The controversy over a Senate investigation documenting the Central Intelligence Agency’s post-9/11 regime of global torture continues to generate headlines—even though the report has yet to be released. The Senate report has sparked a bitter war between the CIA and senators like Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who accused the CIA of spying on those looking at CIA documents on torture. But while the official inquiry has not been published, dogged journalists have published key—and disturbing—details of what is contained in it. Based on CIA documents, senators on the powerful committee conducted a four-year long, $40 million inquiry into the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, which included torture tactics like the waterboarding of terrorism suspects, beatings and the smashing of suspects’ heads into walls. While the public may be aware of some of these practices due to past revelations, the information carries heavy weight because it is the Senate confirming many of those claims, which has oversight power over the agency.
A Senate Intelligence Committee report provides the first official confirmation that the CIA secretly operated a black site prison out of Guantánamo Bay, two U.S. officials who have read portions of the report have told Al Jazeera. The officials — who spoke on condition of anonymity because the 6,600-page report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program remains classified — said top-secret agency documents reveal that at least 10 high-value targets were secretly held and interrogated at Guantánamo’s Camp Echo at various times from late 2003 to 2004. They were then flown to Rabat, Morocco, before being officially sent to the U.S. military’s detention facility at Guantánamo in September 2006. In September 2006, President George W. Bush formally announced that 14 CIA captives had been transferred to Guantánamo and would be prosecuted before military tribunals. He then acknowledged for the first time that the CIA had been operating a secret network of prisons overseas to detain and interrogate high-value targets.
On May 23rd of last year, President Obama again promised to close the prison camp at Guantanamo. His pledge came in response to the mass hunger strike by men protesting their indefinite detention and to the renewed, global condemnation of the prison. Since Obama’s speech, only 12 men have been released. 154 remain, nearly all of whom have never been charged with a crime. 76 were cleared for release by the US government years ago. 56 men are from Yemen, the largest national group at Guantanamo, but they remain subject to an effective moratorium on their release based on their nationality. No one from Yemen has been freed since the May speech. Up to 40 prisoners continue to hunger strike, and many are being subjected to forced feeding — a practice condemnedby international human rights organizations, medical associations, and members of the US Congress. New lawsuits in US courts lay bare the extreme cruelty of the forced feeding at Guantanamo.
A military judge abruptly recessed the first 9/11 trial hearing of the year Monday after defense lawyers accused the FBI in open court of trying to turn a defense team security officer into a secret informant. If true, the lawyers argued, attorney-client confidentiality might be compromised in the case that seeks to put on trial and execute five men accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11 attacks that killed 3,000 people in New York, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon. At issue, in part, was the publication in January of prison camp musings by the alleged 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, by the Huffington Post and Britain’s Channel 4 website. Defense lawyers alleged Monday that in at least one instance, two FBI agents enlisted a civilian on the defense team of accused plot deputy Ramzi bin al Shibh as a confidential informant.
The UN has delivered a withering verdict on the US’s human rights record, raising concerns on a series of issues including torture, drone strikes, the failure to close Guantánamo Bay and the NSA’s bulk collection of personal data. The report was delivered by the UN’s human rights committee in an assessment of how the US is complying with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [ICCPR], which has been in force since the mid 1970s. The UN committee urged the US to overhaul its surveillance activities to ensure they complied with US law and conformed to US obligations under the ICCPR. In its 11-page report, the committee also criticised the US for failing to prosecute senior members of its armed forces and private contractors involved in torture and targeted killings.
The ad was released from custody two weeks after a landmark lawsuit, Hassan v. Obama, was brought before U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. to end force-feeding at Guantanamo Bay. Filed on behalf of Emad Abdullah Hassan, the lawsuit is the first case against forced-feeding since the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that federal courts can hear challenges by detainees to conditions of their confinement. Hassan is a Yemeni national who has been detained at Guantanamo Bay for twelve years despite being cleared for release in 2009. He has been on hunger strike since 2005 and has allegedly experienced over 5,000 forced-feedings, a practice that is violent, abusive and illegal, according to his lawsuit.
Uruguay has agreed with the United States to accept some prisoners held in the much-criticized detention center at the U.S. military base of Guantanamo Bay, President Jose Mujica said on Thursday. The South American country had accepted the request by Washington to take some prisoners and would consider them refugees, Mujica told journalists while attending an unrelated farming event. “It’s a request for human rights reasons,” Mujica said. Mujica said Obama “has asked a bunch of countries if they can take some and I told him yes.” “They are coming as refugees and there will be a place for them in Uruguay if they want to bring their families,” said Mujica, who spent 14 years in prison before and during his country’s 1973-1985 dictatorship. U.S. officials confirmed that talks about Guantanamo had taken place with Uruguay, but would not give more details. “The U.S. government maintains high level conversations with the Uruguayan government on various global affairs,” the U.S. embassy in Montevideo said in a statement. “One of those has been the closure of Guantanamo, one of the Obama administration’s priorities for its humanitarian implications.”
