The recent revelation about Chicago police detaining American citizens at “black sites,” along the lines of Guantanamo Bay, is sparking fury among a wide range of people, from conservatives who hold dear the constitution, to anarchists, and everyone in between. The Constitution violating Homan Square is located in a warehouse on Chicago’s west side, and shares more similarities with Abu Ghraib than most American’s should be comfortable with. It was also recently reported that large numbers of military police officers, who were formerly stationed at the infamous torture prisons, are now getting jobs as local cops, and could be coming to a town near you. The Worcester Police department in Massachusetts is testing a pilot program, in which former Guantanamo prison guards will be given jobs as police.
The 9/11 trial judge abruptly recessed the first hearing in the case since August on Monday after some of the alleged Sept. 11 plotters said they recognized a war court linguist as a former secret CIA prison worker. Alleged plot deputy Ramzi bin al Shibh, 42, made the revelation just moments into the hearing by informing the judge he had a problem with his courtroom translator. The interpreter, Bin al Shibh claimed, worked for the CIA during his 2002 through 2006 detention at a so-called “Black Site.” “The problem is I cannot trust him because he was working at the black site with the CIA, and we know him from there,” he said.
The Washington, DC based Hands Up Coalition DC along with Witness Against Torture delivered coffins at its weekly ‘Justice Monday Vigil’ to the US Department of Justice and the DC Metro Police Headquarters on January 12, 4:00 PM. The two groups brought coffins marking the deaths of three African-Americans killed by police to the doors of the Justice Department. The coffins highlighted the deaths of two mentally ill African Americans recently killed in police custody, Tanisha Anderson and Matthew Ajibade. The protest honored the life of unarmed Emmanuel Okutuga killed by police. After marching and rallying at the US Department of Justice the groups marched to the DC Metropolitan Police Headquarters. Members of Witness Against Torture went inside the building and obstructed the entrance 28 minutes, in recognition that a person of color is killed by police or vigilantes every 28 hours in the United States. They recited the names of dozens of victims of police violence and spoke the words of men indefinitely detained in Guantánamo Bay calling for justice. Activists from the Hands Up Coalition DC stood outside chanting and singing.
This event was part of the Witness Against Torture week of actions in Washington, DC seeking to shut down Guantanamo Bay and end torture. Two protesters were arrested at the McLean, Virginia, home of former Vice President Dick Cheney on Saturday after 20 demonstrators, some in orange prison jumpsuits, walked onto his property to mark the 14th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Bay prison. The protesters from the anti-war group Code Pink walked up to the house before police arrived and asked them to leave, said Fairfax County police spokesman Roger Henriquez. Two members who refused to go were arrested on trespassing charges, he said. Police identified the two as Tighe Barry, 57, and Eve Tetaz, 83, both of Washington DC. The pair face misdemeanor charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct, police said. Another Code Pink group demonstrated without incident outside the home of CIA Director John Brennan, also in the Washington, D.C. suburb of McLean, as part of its “Guantanamo Anniversary Weekend Torturers Tour.”
Three Yemenis and two Tunisians, who had each been cleared for release years ago, were released from Guantanamo Bay prison on December 30. They were sent to Kazakhstan and their release brought the number of prisoners who remain in detention to 127. According to Carol Rosenberg of The Miami Herald, Abdullah Bin Ali al Lutfi, a 48 year-old Tunisian, Adel al Hakeemy, a 49 year-old Tunisian, Asim Thahit Abdullah al Khalaqi, a 46 year-old Yemeni, Mohammed Ali Hussain, a 36 year-old Yemeni and Sabri Muhammed Ibrahim al Qurashi, a 44 year-old Yemeni, were resettled. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which has represented various Guantanamo prisoners, reacted, “We are encouraged by additional transfers and resettlements and hope they will continue until all Guantánamo prisoners the administration does not intend to charge are freed.”
The U.S. military overnight transferred six Guantánamo detainees to Uruguay. All of them had been imprisoned since 2002 – more than 12 years. None has ever been charged with a crime, let alone convicted of any wrongdoing. They had all been cleared for release years ago by the Pentagon itself, but nonetheless remained in cages until today. As the great Miami Herald Guantánamo reporter Carol Rosenberg notes, there are – six years after Obama was elected on a pledge to close the camp – still 136 detainees there, with 67 of them cleared for release (Democrats’ claims that Obama is largely blameless are false and misleading in the extreme, as are claims that no country will accept detainees).
We wanted to let you know that our annual fast for justice in Washington D.C. is just about a month away. We hope that you are making your arrangements to join us in DC. This January 11th, 2015, marks 13 years of torture and indefinite detention. Right now 142 men remain, 73 of whom have been cleared for release but remain held without charge or trial. You are receiving this email because you have been a important participate in the past and wanted to let you know about the details of our activities. This year, we will be gathering from January from Monday, January 5th until Tuesday January 13th, to fast in solidarity with the men at Guantánamo. We would like you to consider two things as we approach our time together: 1) Are you coming to some or all of the Fast 2) Consider becoming on of the 73 who are risking arrest on January 12th.
The United Nations issued a report on torture by the United States and it should be quite an embarrassment to every American. Not only is the US violating international laws against torture in its military actions and treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo, but the report also criticized the violation of US laws against torture. The report noted the widespread police brutality common in the United States and the lack of accountability for police who mistreat people. The report also criticized the mistreatment of prisoners held in solitary confinement as well as botched executions. The UN also concerns over the mistreatment of immigrants, expedited deportation without adequate due process and lack of adequate protection for asylum seekers. . The report is an indictment of government in the United States at every level. The UN criticized the United States for not cooperating with the investigation and providing full information.
