Archive for the ‘torture’ Category

How much of a bastard was Jack Straw again? This much.

Scotland Yard has opened a criminal investigation into secret MI6 rendition operations that resulted in leading Libyan dissidents being abducted and flown to Tripoli where they were subsequently tortured in Muammar Gaddafi’s prisons….The year after the joint UK-Libyan operations were mounted, Straw told MPs they must disbelieve allegations of UK involvement in rendition “unless we all start to believe in conspiracy theories and that the officials are lying, that I am lying, that behind this there is some kind of secret state which is in league with some dark forces in the United States”.


Well, this looks pretty ugly. I have a question. We know that unofficial, non-doctrinal training material was being circulated around the joint services intelligence centre in Chicksands in 2003-2005 – there’s an interesting quote about it in the Guardian piece here:

Any public inquiry into the activities of the JFIT would be expected to examine the extent to which it was supervised by military lawyers. It is now known that at least some of the training material used by F Branch at Chicksands between 2003 and 2005 escaped the scrutiny of the training centre’s in-house lawyer, Brigadier David Yates, who told the Mousa inquiry that he did not “have the capacity” to check it.

This is important because, as the piece also points out, most of the interrogators were reservists. They would have gone first of all to the Chilwell mobilisation centre to do fitness tests, draw additional kit, get their vaccinations, complete their admin, and to do refresher courses on things like first aid, marksmanship, and anti-terrorist precautions. Then, later, they would have gone for a period of pre-deployment training, which would concentrate on preparing for their specific role in Iraq, before finally shipping out via South Cerney and RAF Brize Norton. It would make sense if the reservist intelligence people were sent to their trade’s headquarters, which for most of them would also be their unit’s peacetime depot, for their specialised pre-deployment course. (I think I have the process right, but several readers can correct me.)

Now, we also know that the Americans began with the torture in 2002, and that Major-General Geoffrey Miller was transferred from Guantanamo to Iraq with his infamous directive to “Gitmo-ize” the detention camps in the summer of 2003. So, where did this documentation come from?

Phil Carter quits; more here. I rather wonder if it had some connection to this.

Is it any consolation that the Obama administration has a better class of resignations? I think not.

Meanwhile, another voice of sense is silenced by trolls. I said a while ago somewhere that CNAS was likely to be to this generation of crazy rightwingers what the Council on Foreign Relations was to an older one. It is ironic, however, that a counterinsurgency expert’s comments box turned into a virtual failed state. As Teresa Nielsen Hayden would say, expecting a community to form without moderation is like throwing seeds over a wall and expecting a garden, rather than weeds, empty beer cans, and well-fed rodents.

Proponents of UAVs like to talk about the “enduring stare”; their ability to remain on station, to keep pointing at the target, rather than taking discrete reels of photos. Blogging ought to be a bit like that; keep after the story, don’t accept the official news (or bullshit) cycle.

Hence, this McClatchy story, which has uncorked a whole lot of other reporting.

“The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there.”

It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document.

There’s more to it than that, as well; it seems clear that one of the motivations for torture was trying to extract supporting evidence for the Iraq war. Unsurprisingly, Dick Cheney is implicated. You wonder if he couldn’t find a way to work a tax cut and perhaps a gay abortion in there, too; it’s the grand unified scandal. But anyway, look at those dates, and also at this piece of Laura Rozen’s.

It seems there were at least two distinct waves, or bouts, of torture, the first in the summer of 2002 and then a second in the winter and early spring. There also seems to have been some overdetermination with the first, which may also have been involved with a scheme to find a leaker in Congress.

But what strikes me as interesting is that it corresponds well with the PR-driven schedule for the famous dossiers and the run-up to war in general. Recall the “Downing Street Memo”, written in late July. The facts and intelligence were being fixed around the policy. This culminated in the first coordinated spin drive in the autumn. At the same time as Abu Zubeydah was being lashed to the board, the White House Iraq Group and the Iraq Communications Group were being established to coordinate transatlantic PR operations. The first dossier would be launched in September. Interestingly, I’m seeing a spike in search requests for both organisations.

