Monday, January 18

Gitmo Torture/Murder Coverup Continues on Obama/Holder's Watch

Last Night was the Season Premier of "24" - Before the second commercial break Retired CTU Agent Jack Bauer had already put a gun to someone's throat, shouting "Tell Me Everything You Know!" into his face.

This he did when the person was voluntarily coming to give him information in the first place.

If the mendacity of such a scenario has become somewhat blase after 8 years of struggle with international terrorism, the following real life story as Reported by Harper's of the systematic cover-up of the death of three Gitmo Detainee's who may very well have been tortured to death in 2006 should send a chill down your spine.

Were these the murders that Jack Wrought?

Today is MLK Day. A single day dedicated to a man who helped raise the nations awareness to a system of brutality and injustice that had plagued this nation from it's inception. A system that may indeed continue today in new forms and new shapes.

In the many years since 9-11 we've been told repeatedly that we needed to "Re-Write" the old rules. To take the battle to the enemy and to work - sometimes - "On the Dark Side".

The question is "Re-Write them into what?" - and using who or what as a guidepost?

U.S. Soldiers have openly admitted that once the Army Field Manual and Geneva Conventions were official thrown out (by Bush and Rumsfeld in 2002), those in the field began to make up their own rules. And one of the places they did turn to- were television actions stars like Jack Bauer.

From Thinkprogress in 2007.

The television show 24 has become a foreign policy guide for the right wing. Numerous conservative pundits have cited 24 as a sanction for harsh interrogation practices. In September, Laura Ingraham stated, "The average American out there loves the show 24. ... In my mind that’s close to a national referendum that it’s OK to use tough tactics against high-level Al Qaeda operatives as we’re going to get."

Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan recently told the 24 producers that he was concerned that the show’s promotion of illegal torture "was having a damaging effect on young troops."

In an interview with Newsweek, former U.S. Army specialist Tony Lagouranis, who left the military with an honorable discharge in 2005, confirms Finnegans fears — that U.S. soldiers did take cues from 24 to torture prisoners:

Interrogators didn’t have guidance from the military on what to do because we were told that the Geneva Conventions didn’t apply any more. So our training was obsolete, and we were encouraged to be creative. We turned to television and movies to look for ways of interrogating. I can say that I saw that with myself, also. I would adopt the posture of the television or movie interrogator, thinking that establishing that simple power arrangement, establishing absolute power over the detainee, would force him to break. ...

[We adopted mock] executions and mock electrocution, stress positions, isolation, hypothermia. Threatening to execute family members or rape detainees’ wives and things like that.

I'm not normally one to look at Art as an explanation for the actions of people in the Real World. Far From it. But this may be one case where Tough Guy Revenge Fantasy of the Right-Wing Baeur-ites may have run smack face-first into Hard Reality resulting in a trio of War Crimes.

The Official Story is that 32-year-old Salah Ahmed Al-Salami from Yemen, 30-year-old Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi from Saudi Arabia and 22-year-old Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani also from Saudi Arabia, all committed suicide. Simultaneously, in three different, non-adjacent cells, using the exact same method - three men tied their own hands (one of whom had their feet tied), stuffed rags down their own throats, tied nooses made of bed sheets and t-shirts around their own necks, perched themselves on the sink in the cells and lept to their deaths.

Faculty and Students from SETON HALL in New Jersey analysed the Official NCIS Report, which was released two years after the incident, and their findings were that the a story told by the Report is frankly not possible to believe. Supposedly the detainees weren't found until at least two hours later, long enough for Rigor-mortis to set in, yet their cells are supposed to be checked by Guards every ten-minutes. They somehow managed to use sheets to block the view into their cells, and also bunch them up to make it appear as if they were in bed sleeping - how exactly they acquired this many extra sheets is not explained - yet, no guards were disciplined for failing to check on them or failing to notice they have managed to completely barricade themselves.

The Commander of the Camp at the time, then Rear Admiral Harry Harris claimed that the suicides were actually an attack on the Camp.

“I believe this was not an act of desperation,” he said, “but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.”

But the Official Story has begun to break down as four former Army Intelligence non-commissioned Officers who were present during the events of June 9th, 2006 - yet NCIS Investigator never talked to them, and their commanding Officers order to remain silent - have now come forward to e interviewed by Harpers.

They describe a completely difference scenario, where the three prisoners in question had been removed from the primary base and taken to a second secret location - which they nicknamed "Camp No" - out the outskirts of the base.

