Monthly Archives: November 2005


Italy may seek return of CIA “operatives”

By ALESSANDRA RIZZO in Gainsville

ROME ‘ Italian prosecutors have requested the extradition of 22 purported CIA operatives in the alleged kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric in 2003, prosecutors said Friday. The request was sent to Italy’s Justice Ministry in Rome, which will decide whether to pass it on to the United States.

Justice Minister Roberto Castelli returned Friday from Washington, where he held talks with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on “cross-border investigations and extradition cases of mutual interest for the two countries,” a ministry statement said. It did not specify whether they took up the CIA case, which has strained relations between the two allies.

A U.S. Justice Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the United States had not received a formal extradition request but that the subject had come up during the meeting between Castelli and Gonzales.

The purported CIA operatives were allegedly involved in the kidnapping of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, a cleric who was thought to belong to an Islamic terror group. He was allegedly abducted on a Milan street Feb. 17, 2003, before being flown to Egypt, where he was reportedly tortured.

Prosecutors claimed Nasr’s abduction violated Italian sovereignty and hindered Italian terrorism investigations. The Justice Ministry is not obligated to pursue a prosecutor’s extradition request. A judge in Milan has issued an arrest warrant for Nasr ‘ a step that could lead to Italy’s requesting his extradition from authorities in Egypt, Italian news agencies reported.

The extradition request threatens a new jolt to relations between Italy and the United States, which also were strained by the March killing of an Italian intelligence agent by U.S. troops in Baghdad. Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s government denied months ago it had prior knowledge of the alleged kidnapping.

It summoned the U.S. ambassador to explain the operation, which was purportedly part of the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” program in which terrorism suspects are transferred to third countries, subjecting them to possible ill-treatment.

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Uzbekistan: Journalist Assaulted After Reporting on Massacre

From Human Rights Watch

Tashkent, November 11, 2005 ‘ An independent journalist in Uzbekistan was ambushed and assaulted on November 9 by a group of unidentified men, the latest attack in a worsening environment for government critics since the May 13 massacre in Andijan, Human Rights Watch said today.

The circumstances of the attack strongly suggest that Aleksei Volosevich, a correspondent for the independent website fergana.ru, was attacked in Tashkent on November 9 because of his extensive reporting critical of the government since the May 13 massacre.

‘Aleksei Volosevich is the latest independent journalist to be attacked in the wake of Andijan,’ said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. ‘The Uzbek authorities have done absolutely nothing to protect those who are uncovering important facts about the massacre.’

At 4 p.m. on November 9, Volosevich received a telephone call at home from an unidentified male caller. The caller claimed he had come from Andijan and said he had material of interest to Volosevich. Volosevich asked how the man knew his home telephone number, but the caller declined to answer, saying only that he would explain when they met. The two agreed to meet an hour later not far from Volosevich’s apartment.

As Volosevich walked toward the appointed meeting place, five men approached him. One man asked Volosevich if he had a cigarette. Just as Volosevich was answering, the men jumped him. One tripped him, knocking him to the ground. They threw paint in Volosevich’s face and poured several buckets of indelible paint on him. As the men ran away, one of them shouted, ‘You won’t sell out your country anymore!’

When Volosevich returned home, he saw a young man running away from the entrance to his building. Inside, he saw that the entryway and the door to his apartment were covered in paint. The walls were covered with graffiti, including curse words, the phrase ‘sell-out journalist,’ and the word ‘Jew.’ The graffiti said that Volosevich’who is an ethnic Russian’doesn’t understand Islam, the predominant religion in Uzbekistan.

Volosevich told Human Rights Watch that he understood the attack as retribution for his reporting, particularly his reporting on the Andijan events and their aftermath, including the trial of 15 defendants accused of organizing the Andijan events, which is ongoing in the Supreme Court.

Two weeks ago, an article appeared in a government-controlled newspaper that criticized Volosevich and his reporting on the Supreme Court trial. The article appeared only days after Volosevich had published the opinions of several commentators highly critical of the trial. Volosevich also told Human Rights Watch that for several days around that same time, he could not gain access to any material on the fergana.ru website on his home computer. Every time he clicked on a link, the same fergana.ru article appeared: one from several years ago about the journalist Ruslan Sharipov, an outspoken government critic who had then recently been arrested. The article also noted the severe difficulties journalists face if they are critical of the government. Volosevich took this as a warning organized by the authorities since only the government could interfere with his Internet provider in this way.

Volosevich also appeared in video footage of Andijan that the prosecution showed in the Supreme Court trial relating to the Andijan events. The footage shows Volosevich and other journalists entering the local government (hokimiat) building in Andijan that had been taken over by gunmen. During the trial, the prosecution has argued that foreign journalists and local journalists working for foreign media provided ‘informational support’ to the terrorists. Government-controlled television also broadcast the video.

‘Independent journalists are not safe in Uzbekistan,’ said Cartner. ‘The government has shown its hostility to the press. It has arrested and intimidated those who report independently and suggested that journalists bear responsibility for the atrocities in Andijan.’

The press service of the National Security Service reported that it has a mandate to investigate the crime against Volosevich because the incident involves anti-Semitism. The head of the press service denied that the security service had any involvement in the attack on Volosevich. Moreover, he stated that he doubted that the attack could have taken place because there is no anti-Semitism in Uzbekistan. He speculated that Volosevich could have set up the attack himself in order to give himself a basis for receiving political asylum abroad.

Since the Andijan events, the atmosphere for the press has worsened significantly in Uzbekistan. Journalists and others who have provided independent accounts of the events in Andijan and called for an investigation and accountability have faced harassment, arbitrary detention, criminal charges and physical assaults.

‘Suggesting that Volosevich organized an assault on himself is absurd,’ Cartner said. ‘Attacks on independent journalists are an all-too-real fact of life in Uzbekistan.’

‘Instead of blaming Volosevich, the Uzbek government should promptly investigate the attack and bring charges against those responsible, rather than denying it took place,’ Cartner added.

Background

On May 13, Uzbek government forces killed hundreds of unarmed protesters as they fled a demonstration in Andijan, a city in eastern Uzbekistan. The government has still taken no steps to investigate or hold accountable those responsible for this atrocity. Instead, it denies all responsibility and persecutes those who seek an independent and transparent investigation.

In the days following the Andijan massacre, the government detained journalists, forced them to leave the city and confiscated the notebooks and recording equipment from several of them. It has arrested locals who provided assistance to the foreign press and is holding them on criminal charges. Neighborhood (mahalla) committee members went house to house warning residents not to speak to journalists about the events.

After his accounts of the Andijan events appeared widely in the foreign press, the chairman of the Andijan human rights group Appeliatsia (‘Appeal’), Saidjahon Zainabitdinov, was arrested on May 21 and charged with slander, terrorism and preparation or distribution of information threatening to public security and the public order. He remains in custody and has had no contact with his lawyer or family.

On August 11, 2005, the government refused entry to Igor Rotar, an independent journalist who reports on religious freedom for Forum 18.

On August 26, a court sentenced Radio Liberty journalist Nosir Zokir to six months of imprisonment for insulting a security officer.

On October 26, 2005, the BBC announced that it was forced to close its Tashkent bureau because of the harassment and persecution of its staff by the authorities. At least seven BBC correspondents have fled or been forced to leave Uzbekistan, including foreign correspondent Monica Whitlock, and at least two Uzbek members of the BBC staff have received political asylum.

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Combating terrorism, differently

Excerpts from a speech by the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, in which he considers alternatives to current US and UK policy and the ” global war on terror”.

From DNA Opinion

What is the relevance of Gandhian values in the world today? The aspect of Gandhian values that tend to receive most attention, not surprisingly, is the practice of non-violence. The violence that is endemic in the contemporary world makes the commitment to non-violence particularly challenging and difficult, but it also makes that priority especially important and urgent.

However, in this context it is extremely important to appreciate that non-violence is promoted not only by rejecting and spurning violent courses of action, but also by trying to build societies in which violence would not be cultivated and nurtured. Gandhiji was concerned with the morality of personal behaviour, but not just with that, and we would undervalue the wide reach of his political thinking if we try to see non-violence simply as a code of behaviour.

