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‘Disturbing’ & ‘Misleading’

The New York Review of Books

FEBRUARY 7, 2013

Steve Coll

It is not unusual for filmmakers to try to inject authenticity into a movie’s first frames by flashing onscreen words such as “based on real events.”

Yet the language chosen by the makers of Zero Dark Thirty to preface their film about events leading to the death of Osama bin Laden is distinctively journalistic: “Based on Firsthand Accounts of Actual Events.”

As those words fade, “September 11, 2001” appears against a black screen and we hear genuine emergency calls made by victims of al-Qaeda’s attack on the World Trade Center. One caller describes flames spreading around her and says that she is “burning up”; she pleads against death and then her voice disappears.

Before any actor speaks a single fictional line, Zero Dark Thirty makes two choices: it aligns its methods with those of journalists and “historians”, and it appropriates as drama what remains the most undigested trauma in American national life during the last several decades.

Since Zero Dark Thirty’s release in New York and Los Angeles in December (it opens nationwide on January 11), the film has provoked a split reaction.

Critics have celebrated it for its pacing, control, and arresting but complicated depictions of political violence.

The New York Film Critics Circle has named the film best picture of 2012, and it has been nominated for five Academy Awards, including one for the best picture of the year.

The qualities some critics admire in the film are familiar from The Hurt Locker, the previous collaboration—about an American bomb squad in Iraq—between the scriptwriter, Mark Boal, and the director, Kathryn Bigelow. (The film made Bigelow the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director, in 2009, and it also won an Oscar for Best Picture. Another misleading movie)

At the same time, a number of journalists and public officials—including 3 US senators—have excoriated Zero Dark Thirty. Their main complaint is that the film greatly overstates the role played by torture—or “enhanced interrogation techniques,” in the CIA’s terrifying euphemism—in extracting from al-Qaeda-affiliated detainees information that ultimately led to the discovery of Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where he was killed by NavySEALs on May 2, 2011.

“The film creates the strong impression that the enhanced interrogation techniques…were the key to finding Bin Laden,” Michael Morell, the acting CIA director, wrote to agency employees in December. “That impression is false.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein and the two senior members of the Armed Services Committee, Democrat Carl Levin and Republican John McCain, coauthored a letter calling the movie’s version of recent counter-terrorism history “grossly inaccurate.”

The senators said the film’s flaws have “the potential to shape American public opinion in a disturbing and misleading manner.”

Boal is a former journalist who conducted interviews with CIA officers, military officers, and White House officials as he prepared to write Zero Dark Thirty.

The Obama administration and CIA leaders reportedly authorized at least some of these interviews, apparently in the belief that the public would appreciate the movie that resulted.

Boal has said that he conducted other reporting on his own initiative. Boal and Bigelow have offered two main responses to the criticism they have received. One is that as dramatists compressing a complex history into a cinematic narrative, they must be granted a degree of artistic license.

(Since when artistic requirement means blatant lies and corruption of public opinion on hideous activities?) 

That is unarguable, of course, and yet the filmmakers cannot, on the one hand, claim authenticity as journalists while, on the other, citing art as an excuse for shoddy reporting about a subject as important as whether torture had a vital part in the search for bin Laden, and therefore might be, for some, defensible as public policy.

Boal and Bigelow—not their critics—first promoted the film as a kind of journalism. Bigelow has called Zero Dark Thirty a “reported film.” Boal told a New York Times interviewer before the controversy erupted, “I don’t want to play fast and loose with history.”

Boal has said that he believes his script captures “a very complex debate about torture” because it shows some prisoners giving up information under duress, while others dissemble.

There is no reason to doubt that Boal and Bigelow intended to depict the role of torture in the search for bin Laden ambiguously.

The Hurt Locker was a film of understated complexity drawn out through action, not didactic explication. Yet The Hurt Locker’s story offered a microcosm of war that did not try too hard to address the larger subject of the tragic invasion of Iraq, and so a viewer had no cause to compare the film’s choices to a record of historical fact.

(Just alluding to doing it right is a serious sin and evil doing)

Zero Dark Thirty has the inverse shape: it is an epic history that the filmmakers try to compress into a microcosm, by telling the story of the decade-long bin Laden hunt, which involved many hundreds of CIA officers and military personnel, primarily through the experience of a single analyst, “Maya,” who is played by Jessica Chastain, and who is based on a real-life CIA employee whom Boal reportedly met.

In the film, the personal story of Maya’s pursuit of bin Laden—which is original and convincing—is juxtaposed against explosive external events, such as the terrorist attack in London on July 7, 2005, and the bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan, in 2008.

As much as the filmmakers’ claims to journalistic method, this narrative approach—the summoning of recent, dramatic public events—invites the viewer into judgment about the film’s reliability.

The first problem in assessing Zero Dark Thirty’s fealty to the facts about torture is that most of the record about the CIA’s interrogation program remains secret, including the formally sanctioned use of waterboarding and other brutal techniques between roughly 2002 and 2006.

So does the full record of the CIA’s search for bin Laden after September 11.

Documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups, as well as work by investigative journalists such as Dana Priest of The Washington Post, Jane Mayer of The New Yorker, Mark Danner in this journal, and Adam Goldman of the Associated Press, have brought forward some details about the CIA’s interrogation program. Yet the record remains riddled with gaps and unanswered questions.

