Tag Archives: torture

White House Prepares to Defend CIA Nomination of Torture Authority Gina Haspel

Gina Haspel, current Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and nominee to lead the agency, is facing a wave of resistance from civil liberties advocates, Senators, and physicians who say her connection to past torture programs make her unfit to head the CIA. Haspel was involved in CIA “black site” prisons in Thailand and other foreign nations, and is known to have supported the use of torture. Further, Haspel is accused of destroying taped evidence of waterboarding and other forms of torture.

On Thursday, The Hill reported that the Trump Administration drafted a 27-page memo full of “talking points” meant to bolster the standing of Gina Haspel during her nomination hearing with the Senate Intelligence Committee on May 9. According to The Hill, the five main talking points highlight Haspel’s “experience and ‘common-sense’ leadership and note that she would be the first woman to lead the intelligence agency.” If her supporters are pressed about certain issues, including Haspel’s role in past torture incidents, they are encouraged to emphasize that “she is an ‘intelligence and national security expert’ who follows the law as written, and has demonstrated strong and clear leadership in very challenging positions.”

In a Reality Check last month, Ben Swann examined why Haspel’s nomination has come under scrutiny, detailing her past at the CIA including her supervision of “Cat’s Eye,” a CIA “black site” prison in Thailand.


The American Civil Liberties Union condemned the administration and the CIA for supporting Haspel’s history of involvement in torture programs. “While the CIA has said that it is “committed to transparency,” it has so far only granted senators — and not the public — access to some classified information about Haspel,” the ACLU wrote.

“Last week, the CIA disclosed a 2011 memo — written by a former CIA official with a record of excusing torture — which supposedly cleared Haspel of responsibility for the destruction of evidence documenting the brutal torture of a man in CIA custody in 2002. But the CIA shouldn’t get to cherry-pick which documents it will declassify — while hiding the most important torture records.”

Haspel’s nomination has also been opposed by a coalition of physicians and health professionals who say she is unfit to be in a position of authority. On May 3, The Physicians for Humans Rights wrote a public letter noting that Haspel supervised the first “black site” in Thailand, “where agency personnel tortured detainees using waterboarding and other long-outlawed techniques.”

The letter states:

“As health experts who understand the profound mental, physical, and societal effects of torture, we oppose the selection of a nominee who helped conceal the use of torture and held a leadership position at a “black site” where it occurred. She was in a position to know about and influence aspects of a program that purposefully inflicted severe suffering and harm on individuals, to whom the United States has yet to provide rehabilitation or redress as required under the UN Convention Against Torture, a treaty ratified by the United States. Moreover, the program enlisted health professionals to inflict this harm, a grave breach of medical ethics. In Thailand, Haspel worked with contract psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who developed the experimental torture methods used on Abu Zubaydah, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, and many others.”

The ACLU notes that “one former CIA official told The Daily Beast that Haspel ‘ran the interrogation program.'” The Daily Beast has previously confirmed that Haspel “was in a position of responsibility” during the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi Citizen who has been held in Guantanamo Bay due to accusations of terrorism. The Senate report on CIA torture examined the treatment of Zubaydah and found that the CIA’s own emails described his torture:

“In at least one waterboarding session, Abu Zubaydah ‘became completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth. According to CIA records, Abu Zubaydah remained unresponsive until medical intervention, when he regained consciousness and expelled ‘copious amounts of liquid.’”

In addition, Joseph Margulies, attorney for Zubaydah, recently filed a motion in court requesting a federal judge order the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to conduct a search for reportedly destroyed tapes which document the torture of Zubaydah and others. Courthouse News noted that “the motion also included a sworn declaration from Gail Helt, who said she believes some of the tapes still exist”. Helt told Courthouse News she believes Haspel’s “confirmation would send the message to subordinates that there are no consequences for anything, raising the likelihood that this happens again. I hope senators keep that in mind as they cast their votes.”

The destruction of these torture tapes is a significant part of why the public is largely still in the dark about torture. Haspel and her supporters have said she was simply following orders when she ordered her subordinates to destroy documentation of torture. The destruction of these torture tapes was reportedly ordered by Jose Rodriguez, former director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center. In 2005 he ordered the destruction of more than 90 videotapes that showed detainees undergoing waterboarding and other torture methods. When he was finally questioned under oath regarding why he ordered the videos destroyed, Rodriguez acknowledged that “it would make the CIA look bad, and almost, in my view, destroy the clandestine service because of it.”

In August 2017, a confidential agreement was reached between two psychologists tasked with designing and implementing the CIA’s torture program and the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU originally filed suit against James Mitchell and John Bruce Jessen in October 2015, accusing them of operating a “joint criminal enterprise” via their creation and promotion of violent torture methods. After the ACLU consistently overcame every legal barrier, the trial was scheduled to begin in June 2017. However, due to the Trump administration’s attempts to stop officials from testifying, U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush set a new date before a settlement was eventually reached. The settlement allowed Mitchell, Jessen, and the CIA to avoid the release of more damaging information related to the controversial torture program.

During the trial, the defense asked the judge to order Haspel “to provide a deposition discussing her allegedly pivotal involvement in an episode the CIA has tried repeatedly to put behind it.” However, the Trump administration and then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo asserted “state secrets” and kept Haspel from being questioned.

The continued secrecy surrounding Haspel’s true role in implementing the CIA’s torture program signals that the federal government seeks to conceal the actions taken by the latest nominee to head the world’s largest spy agency. A Washington Post article published May 6 has reported that Haspel “sought to withdraw her nomination Friday” in light of concern from White House officials that her background in torturing terrorism suspects might prevent her confirmation, according to four senior U.S. officials. “Haspel told the White House she was interested in stepping aside if it avoided the spectacle of a brutal confirmation hearing on Wednesday and potential damage to the CIA’s reputation and her own, the officials said.”

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Rand Paul Announces He’ll Oppose Trump’s State Dept. & CIA Nominees

Washington, D.C.— Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced on Wednesday that he would oppose President Trump’s nominees to head the State Department and CIA, potentially impeding their path to Senate confirmation.

“I will oppose both Pompeo’s nomination and Haspel’s nomination,” Paul said.

Trump announced the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday, and nominated CIA Director Mike Pompeo, an aggressive foreign policy hawk, to serve as his new Secretary of State – while nominating Gina Haspel, the CIA’s deputy director, to serve as the new head of the CIA after Pompeo moves to the State Department.

Paul said he was “perplexed” how Trump could nominate Pompeo given his support for regime change in Iraq as well as support and advocacy for regime change in Iran. The libertarian leaning Republican senator said Pompeo’s support of regime change contradicts the skepticism Trump expressed on the campaign trail toward foreign interventions and regime change.

“It perplexes me that he is now nominating someone for secretary of State who has advocated and pushed for regime change in Iran,” Paul said.

Haspel, who oversaw the U.S. torture program at a secret CIA prison and later destroyed the recorded evidence, is a lighting rod for controversy given her intimate participation in the torture of individuals suspected by the US of being connected to terrorism. Paul noted his opposition for Haspel’s nomination due to her role in the Bush-era CIA torture program at black site prisons.

“My opposition to her is over her direct participation in interrogation and her gleeful enjoyment of someone being tortured,” said Paul.

“I find it just amazing that anyone would consider having this woman as the head of the CIA,” Paul said. “Certainly, there is a career officer at the CIA who did not directly participate in waterboarding that we can nominate,” he continued. “Rewarding someone who was in charge of something so heinous is a really big mistake.”

CBS News reports that Paul’s opposition to Haspel’s nomination could put her potential confirmation as head of the CIA in jeopardy if all 49 Democratic Senators voted against Haspel – with only one other Republican, aside from Paul, needing to vote no to block her nomination. Paul did not rule out a filibuster to prevent Pompeo from being confirmed.