A second wave of propaganda activity was then launched in the spring as the key UN and parliamentary votes approached and the military time-table counted down. And, sure enough, there was a second bout of torture; on this occasion, extra torture was approved by Donald Rumsfeld before the authorisation was taken back.

Via the Armchair Generalist, meanwhile, it turns out that the one detainee whose words actually made it into Colin Powell’s February 2003 address to the UN, and who was tortured, has conveniently died in a Libyan jail.

Josh Marshall speaks sense; there is more here including an interview with Charles Duelfer, who apparently refused to order the torture of an Iraqi prisoner-of-war. Bully for him, if true. Few public officials can have been so Cheneyed; remember when he was being sent “leads” for the Iraq Survey Group that turned out to be in Lebanon?

Meanwhile, for colour: yer man was travelling with a doctor and a biochemical survival suit. I’d pay cash money to see him wear one of those.

This is wrong;

Gitmo will be closed. Binyam Mohammed will be returned to Britain, or put on trial in the USA. Either way the details of his treatment, and that of all the other inmates, will become public. What are Foggy Bottom and the CIA playing at? Get it over with

Consider this BBC story. The interesting thing here is that Miliband’s position requires him to argue two mutually impossible things at once; first, he can’t possibly let evidence of Mohammed’s torture appear in court, for fear of terrible retaliation from the United States, second, that the United States has not threatened such a thing.

The two are mutually dependent, because if the first one was allowed to stand on its own, who would imagine that good relations with the United States were anything worth having? Therefore, it’s necessary for the protection of the self-regard of the political classes that the US threat be both unambiguous and invisible. It is like the chapter in The Art of Coarse Rugby about fields with bulls in them; eventually they conclude that the ideal scenario is a field next to the rugby ground with a large sign in it, reading BEWARE OF THE BULL, but no bull.

That way, if you need to play for time, you can hoof the ball into the field and count on your opponents’ fear of the bull to waste time – but should you find yourself a couple of points down as time runs out, you can always declare that the bull was taken away years ago and just get on with it. Similarly, no evidence was ever provided of Saudi threats back when this legal dodge – the BAE gambit as I call it – was invented.

Providing evidence of the threats would spoil it. If the government had to admit it was being bullied into covering up for appalling torture or spectacular financial corruption, this would alter certain political facts. But that is not all. The beauty of the BAE gambit is that it’s so flexible; because the evidence of the risk is itself secret, it can be invoked whenever required. I said this at the time, and now they’re doing it. If they had to demonstrate the threat, this would spoil its effectiveness.

I see no reason to think that the Government is lying now about the Americans’ position. In fact, it’s very likely that the Obama administration has not contacted them; for example, here’s the new CIA director explicitly stating that he considers torture and refoulement to states that practice it illegal. Here are his own words:

On January 22, 2009, the President issued an executive order directing all U.S. agencies to use Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions as the baseline for the treatment and interrogation of persons detained in any armed conflict. The executive order also states that agencies must notify the International Committee of the Red Cross of such detainees and provide the Red Cross with access to them. The intelligence community must follow the executive order.

With respect to renditions, the intelligence community must comply with U.S. obligations under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, including Article 3 prohibiting the rendition of a person to a country where it is more likely than not he will be subjected to torture.

Here’s the relevant paragraph in the executive order:

Nothing in this order shall be construed to affect the obligations of officers, employees, and other agents of the United States Government to comply with all pertinent laws and treaties of the United States governing detention and interrogation, including but not limited to: the Fifth and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution; the Federal torture statute, 18 U.S.C. 2340 2340A; the War Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. 2441; the Federal assault statute, 18 U.S.C. 113; the Federal maiming statute, 18 U.S.C. 114; the Federal “stalking” statute, 18 U.S.C. 2261A; articles 93, 124, 128, and 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, 10 U.S.C. 893, 924, 928, and 934; section 1003 of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, 42 U.S.C. 2000dd; section 6(c) of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Public Law 109 366; the Geneva Conventions; and the Convention Against Torture. Nothing in this order shall be construed to diminish any rights that any individual may have under these or other laws and treaties.”

