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Terrorists R US QED

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Nat Hentoff
Congress and the Disappeared
Still waiting for our representatives—and presidential candidates—to address criminal U.S. kidnappings
by Nat Hentoff
November 20th, 2007
Human-rights history was made on February 7 of this year when, in Paris, 57 nations signed an unprecedented new international treaty prohibiting any of these countries from engaging in what the CIA calls "extraordinary renditions": secretly snatching terrorism suspects and sending them to countries known for their expertise in torturing the people in their custody. The new treaty also forbids holding suspects in secret prisons—a continuing CIA specialty—or otherwise making people disappear.

Though invited to sign the treaty, the United States of America declined, without any discernible sense of embarrassment at being, after all, the world's most expert and efficient producer of secret prisoners.

Our president, after all, had already signaled very different intentions about protecting American values in an age of terrorism when, in his second State of the Union address (January 28, 2003), he chillingly declared: "More than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in many countries. Many others have met a different fate. Let's put it this way—they are no longer a problem." (Emphasis added.)

Only six days after 9/11, Bush had set in motion CIA "special powers" that would lead to the renditions and the secret prisons. On September 17, 2001, he told the National Security Council that he was about to give the agency "special authorities to detain Al Qaeda operatives worldwide." He followed up on March 13, 2002, insisting on "the President's power as commander-in-chief to transfer captured terrorists to the control and custody of foreign nations."

As he was later to say on Ted Koppel's Nightline: "You need to have a president who understands you can't win this war with legal papers. We've got to use every asset at our disposal."

By July 2004, the investigative organization Human Rights First had released a thoroughly documented 43-page report, "Ending Secret Detentions." It was announced under a news release headlined "U.S. Holding Prisoners in More Than Two Dozen Secret Detention Facilities Worldwide." And in the text itself: "At least half of these operate in total secrecy . . . beyond the reach of adequate supervision, accountability, or law."

On seeing that report, the International Red Cross told Agence France-Presse: "We are more and more concerned about the lot of the unknown number of people captured . . . and detained in secret places. We have asked for information on these people and access to them. Until now we have received no response from the Americans."

One American was very concerned, but we didn't hear from him until November 6 of this year, on PBS's Frontline—the most fearless and valuable documentary series since Edward R. Murrow's on CBS. In Extraordinary Rendition, Tyler Drumheller, who ran CIA operations in Europe in 2003, said of the CIA's secret jails: "We are an intelligence service, an espionage service. Not jailers. . . . Everything that the military didn't want to do or felt uncomfortable doing ended up in the lap of the CIA."

For the last three years, the existence of these secret prisons and the practice of extraordinary rendition has been increasingly known around the world thanks to the European press and such American reporters as Dana Priest of The Washington Post and Jane Mayer of The New Yorker—and has also been detailed in many of these columns.

But there has yet to be a Congressional investigation into these pervasive American war crimes, as clearly defined in the Geneva Conventions and our own war-crimes statutes— including nothing from the present Congress, led by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

There are Democratic members of Congress—notably Senators Pat Leahy, Dick Durbin, Russ Feingold, Joe Biden, and Ron Wyden—who keep pressuring the White House, to no avail, to release the documents outlining the orders that have made this nation a worldwide supercriminal, thereby lowering our stature throughout the globe as never before.

So the leaders of Congress, by their inaction, are as complicit as George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Yoo, and the rest of those administration officials who have authorized untold numbers of disappeared prisoners and the torture of kidnapped suspects worldwide.

In an October 27 article by Craig Whitlock in The Washington Post ("From CIA Jails, Inmates Fade Into Obscurity"), the International Committee of the Red Cross reported that it had "failed to find dozens of people once believed to have been in CIA custody. . . ."

So far as I can learn in the years I've been covering this story, CIA "black sites" have existed and may still be operating in Afghanistan, Poland, Romania, Tunisia, Jordan, Pakistan, Morocco, and India.

"Some [prisoners]," Whitlock reports, "have been secretly transferred to their home countries, where they remain in detention and out of public view, according to interviews in Pakistan and Europe with government officials, human rights groups and lawyers for the detainees. Others have disappeared without a trace and may or may not still be under CIA control." (Emphasis added.)