An estimate of how large the chasm is between what the public knows and what still-secret records describe can be drawn from accounts of a recently completed Senate Intelligence Committee staff report about the CIA program.

The staff report is said to run to 6,000 pages, based upon a review of about six million CIA documents and cables to and from “black sites” where just fewer than one hundred al-Qaeda suspects were held and where at least some of them were interrogated brutally, as depicted in Zero Dark Thirty. The Senate report remains highly classified, however, and is unlikely to be released in full anytime soon.

The result of such secrecy is that what is often described as America’s “debate” about the use of torture on al-Qaeda suspects largely consists of assertions, without evidence, by public officials with security clearances who have access to the classified record and who have expressed diametrically opposed opinions about what the record proves.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, for example, has said that waterboarding and other harsh techniques were “not central” in developing the clues that led to Osama bin Laden’s hideout.

Yet Michael Hayden, the final CIA director of the Bush administration, wrote last year that information gleaned from detainees who were “subjected to some form of enhanced interrogation” proved “crucial” to the search. The most thorough, independent account published on the bin Laden hunt to date—Manhunt, by the journalist Peter Bergen1 —mainly supports Feinstein’s view, but the CIA and other officials Bergen interviewed also asserted that some al-Qaeda detainees who were tortured provided relevant pieces of evidence.

The easiest question to consider is what Zero Dark Thirty actually depicts about the part torture played in locating bin Laden. As best as is known, the CIA’s crucial discovery was to identify a courier, who was known to al-Qaeda colleagues by his nom de guerre, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti.

Agency officers then traced the courier to Abbottabad. Many detainees and other sources contributed information that confirmed the courier’s identity and importance. Ultimately, in the film, Maya tells one detainee that twenty sources have helped to describe al-Kuwaiti’s role.

There can be no mistaking what Zero Dark Thirty shows: torture plays an outsized part in Maya’s success.

The first detainee she helps to interrogate is Ammar. He is tortured extensively in the film’s opening sequence, immediately after we hear the voices of World Trade Center victims.

Ammar’s face is swollen; we see him strung up by ropes, waterboarded, sexually humiliated, deprived of sleep through the blasting of loud music, and stuffed into a small wooden box. During his ordeal, Ammar does not initially give up reliable information. After he has been subdued and fooled into thinking that he has already been cooperative while delirious, however, he gives up vital intelligence about the courier over a comfortable meal.

Some viewers might regard Ammar’s final confession in the midst of warm hospitality as an example of torture that did not work, or worked only partially.

In fact, this sequence of the film depicts precisely how the CIA’s coercive interrogation regime was constructed to break prisoners, according to Jose Rodriguez Jr., a former leader of the CIA Clandestine Service, who has described and defended the interrogation regime in a memoir, Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives.2

For if a CIA detainee initially refused to cooperate, interrogators applied “enhanced” techniques in an escalating sequence until the prisoner reached what Rodriguez calls “the compliant stage.” Once the detainee “became complaint and agreed to cooperate,” the harsh methods stopped, Rodriguez wrote, and the prisoner might be fed and coddled in reward for confessions he had not previously made.

We later see Maya review videotaped interrogations of half a dozen other prisoners who provide information about al-Kuwaiti. It is not clear in the film whether these detainees are in CIA custody or in the custody of friendly Arab or other governments.

We see the videotapes over Maya’s shoulder. The images are dark and menacing. Many of the prisoners appear to be in the process of being tortured or to have recently been tortured.

Later, Maya conducts two additional interviews directly. In the first, her subject agrees to cooperate with her only after declaring, “I have no desire to be tortured again.”

Her last interview is with Abu Faraj al-Libi, an al-Qaeda operations leader. We watch al-Libi undergo waterboarding and physical abuse. Al-Libi denies knowing the bin Laden courier, but by now, Maya has so many other sources that she takes his denial as evidence that the courier is so important that al-Libi would endure torture to protect his identity.

In virtually every instance in the film where Maya extracts important clues from prisoners, then, torture is a factor. Arguably, the film’s degree of emphasis on torture’s significance goes beyond what even the most die-hard defenders of the CIA interrogation regime, such as Rodriguez, have argued.

Rodriguez’s position in his memoir is that “enhanced interrogation” was indispensable to the search for bin Laden—not that it was the predominant means of gathering important clues.

coll_2-020713.jpgJonathan Olley/Columbia PicturesChristopher Stanley, Jessica Chastain, and Alex Corbet at a covert base following the death of Osama bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty

As troubling as what Zero Dark Thirty includes about torture’s role in the bin Laden hunt is what it leaves out. The record we have about the CIA interrogation program may be thin, but it tells a fuller story than the film does.

For example, at some “black sites” where CIA prisoners were interrogated, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation were also present. Because these agents were trained to conduct interrogations that could withstand scrutiny in American courts, and because FBI training is rooted in police traditions, not counter-terrorism or warfare, some of the agents on site objected vehemently to the CIA’s harsh methods.

They denounced the agency’s “enhanced” techniques as counterproductive and morally wrong.

