Pentagon Report Whitewashes Gitmo Abuses

Adm. Patrick M. Walsh, the vice chief of Naval Operations, presented his review of conditions of confinement at Guantánamo Bay (PDF) at a briefing at detention facilities at Guantánamo Naval Base yesterday afternoon. The review team interviewed the military leaders in charge of the detention facility as well as staff, interrogators and guards, and spoke with “about a dozen” detainees. The team also observed “enteral” feedings of hunger-striking prisoners, which entails inserting a tube down the detainee’s nose to his stomach to pump in a protein shake twice a day as the detainee is shackled to a chair and his head attached to a metal restraint with Velcro. Adm. Walsh concluded that the detainees at the prison are being held “in conformity with all applicable laws governing the conditions of confinement, including Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.” Secretary Gates endorsed the report and sent it to President Obama over the weekend.

This is the Department of Defense (DoD) review ordered by President Obama under Section 6 of his January 22, 2009 Executive Order (PDF) to determine whether conditions of confinement at Guantánamo conform to Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and to "other applicable laws." Common Article 3 provides that all detainees are legally entitled to humane treatment in all circumstances. Detainees may not be subject to “cruel treatment and torture” or “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment.”

As we all now know, the Bush administration’s views of what constitutes humane treatment have been far off the mark, and led Major General Antonio Taguba (who investigated the abuses in Abu Ghraib) to conclude that “there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes.” It is hard to trust the current Pentagon leadership’s definition of humane treatment and, in fact, Adm. Walsh’s report ignores definitions already set forth in international human rights law and standards when it alleges that “there is no clear definition of `humane’ treatment, in either U.S. or international law.”

Adm. Walsh does not recommend changes that would address the many violations of international and domestic law that the ACLU and other groups, including the detainees’ own lawyers, have identified. Here are some initial points that the report failed to address or consider sufficiently:

  • It does not take into account human rights law and standards (including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) in the review even though such standards are part of the United States’ treaty obligations. In a letter the ACLU wrote to the Assistant Secretary of Defense in early February, at the request of the Pentagon, we urged the review team to ensure it considered these standards.
  • It does not take into account that prisoners brought to Guantánamo as juveniles— including the four currently being held there (Omar Khadr, Mohammed Jawad, Mohammed Khan Tumani and Mohammed el Gharani)—are entitled to special treatment, including special housing, and reintegration and rehabilitation programs, under the United States’ binding treaty obligations.
  • It does not adequately examine the use of force and violence against prisoners by the so-called “Immediate Reaction Force,” e.g., most recently, the mistreatment of Binyam Mohamed who was freed from Guantánamo yesterday but arrived home to Great Britain with fresh bruises.
  • It glosses over the fact that the use of sensory deprivation is still permitted. For example, sleep deprivation continues to be employed (and is enhanced by the use of 24-hour fluorescent lights), as are purposefully loud sounds of guard activity throughout the night, and 2 a.m. wake-up calls for recreational activities. More details of these abusive practices are recounted in the Center for Constitutional Rights’ report on the current conditions in Camps 5, 6, and Echo.
  • It legitimizes inhumane force-feeding.
  • It inadequately presents the input from NGOs and their critique of current conditions and does not provide information about which detainees were picked for interviews, and if they constituted an accurate representation of the larger population of detainees at the camp.

While the report does refer to the devastating effects of prolonged indefinite detention without charge on conditions of confinement, the review team denies that the current policies—of prolonged and indefinite detention—are punitive or constitute a form of collective punishment. The report instead effectively directs blame for the inhumane conditions in which they are kept on the prisoners themselves, alleging that these men, the vast majority of whom have been held without charge or process for eight years, engage in acts of “defiance, non-compliance with camp rules, and manifestations of self harm or attempts to injure or kill camp personnel.” Disturbingly, the report cites several U.S. federal court decisions and federal bureau of prison standards and polices to justify the current inhumane conditions at Guantánamo -- a stark reminder of the inhumane and cruel standards very often permitted in our prison systems under U.S. Supreme Court interpretation of what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

No one denies that conditions at Guantánamo have improved over the years, especially with regard to interrogation methods, and the report does make some helpful suggestions, including that interrogations be videotaped, that the repatriation of detainees should be expedited, and that “further socialization is essential to maintain humane treatment.” The report must not be seen as vindication for seven years of illegal Bush detention and treatment policies at Guantánamo. Adm. Walsh’s 13-day review of Guantánamo, by design, provides only a snapshot of Guantánamo at this moment in time, and a questionable one at that, given the inability the Defense Department to police itself and what’s known about conditions at the prison camp. Moreover, Adm. Walsh himself acknowledges his team did not scrutinize whether the camp had complied with the Geneva standards throughout its history or interview former prisoners who claimed they were tortured.

