Blame Bush policies for detainee abuse: U.S. Senate report

December 11 2008

US soldier in guard tower over looking military-run Camp Delta prison in Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base, June 27, 2006

US soldier in guard tower over looking military-run Camp Delta prison in Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base (file)

A U.S. Senate report has concluded that Bush administration policies led directly to the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The bipartisan report, issued Thursday by the Senate Armed Forces Committee, says the authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques conveyed the message that it was “okay” to mistreat detainees in U.S. custody.

The Bush administration, which has not yet commented on the report, has repeatedly said detainees in U.S. custody are treated humanely, and that because they are enemy combatants, and not prisoners-of-war, they are not entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions.

The report says harsh interrogation tactics, such as waterboarding, began to be used after President George Bush determined that the Geneva Conventions – the minimum standards for humane treatment – did not apply to al-Qaida or Taliban suspects.

Donald Rumsfeld  (3 June, 2006)

Donald Rumsfeld (file)

The report also says former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques at the Guantanomo Bay detention center, was a direct cause of abusive techniques, including forced nudity, stress positions and the use of military working dogs, at detention centers in Afghanistan and Iraq.

A Defense Department spokesman, Colonel Gary Keck, said today Pentagon officials have not yet reviewed the report. He says numerous reviews of detention operations have all found there was never any policy that condoned or tolerated abuse.

Senate Armed Forces Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Democrat, criticized senior officials for trying to pass responsibility for abuses at U.S. detention facilities to lower-ranking officers.

The ranking Republican, John McCain, said the policies that led to the abuses are wrong, and must never be repeated.

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Panel blames White House, not soldiers, for abuse
By PAMELA HESS
December 11 2008

WASHINGTON

The physical and mental abuse of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was the direct result of Bush administration detention policies and should not be dismissed as the work of bad guards or interrogators, according to a bipartisan Senate report released Thursday.

The Senate Armed Services Committee report concludes that harsh interrogation techniques used by the CIA and the U.S. military were directly adapted from the training techniques used to prepare special forces personnel to resist interrogation by enemies that torture and abuse prisoners. The techniques included forced nudity, painful stress positions, sleep deprivation, and until 2003, waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning.

The report is the result of a nearly two-year investigation that directly links President Bush’s policies after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, legal memos on torture, and interrogation rule changes with the abuse photographed at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq four years ago. Much of the report remains classified. Unclassified portions of the report were released by the committee Thursday.

Administration officials publicly blamed the abuses on low-level soldiers_ the work “of a few bad apples.” Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., called that “both unconscionable and false.”

“The message from top officials was clear; it was acceptable to use degrading and abusive techniques against detainees,” Levin said.

Arizona Republican and former prisoner of war Sen. John McCain, called the link between the survival training and U.S. interrogations of detainees inexcusable.

“These policies are wrong and must never be repeated,” he said in a statement.

Lawrence Di Rita, a senior aide to former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld at the time the Abu Ghraib and other abuses took place, disputed the report.

“This oddly timed report provides no evidence that contradicts more than a dozen other investigations that found that there was no systematic or widespread detainee mismanagement,” Di Rita told The AP. “A relatively small number of people abused detainees, and they were brought to justice in criminal or civil proceedings.”

The report comes as the Bush administration continues to delay and in some cases bar members of Congress from gaining access to key legal documents and memos about the detainee program, including an August 2002 memo that evaluated whether specific interrogation techniques proposed to be used by the CIA would constitute torture.

That memo, written by Jay Bybee, then-chief of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, was guided in part by an assessment of the psychological effects of resistance survival training on U.S. military personnel. The CIA provided that document to his office, Bybee told the Senate Armed Services Committee in an October letter, obtained by The Associated Press.

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A little History Did you know That:

Torture was taught by CIA; Declassified manual details the methods used in Honduras; Agency denials refuted

By Gary Cohn, Ginger Thompson, and Mark Matthews,
January 27 1997

WASHINGTON — A newly declassified CIA training manual details torture methods used against suspected subversives in Central America during the 1980s, refuting claims by the agency that no such methods were taught there.

“Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual — 1983” was released Friday in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by The Sun on May 26, 1994.

The CIA also declassified a Vietnam-era training manual called “KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation — July 1963,” which also taught torture and is believed by intelligence sources to have been a basis for the 1983 manual.

Torture methods taught in the 1983 manual include stripping suspects naked and keeping them blindfolded. Interrogation rooms should be windowless, dark and soundproof, with no toilet.

“The ‘questioning’ room is the battlefield upon which the ‘questioner’ and the subject meet,” the 1983 manual states. “However, the ‘questioner’ has the advantage in that he has total control over the subject and his environment.”

The 1983 manual was altered between 1984 and early 1985 to discourage torture after a furor was raised in Congress and the press about CIA training techniques being used in Central America. Those alterations and new instructions appear in the documents obtained by The Sun, support the conclusion that methods taught in the earlier version were illegal.

A cover sheet placed in the manual in March 1985 cautions: “The use of force, mental torture, threats, insults or exposure to inhumane treatment of any kind as an aid to interrogation is prohibited by law, both international and domestic; it is neither authorized nor condoned.”

The Sun’s 1994 request for the manuals was made in connection with the newspaper’s investigation of kidnapping, torture and murder committed by a CIA-trained Honduran military unit during the 1980s. The CIA turned over the documents — with passages deleted — only after The Sun threatened to sue the agency to obtain the documents.

Human rights abuses by the Honduran unit known as Battalion 316 were most intense in the early 1980s at the height of the Reagan administration’s war against communism in Central America. They were documented by The Sun in a four-part series published from June 11 to 18, 1995.

Unmistakable similarities
The methods taught in the 1983 manual and those used by Battalion 316 in the early 1980s show unmistakable similarities.

The manual advises an interrogator to “manipulate the subject’s environment, to create unpleasant or intolerable situations.”

In The Sun’s series, Florencio Caballero, a former member of Battalion 316, said CIA instructors taught him to discover what his prisoners loved and what they hated.

“If a person did not like cockroaches, then that person might be more cooperative if there were cockroaches running around the room,” Caballero said.

In 1983, Caballero attended a CIA “human resources exploitation or interrogation course,” according to declassified testimony by Richard Stolz, then-deputy director for operations, before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in June 1988.

The “Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual — 1983” suggests that the interrogator show the prisoner letters from home to convey the impression that the prisoner’s relatives are suffering or in danger.

In The Sun’s series, Jose Barrera, a former member of Battalion 316 who said he was taught interrogation methods by U.S. instructors in 1983, recalled using the technique:

“The first thing we would say is that we know your mother, your younger brother. And better you cooperate, because if you don’t, we’re going to bring them in and rape them and torture them and kill them,” Barrera said.

The manual suggests that prisoners be deprived of food and sleep, and made to maintain rigid positions, such as standing at attention for long periods.

Ines Consuelo Murillo, who spent 78 days in Battalion 316’s secret jails in 1983, told The Sun that she was given no food or water for days, and that to keep her from sleeping, one of her captors entered her room every 10 minutes and poured water over her head.

Mark Mansfield, a CIA spokesman, declined to comment on the manuals. However, asked about agency policy on the use of force and torture, he referred to Stolz’s 1988 testimony before the Senate intelligence committee.

In testimony declassified at The Sun’s request, Stolz confirmed that the CIA trained Hondurans.

“The course consisted of three weeks of classroom instruction followed by two weeks of practical exercises, which included the questioning of actual prisoners by the students.

“Physical abuse or other degrading treatment was rejected, not only because it is wrong, but because it has historically proven to be ineffective,” he said.

Beyond that reference, Mansfield said only: “There are still aspects of the review process that need to be completed. For that reason, it would not be appropriate to comment.”

He was referring to an internal CIA investigation ordered in 1995, after publication of The Sun series on Battalion 316, to determine whether CIA officials acted improperly in Honduras during the 1980s.

The Clinton administration promised more than a year ago that CIA, State Department and Defense Department documents relevant to the time of Battalion 316’s abuses would be turned over to Honduran government human rights investigators. To date, no CIA documents have been sent to the Hondurans.