Consider the problem of terrorism in the world today. In fighting terrorism, the Gandhian response cannot be seen as taking primarily the form of pleading with the would-be terrorists to desist from doing dastardly things. Gandhiji’s ideas about preventing violence went far beyond that, and involved social institutions and public priorities, as well as individual beliefs and commitments. Bearing this in mind, and pursuing the general theme of the relevance of Gandhian values outside India, I ask the question: Is there something that America and Britain in particular can profitably learn today from Gandhiji’s political analysis?

Some of the lessons of a Gandhian approach to violence and terrorism in the world are clear enough. Perhaps the simplest ‘ is the importance of education in cultivating peace rather than discord. The implications include the need to discourage, and if possible to eliminate altogether, schools in which hatred of other communities, or other groups of people in general, is encouraged and noursished. There is more to be done on this in India. But happily the country seems to have stepped back from what seemed at one stage to be a relentless departure from secular toleration and non-sectarian respect, which were so important to Gandhiji.

It might be thought that Gandhiji’s lessons are widely understood in Britain and America, and at one level they certainly are. For example, many centres of hateful preaching and teaching are being restrained, or closed in contemporary Britain. But the full force of Gandhiji’s understanding of this subject has not yet been seized in British public policy. One of the great messages of Gandhiji is that you cannot defeat nastiness, including violent nastiness, unless you yourself shun similar nastiness altogether. This has much immediate relevance today.

There are many holders of high American positions who approve of, and actively support, the proceodure of what is called ‘extraordinary rendition’. The point that emerges from Gandhiji’s arguments is not only that this is a thoroughly unethical practice, but also that this is no way of winning a war against terrorism and nastiness.

I cannot fail to have considerable misgivings about the official move in the United Kingdom towards extension of state-supported, faith-based schools. The move in Britain reflects, in fact, a more general ‘ and deeply problematic ‘ vision of Britain as ‘a federation of communities’, rather than a collectivity of human beings resident in Britain, with their diverse differences, of which religious and community-based distinctions constitute only one part.

Much has been written on the fact that India, with more Muslim people than almost every Muslim-majority country in the world, has produced extremely few home-grown terrorists acting in the name of Islam, and almost none linked with the Al Qaeda. There are many casual influences here. But some credit must also go to the nature of Indian democratic politics, and to the wide acceptance in India of the idea, championed by Mahatma Gandhi, that there are many identities other than religious ethnicity that are also relevant for a person’s self-understanding and for the relations between citizens of diverse background within the country.

The disastrous consequences of defining people by their religious ethnicity, and giving priority to the community-based perspective, which Gandhiji thought was receiving support from India’s British rulers, may well have come, alas, to haunt the country of the rulers themselves. At the Round-table Conference in 1931, Gandhiji did not get his way, and his dissenting opinions were only briefly recorded.

In a gentle complaint addressed to the British prime minister, Gandhiji said at the meeting, ‘in most of these reports you will find that there is a dissenting opinion, and in most of the cases that dissent unfortunately happens to belong to me.’ Those statements certainly did belong only to him, but the wisdom behind Gandhiji’s far-sighted refusal to see a nation as a federation of religions and communities belongs, I must assert, to the entire world.

It is fitting that Gandhiji’s dissenting views from the 1931 meetings are preserved in the records located exactly in London. I fear London has need for them now. One does not have to be an Indian chauvinist to make that claim. For Gandhiji and his ideas belonged to the world, not just to us in this country.

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Blaming America first

One view of a recent debate at Trinity College, Dublin from Clifford May, a somewhat neo-conservative character…

From The News Tribune

We had gathered at the venerable University Philosophical Society of Trinity College in Dublin to debate the resolution: “This house believes that George W. Bush is a danger to world stability.”

But those tasked with defending the resolution were disinclined even to discuss what they clearly considered gross understatement. Instead, Patrick Cockburn, a British journalist, began by angrily accusing the United States of embarking on an “old-fashioned imperial war” in Iraq and beyond. As for terrorism, that he dismissed as “something people believe in like they believe in witchcraft. What does it mean?”

Though he was unsure of terrorism’s definition, he harbored no doubts about who was responsible for it. President Bush, he said, “is not fighting terrorism, he is provoking it.” This brought vigorous applause from the students assembled in the stately hall.

Richard Downes, an Irish journalist, recited Humpty Dumpty. His point was that Iraq had been broken by Bush, whom he called a “maniacal egg killer.” This evoked gales of laughter. He called the U.S. military “astonishingly incompetent.”

Craig J. Murray, formerly British ambassador to Uzbekistan, asserted that the crimes committed by that country’s rulers are “subsidized by the government of George W. Bush.” Bush has done this, he said, for the benefit of Enron. The goal of Americans, he instructed the students, is to “get at the oil and gas so they can guzzle it.”

He added: “George Bush talks directly to God. He is the most dangerous religiously inspired fanatic in the world.” This, too, brought an enthusiastic ovation.

Tim Llewellyn, a former BBC Middle East bureau chief, began by charging that in Iraq there have been “more casualties of civilians by Americans than by insurgents.” He announced: “George Bush is a threat to world peace on so many levels we can’t begin to discuss it.”

So he didn’t try. Instead, he turned to the topic that really fires him up: Israel. Yasser Arafat, he said, had been correct to reject the offer of Palestinian statehood made at Camp David in 2000 because it was “a pro-Zionist type of approach.” In other words, it would have allowed the Jewish state to survive. He clearly found that a distasteful prospect.

I was not surprised. At dinner before the debate, he’d noted that he had heard a BBC host cut off a caller who wanted to discuss Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threat to “wipe Israel off the map.” The caller didn’t see what was so terrible about this idea and didn’t understand why British Prime Minister Tony Blair had felt obliged to denounce it. Llewellyn lamented that there now seems to be a taboo against expressing such opinions.

In addition to these invited speakers, a number of students took the lectern. Among them was Chris, an American, who pleaded that “the current regime in America is not my America. Bush doesn’t represent my America. … We’ve lost our way.” On a personal note, he confessed that he had watched Fox News. “I know I shouldn’t be doing that,” he said.

On the other side of this debate, there were just two: myself and Charlie Wolf, an American-born, London-based radio-talk-show host. Wolf was so flabbergasted by the attacks on America and Israel that he threw away his notes on global stability and attempted to improvise rebuttals.

As for me, I did address the resolution. I had given it some thought and I hate it when my thoughts – rare as they are – go to waste. I then went on to challenge a little of what I had been hearing.

I criticized Cockburn and others in the media for having failed to report extensively on Saddam Hussein’s mass murders and routine use of rape, torture and ethnic cleansing. Cockburn got so angry that he approached the podium and for a few moments it appeared he might take a swing at me.

I told Llewellyn – politely, but to his face – that he was an anti-Semite. That term, I explained, used to mean those who wanted a Europe with no Jewish population; today, it means those who want a world with no Jewish state.

The moderator of the debate, Charlie Bird, an Irish TV reporter, made no effort to disguise his sympathies – they were not with anyone who would defend Bush. But he effusively praised the apologetic American student – perhaps he thought that would help bridge geographic and political divides.

Finally, Bird noted that next week the Society would debate whether militant Islamism is a legitimate form of resistance to American hegemony. While I’ll be sorry to miss that event, I have a hunch how it will turn out.

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Believe What We Say, Not What We Do

Ken Sanders considers the ease with which the Bush adminstration misleads the American public.

The full article is posted at OpEdNews

“Take, for instance, the Bush administration’s ongoing insistence that the U.S. does not engage in torture. As recently as November 7, 2005, despite the administration’s vehement and open opposition to a Senate bill that would outlaw torture, Bush nonetheless declared (straight-faced and with all the appearances of sincerity), ‘We do not torture.’ Apparently, the administration believes that the word of our ‘straight-shooting’ President is enough for most Americans.

Sadly, they’re right. Most Americans are far more willing to believe what the Bush administration says than what it does. If that were not the case, the nation would collectively shout, ‘LIARS!,’ descend upon Washington, and throw the bastards out of office. Instead, most of us, like the gullible dolts we are, take the administration at its word and blithely ignore the facts staring us in the face….”

