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New Inspector General Report on Detainee Abuse


President Bush says the United States does not engage in torture. A new report by the DOJ Inspector General today does not agree. The full report is here.

Some of the techniques used violated Defense Department policy at the time.

F.B.I. agents complained repeatedly, beginning in 2002, about the harsh interrogation tactics that military and C.I.A. interrogators were using in questioning terrorism suspects, like making them do dog tricks and parade in the nude in front of female soldiers, but their complaints appear to have had little effect, according to an exhaustive report released Tuesday by the Justice Department’s inspector general.

The report for the most part praises the FBI.

“In sum, while our report concluded that the F.B.I. could have provided clearer guidance earlier, and while the F.B.I. and DoJ could have pressed harder for resolution of F.B.I. concerns about detainee treatment, we believe the F.B.I. should be credited for its conduct and professionalism in detainee interrogations in the military zones in Afghanistan,” in Iraq and at Guantánamo Bay, the report said. DoJ refers to the Justice Department, the bureau’s parent agency.

The ACLU sees it differently: [more...]

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OPR Opens Investigation Into 2002 DOJ Torture Memo


The Office of Professional Responsibility, which is the branch of the Justice Department that investigates alleged misconduct, announced today that it has opened an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the infamous August, 2002 "torture memorandum" that opined interrogation techniques such as waterboarding were not torture.

Among other issues, we are examining whether the legal advice contained in those memoranda was consistent with the professional standards that apply to Department of Justice attorneys," Jarrett wrote.

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Bush Admits U.S. Used British Territory During Transport of Ghost Prisoners

The Bush Administration has admitted for the first time using a British territory in its transporting of Ghost Air prisoners as part of its secret rendition program.

The Bush administration is bracing for a diplomatic backlash after conceding it used British territory to transport suspected terrorists on secret rendition flights despite repeated earlier assurances the U.S. had not.

U.S. officials have sought to quell the fallout by apologizing to Britain for what they said was an "administrative error." The admission, however, may reopen a bitter debate between the United States and its allies over how the fight against terrorism should be conducted and compromise future cooperation.

The territory at issue: Diego Garcia.[More...]

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Federal Judge Tosses Ghost Air Lawsuit

A federal judge in California dismissed a lawsuit filed against a San Jose flight company that alleged the company aided the CIA in transporting detainees to secret overseas prisons. The Court agreed with the Bush Administration that the suit could jeopardize state secrets. The opinion is here (pdf).

U.S. District Judge James Ware in San Jose said he had no authority to decide whether, as three current prisoners and two freed inmates alleged, Jeppesen International Trip Planning colluded with the CIA to violate their rights. The suit instead must be dismissed at the outset because its subject is a secret program that cannot be examined in a public proceeding, Ware said.

Public and confidential declarations filed by CIA Director Michael Hayden show that "proceeding with this case would jeopardize national security and foreign relations," Ware said.

This is the third suit by Ghost Air detainees that has been dismissed.

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Judge Won't Order Review of CIA Tape Destruction

A federal judge in Washington has refused to order an investigation into the destruction of CIA interrogation tapes showing coercive techniques.

A federal judge yesterday declined to order a special review of the CIA's destruction of interrogation videotapes, saying that there is no evidence the Bush administration defied court orders and that Justice Department prosecutors should be allowed to proceed with their own investigation into the matter.

U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. said in a three-page ruling in Washington that a group of inmates held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, "offer nothing to support their assertion that a judicial inquiry" is necessary into the tape destruction. He said neither of the detainees whose interrogations were taped and later destroyed has an apparent connection to the prisoners who were demanding the review.

The Justice Department says it's investigating the destruction of the tapes of interrogations of two detainees, as has the House Intelligence Committee. But, the star witness for the House investigation is refusing to testify without immunity.

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Jose Rodriguez to Seek Immunity in CIA Tape Destruction Probe

The House Intelligence Committee has scheduled a hearing on January 16 (pdf) regarding the destruction of CIA interrogation videotapes of two al Qaeda suspects held in secret overseas prisons, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.