The ball is now in the President’s court to permit that truly independent review and to improve conditions immediately. The ACLU and other human rights groups requested full access to the camps to do their own review of camp conditions in late January. As Adm. Walsh himself recognized, in a recommendation to President Obama:

[c]onsider inviting non-governmental organizations and appropriate international organizations to send representatives to visit Guantánamo, in a manner that does not jeopardize the current relationship with the ICRC and is consistent with security and safety of the detainees and guard force.

This will be another test of whether the President abides by his declared intention of breaking from disastrous Bush administration policies.

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Vic Livingston

GUANTANAMO WILL LOOK LIKE A BAD DETENTION HALL WHEN THE FULL SCOPE OF DOMESTIC TORTURE AND ABUSE OF THOUSANDS OF U.S. CITIZENS -- BY THE ONGOING, NATIONWIDE 'EXTRAJUDICIAL PUNISHMENT NETWORK' -- BECOMES WIDELY KNOWN.

IT IS AN AMERICAN GENOCIDE. IT INFECTS EVERY SECURITY/INTELLIGENCE/LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY IN THE NATION, AS WELL AS THE IRS. IT HELPED COLLAPSE THE ECONOMY. AND CONGRESS IS LARGELY OBVIOUS TO THIS COVERT EVIL.

THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION MUST CONFRONT THESE ABUSES, THESE CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY, NOW -- BEFORE MORE VICTIMS SUCCUMB TO AMERICA'S HORRIFIC SHAME.

GATES, BRENNAN, BLAIR, MUELLER, KAPPES AND SULLIVAN ARE AMONG OFFICIAL WHO MUST KNOW OF THESE 'PROGRAMS'... THE BUSH D.O.J. APPROVAL OF THE COVERT 'USE' OF SILENT, POTENTIALLY LETHAL, ILLNESS-INDUCING RADIATION WEAPONRY ON 'TARGETED' BUT INNOCENT U.S. CITIZENS.

BUT HAVE THEY TOLD TEAM OBAMA?

MR. PRESIDENT, AMERICA *DOES* TORTURE. NOT JUST ABROAD. HERE AT HOME.

AND THE TORTURE IS CONTINUING ON YOUR WATCH.

PLEASE ACT. NOW.

ACLU, ARE YOU LISTENING?

http://www.nowpublic.com/world/gestapo-usa-govt-funded-vigilante-network...

http://www.nowpublic.com/world/domestic-torture-radiation-weaponry-ameri...

OR (if links are corrupted/disabled):

http://www.NowPublic.com/scrivener

Evelyne Shuster, PhD

The closing of Gitmo and other similar detention facilities is a categorical imperative. They should be closed unconditionally and this should be done now. Any delays for any reason are ethically and legally unacceptable. Torture, including force-feeding at Gitmo or anywhere else, is a human rights violation and a crime against humanity. American judges at Nuremberg in 1947 condemned Nazi doctors for their involvement in torturous human experimentation. We, as Americans, should live up to the ethical standards we set for others.

Mitch

You people will destroy this country from within. I'm so livid I don't know where to begin. You do NOT have the country's best interests at heart. You seek to weaken us by any means at your disposal, including traitorous acts. I saw an article today where one more act of treason is perpetrated by you looneytoons. Now you're telling people to IGNORE border patrol agents!! You don't have a clue what it takes to protect this country. Actually, you aren't concerned with that at all. The ACLU is colonized by the crybaby contingent of society. I just hope we can survive the onslaught to our freedoms. Your ilk infuriates me and beyond that, it SCARES the pants off all of us logical-thinking types. You should be marched right out of the country. You sicken me.

Vic Livingston

ONCE AGAIN, AN ATTEMPT TO POST A POLITICAL COMMENTARY TO A POLITICAL BLOG ELICTED A 'HELD FOR BLOG OWNER' MESSAGE...

WHEN THE SITE IN QUESTION IMMEDIATELY POSTS ALL COMMENTS UNLESS FOUL LANGUAGE WAS USED.