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Don’t be duped by yet another dodgy dossier

MPs should resist the stampede to allow 90-day detentions and look at what police did or did not do to stop the 7/7 attacks

By Gareth Peirce in The Guardian

Any MPs who hold misgivings about supporting an invasion on the basis of a dossier later discovered to have been utterly misleading ought now to be demanding a proper, transparent investigation into what the police did and did not do that might have prevented the bombings in London of July 7; and they ought to treat with extreme caution the “dossiers” prepared to support 90-day detentions.

The leader of the opposition, in the immediate aftermath of the bombings, asked for just such an inquiry. Were that to have been conducted, the present stampede, with justifications for numbers of days of detention plucked out of the air, could not possibly be happening. While some reports have hinted at police incompetence and failure to arrest those involved in advance of the bombings, these are likely to be only the tip of the iceberg. A far-reaching inquiry might well show that not one second of additional time for interrogations would have been needed to redress a complete failure to use any of the powers already in police hands. All that is needed is for MPs to say: “Pause for a moment, let us have a proper, truthful explanation.”

As a starting point for its justification, the police dossier revisits the ricin case, in which a number of innocent men were acquitted – an outcome intensely disliked by the police. Now they claim that had they had 90 days, or perhaps 29, or maybe 19, the outcome would have been very different, and that “the suspect who fled the country while on bail and who eventually proved to have been a prime conspirator would have stood trial in this country”. The police held that suspect for two days. It was their decision to release him. Where does the need for 90 days come from?

In contradiction of the police claim that they needed more time to liaise with foreign jurisdictions, the head of MI5 is on record as saying that this country could not make inquiries of a regime such as Algeria (to discover if the originator of information had been tortured) lest it stop the free flow of information.

So far as 90 days might have been advantageous “to understand the complexities of the conspiracy before the decision was required to charge or release”, the police appear to forget that from day one they (and the prime minister) were trumpeting a plot involving chemical weapons. Two years later it was left to a hapless witness from Porton Down to suggest that it was his fault that the instantaneous discovery that there had been no ricin had not been communicated to Scotland Yard or the government. Memories are short. The rush to judgment came not from any 14-day restriction (most of those charged were held for considerably less than seven days); it came from an urgent political desire to seize upon a pot of Nivea cream that in the end was discovered to contain no poisonous material.

Further justifications are just as shoddy. Time is needed to “establish the identity of subjects”. What is not explained is that at Paddington Green police station, suspects often wait for 48 hours or considerably longer for a first interview confined to name, address and elementary background details. Look at any custody record of any detainee under terrorism legislation, and you will see that for 90% of the time or more no interviews take place. Solicitors often beg for some movement; demands after as much as a week for a reason to be given for the arrest fall on deaf ears. Solicitors waiting to be present at interviews that never take place can be seen patrolling Edgware Road, since the rebuilding of the security section, at a cost of millions, failed to leave room for them – and did not provide more than two interview rooms. So when the turn comes for detainees to be interrogated, they are told there is “no interview room at the moment”.

Where is the detainee meanwhile? I find it impossible to believe that the grim unpleasantness of the cells can be anything other than intended, especially given the costly revamp. It has left 365 hideous white tiles on the walls of each cell (as an Irishman counted some years ago). There is a hard plastic mattress on a wooden plank, with an open toilet at one end. A bare light in the high ceiling is difficult enough to read by, but the life-saving distraction of reading matter is more often than not forbidden. There is no natural light; the 14 days of detention are spent in an underworld without fresh air or proper ventilation – an inescapable part of the anticipated experience. In warm weather, heat comes from pipes under the bunk. In cold weather, unpleasant-smelling oil heaters are pushed uselessly into the corridors.

At the end of a 14-day period of interviews, lawyers themselves are often ill and exhausted. Effects on detainees are far more drastic: in a number of cases, police have had to pay compensation to innocent detainees who suffered permanent trauma after their release; one woman’s menstrual cycle was drastically altered after a seven-day detention, and her partner suffered alopecia; many students have never resumed their studies; one man succeeded in committing suicide, and many others have tried.

MPs would do well to remember the legislative stampede in December 2001 to detain foreign nationals indefinitely without trial. Parliamentarians were reassured that detention would be a last resort; that reassurance was entirely false. Men who it was claimed were the most serious terrorism suspects in this country at the time were not questioned for 14 minutes, let alone 14 days.

Parliamentarians have been duped twice into supporting steps necessary for a “war on terror”. To allow this to happen a third time would be a wholesale dereliction of their duty.

‘ Gareth Peirce is a partner at Birnberg Peirce solicitors who has represented numerous detainees under the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001

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White House Briefing: McClellan Deflects Questions on Torture Exemption A Couple Dozen Times

From Editor and Publisher (Nov 8th)

NEW YORK At today’s White House press briefing, Scott McClellan was hit with a number of questions about the “ethics classes” the president’s staffers are now attending. But much of the briefing featured efforts by Helen Thomas, at the start, and then other reporters to get McClellan to explain the apparent contradiction between his claims that the U.S. does not torture anyone and Vice President Cheney’s request for an exemption in this matter.

Here are the exchanges from the transcript:

Q I’d like you to clear up, once and for all, the ambiguity about torture. Can we get a straight answer? The President says we don’t do torture, but Cheney —

MR. McCLELLAN: That’s about as straight as it can be.

Q Yes, but Cheney has gone to the Senate and asked for an exemption on —

MR. McCLELLAN: No, he has not. Are you claiming he’s asked for an exemption on torture? No, that’s —

Q He did not ask for that?

MR. McCLELLAN: — that is inaccurate.

Q Are you denying everything that came from the Hill, in terms of torture?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, you’re mischaracterizing things. And I’m not going to get into discussions we have —

Q Can you give me a straight answer for once?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me give it to you, just like the President has. We do not torture. He does not condone torture and he would never —

Q I’m asking about exemptions.

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me respond. And he would never authorize the use of torture. We have an obligation to do all that we can to protect the American people. We are engaged —

Q That’s not the answer I’m asking for —

MR. McCLELLAN: It is an answer — because the American people want to know that we are doing all within our power to prevent terrorist attacks from happening. There are people in this world who want to spread a hateful ideology that is based on killing innocent men, women and children. We saw what they can do on September 11th —

Q He didn’t ask for an exemption —

MR. McCLELLAN: — and we are going to —

Q — answer that one question. I’m asking, is the administration asking for an exemption?

MR. McCLELLAN: I am answering your question. The President has made it very clear that we are going to do —

Q You’re not answering — yes or no?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, you don’t want the American people to hear what the facts are, Helen, and I’m going to tell them the facts.

Q — the American people every day. I’m asking you, yes or no, did we ask for an exemption?

MR. McCLELLAN: And let me respond. You’ve had your opportunity to ask the question. Now I’m going to respond to it.

Q If you could answer in a straight way.

MR. McCLELLAN: And I’m going to answer it, just like the President — I just did, and the President has answered it numerous times.

Q — yes or no —

MR. McCLELLAN: Our most important responsibility is to protect the American people. We are engaged in a global war against Islamic radicals who are intent on spreading a hateful ideology, and intent on killing innocent men, women and children.

Q Did we ask for an exemption?

MR. McCLELLAN: We are going to do what is necessary to protect the American people.

Q Is that the answer?

MR. McCLELLAN: We are also going to do so in a way that adheres to our laws and to our values. We have made that very clear. The President directed everybody within this government that we do not engage in torture. We will not torture. He made that very clear.

Q Are you denying we asked for an exemption?

MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, we will continue to work with the Congress on the issue that you brought up. The way you characterize it, that we’re asking for exemption from torture, is just flat-out false, because there are laws that are on the books that prohibit the use of torture. And we adhere to those laws.

Q We did ask for an exemption; is that right? I mean, be simple — this is a very simple question.

MR. McCLELLAN: I just answered your question. The President answered it last week.

Q What are we asking for?

Q Would you characterize what we’re asking for?