There is no secret about this strain of dissent within the government about the CIA program. Not only FBI agents, but also some CIA officers expressed qualms about waterboarding and sleep deprivation, as has been described in detail by the former FBI agent Ali H. Soufan in his 2011 book, The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda.3 

Soufan recalls commiserating over the use of “enhanced techniques” with a CIA officer who tells him, “There are the Geneva Conventions on torture. It’s not worth losing myself for this.” Soufan also describes an argument he had with a CIA interrogator about whether torture can produce reliable information from hardened ideologues. When the agency interrogator declared that he would make an al-Qaeda prisoner “fully compliant,” Soufan replied, as he recalls it:

These things won’t work on people committed to dying for their cause…. People like [him] are prepared to be tortured and severely beaten. They expect to be sodomized and to have family members raped in front of them! Do you really think stripping him naked and taking away his chair will make him cooperate?

None of this sort of argument is available to viewers of Zero Dark Thirty. It would hardly have undermined the film’s drama to have included such strong dissents, even in passing, in the interest of journalism that was more complete.

The only qualms any of the CIA characters in the film express about torture are oblique and self-protecting. Dan, an interrogator portrayed by the actor Jason Clarke, laments wearily, as he rotates back to headquarters, that he has seen too many men naked, and that he fears the political environment in Washington that once created a permissive atmosphere for his dark arts may now be turning against them.

As cinema, the film’s torture scenes are at once rough and bland. Ammar’s degradation is obviously intended to shock but his mistreatment on screen is hardly more severe than what is routinely shown on television programs such as Homeland or 24.

Ammar is stripped naked but we see him mainly from behind. Maya and Dan remark at one point that Ammar has lost control of his bowels but we see nothing of this humiliation directly.

The film’s torture scenes depart from the historical record in two respects. Boal and Bigelow have conflated the pseudoscience of the CIA’s clinical, carefully reviewed “enhanced techniques” such as waterboarding with the out-of-control abuse of prisoners by low-level military police in places such as Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo. Dan puts Ammar in a dog collar and walks him around in an act of ritualized humiliation, but this was never an approved CIA technique.

More importantly, Zero Dark Thirty ignores what the record shows about how regulated, lawyerly, and bureaucratized—how banal—torture apparently became at some of the CIA black sites.

(How evil -doing can become banal and is banal)

A partially declassified report prepared by the CIA’s former inspector general, John Helgerson, indicates that physicians from the CIA’s Office of Medical Services attended interrogation sessions and took prisoners’ vital signs to assure they were healthy enough for the abuse to continue.

Agency officers typed out numbingly detailed cables and memos about the enhanced interrogation sessions, as the available outline of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s classified investigation makes clear. Videotapes were recorded and logged. This CIA office routine might have been more shocking on screen than the clichéd physical abuse of prisoners that the filmmakers prefer.

Zero Dark Thirty ultimately fails as journalism because it adopts shortcuts that most reporters would find illegitimate. From the Janet Cooke affair at The Washington Post onward, editors and journalism professors have cautioned against the dangers of employing a “composite” character that may stand in for several real people.

Such characters offer the possibility of literary exposition, but they also falsify. Zero Dark Thirty reinforces this view. Boal told the Times that Ammar, the most fully realized al-Qaeda character in the film, is a composite. Yet the film is salted with details that suggest Ammar’s similarity to an actual former CIA detainee, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, whose nom de guerre was Ammar al-Baluchi.

The real Ali is a thirty-five-year-old nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the admitted mastermind of the September 11 attacks. He was arrested in Pakistan in 2003 and held in secret CIA prisons until he was transferred to Guantánamo in 2006, where he now faces capital charges before a military commission. He is accused of sending, at his uncle’s instructions, as much as $200,000 to the hijackers and providing them with other logistical support.

Zero Dark Thirty’s composite Ammar is described at various points as “KSM’s nephew,” who is “tight” with his uncle and has fingerprints “on 9/11 money,” and particularly as someone responsible for transferring $5,000 to the hijackers.

The film’s Ammar is depicted as a doomed man who will spend his entire life behind bars without resort to lawyers or justice. In an early interrogation scene, Maya pulls off her black mask before entering to face the prisoner because Dan assures her that Ammar will never be free to menace her. We are invited to appreciate Ammar’s subjugation.

The truth about Ali is perhaps more interesting.

He has been an active, defiant participant in Guantánamo court proceedings and his lawyers have sought permission from military judges to introduce evidence in his defense that he was tortured while in CIA custody, and to pursue information about the identities of the agency officers who interrogated him.

That request has been refused on the grounds that what happened to Ali while in CIA prisons is classified. Zero Dark Thirty’s indirect depictions of Ali’s abuse might be the only accounting the real-life prisoner receives in public before he is sentenced to death. Yet the film does nothing to acknowledge its connection to this reality.

Zero Dark Thirty was constructed to bring viewers to the edges of their seats, and judging by its critical reception, for many viewers it has succeeded in that respect. Its faults as journalism matter because they may well affect the unresolved public debate about torture, to which the film makes a distorted contribution.

On his second day in office, President Obama outlawed torture by executive order, but he has declined to order investigations to expose publicly or otherwise hold to account the CIA’s detention regime during the Bush years.

In the recently concluded election campaign, Mitt Romney declared that he would revive the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

Official torture is not an anathema in much of the United States; it is a credible policy choice.

In public opinion polling, a bare majority of Americans opposes torturing prisoners in the struggle against terrorism, but public support for torture has risen significantly during the last several years, a change that the Stanford University intelligence scholar Amy Zegart has attributed in part to the influence of “spy-themed entertainment.

