Four Things You Need to Know About Barack Obama and U.S. Torture & Detention
May 27, 2009
by the writing team at World Can’t Wait.org
1. Barack Obama did NOT end torture.
Many people think that, upon taking office, Barack Obama ended torture. This is just not true. Under Obama, the U.S has continued to torture prisoners at Guantánamo, where more than 200 detainees are still being held without charge or trial.
According to a February 2009 report by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Guantánamo guards routinely subject detainees to vicious beatings, solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, suffocation, repeated use of tear gas, and the force-feeding of tubes through the nasal passages of hunger strikers. Much of this torture is committed by Guantánamo’s Immediate Reaction Force (IRF) teams, which CCR president Michael Ratner has described as the “black shirts of Guantánamo.”
Quoting from the CCR report: “Detainees are subjected to brutal physical assaults by the Immediate Reaction Force (IRF), a team of military guards comparable to a riot squad, who are trained to respond to alleged ‘disciplinary infractions’ with overwhelming force.” And later in the report: “In Camps 5, 6 and Echo, detainees live in constant fear of physical violence. Frequent attacks by IRF teams heighten this anxiety and reinforce that violence can be inflicted by the guards at any moment for any perceived infraction, or sometimes without provocation or explanation.”
In fact, conditions at Guantánamo have gotten even worse since Obama became president. “Certainly in my experience there have been many, many more reported incidents of abuse since the inauguration,” Ahmed Ghappour, a lawyer representing several Guantánamo detainees, told Reuters in February.1
And, contrary to popular belief and to his own statements, Obama’s executive orders do not ban torture either; they contain several loopholes that allow it to continue. For instance, the order states that interrogation techniques must conform to the Army Field Manual, but Annex M of that manual allows for prolonged solitary confinement and sleep deprivation.The order also established a task force that includes Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Attorney General Eric Holder that is charged with determining whether to implement techniques that go beyond the Army Field Manual. Finally, the order states that prisoners shall be treated humanely, “whenever such individuals are in the custody or under the effective control of an officer, employee, or other agent of the United States Government or detained within a facility owned, operated, or controlled by a department or agency of the United States.”
This raises the obvious question: What about the many instances when the U.S. hands detainees over to other countries–or to prisons run by its puppet governments in Afghanistan and Iraq?
Protests This Week Throughout U.S. Demand Release of Torture Photos
by Obama Administration,
Prosecution of Bush Era War Crimes
What: Highly Visual, Dramatic Protest Demonstrations/Photo
When: May 26-27-28
Where: 15 cities: New York City; Los Angeles; Chicago; San
Francisco; Boston; Seattle; Atlanta; Houston; Cleveland; Philadelphia; Honolulu;
Fresno; Greensboro, NC; Portland, OR; Benton Harbor, MI
(New York City, NY) In the face of the Obama administration’s refusal
to release a reported 2,000 additional photographs of detainee abuse, in spite
of being ordered by a federal court to do so, torture opponents will hold visible
protests to demand that the government make the photos public. In 15 cities,
they will also call for prosecution of those who ordered, legally justified
and carried out torture in US detention and secret prisons during the Bush years.
These protests, called by the national World Can’t Wait organization and
others, will respond to the growing body of evidence of the construction of
a torture apparatus and policies led from the top of the Bush administration
as part of the global “war on terror” after 9-11. Torture opponents are also
critical of Barack Obama’s plan for preventive “prolonged” detention of
people who the US government thinks may commit crimes as announced in his May
21 speech on national security.
“The Bush regime floated the idea of preventive detention, but never tried it.
This has never been done by the US… Continue reading
By Thomas C. Fletcher
Review of new book by David Ray Griffin, Osama Bin Laden: Dead or Alive?
OSAMA BIN LADEN: DEAD OR ALIVE? by David Ray Griffin is a crucially important and timely examination of the whole range of evidence bearing on the question, is Osama bin Laden still alive? The importance of this question for the present comes from the fact that the United States under its new president is escalating its offensive in Afghanistan and expanding the war into Pakistan, and has claimed that the “hunt for bin Laden” is one of its principal motivations for doing so. Either explicitly or implicitly, the US government and major media outlets such as the New York Times and Washington Post continue to assert that bin Laden is alive, hiding in the tribal territories on the “AfPak” border, posing an undiminished threat to US security.
