Tortured Confessions in Iran (& in the U.S.)

In another disturbing development, Iranian leaders have managed to torture confessions of a “conspiracy” behind the Iranian people’s popular uprising against a blatantly stolen election.  Meanwhile the U.S. still hasn’t closed Guantanamo, Obama’s administration is considering indefinite detention for those we’ve tortured (who at least this administration acknowledges we can’t fairly try), and there are even reports of torture in the form of “extraction teams” continuing since the administration change.

First, on Iran.  According to the New York Times:

Iranian leaders say they have obtained confessions from top reformist officials that they plotted to bring down the government with a “velvet” revolution. Such confessions, almost always extracted under duress, are part of an effort to recast the civil unrest set off by Iran’s disputed presidential election as a conspiracy orchestrated by foreign nations, human rights groups say.

As a human rights observer, I am not reassured about the truthfulness of confessions like this one:

Alef, a Web site of a conservative member of Parliament, referred to a video of Mohammad Ali Abtahi, who served as vice president in the reform government of former President Mohammed Khatami, as showing that he tearfully “welcomed being defrocked and has confessed to provoking people, causing tension and creating media chaos.”

or this report:

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representative to the Revolutionary Guards, Mojtaba Zolnour, said in a speech Thursday that almost everyone now detained had confessed — raising the prospect that more confessions will be made public. Ayatollah Khamenei is supreme religious leader.

According to another article by the New York Times, “A high-ranking Iranian cleric said Friday that Iran planned to put some of the detained British embassy staff members on trial”  claiming that “the embassy employees had ‘made confessions’ and would be tried for their role in inciting protests after last month’s disputed presidential election.”  Authorities claim to have video showing “evidence of some embassy employees at the protests” (as were a great many other Iranians).

This BBC video also paints a chilling portrait of the repression.  TV commercials to turn in your own family and robo-calls warning you not to participate in public protests.

Of course, the US (and Britain) have a bad track record with Iran, including their support of the Shah and his repressive SAVAK security, who the CIA helped put in power in the first place.  Leading many on the American left to claim there must be American involvement, and giving the Iranian authorities a convenient scapegoat (with the same kind of “you’re either for us or against us” mentality the Bush administration tried to make popular here).

Certainly, even if there was US involvement, it couldn’t explain (nor negate) the genuine, popular uprising first over a blatantly stolen election, then over the brutal repression of the protests.

In her article Iran and Leftist Confusion on Truthout, Reese Erlich, returning from covering the Iranian elections and protests, responds to claims that the U.S. is orchestrating the uprising.

When I returned from covering the Iranian elections recently, I was surprised to find my email box filled with progressive authors, academics and bloggers bending themselves into knots about the current crisis in Iran. They cite the long history of US interference in Iran and conclude that the current unrest there must be sponsored or manipulated by the Empire.

    That comes as quite a shock to those risking their lives daily on the streets of major Iranian cities fighting for political, social and economic justice.

Some of these authors have even cited my book, “The Iran Agenda,” as a source to prove US meddling. Whoa there, pardner. Now we’re getting personal.

To the claims that President Ahmadinejad actually won the election (one that seems to me to be really stretching it, given that the New York Times reported that Iranian authorities themselves admitted “ that the number of votes recorded in 50 cities exceeded the number of eligible voters there by three million”), Erlich cites:

A study by two professors at Chatham House and the Institute of Iranian Studies at University of St. Andrews, Scotland, took a close look at the official election results and found some major discrepancies. For Ahmadinejad to have sustained his massive victory in one-third of Iran’s provinces, he would have had to carry all his supporters, all new voters, all voters previously voting centrist and about 44 percent of previous reformist voters.

Then to the assertion that “[t]he US has a long history of meddling in Iran, so it must be behind the current unrest,” Erlich notes that:

All the arguments are by analogy and implication. Neither the above two authors, nor anyone else of whom I am aware, offers one shred of evidence that the Obama administration has engineered, or even significantly influenced, the current demonstrations.

Then her observations, from being inside Iran while this was all happening.

Let’s look at what actually happened on the ground. Tens of millions of Iranians went to bed on Friday, June 12, convinced that either Mousavi had won the election outright or that there would be a runoff between him and Ahmadinejad. They woke up Saturday morning and were stunned. “It was a coup d’etat,” several friends told me. The anger cut across class lines and went well beyond Mousavi’s core base of students, intellectuals and the well-to-do.

    Within two days, hundreds of thousands of people were demonstrating peacefully in the streets of Tehran and other major cities. Could the CIA have anticipated the vote count, and on two days notice, mobilized its nefarious networks? Does the CIA even have the kind of extensive networks that would be necessary to control or even influence such a movement? That simultaneously gives the CIA too much credit and underestimates the independence of the mass movement.

    As for the charge that the CIA is providing advanced technology like Twitter, pleaaaaaase. In my commentary carried on Reuters, I point out that the vast majority of Iranians have no access to Twitter and that the demonstrations were mostly organized by cell phone and word of mouth.

Umm, you mean Twitter has been overrated by the mainstream media? ; )

Frankly, based on my observations, no one was leading the demonstrations. During the course of the week after the elections, the mass movement evolved from one protesting vote fraud into one calling for much broader freedoms. You could see it in the changing composition of the marches. There were not only upper middle class kids in tight jeans and designer sun glasses. There were growing numbers of workers and women in very conservative chadors.

    Iranian youth particularly resented President Ahmadinejad’s support for religious militia attacks on unmarried young men and women walking together and against women not covering enough hair with their hijab. Workers resented the 24 percent annual inflation that robbed them of real wage increases. Independent trade unionists were fighting for decent wages and for the right to organize.

    Some demonstrators wanted a more moderate Islamic government. Others advocated a separation of mosque and state, and a return to parliamentary democracy they had before the 1953 coup. But virtually everyone believes that Iran has the right to develop nuclear power, including enriching uranium. Iranians support the Palestinians in their fight against Israeli occupation, and they want to see the US get out of Iraq.

 So if the CIA was manipulating the demonstrators, it was doing a piss poor job.

So now Iranian authorities are torturing confessions to “prove” the demonstrations are all the work of the U.S. and other foreign nations.   Of course, this is what torture is used for – to extract forced confessions.  Which makes you wonder about the U.S. use of torture at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere.  We’re using methods that were used against American soldiers during the Korean War to extract false confessions for show trials.  Great if we wanted show trials (well, not great, but the logic would be).  Isn’t what we want real information on terrorists, so we can stop whatever they’re planning next?  Am I missing something here?

