Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Times reports on the "rules" governing the "war" on terror

After all the moral posturing and all the ranting, check out Warren Hoge's "Panel Says Annan Didn't Intervene in Iraq Contract:"

The commission investigating the oil-for-food program in Iraq reported Tuesday that Secretary General Kofi Annan had not influenced the awarding of a contract to the company that employed his son. But it faulted him for not looking more aggressively into the company's relationship with the United Nations once questions were raised.

Let's flashback to November 17, 2004 and Amy Goodman's interview with Denis Halliday ( "former head of the UN Humanitarian Program in Iraq and a former UN Assistant Secretary General") on Democracy Now!:

AMY GOODMAN: So why now? Why is this coming out now?
DENIS HALLIDAY: I think it's because the U.N. has become irritating. The Secretary General has finally woken up to his responsibility and has announced that the war is illegal, which has sort of threatened, I think, the United States and Britain perhaps. And the old frustration of the neo-con right wing who feels that the U.N. is a threat, international law is unacceptable. It's part of the rejection by the Bush regime of Kyoto, of the I.C.C., of all of the other international laws which the rest of us in the world feel are so important, but are rejected by Congress as -- because they feel it impinges on the Constitution and their function and so on.

Lot of voices raised and a lot of ink spilled. What real stories didn't get covered?

Ben e-mails to note Scott Shane's "Suit by Detainee on Transfer to Syria Finds Support in Jet's Log:"

Maher Arar, a 35-year-old Canadian engineer, is suing the United States, saying American officials grabbed him in 2002 as he changed planes in New York and transported him to Syria where, he says, he was held for 10 months in a dank, tiny cell and brutally beaten with a metal cable.
Now federal aviation records examined by The New York Times appear to corroborate Mr. Arar's account of his flight, during which, he says, he sat chained on the leather seats of a luxury executive jet as his American guards watched movies and ignored his protests.
[. . .]
The discovery of the aircraft, in a database compiled from Federal Aviation Agency records, appears to corroborate part of the story Mr. Arar has told many times since his release in 2003. The records show that a Gulfstream III jet, tail number N829MG, followed a flight path matching the route he described. The flight, hopscotching from New Jersey to an airport near Washington to Maine to Rome and beyond, took place on Oct. 8, 2002, the day after Mr. Arar's deportation order was signed.

[Note: Stephen Grey and Ford Fessenden assisted Scott Shane on the reporting of the above story.]

Ben: I'll table my nomination yesterday for Scott Shane to the Elite Fluff Patrol squad.

Additional information about Maher Arar's case can be found at the following:

Democracy Now!'s "U.S. Claims Maher Arar "Extraordinary Rendition" Lawsuit Jeopardizes National Security."

AMY GOODMAN: Now he was coming back to Canada from a holiday with his family and did a transit stop. Had to switch planes.
MICHAEL RATNER: He had a stop at Kennedy. They pulled him off the plane for 10 days, interrogated him heavily. They don't let him really have any access to his attorney, held a midnight hearing Sunday night at 12:00 where no attorney could ever be there. He complains, “I'll be tortured if I'm send back to Syria.” He left Syria when he was 16 years old. They put him on one of these private, white, C.I.A. jets that are flying around all these places where they're taking people out for torture and take him into an underground cell in Syria. There is now a major public inquiry going on in Canada, which is an official inquiry and one of the things that was said now, the U.S. wrote a letter to Congressman Markey. Congressman Markey has been actually on this case and saying, “What happened here?” And the U.S. wrote a letter saying we got information from the Canadians that he was on a terrorist watch list and, therefore, we acted on that. Of course, we had our own independent evaluation, b.s. , and we did this to him. If this is one case, Gonzales again, if and when we got the memos, up to his neck in this stuff. This is a terrible moment, really, in terms of our adherence to law and in terms of our deep involvement in torture.

Democracy Now!'s "Canadian Man Deported by U.S. Details Torture in Syria."

AMY GOODMAN: You were then deported to Syria?
MAHER ARAR: What happened at the airport first, and after the second interrogation, one of the immigration people there, he came to see me and he told me this. He said we want you to go back to Syria voluntarily. I said no way! I said why don't you lets me go to Canada? He said to me you are special interest. That's when they took me to M.D.C., basically. They kind of forced me to apply for a visa and they took me to prison. In prison, I spent 13 days. Just two days -- Four days before they deported me, they brought me a document saying that saying that the INS director had decided to deport me and I had a right designate a country to where I would be deported. I wrote 'Canada' and the second question was if I had any concerns that I'd like sent back to Canada and I chose 'no' and signed the document. On a Sunday, two days before I was deported, they held a six-hour exhaustive meeting and they asked me questions regarding why I did not want to go back to Syria. So, I explained to them very clearly that if they send me back to Syria, I will be tortured. They accused me of being a member of a terrorist organization and I told them repeatedly that I am not a member of this group and they were just not believing me and I said if you send me back to Syria, the Syrians will try to extract information and the only way to do that is just to torture me.