Even if torture worked, it could never be justified because it is immoral. Yet state-sanctioned, formally organized forms of torture recur even in developed democracies because some public leaders have been willing to attach their prestige to an argument that in circumstances of national emergency, torture may be necessary because it will extract timely intelligence relevant to public safety when more humane methods of interrogation will not.

There is no empirical evidence to support this argument. Among other things, no responsible social scientist would condone peer-reviewed experiments to compare torture’s results to those from less coercive questioning. Defenders of torture in the United States therefore argue by issuing a flawed syllogism: the CIA tortured al-Qaeda suspects; those suspects provided information that helped to protect the public; therefore, torture was justified and even essential. In his recent statement to agency employees about Zero Dark Thirty, acting CIA director Morrell gave this argument implicit support when he said that the ongoing debate over the CIA’s treatment of al-Qaeda suspects after 2002 “never will be definitively resolved.”

That is a timid tautology; it is also evidence of a much wider political failure. As with discourse about climate change policy, the persistence of on-the-one-hand, on-the-other forms of argument about the value of officially sanctioned torture represents a victory for those who would justify such abuse.

Zero Dark Thirty has performed no public service by enlarging the acceptability of that form of debate.

 

 

Who is ‘Jihadi John’? This Londoner Islamic State slaughterer?

LONDON — The world knows him as “Jihadi John,” the masked man with a British accent who has beheaded several US hostages held by the Islamic State and who taunts audiences in videos circulated widely online.

‘Jihadi John’: Islamic State killer is identified as Londoner Mohammed Emwazi


The Islamic State member who beheaded Western hostages and appeared in widely circulated videos has been identified as Mohammed Emwazi, a young Londoner who was born in Kuwait. (Via AFP/Getty Images)

February 26, 2015

But his real name, according to friends and others familiar with his case, is Mohammed Emwazi, a Briton from a well-to-do family who grew up in West London and graduated from college with a degree in computer programming.

He is believed to have traveled to Syria around 2012 and to have later joined the Islamic State, the group whose barbarity he has come to symbolize.

“I have no doubt that Mohammed is Jihadi John,” said one of Emwazi’s close friends who identified him in an interview with The Washington Post. “He was like a brother to me. . . . I am sure it is him.”

[View: The atrocities of the Islamic State]

A representative of a British human rights group who had been in contact with Emwazi before he left for Syria also said he believed Emwazi was Jihadi John, a moniker given to him by some of the hostages he once held.

Scores of hostages, including Westerners, have been killed by the Islamic State since 2014.

Here are some of the major incidents where the Islamic State killed the hostages.

“There was an extremely strong resemblance,” Asim Qureshi, research director at the rights group, CAGE, said after watching one of the videos. “This is making me feel fairly certain that this is the same person.”

Authorities have used a variety of investigative techniques, including voice analysis and interviews with former hostages, to try to identify Jihadi John.

James B. Comey, the director of the FBI, said in September — only a month after the Briton was seen in a video killing American journalist James Foley — that officials believed they had succeeded.

[Read: Reaction to an identity revealed]

Nevertheless, the identity of Jihadi John has remained shrouded in secrecy.

Since Foley’s killing, he has appeared in a series of videos documenting the gruesome killings of other hostages, including four other Westerners, some of whom he personally beheaded.

[Read: The tactics of Islamic State beheadings]

In each, he is dressed in all black, a balaclava covering all but his eyes and the ridge of his nose. He wears a holster under his left arm.

A spokeswoman for the British Embassy in Washington said:

“Our prime minister has been clear that we want all those who have committed murder on behalf of ISIL to face justice for the appalling acts carried out. There is an ongoing police investigation into the murder of hostages by ISIL in Syria. It is not appropriate for the government to comment on any part of it while this continues.” ISIL is another name for the Islamic State.

Map: Flow of foreign fighters to Syria

U.S. officials declined to comment for this report. Emwazi’s family declined a request for an interview, citing legal advice.

The Kuwaiti-born Emwazi, in his mid-20s, appears to have left little trail on social media or elsewhere online. Those who knew him say he was polite and had a penchant for wearing stylish clothes while adhering to the tenets of his Islamic faith. He had a beard and was mindful of making eye contact with women, friends said.

He was raised in a middle-class neighborhood in London and on occasion prayed at a mosque in Greenwich.

The friends, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation, believe that Emwazi started to radicalize after a planned safari in Tanzania following his graduation from the University of Westminster.

Emwazi and two friends — a German convert to Islam named Omar and another man, Abu Talib — never made it on the trip.

Once they landed in Dar es Salaam, in May 2009, they were detained by police and held overnight. It’s unclear whether the reason for the detention was made clear to the three, but they were eventually deported.

Emwazi flew to Amsterdam, where he claimed that an officer from MI5, Britain’s domestic security agency, accused him of trying to reach Somalia, where the militant group al-Shabab operates in the southern part of the country, according to e-mails that he sent to Qureshi and that were provided to The Post.

[Read: A Brooklyn mother’s struggle to keep her son from Islamic State]

Emwazi denied the accusation and claimed that MI5 representatives had tried to recruit him. But a former hostage said Jihadi John was obsessed with Somalia and made his captives watch videos about al-Shabab, which is allied with al-Qaeda.

