn’t make any sense.”
In Marion, Aref’s single cell was just as small as the former one, and his family was just as far away. But something had changed. He began to dread the phone calls with his family. “For many prisoners, the phone call is a big relief, and they get strength from it,” he said. “But each time I call and hear my wife crying and I learn what my children are going through, it stresses my mind.”
“I am not spending my time, time is spending me.”
After a motion for a new trial was dismissed and the appeal to his original case was rejected, a part of him became resigned to the situation, friends say.
Then on April 13, I received a surprise e-mail from Aref. “How are you doing?” he asked. And then he told me the news. “For real, I am no longer in CMU!”
“My father is a very religious man,” Aref’s 15-year old daughter, Alaa, says one recent summer night. “He has a beard and wears Arab clothes and has an accent. But when you talk to him”—she pauses as if conjuring her father—“you know he’s not a terrorist.” She has trouble saying this word. Terrorist. It doesn’t sound right in her mouth. And she tries it another way. “Baba didn’t hate anyone.”
On this June night, Aref’s four kids sit barefooted on the carpet of a classroom on the second floor of the Central Avenue mosque in Albany, where their father was once the imam. Some of the doors are still broken from the FBI raid almost eight years ago.
The two boys, Salah, 14, and Azzam, 11, sit on either side of Alaa. Dilnia, who is now 5, sits off to the side, reading a book with a family friend. Zuhur stayed home. “She sometimes is depressed and doesn’t go out,” Alaa says.
Friends of the family say that Zuhur still talks about returning to Iraq, though she doesn’t have the money for a plane ticket or travel documents. Her crying hasn’t abated. When she does leave the house, she occasionally visits Aref’s lawyers and asks, “What did Yassin do wrong?” or “When is he coming home?”
Since being placed in a general-population prison, Aref remains cautious. Without much explanation, he was moved out of the CMU, where he had been separated from the world for four years, and he could just as easily be moved back, like officials had done recently to an environmental activist named Daniel McGowan. Aref’s lawyer speculates that my requests to visit Aref in a CMU and the CCR lawsuit had placed pressure on prison officials, which might have had something to do with his sudden transfer out. (It’s a tactic that’s worked for CMUs in the past. With one of the ACLU lawsuits, a plaintiff was moved from a unit to a general-population prison and the case was dismissed.)
Last April, four years after the first CMU opened and days following CCR’s suit, the Bureau of Prisons began a public discussion of the units, a move, advocacy groups say, the prison system was legally obligated to make before the CMUs ever opened. Many of the comments that flooded in focused on the lack of meaningful appeal—that inmates are stuck in the units—and in particular, how the units were ruining the men and their families.
Once Aref entered the general-population prison, he assumed that things would get better—that he would be able to embrace his wife and hug his kids, and that he might even be transferred again to a prison closer to home.
But so far, none of that has changed.
The FBI investigation and the CMUs have so alienated his family, especially Zuhur, who has still not visited her husband since his transfer. She hasn’t allowed the kids to go, either—though supporters are working to set up a trip for this summer.
None of Aref’s kids know exactly why their father is in jail.
Azzam, playing with the yellow gum in his mouth, says, “Money laundering or something, right?”
“It was an FBI sting,” Alaa says. “They kind of set him up for missiles or something.”
Salah, who looks most like his father in his long white shirt, nods.
“I miss him,” Alaa says. Turning to Steve Downs, who has been sitting quietly against the wall, she asks, “When my father gets out, they can deport him right away?”
Downs nods. Aref will be deported the day he is released from prison. Among them, Dilnia is the only American citizen, which means that all the others could be deported on that day too, or shortly after. Zuhur was recently denied citizenship.
Alaa will turn 18 before her father is released, and she could apply for citizenship. If it’s granted, she could become the guardian of the others.
I ask whether what’s been done to their father makes them angry. The boys are silent. “I’m upset,” Alaa says. “But my dad taught us never to hate.”