It’s not un-patriotic to question America’s use of torture, even on the Fourth of July (in fact, what better day to question it – we’re talking about our Constitution, we’re talking about what America is).  Listen to what some in the military have to say about our use of torture in this video by the ACLU (Warning: this video does contain photos from Abu Ghraib):

Torture is wrong and immoral, and must be confronted, whether it’s being done by the Iranian government or the U.S. government. It is un-American (and I’m sure the Iranian people would agree, if they could, that it is also un-Iranian).


“Indefinite Detention” – Obama Continuing Bush Policies

So, on Friday the Washington Post and and ProPublica reported that President Obama is considering “an executive order that would reassert presidential authority to incarcerate terrorism suspects indefinitely,” furthering his slide into continuing the worst of the Bush administration policies in the so-called “war on terror.”

A month ago, on May 21, President Obama proposed what the New York Times described as “a new legal system in which terrorism suspects could be held in “prolonged detention” inside the United States without trial.”

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow rightly took the President to task on this, and his hypocrisy for proposing it in the same speech where Obama repudiated the abuses of the Constitution by President Bush’s administration, in front of the Constitution at the National Archives, no less.

Now, this would be just as bad as far as the constitutionality of what we’d be doing if the President got together with congress as he previously suggested, to imprison people indefinitely, without charge, because we think they may be dangerous.  Something we Americans grew up to believe could not happen in this country. 

Adding to the disturbing continuation of the Bush era policies though, is President Obama’s grab for executive privilege.  Like Bush, he’s going to decide who is or isn’t a threat to the United States of America.  Even more disturbingly, in the Washington Post article, his spokesperson claimed this is what civil liberties groups asked for!

White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said that there is no executive order and that the administration has not decided whether to issue one. But one administration official suggested that the White House is already trying to build support for an order.

“Civil liberties groups have encouraged the administration, that if a prolonged detention system were to be sought, to do it through executive order,” the official said. Such an order could be rescinded and would not block later efforts to write legislation, but civil liberties groups generally oppose long-term detention, arguing that detainees should be prosecuted or released.


Thankfully Glen Greenwald’s excellent latest article in Salon on the subject challenges that statement:

Those journalistic practices produce egregious sentences like this:  “‘Civil liberties groups have encouraged the administration, that if a prolonged detention system were to be sought, to do it through executive order’, the official said.”  I’d love to know which so-called “civil liberties groups” are pushing the White House for an Executive Order establishing the power of indefinite detention.  It’s certainly not the ACLU or Center for Constitutional Rights, both of which issued statements vehemently condemning the proposal (ACLU’s Anthony Romero:  “If President Obama issues an executive order authorizing indefinite detention, he’ll be repeating the same mistakes of George Bush”). 

What makes this ironically more difficult, is that it’s harder to get people to pay attention and stand up to continuing these policies under the Obama administration.  My experience with the issue tabling for Amnesty International is that many think Guantanamo and the War on Terror are ancient history. If it’s not all over now, it’s going to end. Maybe, too, after years of fighting Bush, everyone wants a break and to get back to the rest of their life.  But this is our Constitution, and our lives.

As Greenwald notes:

Absent serious public opposition (and one recent poll shows overwhelming opposition), it seems highly likely that Barack Obama will wield the power to imprison people indefinitely without charges of any kind.

Then there’s the Presidential power grab, which certainly I never thought Obama would be party to.  Greenwald again (and the highlighting is from the original):

There has now emerged a very clear — and very disturbing — pattern whereby Obama is willing to use legal mechanisms and recognize the authority of other branches only if he’s assured that he’ll get the outcome he wants.

That bad?  Consider what’s already happened.

That, for instance, is the precise pattern that’s driving his suppression of torture photos.  Two federal courts ordered the President to release the photos under the 40-year-old Freedom of Information Act.  Not wanting to abide by that decision, the White House (using Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman) tried to pressure Congress to enact new legislation vesting the administration with the power to override FOIA.  When House progressives blocked that bill, the White House assured Lieberman and Graham that Obama would simply use an Executive Order to decree the photos “classified” (when they are plainly nothing of the sort) and thus block their release anyway. 

The Freedom of Information Act does not apply to this President.  I didn’t think I’d be writing these words again so soon after we innaugerated the good guy in January. So do we challenge it?  Where is everyone?

What ultimately matters here is that we not lose sight of the critical point:  no matter the form it takes, and no matter which route is used to implement it (act of Congress or executive order), indefinite detention without charges is a repugnant and tyrannical power.  Democrats and progressives had no trouble understanding that fact during the last eight years, so they should have no trouble understanding it now.

One of the most disturbing things about all this to me is that one of Obama’s strongest points to me as a candidate was that he was a constitutional professor.  I attended an Obama Salon a year ago highlighting that fact.

ObamaSalons: Restoring the Constitution (Community Service)
Please join us for Restoring the Constitution, the first installment of ObamaSalons. Christian Halliburton, a professor of constitutional law in the Seattle University School of Law, will offer his perspective on the role of the U.S. Constitution, the importance of habeas corpus and the ongoing legal issues surrounding detentions at Guantanamo Bay. Professor Halliburton will talk about Obama’s background as a constitutional law professor and lead a discussion about what having a constitutional expert in the White House could mean for restoring America’s legal foundation.
Don’t get me wrong.  I know Obama was the best we could do this time around (and all his Democratic opponents who were likely challengers are in fact in his administration, raising no protests I’ve heard of).  Kucininch or the Greens or Nader couldn’t have made it.  I knew we’d have to fight him to be stronger on some issues.  Still. . .  I didn’t expect us to be fighting on indefinite detentions and Presidential power grabs.  Accountability, yeah, I figured as a Democrat he’d wimp out on holding those in the Bush administration accountable for torture (while Republican’s try to throw people out of office for affairs, only to amusingly get caught themselves).
We can’t keep going down this path and thinking it’s okay because President Obama is in charge and he’s a good guy.  Our Constitution was created for a reason and without it, none of us are safe.  Sure, it may be easy for people to ignore us rounding up people in other countries, many of them turned in by their neighbors or strangers for huge rewards and no real evidence of threat to the US; but who’s to say it won’t happen here – to you or me.  Once the power is there, somewhere down the road we’re in danger of it being further misused.
Ironically, one of the songs I remember playing at the Obama rally I made it to early on in the campaign here, at the Qwest Field events center, was the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”  I was still, rightly, a skeptic at the time (even though I already thought he was the best electable choice).
Amazing how timely that tune still stays.  Here’s The Who at Live 8 in 2006:
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
Guess I should have been paying more attention to that song.