The episode was described in the Independent, a British newspaper, which identified Emwazi as Muhammad ibn Muazzam.

Emwazi and his friends were allowed to return to Britain, where he met with Qureshi in the fall of 2009 to discuss what had happened. “Mohammed was quite incensed by his treatment, that he had been very unfairly treated,” Qureshi said.

Shortly afterward, Emwazi decided to move to his birthplace, Kuwait, where he landed a job working for a computer company, according to the e-mails he wrote to Qureshi. He came back to London twice, the second time to finalize his wedding plans to a woman in Kuwait.

In June 2010, however, counterterrorism officials in Britain detained him again — this time fingerprinting him and searching his belongings. When he tried to fly back to Kuwait the next day, he was prevented from doing so.

“I had a job waiting for me and marriage to get started,” he wrote in a June 2010 e-mail to Qureshi. But now “I feel like a prisoner, only not in a cage, in London. A person imprisoned & controlled by security service men, stopping me from living my new life in my birthplace & country, Kuwait.”

Nearly four months later, when a court in New York sentenced Aafia Siddiqui, an al-Qaeda operative convicted for the attempted murder of U.S. personnel in Afghanistan, Emwazi expressed sympathy for her, saying he had “heard the upsetting news regarding our sister. . . . This should only keep us firmer towards fighting for freedom and justice!!!”

In the interview, Qureshi said he last heard from Emwazi in January 2012, when Emwazi sent him an e-mail seeking advice.

“This is a young man who was ready to exhaust every single kind of avenue within the machinery of the state to bring a change for his personal situation,” Qureshi said.

In the end, he felt “actions were taken to criminalize him and he had no way to do something against these actions.”

Close friends of Emwazi’s also said his situation in London had made him desperate to leave the country. It’s unclear exactly when he reached Syria or how.

One friend said he believed Emwazi wanted to travel to Saudi Arabia to teach English in 2012 but was unsuccessful. Soon afterward, the friend said, he was gone.

“He was upset and wanted to start a life elsewhere,” one of the friends said. “He at some stage reached the point where he was really just trying to find another way to get out.”

Once in Syria, Emwazi contacted his family and at least one of his friends. It’s unclear what he told them about his activities there.

A former hostage who was debriefed by officials upon release said that Jihadi John was part of a team guarding Western captives at a prison in Idlib, Syria, in 2013.

The hostages nicknamed the facility “the box.” Emwazi was joined by two other men with British accents, including one who was dubbed “George.” A former hostage said Emwazi participated in the waterboarding of four Western hostages (a technique accepted by the US as legal torture).

Former hostages described George as the leader of the trio. Jihadi John, they said, was quiet and intelligent. “He was the most deliberate,” a former hostage said.

Beginning in early 2014, the hostages were moved to a prison in the Syrian city of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital, where they were visited often by the trio. They appeared to have taken on more powerful roles within the Islamic State.

About the same time, Qureshi said, he sent an e-mail to Emwazi.

“I was wondering if you could send me your number,” he wrote. “Inshallah [God willing] it will be good to catch up.”

There was no response.

Goldman reported from Washington. Julie Tate in Washington and Griff Witte and Karla Adam in London contributed to this report.

List of Tortures Approved and used by CIA: 30 kinds of torture techniques

Posted this Feb. 10, 2014 in (How to) Revolution for DummiesArrest the PresidentCorrupt Congress and Corrupt SenateCorrupt Military and Corrupt Military CommandersCorrupt NSA and the Surveillance StateCorrupt Police StateCorrupt Prison SystemCorrupt Supreme CourtCorrupt U.S. PresidentsCorrupt White HouseFellow manKnow Your RightsLiberty and FreedomNorth AmericaOne Corrupt Party or the OtherSexually AbusedTaxesThe Mafia C.I.A. and F.B.I.Torture American Style

Bush administration’s program of kidnapping “suspects,” a covert operation also known as “rendition,” continues under the Obama administration according to Reprieve Founding Director, Attorney Clive Stafford Smith.

The following is a partial list of C.I.A. forms of torture:

1. Sexual abuse and sexual torture.                  z_torture014

2. Confinement in boxes, cages, coffins, etc, or burial (often with an opening or air-tube for oxygen).                  

3. Restraint; with ropes, chains, cuffs, etc. ”We use electricity or hang them upside down, pull out their nails, and beat them on sensitive parts.” said Colonel James Steele             

4. Near-drowning. (waterboarding)          

5. Extremes of heat and cold, including submersion in ice water, and burning chemicals.                   
21
6. Skinning (only top layers of the skin are removed in victims intended to survive).   

18               

7. Spinning.                  

8. Blinding light.                  

9. Electric shock.                  

z_torture_iraq001 

10. Forced ingestion of offensive body fluids and matter, such as blood, urine, feces, flesh, etc.      

z_torture_iraq010             
z_torture018
11. Hung in painful positions or upside down.                  

z_torture_iraq004

12. Hunger and thirst.                  

13. Sleep deprivation.                  

14 Compression with weights and devices.                  

15. Sensory deprivation.                   

16. Drugs to create illusion, confusion, and amnesia, often given by injection or intravenously.                  

17. Ingestion or intravenous toxic chemicals to create pain or illness, including chemotherapy agents.                  

18. Limbs pulled or dislocated.                   z_torture020
z_torture017
19. Application of dogs, ants, snakes, spiders, maggots, rats, and other animals to induce fear and disgust.                  z_torture_iraq000

20. Near-death experiences; commonly asphyxiation by choking or drowning, with immediate resuscitation.                  

22. Forced to perform or witness abuse, torture of family.                   
z_torture_iraq011
23. Forced to wear women’s clothes, forced participation in pornography.        z_torture011           
z_torture015
24. Raped.                                     
z_torture_iraq014
25. Spiritual abuse to cause victim to feel possessed, harassed, and controlled internally by spirits or demons.                  

