NBC’s Michael Isikoff has revealed the text of a white paper composed for Congress by the Department of Justice that sheds light on the legal arguments made by Eric Holder in justifying the killing by drone strike of Americans abroad, who are suspected of belonging to al-Qaeda. That the memo did not even require that the US know of a specific and imminent plot against the US, of which the al-Qaeda member was guilty, for it to kill him from the skies, alarmed all the country’s civil libertarians.
Here are five objections to the vision of the memo, which it seems to me is directly contrary to the spirit and the letter of the US constitution. It is contrary in profound ways to the ideals of the founding generation.
1. In the Western tradition of law, there can be no punishment without the commission of a specific crime defined by statute. The memo does not require that a specific crime have been committed, or that a planned criminal act be a clear and present danger, for an American citizen to be targeted for execution by drone.
“A bill, act or writ of attainder was a piece of legislation that declared a person or persons guilty of a crime. A bill of attainder allowed for the guilty party to be punished without a trial. A bill of attainder was part of English common law. Whereas Habeus Corpus guaranteed a fair trial by jury, a bill of attainder bypassed this. The word “attainder” meant tainted. A bill of attainder was mostly used for treason . . . and such a move suspended a person’s civil rights and guaranteed that the person would be found guilty of the crimes stated in the bill as long as the Royal Assent was gained. For serious crimes such as treason, the result was invariably execution.”
“The Constitution of the United States, Article I, Section 9, paragraph 3 provides that: “No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law will be passed.” . . .
“These clauses of the Constitution are not of the broad, general nature of the Due Process Clause, but refer to rather precise legal terms which had a meaning under English law at the time the Constitution was adopted. A bill of attainder was a legislative act that singled out one or more persons and imposed punishment on them, without benefit of trial. Such actions were regarded as odious by the framers of the Constitution because it was the traditional role of a court, judging an individual case, to impose punishment.” William H. Rehnquist, The Supreme Court, page 166.
The form of the AUMF, in singling out all members of al-Qaeda wherever they are and regardless of nationality or of actual criminal action, as objects of legitimate lethal force, is that of a bill of attainder. Congress cannot declare war on small organizations– war is declared on states. Such a bill of attainder is inherently unconstitutional.
3. The memo’s vision violates the principle of the separation of powers. It makes the president judge, jury and executioner. Everything is done within the executive branch, with no judicial oversight whatsoever. The powers the memo grants the president are the same enjoyed by the absolute monarchs of the early modern period, against whom Montesquieu penned his Spirit of the Laws, which inspired most subsequent democracies, including the American. Montesquieu said:
“Again, there is no liberty, if the judiciary power be not separated from the legislative and executive. Were it joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control; for the judge would be then the legislator. Were it joined to the executive power, the judge might behave with violence and oppression.
There would be an end of everything, were the same man or the same body, whether of the nobles or of the people, to exercise those three powers, that of enacting laws, that of executing the public resolutions, and of trying the causes of individuals.
Most kingdoms in Europe enjoy a moderate government because the prince who is invested with the two first powers leaves the third to his subjects. In Turkey, where these three powers are united in the Sultan’s person, the subjects groan under the most dreadful oppression.
Ironically, given contemporary American Islamophobia, the Obama administration has made itself resemble not the Sun-King, Louis XIV, who at least did have a court system not completely under his thumb, but rather, as Montesquieu saw it, the Ottoman sultans, who he claimed combined in themselves executive, legislative and judicial power. (Actually the Muslim qadis or court judges who ruled according to Islamic law or sharia were also not completely subjugated to the monarch, so even the Ottomans were better than the drone memo).
4. The memo resurrects the medieval notion of “outlawry”– that an individual can be put outside the protection of the law by the sovereign for vague crimes such as “rebellion,” and merely by royal decree. A person declared an outlaw by the king was deprived of all rights and legal protections, and anyone could do anything to him that they wished, with no repercussions. (The slang use of “outlaw” to mean simply “habitual criminal” is an echo of this ancient practice, which was abolished in the UK and the US).
I wrote on another occasion that the problem with branding someone an “outlaw” by virtue of being a traitor or a terrorist is that this whole idea was abolished by the US constitution. Its framers insisted that you couldn’t just hang someone out to dry by decree. Rather, a person who was alleged to have committed a crime such as treason or terrorism had to be captured, brought to court, tried, and sentenced in accordance with a specific statute, and then punished by the state. If someone is arrested, they have the right to demand to be produced in court before a judge, a right known as habeas corpus (“bringing the body,” i.e. bringing the physical person in front of a judge).
The relevant text is the Sixth Amendment in the Bill of Rights:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
5. The memo asks us to trust the executive to establish beyond the shadow of a doubt the guilt of an individual in a distant land, to whom access is so limited that the US cannot hope to capture him or have local authorities capture him. But Andy Worthington has established that very large numbers of the prisoners the US sent to Guantanamo were innocent of the charges against them. If the executive arm of the government can imprison people mistakenly, it can blow them away by drone mistakenly. A US government official once told me the story of an Iraqi Shiite who had fled persecution under Saddam through Iran all the way to Afghanistan. In 2001, locals eager to make a buck turned him in as “Taliban” to the US military, which apparently did not realize that Iraqi Shiites would never ever support a hyper-Sunni movement like that. So the Iraqi Shiite was sent to Guantanamo and it could even be that Taliban themselves were paid by the US for turning him in. The official may have been speaking of Jowad Jabar. These American officials are way too ignorant to be given the power to simply execute human beings from the sky on the basis of their so-called ‘intelligence.’