MR. McCLELLAN: We’re asking to do what is necessary to protect the American people in a way that is consistent with our laws and our treaty obligations. And that’s what we —

Q Why does the CIA need an exemption from the military?

MR. McCLELLAN: David, let’s talk about people that you’re talking about who have been brought to justice and captured. You’re talking about people like Khalid Shaykh Muhammad; people like Abu Zubaydah.

Q I’m asking you —

MR. McCLELLAN: No, this is facts about what you’re talking about.

Q Why does the CIA need an exemption from rules that would govern the conduct of our military in interrogation practices?

MR. McCLELLAN: There are already laws and rules that are on the books, and we follow those laws and rules. What we need to make sure is that we are able to carry out the war on terrorism as effectively as possible, not only —

Q What does that mean —

MR. McCLELLAN: What I’m telling you right now — not only to protect Americans from an attack, but to prevent an attack from happening in the first place. And, you bet, when we capture terrorist leaders, we are going to seek to find out information that will protect — that prevent attacks from happening in the first place. But we have an obligation to do so. Our military knows this; all people within the United States government know this. We have an obligation to do so in a way that is consistent with our laws and values.

Now, the people that you are bringing up — you’re talking about in the context, and I think it’s important for the American people to know, are people like Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi Binalshibh — these are — these are dangerous killers.

Q So they’re all killers —

Q Did you ask for an exemption on torture? That’s a simple question, yes or no.

MR. McCLELLAN: No. And we have not. That’s what I told you at the beginning.

Q You want to reserve the ability to use tougher tactics with those individuals who you mentioned.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, obviously, you have a different view from the American people. I think the American people understand the importance of doing everything within our power and within our laws to protect the American people.

Q Scott, are you saying that Cheney did not ask —

Q What is it that you want the — what is it that you want the CIA to be able to do that the U.S. Armed Forces are not allowed to do?

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m not going to get into talking about national security matters, Bill. I don’t do that, because this involves —

Q This would be the exemption, in other words.

MR. McCLELLAN: This involves information that relates to doing all we can to protect the American people. And if you have a different view — obviously, some of you on this room — in this room have a different view, some of you on the front row have a different view.

Q We simply are asking a question.

Q What is the Vice President — what is the Vice President asking for?

MR. McCLELLAN: It’s spelled out in our statement of administration policy in terms of what our views are. That’s very public information. In terms of our discussions with members of Congress —

Q — no, it’s not —

MR. McCLELLAN: In terms of our members — like I said, there are already laws on the books that we have to adhere to and abide by, and we do. And we believe that those laws and those obligations address these issues.

Q So then why is the Vice President continuing to lobby on this issue? If you’re very happy with the laws on the books, what needs change?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, you asked me — you want to ask questions of the Vice President’s office, feel free to do that. We’ve made our position very clear, and it’s spelled out on our website for everybody to see.

Q We don’t need a website, we need you from the podium.

MR. McCLELLAN: And what I just told you is what our view is.

Q But Scott, do you see the contradiction —

MR. McCLELLAN: Jessica, go ahead.

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No Question: Congress must pass a categorical ban on torture

From The Crimson

A dramatist could not have hoped to conjure a better contrast. On one hand, Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, publicly champions a categorical ban on the torture of prisoners. On the other hand, Vice President Dick Cheney, who did not serve in Vietnam, makes closed-door appeals to senators for an exception clause to torture in circumstances of eminent danger.

In one of the best-supported congressional revolts in President George W Bush’s five years in office, the Senate voted 90-9 last month in favor of McCain’s ban. But the bill’s fate still depends on negotiations in the Conference Committee of the Senate as well as the House of Representatives. And not only is the House more loyal to the administration, but three of the nine senators who voted against the measure are on the Conference Committee.

However, McCain’s absolute ban on torture ought to be adopted by the House and signed by the president if the Congress and administration are to maintain any semblance of an ethical position on this matter.

According to the November 2005 New Yorker, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) can be implicated in four deaths of detainees in United States’ detention facilities abroad’among them Abu Ghraib in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba, and Bagram Air Base, in Afghanistan. Yet, due to Justice Department memos that argued that Iraqi insurgents were not protected by international law and that lesser forms of torture were legal, these CIA officers will not be facing charges. McCain’s ban would close such loopholes, returning the U.S. to the ethical position it had taken for five decades. According to human rights groups, the bill would give protection to some ten thousand foreign suspects.

Supporters of torture often point to the ‘ticking bomb’ scenario’in which torturing one suspect could potentially save thousands of lives’as a justifiable reason to consider torture as a last resort. But to think primarily in terms of such TV scenarios is unrealistic given that we never have all the important pieces of information to make such judgments. In the experience of Army Col. Stuart Herrington, a military intelligence specialist who conducted interrogations in Vietnam, Panama, and Iraq during Desert Storm, torture is ‘simply not a good way to get information.’ According to Herrington, nine out of 10 people can be persuaded to talk with no ‘stress methods’ at all. And even if the remaining person is the correct suspect, he will ‘just tell you anything to get you to stop.’

In 1999, the Supreme Court of Israel’arguably the most experienced democratic court in dealing with such ‘imminent danger’ scenarios’outlawed any use of torture. Were the U.S. to make such a decision, it would reflect preexisting domestic laws, such as the Army Field Manual and bring the country in accordance with international law, Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.

Moreover, the use of torture undermines the morale of U.S. troops due to the prospect of reciprocation of such methods by their enemies. It is also likely to outrage any international actor, who cannot understand why the U.S. refuses to treat others by the same standards of humane treatment required at home by the U.S. Constitution.

No better are U.S. practices of ‘extraordinary rendition,’ the outsourcing of torture practices to Syria, Morocco, Jordan and Egypt’all of which have been cited for human-rights violations by the State Department. A corollary to this practice is CIA operated secret prisons in Thailand and Eastern Europe, as recently reported by Dana Priest in The Washington Post. Such forays into ethically murky territory’to say the least’do no small harm to U.S. credibility abroad.

On Jan. 27, President Bush assured us that ‘torture is never acceptable, nor do we hand over people to countries that do torture.’ Yesterday in Panama, he repeated those categorical words, yet he continues to support the Vice President in his opposition to 90 senators, Colin Powell, the advice of the 9/11 Commission Report, domestic law, and international law. It is such inconsistencies that have led more than half of Americans to doubt Bush’s integrity for the first time ever according to an ABC News and Washington Post poll. Rarely does a case divide itself on such clear moral lines. A moral president would not disagree.

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Secret Detention in CIA “Black Sites”

From Amnesty International

“They came to take our father at night, like thieves'”

Fatima al-Assad, age 12, daughter of Muhammad al-Assad,

who “disappeared” after his arrest in 2003

“Brother, what is your name, what village are you from?” It was distinctive Yemeni Arabic that greeted Muhammad al-Assad as he stumbled, still hooded and shackled, from the plane at Sana’a. For the first time in nearly 18 months he knew what country he was in. He heard the question repeated twice more, as Salah Nasser Salim ‘Ali and Muhammad Faraj Ahmed Bashmilah emerged onto the hot tarmac. He still could not see them, and had not known they were on the plane with him, but he could hear one of them shouting over and over again: “I am Bashmilah, I am Bashmilah, I am from Aden”.

The three, all Yemeni nationals, had “disappeared” in 2003, and had been kept in complete isolation ‘ even from each other ‘ in a series of secret detention centres apparently run by US agents. Senior Yemeni officials have told Amnesty International that they first heard of the men in May 2005, when the US Embassy in Yemen informed them that the three would be flown to Sana’a and transferred to Yemeni custody the following day. No further information or evidence against the men was provided, but the Yemenis say they were instructed by the US to keep them in custody. All three continue to be held in a kind of extralegal limbo; they have not been charged with any offence, given any sentence, or brought before any court or judge. The only improvement in their situation, they say, is that their families now know that they are alive.