A man held at the Guantánamo Bay prison for nearly 13 years without charge has been transferred to his home country of Kuwait. The Department of Defense made the announcement of his release Wednesday. Thirty-seven-year-old Fawzi al Odah is the first man to be released based on the assessment of the Periodic Review Board, a body established in 2011 through an executive order and tasked with evaluating the merits of ongoing detention for Guantánamo prisoners. Agence France-Presse reports that in 2001, Odah “was seized by tribesmen in northern Pakistan, who sold him to the Pakistani army, which in turn handed him over to the United States.” The transfer agreement requires al Odah to spend at least a year at a rehabilitation facility, according to reporting by the Associated Press.
On Monday October 6 a trial will begin in which attorneys for Wa-ei Dhiab will seek a stop to the brutal forced-feeding of men at Guantánamo protesting their indefinite detention and abuse at the prison. Witness Against Torture is calling for a public presence at the courthouse to demand an end to forced-feeding and the closing of Guantánamo. Dhiab is a Syrian man held without charge or trial at Guantánamo since 2002 and cleared for release in 2009 by the US government. He has, according to his attorneys, been forcibly extracted from his cell and force-fed as many as three times a day since the start of the most recent Guantanamo hunger strike in the winter/spring 2012. Dhiab’s lawsuit seeks an end to forced-feeding. Justice Gladys Kessler, who is hearing the case, has described forced-feeding at the prison as “painful, humiliating, and degrading.” The lawsuit is our best chance to have the courts do what President Obama has been unwilling to do — end forced-feeding.
Few realize how expensive it is to keep Guantanamo Bay prison operational. The Joint Task Force (JTF) detention center, which opened in 2002, costs US taxpayers $140 million a year, breaking down to about $800,000 per detainee. The JTF was never meant to be permanent, yet twelve long years after the first round of prisoners arrived, 149 prisoners remain detained there indefinitely. The oft repeated lie that these men are the “worst of the worst” has clouded the reality that the vast majority are completely innocent, and were simply swept up in a dragnet in Afghanistan. 78 have already been deemed innocent and cleared for release, yet pure political theater keeps them imprisoned.
Citing President Obama’s major 2013 counter terrorism speech, wherein he acknowledged that a US drone had targeted and killed a U.S. citizen (Anwar Al-Awlaki) and where the President was forced to discuss GITMO because, “it was the height of a hunger strike and it attracted attention around the world.” In that speech, Leopold notes, Obama lifted a moratorium, “that he put into place and here we are year later and there have been no Yemeni’s released. As we saw with the swap with the Taliban of the five prisoners for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, that was a fight he was willing to wage with Congress.”
There are many crimes committed in the pursuit of, or as an accessory to, the crimes of US Foreign Policy. I’m not exactly sure where to rank the operation of Guantanamo Bay on that list, but consider these numbers, compiled by the Center for Constitutional Rights: 779 men and boys have been imprisoned at Guantánamo since January 2002. 100% of them are Muslim. Of the 149 who remain there, 78 have been cleared for release for years but are still imprisoned. President Obama’s Task Force has designated 38 men for indefinite detention without charge or trial. The longer the illegal prison remains open, the more accepting of its existence American citizens seem to be, at least according to Gallup poll conducted in the days after the release of Sgt. Bergdahl in exchange for 5 prisoners who were not on that list cleared for release. That poll revealed that 66% of Americans said the U.S. should not “close this prison and move some of the prisoners to U.S. prisons.” That is up from the 53% of Americans who said the same thing in July of 2007. Today, again, according to that latest Gallup poll, just 29% of Americans want the facility closed and the prisoners either released or transported to the U.S.
If you didn’t think that things could get any lower in American politics, then the events of the last week were surely a shocking reminder that no matter how rancorous our discourse, things can always get worse. That’s because a simple prisoner exchange has suddenly, out of nowhere, become a fresh source of outrage for those on the partisan right. If you have been living under a rock and failed to notice it, the right-wing firestorm that erupted over the trading of five Guantanamo Bay prisoners for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan for five years, was something completely unexpected. How is it, one can reasonably ask, that recovering Sgt. Bergdahl could have possibly been so controversial? To this, critics of the swap say, look at whom we traded and who we traded them for. If the American right wing is to be believed, the five prisoners released in exchange for Bergdahl were some of the worst-of-the-worst — diehard fanatics dedicated to killing our troops wherever and whenever they could. Bergdahl, on the other hand, is a traitorous deserter who, in leaving, provided the opportunity for a number of his fellow comrades to be ambushed while on a patrol looking for him.
Over the weekend the government of Qatar brokered a dramatic deal between the US and the Taliban to swap five Guantánamo prisoners for Bowe Bergdahl, a US soldier held as a prisoner of war for almost five years. Flexing his political clout, President Obama demonstrated his ability to navigate with ease through the Congressional obstacles in the way of releasing prisoners from Guantánamo. Some House Republicans accused the President of breaking the law to get his way. But the Obama administration made it clear that the President had added a “signing statement” to the bill restricting the transfer of Guantánamo detainees, saying that the restrictions violated his Constitutional prerogative. Called “the hardest of the hardcore” by hawkish Republican Senator John McCain, the Guantánamo prisoners released in the swap have been identified as high-level Taliban operatives. According to Human Rights Watch, one of those released, Mullah Norullah Nori, could be prosecuted for possible war crimes, including mass killings. All of the men were recommended for continued detention because of their “high-risk” status. Qatar has assured the US that the released men will be held and monitored in Qatar for at least a year, but some US officials are highly critical of the move, saying that the men are likely to return to their former positions within the Taliban.