And I get on my knees and pray. . .

Freedom for the Guantanamo Uighurs?

So, we finally seem to be in the midst of freeing 17 Uighurs held at Guantanamo since 2002, even though most of them have been cleared for release since 2003. Even though, as Amnesty International noted in a February 19 report:

The Bush administration had conceded that the Uighurs were not “enemy combatants” (even under its own definition of the concept), and had accepted that they could not be returned to their native China because they would face a serious risk of torture or execution there.

No other country would take them, the Bush administration wouldn’t let them be released into the U.S. 

Wait, surely change has come?  Afraid not, the Democrats wimp out again on an important principle, first Congress, then the President. As the Boston Globe reports:

Years later, after the Uighurs’ plight emerged in court, the Bush administration formally admitted they were not enemies. A judge ordered their release.

Then, a new president, who had campaigned on a vow to close Guantanamo, was on the point of admitting them to this country. But suddenly Congress was stampeded by the right, and President Obama ducked for cover. Congressional Democrats and many Republicans had applauded the call to close Guantanamo, but when it came to action, they ran for the exits. There were a few exceptions, like Senators Dick Durbin and Pat Leahy, and Congressman Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts. But they seemed like schoolteachers after the bell had rung, trying to bring order to a ruck of noisy children, looking in vain for help to the principal’s office.

As the Washington Post notes:

The men were cleared for release by the Bush administration years ago; the federal courts that reviewed their cases concluded that there was no evidence to justify their imprisonment in the first place. Yet they languished behind bars because the United States could not return them to their native China for fear they would be tortured, or worse. Some 100 countries declined U.S. requests to take the Uighurs, in part because of Chinese threats of retaliation. U.S. lawmakers railed against the possibility of allowing the detainees into the United States, claiming that they were dangerous terrorists despite the assessments of a Republican and a Democratic president, military officers and an independent judiciary.

So far, four Uighurs have been freed from Guantanamo and released to Bermuda, with reports of Palau and maybe Italy to take others.  Unfortunately, not before “war on terror” frenzy was whipped up by some on the little island.  As the Boston Globe describes it:

Bermudian Premier Ewart Brown saw the humanitarian crisis that lay beneath the politics. He offered to accept four of them into the island’s guest worker program. At 3 a.m. on June 11, I watched on the Guantanamo airstrip as four innocent men were unshackled for the last time. They climbed aboard a charter aircraft. And when the sun rose, they stepped down to free soil in Bermuda, smiling broadly.

One said, “This is a small island, but it has a big heart.”

Others will have to judge the American heart. Within hours, the lunatic fringe was feeding lies to Bermudian media. CNN joined in the mugging with a false report from a Bush-era mouthpiece that the men had “trained in Al Qaeda camps.” (Before meeting interrogators, the men had never heard of Al Qaeda, and in court the Bush administration itself conceded that there was no Al Qaeda link. But in the feeding frenzy, truth did not matter.)

A political crisis exploded in Bermuda’s parliament. The minority called for a vote of no-confidence in the government. The British loudly protested not being asked permission.

The Uighurs are a Muslim ethnic minority group in China and live in an “autonomous region” similar to Tibet. Their culture and religion is under attack by the Chinese government, as is the Tibetans.  I first became aware of the Uighurs when AI was working to free Rebiya Kadeer, a Uighur business woman and mother of 11, who was in prison 5 years, and Amnesty International considered a Prisoner of Conscience.

There was a time when fighting the Communist Chinese government  was viewed as a good thing by ours, who would have welcomed them with open arms.  Post cold-war and post Sept. 11, however, and we’re letting the Chinese define them as terrorists for us.

As the New York Times notes:

Washington has walked a thin line in the handling of the Uighurs. It sought China’s support in antiterrorism efforts after the Sept. 11 attacks, branded an obscure Uighur independence group as terrorist and in 2002 allowed Chinese officials into Guantánamo to interrogate Uighur captives. The four men released here said that interrogation was a low point of their Guantánamo incarceration, with Chinese officials questioning them for long hours without food and threatening them and their families.

My head kind of spins, as a former cold-war kid who grew up on our government being “anti-communist.”  We’re letting the Chinese interrogate prisoners in our prisons.  Oh, wait, our prisons that aren’t our prisons and are on some mythological island where our laws don’t apply.

At any rate, it is good that our government finally has freed four more of these men, and may soon release the others (most of whom even the Bush Administration acknowledged haven’t done anything against us).

Obama’s Inauguration – Inspiration

Wow – the day has come!  President Obama.  Yes, President Obama. Wow.  Nearly 2 million people filling the National Mall.   An inspiring speech. I don’t know if there’s much more to say.

Even though I want to stay cynical and I know we’re going to have to work on him for some issues, he represents such change, especially after the nightmare of the last 8 years.  I don’t think it was a coincidence that Bruce Springsteen performed The Rising at the Lincoln Memorial concert for Obama.  A song about surviving and rebuilding after the September 11 attacks now referring to another disaster – Bush’s Presidency.

I found this quote from David E. Sanger’s analysis of Obama’s speech in the New York Times hilarious:

Yet not since 1933, when Franklin D. Roosevelt called for a “restoration” of American ethics and “action, and action now” as Herbert Hoover sat and seethed, has a new president so publicly rejected the essence of his predecessor’s path.

Well, do you have to say anything more?  Yet, it really isn’t funny, because among the other disasters, Bush has left the economy a mess, with many out of work, and many of us on shaky ground. 

President Obama has a lot to deal with.  I don’t expect miracles, but yet it is incredible to be feeling this much hope again.  To be this proud of being an American again.

Amnesty International made a very funny video (on a serious issue) poking fun at our expectations of Obama, while calling for the closure of Guantanamo, ending of torture, and accountability for abuses committed in the “war on terror” by the Bush administration.

It’s part of AI’s 100 Day’s Campaign, calling for President Obama’s administration, within the first 100 days to:

  • announce a plan and date to close Guantanamo;
  • issue an executive order to ban torture and other ill-treatment, as defined under international law;
  • ensure that an independent commission to investigate abuses committed by the U.S. government in its “war on terror” is set up.