No torture; no handover to states that torture. So it would be surprising if they were to do so. And, indeed, Miliband explicitly says that no approach to the new administration has been made.

However, the Government has chosen to regard not being explicitly told to stop as equivalent to a reiteration of the threats (whose existence it denies, lest we forget) issued by the Bush administration in 2007. It has done this because it suits the Government’s interests. For once, William Hague is right – they should simply ask the Americans to state whether or not the non-threat is still not-in force.

Of course they will not, because it suits them to be able to kick the ball over the BEWARE OF THE BULL sign whenever they think fit. As Scott Horton points out, there are a lot of people about who desperately want a new US administration to be guilty, because it detracts from their own guilt.

Two things. Marty Lederman of popular legal blog Balkinisation has just become the first blogger in good standing to join the Obama Administration. He’s going to be Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Council.

That’s repellent schreibtischtäter John Yoo’s old job. I repeat, old Organ Failure Yoo has been replaced by Liberal Q. Weblog. That is, I think, change you can believe in. My advice; nothing dinky, Klotzen nicht Kleckern. Just seal the entire building in an evidence bag, like a forensic Christo.

Meanwhile, I wasn’t bothering with the inauguration, but look at this: people are posting to NANOG reporting downstream Internet traffic as much as double normal levels, even on networks that are 80% commercial customers rather than eyeballs. Apparently it’s coming through on port 8247, which is the one CNN’s streaming service uses. Apparently, some sysadmins are running their own mirrors of one stream or other and blocking the rest.

The meeting.

Two, three, four men who were not the ones you saw at podiums, behind Fox News desks. The man who’s pure evil. Hard men. Men who say ‘flip the switch’ or ‘push the button’ or ‘pull that lever.’ When they were younger, they might have done it themselves.

They are the hidden men, not even the grey eminences. The fixers. “That one, now!”

Now the convention is booing Obama. Perfunctory, and unenthusiastically. Oh, line about immigrants being Americans too. Pro forma applause.

The crowd boos, the crowd cheers the war. Rudy Giuliani moves them to froth – Lindsay Graham moves them to scorn.

It’s an… evil triumphalism. It’s the party of Jupiter Maximus, with Mammon on the one side and thuggish Ares on the other. A party where the leaders are feted till they puke, where the powerful pushing down the weak, those declared ‘entarte’ or unclean – is not only allowed, not only encouraged, but considered a sacrament.

My God, you’ve done a journalism! The depressing thing is the comments thread; all kinds of people moaning that she was too cruel to the bastards. Shocked, shocked, I tell you, and nothing at all to do with this. No.

Tim Ireland’s new project is more necessary than ever. It’s not quite achieved the same degree of punch and professionalism that the daddy of tab-bashing blogs, BildBlog offers readers of Germany’s biggest newspaper, but give them time. (This also bothers me. When I started this blog there were one million blogs, of which 50,000 updated on average daily. Now their numbers are beyond counting, and the top 50,000 churn out far more than before because so many are professional. I can remember when the only pro was Josh Marshall.)

Anyway, this didn’t seem to interest TSL despite my desperately flagging it, but it’s possibly the most Orwellian piece of writing in the history of British journalogasm. Link, if you can stomach it.

AN Iraqi terror boss is demanding legal aid to sue the MoD — over PORN left in his jail toilet. Ahmed Al-Fartoosi — blamed for the deaths of dozens of Brits — is to sue the Government for tens of thousands of pounds. On top of the loo claim, Fartoosi — accused of leading the fanatic Mehdi Army and masterminding a bombing campaign against Our Boys in Basra — wants “substantial damages” for:

HEARING porn videos being played on a soldier’s laptop;

BUMPING his arm and thigh when being put in an armoured vehicle; and

LOSING sleep in his cell due to noise and lights from a corridor.

Fartoosi — represented by anti-war lawyer Phil Shiner — also moaned his solitary confinement room was too hot.