Trump Calls for Laws Allowing Expansion of Torture ‘To Beat ISIS’

After he was criticized for claiming that he could force the United States military to break the current law banning torture methods like waterboarding, Donald Trump backtracked his comments and said instead that he would like to change the laws to include waterboarding “at a minimum.”

Trump has been vocal in the past regarding the issue of how to deal with suspected terrorists, and in December he said that not only should the U.S. target terrorists, but also their families.

“The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families,” Trump said. “They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families.”

Trump has also voiced support for bringing back waterboarding. In November, he said, “I think waterboarding is peanuts compared to what they do to us.”

When asked about his stance on waterboarding at a GOP debate in February, Trump said he would “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” because in the Middle East, “we have people chopping the heads off Christians, we have people chopping the heads off many other people.”

[RELATED: GOP Candidates Voice Support for Waterboarding, Increasing Guantanamo Detainees]

In response to Trump’s comments, former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden said that Trump’s plans to target the families of terrorists, and to bring back “enhanced interrogation techniques” that are “worse than waterboarding,” would result in the American armed forces refusing to act.

[U.S. military personnel] are not required — in fact you are required not to follow an unlawful order,” Hayden said. “That would be in violation of all the international laws of armed conflict.

[RELATED: Ex-CIA Chief: ‘American Armed Forces Would Refuse to Act’ if Trump Ordered Torture]

During a GOP debate Thursday, Fox News Host Bret Baier asked Trump what he would do if the military “refused to carry out” his orders.

“They won’t refuse,” Trump replied. “They’re not going to refuse me. Believe me.”

“But they’re illegal,” Baier said.

Trump said he wants to bring back waterboarding because members of ISIS are “chopping off the heads of Christians” and “drowning people in steel cages.” He also said he justifies targeting the families of terrorists, because in the case of the terrorists hijacking airplanes on 9/11, their families “knew what was happening.”

When Baier questioned Trump’s suggestion to “target” the families of terrorists, Trump responded, “I’m a leader. I’m a leader. I’ve always been a leader. I’ve never had any problem leading people. If I say do it, they’re going to do it. That’s what leadership is all about.”

Trump then released a statement to The Wall Street Journal on Friday claiming that he “will not order our military or other officials to violate those laws.”

[pull_quote_center]I will use every legal power that I have to stop these terrorist enemies. I do, however, understand that the United States is bound by laws and treaties and I will not order our military or other officials to violate those laws and will seek their advice on such matters. I will not order a military officer to disobey the law. It is clear that as president I will be bound by laws just like all Americans and I will meet those responsibilities.[/pull_quote_center]

On an appearance on CBS’ Face the Nation, which aired Sunday, host John Dickerson asked Trump what made him change his position on the issue.

Trump claimed he wasn’t asked about “violating laws,” and said that because the U.S. has “an enemy that doesn’t play by the laws,” that enemy is “laughing at us right now.”

“I would like to strengthen the laws so that we can better compete,” Trump said. “It’s very tough to beat enemies that don’t have any restrictions, all right? We have these massive restrictions.”

Dickerson questioned how Trump would go about expanding the law, and Trump said he wants waterboarding to be allowed “at a minimum.”

“I happen to think that when you’re fighting an enemy that chops off heads, I happen to think that we should use something that is stronger than we have right now,” Trump said. “Right now, basically water-boarding is essentially not allowed, as I understand it.”

When asked why waterboarding has been banned, Trump said he believes it is because the U.S. is weak. “I think we have become very weak and ineffective,” he explained. “I think that’s why we’re not beating ISIS. It’s that mentality.”

[pull_quote_center]I think we’re weak. We cannot beat ISIS. We should beat ISIS very quickly. General Patton would have had ISIS down in about three days. General Douglas MacArthur — we are playing by a different set of rules. We are — let me just put it differently. When the ISIS people chop off the heads, and then they go back to their homes and they talk, and they hear we’re talking about water-boarding like it’s the worst thing in the world, and they just drowned a hundred people and chopped off 50 heads, they must think we are a little bit on the weak side.[/pull_quote_center]

Trump claimed that he wants to bring back waterboarding because while the U.S. is “playing by rules,” ISIS has no rules.

Dickerson questioned whether the current rules were what “separates us from the savages.” 

Trump insisted that “we have to beat the savages,” and he said that could only be done if the U.S. will “play the game the way they’re playing the game.”

[pull_quote_center]Look, you have to play the game the way they’re playing the game. You’re not going to win if we are soft, and they are ­— they have no rules. Now, I want to stay within the laws. I want to do all of that. But I think we have to increase the laws, because the laws are not working, obviously. All you have to do is take a look what is going on. And they’re getting worse. They’re chopping, chopping, chopping, and we’re worried about waterboarding. I think our priorities are mixed up.[/pull_quote_center]

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GOP Candidates Voice Support for Waterboarding, Increasing Guantanamo Detainees

Seven of the remaining GOP candidates participated in a debate hosted by ABC News in Manchester, New Hampshire on Saturday, and when asked about waterboarding and other methods of torture used by the CIA, several candidates voiced their support.

The topic came up when moderator David Muir noted a comment Texas Sen. Ted Cruz made in Dec. 2014, when discussing the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the forms of torture used by the CIA on suspected terrorists after 9/11.

Muir noted that at the time Cruz said, “Torture is wrong, unambiguously, period. Civilized nations do not engage in torture,” and then Muir asked if Cruz would classify waterboarding as torture.

Cruz said that “under the definition of torture,” waterboarding would be classified as “enhanced interrogation,” due to the fact that it is not “excruciating pain that is equivalent to losing organs and system.”

[pull_quote_center]Well, under the definition of torture, no, it’s not. Under the law, torture is excruciating pain that is equivalent to losing organs and systems, so under the definition of torture, it is not. It is enhanced interrogation, it is vigorous interrogation, but it does not meet the generally recognized definition of torture.[/pull_quote_center]

When asked if he would bring back waterboarding as president, Cruz said he would not bring it back “in any sort of widespread use,” but that if it were necessary to “prevent a city from facing an imminent terrorist attack,” he would “use whatever enhanced interrogation methods we could to keep this country safe.”

[pull_quote_center]I would not bring it back in any sort of widespread use. And indeed, I joined with Senator McCain in legislation that would prohibit line officers from employing it because I think bad things happen when enhanced interrogation is employed at lower levels. But when it comes to keeping this country safe, the commander in chief has inherent constitutional authority to keep this country safe. And so, if it were necessary to, say, prevent a city from facing an imminent terrorist attack, you can rest assured that as commander in chief, I would use whatever enhanced interrogation methods we could to keep this country safe.[/pull_quote_center]

Muir then turned to business mogul Donald Trump, who voiced his support for bringing back waterboarding in Nov. 2015 when he said, “I think waterboarding is peanuts compared to what they do to us.”

Trump shared a similar sentiment at the debate and said he would “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” because in the Middle East, “we have people chopping the heads off Christians, we have people chopping the heads off many other people.”

[pull_quote_center]We have things that we have never seen before— as a group, we have never seen before, what’s happening right now. The medieval times— I mean, we studied medieval times— not since medieval times have people seen what’s going on. I would bring back waterboarding and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.[/pull_quote_center]

While former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said he wouldn’t bring waterboarding back, he also said he believes the United States needs to expand its “intelligence capabilities,” and he said he believes closing the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay would be a “complete disaster.”

[pull_quote_center]Congress has changed the laws, and I think where we stand is the appropriate place. But what we need to do is to make sure that we expand our intelligence capabilities. The idea that we’re going to solve this fight with predator drones, killing people somehow is more acceptable than capturing them, securing the information. This is why closing Guantanamo is a complete disaster.[/pull_quote_center]

When asked if he believes waterboarding is torture, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said he that when people “talk about interrogating terrorists” they acts as if “this is some sort of law enforcement function,” when instead it is “anti-terrorism.”