To sign the petition and for more information go to:


I am very hopeful about the first two items.  President Obama has said he will close Guantanamo and end torture.  Incoming Attorney General Eric Holder has stated unequivocally that waterboarding is torture.  I think we may have to push a bit on the accountability issue, though.  Democrats tend not to want to make waves.

I was particularly encouraged when President Obama spoke out about the false choice between security and human rights in his Inaugural Address:

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so, to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: Know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use. Our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

I really do believe President Obama has values we can believe in.  Even while I don’t kid myself and I know we will have to keep mobilizing and pushing him on the issues.  I remember past Democratic administrations.  What is especially encouraging, is the citizens movement he created and empowered by showing us “Yes, we can!”  is going to keep moving forward and pushing him to stand up for those ideals.

Music as Torture

Also on December 10, the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the British human rights organization, Reprieve, which, according to the Telegraph, represents 33 clients at Guantanamo Bay, launched the Zero dB initiative to end the use of music as torture.

The campaign urges supporters to help bring to an end the “brutal practice of music torture”. It will feature minutes of silence during concerts and festivals while a petition will call on governments and the UN to uphold their obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture.

America’s use of torture in the “war on terror” is outrageous, horrifying and disgusting in all it’s forms.  It’s particularly outrageous that the torturers can just co-opt an artist’s music for their sick game. Rage Against the Machine’s Killing in the Name Of is one of the songs that has been used, and Tom Morello has been speaking out on the issue for some time, as noted by Andy Worthington in the Huffington Post:

Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine has been particularly outspoken in denouncing the use of music as torture. In 2006, he also spoke to Spin magazine, and explained, “The fact that our music has been co-opted in this barbaric way is really disgusting. If you’re at all familiar with ideological teachings of the band and its support for human rights, that’s really hard to stand.”

David Gray, who’s song Babylon has been used in torture has also been in the forefront against the use of music as torture, saying in the Telegraph:

“What we’re talking about here is people in a darkened room, physically inhibited by handcuffs, bags over their heads and music blaring at them,” singer-songwriter David Gray has said of the practice.

“That is torture. That is nothing but torture. It doesn’t matter what the music is – it could be Tchaikovsky’s finest or it could be Barney the Dinosaur. It really doesn’t matter, it’s going to drive you completely nuts.”

In fact, the theme from Barney has been used to torture, as well as the theme from Sesame Street.

Christopher Cerf, who wrote music for Sesame Street, told the Associated Press he was horrified to learn songs from the children’s show were used in interrogations. “I wouldn’t want my music to be a party to that.”

Trent Reznor has also spoken out on the Nine Inch Nails blog:

It’s difficult for me to imagine anything more profoundly insulting, demeaning and enraging than discovering music you’ve put your heart and soul into creating has been used for purposes of torture.
If there are any legal options that can be realistically taken they will be aggressively pursued, with any potential monetary gains donated to human rights charities.
Thank GOD this country has appeared to side with reason and we can put the Bush administration’s reign of power, greed, lawlessness and madness behind us.

Trent Reznor

There have been a few musicians, including Steve Asheim of Deicide, Stevie Benton of Drowning Pool and Jamie Hetfeld of Metallica who actually approve of the use of their music in torture; and too much apathy from the rest.

I think there are two problems that contribute to the lack of outcry from some, and outright approval or acquiescence of other musicians, whose music is being used to break people.  One, that music’s use as torture is viewed as “torture light.” The other, the belief that all, or at least most, of those locked up at places like Guantanamo are guilty and “the worse of the worse.”

Neither is true, and what our government is doing in our name is far more sinister than some people are willing to believe (which is why we need a thorough, independent, investigation once President Obama puts an end to all of this, with those responsible at the top of the Bush administration being held accountable, as Amnesty International is calling for)

As noted in a June 19 Guardian article, “the creator of Barney’s song I Love You, Bob Singleton, admits he ‘just laughed’ when he heard it was being used by interrogators”.

I would argue even the fact that Tom Morello can say repeatedly on stage, as quoted in the Huffington Post article and others, “I suggest that they level Guantánamo Bay, but they keep one small cell and they put Bush in there … and they blast some Rage Against the Machine,” highlights the problem.  Not that I probably didn’t laugh myself if he said it at the Get Out the Vote concert, and not that I haven’t heard similar from friends or people coming up to our Amnesty table (when I’ll say, of course as a member of AI, I oppose torture, or the death penalty, in all cases. . .). 

I do think the reason Tom’s fans, including, probably me, so easily laugh, however, is because we’re not taking seriously the idea that playing Rage Against the Machine music at a loud volume, non-stop would, in fact, torture and break President Bush. I also question, what would happen if Tom were to use some other suggestion of torture repeatedly each night, say of water boarding Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld.  In spite of the fact water boarding is also claimed to be “torture light,” I suspect the FBI might pay Tom a little visit (and frankly, would worry we may eventually need to file a habeas corpus petition for Tom).

Even for some of us who get that heavy metal or rap played loud all day and night could drive someone mad, the idea that something mellow like David Gray’s Babylon (or the Sesame Street or Barney themes) could have the same effect may sound crazy, or can it really drive you crazy?

Yet, as described in Vanity Fair, and quoted in the Dec. 26, 2005 (Dec. 7 online) edition of The Nation:

In a gripping Vanity Fair article, Donovan Webster searched for and found “the man in the hood” from the macabre Abu Ghraib photos. Haj Ali told Webster of being hooded, stripped, handcuffed to his cell and bombarded with a looped sample of David Gray’s “Babylon.” It was so loud, he said, “I thought my head would burst.” Webster then cued up “Babylon” on his iPod and played it for Haj Ali to confirm the song. Ali ripped the earphones off his head, and started crying. “He didn’t just well up with tears,” Webster later told me. “He broke down sobbing.”

Released former Guantanamo detainee Rahul Ahmed, whose case is documented in the film The Road to Guantanamo. talks about the use of music in torture in this clip from Reprieve:

Consider this comment in the Huffington Post by Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed:

Speaking to his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, the director of Reprieve, Mohamed, like Ruhal Ahmed, explained how psychological torture was worse than the physical torture he endured in Morocco, where the CIA’s proxy torturers regularly cut his penis with a razorblade. “Imagine you are given a choice,” he said. “Lose your sight or lose your mind.”

Of course, breaking down prisoners and causing them to lose their mind is exactly what these psychological techniques developed by the CIA were meant to do, as chronicled by Alfred W. McCoy on numerous occasions, including a May 29, 2004 edition of CounterPunch.