A truth confirmed
The Honduran judge overseeing his country’s human rights investigation welcomed the release of the CIA training manuals.

“These manuals confirm a truth we in Honduras have known for a long time: that the United States was involved in encouraging the abuses of the Honduran military,” said Judge Roy Medina. “They were trying to stop communism. But the methods they used are not acceptable in civilized societies.”

In releasing the training manuals, the CIA declined to say whether either document was used in Honduras. However, a declassified 1989 report prepared for the Senate intelligence committee, obtained earlier by The Sun, says the 1983 manual was developed from notes of a CIA interrogation course in Honduras.

The most graphic part of the 1983 manual is a chapter dealing with “coercive techniques.”

The manual discourages physical torture, advising interrogators to use more subtle methods to threaten and frighten the suspect.

“While we do not stress the use of coercive techniques, we do want to make you aware of them and the proper way to use them,” the manual’s introduction states. The manual says such methods are justified when subjects have been trained to resist noncoercive measures.

Forms of coercion explained in the interrogation manual include: Inflicting pain or the threat of pain: “The threat to inflict pain may trigger fears more damaging than the immediate sensation of pain. In fact, most people underestimate their capacity to withstand pain.”

A later section states: “The pain which is being inflicted upon him from outside himself may actually intensify his will to resist. On the other hand, pain which he feels he is inflicting upon himself is more likely to sap his resistance.

“For example, if he is required to maintain rigid positions such as standing at attention or sitting on a stool for long periods of time, the immediate source of pain is not the ‘questioner’ but the subject himself.” ” After a period of time the subject is likely to exhaust his internal motivational strength.”

Inducing dread: The manual says a breakdown in the prisoner’s will can be induced by strong fear, but cautions that if this dread is unduly prolonged, “the subject may sink into a defensive apathy from which it is hard to arouse him.”

It adds: “It is advisable to have a psychologist available whenever regression is induced.”

Getting a confession: Once a confession is obtained, “the pressures are lifted enough so that the subject can provide information as accurately as possible.” The subject should be told that “friendly handling will continue as long as he cooperates.”

Solitary confinement and other types of sensory deprivation: Depriving a subject of sensory stimulation induces stress and anxiety, the manual says. “The more complete the deprivation, the more rapidly and deeply the subject is affected.”

It cites the results of experiments conducted on volunteers who allowed themselves to be suspended in water while wearing blackout masks. They were allowed to hear only their own breathing and faint sounds from the pipes. “The stress and anxiety become almost unbearable for most subjects,” the manual says.

Hypnosis and drugs: The 1983 manual suggests creating “hypnotic situations,” using concealed machinery, and offers ways of convincing a subject that he has been drugged. Giving him a placebo “may make him want to believe that he has been drugged and that no one could blame him for telling his story now,” the manual says.

Arrest: The most effective way to make an arrest is to use the element of surprise, achieving “the maximum amount of mental discomfort.”

“The ideal time at which to make an arrest is in the early hours of the morning. When arrested at this time, most subjects experience intense feelings of shock, insecurity and psychological stress and for the most part have difficulty adjusting to the situation.”

Cells: Prisoners’ cells should have doors of heavy steel. “The slamming of a heavy door impresses upon the subject that he is cut off from the rest of the world.”

The manual says “the idea is to prevent the subject from relaxing and recovering from shock.”

The 1983 manual suggests that prisoners be blindfolded, stripped and given a thorough medical examination, “including all body cavities.”

Substantial revisions
Between 1984 and 1985, after congressional committees began questioning training techniques being used by the CIA in Latin America, “Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual — 1983” underwent substantial revision.

Passages were crossed out and written over by hand to warn that the methods they described were forbidden. However, in the copy obtained by The Sun, the original wording remained clearly visible beneath the handwritten changes.

Among the changes was this sentence in the section on coercion: “The use of most coercive techniques is improper and violates policy.”

In another, the editor crossed out descriptions of solitary confinement experiments and wrote: “To use prolonged solitary confinement for the purpose of extracting information in questioning violates policy.”