The order to destroy the tapes allegedly was given by Jose Rodriguez who at that time was head of the CIA’s clandestine service. Rodriguez, who has hired lawyer Robert Bennett to represent him, has no intention of being the scapegoat.

The TimesonLine reports Rodgriguez is seeking immunity for his testimony. Who might he give up?

Four names in the White House have surfaced so far. My money is on Cheney lawyer (now his Chief of Staff) David Addington.

Jose Rodriguez, former head of the CIA’s clandestine service, is determined not to become the fall guy in the controversy over the CIA’s use of torture, according to intelligence sources.

It has emerged that at least four White House staff were approached for advice about the tapes, including David Addington, a senior aide to Dick Cheney, the vice-president, but none has admitted to recommending their destruction.

Former CIA agent Larry Johnson writes the real issue isn't who ordered the tape destruction, but who lied to the Judge in the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui. That was my first thought when I read that one of the taped suspects was Abu Zubaydah.

Larry points out: [More...]

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House Votes to Ban Harsh Interrogation Methods

The House of Representatives today passed a bill outlawing harsh interrogation methods.

The measure, approved by a largely party-line vote of 222 to 199, would require U.S. intelligence agencies to follow Army rules adopted last year that explicitly forbid waterboarding and require interrogators to adhere to a strict interpretation of the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war. The rules, required by Congress for all Defense Department personnel, also ban sexual humiliation, "mock" executions and the use of attack dogs, and prohibit the withholding of food and medical care.

President Bush said he'd veto the bill, which now goes to the Senate. In related news, the ACLU wrote the Senate today (letter here, pdf)listing ten reasons why a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate the CIA's destruction of interrogation tapes.

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House Members Briefed on Waterboarding in 2002


The Washington Post has a disturbing revelation:

In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.

Who were they? [More...]

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Destruction of CIA Tapes Could Threaten Prosecutions

The CIA's destruction of hundreds of hours of videotapes of detainee interrogations could put several prosecutions at risk.

Officials acknowledged on Friday that the destruction of evidence like videotaped interrogations could raise questions about whether the Central Intelligence Agency was seeking to hide evidence of coercion. A review of records in military tribunals indicates that five lower-level detainees at Guantánamo were initially charged with offenses based on information that was provided by or related to Mr. [Abu]Zubaydah. Lawyers for these detainees could argue that they needed the tapes to determine what, if anything, Mr. Zubaydah had said about them.

Think: Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh. I'm wondering whether it could also result in reversals of the convictions of Zacarias Moussaoui and Jose Padilla.

The known detainees whose interrogation videos were destroyed are Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Undoubtedly, more will come to light as the investigation proceeds. I won't be surprised if interrogation tapes of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh were also destroyed. In that case, they might be deprived not only of potentially exculapatory information by Zubayah but of their own statements for use at their upcoming military commission trials.

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Another Secret Prison Detainee Alleges Torture

Meet Majid Khan.

The first of the so-called high value Guantánamo detainees to have seen a lawyer claims he was subjected to “state-sanctioned torture” while in secret C.I.A. prisons, and he has asked for a court order barring the government from destroying evidence of his treatment.

The request, in a filing by his lawyers, was made on Nov. 29, before officials from the Central Intelligence Agency acknowledged that the agency had destroyed videotapes of interrogations of two Qaeda operatives that current and former officials said included the use of harsh techniques.

An intelligence official denies that Khan was videotaped.

Mr. Dixon, one of Mr. Khan’s lawyers, said Saturday that the admission that officials had destroyed videotapes of interrogations showed why such an order was needed.

“They are no longer entitled to a presumption that the government has acted lawfully or in good faith,” Mr. Dixon said.

Background on Majid Khan is here and here.

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Dick Durbin Calls for DOJ Investigation Over CIA Tape Destruction

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has called for an investigation into the destruction of the CIA interrogation tapes (background here):

Today U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) sent the attached letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey asking him to open an official investigation to determine whether the destruction of CIA interrogation tapes violates the law.