Until now, no court has been able to assess the legality of the methods used by the military to force-feed detainees at Guantánamo Bay. This case presents the first, historic opportunity for this to occur, following the federal court of appeals ruling last month recognizing the need for such a hearing. Imad Abdullah Hasan v Barack Obama highlights the increasing brutality of the Guantánamo Bay force-feeding process, which the military has amended step-by-step to make it so painful that only the most courageous peaceful protester can continue. It will be the first case requiring a US judge to review a Guantánamo prisoner’s detailed testimony describing his treatment – and will force the military to respond.
Miami Herald reporter Carol Rosenberg had filed her request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) about the Camp 7 costs back in 2009. Among that camp’s 16 “high value” detainees are Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other accused Sept. 11 conspirators. The department replied over a year later that it found just a single page related to the costs of Camp 7, but it withheld that document in its entirety as classified. It then waited over three years to shoot down Rosenberg’s appeal, causing her to then file suit in October 2013. Rosenberg, widely considered the journalistic authority at the detention center in Cuba, noted in the complaint that even President Barack Obama has slammed the expense and inefficiency of operating Guantanamo for fewer than 200 detainees. A report from the comptroller of the Defense Department made public this past July tallied the cost of such operations at $454.1 million That “whopping $2.7 million” per prisoner, however, does not include costs for Camp 7, Rosenberg reported .
Benjamin: We have been in touch with the families in Yemen, in fact we went and visited with some of them in June of last year and heard the agonizing stories of these families and the way that they would get their hopes up when their lawyers would give them news of things like they have been put on a list of cleared for release. But then their hopes have constantly been dashed. And just like we talked about Shaker Aamer having a child that he has never met, so we met with a 12-year old girl who had never seen her father. She has been born while her father was in prison and she said that her father at that time was on a hunger strike and that he was so weak when he had a chance through the Red Cross to have a video conference with him, he could not even pick up his head.
Thirty-one of the nation’s most respected retired generals and admirals today sent a letter to President Obama urging him to make good on his executive order to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. They also asked that he set the record straight on torture, a policy he also banned by executive order. Members of the coalition who signed today’s letter stood behind the president on January 22, 2009 – his second day in office – when the orders were signed. Today’s letter comes as Congress and the Obama Administration have made progress toward putting Guantanamo on the path to closure. Progress toward closing Guantanamo continued this month as the Periodic Review Board (PRB), established by executive order in March 2011, concluded its first case. With regard to torture, the retired military leaders urged President Obama to direct his administration, particularly the CIA, to fully cooperate with the Senate intelligence committee to declassify and publicly release the 6000-plus page study that details the post-9/11 CIA rendition, detention, and interrogation program.
I have a long trip ahead of me this weekend. It begins with the Shore Line East commuter train in Old Saybrook, Conn. I will transfer to the Metro-North in New Haven. From Grand Central Station in New York, my roller bag and I will walk across town to the Bolt Bus stop at 12th Avenue and 33rd Street. I’ll hop a bus to Baltimore and spend the night with my mom. Then take the MARC train — the Baltimore to Washington, D.C. commuter train — to our nation’s capital, where I’ll join friends who have been fasting and demonstrating since Monday for the closure of Guantánamo and the end of torture and indefinite detention. I will be late. I will not be fasting. I have a pretty good excuse on both fronts: I am almost eight months pregnant.
Several dozen protestors braved pouring rain to mark the twelfth anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo Prison. In front of the White House, they called on President Obama to use his executive powers to close the prison now. They then marched to the National Museum of American History and filled the second floor lobby, some of them dressed in orange jumpsuits and black hoods. “Stop torture now! Close GITMO now!” they chanted. They also sang, “We gonna build a nation that don’t torture no more, but it’s gonna take courage, that change to come.” Many museum visitors watched approvingly, while a few booed. A line-up of people dressed in orange jumpsuits and black hoods represented Guantánamo prisoners. They called it a “new exhibit” for the museum.
Vowing to “Make Guantanamo History,” human rights advocates from around the country marked the beginning of the thirteenth year of torture and indefinite detention at the prison camp with a dramatic protest at the National Museum of American History. 150 activists occupied the atrium of the crowded museum for more than two hours, speaking out against torture and calling for Guantanamo to close. The activists hung banners, stood in stress positions in hoods and jumpsuits, spoke to the tourists, and with their bodies and voices revised the museum’s “Price of Freedom” exhibit to include twelve years of torture and indefinite detention as the bitter cost of the United States’ misguided pursuit of “national security.”
Nine prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay were released in December 2013, out of a total of 11 prisoners released over the past year. All were held without charge or trial and had long been cleared for release. This was not the only good news as the prison camp enters its twelfth year with 155 prisoners remaining; on 26 December, President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 2014. Section 1035 of this law makes it easier for the US Secretary of Defense to transfer prisoners to other countries, but not to the US mainland.