Muhammad al-Assad’s odyssey began on the night of 26 December 2003, in Dar-es Salaam, Tanzania, where he had lived since 1985. As he told Amnesty International, he had just sat down to dinner with his Tanzanian wife, Zahra Salloum, and her brother and uncle. An immigration officer and two men from the state security forces came to the door, and ordered Muhammad al-Assad to surrender his passport and mobile phone. As he crossed over to his office to get the passport, he was grabbed from behind, a hood was forced over his head, and his hands were cuffed behind his back. He was thrown into the back of a car, which sped away. “I was very frightened,” he said, “very frightened, and kept asking what was happening to me.”

His captors did not reply. They took him to a flat, and questioned him for some four hours about his passport. He was then taken directly to a waiting airplane. Still hooded, he could see nothing, but heard the roar of the engines. As he was pushed up the stairs he asked where he was going. The guard told him: “we don’t know, we are just following orders, there are high-ranking ones who are responsible”.

Muhammad al-Assad thought it was probably a small plane, his head was pushed down as he went through the door. He told Amnesty International he was too frightened to ask any further questions, instead he prayed to have patience, until the authorities discovered their mistake and let him go home. He is still waiting.

(more…)

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EU eyes alleged CIA jails

By ALAN FREEMAN in Globe and Mail.com

WASHINGTON – European officials have vowed to investigate reports that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency set up a network of “ghost prisons” in Poland, Romania and elsewhere in Eastern Europe to interrogate al-Qaeda suspects, far away from the peering eyes of human-rights activists, the press and the courts.

“We have to find out exactly what is happening,” said Friso Roscam Abbing, a spokesman for the European Union in Brussels, who said the 25 EU governments would be questioned about the reports. He pointed out that the existence of these prisons could violate EU human-rights rules and the International Convention Against Torture.

Officials in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and other former Soviet-bloc nations have all denied that their territory had been used to host the secret jails.

“There have been official statements from ex-ministers and they are all officially denying that any such operations took place on the territory of Poland,” a spokesman for the Polish embassy in Washington said, adding that Warsaw’s newly appointed defence and interior ministers also have denied the allegations.

“I repeat. We do not have CIA bases in Romania,” Romanian Prime Minister Popescu Tariceanu said. But in the Czech Republic, Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan is reported to have said that his government recently turned down a U.S. request to build a prison for al-Qaeda captives.

The governments were reacting to a report on Wednesday in The Washington Post that the CIA has been imprisoning and interrogating some of its top al-Qaeda suspects at the network of prisons, which were set up after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.

The newspaper declined to publish the names of the Eastern European countries involved at the request of U.S. officials, who argued that the disclosure could disrupt efforts to combat terrorism. But Human Rights Watch corroborated the story and named Poland and Romania as sites for the clandestine prisons.

“They did it so they could abuse these people without anybody knowing,” said Marc Garlasco, a senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch, who is concerned that the CIA is using unconventional interrogation methods at these facilities at a time when there is increasing oversight of the main prisons for terrorist suspects near Kabul, Afghanistan, and at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Mr. Garlasco said that researchers at Human Rights Watch had been tracking the movements of aircraft chartered by the CIA for “extraordinary renditions,” the practice of extraditing suspects across international boundaries without following normal court procedures.

A prime example of such a rendition was the arrest of Canadian Maher Arar in 2002 at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, his transfer to Jordan and eventually to his birthplace of Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured for a year.

Mr. Garlasco cited the movement of a Boeing 737 aircraft that departed from Washington on Sept. 20, 2003, and stopped at the Ruzyne airport outside Prague, Czech Republic, on Sept. 21 before flying on the same day to a U.S. base outside of Tashkent in Uzbekistan.

On Sept. 22, the same plane flew to Kabul, and then to Szymany airport near Szczytno in Poland, Mikhail Kogalniceanu airport in Constanta, Romania and Sal’ airport in Rabat, Morocco.

On Sept. 23, the plane flew from Morocco to its ultimate destination in Guantanamo Bay. “It’s the torture shuttle,” said Mr. Garlasco, who added quickly that he had no proof torture had taken place.

Mr. Garlasco believes the CIA was using a Soviet-era prison outside Szymany, in northern Poland, to hold and interrogate prisoners. But he added that the flight logs he has inspected only go through 2004, and it is possible some of the prisons may have been shut down. One such prison, located in Thailand, was closed in 2003, according to the Post.

Stephen Hadley, U.S. President George W. Bush’s national security adviser, told reporters on Wednesday that he would not discuss intelligence operations, but he added that even though the government would do “what is necessary” to defend the United States against terrorism, “we’re going to do that in a way that is consistent with our values.”

Despite the assurances, CIA interrogators are allowed to use what are known as “enhanced interrogation techniques” in these overseas locations, even though the methods are banned by U.S. military law. Among the techniques that can be used is “waterboarding,” where prisoners are strapped to boards and their heads held underwater until they believe they will drown.

Legislation recently approved by a large majority in the U.S. Senate would ban the use of cruel and degrading treatment of anyone in U.S. custody but Vice-President Dick Cheney has pleaded with the senators to allow the CIA to be exempted from the proposed law.

Covert prisons

The United States is believed to have been using a network of covert prison camps called ‘black sites’ in foreign countries to detain suspected terrorists since 2001. Run by the CIA, and known as ‘extraordinary rendition’ captives are flown to countries where torture is suspected of being used in interrogation.

Main prisons: Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba,

Black site locations: Poland, Czech Republic, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, Thailand, Indian Ocean: Diego Garcia, U.S. ships USS Bataam, USS Peleliu

Transfer of suspects to foreign country: Jordan, Morocco, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Oman, Qatar, Yemen, Thailand

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Polish officials admit mystery plane landed at remote airport but deny CIA link

From CNews

SZCZYTNO, Poland (AP) – At midnight on an autumn night two years ago, a Boeing passenger plane with seven people carrying U.S. passports touched down at a little-used airport deep in the pine forests of northeastern Poland, officials said.

Confirmation of the mysterious arrival came after a human rights group said evidence pointed to Szczytno-Szymany airport as a CIA transfer site for al-Qaida prisoners.

Airport officials and border guards said the plane landed at the former military base Sept. 22, 2003 – the date Human Rights Watch said a Boeing 737 that was part of the prisoner-transfer scheme was at the airport. But authorities – including the airport’s former director – denied any knowledge of prisoner transfers.

New York City-based Human Rights Watch said the U.S. government may have used Sczytno-Szymany airport for secret transfers of terror suspects captured in Afghanistan, citing flight logs and unnamed sources. Polish government officials dismiss the report and U.S. officials have refused to confirm or deny the claims.

Polish border guards spokesman Maj. Roman Krzeminski said records show on Sept. 22, 2003 a plane landed at the airport carrying seven people with U.S. passports and took on board five other people with U.S. passports who were waiting at the airport and whose documents said they came to Poland on business. He said the plane spent about an hour at the airport before taking off.

Former airport director Mariola Przewloczka described the plane as a Boeing and said border guards drove out to meet the plane on the runway, instead of having the occupants enter the airport terminal.

“After the plane landed two vans drove out to meet it with border control officials,” said Przewloczka.

“The whole thing lasted a little over a half an hour.” But she and other officials said they did not know where the plane came from or where it went.

Several local residents said they had not noticed any unusual flights. “I didn’t see anything, nothing,” said Marek Wyrzykowski, a farm labourer who lives in a village next to the airport. “Taliban? There’s no Taliban here.”

Human Rights Watch said Thursday it has evidence indicating the CIA transported suspected terrorists captured in Afghanistan to Poland and Romania. The conclusion is based on an analysis of flight logs of CIA aircraft from 2001 to 2004 obtained by the group, said Mark Garlasco, a senior military analyst with the organization.

The U.S. government has been criticized by human rights groups for practising “extraordinary rendition” – sending suspected terrorists to foreign countries, where they are detained, interrogated and allegedly tortured.

Allegations the United States has operated secret prisons in Eastern Europe and elsewhere were published this week in the Washington Post newspaper, prompting a string of denials from governments in the former Soviet sphere. European Union officials, the Council of Europe – the continent’s top human rights organization – and the international Red Cross all said they would look into the issue.

European officials said such prisons would violate the continent’s human rights principles.