As the Dec. 2005 Nation article points out, the British also used loud noise against Irish detainees in the early 1970’s. “This was one of the so-called Five Techniques, scientifically developed interrogation practices that also included wall-standing, hooding, sleep deprivation and withholding of food and drink.”

 In his book Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People, John Conroy describes the “absolute” and “unceasing” noise that the Irishmen who were first subjected to the Five Techniques endured. While the other four techniques were clearly terrifying, the noise was “an assault of such ferocity that many of the men now recall it as the worst part of the ordeal.”

The Nation article continues the parallel:

Ex-interrogators at Guantánamo’s Camp Delta described their methods to the New York Times. These included shackling detainees to the floor, cranking up the air-conditioning and forcing them to endure strobe lights with rock and rap music playing at mind-numbing volumes for unbearably long sessions. “It fried them,” one said. Another admitted that detainees returned “very wobbly. They came back to their cells and were just completely out of it.”

This is when the mind begins its rebellion against the body. After you end up “wobbly” or “fried,” a severe post-traumatic stress disorder commonly results. Patrick Shivers, one of the Irish victims of the Five Techniques, developed a lasting and severe hypersensitivity to noise to the point where he was “disturbed by the sound of a comb placed on a shelf in his bathroom.”

Ah, but these techniques are only being used against terrorists, the worse of the worse, and certainly not Americans, right?  While it still would not be OK, or effective, the fact is – wrong.  The Huffington Post cites “Donald Vance, a U.S. military contractor in Iraq, who was subjected to music torture for 76 days in 2006”:

Vance’s story demonstrates not only that the practice of using music as torture was being used as recently as 2006, but also that it was used on Americans. When his story first broke in December 2006, the New York Times reported that he “wound up as a whistle-blower, passing information to the FBI about suspicious activities at the Iraqi security firm where he worked,” but that “when American soldiers raided the company at his urging, Mr. Vance and another American who worked there were detained as suspects by the military, which was unaware that Mr. Vance was an informer.”

Speaking to the Associated Press last week, Vance, who was held at Camp Cropper, said that the use of music as torture “can make innocent men go mad,” and explained that during his imprisonment the music “was almost constant, mostly hard rock. There was a lot of Nine Inch Nails, including ‘March of the Pigs.’ I couldn’t tell you how many times I heard Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You.'” He added that the experience “sort of removes you from you. You can no longer formulate your own thoughts when you’re in an environment like that.”

Worse of the worse?  Some statistics from Amnesty International’s fact sheet on Guantanamo:  55% of the detainees are not determined to have committed hostile acts against the United States, 44% of the detainees have no definitive connection with Al Qaeda, 18% have no definitive connection with Al Qaeda or the Taliban, with only 8% (typo corrected) being characterized as al Qaeda fighters.  Prisoners are bought, with the US offering large bounties for suspected terrorists: 66% of detainees were captured by Pakistani authorities and turned over to U.S. control, 20% were captured by Northern Alliance/Afghan authorities and turned over to U.S. control, with only 8% being captured by U.S. authorities and 3% by other coalition forces.

Torture is also not effective and puts our own troops at risk, as noted in the Washington Post by Matthew Alexander, the Air Force interrogator who tracked down Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, by building a rapport with the Guantanamo suspects and refusing to take part in torture.

That music has been, and maybe still is, being used as a torture method by the U.S. government is deeply disturbing.  Musicians whose work is being used in this twisted way should be outraged and speak out against it ever happening again.

Not in our name!  I hear this “Well, but what can we do?” from people when it finally starts to dawn on them what we’re doing.  Is this still America?  Is this still a democracy?  We speak out! Amnesty International, and the prisoners of conscience we defend, have made it a point of speaking out even in countries that are not alleged democracies.

Yes, I have hope now that we have elected President Obama that this will all soon end.  There must be accountability, too; along with building a consensus in America that this will never happen again.  I think those of us who believe in justice will have to push to make this happen, as moderate Democrats tend to want to not make waves.  This is too important to let pass and sweep under the rug.

America should stand for justice. It’s precisely because I love America that I find this all so appalling. 


100 Days – Closing Guantanamo and Ending Torture

Amnesty International has launched it’s 100 Days campaign, calling on President-elect Barack Obama to make human rights a priority and undo the damage done by President Bush in the name of anti-terrorism.

In the first 100 days, Amnesty International is calling on the new administration to:

  • announce a plan and date to close Guantanamo;
  • issue an executive order to ban torture and other ill-treatment, as defined under international law;
  • ensure that an independent commission to investigate abuses committed by the U.S. government in its “war on terror” is set up.

Our local Amnesty International group has had the letters to soon to be President Obama out at local events (collecting them for AI to present to him at the right moment, maybe after January 20?).  Just joking, after Barack’s in office is obvious, although even AI can barely wait for Bush to leave, can they? 

You can also take action online at:

How did it come to this? In America?

Amnesty International is not alone.  A group of retired generals and admirals are also calling for President Barack Obama to end torture “from the moment of his inauguration” according to Reuters.

“We need to remove the stain, and the stain is on us, as well as on our reputation overseas,” said retired Vice Adm. Lee Gunn, former Navy inspector general.

Gunn and about a dozen other retired generals and admirals, who are scheduled to meet Obama’s team in Washington, said they plan to offer a list of anti-torture principles, including some that could be implemented immediately.

They include making the Army Field Manual the single standard for all U.S. interrogators. The manual requires humane treatment and forbids practices such as waterboarding — a form of simulated drowning widely condemned as torture.

Other immediate steps Obama could take are revoking presidential orders allowing the CIA to use harsh treatment, giving the International Red Cross access to all prisoners held by intelligence agencies and declaring a moratorium on taking prisoners to a third country for harsh interrogations.

“If he’d just put a couple of sentences in his inaugural address, stating the new position, then everything would flow from that,” said retired Maj. Gen. Fred Haynes, whose regiment in World War Two raised the American flag on Iwo Jima.

Torture is not patriotic.  Torture is also not effective. 

Matthew Alexander, an interrogator in Iraq talks in the Washington Post about how he refused to “bend the rules” and use torture, instead going by the U.S Army Field Manual to get the information to capture Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq. “We got to know our enemies, we learned to negotiate with them, and we adapted criminal investigative techniques to our work”, he wrote. 

