Human Rights Watch : Hidden Detainees Report

Bumping this up from this morning:

Human Rights Watch has released a new report about at least 11 suspected terrorists who have been grabbed overseas by the U.S. and held in countries allowing torture. More is available in today's Guardian. While this report is new, many of the underlying details, including the names of these suspects, is not. [This is a very long post, so you may want to bookmark it for when you have time to read it and follow the links.]

In November, 2003, Human Rights Watch official and Findlaw Columnist Joanne Mariner wrote this article about "the hidden detainees" and their connection to Zacarias Moussaoui:

The most important aspect of Zacarias Moussaoui's prosecution may have little to do with Moussaoui himself.....The larger significance of Moussaoui's case lies elsewhere. It is, at present, the only legal peephole by which to glimpse the circumstances of a much more important group of terrorist suspects: those, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah, who are held by the U.S. military for interrogation in "undisclosed locations."

....Right now, the detainees are missing, "disappeared," vanished with hardly a trace. No one knows where they are, and little is known about how they have been treated, although disturbing reports are occasionally leaked. These hidden detainees are in a frightening legal limbo. It is time for the judiciary -- and the Supreme Court, eventually -- to step in.

Human Rights Watch also raised allegations of torture of al Qaeda detainees in December, 2002. It detailed the practice in April, 2003. The Washington Post expounded on the practice on December 26, 2003.

According to the article, U.S. officials defended renditions by saying interrogators with a greater cultural, religious and language affinity would be more successful in obtaining information. However, other comments from anonymous officials suggested that detainees were deliberately moved to countries known for their use of torture because the officers of the third countries face fewer constraints on their interrogations. One unnamed official was quoted as saying, "We don't kick the [expletive] out of them. We send them to other countries so they can kick the [expletive] out of them." (emphasis supplied.)

On May 13, 2004, we reported on a New York Times article detailing the alleged torture of Shalid Sheik Mohammed. In September, 2003, we reported that Mohammed was "spilling his guts" from his overseas place of detention.

In March, 2003, we reported on the CIA's admission that it had seized Mohammed's 9 and 11 year old sons for interrogation, hoping they would provide information against their father. They also told Mohammed, in his overseas place of detention, that he better talk if he wanted his sons returned safely to Pakistan.

As one CIA official puts it, Mohammed's children are a valuable tool in the war on terror:

"'His sons are important to him. The promise of their release and their return to Pakistan may be the psychological lever we need to break him.'"

A few weeks before, we reported on Ramzi Bin al Shibh being broken at his overseas place of detention and ratting out Mohammed. (His name is also spelled Binalshibh.) Binalshibh has been of interest since his capture and departure to an overseas place of detention in September, 2002. We mentioned reports that computer disks seized with Mohammed proved that Mohammed had met with Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in February, 2003. (emphasis supplied.)The documents were shipped to Washington for further study.

"There is now no doubt that he is alive and well," a senior Pakistani government official said of bin Laden in an interview. "We have documents that show he is alive and in this region.".... a second Pakistani official said Mohammed had told his captors during the raid of meeting with bin Laden a month ago at a site that Mohammed refused to specify.

We reported here on how the U.S. flew Mohammed overseas instead of to Guantanamo for interrogation. Besides Binalshibh and Mohammed, there is captured Malaysian chemist Yazid Sufaat.

These hidden detainees, and the torture they reportedly have undergone, is not news. But it is appalling that the U.S. has gotten away with this treatment without an independent review.

So far, the agency has refused to grant any independent observer or human rights group access to the high-level detainees, who have been held in strict secrecy. Their whereabouts are such closely guarded secrets that one official said he had been told that Mr. Bush had informed the C.I.A. that he did not want to know where they were. (emphasis supplied.)