Elaine Cassel's "The Case of Maher Arar" from Counterpunch.

Arar was returning from visiting family in Tunisia. He was on his way back to Canada, by way of New York City, when he was detained at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. Reason for detention: "suspected terrorist." He was flown under U.S. guard to Jordan, where he was handed over to Syrian authorities. He was imprisoned in Syria for 10 months, in what seems to be the equivalent of the "hole" in U.S. prisons (solitary confinement, darkness). He says he was physically tortured, but the Syrian ambassador to the U.S., speaking on the program, denied that much of the story. He agreed that they did the questioning at the request of the U.S. government, an oddity in itself, since Syria has been deemed a "terrorist" state and Bush has made it clear that after it settles its score in Iraq, it is turning its sights on ferreting out "terrorism" in the Syrian government.
The ambassador conceded that they took Arar in order to get "information" about Arar's alleged "terrorist" activities. Ten months of "interrogation" turned up no hint that he was a "terrorist" and he was returned to Canada, against the wishes of the Bush administration.

Also from Counterpunch, "They Put a Bag Over My Head & Flew Me To Syria for Torture and Interrogation -- This is What They Did to Me" by Maher Arar.

One tactic they use is to question prisoners for two hours, and then put them in a waiting room, so they can hear the others screaming, and then bring them back to continue the interrogation.
The cable is a black electrical cable, about two inches thick. They hit me with it everywhere on my body.
They mostly aimed for my palms, but sometimes missed and hit my wrists -- they were sore and red for three weeks. They also struck me on my hips, and lower back. Interrogators constantly threatened me with the metal chair, tire and electric shocks.
The tire is used to restrain prisoners while they torture them with beating on the sole of their feet. I guess I was lucky, because they put me in the tire, but only as a threat.
I was not beaten while in tire. They used the cable on the second and third day, and after that mostly beat me with their hands, hitting me in the stomach and on the back of my neck, and slapping me on the face.
Where they hit me with the cables, my skin turned blue for two or three weeks, but there was no bleeding. At the end of the day, they told me tomorrow would be worse. So I could not sleep.
Then on the third day, the interrogation lasted about 18 hours. They beat me from time to time and make me wait in the waiting room for one to two hours before resuming the interrogation.

Note also David Johnston's "Judge Limits the Transfer of 13 From Guantanamo:"

In a defeat for the Bush administration, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday that the government could not transfer 13 Yemenis from the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, unless it notified the judge and gave their lawyers a month to challenge the removal.
The opinion, by Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. of Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, was issued on a procedural skirmish that involved a small number of detainees, but it represented another rebuff to the administration's core legal contention that it has unbridled power to detain and transfer prisoners in the campaign against terror without court reviews.

On a related topic, check out Neil A. Lewis' "Yemeni Held in Guantánamo Was Seized in Cairo, Group:"

Sometime in September 2002, a Yemeni businessman and intelligence officer was abducted on a Cairo street, then kept incommunicado for more than a year by United States authorities, and is now among those imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to an examination of his case by Human Rights Watch.
The case of Abdul Salam Ali al-Hila is an example of what human rights groups call "reverse renditions," in which a foreign government assists or cooperates in seizing someone who is then transferred to United States custody. John Sifton, the researcher at Human Rights Watch, the advocacy group - who compiled information on the Hila case from interviews with the man's family, his letters from Guantanamo and government statements published in news reports in Arab countries - said it was "another example of the United States stretching the laws of war and human rights principles to the breaking point.

In addition to Lewis' article, you can also check Human Rights Watch's "Cairo to Kabul to Guantanamo: A Human Rights Watch Briefing Paper" and "Guantanamo: New 'Reverse Rendition' Case Detainee Captured in Egypt Disappeared in U.S. Custody." From the latter:

While considerable attention has been paid recently to U.S. renditions of suspects to third countries, the al-Hila case is new evidence of the reverse: foreign authorities picking up suspects in non-combat and non-battlefield situations and handing them over to the United States without basic protections afforded to criminal suspects.
"Al-Hila was essentially kidnapped on the streets of Cairo and then 'disappeared' in U.S. custody," said John Sifton, a researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Whatever the allegations against him, Al-Hila should have been charged and given the opportunity to challenge his detention."