[pull_quote_center]When people talk about interrogating terrorists, they’re acting like this is some sort of law enforcement function. Law enforcement is about gathering evidence to take someone to trial, and convict them. Anti-terrorism is about finding out information to prevent a future attack so the same tactics do not apply.[/pull_quote_center]

Rubio also said he believes they should not be discussing “in a widespread way the exact tactics that we’re going to use,” because that could allow “terrorist(s) to know to practice how to evade us,” and he went on to criticize the release of detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

[pull_quote_center]Here’s the bigger problem with all this, we’re not interrogating anybody right now. Guantanamo’s being emptied by this president. We should be putting people into Guantanamo, not emptying it out, and we shouldn’t be releasing these killers who are rejoining the battlefield against the United States.[/pull_quote_center]

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Military Judge Denies New Lawyer for 9/11 Suspect as Trial Delays Continue

Following days of back and forth arguments, Judge Army Col. James Pohl ruled on Thursday that a Yemeni man accused of helping orchestrate the 9/11 attacks cannot fire his attorney.

“You have not shown good cause and as a result I will not terminate Ms. Bormann’s relationship with you,” Pohl said at a hearing at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The ruling comes after a closed-door session was held on Wednesday between defendant Walid bin Attash, his lawyers, and Pohl to discuss the possibility of the man defending himself in court.

Bin Attash faces charges related to hijacking, terrorism, war crimes and conspiring with militants for his role in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. The trial of bin Attash and four other men accused of the attacks have long been delayed due to accusations of the government spying on the defense team.

On Monday, bin Attash stated that he felt he could no longer trust his defense team and wanted to fire his lead defense attorney Cheryl Bormann. He also told Pohl he had privileged information to share. The Military Times reports that Pohl told bin Attash to let go of the idea of representing himself. “It’s a bad idea … you conflated three separate issues,” he said.

According to the Miami Herald, on Wednesday Bin Attash submitted two documents which detail his reasons for wanting to remove Bormann. The documents were not made public. Judge Pohl might rule on the matter as early as Thursday.

At Monday’s hearing Pohl also ruled on a dispute which has plagued the entire trial. The defense team has accused the government of using informants to attempt to gain information on the defense strategy. However, Pohl ruled there was no conflict or potential conflict during the tribunal.

The Military Times reported that U.S. Attorney Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez told the government that there was “no conflict of interest” to investigate and called the accusations of planted informants “a red herring.”

The conflict of interest first became an issue in 2014 when the defense attorneys for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four alleged co-conspirators said they believed they were being spied on by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Foreign Policy reported, “the FBI had secretly conducted an investigation into possible wrongdoing on the part of one or more members of the five separate defense teams (one for each defendant). Such an investigation could put defense team members in the untenable position of having to provide information to defend themselves or others against possible criminal action — information that could be used against the interests of their own clients.” 

There was also the issue of interference from outside sources during the hearings. FP continues:

 “In January 2013, the court’s audio-visual feed, visible to a small set of commission observers, was abruptly cut off by someone other than Judge Pohl; previously, Pohl was believed to be the only person with the authority to use the unique-to-Guantanamo ‘kill-switch.’ Later, a clearly annoyed Pohl learned that something called the Original Classification Authority (OCA) — which is likely the CIA given that most of the information subject to censorship in the case is related to the agency’s rendition, detention, and interrogation program — had hit the kill switch. Judge Pohl promptly cut off their privileges.

In February 2013, it was revealed that listening devices were hidden within smoke detectors, possibly infringing upon attorney-client privileges. The defense also claimed their emails and work files were disappearing. Former defendant Ramzi bin al-Shibh was also removed from the trial by the judge in an attempt to speed the process along after so many delays. However, critics argue that al-Shibh was removed because he refused to be quiet, complaining loudly of sleep deprivation.

The trial of the men accused of the terror attacks on September 11, 2001 has been nothing short of a sham. No justice will be found in this military kangaroo court. Regardless of the crime they stand accused of, these men are owed their day in a court of impartial judges. Unfortunately, the last 14 years of controversies have shown that these men will not receive anything closely resembling a fair and speedy trial owed to them by the 6th amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Carly Fiorina Defends CIA Torture, Handed HP Servers To NSA

GOP presidential candidate and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina defended the torture tactics used by the CIA in the aftermath of 9/11, and revealed her direct involvement in aiding the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ data.

In an interview with Yahoo News published on Monday, Fiorina insisted that the methods of torture used by the CIA to attempt to extract information from suspected Al-Qaeda operatives after 9/11, such as waterboarding, helped “keep our nation safe.”

“I believe that all of the evidence is very clear — that waterboarding was used in a very small handful of cases [and] was supervised by medical personnel in every one of those cases,” Fiorina said. “And I also believe that waterboarding was used when there was no other way to get information that was necessary.”

[RELATED: Report Claims Medical Professionals In CIA Torture Program May Have Committed War Crimes]

heavily redacted summary of the Senate report on the torture methods, or “enhanced interrogation tactics,” was released in December 2014, and found that the program was abused and mishandled by the CIA.

The report claimed that the CIA misled government officials on the level of brutality being used in its torture program, and the effectiveness of the techniques used.

[RELATED: Senate Torture Report Bombshell: CIA Lied to Lawmakers, Used Techniques More Brutal Than Claimed]

Fiorina also said that she had received a phone call from former NSA director Michael Hayden shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, asking her to “quickly provide his agency with HP computer servers for expanded surveillance.”

[RELATED: Former NSA Director Heckled For Calling Himself A ‘Libertarian’]

Hayden told Yahoo News that he used the HP servers to implement Stellar Wind, “the controversial warrantless wiretapping program, including the bulk collection of American citizens’ phone records and emails, that had been secretly ordered by the Bush White House.”

“I felt it was my duty to help, and so we did,” said Fiorina, confirming that she redirected a truck of HP servers from retail stores to the NSA’s headquarters.

“They were ramping up a whole set of programs and needed a lot of data crunching capability to try and monitor a whole set of threats,” Fiorina said. “What I knew at the time was our nation had been attacked.”

Fiorina also said that she has advised the NSA and the CIA to be “transparent as possible about as much as possible,” and that while she supports checks and balances, she is “not aware of circumstances” in which NSA surveillance “went too far” in its collection of Americans’ data.

Fiorina noted that she had once made a recommendation that former CIA Counterterrorism Center chief Jose Rodriguez, who was subjected to a criminal investigation after directing the destruction of videotapes showing waterboarding of detainees, should become a spokesman for the CIA. According to Yahoo News, Rodriguez was “very impressed with her then — and now.”

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Federal Judge Criticizes Obama Admin for Stalling Release of Force Feeding Videos

On Thursday the Obama administration came under fire after another delay in the release of classified footage that shows a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay being forcibly removed from his cell and force-fed.

According to The Intercept, U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler admonished lawyers with the Department of Justice after they admitted they had only redacted eight of the 32 tapes and would not be ready to hand them over until August 31.

Judge Kessler was not happy with that response. “We’re going to move forward,” she stated. Judge Kessler has clashed with the government’s attorneys throughout the case. In October 2014, Kessler ruled that the Obama Administration must unseal 32 video tapes related to the force-feeding of Abu Wa’el Dhiab, who was then being held without charge at the military prison in Guatanamo Bay, Cuba.

Dhiab was kidnapped by the Pakistani government in 2002 before being handed over to the United States on suspicion of terrorism. He was held for twelve years without a trial.