In his gripping new book, Griffin strikes at the root of this pretext for war by closely examining all the evidence that has come out since September 11, 2001, either indicating that bin Laden is still alive or that he is in fact dead. His conclusion is that bin Laden is certainly dead, and that in all likelihood he died in very late 2001. Griffin shows that many US experts in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency came to this very same conclusion long ago, but their views, which do not support the continuation of what President Obama, borrowing the term from Dick Cheney, calls “the long… Continue reading
May 20, 2009
INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATION: Islamist dies in Tripoli shortly after human
rights group visit from Fred Bridgland in Libya
THE ISLAMIST terrorist who was the key source of the false intelligence used
to trigger the US and UK 2003 military invasion of Iraq has been found dead
in a Libyan prison cell.t
Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi allegedly committed suicide by hanging in the prison where
he was being held in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. His death followed a visit
by a team from Human Rights Watch, one of the world’s leading independent organisations
dedicated to defending and protecting human rights.
The al-Libi affair opens a window on an extraordinarily close espionage link
that existed between the government of the former US president, George Bush,
and the authoritarian Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi.
Al-Libi was the unnamed source that Bush, his former secretary of state, Colin
Powell, and other administration officials relied upon prior to the Iraq invasion
to assert that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was helping a terrorist organisation
run by al-Qaeda. Al-Libi was known to Powell and Bush by the codename “Curveball”.
Powell’s speech to the United Nations Security Council on February 5, 2003
was largely based on al-Libi’s coerced testimony – which was extracted from
him in Egyptian torture chambers – even though many US intelligence officials
questioned it at the time and later dismissed it completely. In his address,
aimed at drumming up support for the invasion, Powell said he could “trace
the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training
in these chemical and biological weapons to al-Qaeda”.…
Should the members of the 9/11 Presidential Commission not have been informed
that two of the “key witnesses” upon whom their report was based
had provided the information critical to the report’s conclusions only
after being waterboarded a total of 266 times? … In short, the basic narrative
of the origins and conduct of the 9/11 attack that so fundamentally perverted
American politics relied on cherry-picked information that the White House and
its operative in the field chose to release to the commission.
May 12, 2009
By Robert Scheer
Nancy Pelosi is no Dick Cheney, nor a George W. Bush. She was neither the author
of a systematic policy of torture nor has she been, like Cheney and most top
Republicans in Congress, an enduring apologist for its practice. It is a nonsensical
distraction to place her failure to speak out courageously as a critic of the
Bush policies on the same level as those who engineered one of the most shameful
debacles in U.S. history.
But what she, and anyone else who went along with this evil, as lackadaisically
as she now claims, should be confronted with are the serious implications of
their passive acquiescence. Why did she not speak up, or if it were a matter
of a lack of reliable information, demand an accounting from the executive branch,
as befits a leader of the loyal opposition in Congress?
If the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, and later House
Democratic leader, lacked the authority to… Continue reading
May 11, 2009
The Red Cross is the organization charged with deciding what is torture and
The International Committee of the Red Cross interviewed Khalid Shaikh Mohammed
– the alleged 9/11 mastermind – at Guantánamo Bay.
Here’s what KSM
told the Red Cross (see below for more from a review of this report):
During the harshest period of my interrogation I gave a lot of false information
in order to satisfy what I believed the interrogators wished to hear in order
to make the ill-treatment stop. I later told the interrogators that their
methods were stupid and counterproductive. I’m sure that the false information
I was forced to invent in order to make the ill-treatment stop wasted a lot
of their time and led to several false red-alerts being placed in the U.S.
Straight from the horse’s mouth:
* Torture doesn’t work; and
* The 9/11 Commission report was based on worthless
confessions extracted by torture (and, as I’ve previously discussed, the
witness who fingered Khalid Shaikh Mohammed as the mastermind of 9/11 was himself
rom The New
York Review of Books , a very extensive article with much more important
information about the ICRC Report:
…There is a reverse side, of course, to the “ticking bomb” and
torture: pain and ill-treatment, by creating an unbearable pressure on the detainee
to say something, anything, to make the pain stop, increase the likelihood that
he will fabricate stories, and waste time, or worse.…
May 10, 2009
by Andy Worthington
The Arabic media is ablaze with the news that Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, the emir of an Afghan training camp — whose claim that Saddam Hussein had been involved in training al-Qaeda operatives in the use of chemical and biological weapons was used to justify the invasion of Iraq — has died in a Libyan jail. So far, however, the only English language report is on the Algerian website Ennahar Online, which reported that the Libyan newspaper Oea stated that al-Libi (aka Ali Abdul Hamid al-Fakheri) “was found dead of suicide in his cell,” and noted that the newspaper had reported the story “without specifying the date or method of suicide.”
