Saturday, January 24, 2015

The torture chronicles

Splendid properties and the good life for the CIA's leading torturers ... Rectal rehydration deemed a normal medical procedure ... Feinstein report conveniently colour coded countries that hosted torture camps ... Blue, Black, Violet and Green ... Life at the Salt Pit ... Roger Fitch files from Washington  
A NEW year brings new challenges to the justice system in the US.
At Just Security blog, Jennifer Daskal has a list of the most important "national security" cases to watch in 2015, while Steve Vladeck gives his picks for 2014's "national security heroes," i.e. human rights upholders, national security having rather a bad name at the moment. 
Indeed, some things are looking up. There's even talk of observing the Geneva Conventions, with an end to military detentions linked to the Afghan war, now officially over.  
Significantly, the Supreme Court has never ruled that Congress's 2001 "Authorisation to Use Military Force" (AUMF) applies outside the Afghan adventure. 
In the court's 2004 Hamdi decision, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said: 
"The United States may detain, for the duration of these hostilities, individuals legitimately determined to be Taliban combatants who 'engaged in an armed conflict against the United States.' If the record establishes that United States troops are still involved in active combat in Afghanistan, those detentions are part of the exercise of 'necessary and appropriate force', and therefore are authorized by the AUMF."
It may not be easy to dispose of the remaining Guantanameros, some held over 13 years. Will Obama release them? Even his most liberal supporters continue to prattle about men "too dangerous to release" - history and Geneva be damned.
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Chez Zirbel: from black site to lush site
Meanwhile, life is good, if sometimes embarrassing, for former jailers and torturers: Matt Zirbel, for instance, who supervised the CIA torture station in Afghanistan known as "the Salt Pit" (see below).
Thanks to those ubiquitous internet ads for real estate, we can now admire the new digs of Mr Zirbel, who has suffered no known consequences for the hypothermia death of one of his off-the-books prisoners. 
As for the other actors and spectators in the torture drama that followed release of the Senate's Feinstein Report (see previous post), all are behaving pretty much as expected. 
In the case of George Bush's vice president, one headline said it allCheney's Depraved Defence of Torture.
Republican Senators can't see what the fuss is about, except the one who's been tortured, John McCain. 
James Mitchell, the horridly unethical psychologist identified as "architect" of the CIA's torture program, feels he's been hard done by and his life is in danger - it's all the Senate's fault for publicising his crimes.
Mitchell: CIA's torture guru
Mitchell cheerfully acknowledges he waterboarded men and watched and measured their reactions, artlessly admitting he conducted unlawful medical experiments in apparent violation of the Nuremberg Code
More here on the ghastly experiments at Gitmo that made it into a "battle lab" to study the limits of mistreated prisoners.
Others at the CIA are running around claiming everything they did was legal, and the agency's former director, the odious Michael Hayden, says "rectal rehydration", aka anal rape, is just a normal medical procedure.
Doctors not in the employ of the CIA beg to differ.
One person not heard from was Alfreda Bikowsky. The Intercept has an update on the CIA's "queen of torture". 
Bikowsky still holds a high position in the CIA. That could be the reason the CIA demanded her name be redacted three dozen times from the executive summary of CIA crimes that forms the Feinstein Report.  
Alfreda Bikowsky: torture queen. It is believed Bikowsky is the small woman at the back under the red star
Most likely, Alfreda is in hiding, after the disclosure of her home address in leafy northern Virginia. 
The European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights has a special report on all the investigations and charges brought or pending against the CIA and US military jailers.  
The ECCHR has also filed a fresh complaint in Berlin against some of the more notorious Bush Gang members. 
The Feinstein Report identifies by colour-code the countries that harboured CIA torture camps, sorry, "black sites", giving new meaning to the phrase "beaten black and blue". Poland is "Blue", Romania "Black", Lithuania "Violet" and Thailand "Green". 
Following the report's release, officials of Country Blue finally admitted their country'smoney-motivated  participation in the CIA program.   
Country Black promised to have another look at its role in the CIA's Bucharest dungeon. Called "Bright Light", it was a stopover on Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri's three or four-stop torture odyssey on the way to a military show trial now being presented at Gitmo.
The Romanian jail was found and photographed by the AP in 2008.  
Country Violet continues to stonewall, although Lithuanian flight plans and invoices have been gleaned from aviation contracts and submitted to the state prosecutor by the English human rights law firm Reprieve.
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Salt Pit Afghanistan (© Space Imaging)
The creepy adherence to administrative practices in government outsourcing of patently criminal activity also extended to the CIA's in-house projects, i.e. Konzentrationslager in Afghanistan.
The most infamous of these was the Salt Pit, "Camp Cobalt" in the Feinstein Report.  
In a horrifying example of the attention to bureaucratic detail Hannah Arendt called "the banality of evil", the CIA brought civilian employees of the US Bureau of Prisons to Afghanistan to sign off on design standards for a secret facility specifically set up to torment and mistreat unlawfully-held prisoners.
The BOP found the prison was fine, in the very week an inmate froze to death on Matt Zirbel's watch.
The ACLU is now investigating BOP's participation through an FOI request.
As for the CIA's newly-confirmed torture site at Guantánamo, it's once again in the frame as a crime scene in the suspicious "triple suicide" of 2006, first reported by Harper's Scott Horton in 2010, and since studied by Seton Hall Law School in several reports.
Other reactions to the Feinstein Report are here and here.
Coincidentally, the opinion that Harry Truman eventually held of his diabolical creation has come to light. Al Jazeera has more
Torture by the US military abroad is yet to be addressed, but one of the three "enemy combatants" wrongly detained and mistreated by the Pentagon on US soil, Ali al-Marri, isabout to be released, having served a valid civil sentence in the US.
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Finally, finding his cojones, Mr Obama induced the outgoing Democrat-controlled US Senate to confirm enough judges to put the president ahead of predecessors at this point in their tenures.
Confirmations in the new Congress will be another matter.  
Already, foxes are being installed in each Congressional henhouse, e.g. the running of the House Intelligence Committee will be entrusted to a Blackwater lobbyist.    
Whatever the 114th Congress does - or doesn't - do, the real action will be in those states whose citizens awoke November 5th to Republican supermajorities in their legislatures

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