Over the course of this renaissance in interrogation tactics, our attitudes changed. We no longer saw our prisoners as the stereotypical al-Qaeda evildoers we had been repeatedly briefed to expect; we saw them as Sunni Iraqis, often family men protecting themselves from Shiite militias and trying to ensure that their fellow Sunnis would still have some access to wealth and power in the new Iraq. Most surprisingly, they turned out to despise al-Qaeda in Iraq as much as they despised us, but Zarqawi and his thugs were willing to provide them with arms and money.

As Alexander notes, not only is torture against his moral fabric and inconsistent with American principles.  “Torture and abuse cost American lives.”

I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It’s no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me — unless you don’t count American soldiers as Americans.

So we should be free from torture and excuses for torture now that we’ll have a Democrat in office, right?  Well, actually I do hold a lot of hope for Obama on this one.  He’s been very consistent against torture. What’s disturbing, is that, as the New York Times and Salon report, Senators Feinstein and Wyden have shifted their previous strong stances against torture, to one of, umm, greater flexibility.

According to the Times:

[I]n an interview on Tuesday, Mrs. Feinstein indicated that extreme cases might call for flexibility. “I think that you have to use the noncoercive standard to the greatest extent possible,” she said, raising the possibility that an imminent terrorist threat might require special measures.

Afterward, however, Mrs. Feinstein issued a statement saying: “The law must reflect a single clear standard across the government, and right now, the best choice appears to be the Army Field Manual. I recognize that there are other views, and I am willing to work with the new administration to consider them.”

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, another top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said he would consult with the C.I.A. and approve interrogation techniques that went beyond the Army Field Manual as long as they were “legal, humane and noncoercive.” But Mr. Wyden declined to say whether C.I.A. techniques ought to be made public.

Salon reports clarifying statements from he Senators’ offices.  Ron Wyden’s office claims he is against torture, but the statement is actually quite wishy-washy.

As you may or may not be aware, under current law, the Army Field Manual can be revised by the Executive Branch without prior consent from Congress. This is to allow for the possibility of incorporating other legal, humane and noncoercive interrogation techniques that might be discovered to be effective in the future. Just because the Army Field Manual is currently the best available standard for interrogation does not mean we can’t do better.

Ah, so there are “legal, humane and noncoercive interrogation techniques” yet to be invented that the Army Field Manual somehow may not allow because they’ve banned torture or, err, “coercive techniques”, so we have to allow some wiggle room.

Feinstein’s clarification is even more disturbing.  According to Salon:

Sen. Feinstein has just now issued another statement, to Time‘s Scherer, asserting — much like Wyden just did — “that she still wants a law that mandates the Field Manual as the sole interrogation standard, but that she may be willing to be talked back from that position by the Obama Administration, if it chooses to do so.”  

So, she’s willing to consider torture (or “coercive methods”) if President Obama says so?

While I would hope this will never be an issue, the correct answer, Senator, is “No.”  No torture.  Period.  Torture would still be wrong even if President Obama were to order it, or his administration were to order it.  Does Senator Feinstein really believe torture is not okay under a Republican administration, but it is under a Democratic one?!!

This is not the American I believe in.

The America I Believe In doesn’t torture people or use cruel, inhuman treatment. . .doesn’t hold people without charge, without fair trials, without hope, and without end. . .doesn’t kidnap people on the street and ship them to nations known for their brutality. . .doesn’t condone prisoner abuse and excuse high-ranking government of-cials from responsibility for that abuse. . .doesn’t justify the use of secret prisons. . . and does not rob people of their basic dignity.

I’m joining with Amnesty International USA to restore The America I Believe In.

The America I Believe In leads the world on human rights. 



Habeas Corpus of Uighur Prisoners at Guantanamo

According to the New York Times, Federal Court Judge, Ricardo M. Urbina, has ordered the Bush administration to release 17 Uighur detainees from Guantanamo Bay on Friday.  While the U.S. conceded over a year ago, the Uighurs, members of a Muslim minority in China, were not enemy combatants; the Bush administration still contends they should be held at Guantanamo, as they cannot be returned to China for fear of torture, and have found no other country to agree to take them.

“I think the moment has arrived for the court to shine the light of constitutionality on the reasons for detention,” Judge Urbina said.

Saying the men had never fought the United States and were not a security threat, he tersely rejected Bush administration claims that he lacked the power to order the men set free in the United States and government requests that he stay his order to permit an immediate appeal.

Judge Urbina is ordering the 17 detainees be brought to his court on October 10, according to Amnesty International

The Uighurs would then be released, with the assistance of members of the local Uighur community, religious groups and refugee settlement agencies who have offered their support to help the detainees adjust to their lives outside Guantánamo.

The Judge has also scheduled a hearing for them on October 16 and “ordered that an official from the US Department of Homeland Security be present at that hearing.”

The U.S. Department of Justice is filing an emergency motion for a stay, pending an appeal to the Court of Appeals and the case could go to the Supreme Court.

As the New York Times article noted, “Judge Urbina’s decision came in a habeas corpus lawsuit authorized by a landmark Supreme Court ruling in June that gave detainees the right to have federal judges to review the reason for their detention.”

The centuries-old doctrine of habeas corpus permits a judge to demand production of a prisoner, a power Judge Urbina sought to exercise with his order that the men be brought to him.

“I want to see the individuals,” he said.

According to Amnesty International, the U.S. administration “has claimed authority to continue to detain those it no longer considers ‘enemy combatants’ under the executive’s ‘necessary power to wind up wartime detentions in an orderly fashion’.” 

So, not only is the U.S. saying it can hold people without charge indefinitely at Guantanamo; but even if the charges prove unfounded, they can still detain them. This does not seem very orderly to me; not in a democracy; not in the U.S.A..  This is not the America I Believe In.

Amnesty International is calling for the U.S. government to “comply with Judge Urbina’s order, drop it’s appeals, bring the Uighur detainees to the USA, and work to find lawful, safe and durable solutions in all their cases.”

Take action online on the “War on Terror” page:

Or from the main page, , left tab “Our Priorities”, top item on the pull down menu, “War on Terror”

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Psychologists, the Military & Torture

According to Saturday’s New York Times, the American Psychological Association (APA), which has already taken a strong stand against psychologists participating in torture, “is considering whether to make any involvement in military interrogations a violation of its code of ethics.”

In looking at the actual resolution currently being voted on by APA members, however, I am surprised at the Times’ characterization.  The resolution is far more specific than that, mentioning Guantanamo, CIA “black sites” and the use of psychologists in interrogations resulting in torture at these sites, then stating:

Be it resolved that psychologists may not work in settings where persons are held outside of, or in violation of, either International Law (e.g., the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions) or the US Constitution (where appropriate), unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights[7].