A third notation says that inducing unbearable stress “is a form of torture. Its use constitutes a serious impropriety and violates policy.” And in place of a sentence that says “coercive techniques always require prior [headquarters] approval,” an editor has written that they “constitute an impropriety and violate policy.”

To an instruction that “heat, air and light” in an interrogation cell should be externally controlled is added “but not to the point of torture.”

Disturbing questions
The 1983 interrogation manual was discussed at a closed hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in June 1988. Then-Sen. William S. Cohen said that the interrogation manual raised disturbing questions, even with the revisions. Cohen is now the secretary of defense.

“No. 1, I am not sure why, in 1983, it became necessary to have such a manual,” Cohen said, according to a transcript declassified at The Sun’s request. “But, No. 2, upon its discovery, why we only sought to revise it in a fashion which says, ‘These are some of the techniques we think are abhorrent. We just want you to be aware of them so you’ll avoid them.’

” There’s a lot in this that troubles me in terms of whether you are sending subliminal signals that say, ‘This is improper, but, by the way, you ought to be aware of it.’ ”

KUBARK manual
A second document obtained by The Sun, the 1963 KUBARK manual, shows that, at least during the 1960s, agents were free to use coercion during interrogation, provided they obtained approval in advance.

It offers a list of interrogation techniques, including threats, fear, “debility, pain, heightened suggestibility and hypnosis, narcosis [use of drugs] and induced regression.”

Like the 1983 manual, the KUBARK manual describes the effectiveness of arresting suspects early in the morning, keeping prisoners blindfolded and taking away their clothes.

“Usually his own clothes are taken away,” the manual explains, “because familiar clothing reinforces identity and thus the capacity for resistance.” The KUBARK manual also cautions against making empty threats, and advises interrogators against directly inflicting pain.

It contains one direct and one oblique reference to electrical shocks.

The introduction warns that approval from headquarters is required if the interrogation is to include bodily harm or “if medical, chemical or electrical methods or materials are to be used to induce acquiescence.”

A passage on preparing for an interrogation contains this advice: “If a new safehouse is to be used as the interrogation site, it should be studied carefully to be sure that the total environment can be manipulated as desired. For example, the electric current should be known in advance, so that transformers or other modifying devices will be on hand if needed.”

An intelligence source told The Sun: “The CIA has acknowledged privately and informally in the past that this referred to the application of electric shocks to interrogation suspects.”

While it remains unclear whether the KUBARK manual was used in Central America, the 1963 manual and the 1983 manual are similar in organization and descriptions of certain interrogation techniques and purposes.

The KUBARK manual is mentioned in a 1989 memorandum prepared by the staff of the Senate intelligence committee on the CIA’s role in Honduras, and some members of the intelligence community during that period believe it was used in training the Hondurans. One said that some of the lessons from the manual were recorded almost verbatim in notes by CIA agents who sat in on the classes.

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How the CIA Taught the Portuguese to Torture

By CHRISTOPHER REED

May 21 2004

For several days in the early summer of 1974, I had open access to a strange and terrible prison near Lisbon, then empty because of the coup that April which ended 48 years of fascist dictatorship in Portugal. My prison time in Caxias was a never forgotten experience, but I did not expect the memories to return so vividly today — at the instigation of the United States.

My recollections pose the question of whether Caxias was a beginning of the American prison gulag, the lawless penal control stretching today from Guantanamo in Cuba, to the Middle East, Afghanistan and clandestine activities in Colombia, the Philippines, and other places unknown, as well as the suspected proxy torture havens like Syria. When did political prisoners across the world begin to answer not to their peers, but to Uncle Sam?

The prison of Caxias (Cuh-SHI-ash in Portuguese) was run by the secret police, the Pide (International Police for the Defence of the State), who were so feared by the Portuguese, pedestrians would cross to the opposite side of the street to pass its unmarked offices in Lisbon. Caxias was an old fortress near the sea, but inside was a modern torture chamber using the latest coercion techniques — devised by the US Central Intelligence Agency.

