Saturday, January 31, 2009


More years have gone by and Al-Ghizzawi still sits in the hell hole we call Guantanamo. He is no longer in that cage. Now he sits in solitary confinement, where he has been in total isolation for more than two years. There are no flowers in this terrain of metal and plastic. Al-Ghizzawi’s only connection with nature is a possible two hour period in a metal cage in the hot Guantanamo sun, surrounded by a concrete building and sand. There are no flowers or trees, and the years of this cruel captivity have taken its toll on him.
Last week I received an email from the “privilege team”, the ones that read our attorney/client mail. The email informed me that Al-Ghizzawi sent me a picture and on the back of the picture, there was a note stating that the picture was ‘his gift to me’. The privilege team decided that the note was “personal” and that Al-Ghizzawi violated the rules in sending the picture through the legal mail. They informed me that I would have to send the picture back to him (through the legal mail) and tell Al-Ghizzawi to resend it to me through the “non-legal mail.” (Really, I cannot make this shit up).
I assumed (!) that the picture was of Al-Ghizzawi himself. I knew the International Red Cross was taking pictures of the men and giving them copies to send to family and friends and I had asked Al-Ghizzawi to send me one if he had a spare, so that I could use it in his litigation. I sent an email back to the privilege team explaining to them that the picture was not “personal” but was indeed legal mail because of my request to Al-Ghizzawi to send me his picture. That was when I found out that it was not a picture of himself that Al-Ghizzawi sent to me. He sent me a photograph of a field of flowers. This was his gift to me.
I do not know how this beautiful photograph came into Al-Ghizzawi’s hands (perhaps one of you sent it to him?). But I do know that I will not insult Al-Ghizzawi who has been through so much at our hands. I will not return the photograph to him and I will not ask him to resend the photo in the “non-legal” mail. That beautiful photograph, this symbol of peace, will instead remain locked in my secret drawer at the secret facility….which actually seems somehow appropriate.
Meanwhile, the cruelty of Guantanamo shows no sign of lessening.
I head to Guantanamo on Monday.

Friday, January 30, 2009

roger fitch...

Clearly, it would not avail a private criminal defendant – say, the capo of a New York City crime family – to argue that he is above the law.
Yet, in the parallel universe of “after-9/11”, the Bush lawyers gained traction in Republican-dominated courts with this very argument, buttressed by self-serving OLC “legal opinions” the likes of which Mafia lawyers would be happy to provide their clients, if they could get away with it.
The Bush administration surpassed the real Mob when it decided – in secret – that its crimes were legal. As the French would say, it boldly claimed the status of a régime mafiuse.
Eric Holder (pic), the new Attorney General, has promised a return to the Rule of Law. He will have his work cut out for him, however, as many Mob lawyers remain entrenched in the Justice Department.
Fortunately, an excellent legal team has been nominated by President Obama, and perhaps they won’t be as gentle on the last administration’s lawyers as Stuart Taylor of the National Journal hopes.
For starters, the new head of the Office of Legal Counsel will be the outspoken law professor Dawn Johnsen, a person who seems unlikely to issue get-out-of-jail cards for ingenious executive crimes.
Harvard law dean Elena Kagan (pic) will be Solicitor General, and her deputy will be Neal Katyal, who argued the case for Hamdan before the Supreme Court.
At the Pentagon, the appointment of Jeh Johnson as General Counsel portends changes there as well.
Already, “persons of interest” from the Cheney-Bush syndicate are coming in from the cold.
Susan Crawford, Dick Cheney’s handpicked “Convening Authority” for military commissions, departed from script, becoming the first administration official to boldly say, “we tortured detainees”.
Crawford named Donald Rumsfeld as the architect of the torture in question, that of Mohammed Al-Qahtani, whose lawyers were quick to respond.
The Washington Post’s Dan Froomkin has more on this curious development.
All this has seriously spooked the outgoing CIA director, Michael Hayden, as Jason Leopold reports.
Meanwhile, the unrepentant and unlamented Donald Rumsfeld is feeling the full force of that old Mexican curse – “May your life be filled with lawyers”.
The fathers of two men who suicided at Gitmo in 2006 are suing the former Secretary of Defence in a civil suit for wrongful death. has more on this.
Rumsfeld is not alone. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft (seen here) is defending two suits for domestic detentions and mistreatment pending in the Supreme Court and 2nd Court of Appeals, respectively.
Ashcroft v Iqbal involves the extralegal round-up in 2001 of thousands of Muslim men. NY Times has more detail on this case.
Arar v Ashcroft is the case of Maher Arar, an innocent Canadian who was grabbed by US Immigration while transiting JFK airport and forcibly flown to Syria where he was tortured for nearly a year.
* * *
While more civil suits for torture are likely, prosecution for war crimes is also possible, according to The Nation as well as a Chicago Sun-Times op-ed.
As Elizabeth Holtzman explains, Congress could remove the retroactive immunity from War Crimes Act liability that the Military Commissions Act inserted for Bush officials, and restore war crimes liability.
Even lawyers (e.g. John Yoo, David Addington, Jay Bybee and “Jim” Haynes) are candidates for prosecution.
Bruce Ackerman argues in Slate that Bybee, now a 9th Court of Appeals judge, should be impeached.
Law prof and blogger Scott Horton has an article in Harper’s on “Justice After Bush – Prosecuting an Outlaw Administration”.
* * *
If Obama’s Justice Department decides to prosecute anyone from the Ancien Régime, the House Judiciary Committee has just released a handy 487 page compendium of Bush administration crimes.
Also, the Senate Armed Services Committee led by Senators Levin and McCain has issued a bipartisan report on the torture policies of the Bush administration. The executive summary cam be found HERE.
The Armed Services Committee’s report was all too much for The Wall Street Journal, which fumed that Senator Levin’s call for an independent commission to investigate “alleged (sic) torture policies … will … encourage some grandstanding foreign prosecutor to arrest Mr Rumsfeld and other Bush officials like Pinochet if they dare to leave the US”.
One certainly hopes so.
The Senate committee also released several previously undisclosed “torture” and related memos, but this proved unnecessary. Now that the Bush Gang has left town, they are spilling their guts.
For instance, the Justice Department has now provided the OLC advice that Congress has sought for four years: Patrick Philbin’s (pic) November 2001 “legal opinion” that upheld the legality of Bush’s “presidential” military commissions – afterwards declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court .
The DoJ website has also published other opinions it had suppressed for up to eight years.
The most notorious opinions are still missing, including John Yoo’s memo of September 21, 2001 claiming the Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply to the Bush Regime.
* * *
Torture and abuse are hardly a secret anymore. Indeed, the Bush administration is actually arguing that evidence obtained by torture is admissible.
In a little-reported case in the Court of Military Commission Review, the government has appealed the decision of commission judge Stephen Henley in which he refused to admit the tortured confessions of Mohamed Jawad.
This must surely represent the nadir of the Bush Gang – seeking to use the tortured evidence of a child and then appealing the order of the judge who excluded it.
The amended brief on which Jawad’s lawyers argued his case on January 13 is HERE.
On the same day, Jawad’s former prosecutor, Lt Col Darrel Vandeveld (see my post of October 27), filed an affidavit in support of his DC habeas action.
The Washington Post has more on this.
In his affidavit, Vandeveld sees himself as Jawad’s “former prosecutor and now-repentant persecutor”.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