26. Desecration of Muslim/religious beliefs.                  z_torture_iraq003

27. Abuse and illusion to convince victims that God is evil.                   

28. Surgery to torture, experiment, or implant RFID devices.                 40

29. Harm or threats of harm to family, friends, loved ones, pets, and other victims, to force compliance.                   
z_torture_gitmo002
30. Psyops: Kept awake for four days by loud music.

http://generalstrikeusa.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/psyops-kept-awake-for-four-days-by-loud-music/

Bush Administration memos released by the White House provide new insight into claims that American agents used insects to torture young children.

In the memos, the Bush Administration White House Office of Legal Counsel offered its endorsement of CIA torture methods that involved placing an insect in a cramped, confined box with detainees. Jay S. Bybee, then-director of the OLC, wrote that insects could be used to capitalize on detainees’ fears.

The memo was dated Aug. 1, 2002. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s children were captured and held in Pakistan the following month, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.

Ali Khan, the father of detainee Majid Khan, “The Pakistani guards told my son that the boys were kept in a separate area upstairs and were denied food and water by other guards,” the statement read. “They were also mentally tortured by having ants or other creatures put on their legs to scare them and get them to say where their father was hiding.” (A pdf transcript is available here)

Khan’s statement is second-hand. But the picture he paints of his son’s interrogation at the hands of American interrogators is strikingly similar to the accounts given by numerous other detainees to the International Red Cross. The timing of the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s son — then aged seven and nine — also meshes with a report by Human Rights Watch, which says that the children were captured in September 2002 and held for four months at the hands of American guards.

“What I can tell you is that Majid was kidnapped from my son Mohammed’s [not related Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] house in Karachi, along with Mohammed, his wife, and my infant granddaughter,” Khan said in his military tribunal statement. “They were captured by Pakistani police and soldiers and taken to a detention center fifteen minutes from Mohammed’s house. The center had walls that seemed to be eighty feet high. My sons were hooded, handcuffed, and interrogated. After eight days of interrogation by US and Pakistani agents, including FBI agents, Mohammed was allowed to see Majid.

“Majhid looked terrible and very, very tired,” Khan continued. “According to Mohammed, Majid said that the Americans tortured him for eight hours at a time, tying him tightly in stressful positions in a small chair until his hands, feet and mind went numb. They re-tied him in the chair every hour, tightening the bonds on his hands and feet each time so that it was more painful.

He was often hooded and had difficulty breathing. They also beat him repeatedly, slapping him in the face, and deprived him of sleep. When he was not being interrogated, the Americans put Majid in a small cell that was totally dark and too small for him to lie down in or sit in with his legs stretched out. He had to crouch. The room was also infested with mosquitoes. The torture only stopped when Majid agreed to sign a statement that he was not even allowed to read.”

“The Americans also once stripped and beat two Arab boys, ages fourteen and sixteen, who were turned over by the Pakistani guards at the detention center,” he said. “These guards told my son that they were very upset at this and said the boys were thrown like garbage onto a plane to Guantanamo.

Women prisoners were also held there, apart from their husbands, and some were pregnant and forced to give birth in their cells. According to Mohammed, one woman also died in her cell because the guards could not get her to a hospital quickly enough. This was most upsetting to the Pakistani guards.”

“When KSM was being held at a secret CIA facility in Thailand, apparently the revamped Vietnam War-era base at Udorn, according to Suskind, a message was passed to interrogators: ‘do whatever’s necessary,’” Kevin Fenton writes at History Commons. “The interrogators then told KSM ‘his children would be hurt if he didn’t cooperate. However, his response was, ’so, fine, they’ll join Allah in a better place.’”

Bush administration’s program of kidnapping “suspects,” a covert operation also known as “rendition,” continues under the Obama administration according to Reprieve Founding Director, Attorney Clive Stafford Smith.

Most people kidnapped and tortured are people of color, innocent of terrorism. They are used for non-consensual human experimentation according to recent reports. (See AFP, Doctors had central role in CIA abuse: rights group, Spet. 1, 2009 and CIA doctors face human experimentation claims, Sept. 3, 2009)

Human experimentation without consent has been prohibited in any setting since 1947, when the Nuremberg Code resultant of Nazi doctor prosecution.

“Every day, the U.S. picks up 40 – 60 people considered ‘suspects’ from around the world and imprisons them,” stated Smith.

Non-consensual human experimentation conducted on Middle Eastern detainees has consisted of applying torture including “physical threats, mock executions, choking to the point where detainees lost consciousness and even using a stiff brush to scrub a detainees skin raw” while health officials and psychologists monitored reactions. (AFP)

08

The U.S.-based group, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) medical advisor Scott Allen states on the PHR website that “medical doctors and psychologists colluded with the CIA to keep observational records about waterboarding, which approaches unethical and unlawful human experimentation.” (Press release: PHR Analysis: CIA Health Professionals’ Role in Torture Worse Than Previously Known, August 31, 2009)

In 2013, Smith estimated that 60,000 people went through the American “system.” This system is now internationally known to be a U.S. sponsored kidnap-torture-experiment program.