For decades in Caxias, thousands of political prisoners, mostly communists and socialists, were admitted for systematic torture and then released. Why were these known subversives, who had dedicated their lives to destroying the dictatorship, allowed to return to freedom? Because the success of the Pide’s state-of-the-art imported torture techniques meant that their previous lives were now irrelevant. In the Pide’s words, they had been “taken off the chess board”. Their lives, old and new, were destroyed.

My guide to Caxias was an Edinburgh-trained Portuguese psychiatrist, who for a mercifully short time had been a prisoner there himself. He told me that released prisoners, especially the communists — regarded as the toughest ones to crack — would often not go home. They would instead travel in the opposite direction from their families, take a simple job, or fall into alcoholism, even change their names; such were their new lives as mental zombies, created by coercion. (This was confirmed by another psychiatrist I interviewed who treated Caxias victims.)

Central to the torture was sleep deprivation, a newish discovery enshrined in a 128-page secret manual produced by the CIA in July 1963 called Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation. I was told several times at Caxias that the Pide’s methods came from the CIA, although I did not knowingly see a copy of Kubark (the word is a code name for the agency itself). However, Portugal is and was a member of Nato, and as its secretive communist party was regarded as the nation’s most dangerous security threat, and the Cold War rumbled on, there seems no doubt that the US intelligence agency, ordered to fight communism everywhere, was the source. It also had the latest information on “coercive interrogation.”

This becomes plainer on perusal of the Kubark manual, which was declassified in 1997 when the Baltimore Sun threatened a suit under the US Freedom of Information Act. It clearly describes what I saw as the methods at Caxias, and read about in the Pide’s internal reports during my 1974 prison visits.

In chapter nine of Kubark, titled Coercive Counterintelligence Interrogation of Resistant Sources, it recommends sleep and sensory deprivation to produce the “DDD syndrome” of “debility, dependence, and dread” in “interrogatees.” (Note the dehumanisation of that word.) Victims could be reduced to compliance in a matter of hours or days, it said, but then warned against “applying duress past the point of irreversible psychological damage.” This sentence confirms what the Pide were doing.

The objective of CIA interrogation, as Kubark repeatedly emphasises, was information, hence the warning. But how conveniently this assisted the Pide, who were less interested in their victims’ information, than in their destruction. Caxias adopted Kubark, but deliberately took its methods to the extreme it warned against. But as the mind torturers’ manifesto carefully remarks: “The validity of the ethical arguments about coercion exceeds the scope of this paper.”

Complying with the manual’s recommendations, the sound-proofed Caxias cells contained no distractions. Walls and ceilings were white but scuff marks remained — they were excellent sources to stimulate the hallucinations that prisoners experienced after the first few days of sleeplessness. The light, as Kubark urges, was weak, artificial, and its source invisible. Huge concealed air-conditioner-heaters could turn the room in minutes from icy cold to a desert scorch.

Such furniture as there was, mostly a table and a few chairs, was rounded at the edges to prevent a prisoner trying to kill himself by running his head into them, as some had tried. Cell ceilings contained speakers which broadcast loud and terrifying sounds, or sometimes the cries and sobs of their wives or children. The Pide had recorded these and played them from a central “studio” which I saw.

Meals came at random, deliberately. An apparent breakfast might arrive at 4 pm; dinner in the middle of the night. No clocks or watches were allowed. Oh yes — and cells had no beds. The record for prisoner sleeplessness was a young engineer, a communist, kept awake for a full month. He committed suicide upon his release.

How can you keep someone awake for weeks? My psychiatrist friend sat me at the plastic-topped table and asked me to pretend to nod off. I closed my eyes — to be jerked out of it by a sharp but penetrating metallic series of sounds. He had taken out an escudo coin and simply rapped it on the table top. Astonishingly, this was usually sufficient, and guards took turns through the endless hours. Another method was to throw a mug of icy water in a prisoner’s face. And of course the tape recordings were always available.

In former times the Pide was notorious for brutal torture. But it mellowed under its benevolent CIA guides; violence was eschewed. I saw a report on a Pide officer demoted for striking a prisoner, thus renewing his resistance. As Kubark-CIA says: “Direct physical brutality creates only resentment, hostility, and further defiance.” The report on the Pide officer complained that his violence had “set back the treatment.” Caxias prisoners were not left naked and suffered no systematic sex coercion. That came years later — in 1983 when the CIA updated Kubark and recommended stripping prisoners and keeping them blindfolded. Presumably the additon of sexual manipulation is the latest thinking among US torture intellectuals.