This resolution is not “considering whether to make any involvement in military interrogations a violation of [the APA’s] code of ethics,” only those interrogations taking place is places where the prisoners are held (according to the Bush administration) outside of or, rather, in violation of, international law or the U.S. Constitution.

An unnamed psychologist’s involvement in the decision to confine Guantanamo detainee Mohammed Jawad, a teenager at the time, to isolation, and the young man’s subsequent suicide attempt are cited in the article.  The psychologist involved “invoked Article 31 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the military’s equivalent of the Fifth Amendment.”

According to Amnesty International’s summary of their report on Mohammed Jawad, he was captured on December 17, 2002 in Kabul, then, after four hours of interrogation, transferred to Bagram air base. Over the next seven weeks he “was allegedly subjected to isolation, sleep deprivation, cruel use of restraints, hooding, force standing, stress positions, and physical assaults as part of the interrogation process.”

After Mohammed Jawad’s transfer to Guantanamo in early February 2003, he was interrogated repeatedly without counsel, then placed in isolation for 30 days.  AI reports that Jawad received another 30 days of isolation in September to October 2003 “on the recommendation of a psychologist with Guantanamo’s Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT) who suggested that he was feigning homesickness and depression as a technique to resist interrogations.”

Mohammed Jawad attempted suicide in December 2003. Yet, “[d]espite his delicate mental well-being, in May 2004 he was subjected to sleep disruption and deprivation in the form of the euphemistically named ‘frequent flyer program’ – moved from cell to cell every few hours, day and night, over a 14 day period.”

The psychologist’s involvement is very disturbing and unethical.  He (or she) not only ignores the torture done to this young man, but sends him off to more cruel treatment in isolation, claiming he must be faking his depression, which is obviously caused by the torture in the first place.

According to the Times, the APA’s “most recent ethics amendments strongly condemn coercive techniques adopted in the Bush administration’s antiterrorism campaign.”  Actually, the APA refers to those techniques, such as “waterboarding” or the use of hoods, as torture, as does AI, not the euphemistic “coercive techniques” of the New York Times article. 

Current APA guidelines quoted by the Times as saying “. . . ‘it is consistent with the A.P.A. ethics code for psychologists to serve in consultative roles to interrogation and information-gathering processes for national-security-related purposes,’ as long as they do not participate in any of 19 coercive procedures. . .”

Note where some of these torture methods came from, and the disturbing use of the “coercive techniques” even in referring to torture used to obtain false confessions from captured U.S. soldiers during the Korean War:

How these guidelines shape behavior during interrogations is not well understood. Documents from Guantánamo made public in June suggested that at least some of the coercive methods the military has used were derived from SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape, a program based on Chinese techniques used in the 1950s that produced false confessions from American prisoners.

These techniques included “prolonged constraint,” “exposure” and “sleep deprivation,” known informally as the frequent flier program.

In this kind of environment, “health professionals, bound by strong ethical imperatives to do no harm, may become calibrators of harm,” said Nathaniel Raymond of Physicians for Human Rights, which has been strongly critical of the psychological association’s position.

Physicians for Human Rights has issued a report, available online, “Break Them Down: Systematic Use of Psychological Torture by U.S. Forces”.

Other psychologists are claiming they’re doing good by being there:

Some psychologists, though appalled by these techniques, emphasize that there is a danger in opting out as well.

“There’s no doubt that the psychologist’s presence can be abused,” said Robert W. Resnick, who is in private practice in Santa Monica, Calif., “but if there’s no presence at all, then there’s no accountability, and you walk away feeling noble and righteous, but you haven’t done a damned thing.”

Ahh, safer torture, err, “coercive techniques”. . .

Let’s hope ethics win out in the end.

Habeas Found?

Today the Supreme Court ruled in favor of habeas corpus once again, ruling as unconstitutional the provision in the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that denied detainees the right of filing a habeas corpus petition. Habeas corpus, first used in England in 1305, is the right, guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, to ask for the reasons for and challenge your imprisonment.  It is the idea that no one, not even a King, Queen or President, can arbitrarily lock someone away without any charge or right to defend yourself against that charge.  An idea under attack by the Bush administration, under the guise of September 11.

As noted by today’s New York Times article, the administration first tried to claim the laws that U.S. Courts could hear habeas corpus petitions for detainees didn’t apply, because Guantanamo was outside the U.S. and U.S. jurisdiction.  Huh, who’s in control at Gitmo, then, the Cubans?  Right.  Fortunately, the Supreme Court didn’t fall for that one either, and said since the U.S. was in control of Guantanamo, U.S. courts could indeed hear the habeas corpus petitions.  Then the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act and Military Commission Act of 2006 were passed by Congress and signed into law by the President, providing an alternative process that Amnesty International, the ACLU and others found inadequate; as does the Supreme Court now (or at least the majority).

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said the truncated review procedure provided by a previous law, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, “falls short of being a constitutionally adequate substitute” because it failed to offer “the fundamental procedural protections of habeas corpus.”

Justice Kennedy declared: “The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times.”

Justice Scalia saw things differently, as quoted in the Washington Post:

The decision brought biting dissents from the four conservative justices, with Justice Antonin Scalia taking the unusual step of summarizing his opposition from the bench. “America is at war with radical Islamists,” he wrote, adding that the decision “will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.” He went on to say: “The Nation will live to regret what the court has done today.”

Does doing away with our constitutional safeguards really make us safer?  Remember the fact sheet from Amnesty on Guantanamo from the January 11th Global Protest?  Statistics like: 53% of detainees not determined to have committed any hostile act against the United States, 40% with no definitive connection with Al Qaeda, 18% with no definitive connection with Al Qaeda or the Taliban; with only 8% characterized as Al Qaeda fighters.

How did we get them?  “At the time when the United States offered large bounties for suspected enemies: 86% [of the] detainees were not detained on the battle field but instead arrested by either Pakistan or the Northern Alliance and turned over to United States custody.”

Are we really safer at night because anyone can turn in someone they may not like for cash, with the person having no right to contest, or even know the charges against them? Would we feel more secure, if, after the next Tim McVeigh, that logic is applied on U.S. soil for the “enemy within”?

Fear not, then.  Bush is looking for new loopholes, according to the Washington Post:

A disappointed President Bush was not as dramatic. “We’ll abide by the court’s position,” he said in Rome, in the midst of a European tour. “That doesn’t mean I have to agree with it.”