1000 dollar letter

I was really hoping (because yes, hope does die last) that they were telling me that he had been moved and he was no longer in Camp 6. I thought and hoped Al-Ghizzawi had finally been moved to a safer and more humane environment. When after another email the privilege team refused to divulge anything more I booked my trip to DC. Of course, Chicago to DC is a big money maker for the airlines and there are few cheap fares unless you book in advance but as I have a trip scheduled to Guantanamo next week I needed to go immediately.

When I got to the secret place, I located the letter and two habeas counsel that can read a bit of Arabic. They looked at the letter and told me he was still in camp 6 and was experiencing health problems. Sigh.

But then I wondered why was this letter classified? Why did I have to fly to DC to read this particular letter? Well, it seems in passing he mentioned he was still in his same cell and he gave his cell number. (I really couldn’t make this stuff up.)

I brought the letter back to the privilege team and asked them if I scratched out the cell number could the letter be declassified? “Of course” they replied. So, I performed my duty as an attorney and scratched out the cell number and they stamped the letter “unclassified” and I flew home, less $1000..

One of the many stories from just another Guantanamo attorney.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


How ironic to read the op-ed from John Bellinger seeking the help of the European Community in accepting men from Guantanamo. To say merely that Mr. Bellinger's op-ed "defies credulity" would be somewhat unfair to the term "defies credulity." Is Mr. Bellinger actually suggesting that it is because of the diplomatic efforts of the Rice State Department that European Countries are now considering taking some of these men after Obama becomes President?

