Thursday, July 10, 2008


Roger Fitch Esq • July 4, 2008

Our Man in Washington

Roger Fitch in Washington celebrates Independence Day with the latest talk on torture as Addington and Yoo front the House Judiciary Committee … No surprises in Roberts’ and Scalia’s dissents in the most recent habeas decision … The Bush-Chaney team have only 200 days left in which to wreak havoc

imageIf you believe The New York Times a debate is still raging over how much drowning is torture – particularly in the case of the “9/11” military commission defendant Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

According to the Times, KSM had a fairly rough trot:

“The intensity of his treatment – various harsh techniques, including waterboarding, used about 100 times over a period of two weeks – prompted worries that officers might have crossed the boundary into illegal torture.”

Quite. The interest in water torture is now so great that the House Judiciary Committee called John Yoo and David Addington to testify.

As was to be expected, both men suffered serious memory losses. A McClatchy newspapers report has more.

Addington was openly contemptuous of the committee, as Slate and The Washington Post noted.

While John Yoo refused to say whether the president could order a suspect to be buried alive, Addington said he couldn’t even talk about torture techniques because, “Al Qaeda may watch C-Span [TV]”.

imageA week earlier at the Senate, the Armed Services Committee held hearings at which the senior Judge Advocate at Guantánamo in 2002, Lt Col Diane Beaver, testified about her torture opinion.

Her considerable role in setting up the “enhanced interrogation techniques” was revealed in documents released by the committee chairman, Sen. Carl Levin (pic).

The documents include damning notes from a Guantánamo meeting where Col. Beaver, joined by alleged psychologists, and “lawyers” from the CIA and Defence Intelligence, cheerfully discussed torture techniques.

The New York Times headline read, “Notes Show Confusion on Interrogation Methods” – perhaps a misprint for “Collusion”.

McClatchy called this blatant lawbreaking an “easing of laws” in its otherwise fine series of articles on US detention policies, published in June.

The Washington Post sadly noted (with some surprise) that the White House had ignored contrary legal advice on torture.

imageAbout this time Maj Gen Antonio Taguba (pic) – who famously investigated the Abu Ghraib scandal – made the news by openly accusing the White House itself of war crimes.

Breaking news reports indicate that Mr Bush may have war crimes company (besides Cheney, “Jim” Haynes, Yoo and Addington) in Gen Richard Myers, former head of the joint chiefs of staff and therefore principal military adviser to the “Commander-in-Chief”.

The Los Angeles Times’ Tim Rutten doesn’t think the Bush gang should be prosecuted for war crimes, and suggested only psychoanalysis was needed.

* * *

We shouldn’t be surprised by the dissent of Chief Justice John Roberts in the Boumediene decision that restored habeas.

imageIt will be recalled that, during the interval between his judicial audition and his nomination to the Supreme Court, Roberts (seen here) delivered a solid gold Court of Appeals performance in the Hamdan case, where he voted not only to uphold the “presidential” military commissions, but provided the necessary second vote for the non-application of Geneva’s Common Article Three (see my post of August 2005).

It was the dissent of Justice Antonin Scalia, however, that caused the most outrage in the editorial pages and blogosphere.

Scalia was criticised both for his credulous acceptance of the government-propagated urban myth that 30 freed Gitmo men had “returned to the battlefield” to fight the US, and its corollary that there would be blood on the hands of the justices in the Boumediene majority.

Law prof Michael Dorf thought the only hands with blood on them would be Scalia’s, in light of his majority in the pro-gun Heller case recognizing an individual right to bear arms under the Second Amendment.

* * *

Following the Supreme Court’s Boumediene decision, the DC Court of Appeals ruled in favour of Huzaifa Parhat in a Detainee Treatment Act review of his “enemy combatant” status.

It was the first DTA decision. The court cited Lewis Carroll as it derided the government’s case.

Yet it may not matter, in the long run, that the evidence was insufficient. Already, the government wants to redo the hearsay habeas returns they filed in 2004 and 2005.

They never thought they’d have to back them up.

* * *

July 4th has special significance for Americans this year. The Cheney-Bush team will have only 200 days left to wreak havoc, so it’s no surprise they’re busy bringing charges against yet another water-logged and damaged prisoner as the end draws near.

imageAs if to emphasise that hardcore torture is no bar to death-penalty military trials, the Pentagon has now brought charges against a Saudi, Abd al-Rahim Al-Nashiri, the second of three known water-torture victims.

The third, Abu Zubaydah, must be considering his position.

Al-Nashiri is one of the alleged USS Cole (pic) bombers, and the CIA admits waterboarding him.

At his Combat Status Review Tribunal he gave heavily censored evidence about torture and the confessions he made to stop it. Unlike Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he has recanted his confessions.

It was certainly a crime to attack the US ship in the port in Yemen and kill 17 sailors. But it happened before there was a war, and had nothing to do with 9/11 or Afghanistan – the ostensible bases for George Bush’s war powers.

Al-Nashiri, no less than Ahmed Ghailani (see my post of June 2), should be tried in the US.

* * *

For those who grow nostalgic when an old and traditional way of life passes, there was the sad report in June that the English manufacturers Hiatt and Company will soon be closing down.

The venerable Birmingham firm had produced quality shackles (and until recently, leg irons) since 1780.

The company has always done a good business in the US. As The Guardian once reported:

“In the late 18th century the company made ‘Nigger collars’ for restraining slaves in America. Today, it makes the shackles that hold the inmates of Guantánamo Bay.”

But Guantánameros need not be concerned. The company will continue production in the US – and now in designer colours.

1 comment:

Gary said...

Bin Laden declared a Jihad back in 98. Two times. Clinto nor Bush listened to him though. While more americans were murdered. Including our son. Nashiri admitted to killing the 17 sailors long before he was caught. he bragged about on tape with Bin Attash, Bin Laden, and other psychos. Does it bother me that a madman was waterboarded. Not at all. I would have done alot more than that.