The blog, once again, was The Washington Post's "44: The Obama Presidency" -- specifically, a thread concerning the President's revised and delayed timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.

In the interests of free speech...

...and in a continuing battle against apparent government "fusion center" prior restraint and censorship of telecommunications, here is the post that "they" don't want you to see:

**************************************

The article linked below originally was headlined:

"SHADOW GOVERNMENT SHACKLES OBAMA ON TORTURE."

Addendum:

"...AND IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN."

http://www.nowpublic.com/world/shadow-government-shackles-obama-torture

Mr. President: At the very least, please immediately make good on your campaign pledge to restore constitutional and human rights:

End the ONGOING Bush-Cheney "Extrajudicial Punishment Network" that is using vigilantes and radiation weaponry to covertly degrade the lives of innocent but "targeted" U.S. citizens...

...and dismantle the array of "programs of personal financial destruction" that have led to the economic crisis:

http://www.nowpublic.com/world/gestapo-usa-govt-funded-vigilante-network...

http://www.nowpublic.com/world/domestic-torture-radiation-weaponry-ameri...

OR (if links are corrupted/disabled):
http://NowPublic.com/scrivener

Mike

It is so funny you invoke Nuremberg as a model. If you compare military commissions to Nuremberg trials you would see that detainees have far greater rights, more consistant with western jurisprudence than those at Nuremberg.

Red White and Blue

Maybe every ACLU member could adopt a terrorist from Gitmo. It would be like "Take your Terrorist Home" day. I do not want them in my neighborhood.

These people are terrorists and should be treated that way. They have no rights.

Jeff Peterson

If these "What is the buzz word today" I'll use scum where tried like they where in Nuremburg, they would have been hung by now. Evelyne Why don't you pack up your PHD with the rest of your sheep and go to Afghanistan and teach the Taliban how to change their ways.LIVE FREE OR DIE

Joey

To all who want Gitmo closed, I hope they send these terrorists to your neghiborhoods, homes, and schools!

Free Speech for...

you'd think the ACLU of all entities would realize the obvious fact that:

"Major General Antonio Taguba (who investigated the abuses in Abu Ghraib) to conclude that “there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes.”

Major Taguba's personal observations as a bitterly disenfranchised Filipino US Army Officer, do not equate to due process for even the most villified American citizen.
I'll call Bush a war criminal when the jury delivers the verdict, not when the endless parade of critics who level plenty of charges they conveniently don't bother to prove, tells me to. (no, I don't even like the dirtbag. I dislike witch hunts even more)

Hawaiian style

Mitch #3... Thanks for that objective well reasoned opinion.

Red #6 How do you know they are terrorists? I am not sure about having you in mine.

Jeff #7 If you think you are living free here and now in the US you ARE dead, at least from the neck up.

The Pentagon is just like the rest of the Government. Their ability to tell the truth is compromised by both valid and invalid "national security" problems. In a world where no government I know of "tells the truth", why should their report be any different?

I get the impression in the last few years that Congress, the President, and apparently the Pentagon are making decisions based on "urgency", money and politics all of which lead to bad decisions if made in haste.

We need more deliberation; more consideration of the costs, the consequences, the lives to be lost, the in and out strategy. We need to consider the consequences of torture, of bailouts, and of keeping the public in the dark. We need to rethink the "national security" defense in court, and we need to rethink the legality and the consequences of an imperial Presidency.

We need to have a blue ribbon panel look at the damage and changes that have been made to the Constitution, and make recommendations on how to preserve it, or propose changes. Changes that the people have a voice in, not changes by fiat.

On the one hand Osama certainly changed the course of this nation, the politics and the finances; on the other hand "the war on terror" has pointed out many weaknesses in our Democracy and our Power structures. It certainly pointed out the need for better decision making where the maker has too much power and not enough input from the rest of us.

We all know that Democracy is messy and inefficient and slow and frustrating, but it has worked better than any other political system.

Our job now is to fix the problems not the blame.

One possible solution to the Congressional inability to divorce itself from politics in its decisions would be as follows:

For Presidential campaigns...

Federal money would be the only allowable source of funds.

It would fund all candidates in their campaigning, their debates, and pay for the elections.

Presidential candidate would be allowed to express any ideas, but would not be allowed to accept endorsements or express a party affiliation.

Maybe we could then stop one party or the other from making Congressional decisions based on party and politics.

We could possibly stop one party from just saying no to all programs and ideas from the President just because he is of the other party.

??

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