The videos in question show Dhiab subjected to violent “forced cell extraction” and forced-feeding. The forced-feeding sessions began after he refused to eat. Dhiab’s lawyers allege that he was subject to this process over 1,300 times. He had been protesting his treatment and conditions at the prison by participating in a hunger strike which at one point had spread to 100 detainees in the facility.

After the Obama Administration attempted to use Executive Order 13,526 (which governs the Executive Branch’s classification of national security information) to deny the release of the tapes, Judge Kessler said it “would displace the court’s power to seal its own record, putting that authority in the government’s hands alone.” She also stated, “the judiciary has the discretion to seal or unseal a judicial record.”

Once again the Obama administration appealed the decision. The appeal failed in May. Judge Kessler said it “was as frivolous an appeal as I’ve ever seen.”

The government told Judge Kessler that the delays were caused by the Pentagon’s video editors, stating that the process has “proven to be much more burdensome and time-consuming.” Attorneys for the government told the judge that the project was “very difficult” and that video editors are tasked with going frame by frame to redact names, faces and other identifiers.

Dhiab’s attorney suggested that rather than release all 32 tapes the government should release one hour-and-a-half video compilation. Judge Kessler is expected to make a ruling as early as Friday. Kessler will decide how many videos need to be redacted and how long of a window the government has. The Obama administration is expected to appeal once more before the tapes are officially released to the public.

The Obama Administration Fears the Release of the Videos

The government had previously argued that the release of any footage of the force-feeding “provides the enemy with opportunity to search for weaknesses and vulnerabilities”. When President Obama attempted to seal the videos several news organizations came together in opposition of such a move, including ABC News, Associated Press, First Look Media, Guardian, McClatchy, NPR, New York Times and Reuters.

Judge Kessler sided with the organizations and Dhiab. Kessler called the governments arguments“unacceptably vague, speculative,”and “plain implausible.” She stated that:

“It is our responsibility, as judges, as part of our obligation under the Constitution, to ensure that any efforts to limit our First Amendment protections are scrutinized with the greatest of care. That responsibility can not be ignored or abdicated.”

The government has also attempted to keep the hearings away from the public eye, but, once again, Judge Kessler intervened. Judge Kessler ruled that the U.S. government could not close the hearing and called the efforts by the Department of Justice “deeply troubling.” Even more telling is the fact that during those hearings the government was not able to get a single witness to testify in favor of the forced-feeding practices.

Dhiab was subject to forced-feedings even after his health was decreasing. Kevin Gosztola of Fire Dog Lake writes:

“As lawyers highlight in their filing, an “evidentiary hearing” established that the government had ordered Dhiab to be force-fed, even though his life was not “at imminent risk from malnutrition.”

Medical personnel would lubricate the feeding tubes with olive oil. Not only was this a departure from “standard medical practice,” it put him at risk of a “rare and untreatable form of pneumonia.”

When Dhiab was force-fed, he was strapped in a “five-point restraint chair which caused him substantial pain, in disregard of a medical staff recommendation for the less-painful use of a one-point restraint.” He was force-fed twice a day instead of leaving the tube in place for “up to four weeks, which caused him needless pain.”

At the end of 2014, after twelve years behind bars with no trial, Abu Wa’el Dhiab was finally released to Uruguay. The violence and forced-feeding procedures have caused permanent damage to his health and he is now confined to a wheelchair.

Over 100 International Groups Call on US to Prosecute Torture

Friday June 26th will mark International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. This day is an opportunity for the people of the world to “reaffirm the universal commitment to the total eradication of torture.”

In response to the holiday, over 100 civil and human rights organizations from around the world have sent a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council demanding an investigation into the United States for failing to hold officials accountable for allowing torture under the CIA’s controversial program. The letter also faults the U.S. for failing to provide justice to the victims of the torture program.

Since 1984, most of the world has signed the U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In 1987 when President Ronald Reagan signed the treaty he said the following:

“The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called “universal jurisdiction.” Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.”

The United States officially ratified the treaty in 1994. The US government is also bound by federal laws against the use of torture. Despite this, the US has engaged in acts of torture including waterboarding, rectal feeding, sleep deprivation and more. Indeed, in December when the Senate released their report on the CIA’s enhanced interrogation it was revealed that the CIA continuously misled congressional and White House officials about the effectiveness and level of brutality of its methods.

On Wednesday, June 24, the secretary general of Amnesty International and the executive directors of the American Civil Liberties Union, and Human Rights Watch sent another letter and delivered petitions with 111,788 signatures of human rights supporters to the Department of Justice. The organizations are seeking to pressure the US government into holding officials accountable for the use of torture.

DOJ spokesman Marc Raimondi told The Miami Herald that the Attorney General already conducted a preliminary review and reviewed the Senate report on torture “and did not find any new information that they had not previously considered in reaching their determination. This inquiry was extraordinarily thorough and we stand by our previously announced decision not to initiate criminal charges.”

The new letter was submitted by the ACLU, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
Conectas Direitos Humanos, and Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). Over 100 groups endorsed the call for accountability, including Center for Constitutional Rights, European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, International Human Rights Clinic, Harvard Law School, National Lawyers Guild, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.

The international groups are asking the US government to consider the consequences of not holding the U.S. government accountable.

“We know from the experiences of civil society groups and survivors of torture around the world that the struggle for accountability for human rights violations and the search for truth can be a long and difficult journey. Yet the United States has much to gain from rejecting impunity, returning to the rule of law, and providing adequate redress to the dozens and dozens of people it so brutally abused.”

Senate Votes to Ban Waterboarding and Other Forms of Torture

The U.S. Senate has voted to outlaw a number of forms of torture, used by the CIA and U.S. military while interrogating suspects.  Under the new National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2015, forms of torture, including waterboarding, “rectal feeding,” mock executions, hooding prisoners, and sexual humiliation would be illegal.

By a vote of 78 to 21, the Senate agreed on an amendment to the NDAA that limits the US government to interrogation and detention rules delineated in the US Army Field Manual. The amendment also requires that US officials immediately notify the International Red Cross in the event of an individual taken into US custody or control.

The amendment comes after late last year, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a 6,000 page report, five years in the making, on post-911 torture techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency, which examined the contents of six million internal CIA documents. According to The New York Times, the report noted that the CIA often misled congressional and White House officials about the effectiveness of the techniques that were being used, the level of brutality of those techniques, and what information the techniques actually produced.

Based on twenty case studies examined in the report, investigators concluded that enhanced interrogation techniques were not as effective as less brutal methods when it came to providing useful information that could be used to stop a terror plot.

The NDAA amendment was introduced last week by Republican Sen. John McCain and is co-sponsored by Democrat Dianne Feinstein, the former chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Below, Sen. McCain explains his reasoning behind the amendment in which he says, “Our enemies act without conscience. We must not.”

The US House must now vote on the amendment within the larger defense authorization bill, which sets budget and expenditure limits for the US Department of Defense.

Federal Judge Challenges Obama’s Use of Executive Order to Hide Gitmo Videos

The Obama Administration is invoking an executive order on classified information in order to prevent the release of videos that show forced-feeding of a former detainee of the Guantanamo Bay military prison.

In October 2014, Federal Judge Gladys Kessler ruled that the Obama Administration must unseal 32 video tapes related to the force-feeding of Abu Wa’el Dhiab, who was then being held without charge at the prison. Dhiab was kidnapped by the Pakistani government in 2002 before being handed over to the United States on suspicion of terrorism. He was held for twelve years without a trial.

The videos show Dhiab subjected to violent “forced cell extraction” and forced-feeding. The forced-feeding sessions began after he refused to eat.  Dhiab had been protesting his treatment and conditions at the prison by participating in a hunger strike which at one point had spread to 100 detainees in the facility.