This news resolves, in the grimmest way possible, questions that have long been asked about the whereabouts of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, perhaps the most famous of “America’s Disappeared” — prisoners seized in the “War on Terror,” who were rendered not to Guantánamo but to secret prisons run by the CIA or to the custody of governments in third countries — often their own — where, it was presumed, they would never be seen or heard from again.
The emir of the Khaldan training camp in Afghanistan, al-Libi was one of hundreds of prisoners seized by Pakistani forces in December 2001, crossing from Afghanistan into Pakistan. Most of these men ended up in Guantánamo after being handed over (or sold) to US forces by their Pakistani allies, but al-Libi was, notoriously, rendered to Egypt by the CIA to be tortured on behalf of the US government.…Continue reading
by Prof. Peter Dale Scott
May 8, 2009
One of the most frustrating features of observing American foreign policy is to see the gap between the encapsulated thinking of the national security bureaucracy and the sensible unfettered observations of the experts outside. In the case of Afghanistan, outside commentators have called for terminating current specific American policies and tactics — many reminiscent of the US in Vietnam.
Observers decry the use of air strikes to decapitate the Taliban and al Qaeda, usually resulting in the death of other civilians. They counsel against is the insertion of more and more US and other foreign troops, in an effort to secure the safety and allegiance of the population. And they regret the on-going interference in the fragile Afghan political process, in order to secure outcomes desired in Washington.1
One root source for this gap between official and outside opinion will not be addressed soon — the conduct of crucial decision-making in secrecy, not by those who know the area, but by those skilled enough in bureaucratic politics to have earned the highest security clearances. However it may be more productive to criticize the mindset shared by the decision-makers, and to point out elements of the false consciousness which frames it, and which should be corrigible by common sense.
Why One Should Think of So-Called “Failed States” as “Ravaged States”
I have in mind the bureaucratically convenient concept of Afghanistan as a failed or failing state. This epithet has been… Continue reading
30 April 2009
By Dennis Loo
If you ask most people what Obama has done about Guantánamo, most would say,
“He shut it down.”
Most don’t know that Obama has said he might take as much as a year to shut
If you ask most people what Obama has done about torture and rendition, most
would say, “He’s ended them.”
Most don’t know that Obama has declared that he will continue rendition,
that he reserves the right to go beyond the Army Field Manual for interrogations,
and that by
not acting affirmatively to ensure otherwise, he has allowed conditions to worsen
If you ask most people what Obama’s done about restoring habeas corpus, most
people would first say, “What’s habeas corpus?”
Then, after you explain to them that habeas corpus is your right to challenge
your detention, most people would say, “He’s restored habeas corpus, hasn’t
Most people don’t know that Obama has said that Bagram prisoners have no
right to habeas corpus and that Gitmo detainees don’t have a right
to it prior to June 2008.
The latest news about what Obama is up to on these fronts follows.
Obama’s DOJ pressed the Court of Appeals to rule that Gitmo prisoners aren’t
“persons,” aren’t entitled to the rights of “persons,” and
that if the Court does find that they are indeed “persons,” then US
officials who ordered and carried out torture and abuse of prisoners should
be immune from prosecution for… Continue reading
Intellectual Dishonesty In The Age Of Universal Deceit:
a message to the corporate media and our elected officials.
By Daniel Sunjata – May 4, 2009
“The inert masses are mentally and spiritually ill equipped to deal with reality, so they block it out of their minds – aided of course, by the corporate media and the propaganda apparatus of the government itself. This is why fantasy is frequently substituted for reality, plutocracy is mistaken for democracy, and the majority of the people do not know the difference. Millions of good people thus refuse to allow into their psyche the suffering and misery that U.S. policies have produced and exported to the world, even as that reality is closing in upon them.” – Charles Sullivan
“They could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality…and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening.” – George Orwell, 1984
“Article XXXIV OBSTRUCTION OF INVESTIGATION INTO THE ATTACKS OF SEPTEMBER 11, 2001” – From the 35 articles of impeachment introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on 06/09/08 in H.Res. 1258 by Congressman Dennis Kucinich
The list is not a short one. It includes professors, architects, aerospace and aviation professionals, structural/mechanical/& aeronautical engineers, demolition experts, firefighters and other first responders, scientists, theologians, senior members of both the military and intelligence communities, Republican administration appointees, state department veterans, and other government officials from the United States and abroad; credible experts of impeccable pedigree with impressive track records from… Continue reading
by Ken Jenkins
How many times has this happened to you? You are explaining to someone some of the rational, logical reasons why the official story of 9/11 can’t be true, perhaps explaining how WTC 7 fell in the exact manner of a professionally planned controlled demolition — a job which would typically take weeks to prepare — when out comes a ‘thought stopper’ phrase like:
“That’s just another conspiracy theory !” or …
“Do you also believe in Big Foot and tin foil hats?”