I am an attorney for two of the men being held at Guantanamo and I have been representing these men pro bono for over three years. One of my clients is very ill and has not been given proper medical care while being held illegally at the military base these seven years. At my own expense I have traveled and lobbied several European countries seeking a safe place for that client to be transferred and for medical help. In Switzerland I found a medical doctor and hospital that volunteered to care for my client and they arranged for funding so that the people of Switzerland would not be footing the bill. After almost a year of my lobbying the Swiss Government they finally agreed to approach officials at the State Department to discuss my client’s possible transfer to Switzerland. I gave them the name of none other than Mr. John Bellinger because of his position in the State Department with jurisdiction over “detainee affairs.” Swiss officials contacted Mr. Bellinger more than a year ago and asked the State Department to make an official request to them to take my client so that the Swiss government could make their own official determination. Mr. Bellinger refused the request of the Swiss officials and instead suggested that the State Department might consider a request from the Swiss if the Swiss wanted to make an official request to the State Department for my clients transfer to Switzerland. My Congressional Representative attempted to intervene and convince Mr. Bellinger to reconsider but he adamantly refused. My client, who the government knows is guilty of no wrong-doing, has languished in ill health at Guantanamo for yet another year because of the arrogance of Mr. Bellinger and his superiors in the Bush Administration.

All I can say to Mr. Bellinger and the “diplomatic efforts” of the Bush State Department is that they are as credible as the Bush Administration’s denials of torture, that its practices and procedures conform to the rule of law, or that Guantanamo is full of the “worst of the worst” (2/3 of whom have been unilaterally released by it!) In short, what is best said to Mr. Bellinger and the diplomatic efforts of the Bush State Department is good Riddance.

Friday, January 16, 2009

100 days letter

January 14, 2009

Dear Member of Congress,

We are writing you as a community of more than 100 people joined in a Fast for Justice that began yesterday afternoon as we marked the seventh year of torture, abuse, and indefinite detention at the Guantanamo prison.

The fast will be broken at sunrise on January 20, when the fasters — in a spirit of hope and renewal — will join the inauguration-day crowds with their message that Guantanamo must close and torture must end.

Fasting is an important part of many religious and spiritual traditions. It has been used, notably by Mahatma Gandhi, as an expression of political principle, with the power to move hearts and minds and change policies. And it has a particular connection to Guantanamo, where over 70 men are currently engaged in another hunger strike to protest their abuse. Honoring all these traditions and meanings, the Fast for Justice is:
• an act of moral witness — against the crime and sin of torture, indefinite detention, rendition, and the denial of legal and human rights
• a political demand — that Guantanamo close, tortured be definitively banned, and that all U.S. detainees receive true justice and equality before the law
• an act of solidarity — with the suffering of the men, boys, and women, whether in Guantanamo or other U.S. detention facilities around the world
• an act of atonement — for our nations’ violation of domestic and international law, human rights, and its own principals,
• an expression of hope — that President-Elect Obama will honor his words by closing Guantanamo and banning torture in his first days of office
• an act of renewal — that calls America back to its senses and to its core values; that seeks to make those values stronger, inviolable; and which helps to reconnect America to the peoples of the world

On January 11th, seven years ago, the first planeload of men arrived at Guantanamo--- hooded and shackled. Since then, more than 1,000 men have passed through this 21st century penal colony—tortured, abused, told they would be there forever. For five men-- those who have died at Guantanamo (four apparently by suicide, and another man of cancer)—it has been forever. We are working to ensure that this is the last time we come to Washington to mark this date—January 11, 2009 must be the last anniversary of Guantanamo.

We are not the only ones who marked this anniversary with outrage, activism and hope that things will change. The Pentagon admitted two days ago that in the days leading up to January 11th, many more men at Guantanamo joined a long-standing hunger strike, and that most of them were being subjected to force-feeding, a practice condemned by the ACLU as “cruel, inhuman, degrading and unlawful treatment.”

Half of the Fasters for Justice are in Washington, DC and will hold a public witness in DuPont Circle Park from 11am-1pm each day through Tuesday, January 20. The rest of the fasters are participating from around the country. The fast will be broken in a sunrise ceremony on Inauguration Day in McPherson Square, DC. (For details and updates, visit

We invite you to join us. We are gaining ground. The demand to close Guantanamo and end torture seemed farfetched just a few years ago, but it now feels like an attainable goal. Three times, the Supreme Court has rebuked the Bush administration’s abuse of power; judges in federal district court have ordered the release of Guantanamo detainees into the United States. And then on November 6, the people of the U.S. elected Barack Obama, who was quoted in the Washington Post recently as saying: “Under my administration, the United States does not torture. We will abide by the Geneva Conventions… We will uphold our highest values and ideals.”

We have been heartened and inspired by those words. Some have even questioned why we need to continue working for the closure of Guantanamo when the next President makes such clear and unequivocal statements. We received our answer yesterday, when-- even as we were focused on Barack Obama’s pledges to close Guantanamo-- the President-elect appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and said that following through on that pledge within the first 100 of days of his administration would be “more difficult than I think a lot of people realize.”

Guantanamo must be closed with all deliberate speed. It must be closed now!

With the inauguration of President Barack Obama, Witness Against Torture will launch its 100 Days Campaign to Close Guantanamo and End Torture and for the first fifteen weeks of the new administration maintain a daily presence in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House, reminding the President of his commitments and encouraging him to restore U.S. respect for the rule of law by honoring them.