Another of the hidden detainees is Abu Zubaydah, captured in March of 2002. Here is some of his story:

Abu Zubaydah, a Qaeda planner and recruiter until his capture in March 2002, told his questioners last year that the idea of working with Mr. Hussein's government had been discussed among Qaeda leaders, but that Osama bin Laden had rejected such proposals, according to an official who has read the Central Intelligence Agency's classified report on the interrogation. In his debriefing, Mr. Zubaydah said Mr. bin Laden had vetoed the idea because he did not want to be beholden to Mr. Hussein, the official said.

The refusal of bin Laden to work with Saddam was also backed up by Mohammed:

Separately, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the Qaeda chief of operations until his capture on March 1 in Pakistan, has also told interrogators that the group did not work with Mr. Hussein, officials said.

Mohammed sang a different tune about Osama before he was captured. As we reported here, Binalshibh and Mohammad were captured on video discussing September 11 on al Jazeera tv in June, 2002. In that interview, Mohammed said bin Laden was dead.

In an article in the Sept. 9 London Times, "Slip of tongue in interview betrays secret that bin Laden is dead" by Dominic Kennedy (no longer available for free online but available at Lexis, and reprinted in large part below, Mr. Kennedy recounts a recently televised interview from June that bin al-Shibh gave to al-Jazeera television network journalist Yosri Fouda about the events of Sept. 11. With al-Shibh was another self-professed Al Qaeda member, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who reportedly is the cousin of Ramsy Yousef, now in jail in the U.S. for the 1993 WTC attacks.

"A slip of the tongue by one of Osama bin Laden's top henchmen seems to have betrayed al-Qaeda's most potent secret: its charismatic leader is dead."

"The blunder was made by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has confessed to being the operational mastermind behind the September 11 attacks. He made his mistake while disclosing many of the secrets behind the atrocities, which were plotted in Kandahar, the religious extremist Taleban movement's Afghan spiritual home."

Here are some of the connected dots, but where do they lead?

1. Before being arrested and interrogated, Mohammed says Osama is dead.

2. Binalshibh gets arrested and goes to his OPD (overseas place of detention) and gives up Mohammed. Mohammed gets arrested and taken to his OPD. The CIA grabs Mohammed's sons to use as leverage to get Mohammed to talk. It works. Mohammed now says Osama was alive and well in Pakistan in Feburary, 2003.

3. Binalshibh and Mohammed have evidence that would be favorable to Zacarias Moussaui in his trial and the Government fights tooth and nail to keep them overseas and not subject to interviews by Moussaoui's lawyers. When they lose in the trial court, they appeal. What did they do to Binalshibh and Mohammed that they don't want the world, or even Moussaoui's lawyers to see or hear about?

By the way, if you haven't read Binalshibh's detailed account of the planning and execution of 9/11 and the roles each were supposed to play, you should, it's fascinating. It may be a fairy tale. Then again, some of it may be true.

Human Rights Watch says that these are the countries that could be serving as OPDs and administering torture, based upon information obtained from the State Department:

  • Egypt: Suspension from a ceiling or doorframe; beatings with fists, whips, metal rods, and other objects; administration of electric shocks; being doused with cold water; sexual assault or threat with sexual assault
  • Jordan: Beatings on the soles of the feet; prolonged suspension in contorted positions; beatings
  • Morocco: Severe beatings
  • Pakistan: Beatings; burning with cigarettes; sexual assault; administration of electric shocks; being hung upside down; forced spreading of the legs with bar fetters
  • Saudi Arabia: Beatings; whippings; suspension from bards by handcuffs; drugging
  • Syria: Administration of electric shocks; pulling out fingernails; forcing objects into the rectum; beatings; bending detainees into the frame of a wheel and whipping exposed body parts.

Here's who is being held at OPD's, according to Human Rights Watch.

The CIA’s “disappeared” prisoners also include Abu Zubayda, a close aide of Osama bin Laden, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who but for his failure to get a U.S. visa might have been one of the 9/11 hijackers, Hambali, a key al-Qaeda ally in southeast Asia, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, allegedly the mastermind of the U.S.S. Cole bombing.

In addition to Mohammed and Yazid Sufaat, the chemist.

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