In Romania, aviation officials and the military denied Human Rights Watch allegations the Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base may have been used by the CIA as a detention facility as well. The Kogalniceanu base, near the Black Sea port city Constanta, was used by the United States for troops and equipment during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The U.S. military evacuated its remaining forces in June 2003.

“When the Americans were here there were so many civilians working there, people would have found out about it,” Dan Buciuman, the base commander, said. Garlasco said one of the CIA flights was a Boeing 737 that in September 2003 flew from Washington to Kabul, Afghanistan, via Ruzyne in the Czech Republic and Tashkent, Uzbekistan, he said.

He said that plane then departed Afghanistan for Szczytno-Szymany Airport on Sept. 22, continued to Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base and Sale, Morocco, and finally landed at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo, Cuba.

The Szczytno-Szymany Airport is in extensive forests outside the town Sczytno near Poland’s Masurian Lakes in northeastern Poland. It’s not an operating airport but planes can land if prior arrangement is made; only one small single-engined plane was parked there Friday and there were no takeoffs or landings.

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Government Terror Plan Branded as ‘Nonsense’

From BBC Online

Plans to allow people to be prosecuted in the UK for encouraging terrorist attacks abroad have been branded a “dangerous nonsense”.

The plans came under fire in the Commons as MPs debated details of the Terrorism Bill.

But minister Paul Goggins said all terrorism had to be tackled and the government won a vote on the issue. Earlier, the home secretary said his anti-terror laws were still on course despite a climbdown on Wednesday.

Charles Clarke was forced by the threat of defeat in the Commons to back down on plans to extend detention powers in terrorism cases.

‘Ridiculous’

The Terrorism Bill creates several new offences, including encouraging or glorifying terrorism, preparing terrorist acts and attending terrorist camps. And it says those offences can be prosecuted in UK courts even if they are committed abroad.

Former Tory chancellor Ken Clarke said the plans would provoke all kinds of diplomatic and political problems “as soon as other governments realise they can start pursuing their enemies here and get them arrested”.

Labour MP John Denham, chairman of the Commons home affairs select committee, said glorifying terrorism might not even be an offence in other countries. He said it was “ludicrous” to arrest people in the UK for doing something in another country where their actions were not illegal.

And Tory shadow attorney general Dominic Grieve said the plans would stop people who had tried to overthrow totalitarian regimes seeking refuge in the UK. “This law as drafted at the moment is a dangerous nonsense,” said Mr Grieve.

Terrorism camps

Home Office Minister Paul Goggins said terrorism increasingly had to be seen in its world context. And it had to be taken seriously wherever it happened and whatever the nationality of its victims, he argued.

The government defeated an attempt to change the plans by 303 votes to 211, a majority of 92. The bill would also create a new offence of attending places where terrorist training is taking place. A Conservative amendment to protect journalists trying to investigate terrorist training camps was defeated by 316 votes to 223.

Mr Goggins said it wasn’t up to “maverick journalists” to go to camps “to do their own investigations”.

Heading off defeat

The debate comes after the government scraped a one vote victory on Wednesday over plans to outlaw glorification of terrorism – Tony Blair’s slimmest ever majority. And Mr Clarke headed off a possible defeat on plans to extend the time terror suspects can be detained without trial from 14 days to 90 days.

He said he would seek agreement with all parties and bring forward new proposals early next week.

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MPs unite for inquiry into Blair’s conduct over Iraq

By Michael Smith writing in the Times online

TONY BLAIR is set to face an unprecedented parliamentary inquiry into his conduct in the run-up to the Iraq war. A coalition of Tory and Labour MPs is to table a motion to set up a Commons committee to examine ‘the conduct of ministers’ both before and after the war. They believe they need the support of about 30 Labour rebels to succeed.

The committee, comprising seven privy counsellors, would have the power to see all sensitive documents and call any British witnesses, including intelligence chiefs.

The failure to plan for the aftermath is likely to be at the heart of the committee’s inquiries now that Iraq is in the grip of a violent insurgency, says the Tory MP Douglas Hogg, one of the inquiry’s architects and who is canvassing support for the move. The coalition already has backing from the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish and Welsh Nationalists.

Sir Menzies Campbell, the Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman, said his party had not supported earlier attempts to impeach the prime minister but was in no doubt that parliament should hold its own inquiry.

‘Information that has emerged, in particular the memos leaked to The Sunday Times, strengthen overwhelmingly the case for an inquiry into the judgments of ministers, and in particular the prime minister, in the run-up to war and thereafter,’ he said.

The prime minister is the main target of the inquiry but in addition it will examine the conduct of Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, Geoff Hoon, then the defence secretary, and Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general.

The inquiry is also expected to look at the secret air war against Iraq that began in May 2002, just weeks after Blair had agreed that Britain would take military action with America to achieve regime change.

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British government and security agencies seek to legitimise torture

By Robert Stevens, posted at the Asian Tribune

The Blair government and Britain’s security agencies are seeking to legitimize the use of evidence obtained by torture overseas against terror suspects.

On August 11, 2004 the Court of Appeals had ruled such evidence admissible in UK law and, on this basis, upheld the continued detention of 10 foreign nationals imprisoned without charge for more than two years.

Lawyers acting for the 10 had argued that their imprisonment was ‘morally repugnant,’ given that the evidence against them may have been extracted through torture at the US military concentration camp at Guant’namo Bay, Cuba. But in a two-to-one ruling, the Law Lords ruled that evidence obtained through torture could be used in British courts so long as Britain was not directly involved in extracting it.

Lawyers representing the detainees challenged the verdict, arguing that it breached Article Three of the European Convention on Human Rights prohibiting torture or degrading treatment.

On October 17 the government requested the Law Lords to rule on the issue. The hearings ended on October 22 and a final ruling may take weeks or even months.

Appearing before a panel of seven Law Lords last month, Ben Emmerson, QC, representing the detainees, said that allowing the use of such evidence gave an incentive to the torturer ‘by making the act of torture worthwhile.’

In opposition, Ian Burnett, QC, for the home secretary, maintained that there was no rule of law preventing a court from relying on statements of a third party obtained by agents of a foreign state through torture.

The Home Office has so far refused to comment on the case. Last week the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, the secretary of state for constitutional affairs, said the government faced ‘difficult practical decisions.’

‘In facing the dangers posed by international terrorism, we have to ensure that those charged with protecting our security have all the tools they legitimately require,’ he said.

Lord Falconer claimed, ‘In adapting our legal tools to face new threats, we will ensure that we do so in a way that reflects our values for democracy and tolerance and ensures our continued support for the rule of law.’ But a seven-page statement to the Law Lords from the head of Britain’s secret service M15, Eliza Manningham-Buller’which was leaked to Channel 4 News’made clear where the security agencies stand on democratic rights.

Whilst careful not to use the word ‘torture,’ Manningham-Buller praised the uncovering of the so-called ‘ricin terror plot.’ In January 2003 police had raided a London flat, seizing what was described as a ‘poisons laboratory.’ The apparent find, of what was described as a major Al Qaeda cell planning a terror campaign in Britain, played a central role in government efforts to justify the war against Iraq and its accompanying ‘war on terror.’

The raid followed allegations by one Mohmammad Meguerba to security agencies in Algeria that he had been part of the terror plot. Manningham-Buller said Meguerba’s ‘evidence’ had been vital and ‘In those circumstances, no inquiries were made of Algerian liaison about the precise circumstances that attended their questioning of Meguerba. In any event, questioning of Algerian liaison about their methods of questioning detainees would almost certainly have been rebuffed and at the same time would have damaged the relationship to the detriment of our ability to counter international terrorism.’

In fact, Meguerba’s statement was widely believed to have been obtained through torture and when British investigators went to Algeria to question him further he withdrew most of his allegations. The subsequent trial of nine people accused of involvement in the supposed poison plot in April this year heard that no ricin had in fact been found in the flat and the case against eight of them collapsed. The remaining suspect, Kamel Bourgass, was eventually jailed for killing a police officer during his arrest and for ‘conspiracy to cause a public nuisance.’