The government was given time to redact portions of the video for “national security” reasons and Dhiab’s lawyers made a proposal outlining the release of the videos. However, the Obama Administration appealed on October 15th and has since attempted to argue that Executive Order 13,526, which governs the Executive Branch’s classification of national security information, “is binding on the Judicial Branch and precludes their unsealing.” This EO was issued on  December 29, 2009, shortly after Obama came into his first term.

Judge Kessler rejected this claim, stating that it “would displace the court’s power to seal its own record, putting that authority in the government’s hands alone.” She also stated, “the judiciary has the discretion to seal or unseal a judicial record.”  Dhiab’s attorneys argued [PDF] that the judicial branch maintains power over classified court filings, and the executive branch ” cannot intrude by operation of executive orders.”

“Neither the district court nor this court is beholden to the executive branch to keep these videotapes wholly secret from the American public.”

This is not the first time Judge Kessler has challenged the Obama administration’s arguments. 

The government had previously argued that the release of any footage of the type “provides the enemy with opportunity to search for weaknesses and vulnerabilities”. When President Obama attempted to seal the videos several news organizations came together in opposition of such a move, including ABC News, Associated Press, First Look Media, Guardian, McClatchy, NPR, New York Times and Reuters.

Judge Kessler sided with the organizations and Dhiab. Kessler called the governments arguments“unacceptably vague, speculative,”and “plain implausible.” She stated that:

“It is our responsibility, as judges, as part of our obligation under the Constitution, to ensure that any efforts to limit our First Amendment protections are scrutinized with the greatest of care. That responsibility can not be ignored or abdicated.”

The government has also attempted to keep the hearings away from the public eye, but, once again,Judge Kessler intervened. Judge Kessler ruled that the U.S. government could not close the hearing and called the efforts by the Department of Justice “deeply troubling.” Even more telling is the fact that during those hearings the government was not able to get a single witness to testify in favor of the forced-feeding practices.

Dhiab was subject to forced-feedings even after his health was decreasing. Kevin Gosztola of Fire Dog Lake writes:

“As lawyers highlight in their filing, an “evidentiary hearing” established that the government had ordered Dhiab to be force-fed, even though his life was not “at imminent risk from malnutrition.”

Medical personnel would lubricate the feeding tubes with olive oil. Not only was this a departure from “standard medical practice,” it put him at risk of a “rare and untreatable form of pneumonia.”

When Dhiab was force-fed, he was strapped in a “five-point restraint chair which caused him substantial pain, in disregard of a medical staff recommendation for the less-painful use of a one-point restraint.” He was force-fed twice a day instead of leaving the tube in place for “up to four weeks, which caused him needless pain.”

At the end of 2014, after twelve years behind bars with no trial, Abu Wa’el Dhiab was finally released to Uruguay. The violence and forced-feeding procedures have caused permanent damage to his health and he is now confined to a wheelchair.


Wife of American Imprisoned in Iran Details His Arrest – EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

WASHINGTON—February 15, 2015 – When Naghmeh Abedini married her husband Saeed in Iran, she never dreamed she would raise their future children as a single mother in Boise, Idaho, while her husband languished for years in an Iranian prison.

A native of Iran, Naghmeh and her family left when she was nine years old and spent a year in California before relocating to Boise. Her father was educated in the United States and obtained his master’s degree at Oregon State University prior to taking his family out of Iran. “He had a green card,” says Naghmeh, “We were not refugees.”

The real reason they left Iran, however, was due to the radicalization of their Muslim faith in the school system. “My brother was being brainwashed in elementary school,” says Naghmeh, “They started war recruiting for Jihad when he was eight years old.” Students were told that if they died for the cause they would “get to meet God.” They were forced to run through active mine fields as a school exercise. The land mines would occasionally detonate. “The government arrested any parents who complained,” says Naghmeh, “So our parents quietly packed up and left.”

Her parents were unhappy with the school system in California, also, and hoped a move to a smaller city would help preserve their culture and Muslim faith. Within ten years in Boise, however, both of Naghmeh’s parents, along with herself, her brother, and a sister had converted to Christianity.

In 2001, Naghmeh spent a year in Iran. Just before she returned to Boise, her cousin invited her to a government-approved Christian church service. She heard Saeed Abedini speak and was intrigued by his passion, so she introduced herself and asked him if he would watch out for her cousins. Later, she learned that Saeed was a pastor and a leader of the growing house church movement. He was also a former Muslim who once desired to kill Christians, but he converted in 2000. When she returned to Iran in 2003 for another visit, the sparks flew between them. He proposed marriage in June of that year, and they were married in Iran the following June in a government-sanctioned Christian church.

The Abedini’s life together in Iran was cut short when the country experienced a regime change in 2005 and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rose to power. Known for his religious hardline stances, Ahmadinejad was a main figure in the Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran party, usually shortened to Abadgaran and widely regarded as the political front for the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (Revolutionary Guards.) The latter group was designated as a terrorist organization by the United States in 2007.

After Ahmadinejad was elected, the church the Abedinis married in was forced to close, as were other Christian churches in Iran, despite current law allowing the peaceful gathering of religious minorities. Overnight, Christians were seemingly not welcome or tolerated in the country, so the couple moved together to Boise. Their daughter Rebekka was born in 2006 and their son Jacob arrived in 2008, the same year Saeed became an ordained minister through the American Evangelistic Association.

In 2009, the entire family decided to visit Iran together and see Saeed’s family, as it had been four years since he had seen his parents who had yet to meet their grandchildren. When the Boise-based Abedini family arrived at the airport to fly home to Idaho, Saeed was arrested by Iranian intelligence police. “Please leave Iran,” Saeed told his wife and children, “It will make it easier on me.”

The Abedinis are American citizens. Saeed, age 35, has not seen his children or his wife since June 2012.
The Abedinis are American citizens. Saeed, age 35, has not seen his children or his wife since June 2012.

Saeed was placed on house arrest for a month in his parents’ home while investigators determined whether or not he was still establishing Christian church groups. Before he was released, the police advised him to focus on humanitarian efforts—a move that inspired Saeed to use his grandfather’s land and an existing building to open an orphanage in the Iranian city of Rasht.

Back in Idaho, Saeed began a three-year process riddled with paperwork hurdles and setbacks in an attempt to open the orphanage he envisioned. He visited Iran ten more times in an effort to complete the approval process for the orphanage. Naghmeh, Rebekah, and Jacob joined him in October 2011, as the Abedinis were convinced that the orphanage was close to being opened. “We really wanted our kids to be able to meet the orphans,” Naghmeh recalls. However, by February 2012, the approval was still pending. The Abedinis returned to Boise once more. Four months later, Saeed traveled to Iran to finish the orphanage once and for all. “That was the last time I saw him,” says Naghmeh.

He was due to return to Boise on July 29. However, on July 27, Saeed was arrested on a bus in Turkey after looking at land in Georgia. He was placed under house arrest once again. The Iranian government seized his U.S. Passport and he was questioned for months about his activities, without being charged with a crime.

He thought he would be able to resolve his detainment with one last interrogation, scheduled for September 26 at a location to be determined by a 9:00 a.m. phone call that same day. However, Revolutionary Guards forces raided his parents’ house in Tehran at 6:00 a.m. and took Saeed to an unknown location. Four days later, it was revealed that he was in solitary confinement at the notorious Evin Prison. Saeed was accused of “corrupting a whole generation against Islam,” a reference to his pre-Revolution house church activities.

Saeed was charged with undermining the national security of Iran. At his trial on January 21, 2013, Saeed and his attorney were only given one day to make their defense. He was convicted by Judge Pir-Abassi of Branch 26 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court, and sentenced a week later to eight years in prison. Revolutionary Court trials are not public, there is no jury, and a single judge decides the cases—which are final and not eligible for appeal. Details about court proceedings are revealed at the sole discretion of the court. The government says it will release Saeed if he converts back to Islam, but he refuses.