In June 2004, Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch wrote: "The Bush administration apparently believed that the new wars it was fighting could not be won if it was constrained by the 'old' rules."

Our new attorney general, Michael Mukasey, agrees with his commander in chief, having written in The Wall Street Journal before his nomination that "current institutions and statutes are not well suited to . . . what became, after Sept. 11, 2001, principally a military effort to combat Islamic terrorism."

Nonetheless, Senators Charles Schumer and Dianne Feinstein are primarily responsible for making Mukasey our chief law-enforcement officer, even as the secret CIA "black sites" continue to exist under the depraved new rules by which we are now being judged around the globe—and will be judged by history.

Three years ago, Brody foretold the ultimate result: "Ironically, the new administration is now finding that . . . rather than advance the war on terror, the widespread prisoner abuse has damaged efforts to build global support for countering terrorism. . . . Policies adopted to make the United States more secure from terrorism have in fact made it more vulnerable."

Will any candidate for the presidency in 2008 be able to turn us around? So far, this appalling state of affairs has yet to become a campaign issue.

More Nat Hentoff
How We Delight Our Enemies
A former light unto the world, We, the People, have been darkened by this administra

Bush's Man Mukasey
Will the Supreme Court also bow low to the president?

When Judges Attack!
The war president is finding a less pliant judiciary

The Gestapo Inheritance
'We do not torture': Groans from the CIA's black sites beg to differ

Lee Bollinger's Triumph
Will President Ahmadinejad invite President Bollinger to speak in Tehran?

 Go to Original

    Canadian Terror Trial Kept Secret, Groups Say
    The Associated Press

    Wednesday 21 November 2007

Five news organizations complain they are denied access to Guantanamo case.

    Washington - Five news organizations complained Wednesday that they are being denied access to much of the military commission proceeding against a Canadian terror suspect.

    Various arguments in the case of Omar Khadr at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are apparently made via e-mail - a communications channel to which the public has no access - and issues apparently are being raised in closed sessions for which no transcripts or summaries are available, the news organizations, including The Associated Press, wrote in a filing.

    In addition, the filing stated, the public is not permitted access to motions and other documents submitted by the parties and "even the existence of a motion is not currently disclosed in any publicly accessible way."

    "The public is not permitted access to the 'Filings Inventory' of motions, requests for relief and other written records filed with the tribunal," the five organizations added.

    The press recognizes the potential for national security issues and questions of personal safety, "but there have been no findings that these concerns require the wholesale denial of access to the pretrial proceedings in this case," said the five organizations.

    Besides The AP, the organizations are The New York Times Co., Dow Jones & Company Inc., The Hearst Corp. and The McClatchy Company.

    The Pentagon pointed to national security concerns.

    "The review procedures by the military commissions court and trial parties may result in some reasonable delays in making the documents available to the general public," said Navy Cmdr. J.D. Gordon, a Defense Department spokesman.

    Khadr is one of three Guantanamo detainees facing charges under the Military Commissions Act of 2006. The military plans to prosecute as many as 80 of the 305 men at Guantanamo.

    The presiding judge, Army Col. Peter Brownback, has postponed a decision on whether Khadr can be tried by the military as an unlawful enemy combatant. Khadr has not entered a plea, and no trial date has been set.

    First Military Commissions Since WWII

    The military commissions, which will be conducted at Guantanamo Bay, are the first to be conducted since World War II. It is important that the proceeding in the Khadr case not only be fair but that it be perceived as fair, and that cannot happen unless the public is able to follow and understand the events as they transpire, the five news organizations said.

    The Military Commissions Act and its regulations make clear that the public's right to access extends beyond an actual trial to all proceedings, the filing stated.

    In addition, the news organizations argued, the First Amendment protects the press and the public from blocking their rights of access to information about the operation of their government.

    A challenge to the military commission system is pending in the U.S. Supreme Court and lawyers for the detainees at Guantanamo Bay have asked the justices to guarantee they can challenge their indefinite confinement in U.S. civilian courts.

    David Schulz, an attorney representing the news organizations, said he has had no response to a letter to Pentagon general counsel William Haynes over a month ago. The letter stressed the need for media access to a docket of military commission proceedings as well as motion papers and orders in cases, Schulz said in a declaration accompanying the filing to the office of military commissions.


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