Or perhaps the person gets angry and/or agitated. Facts no longer matter at that point, and you can tell the person does not want to hear any more. For example, the following response came from someone after they were given a 20-minute summary of 9/11 Truth information:
“I wouldn’t believe that, even if it were true!”
That reaction defies all logic and reason. But it clearly illustrates just how irrational some peoples’ defenses can be. Here are a few more honest responses/defenses:
“As long as my wife and kids are fine and we can live the life style we have, the truth is, I don’t really care what happened on 9/11.” “I would not want to live in a world where such a thing could be true.” “You can’t expect someone to listen to information that turns their world upside down.” “I’m not sure I want to know. If this is true, then up would be down and down would be up. My life would… Continue reading
April 23, 2009
by Prof. Marjorie Cohn
Hayden had confirmed that the Bush administration only waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zabaydah, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashirit for one minute each. I told Franks that I didn’t believe that. Sure enough, one of the newly released torture memos reveals that Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times and Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times. One of Stephen Bradbury’s 2005 memos asserted that “enhanced techniques” on Zubaydah yielded the identification of Mohammed and an alleged radioactive bomb plot by Jose Padilla. But FBI supervisory special agent Ali Soufan, who interrogated Zubaydah from March to June 2002, wrote in the New York Times that Zubaydah produced that information under traditional interrogation methods, before the harsh techniques were ever used.
Why, then, the relentless waterboarding of these two men? It turns out that high Bush officials put heavy pressure on Pentagon interrogators to get Mohammed and Zubaydah to reveal a link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 hijackers, in order to justify Bush’s illegal and unnecessary invasion of Iraq in 2003. That link was never established.
President Obama released the four memos in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU. They describe unimaginably brutal techniques and provide “legal” justification for clearly illegal acts of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. In the face of monumental pressure from the CIA to keep them secret, Obama demonstrated great courage in deciding to make the grotesque memos public. At the same time, however, in… Continue reading
By Mathis Chiroux
WCW Editor’s note: Mathis Chiroux recently was called to appear before a board of U.S. Army officers in St. Louis, Missouri, and answer for his public refusal to participate in the activation and deployment orders for Iraq he had received in the summer of 2008. Mathis’ hearing resulted in a “general discharge under honorable conditions.” The following is a statement Mathis issued shortly after the hearing concluded.
On Apr. 21, I stood before the Army. I looked a board of officers in the eyes, and I told them I thought they were sending people off to participate in war crimes. And what did they say? Get out of here, Sergeant, and keep your damn G.I. Bill!!!
Indeed, folks! The Army awarded me a recommendation for a general discharge under honorable conditions from the Individual Ready Reserve for my refusal to deploy to Iraq last summer. This landmark decision means not only am I a free man, I’m free to continue school this fall with the “new” G.I. Bill that I earned while on active duty.
Though this discharge is identical to the one I refused in exchange for having this hearing, I can now rest easy knowing I never submitted, I never backed down and the Army has heard my story.
And not just my story, but the stories of those brave veterans at Winter Soldier and those who’ve participated in IVAW’s Warrior Writers’ program. Full texts of both books were submitted to the… Continue reading
April 22, 2009
By Chris Floyd
With the release of the U.S. Senate’s report on the Bush Administration torture
program, it is now incontrovertibly clear — and officially established
by the highest, most respectable Establishment institutions — that George
W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and a host of other top officials deliberately,
willingly, and with malice aforethought, established a system of interrogation
using brutal techniques that they knew were against the law. Hence the need
for the torture memos that attempted to give retroactive legal cover for atrocities
that were already taking place at the orders of the White House and the Pentagon.
They were also told repeatedly that these tortures were ineffective at producing
What’s more, it is now undeniable that they began this program long before
they had captured even one "high-profile al Qaeda detainee," and that
they were using these heinous techniques not in a desperate bid to save the
nation from further attacks — which has long been their preening, self-serving
claim — but instead to produce spurious data about the non-existent link
between Iraq and al Qaeda. In other words, George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald
Rumsfeld ordered their minions to beat and torment captives in order to get
them to say something a — anything — that could then be used to
"justify" a war of aggression that these grand statesmen had been
planning long before the September 11 attacks.
You cannot disentangle the torture program from the war… Continue reading
April 21, 2009
by George Washington
5 hours after the 9/11 attacks, Donald Rumsfeld said “my interest is to hit Saddam”.