Referring to the case before the Law Lords, Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International, said:

‘Let us be clear what we are talking about. This is not about whether evidence is useful. This is about whether the UK will turn a blind eye to someone being thrown in a cell and having pain and terror inflicted upon them. The UK authorities must of course do their utmost to protect the public from terrorism’but going soft on torture is not the answer.’

Torture in Uzbekistan

Further evidence is emerging regarding the tacit support that the British government has given to those regimes routinely engaged in the torture of those held in captivity.

On October 27, the Independent newspaper published an article by Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, opposing the contradictions, omissions and deceits contained in Manningham-Buller’s submission to the Law Lords.

Murray described in graphic detail how Uzbekistan agencies used extreme torture methods to obtain ‘evidence’ and how this ‘intelligence’ was then passed on for use by Britain’s security forces.

Murray wrote that Manningham-Buller’s statement to the Law Lords ‘argues, in effect, that we need to get intelligence from foreign security services, to fight terrorism. And if they torture, so what? Her chief falsehood is our pretence that we don’t know what happens in their dungeons. We do. And it is a dreadful story.

‘Manningham-Buller also fails to mention that a large number of people have been tortured abroad to provide us with intelligence’because we sent them there to be tortured. The CIA’s ‘extraordinary rendition’ programme has become notorious. Under it, detainees have been sent around the world to key torture destinations. There is evidence of British complicity’not only do these CIA flights regularly operate from UK airbases, but detainees have spoken of British intelligence personnel working with their tormentors.’

Murray added that the ‘UK receives this intelligence material not occasionally, not fortuitously, but in connection with a regular programme of torture with which we are intimately associated. Uzbekistan is one of those security services from whose ‘friendly liaison’ services we obtained information.’

The torture methods employed included a woman ‘who was raped with a broken bottle in both vagina and anus, and who died after ten days of agony’ and an old man who was ‘suspended by wrist shackles from the ceiling while his children were beaten to a pulp before his eyes.’ According to Murray, another male ‘had his fingernails pulled before his face was beaten and he was immersed to his armpits in boiling liquid.’

Another victim of torture was an ’18-year-old whose knees and elbows were smashed, his hand immersed in boiling liquid until the skin came away and the flesh started to peel from the bone, before the back of his skull was stove in.’

None of these victims were terrorists, Murray continued, and the ‘great majority of those who suffer torture at the hands of these regimes are not terrorists, but political opponents. And the scale of this torture is vast. In Uzbekistan alone thousands, not hundreds, of innocent men, women and children suffer torture every year.’

Murray states in his article that he protested to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office at torture in Uzbek and was informed ‘that [Foreign Secretary] Jack Straw and the head of MI6 had considered my objections, but had come to the conclusion that torture intelligence was important to the War on Terror, and the practice should continue. One day, the law must bring them to account.’

Referring to Manningham-Buller’s statement that the evidence obtained in the case of Mohammed Meguerba was justified as it prevented the development of a terrorist plot, Murray states, ‘If that argument is accepted, then in logic there is no reason to rely on foreign intermediaries. Why don’t we do our own torturing at home? James VI and I abolished torture’New Labour is making the first attempt in English courts to justify government use of torture information. Why stop there? Why can’t the agencies work over terrorist suspects?’

According to another article by Dana Priest published in the Washington Post, November 2, ‘Parliaments in Canada, Italy, France, Sweden and the Netherlands have opened inquiries into alleged CIA operations that secretly captured their citizens or legal residents and transferred them to the agency’s prisons.’

Priest reported that ‘a covert prison system’ was ‘set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small centre at the Guant’namo Bay prison in Cuba, according to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents.’

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Can we stop this terrible practice?

Letters to the Independent

Sir: I really wish I hadn’t read the article by Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan (“The reality of Britain’s reliance on torture”, 27 October). I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that such vile things can happen in our name, but I am: when it has been spelt out so clearly one cannot but face the scarcely believable truth.

The really appalling thing is that ordinary people are powerless to stop this hideous trade. We can protest until we are blue in the face, to no avail. I wept when I read that article: is there really nothing we can do to put and end to this evil?

EVANGELINE EVANS,

JORDANS, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE

Sir: Former Ambassador Craig Murray’s article was a salutory warning about what happens when human rights principles are overlooked by the exigencies of political pragmatism in the so-called “War on terror”.

DR DAVID LOWRY

STONELEIGH, SURREY

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A political war that backfired: former UK ambassador to the US launches his memoirs on Iraq

In advance of publication of his memoirs, Britain’s former ambassador to the US describes Tony Blair as liking the vision thing, but weak on detail, not interested in the ballast behind the ideas, and impatient.

Julian Glover and Ewen MacAskill in the Guardian

A small, hand-addressed blue box on Sir Christopher Meyer’s desk provides a clue to his background. It contains a miniature stone replica of the White House and was a gift this month from Karl Rove, President Bush’s political adviser. It a sign that Sir Christopher is not just another former ambassador but a man close to the heart of Republican America.

As British ambassador to Washington from 1997 to February 2003, he was the man who introduced a wary Tony Blair to Mr Bush. He led the way towards the unexpected mating of New Labour with the American right, a relationship that eventually took Britain to war in Iraq.

He did not just arrange meetings between the two leaders but spoke up at them. He was a confidant of both sides, with regular private meetings with everyone in the White House from vice-president Dick Cheney and his aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby, now being prosecuted in Washington, to the president himself. He reinvented what it meant to be Britain’s ambassador to Washington, a dominant figure in the capital’s social life as well as in politics.

His posting overlapped the Clinton and Bush administrations and, with access to both the US and British sides, he was well placed to track the debate in the run-up to the Iraq invasion. He supported the war but is far from happy about the handling of the aftermath. “I don’t believe the enterprise is doomed necessarily, though, God, it does not look good,” he says in an interview with the Guardian marking the publication of his memoirs, DC Confidential. “A lot of people think what we are going to end up with is precisely what we didn’t want.”

It is not a book that will make comfortable reading for Mr Blair and those who served him. He is the first of the insiders involved in the planning of the war to publish a first-hand account. He is not flattering about the way the prime minister, his ministers and advisers went about their task. Now as chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, Britain’s newspaper watchdog, he works from a small, shabby office just off Fleet Street, a far cry from the embassy receptions and official Rolls-Royce that once ferried him around the US capital. He looks at the breakdown of Iraq now with the detachment of an outsider – but one with a unique insight into how the war came about and what could have been done differently.

(more…)

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Reputation of SOAS takes a knock

From the Kavkaz Centre

The reputation of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) has taken another knock after one of its lecturers was accused of being the “Western cheerleader” for the Uzbek brutal dictator Islam Karimov.

Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan also accused SOAS director of “arrogance”. The charge was leveled at SOAS director MR Colin Bundy by Mr Murray in a dispute over one of the school’s lecturers accused of producing a “propagandist” report on the Massacre of Andijan.

The person in question, Shirin Akiner, (pictured) was accused by Mr Murray as well as human rights and liberty campaigners, of producing a report which is neither independent nor academically sound. The findings of the report, written by the SOAS lecturer in Central Asian Studies, seem to completely indorse the Uzbek government line, putting the blame squarely on whom she calls “Islamist insurgents”.

Ms Akiner recently went on a US tour promoting the report as a counter to what is known to have taken place on that fateful day in May. She accuses the Western governments and, in particular, the media of false reporting and says the Uzbek government is right not to allow an independent international investigation into the events.

She has come under fierce attack from NGOs who questioned how she was allowed, by the Uzbek government, to conduct her own investigation at a time when no journalists or NGOs where given access. Ms Akiner refuted accusations that she was invited in by the Uzbek government to give support to their version of events.

The SOAS lecturer said she went to Uzbekistan to deal with the aftermath of the cancellation, due to the Andijan violence, of a NATO conference on religious extremism that she had organized. Once in Tashkent, Akiner said, “I squeezed out time for myself to go to Andijan.”

In his email to the SOAS director, Craig Murray stated that his qualm is not with Ms Akiner’s political views, but rather that an institute such as SOAS can have a lecturer in the affairs of such a volatile region, who admits to having ties to the Uzbek regime and actively acts as its “apologist”.