Fortunately there are also newspapers that don’t aim for a reading age of seven (I’ve actually collapsed some of the paragraphs in that quote, if you can believe that). So…

Fartoosi was detained for more than two years, including nearly six months in solitary confinement. He was arrested in his Basra home in September 2005 and released late last year after British forces agreed to an Iraqi-sponsored deal with the militia.

He says he was beaten with rifle butts and blindfolded before he was put in a tank. For 12 hours he and his fellow detainees given no food and were prevented from going to the toilet.

He says he was taken to the British base at Shaibah, on the outskirts of Basra, where he spent 72 days in solitary confinement in a small cell with no ventilation, though he says he was provided with three cooked meals a day. On the third or fourth night, he says, soldiers brought a laptop and placed it on a window sill just outside his cell.

“After a short period of conversation in English it became clear to me that the DVD was showing porn. It was playing at the loudest possible volume. Thereafter for the next month the porn movies were played all night.”

So, when the Sun says he “bumped” his arm and thigh, they mean that he was beaten up with the butt of a rifle. When they say he lost sleep, and heard porn playing back on a laptop, they mean he was deliberately deprived of sleep as an interrogation tactic – one which is banned by Army doctrine on the handling of prisoners, by the way.

Note also that the “porn found in a jail toilet”, a comparatively puny charge, somehow got promoted into the lede, thus pushing the sleep deprivation down into the bottom end of the story. (After all, do you think you were meant to read any more than the first par?) Of course, associating it with a toilet tends to lend a sort of fnarr fnarr quality to the whole thing as well.

Nobody has any business writing like this. You might wonder as well what the Sun thought it was doing being “STAGGERED” by Colin Stagg’s compensation; let’s not forget that the Met is currently prosecuting another suspect in the Rachel Nickell case…the guy whose DNA was all over the crime scene. We can be as certain as anything in the law that Stagg is innocent; we’ve got the DNA after all. So what is their major malfunction? Can it be that they just like arbitrary state power?

Bonus catch: this week, they also managed to report the horrible fate of a boy who fell off a block of flats he was trying to climb down to get away from his enemies with the strapline “BROKEN BRITAIN HORROR”; they are always so keen to churn out victim porn (see the Stagg story), but you have to wonder whether his relatives really wanted to be conscripted into a party political broadcast for the Conservative Party.


Donal Blaney said…

I do not bandy the term “nazi” or “racist” about in the same way the left do.
2:05 PM


This is how the Nazi traffic wardens of London behave when they see a nice car that they decide they want to tow.


First, a confession. I was appointed a house prefect at school and I handed out a record 400 punishments over 14 months for a variety of offences, most of them trivial. In doing so, I recognise that in many instances I abused my power.


Now we know where the thousands of extra police are being deployed – on low level “crime” rather than preventing and investigating violent crimes and burglaries that are what we’re all most worried about.


Where do I accuse anyone of plotting to suppress an accusation of paedophilia? What drugs are you on to have written such nonsense?


Secondly, a Labour council candidate was arrested last week on suspicion of child porn offences. Needless to say, had he been a Tory it would have been the lead story on the BBC and in the national press.


Thatcher would use nuclear. She wouldn’t want us dependent on foreign gas and oil in today’s world. It is the one area, apart from cuisine and gun rights, where the French are better than us.

How many nuclear power stations did she build, Don?


Cut Petrol Tax, You Greedy Sods

Are you against the market, Don?


Amnesty International once again show their true political colours in a campaign ad against the practice of waterboarding. This sanctimonious clique of naive peaceniks and leftist fellow travellers want us to fight the evil psychopaths who indiscriminately kill innocent men, women and children of all colours, creeds and religions with one arm tied behind our backs.


Hectoring and abrasive, Humphrys has become a parody of himself. In the same way that Jeremy Paxman’s sneer seems to have become more exaggerated as the years go by, so it is with Humphrys’ aggressiveness.

Hectoring and aggressive, eh?


I obviously agree that torture is not the answer.

I think I draw the line at permanent physical harm to the prisoner. Humiliation or psychological interrogation techniques are, in my view, not a problem – but we’re all entitled to a different view. Waterboarding doesn’t do the prisoner any permanent physical harm although he may be reluctant to shower or use a flannel again in the future when/if he is freed.