Shortly after coming into office President Obama ordered the closing of the CIA’s “black” detention sites. At these secret sites the CIA aggressively interrogated people while also denying them access to legal representation. However, despite ordering the closing of these sites, what the Obama administration has been doing instead since 2011 leaves much to be desired.

Instead of having foreigners interrogated in foreign prisons the Obama administration has taken to questioning suspected terrorists aboard U.S. Navy ships. As the Associated Press explains, this allows Obama to not use the CIA’s secret prisons while also allowing for suspects to be interrogated indefinitely under the laws of war. (It is worth remembering that in 2009 the Obama administration said that it would continue the Bush policy of sending terrorist suspects abroad to be interrogated, but with more oversight).

The most recent example of this tactic was reported, when U.S. Delta Force and Libyan authorities captured Abu Anas al-Libi, who is accused of masterminding the attacks on American embassies in Africa in 1998. Al-Libi is currently being interrogated aboard the USS San Antonio. The Associated Press reports that al-Libi has not been read his Miranda rights.

Questioning suspected terrorists aboard U.S. warships in international waters is President Barack Obama’s answer to the Bush administration detention policies that candidate Obama promised to end.

Clive Stafford Smith dedicated humanitarian spent 25 years working on behalf of defendants facing U.S. death penalty. As Reprieve Director, Smith oversees Reprieve’s Casework Programme plus the direct representation of prisoners in Guantánamo Bay and on death row as a Louisiana licensed attorney-at-law.

Sources: CIA, Reprieve, ACLU, Colonel James Steele, AP, van der Kolk, B.A., McFarlane, A.C., & Weisaeth, L. (Eds.) (1996). Traumatic stress: The effects of overwhelming experience on mind, body, and society. New York: Guilford.

We can no longer in good conscience trust the criminals to police themselves. Link to this article from forums and blogs. Mention it with links in your comments on blogs. PROMOTE IT.

Two buttocks in same pant: Democrat and Republican?

Do Democrat and Republican elites and mass media bosses cover one another back in times of “emergency”? Like mass upheaval and crimes against humanity…, in order to defend an immunity that they might one day need themselves?

This is an excerpt of  published on Nov. 1, under “America’s Elites Look Out for Each Other

“Given the clarity of this law [Article 2 of the Convention Against Torture] and its multiple reiterations, what can explain the resolve of the political and media class to ignore it?

Why do ostensibly adverse factions leap to one another’s defense even in cases of egregious criminality, with Democrats shielding Republicans, media figures demanding no transparency or accountability for political officials, self-proclaimed populist politicians devoting themselves to the protection of Wall Street?

One easy answer is that those factions are not really adversaries, at least not in any way that counts.

All their members belong to the same class — the powerful and the elite — and thus are motivated to defend an immunity that they might one day need themselves.

But the unanimous support for Bush-era war criminals is motivated by more than just shared self-interest: it has at least as much to do with shared guilt.

Bush officials did not commit their crimes by themselves. Virtually, the entire Washington establishment supported or at least enabled the lawbreaking.

Leading members of the Democratic Party were implicated in various ways.

In July 2008, the reporter Jane Mayer was asked in a Harper’s interview why there was so little push by Democrats — the “opposition party” — for investigations into Bush programs of torture, warrantless eavesdropping, and the like. She pointed out that one “complicating factor is that key members of Congress sanctioned [these activities], so many of those who might ordinarily be counted on to lead the charge are themselves compromised.”

Indeed, key congressional Democrats were contemporaneously briefed on what the Bush administration was doing, albeit often in vague and unspecific ways. The fact that they did nothing to stop the illegal plans, and often explicitly approved of them, obviously gives leading Democratic officials an incentive to block any investigations or judicial proceedings.

In December 2007, the Washington Post reported that, back in 2002, the CIA had briefed a bipartisan group of Congress people on its use of waterboarding and other torture tactics. That group included the ranking members of both the Senate and House intelligence committees: Jay Rockefeller and Nancy Pelosi.

Yet, reported the Post, “no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder.”

Similarly, several leading Democrats, including Rockefeller and Representative Jane Harman, were told that the Bush administration was eavesdropping on Americans without warrants. Rockefeller did nothing to stop it, and Harman actually became the administration’s leading defender.

After the illegal program was revealed by the New York Times, Jane Harman publicly stated that the wiretapping was “both necessary and legal.”

Two years after reporter Eric Lichtblau coauthored the story revealing the Bush NSA program, he revealed that Harman had attempted to convince him not to write about the program on the ground that it was so vital. Appearing on MSNBC in June 2008, the law professor Jonathan Turley pointed out the logical result of this bipartisan support for the crimes.

There’s no question in my mind that there is an obvious level of collusion here. We now know that the Democratic leadership knew about the illegal surveillance program almost from its inception. Even when they were campaigning about fighting for civil liberties, they were aware of an unlawful surveillance program as well as a torture program. And ever since that came out, the Democrats have been silently trying to kill any effort to hold anyone accountable because that list could very well include some of their own members.