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) is representing Naghmeh and her children. “This is a real travesty—a mockery of justice,” said ACLJ’s Executive Director Jordan Sekulow. “From the very beginning, Iranian authorities have lied about all aspects of this case, even releasing rumors of his expected release. Iran has not only abused its own laws, it has trampled on the fundamentals of human rights.”

Naghmeh Abedini has received tremendous support from both Rand Paul and Ted Cruz as she seeks her husband's release from a dangerous Iranian prison.
Naghmeh Abedini has received tremendous support from both Rand Paul and Ted Cruz as she seeks her husband’s release from a dangerous Iranian prison.

Saeed Abedini has been reportedly beaten and tortured during his incarceration and is now housed in the Rajaei Shahr prison in Karaj, his sudden move a possible indication of defiance toward President Hassan Rouhani by the Revolutionary Guard. Saeed is denied any electronic or voice communications with the outside world, but his parents visit him almost weekly, bring him letters from home, and send his letters out—including one to President Obama just before this year’s National Prayer Breakfast.

Naghmeh is hopeful due to extensive support from Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, as well as remarks made by President Obama, that her husband’s release will be secured during upcoming negotiations with Iran. “We’re in a good place,” she says, “If Iran wants to make a deal, I want to make sure Saeed is not left behind.”

Exclusive: CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou “I Am Proud To Have Stood Up Against Torture”

Washington D.C.- “As terrible as it’s been, as difficult as it’s been,” CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou would expose the agency’s torture practices all over again.

In part 1 of the interview with Ben Swann, Kiriakou talks about the CIA torture program and why he says President Bush, despite claims made in the Senate Torture Report, absolutely was aware and signed off on the torture program. In addition, Kiriakou talks about the CIA agents who struggled to carry out the policy of torture.

In part 2 of the interview with Ben Swann, Kiriakou says that he would certainly choose to expose the CIA torture and rendition program all over again but that he would go about it differently. Recently released from prison for exposing the spy agency’s acts to the public, Kiriakou discusses his time in prison, how it drastically changed his family and his plans for the future.

“Torture” Whistleblower Allowed To Serve Last 86 Days of Sentence At Home

After nearly two years in prison for revealing the CIA torture program, former CIA officer John Kiriakou has been allowed to serve the last 86 days of his prison term under home arrest. Kiriakou tweeted at this image of himself with three of his five children after arriving home.

Kiriakou who spent the majority of his 30 month sentence at the Loretto prison in Pennsylvania remains the only single person to face any jail time in connection with the CIA’s secret torture and rendition program. Kiriakou was the man who revealed the program to journalists.

After working for the CIA from 1990 to 2004, Kiriakou shared his knowledge of the agency’s torture methods in 2007, during an interview on ABC News.

Kiriakou discussed the account of Abu Zubaydah, the first high-profile al-Qaeda terror suspected captured after the 9/11 attacks. Zubaydah was subjected to “non-stop use of CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques 24 hours a day for 17 days,” which included the practice of waterboarding.

During the interview, Kiriakou ultimately justified the technique, saying that if they hadn’t used it, and had missed out on an important “nugget of information,” he would have had trouble forgiving himself.

In addition to revealing to the world that the U.S. had used such extreme torture methods, Kiriakou also made it clear that the CIA officers were not acting alone, and were “carefully directed” from the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia, “each step of the way.”

After pleading guilty in October 2012, Kiriakou began his 30-month sentence in February 2013, for revealing the CIA’s illegal torture program, and for disclosing the fact that the program was an official policy of the U.S. government.

Prior to beginning his sentence, Kiriakou said he was “accepting responsibility” for his actions, and “hoping that maybe the country is better and more informed and more transparent” for the debate he helped to initiate.

“I believe I was prosecuted not for what I did but for who I am: a CIA officer who said torture was wrong and ineffective and went against the grain.” Kiriakou said.

Don’t Let The Media Fool You: The United States Government is Still Torturing

As activists and human rights organizations around the world prepare for a Global Day of Action Against Torture we reflect on the US governments continued use of torture.

Shortly after the release of the Senate Report on CIA Torture Americans were hit with a barrage of media coverage that attempted to either discredit the report, paint it as a one sided partisan issue, or simply distract the masses. All of these efforts were designed to suppress the real issue:  The US military with the support of the US government has tortured and continues to torture suspected terrorists, many who have been cleared of any wrong doing. Read that again. CLEARED OF ANY WRONG DOING.

That’s right. The country that has boasted about freedom and democracy for the last 100 years actually closely resembles many of the nations Americans are told to despise. However, the actions and decisions of top authorities and military soldiers are not the choices of individual Americans. If we are to regain any sense of moral high ground we,  individually and collectively, need to reassess whether we truly support torture. And if Americans do support torture they should be honest and stop parading around as if America is a bastion of compassion and freedom.

It has become increasingly obvious that both parties during the Bush administration and continuing into the Obama administration were aware that torture is happening. Late in 2014, the NY Post reported that Jose Rodriguez, who oversaw the interrogations program from 2002 to 2004, stated that all members of Congress were briefed on the programs. Rodriguez went as far as saying that House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi was briefed on “all of the techniques … she never objected to the techniques at all.”  Rodriguez said Pelosi was specifically briefed on waterboarding and sleep deprivation. No word on whether or not she heard about Rectal Feeding.

As far back as 2010 it has been known that at least 68 members of Congress were told about the program. Watchdog organization Judicial Watch obtained formerly “Top Secret” government  documents that detail congressional briefings between 2001 and 2007.

But what about today? Does torture continue under President Obama’s watch? When running for President, Senator Obama promised to hold Bush officials accountable for the crimes perpetuated under that regime. However, in 2009, after a Department of Justice investigation was announced, President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder stated it was “time for reflection, not retribution.” The DOJ would eventually close all investigations into alleged abuse and conclude that no charges should be brought.

Despite the Obama administrations claim that no charges should be brought forth, members of the U.N. Committee Against Torture recently told the US that it rejects the Bush administrations interpretations of torture law. The Committee rejected the findings of the DOJ investigation. Committee Chairman George Tugushi stated, “In our view, any investigation into possible ill treatment by public officials must comply with the criteria of thoroughness. And actually to be considered credible, it must be capable of leading to a determination of whether force or other methods used were or were not justified under the circumstances, and to the identification of the appropriate punishment of those concerned.”

When pressured on the apparent failure of the investigation, US officials said they interviewed more than 90 witnesses but declined to say whether any of the witnesses were actually prisoners who had been subjected to the CIA interrogations. The Obama White House actually broke promises to help the Senate investigation into the CIA torture. The White House withheld thousands of documents from the Senate.

There has also been reports boasting of executive action taken by Obama shortly after coming into office. Allegedly his executive order put an end to torture under his administration. This is also false. To be fair Obama did upgrade interrogation techniques to make sure they were in line with the US Army Field Manual and thus the Geneva Convention which has prohibited torture since 1956. However, the Alternet reports that in 2006 the manual was revised to allow techniques that went beyond the Geneva Convention’s restrictions.

” As pointed out by US psychologist Jeff Kaye who has worked extensively with torture victims, a new UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) review of the manual shows that a wide-range of torture techniques continue to be deployed by the US government, including isolation, sensory deprivation, stress positions, chemically-induced psychosis, adjustments of environmental and dietary rules, among others.”

Still President Obama continues to give interviews stating that no torture has been condoned on his watch.

Investigations by The Nation have found the use of CIA “black sites”, or secret locations for interrogation and torture, has increased under President Obama. One investigation found secret prisons in Somalia and another facility known as “Obama’s Guantanamo”. The Bagram Theater Internment Facility in Afghanistan is reportedly home to regular beatings, loud blaring music, sleep prevention, and forced “stress positions”. Former detainees allege that there is a second, secret prison on Bagram Air Base that organizations like the Red Cross are denied access.