I am aware that the CIA has in the past used a creative interview technique which involved blind-folding a suspect, placing him into a helicopter and for the helicopter to lift a foot or two off the ground. If the prisoner didn’t answer questions, he was told he faced being pushed out of the helicopter from (as he was told) hundreds of feet up. This too concentrated the mind.

No, that was us, in Northern Ireland in the early 70s.
(Note that he therefore goes against the British Army’s doctrine on human intelligence collection and sides with, ah, the Gestapo. Are you against the troops, Don?)

Feel free to add any more Dons you find interesting in the comments. Unfortunately Don’s forgotten how to use the moderation function, or something.

If you can read you should read this if you read nothing else this decade. It’s all about how the Americans started torturing people, whose idea it was, how men like John Yoo came to provide the legal justifications, who was keen (the ideological core of the administration), who didn’t want to know (the FBI and, curiously, the US Navy’s Criminal Investigative Service). It is intensely depressing, and the only hope in it is the precedent from Nuremberg that a lawyer who is involved in a war crime in their legal capacity can be just as guilty as the torturer.

Here’s the most significant bit, if that means anything at this level of degradation:

On September 25, as the process of elaborating new interrogation techniques reached a critical point, a delegation of the administration’s most senior lawyers arrived at Guantánamo. The group included the president’s lawyer, Alberto Gonzales, who had by then received the Yoo-Bybee Memo; Vice President Cheney’s lawyer, David Addington, who had contributed to the writing of that memo; the C.I.A.’s John Rizzo, who had asked for a Justice Department sign-off on individual techniques, including waterboarding, and received the second (and still secret) Yoo-Bybee Memo; and Jim Haynes, Rumsfeld’s counsel. They were all well aware of al-Qahtani. “They wanted to know what we were doing to get to this guy,” Dunlavey told me, “and Addington was interested in how we were managing it.” I asked what they had to say. “They brought ideas with them which had been given from sources in D.C.,” Dunlavey said. “They came down to observe and talk.” Throughout this whole period, Dunlavey went on, Rumsfeld was “directly and regularly involved.”

Beaver confirmed the account of the visit. Addington talked a great deal, and it was obvious to her that he was a “very powerful man” and “definitely the guy in charge,” with a booming voice and confident style. Gonzales was quiet. Haynes, a friend and protégé of Addington’s, seemed especially interested in the military commissions, which were to decide the fate of individual detainees. They met with the intelligence people and talked about new interrogation methods. They also witnessed some interrogations.

Addington. Addington. At every ugly hinge of the Bush years, he’s there. I’d never heard of him until at least 2006, when the Stiftung turned me on to the story. I wonder if he was a member of the White House Iraq Group? Another one we never cleared up.

This depresses me for other reasons; at the end of 2001, I was just about still prepared to defend them. I never imagined they would want to keep the prisoners indefinitely; better in their hands than those of the Northern Alliance, right? The penny finally dropped for me with the decision to refuse them POW status in early 2002. But looking back, should I have been angrier earlier? Not that it would have helped; but I do think I consistently underestimated them. I was always opposed to Iraq – but right up to the end I didn’t really believe they meant it.

It seemed so crazed, the only explanation I could think of was that it was an exercise in madman theory (and you all know what I think of that); once the inspectors went back in, and they started cutting up rockets and flying Mirage F1-CR recce planes, wouldn’t this be the end? Or at least, wouldn’t it be enough for us? What I didn’t realise, of course, was that they wanted war for reasons that had very little to do with the war; for Blair it was presumably to cling to the US. And for Addington?

His significance, I think, is that it’s all been about law; they wanted and dreamed of escaping the constraints of the legal state, and no wonder they started at the top.

Update: Pathos to bathos in a flash. Yes, that should have been John Yoo, not Woo. Perhaps they should have hired John Woo; he’d have danced round his own arse on the tip of a Tomahawk missile while chop-socking Addington into diced wanker and collapsing Osama’s occiput with a diamond-edged writ. They’d have told all they knew, willingly.