Matthew Vogel

on behalf of Witness Against Torture & the Fast for Justice

Demisse Abebe
Beth Adams

Jackie Allen
Leslie Angeline

Merri Ansara
Laurie Arbiter
Cythia Banas
Ellen Barfield
David Barrows
Mike Benedetti
Matt Bernard
Willa Bickham
Paul Blasenheim
Beth Brockman
Anna Brown
Lauren Boasso
Casey Burnett
Tim Chadwick
Bob Cooke
Bud Courtney
Amanda Daloisio
Matthew Daloisio
Marie Denis
Vincent Eirene
Stephen Engel
Suzette Ermler
Umar Farooq
Tom Feaghley
Bill Frankel-Streit
Christine Gaunt
Helen Gerhardt
Latona Giwa
Nancy Gowan
Ellen Graves
Lindsay Hagerman
Luke Hanson
Martha Hennessy
Annamarie Hessman
Sherrill Hogan
Brian Hynes
Heidi Hynes
Paul Kangas
Ellen Kauffman
Brian Kavanagh
Zara Khan
Malachy Kilbride
Ed Kinane
Adrienne Kinne
Joshua Knight
Stephen Kobasa
Mark Krupanski
Art Laffin
Scott Langley
Steve Lane
Mary Leipold
Linda LeTendre
Mike Leonard
Mike Levinson
Jarrrett Lovell
Paul Magno
Nancy Mancias
Jim Margolis
Sheila McCarthy
Mike McGuire
Jack McHale
Tim McKinney
Justin Mears
Camilo Mejia
Anne Montgomery
Joe Morton
LuAnn Mostello
Gael Murphy
Constance O'Hearn
Sr. Diana Ortiz
Brian Perbix
Rachel Plevin
Kimberly Redigan
Bev Rice
Terri Rogers
Helen Schietinger
Jake Schumann
Chris Schweitzer
Cindy Sheehan
Alan Shockey
Anna Shockley
Maggie Smith
Jean Stokan
Jennifer Svetlik
Richard Szorcinski
Eve Tetaz
Tanya Theriault
Joe Towle
Carmen Trotta
Silke Tudor
Matt Vogel
Brendan Walsh
Paki Wieland
Scott Wright
Patty Wudel
Bill Wylie-Kellerman
Lydia Wylie-Kellerman
Jerry Zawada
John Zettner

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The myth continues...

" The Pentagon said on Tuesday that 61 former detainees from its military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, appear to have returned to terrorism since their release from custody."

There are two funny aspects to this and at least one pathetic aspect. I will start with the pathetic, the press. When McCarthy announced he had a piece of paper in his pocket with the names of high-ranking communists in the government... the Press demanded the names. The Press these days just laps up whatever is tossed at them and prints it without investigation. Yes pathetic.
Now for the funny aspect (OK, I have a sick sense of humor) In two months we have gone from false pentagon reports of 30 men "returning to the battleground" to 61 "returning to terror." What is the difference? Well first, they had to stop with the round numbers…too suspicious. However, let us talk about what we know about the first “30” who returned to the battlefield. We never could get all of the names… they released a couple of names and then we drew out a couple of more but that was still only a handful. It was enough however to show what BS this is. We know that only one individual actually returned to a real battleground. We know that two others who the military maintains returned to the battleground were never in Guantanamo and another two who supposedly returned to the battleground were still in Guantanamo. After the number 30 (a nice round number) was bandied about for a while longer we also learned that the battlefield (not unlike the military's definition of Enemy Combatant) had been expanded to include talking to the media. There was a time when the media was part of a battleground but that was then and this is now. We know that the three Uighers who were released to Albania were put on the list because they gave an interview criticizing the US and Gitmo.
But the second funny part is the change in semantics. Why have they changed the terminology from "battlefield" to "terror"? And why does it just "appear" they have returned to the terror? I mean we either know or we do not, right? Or is it that we just cannot tell? Could it be they feel the pressure of maybe having to explain this propaganda to a new administration? In the US today it really is easier to claim someone “appears to be engaged in terror” and you don't have to explain much more...(Hence 95% of the men at Guantanamo staying as long as they have) With those magic words of “terrorism” American's start shaking in their boots and the parrot Press repeats the mantra until a new story gets their attention and the bottom line is that no one has to be found in Afghanistan or Iraq or wherever. I would bet my bottom dollar that several of the outspoken British former detainees are on that list because of their public stands against Guantanamo and US aggression. How about Mr. Kurnaz? He wrote a pretty damning book? Are any of the Guantanamo poets writing more poetry... that would give the appearance of terrorism would it not? I really hope Obama fires this pentagon spokes person and releases all of the background to this propaganda.