Mr Murray questioned the lecturer’s objectivity and called on the school’s ethics committee to investigate this case. “The idea that in a totalitarian state evidence of an alleged government atrocity can be gained by allowing the government to produce the witnesses, and interviewing them in the presence of government officials, is ludicrous, as any decent academic would recognise.” wrote Mr Murray.

In a responding email, Mr Bundy appeared to dismissed points raised by the ex-diplomat as “unsubstantiated” and ignored his calls for further investigate by the School. That prompted an angry response from Mr Murray who accused the director of being “arrogant” and of failing to realise the damage Ms Akiner is causing to the reputation of SOAS.

In a statement to The Muslim Weekly SOAS reiterated their stand and say they have not received further evidence from Mr Murray. “The allegations against Shirin Akiner contained in Craig Murray’s letter to Colin Bundy were unsubstantiated. Professor Bundy invited Mr Murray to supply verifiable evidence to support his assertions but none has been provided.”

They have also refuted other allegations that they have in the past been involved in sponsoring school text material including propaganda books by the regime.

“With regard to the mention of Islam Karimov’s publications in Mr Murray’s letter, SOAS has no financial or other involvement with these publications. (One of the books, published by Curzon Press in 1997 as a commercial venture, features comments by Dr Akiner on the dust jacket. The School understands that Dr Akiner was not paid for this contribution to the publication.)”

Highlighting what he sees as the double standards of the School he cites the case of Nasser Amin who was treated quite differently by the School. He sais “Professor Colin Bundy, head of SOAS, is extremely keen to defend Shirin Akiner, Karimov’s Western cheerleader and a SOAS lecturer. But it seems that his defence of academic freedom only applies to those on one side of the argument.

“Akiner is perfectly at liberty to defend Karimov’s right to massacre the opposition, but Bundy just three months ago censured an Islamic student (Nasser Amin) who argued that the Palestinians have the right to use force to resist occupation. You don’t have to agree with the student’s view to find Bundy’s different approach to the two cases interesting…

Any suggestions as to the explanation of Bundy’s contradictory attitude in the Amin and Akiner cases would be interesting to hear. ”

The student in question, Nasser Amin, also accused the School’s director of double standards and again called for his resignation.

Mr Amin said “Bundy is not a neutral, disinterested moderator defending all points of view at the School. He is someone who defends free speech when it comes to savagery against Muslims, in Andijan and Gaza, and silences those who oppose this savagery, particularly it seems Muslim students. Shame on him.”

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US Lawmakers React to CIA Prison Story

By Dan Robinson writing in VOA

Members of Congress are reacting to a newspaper report that the CIA has been running a network of secret prisons since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to hold and interrogate terrorist suspects. There was criticism from congressional Democrats.

In its reporting on what it described as a covert prison system run by the CIA, the Washington Post newspaper said funding for the secret sites was provided through the regular intelligence budget approved by Congress each year.

That budget has been estimated at about $40 billion, but the exact figure is not known because it is classified. But for lawmakers responsible for funding the U.S. intelligence system, and who approved legislation to reorganize that system after months of tense debate, the Washington Post report is certain to cause more anxiety.

Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer Wednesday described the newspaper report as startling, adding she intends to inquire with members of the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee if they knew about the details mentioned in the newspaper article.

On the floor of the House of Representatives, the Washington Post report brought this comment from (Democratic) Congressman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts. “This is not what America stands for. This is more like Chile under [former dictator Augusto] Pinochet, or Argentina under the [former] junta,” he said.

The Washington Post report also comes at a time when debate is raging over U.S. military operations in Iraq, the CIA leak case in which an aide to Vice President Dick Cheney was indicted, and the issue of treatment of prisoners and detainees.

The Senate version of a defense spending bill includes an amendment, approved by a vote of 90 to 9 last month, to ban the cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of any detainee in U.S. custody. However, the Bush administration, with Vice President Dick Cheney taking the lead, says such provision, sponsored by Republican Senator John McCain, would harm counter-terrorism efforts, and proposed that employees of the CIA should be exempted.

In the House, Congressman Ed Markey is proposing to prohibit the practice of extraordinary rendition under which terrorist suspects have been transported to other countries for interrogation.

Asked about the Washington Post report Wednesday, presidential spokesman Scott McClellan declined to discuss specific intelligence activities, adding only that President Bush has an important responsibility to protect the American people.

National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley, had this comment when asked about the newspaper report during a briefing on President Bush’s upcoming trip to South America:

“The fact that they are secret, assuming there are such sites, does not mean that, simply because something is, you know when some people say that the test of your principles are what you do when no one is looking. And the president has insisted that whether it is in the public or is in the private, the same principles will apply and the same principles will be respected, and to the extent that people do not measure up to those principles, there will be accountability and responsibility,” he said.

The Washington Post report also comes as congressional Democrats step up pressure on Republicans on the issue of pre-Iraq war intelligence and the CIA leak case. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, wrote to the president Wednesday criticizing what they call categorically false statements by presidential spokesman Scott McClellan.

On Tuesday, Senator Reid used a special rule to shut down the Senate to underscore dissatisfaction with what he calls foot-dragging by Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Republicans responded angrily, calling the move a stunt by Democrats, but agreed to issue a report later this month on the status of the Intelligence Committee probe of intelligence used to justify the Iraq war.

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Europeans react to Wasington Post report on secret CIA torture facilities

From EU Observer

A media report alleging the CIA runs a secret camp in eastern Europe where it interrogates al Qaeda suspects has caused strong concern in Europe, with MEPs calling for an EU investigation into the matter.

According to an article in leading US newspaper the Washington Post on Wednesday (2 November), the US intelligence branch, the CIA, has detained top Al Qaeda suspects at a compound dating back to the Soviet era and located somewhere in eastern Europe.

The newspaper does not say if the camp is located on existing EU territory or in Romania or Bulgaria, for example. It is also unclear if there is more than one camp, with the paper sometimes referring to the “eastern European countries” concerned in the plural, adding that US officials advised against publication of the countries’ names for fear of terrorist reprisals.

Senior intelligence sources told the Washington Post that the al Qaeda prisoners are held in complete isolation from the outside world, have no recognised legal rights, and are probably subject to the CIA’s controversial “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”.

European Commission and EU diplomats on Wednesday (2 November) declined to comment on the report. “This is an issue between the US and any member states concerned”, a commission spokeswoman said. The spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana indicated that “this has nothing to do with the European Union”.

MEPs want Brussels to take action

But MEPs have called for an urgent EU investigation into the matter.

UK liberal MEP and member of the parliament’s civil liberties committee baroness Sarah Ludford said “I will be asking commissioner Frattini to check out urgently this suggestion that EU member states may be implicated in the most barbaric practices of the misguided US ‘war on terror'”.

She added that if EU member states were involved “this has the most devastating implications for the EU’s credibility in upholding human rights and the rule of law”.

Dutch green MEP Kathalijne Buitenweg, also a member of the civil liberties committee as well as of the EU-US parliamentary delegation said that “Mr Solana should clarify with the Americans what exactly is going on”.

“If human rights are violated in an EU country, or in a candidate member state, than this is an EU issue”, she added.

Ms Buitenweg indicated the parliament’s civil liberties and foreign affairs committees should discuss ways for the European Parliament to further research the issue itself.

The member announced she would personally raise the question at an EU-US parliamentary meeting in December.

Trauma from Soviet times

The matter looks set to cause outrage in eastern Europe, which is traditionally strongly allied with the US but which also experienced grave human rights violations in the past by former communist secret services.

Slovak centre-right MEP Miroslav Mikolasik said these memories made him “convinced” that the CIA camp cannot possibly be located in his own country.

“We had too painful experiences from the Soviet time with the conditions under which political prisoners were held”, he said, adding “We hate these kinds of procedures”.

The Wahington Post notes that CIA interrogators abroad are permitted to use the CIA’s “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”.

The techniques, prohibited under the US’ own military law as well as under UN rules, include tactics such as “waterboarding,” in which a prisoner is made to believe he or she is drowning.

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