I watched Rendition last night and was relieved. It frays my nerves any time Hollywood does anything remotely political and timely, and I was prepared for some ham-fisted Bruce Willis politick, where the torture is ultimately justified and everyone goes home relieved, the ticking time bomb avoided. This wasn’t the case, and it was fairly entertaining to boot.
Today the March / April 2008 issue of Mother Jones arrived, and it has a very excellent feature by Justine Sharrock, titled Am I a Torturer? Sharrock follows two representative veterans who’re conflicted about their time spent in Iraq, “softening up” prisoners under the direction of their superiors. Media coverage of US-sponsored torture has slid off the radar these days, but the aftereffects are still being felt by all involved.
As of today’s date, the latest issue of Mother Jones isn’t online yet, but I encourage people to check back and hopefully they’ll post this article in its entirety.
Rice defends US terror policies
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has admitted that terror suspects are flown abroad for interrogation, but denied they were tortured.
She said suspects were moved by plane under a process known as rendition, and said this was “a lawful weapon”.
But she refused to address claims that the CIA runs secret prisons abroad where suspects are interrogated without reference to international law.
She then flew to Europe, where she can expect tough questions on the issue.
Her first stop is Germany, where parliament has demanded to know the purpose of more than 400 flights, run by the US military, that landed or passed through German airspace.
She will also visit Romania – where human rights groups allege a detention centre from may have been located – and Brussels, where the EU has written to Washington asking for further details about US flights.
Ms Rice made a robust defence of US policy, reflecting indignation that anyone would accuse it of condoning torture, says the BBC’s Clive Myrie in Washington.
She said the US would use “every lawful weapon to defeat these terrorists”, who were often essentially stateless and did not fit into any traditional military or criminal justice system.
“We have had to adapt,” she declared.
But she said the US always respected the sovereignty of allies, abided by the law and did not allow torture.
Our correspondent says Ms Rice’s tour of Europe will probably see her pressing her hosts for more co-operation, and less criticism, in the “war on terror”.
She refused to address the question of secret prisons directly.
“We cannot discuss information that would compromise the success of intelligence, law enforcement, and military operations. We expect other nations share this view,” she said in a statement at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland.
She said renditions had been carried out for decades between the US and its allies.
“Renditions take terrorists out of action, and save lives,” she said. “Such renditions are permissible under international law.”
The secretary of state said European countries often benefited from, and even assisted, US intelligence-gathering.
“The intelligence so gathered has stopped terrorist attacks and saved innocent lives – in Europe as well as in the United States and other countries,” she said.
She said European countries needed to decide what measures were acceptable in defending themselves from terrorism.
“It is up to those governments and their citizens to decide if they wish to work with us to prevent terrorist attacks against their own country or other countries, and decide how much sensitive information they can make public. They have a sovereign right to make that choice.
“So now before the next attack,” she said, “we should all face the hard choices that democratic governments face”.
I find the entire thing sickening and hypocritical. It is fucked up on so many levels. But this is not new information. See Mahar Arar’s personal account of being sent to Syria for torture. Or check out Human Rights Watch on the matter.
Suit by Detainee on Transfer to Syria Finds Support in Jet’s Log
WASHINGTON — Maher Arar, a 35-year-old Canadian engineer, is suing the United States, saying American officials grabbed him in 2002 as he changed planes in New York and transported him to Syria where, he says, he was held for 10 months in a dank, tiny cell and brutally beaten with a metal cable.
Now federal aviation records examined by The New York Times appear to corroborate Mr. Arar’s account of his flight, during which, he says, he sat chained on the leather seats of a luxury executive jet as his American guards watched movies and ignored his protests.
The tale of Mr. Arar, the subject of a yearlong inquiry by the Canadian government, is perhaps the best documented of a number of cases since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in which suspects have accused the United States of secretly delivering them to other countries for interrogation under torture. Deportation for interrogation abroad is known as rendition.
In papers filed in a New York court replying to Mr. Arar’s lawsuit, Justice Department lawyers say the case was not one of rendition but of deportation. They say Mr. Arar was deported to Syria based on secret information that he was a member of Al Qaeda, an accusation he denies.
The discovery of the aircraft, in a database compiled from Federal Aviation Agency records, appears to corroborate part of the story Mr. Arar has told many times since his release in 2003. The records show that a Gulfstream III jet, tail number N829MG, followed a flight path matching the route he described. The flight, hopscotching from New Jersey to an airport near Washington to Maine to Rome and beyond, took place on Oct. 8, 2002, the day after Mr. Arar’s deportation order was signed.
After seeing a photograph of the plane and hearing its path, Mr. Arar, 35, of Ottawa, said in a telephone interview: “I think that’s it. I think you’ve found the plane that took me.”
( read more )
Mark Kraft’s blog points out that the memo the ALCU has released, signed by Gen. Ricardo Sanchez authorizing “interrogation” techniques, indicates that Sanchez committed perjury in his testimony before Congress on May 19th, 2004. The applicable testimony:
REED: Thank you.
General Sanchez, today’s USA Today, sir, reported that you ordered or approved the use of sleep deprivation, intimidation by guard dogs, excessive noise and inducing fear as an interrogation method for a prisoner in Abu Ghraib prison.
REED: Is that correct?
SANCHEZ: Sir, that may be correct that it’s in a news article, but I never approved any of those measures to be used within CJTF-7 at any time in the last year.
REED: Excuse me. Because I want to get back to this.
It may be correct that you ordered those methods used against a prisoner. Is that your answer?
SANCHEZ: No, sir, that’s not what I said. I said it may be correct…
REED: Well, I didn’t hear; that’s why I want…
SANCHEZ: … that it’s printed in an article, but I have never approved the use of any of those methods within CJTF-7 in the 12.5 months that I’ve been in Iraq.
This flies in the face of the September memo that the ACLU uncovered, in which Sanchez gave permission for the “interrogation” tactics we saw, including the use of dogs, “stress positions,” and “sensory deprivation.”
Can you say perjury? Contact your Senator if you want to ‘remind’ him that he was lied to.
The ACLU has filed a lawsuit charging Rumsfeld with being directly involved in the torture and abuse of detainees. More about that here.
US memo shows Iraq jail methods
The top US general in Iraq authorised interrogation techniques including the use of dogs, stress positions and disorientation, a memo has shown.
The document was obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union through the US Freedom of Information Act.
The September 2003 document is signed by the then commander of US forces in Iraq, Gen Ricardo Sanchez.
The ACLU says the measures go beyond generally accepted practice and says Gen Sanchez should be made accountable.
The memo authorised techniques including putting prisoners in stressful positions, using loud music and light control, and changing sleeping patterns.
It also authorised the presence of muzzled military working dogs to, as the memo puts it, “exploit Arab fear of dogs while maintaining security during interrogations”.
( read more )
This reminds me of something Seymour Hersh talked about last week when I saw him. He was talking about other pictures that he has, pictures that were too graphic to publicly release. One series showed a naked Iraqi prisoner, cowering while a dog snapped and bit at him, just out of reach. The dog was then released.
Even though evidence like this suggests that the systematic torture occuring throughout Afghanistan and Iraq came from the highest reaches of the military – extending into the White House – we really shouldn’t expect anyone to be brought to justice besides a few low-level grunts.