Probably the most blatant example of continued torture under the Obama administration is the use of force-feeding at Guantanamo Bay. Many of the remaining detainees at the prison have been cleared of wrong doing for years yet they cannot leave because most nations are not willing to harbor formerly suspected terrorists. One of these men is Syrian citizen Abu Wa’el Dhiab. 

 Dhiab has been at the military prison since 2002 and cleared for release since 2009. He is represented by attorneys with the international human rights organization Reprieve. Dhiab and others began a hunger-strike to protest their conditions and the military responded by force-feeding detainees. Dhiab recently asked the federal courts to stop the forced-feedings, as well as the process known as Forced Cell Extractions (FCE), where detainees are violently removed from their cells.

During the hearing Reprieve attorney Cori Crider presented three expert witnesses. One of the witnesses was Boston University medical professor Sondra Crosby. Crosby examined Dhiab and stated that he complained of bleeding and pain from the tubes forced up his nose. He also stated that he had been forcibly removed 1,300 times since 2002. When Crosby saw footage of the forced-feedings she called it “disturbing”.

The hearing wrapped up after attorneys with the government failed to present any witnesses to speak in defense of the forced-feeding methods. The judge is expected to write an opinion on the case which could take weeks.

Videos of the forced-feedings were shown privately during the hearing. On October 3, Judge Kessler ruled that the government must unseal 32 video tapes related to force-feeding Dhiab. The government had previously argued that the release of any footage of the type “provides the enemy with opportunity to search for weaknesses and vulnerabilities”. Several news organizations came together to oppose the sealing of the videos, including ABC News, Associated Press, First Look Media, Guardian, McClatchy, NPR, New York Times and Reuters. Immediately following the ruling, the Obama administration asked a federal appeals court to halt the release. The issue still remains in legal limbo.

Just yesterday VICE News reported that a two-page document obtained through the Freedom of Information Act reveals that the US military acknowledged that force-feeding violates medical ethics and international law. The document is dated June 21, 2013 and titled  “Legal Authority and Policy for Enteral Feeding at JTF-GTMO” (Joint Task Force-Guantanamo).

The last paragraph of the document states, “While enteral feeding is solidly supported under US federal law and policy, international law and certain medical ethical standards holds that the ‘forced feeding’ of a mentally competent person capable of making an informed decision is never acceptable.” The reference to medical ethical standards comes from a letter from the American Medical Association which stated the practice  “violates core ethical values of the medical profession.”

The picture could not be more clear. President Obama has not only refused to pursue charges against Bush administration officials responsible for torture, he has actually continued and expanded the practice. It is als0 unlikely the next president will seek charges against Obama.

 In response to the torture report activists and human rights organizations around the world have called for prosecutions of US officials who ordered and allowed torture to take place. Indeed, the United Nations and Human Rights Watch have called for prosecution of U.S. government officials. The Anti Media, The Conscious Resistance Network, Hustle For Humanity,The Solutions Institute, The Houston Free Thinkers, and many more organizations are calling on activists and concerned citizens around the world to organize actions on Saturday January 31st.

 The Global Day of Action Against Torture is also partnering with the 501(c)(3) Charity, Hustle For Humanity.  Hustle For Humanity recently announced their new viral challenge campaign to stop torture.  It’s called the “Hustle For Humanity 30 Second Waterboard Challenge” and organizers offer to pay $300 to any participant that can last a full 30 seconds of properly applied waterboarding.
In exchange, if the participants don’t last the full 30 seconds, they agree t0 make a tax deductible donation of $30 to Hustle For Humanity as part of their nationwide awareness campaign.

For more information on the event please see this.

ACLU, Human Rights Watch Call for Criminal Investigation into CIA Torture Tactics

After the US Senate Intelligence Committee released its exhaustive report on the torture tactics used by the Central Intelligence Agency under its post-9/11 enhanced interrogation program, Americans were shocked to discover that intelligence agents entrusted with protecting the nation brutalized detainees through harsh measures like rectal feeding, forced sleep deprivation, and death threats. Detainees suffered sexual abuse, and one died of hypothermia. Suspects were waterboarded repeatedly. After reading the long list of stomach-churning tactics, many Americans were left feeling like, in attempting to defeat the terrorists after 9/11, the nation lost its way and misplaced its rights-respecting, constitutional traditions.

In light of these and other revelations, Reuters is reporting that two civil rights groups, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union, are calling for the United States Department of Justice to appoint a special prosecutor to launch a criminal probe into the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program. The civil rights advocates issued a letter to the DOJ, warning that failing to press criminal charges could set a dangerous precedent, which said, “We believe the failure to conduct a comprehensive criminal investigation would contribute to the notion that torture remains a permissible policy option for future administrations; undermine the ability of the United States to advocate for human rights abroad; and compromise Americans’ faith in the rule of law at home.” Both groups believe that the new revelations exposed in the torture report justify a fresh look at the CIA’s tactics.

A BenSwann.com report by Rachel Blevins noted that the group Physicians for Human Rights said that medical professionals who assisted CIA agents with tactics like rectal feeding and hydration might have committed war crimes. Reuters notes that United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism Ben Emmerson said that US authorities responsible for the program should face criminal charges. “The US Attorney General is under a legal duty to bring criminal charges against those responsible,” said Emmerson in a statement on the issue. He continued, “It is now time to take action. The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy revealed in today’s report must be brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes.”

Officials with the Obama administration say that they have no intention of conducting further investigations into whether crimes were committed under the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program. Marc Raimondi, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice, said that government officials have already carried out two criminal investigations but have failed to find sufficient evidence justifying charges against any specific individuals. Raimondi claims that investigators already knew about the information from the Senate torture report when they conducted the prior investigations and that the revelation of those details to the public does not itself warrant reopening the criminal probe.

Former Bush Official: CIA Torture Program Produced False Information to Justify the Invasion of Iraq

Following the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the torture techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency on terror suspects after September 11, 2001, the reason given for the use of practices such as waterboarding, rectal feeding, and sleep deprivation, was that the CIA was in search of information that would secure the nation’s defense against any post-9/11 attacks.

With the emphasis on preventing another 9/11-style attack on the United States, Vice President Dick Cheney stated that while he wouldn’t call the methods used by the CIA “torture,” he would say that they had worked, and that he would “do it again in a minute.”

While President Barack Obama admitted that the United States had “tortured some folks,” and that “some terrible mistakes were made,” he defended the Bush administration, stating that it acted in self-dense, and that there were “a lot of people who did a lot of things right and worked very hard to keep us safe.

On Tuesday, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, the chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005, revealed that there were other motives behind the torture program, and that the U.S. government used it to gather information from hostages to build false information, and to link al-Qaeda to Saddam Hussein, in order to justify the invasion of Iraq.

One of the main cases presented on why the United State should invade Iraq, stemmed from a speech Powell gave to the United Nations in February 2003. In that speech, Powell used the testimony of Ibn Shaykh al-Libi, a hostage who was sent by the U.S. to a prison in Egypt.

Libi asserted that Iraq gave chemical and biological weapons to al-Qaeda, which fueled the claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. However, Libi later recanted the statement, claiming that he had been tortured, and had “only told them what he assessed they wanted to hear.

Wilkerson helped Powell prepare his speech for the UN, and he told Democracy Now that the choice to include Libi’s statement in the speech was the most “seminal moment” in his memory of the time he spent at CIA headquarters.

Wilkerson detailed a confrontation with Powell, in which Powell lectured Wilkerson on how “he was dissatisfied with and very unhappy with the portions in his presentation that dealt with terrorism, particularly the connections with Baghdad and al-Qaeda.” Wilkerson said that he felt the same way, and that he and Powell agreed to remove that section of the presentation.