He also said the administration will consider new legislation “so that we can safely say . . . to the American people, ‘We’re doing everything we can to protect you.’ “

Why do I not feel more secure?

According to the New York Times, McCain is “concerned” about the ruling (he helped craft the Military Commissions Act).  I’m happy to say that Obama, on the other hand, is on the side of the Constitution:

Mr. Obama issued a statement calling the decision “a rejection of the Bush administration’s attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantánamo” that he said was “yet another failed policy supported by John McCain.”

“This is an important step,” he said of the ruling, “toward re-establishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law, and rejecting a false choice between fighting terrorism and respecting habeas corpus. Our courts have employed habeas corpus with rigor and fairness for more than two centuries, and we must continue to do so as we defend the freedom that violent extremists seek to destroy.”

I am glad to see habeas back, but as you’ll see from our Amnesty International main page, our work is not done.  Guantanamo has not closed.  We still have extra-judicial rendition.  We need to convince Congress not to go against the Supreme Court ruling (and the Constitution) this time.  See AI’s press release, take action online, or even consider joining a Close Guantanamo Delegation to the local offices of your U.S. Senator or Representative.


Guantanamo vs. The America I Believe In

I never thought that America would stand for torture or locking people away forever without charge or trial.  Is this the America you believe in?  Is this what you want the USA to be?  How could we allow this to happen?

Friday, here in Seattle and around the world, Amnesty International and others held protests to calling on America to close Guantanamo on it’s 6th Anniversary.  We held a waterboarding demonstration here in Seattle.  It sickened me that our country is responsible for this and all the other horrible images of Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and all the other “black sites” and places where we practice “extraordinary rendition” to let others torture in our name.  It sickens me that demonstrations needed to be held throughout the world for somthing my country is doing.  Doing openly. 

I’m not naive.  I know our country has trained torturers at the School of Americas and sometimes secretly tortured.  It was something that was denied.  Threre used to be shame, or at least fear of the American public knowing.

When we started our abolish torture campaign for Amnesty International in April 2001, I remember thinking to myself, at the Annual General Meeting in Nashville, this had to be our least controversial position in the U.S. .  Everyone is against torture.

Was I that naive?

How quickly it turned. In a way I understand it, yet I find it hard to comprehend how quickly some of the American public was willing to allow our government following September 11 to turn us into something so un-American, and others to just go along or not pay attention. 

“The Ticking Time Bomb” scenario.  How torture is supposed to make us safer.  The reality is that torture is highly ineffective in getting any usable information.  True, you can get nearly anybody to confess to anything.  You could get almost any of us to confess to anything, and give the details of our imaginary plans.   It’s ineffective, and just plain wrong.  It takes away our humanity, as well as the victims’. 

I feel so strongly against torture from hearing the reality, the torture survivors’ stories, not the fantasy of some television show justifying it.  Listen to the stories of people like Sister Dianna Ortiz, an American nun tortured in Guatemala; or Tibetan Monk Palden Gyatso who was imprisoned and tortured by the Chinese for 33 years.  He used to bring examples of the torture tools used against him, but flying in the post 9/11 world that got to be too difficult so he just brings photos.  These people will never be the same.  You never get over torture.  Are we the kind of country that wants to stand for this kind of cruelty?  Is that really a way to honor the dead from the terrorist attacks?  We become like the terrorists?

Then the suspension of habeas corupus and the creation of Guantanamo an other places supposedly beyond the rule of us law.  The US Court of appeals just ruled that Guantanamo detainees aren’t persons under US law because they are aliens held outside the U.S.  So here we are in the 21st century gone back to the logic of the days of slavery. 

Military leaders have spoken out against Guantanamo and the suspension of habeas corpus:


Let’s show the world a face of openness and what a democratic system can do. That’s why I want to see Guantanamo closed. It’s so harmful to what we stand for. We literally bang ourselves in the head by having that place. What are we doing this to ourselves for? Because we’re worried about the 380 guys there? Bring them here! Give them lawyers and habeas corpus. We can deal with them. We’re paying a price when the rest of the world sees an America that seems to be afraid and is not the America they remember.  

Colin Powell



In discarding habeas corpus, we are not nibbling around the edges of our valued civil liberties; we are throwing overboard one of our core principles—the right to challenge detention for life without charge.


Rear Admiral Donald J. Guter, USN (Ret.)

Think about it.  Is a country where someone can be thrown into prison for life without charge the America you believe in?  Is it the America you want?

Check out the fact sheet about Guananamo.  Approximately 430 prisoners at Guantanamo, only 10 have been charged with any crime.  This is not some new position Amnesty has taken.   Over the years of writing letters for Amnesty we have often called on prisoners to be released or charged with a crime (and then to have a fair trial).  Some other statistics: 55% of detainees not determined to have committed any hostile acts against the United States, 40% have no definitive connection with Al Qaeda, 18% have no definitive connection to Al Qaeda or the Taliban, and only 8% are characterized as Al Qaeda fighters. 

Most of them have not been captured by American forces, with 86% arrested by either Pakistan or the Northern Alliance at a time when the U.S. was offering large bounties for the capure of suspected enemies. 

Are these detainees really the “worst of the worst”?  Why can’t they have fair trials to determine whether or not they’re guilty of something?  Would we want to deal with domestic terrorism the same way?  Detain people who might have the same attitudes toward the U.S. government as Timothy McVeigh, or who maybe just look the same way (clean cut, European-American), or whose neighbors turned them into you for a huge bounty?

That can’t happen here, or can it?  If we continue to allow this slide of civil liberties, it can only get worse.  Unfortunately, I don’t think the above scenario is so far fetched anymore. 

Amnesty a pledge for “The America I Believe In”:

The America I Believe In doesn’t torture people or use cruel, inhumane treatment…doesn’t hold people without charge, without fair trials, without hope, and without end…doesn’t kidnap people off the street and ship them to nations known for their brutality…doesn’t condone prisoner abuse and excuse high-ranking government officials from responsibility for that abuse…doesn’t justify the use of secret prisons…and does not rob people of their basic dignity.

I’m joining with Amnesty International USA to restore The America I Believe In. The America I Believe In leads the world on human rights.

I’m committing to tell friends and family about the campaign. I’m also committing to contacting my members of Congress and my local media to tell them that the America I Believe In defends human rights and justice for all.

That’s the America I Believe In. How about you?