"Camp No" isn't supposed to exist. It's a small bunker without a guard tower, protected by concertina wire - which is serviced by a White Van (Called the "Paddy Wagon") which moves one prisoner at a time in and out. All visitors and movement on the base is supposed to be documented and logged - all movement that is except for movements made by the "Paddy Wagon". On the Night in question Sgt. Joe Hickman of the Army Reserves, who in civilian life has worked as a private investigator, observed the Paddy Wagon moving between Alpha Block and Camp No making at least three trips - then returning once more and backing up to the medical facility, just before all hell broke lose.

Another thirty minutes passed. Then, as Hickman and [Army Specialist Christopher] Penvose both recall, Camp Delta suddenly “lit up”—stadium-style flood lights were turned on, and the camp became the scene of frenzied activity, filling with personnel in and out of uniform. Hickman headed to the clinic, which appeared to be the center of activity, to learn the reason for the commotion. He asked a distraught medical corpsman what had happened. She said three dead prisoners had been delivered to the clinic. Hickman recalled her saying that they had died because they had rags stuffed down their throats, and that one of them was severely bruised. {Specialist Tony] Davila told me he spoke to Navy guards who said the men had died as the result of having rags stuffed down their throats.

The story of having rags stuff down their throats is one that is highly similar to the story told by another detainee who went through similar treatment that same night - a 42-year-old Saudi Arab name Shaker Aamer in Federal Court filings supplied by his attorney.

On June 9th, 2006, [Aamer] was beaten for two and a half hours straight. Seven naval military police participated in his beating. Mr. Aamer stated he had refused to provide a retina scan and fingerprints. He reported to me that he was strapped to a chair, fully restrained at the head, arms and legs. The MPs inflicted so much pain, Mr. Aamer said he thought he was going to die. The MPs pressed on pressure points all over his body: his temples, just under his jawline, in the hollow beneath his ears. They choked him. They bent his nose repeatedly so hard to the side he thought it would break. They pinched his thighs and feet constantly. They gouged his eyes. They held his eyes open and shined a mag-lite in them for minutes on end, generating intense heat. They bent his fingers until he screamed. When he screamed, they cut off his airway, then put a mask on him so he could not cry out.

A Mask to cover their face, and also prevent removal of the rag down their throat wss found on two of the deceased detainees - but went unremarked on by NCIS.

Despite the fact that those on the base were initially told that detainees died as a result of "rags being stuff in their mouths" - they were told the following day by Colonel Bumgardner (a Subordinate of Adm. Harris) that reporters were being told they "died by hanging" and that they should not note the contradiction if asked, and that also - their communications to their wives and family were being monitored.

In addition to keeping the soldiers on the base quiet, the NCIS investigators were kept on a short leash as well.

The investigators conducted interviews with guards, medics, prisoners, and officers. As the Seton Hall researchers note, however, nothing in the NCIS report suggests that the investigators secured or reviewed the duty roster, the prisoner-transfer book, the pass-on book, the records of phone and radio communications, or footage from the camera that continuously monitored activity in the hallways, all of which could have helped them authoritatively re-construct the events of that evening.

Footage of the hallways would have confirmed - or refuted - the suggestion put forth by Sgt Hickman that these men were most likely not even in their cells at the time of their supposed suicides.

On top of all this there is also the strong likeyhood that Yassar, the youngest of the three was completely innocent.

When I asked Talal Al-Zahrani what he thought had happened to his son, he was direct. “They snatched my seventeen-year-old son for a bounty payment,” he said. “They took him to Guantánamo and held him prisoner for five years. They tortured him. Then they killed him and returned him to me in a box, cut up.”

Al-Zahrani was a brigadier general in the Saudi police. He dismissed the Pentagon’s claims, as well as the investigation that supported them. Yasser, he said, was a young man who loved to play soccer and didn’t care for politics. The Pentagon claimed that Yasser’s frontline battle experience came from his having been a cook in a Taliban camp. Al-Zahrani said that this was preposterous: “A cook? Yasser couldn’t even make a sandwich!”

In fact, Yasser had already been determined to be no threat and was scheduled to be released.

If Sgt. Hickman's story is to be believed, these men were tortured to death. Exactly what information was supposed to be gained by this treatment of these men continues to remain shrouded in mystery, other than just to intimidate them or compel false confessions. The Obama Justice Department appears to be closing this investigation on the matter leaving the Official NCIS Report as it stands, even after recently interviewing Sgt. Hickman and Specialists Davila and Penvose.

“the gist of Sergeant Hickman’s information could not be confirmed.”

So Justice for these three men, or at least a better accounting of the record, remains denied behind a wall of secrecy, lies, threats and high security - all in the name of the "War On Terror".


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