As Mayer put it, “Figures in both parties would find it very hard at this point to point the finger at the White House, without also implicating themselves.”

The opinion-making elites were similarly implicated. Very few media figures with any significant platform can point to anything they did or said to oppose the lawbreaking — and they know that.

Indeed, some of the nation’s most prominent “liberal commentators” vocally supported Bush’s policies.

It was Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter who became the first establishment media figure to openly advocate torturing prisoners.  Jonathan Alter, in his November 4, 2001, Newsweek column (headlined “Time to Think About Torture”), began by proclaiming that “in this autumn of anger, even a liberal can find his thoughts turning to … torture” and went on to suggest “transferring some suspects to our less squeamish allies.”

It was Alan Dershowitz who argued for the creation of “torture warrants,” proposing for cases such as the proverbial “ticking time bomb” that “judicially monitored physical measures designed to cause excruciating pain” should be made “part of our legal system.”

It was the writers of the Washington Post editorial page who hailed the Military Commissions Act — the single most repressive law enacted during the Bush era, crucial parts of which the Supreme Court ultimately struck down as unconstitutional — as a “remarkably good bill” that “balances profound and difficult interests thoughtfully and with considerable respect both for the uniqueness of the current conflict and for the American tradition of fair trials and due process.”

When it comes to media figures who cheered on Bush’s lawlessness and then self-serve demanded that there be no investigations, the Washington Post’s David Broder is a particularly illustrative case. In April 2009, he wrote a column dramatically denouncing the Bush presidency as “one of the darkest chapters of American history, when certain terrorist suspects were whisked off to secret prisons and subjected to waterboarding and other forms of painful coercion in hopes of extracting information about threats to the United States.”

Despite this acknowledgment, Broder in the same column opposed any criminal investigations of the Bush torture regime, proclaiming Obama “right to declare that there should be no prosecution of those who carried out what had been the policy of the United States government.”

Given Broder’s acknowledgment of how horrific Bush’s presidency had been, what explains his simultaneous opposition to investigations? Like most of his journalistic colleagues, the dean of the Washington press corps never sounded the alarm while this lawlessness was taking place, when it mattered. He did the opposite, repeatedly mocking those who warned of how radical and dangerous the Bush administration was.

As torture went on, David Broder continuously defended what Bush officials were doing as perfectly normal and well within the bounds of legitimate policy.

After the 2004 election, Broder dismissed those who were arguing that Bush and Cheney had succeeded in entrenching presidential lawlessness. “Checks and balances are still there,” he insisted. “The nation does not face ‘another dark age,’ unless you consider politics with all its tradeoffs and bargaining a black art.

In 2006, he derided those who warned that the “war on terror” had ushered in an era of extreme lawlessness by sarcastically proclaiming, “I’d like to assure you that Washington is calm and quiet this morning, and democracy still lives here,” and Broder denounced Bush critics “who get carried away by their own rhetoric.”

Broder’s 2009 recognition that the Bush presidency was “one of the darkest chapters of American history” came, of course, with no acknowledgment of his 2004 declaration that “the nation does not face ‘another dark age.’”

So when these media and political elites are defending Bush officials, minimizing their crimes, and arguing that no one should be held accountable, they’re actually defending themselves as well. Just as Jane Harman and Jay Rockefeller can’t possibly demand investigations for actions in which they were complicit, media stars can’t possibly condemn acts that they supported or toward which, at the very best, they turned a blissfully blind eye.

Bush officials must be exonerated, or at least have their crimes forgotten — look to the future and ignore the past, the journalists all chime in unison — so that their own involvement might also be overlooked.

In this world, it is perfectly fine to say that a president is inept or even somewhat corrupt. A titillating, tawdry sex scandal, such as the Bill Clinton brouhaha, can be fun, even desirable as a way of keeping entertainment levels high.

Such revelations are all just part of the political cycle. But to acknowledge that our highest political officials are felons (which is what people are, by definition, who break our laws) or war criminals (which is what people are, by definition, who violate the laws of war) is to threaten the system of power, and that is unthinkable.

Above all else, media figures are desperate to maintain the current power structure, as it is their role within it that provides them with prominence, wealth, and self-esteem. Their prime mandate then becomes protecting and defending Washington, which means attacking anyone who would dare suggest that the government has been criminal at its core.

The members of the political and media establishment do not join forces against the investigations and prosecutions because they believe that nothing bad was done. On the contrary, they resist accountability precisely because they know there was serious wrongdoing — and they know they bear part of the culpability for it.

The consensus mantra that the only thing that matters is to “make sure it never happens again” is simply the standard cry of every criminal desperate for escape: “I promise not to do it again if you don’t punish me this time“.

And the Beltway battle cry of “look to the future, not the past!” is what all political power systems tell their subjects to do when they want to flush their own crimes down the memory hole.

In the long run, immunity from legal accountability ensures that criminality and corruption will continue. Vesting the powerful with license to break the law guarantees high-level lawbreaking. Indeed, it encourages such behavior. One need only look at what’s happened in the United States over the last decade to see the proof.” End of the excerpt.

Note 1: With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful by Glenn Greenwald, published October 25th by Metropolitan Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company, LLC. Copyright © 2011 by Glenn Greenwald. All rights reserved.

Note 2: https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2010/09/26/part-3-election-laws-regulations-and-procedurescan-capitalist-systems-be-reformed/


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