Marcia e-mails noting a Reuters article entitled "Harsh Tactics Were Allowed, General Told Jailers in Iraq:"

The top United States commander in Iraq authorized prisoner interrogation tactics that were harsher than accepted Army practice, including using guard dogs to exploit "Arab fear of dogs," a memo made public on Tuesday showed.
The memo, dated Sept. 14, 2003, and signed by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, then the senior commander in Iraq, was released by the American Civil Liberties Union, which obtained it from the government under court order through the Freedom of Information Act.

For additional information, see the ACLU's "Interrogation Techniques Approved by Lieutenant General Sanchez Included Intimidation by Dogs, Stress Positions, Sensory Deprivation:"

A memo signed by Lieutenant General Ricardo A. Sanchez authorizing 29 interrogation techniques, including 12 which far exceeded limits established by the Army’s own Field Manual, was made public for the first time by the American Civil Liberties Union today.
"General Sanchez authorized interrogation techniques that were in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions and the Army’s own standards," said ACLU attorney Amrit Singh. "He and other high-ranking officials who bear responsibility for the widespread abuse of detainees must be held accountable."
The existence of the memo had been widely rumored, but this is the first time that the memo has been released. The ACLU has a lawsuit pending against Sanchez alleging direct responsibility for the torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. military custody.
The Defense Department initially refused to release the September Sanchez memo on national security grounds. After the ACLU filed legal papers specifically challenging the withholding of the memo on those grounds, the Defense Department reconsidered its position and released the document to the ACLU late in the afternoon on Friday, March 25, 2005. At the same time, the Defense Department released a previously leaked October 12, 2003 Sanchez memo that superseded the September Sanchez memo.

Note, clicking on the ACLU linked story will provide you links to two Sanchez memos (September and October) as well as a link to 30,000 additional documents.
CORRECTION: 30,000 pages of documents, not 30,000 documents. Thanks to Shirley for catching that.

Matthew L. Wald's "Agencies Fight Over Report on Sensitive Atomic Wastes" is also of interest. From that article:

A semisecret debate is raging between the National Academy of Sciences and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission about the vulnerability of nuclear wastes to terrorist attack and about how secret the debate should be.
The academy, under orders from Congress, produced a study last summer about whether the spent-fuel pools at nuclear reactors were vulnerable to terrorist attacks. The pools hold most of the radioactive material ever produced at the reactors, far more than the reactors themselves. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, an independent group of scientists published a paper in a Princeton scientific journal asserting that an enemy could drain a pool and set a fire that would be "significantly worse than Chernobyl."
Academy officials say they have hit a roadblock in releasing their report. By law, the academy, which Congress charters, coordinates the work of academic experts from around the country, and it is supposed to make its findings public. In cases like the nuclear waste one, it is supposed to work with the relevant federal agency to develop a version of its report that has no information that would be useful to terrorists.

Trina e-mails noting Kirck Johnson and Monica Davey's "Tribe Is Shaken by Arrest of Leader's Son in Shootings:"

From Roger Jourdain, who ruled the tribe for 31 years beginning in the late 1950's, to Floyd Jourdain Jr., who was elected tribal chairman last year, the name carries influence and meaning here and among Indians across the country, tribe members and outsiders say.
So the arrest over the weekend of Floyd Jourdain's 16-year-old son, Louis, in connection with the shootings last week at and near Red Lake High School that left 10 people dead, is not just another blow to a wounded community, tribe members said.

Liang e-mails "in the no big surprise department" asking that we note Craig S. Smith's "U.S. Helped to Prepare the Way for Kyrgyzstan's Uprising:"

The newspaper was the recipient of United States government grants and was printed on an American government-financed printing press operated by Freedom House, an American organization that describes itself as "a clear voice for democracy and freedom around the world."
In addition to the United States, several European countries - Britain, the Netherlands and Norway among them - have helped underwrite programs to develop democracy and civil society in this country. The effort played a crucial role in preparing the ground for the popular uprising that swept opposition politicians to power.

Kara e-mails to note Seth Mydans "Quake Damage Limited to Small Area; Hundreds Dead:"

The damage from the earthquake that struck Monday night, one of the most powerful in a century, appears to be confined mostly to two tiny islands off the Indonesian coast, officials said Tuesday. But they said damage to the only runway there and poor visibility was slowing the delivery of aid and medical care.
Officials said 330 or more bodies had been found on the hardest hit island, Nias, and its neighbor, Simeulue, but government and relief agencies said the toll could climb to more than 1,000.

Kara: Is anyone else feeling that there's a been-there-done-that attitude to this tragedy?

Craig Unger has a letter published in the Times today. We don't usually comment on them; however, I referred to a Vanity Fair article on the Saudi flights after 9-11 earlier this week and noted it wasn't online. I didn't name the author (honestly didn't know who the author was). Craig Unger was the author of the Vanity Fair piece. (He is also the author of the book House of Bush, House of Saud.)

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