And at 2:40 p.m. on September 11th, in a memorandum of discussions between top administration officials, several lines below the statement “judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. [that is, Saddam Hussein] at same time”, is the statement “Hard to get a good case.” In other words, top officials knew that there wasn’t a good case that Hussein was behind 9/11, but they wanted to use the 9/11 attacks as an excuse to justify war with Iraq anyway.
And yet, the government knew that Al Qaeda and Iraq were not linked. For example, “Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the [9/11] attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda”.
And a Defense Intelligence Terrorism Summary issued in February 2002 by the United States Defense Intelligence Agency cast significant doubt on the possibility of a Saddam Hussein-al-Qaeda conspiracy.
Images and Words
Anthony Hall is like many other 9/11 skeptics. At some point, after examining the events of 9/11 and the international consequences of that foul deed, (particularly the
consequences that befell countries with a predominantly Arab/Muslim population), Mr. Hall decided to speak out. The difference between Hall and most 9/11 skeptics, is that Mr. Hall is a sitting academic at a university in Lethbridge, Alberta, in Canada.
Hall joined a growing list of Canadian academics who have chosen to speak out publicly; John McMurtry , Graeme MacQueen , Michael Keefer , and of course, Michel Chossudovsky , a pioneer in 9/11 skepticism.
He made his debut as a skeptic of the 9/11 Official Conspiracy Theory (OCT) on September 6, 2008 in Edmonton, Alberta, with a reading of his paper, The Lies and Crimes of 911 . The paper is an excellent introduction to a series of complex, related studies, that encompass globalization, US imperial tendencies, and false-flag terrorism. Hall is well-versed in these issues, and won an Alberta Book Award for his volume, The American Empire and the Fourth World .
The cover features provocative imagery; Apache-like helicopters in place of stars on the American flag, giving no doubt as to Hall’s intent. The image is a very un-subtle, ironic reinterpretation of one of the prime symbols of the American dream; the very banner of Liberty itself is subverted to shock the viewer into a reevaluation of the iconic Red, White and Blue. Just as… Continue reading
by Dave Lindorff
For some time now, many Americans have wondered how Congress, the elected body that the nation’s Founding Fathers saw as the bulwark of liberty, could have been so thoroughly unwilling to, or incapable of challenging the dictatorial power-grabs and the eight-year Constitution wrecking campaign of the Bush/Cheney administration.
There has been speculation on both the far left and the far right, and even among some in the apolitical, cynical middle of the political spectrum, that somehow the Bush/Cheney administration must have been blackmailing at least the key members of the Congressional leadership, most likely through the use of electronic monitoring by the National Security Agency (NSA).
I’ll admit that I considered the idea of blackmail a bit far out. But now suddenly there is at least some evidence that such seemingly wild speculation may not have been off the mark, with reports that the NSA was indeed monitoring Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), and that the Bush Administration used the evidence it had obtained of her improper conversations with and promises to assist agents of the Israeli government and its lobby here in the US, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), to blackmail her into supporting the NSA’s warrantless spying program–the very kind of spying that led to her being caught on tape plotting with an agent of a foreign power.
At the time of the taping of Harman’s incriminating phone conversations, the administration was trying desperately (and ultimately successfully) to get the New York Times to hold off on publishing a shocking investigative report by journalist James Risen about a massive campaign of warrantless tapping of Americans’ phone and internet communications.…Continue reading
April 20, 2009
by Kevin Fenton
History Commons Groups
Former 9/11 Commission Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton recently made some bizarre comments about the Zacarias Moussaoui case in an interview for Vanity Fair. The interview was used for a wide-ranging and very interesting oral history of the Bush White House. Hamilton’s comments appear to show complete ignorance of a key aspect of the investigation of which he was vice chair.
Moussaoui was arrested on an immigration violation due to suspicions he was planning to hijack an aircraft by the Minneapolis FBI on 16 August 2001, nearly four weeks before 9/11. His personal effects contained evidence linking him to eleven of the nineteen alleged hijackers and the local FBI suspected that he was part of a wider plot. It correctly assumed a search of the effects would uncover his links to the other conspirators. However, due to obstruction by FBI headquarters, no warrant was ever granted to search Moussaoui’s belongings. Middle managers at headquarters also failed to properly inform their superiors of the case.
Here are Hamilton’s comments on the Moussaoui case:
We knew, for example–when I say we, I mean the F.B.I. in Minneapolis knew–that those guys in flight-training school were more interested in flying the airplane than they were in taking off and landing. They knew that. Who didn’t know it? The director of the F.B.I. didn’t know it. The director of the C.I.A. did know it. His response was that it was none of his business. Technically correct,… Continue reading