The 1983 manual, enthusiastically used by CIA clients in the vicious “contra” war against Central American leftist nationalists in President Reagan’s years, was changed in 1985 after unfavourable publicity. An inserted page stated: “The use of force, mental torture, threats, insults, or exposure to inhumane treatment of any kind as an aid to interrogation is prohibited by law both internationally and domestically; it is neither authorised nor condoned.” But as they say, what goes around, comes around.

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Outsourcing Torture
The secret history of America’s “extraordinary rendition” program.

By Jane Mayer
February 14 2005

On January 27th, President Bush, in an interview with the Times, assured the world that “torture is never acceptable, nor do we hand over people to countries that do torture.” Maher Arar, a Canadian engineer who was born in Syria, was surprised to learn of Bush’s statement. Two and a half years ago, American officials, suspecting Arar of being a terrorist, apprehended him in New York and sent him back to Syria, where he endured months of brutal interrogation, including torture. When Arar described his experience in a phone interview recently, he invoked an Arabic expression. The pain was so unbearable, he said, that “you forget the milk that you have been fed from the breast of your mother.”

Arar, a thirty-four-year-old graduate of McGill University whose family emigrated to Canada when he was a teen-ager, was arrested on September 26, 2002, at John F. Kennedy Airport. He was changing planes; he had been on vacation with his family in Tunisia, and was returning to Canada. Arar was detained because his name had been placed on the United States Watch List of terrorist suspects. He was held for the next thirteen days, as American officials questioned him about possible links to another suspected terrorist. Arar said that he barely knew the suspect, although he had worked with the man’s brother. Arar, who was not formally charged, was placed in handcuffs and leg irons by plainclothes officials and transferred to an executive jet. The plane flew to Washington, continued to Portland, Maine, stopped in Rome, Italy, then landed in Amman, Jordan.

During the flight, Arar said, he heard the pilots and crew identify themselves in radio communications as members of “the Special Removal Unit.” The Americans, he learned, planned to take him next to Syria. Having been told by his parents about the barbaric practices of the police in Syria, Arar begged crew members not to send him there, arguing that he would surely be tortured. His captors did not respond to his request; instead, they invited him to watch a spy thriller that was aired on board.

Ten hours after landing in Jordan, Arar said, he was driven to Syria, where interrogators, after a day of threats, “just began beating on me.” They whipped his hands repeatedly with two-inch-thick electrical cables, and kept him in a windowless underground cell that he likened to a grave. “Not even animals could withstand it,” he said. Although he initially tried to assert his innocence, he eventually confessed to anything his tormentors wanted him to say. “You just give up,” he said. “You become like an animal.”

A year later, in October, 2003, Arar was released without charges, after the Canadian government took up his cause. Imad Moustapha, the Syrian Ambassador in Washington, announced that his country had found no links between Arar and terrorism. Arar, it turned out, had been sent to Syria on orders from the U.S. government, under a secretive program known as “extraordinary rendition.” This program had been devised as a means of extraditing terrorism suspects from one foreign state to another for interrogation and prosecution. Critics contend that the unstated purpose of such renditions is to subject the suspects to aggressive methods of persuasion that are illegal in America—including torture.

Arar is suing the U.S. government for his mistreatment. “They are outsourcing torture because they know it’s illegal,” he said. “Why, if they have suspicions, don’t they question people within the boundary of the law?”

Rendition was originally carried out on a limited basis, but after September 11th, when President Bush declared a global war on terrorism, the program expanded beyond recognition—becoming, according to a former C.I.A. official, “an abomination.” What began as a program aimed at a small, discrete set of suspects—people against whom there were outstanding foreign arrest warrants—came to include a wide and ill-defined population that the Administration terms “illegal enemy combatants.” Many of them have never been publicly charged with any crime. Scott Horton, an expert on international law who helped prepare a report on renditions issued by N.Y.U. Law School and the New York City Bar Association, estimates that a hundred and fifty people have been rendered since 2001. Representative Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts and a member of the Select Committee on Homeland Security, said that a more precise number was impossible to obtain. “I’ve asked people at the C.I.A. for numbers,” he said. “They refuse to answer. All they will say is that they’re in compliance with the law.”