He wrote: "I urge you to investigate whether CIA officials who destroyed these videotapes and withheld information about their existence fiom official proceedings violated the law. . . CIA Director Hayden asserts that the videotapes were destroyed 'in line with the law.' However, it is the Justice Department's role to determine whether the law was violated."

You can read his letter here (pdf). Also check out Marcy (Empty Wheel) and Marty Lederman at Balkanization on Michael Hayden's letter

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CIA Destroyed Interrogation Tapes

The New York Times has learned the CIA destroyed interrogation tapes of two al-Qaeda detainees.

The videotapes showed agency operatives in 2002 subjecting terror suspects — including Abu Zubaydah, the first detainee in C.I.A. custody — to severe interrogation techniques. They were destroyed in part because officers were concerned that tapes documenting controversial interrogation methods could expose agency officials to greater risk of legal jeopardy, several officials said.

Both the Judge in the Moussaoui case and the 9/11 Commission had requested the tapes:

The recordings were not provided to a federal court hearing the case of the terror suspect Zacarias Moussaoui or to the Sept. 11 commission, which had made formal requests to the C.I.A. for transcripts and any other documentary evidence taken from interrogations of agency prisoners.

The C.I.A. confirmed the destruction today when the Times informed the agency it would be publishing an article about the tapes tomorrow.

The CIA defends its actions but destruction of evidence and withholding information about the existence of evidence is a serious no-no. This could be a significant story. [More...]

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Torture at a CIA Jail in Jordan


The Bush Administration insists it does not torture. Former detainees say otherwise.

AMMAN, Jordan -- Over the past seven years, an imposing building on the outskirts of this city has served as a secret holding cell for the CIA.

The building is the headquarters of the General Intelligence Department, Jordan's powerful spy and security agency. Since 2000, at the CIA's behest, at least 12 non-Jordanian terrorism suspects have been detained and interrogated here, according to documents and former prisoners, human rights advocates, defense lawyers and former U.S. officials.

The Jordanians specialized in two tactics:

Former prisoners have reported that their captors were expert in two practices in particular: falaqa, or beating suspects on the soles of their feet with a truncheon and then, often, forcing them to walk barefoot and bloodied across a salt-covered floor; and farruj, or the "grilled chicken," in which prisoners are handcuffed behind their legs, hung upside down by a rod placed behind their knees, and beaten.

Former detainee Al-Haj Abdu Ali Sharqawi says:

"I was kidnapped, not knowing anything of my fate, with continuous torture and interrogation for the whole of two years," Al-Haj Abdu Ali Sharqawi, a Guantanamo prisoner from Yemen, recounted in a written account of his experiences in Jordanian custody. "When I told them the truth, I was tortured and beaten."

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Where Are the Ghost Air Prisoners Now?

The Washington Post reports on the CIA's Ghost Air prisoners. Some have been sent to Guantanamo, some were returned to their home countries (some of whom were never heard from again) and some are....missing.

Where are they? Who's keeping track? Human Rights Watch and Reprieve are trying to. According to the Post, HRW says at least 39 of those seized remain unaccounted for.

There's further reading today on this at Alternet: The Bush Era's Dark Legacy of Torture.

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Who Polices The Police (the CIA IG) ?

Via Spencer Ackerman, this is just rich:

CIA Director Michael Hayden is going after the agency's independent watchdog, Inspector General John Helgerson. Hayden wonders if Helgerson -- who is not appointed by the CIA director -- hasn't gone too far in investigating how the agency conducts detentions and interrogations. . . . Helgerson has for years been perceived as overly aggressive in reviewing CIA techniques in the war on terrorism.

. . . [T]he investigation, headed by Hayden confidante Robert L. Deitz, is now a full-fledged exploration of how Helgerson conducts his work. It comes as Helgerson is "nearing completion" on several reports into interrogations, renditions, and detentions, reports The New York Times.

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