However, Wilkerson said that shortly after the confrontation, CIA Director George Tenet “laid a bombshell on the table.

He essentially said: ‘We have learned from the interrogation of a high-level al-Qaeda operative that not only were there substantial contacts between al-Qaeda and Baghdad, that those contacts included Baghdad Mukhabarat, secret police, Saddam’s special people, training al-Qaeda operatives in how to use chemical and biological weapons.'”

Following Tenet’s statement, Wilkerson said Powell turned to him and told him to put the portion on terrorism back into the presentation. Wilkerson went on to say that while he did “take some of the stuff out,” he did so with George Tenet’s counterterrorism czar standing behind him, trying to prevent him from removing parts of the presentation.

People were trying to get that portion back into the presentation,” said Wilkerson. “But the damage was done. The secretary, as you know, presented the information as if there were substantial contacts.”

Wilkerson said that after the “Abu Ghraib incident was made public,” Powell instructed him to look into how the U.S. had gotten to that point. During his investigation, Wilkerson discovered that the CIA’s torture program had been used for more than just ensuring the prevention of another 9/11-style attack:

I learned that there was, as early as April-May 2002, efforts to use enhanced interrogation techniques, also to build a legal regime under which they could be conducted, and that those efforts were as much aimed at al-Qaeda and contacts between Baghdad and al-Qaeda, and corroboration thereof, as they were trying to ferret out whether or not there was another attack coming, like 9/11.

Report Claims Medical Professionals in CIA Torture Program May Have Committed War Crimes

On Tuesday, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), an organization that examines human rights violations in the medical field, released a report that called for a federal investigation into the health professionals who were involved in the torture methods that were used on terror suspects.

The request was sparked by the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 500-page summary of its 6,7000-page report on the torture techniques used by the CIA on al-Qaeda hostages, following the terror attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.

The report from PHR states that the health professionals who aided the CIA in carrying out certain techniques “betrayed the most fundamental duty of the healing professions” and should be investigated for committing war crimes:

Health professionals, given their ethical and legal obligations to protect the health and welfare of all individuals, have historically represented one essential barrier to the inhumane treatment of detainees and prisoners,” stated the report. “The complicity of health professionals themselves in such abuse indicates that egregious violations of public trust, ethics, and law have taken place.”

The report went on to state that the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report summary “confirms that the United States systematically tortured” the terror suspects detained after 9/11, and shows that the “practices were far more brutal than previously acknowledged.”

The Executive Director of PHR, Donna McKay, said that after more than a decade of covering up the truth, the report finally shows the extent to which health professionals were involved in torturing detainees.

The report confirms that health professionals used their skills to break the minds and bodies of detainees,” said McKay. “Their actions destroyed trust in clinicians, undermined the integrity of their professions, and damaged the United States’ human rights record, which can only be corrected through accountability.

PHR also states that not only did health professional play an essential role in carrying out the program, they were also the ones who “designed, supervised, and implemented” the techniques, they were “paid enormous sums for their efforts,” and they “monitored those being tortured and used their expertise to certify detainees’ fitness for torture and worked to enable and enhance the pain inflicted.”

One of the methods used on detainees by health professionals was the practice of forced rectal feeding. RT reported that this practice was used, despite “officials having not found any medical necessity” in the practice, and despite the fact that as a result, “detainees suffered from rectal prolapses and other after-effects.

The report from PHR states that the Senate’s torture report shows that rectal feeding was used “without medical necessity” and to “control and/or punish the detainees,” and that according to PHR experts, “Insertion of any object into the rectum of an individual without his consent constitutes a form of sexual assault.”

Dr. Vincent Iacopino, PHR’s senior medical advisor, called for the health professionals involved to be held accountable for their involvement in the torture program.

Health professionals played a pivotal role in the abuse and brutality exposed in the CIA torture report and they must be held accountable,” said Iacopino. “They were complicit at every step, including designing the torture techniques, monitoring the infliction of severe physical and mental pain, and failing to document clear evidence of harm.”

PHR released a statement calling for an investigation of the professionals who betrayed their ethical duties, and inflicted harm on patients they were supposed to be protecting:

PHR calls for the investigation and prosecution of all those complicit in the torture and ill-treatment of detainees and the revocation of licenses for any health professionals who participated. PHR also repeats its call for transparency, and for the U.S. government to clarify the extent to which U.S. officials and those acting at the government’s direction violated the U.N. Convention against Torture and the U.S. Constitution.”

Cheney, Neocons Con Americans On Torture As New Norm

Former Vice President Dick Cheney did exactly what everyone expected him to do. On Sunday morning, appearing on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Cheney aggressively defended the CIA’s harsh interrogation techniques.

“Torture to me is an American citizen on his cell phone making a last call to his four young daughters shortly before he burns to death in the upper levels of the [World Trade Center] on 9/11,” Cheney said.

“There’s this notion that there’s moral equivalence between what the terrorists did and what we do and that’s absolutely not true. We were very careful to stop short of torture. I’d do it again in a minute,” he explained.

Though horrific, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 don’t justify waterboarding.

“No justification of torture – including terrorism – is ever permitted. Indeed, torture and terrorism follow the same logic.,” said Karima Bennoune, professor of international law at the University of California-Davis School of Law. “We must continue to staunchly oppose both. Security proponents must not justify violations of human rights, and human rights advocates must not minimize the reality of the threat to human rights from terrorism.”

Despite what Cheney says and believes, torture, or “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques,” hurt our foreign policy and make us less safe.

Bennoune said that the United States has to be held accountable for its actions:

“What we have learned is that the CIA torture program was even worse than previously understood – in scope, in the nature of detainee treatment, among other points. The report’s release is important, but is only a first step. The United States is a state party to the UN Convention against Torture, and alleged perpetrators of torture must be brought to justice. The US cannot publicly admit to torture, and then take no legal action. This is simply not an option.”

Terrorists like Osama Bin Laden and members of ISIS want the United States to use oppressive acts — they want us to torture and kill innocent people.

Because then recruiting for them is a breeze.

Ronald Reagan was against torture and vigorously championed the United States’ ratification of the international Convention Against Torture, which he signed on April 18, 1988. Reagan said that it marked a significant step in the development of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment.

Ronald Reagan wrote, “Ratification of the Convention by the United States, will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately prevalent in the world today.”

According to a Pew Research poll, the American public think the government was justified in its interrogation techniques, though some say no credible information was gathered.

Fifty-one percent of the public says they think the CIA methods were justified, compared with just 29 percent who say they were not justified; 20 percent do not express an opinion.

The new national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Dec. 11-14 among 1,001 adults, finds that amid competing claims over the effectiveness of CIA interrogation methods, 56 percent believe they provided intelligence that helped prevent terrorist attacks, while just half as many (28 percent) say they did not provide this type of intelligence.

Have neoconservatives with the aid of the mainstream media convinced the American public that torture can be justified?

President Barack Obama said that once he was elected he had stopped all of the questionable interrogation tactics. But, Obama supports drone strikes, which have included some deadly mistakes, such as the killing of innocent civilians.

But is this how America will be known now? By our torture. Or drone strikes?

Jack Hunter from Rare.com asked a great question in his recent article, Americans who defend torture sound like Osama Bin Laden.

He asked, “When you become like your enemies, what makes you better than them?”

Yes, torture is ineffective and produces bad results despite what Cheney and the mainstream media claim. But the argument against torture shouldn’t be because it produces bad results. 

There are universal truths that should guide our moral compass. No matter who you are or what you have done, human rights still matter, and certain things are right or wrong. Torture is wrong in every situation regardless of the consequence. 

By Joshua Cook | Tsu | Facebook | Twitter