Although the full scope of the extraordinary-rendition program isn’t known, several recent cases have come to light that may well violate U.S. law. In 1998, Congress passed legislation declaring that it is “the policy of the United States not to expel, extradite, or otherwise effect the involuntary return of any person to a country in which there are substantial grounds for believing the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture, regardless of whether the person is physically present in the United States.”

The Bush Administration, however, has argued that the threat posed by stateless terrorists who draw no distinction between military and civilian targets is so dire that it requires tough new rules of engagement. This shift in perspective, labelled the New Paradigm in a memo written by Alberto Gonzales, then the White House counsel, “places a high premium on . . . the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians,” giving less weight to the rights of suspects. It also questions many international laws of war. Five days after Al Qaeda’s attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Vice-President Dick Cheney, reflecting the new outlook, argued, on “Meet the Press,” that the government needed to “work through, sort of, the dark side.” Cheney went on, “A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we’re going to be successful. That’s the world these folks operate in. And so it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.”

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The Maher Arar His Story

Bush refuses to support UN over anti-torture pact

By Toby Harnden
July 25 2002

America last night refused to back a United Nations protocol against torture because of fears that it could allow international monitors to visit terrorist suspects in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

An official said the administration wanted to stop a vote at the UN Economic and Social Council so that negotiations on wording adopted in Geneva in April could be reopened.

European Union officials, who support the protocol, said it appeared that Washington would climb down from this position and abstain from the protocol, which would then be adopted by other countries.

A European diplomat said that rejecting the protocol outright would have placed America in the company of “the torturing countries” such as Cuba, Iran, China and Nigeria and the Bush administration was reluctant to do that. “It is another US-EU difference, but I don’t think the Americans are going to go and push this one to a head,” he said.

But this latest quarrel between America and its allies, including Britain, at the UN will fuel accusations of unilateralism and bad faith being levelled at President George W Bush with increasing vehemence. Human rights pressure groups have argued that the protocol is essential to enforce the Convention Against Torture, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1984 and came into force four years later.

“A vote against the optional protocol would be a disastrous setback in the fight against torture,” said Martin MacPherson, of Amnesty International. Rory Mungoven, of Human Rights Watch, said renegotiating “will mean a kiss of death” to the protocol.

US opposition to the Kyoto protocol on global warming, another on biological weapons and the International Criminal Court has strained transatlantic relations since Mr Bush took office.

The anti-torture pact has been ratified by 130 countries, including America. Its signatories agreed to ban torture and refrain from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners.

But senior figures in the Bush administration – most notably in the Pentagon – have argued that the protocol could lead to intrusive inspections of the American detention camp at Guantanamo Bay.

More than 550 prisoners from 39 countries, including Britain, are in custody at the US naval base on the eastern edge of Cuba though they have not been charged with any offence. Diplomats, police and intelligence agents from Britain, Yemen, Bahrain, Spain, Denmark, France and other countries have been allowed to visit detainees and the International Committee for the Red Cross has a permanent presence there.

The White House was stung by international criticism of the treatment of the detainees and was particularly enraged by coverage of the issue in the British tabloid press.

US officials believe that UN monitors would be likely to be extremely hostile to America and could create more bad publicity.

The protocol, establishing an international system of inspecting prisons and other places of detention, was put forward by Costa Rica and gained support from the EU and many Latin American, Caribbean and African countries. Mr Mungoven said there were safeguards in the protocol that meant the UN would notify governments before inspections were made, allow them to respond to any findings and ensure that reports were kept secret.

Only countries that eventually ratified the amendment would be subject to inspections. “It’s an optional system,” he said. “The US doesn’t have to buy into it.”

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Legal Scholars Outraged by Talk of Blanket Pardons

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