Then there is the whole premise of the memo, quite apart from its substance. The memo, as Glenn Greenwald points out, ratifies the Bush/Cheney theory that the whole world is a battlefield on which the US is continually at war. Treating the few hundred al-Qaeda, spread around the world in 60 small cells, as an enemy army, making them analogous to German troops in WW II, is insane on the face of it. Our current secretary of state, John Kerry, largely rejected the notion. Al-Qaeda consists of criminals, not soldiers, and they pose a police counter-terrorism problem, not a battlefield problem. The notion that the whole world is a battlefield violates basic legal conceptions of international law such as national sovereignty.
Consider Inauguration Day, more than two weeks gone and already part of our distant past. In its wake, President Obama was hailed (or reviled) for his “liberal” second inaugural address. On that day everything from his invocation of women’s rights (“Seneca Falls”), the civil rights movement (“Selma”), and the gay rights movement (“Stonewall”) to his wife’s new bangs and Beyoncé’s lip-syncing was fodder for the media extravaganza. The president was even praised (or reviled) for what he took pains not to bring up: the budget deficit. Was anything, in fact, not grist for the media mill, the hordes of talking heads, and the chattering classes?
One subject, at least, got remarkably little attention during the inaugural blitz and, when mentioned, certainly struck few as odd or worth dwelling on. Yet nothing better caught our changing American world. Washington, after all, was in a lockdown mode unmatched by any inauguration from another era — not even Lincoln’s second inaugural in the midst of the Civil War, or Franklin Roosevelt’s during World War II, or John F. Kennedy’s at the height of the Cold War.
Here’s how NBC Nightly News described some of the security arrangements as the day approached:
“[T]he airspace above Washington… [will be] a virtual no-fly zone for 30 miles in all directions from the U.S. capital. Six miles of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers will be shut down, with 150 blocks of downtown Washington closed to traffic, partly out of concern for car or truck bombs… with counter-snipers on top of buildings around the capital and along the parade route… [and] detectors monitoring the air for toxins… At the ready near the capital, thousands of doses of antidotes in case of a chemical or biological attack… All this security will cost about $120 million dollars for hundreds of federal agents, thousands of local police, and national guardsmen from 25 states.”
Consider just the money. It’s common knowledge that, until the recent deal over the renewal of the George W. Bush tax cuts for all but the richest of Americans, taxes had not been raised since the read-my-lips-no-new-taxes era of his father. That’s typical of the way we haven’t yet assimilated the new world we find ourselves in. After all, shouldn’t that $120 million in taxpayer money spent on “safety” and “security” for a single event in Washington be considered part of an ongoing Osama bin Laden tax?
Maybe it’s time to face the facts: this isn’t your grandfather’s America. Once, prospective Americans landed in a New World. This time around, a new world’s landed on us.
Making Fantasy Into Reality
Bin Laden, of course, is long dead, but his was the 9/11 spark that, in the hands of George W. Bush and his top officials, helped turn this country into a lockdown state and first set significant portions of the Greater Middle East aflame. In that sense, bin Laden has been thriving in Washington ever since and no commando raid in Pakistan or elsewhere has a chance of doing him in.
Since the al-Qaeda leader was aware of the relative powerlessness of his organization and its hundreds or, in its heyday, perhaps thousands of active followers, his urge was to defeat the U.S. by provoking its leaders into treasury-draining wars in the Greater Middle East. In his world, it was thought that such a set of involvements — and the “homeland” security down payments that went with them — could bleed the richest, most powerful nation on the planet dry. In this, he and his associates, imitators, and wannabes were reasonably canny. The bin Laden tax, including that $120 million for Inauguration Day, has proved heavy indeed.
Given the enemy at hand — not a giant empire, but scattered jihadis and minority insurgencies in distant lands — all of these institutions, which make up the post-9/11 National Security Complex, expanded in ways that would have boggled the minds of previous generations (as would that most un-American of all words, “homeland”). All of this, in turn, happened in a poisonously paranoid atmosphere in Washington, and much of the rest of the country.
The destabilization of Mali and southern Algeria is a complex political and social process that does not have only one cause. But a changing ecology forced by climate change is a major contributor to the region’s problems.
This region is part of a Saharan and sub-Saharan band across Africa called the Sahel. I have traveled a bit in the far west of the Sahel, in rural Senegal.
The climate of the Sahel has fluctuated over the decades, being determined by big phenomena such as El Nino and the Indian Ocean monsoon, as well, it has been discovered, as how warm the waters of the Indian Ocean are. In the first 7 decades of the twentieth century, the region got a fair amount of rainfall, and lower Mali where the capital of Bamako is could raise livestock, making Malians agriculturally relatively well off. The consequent rise in population (Mali is now about 15 million) probably made the country overpopulated for what it could sustain in the more arid decades after 1980, when the warming waters of the Indian Ocean produced dry conditions in the Sahel.
Global warming has accelerated in the past 40 years, as the billions of metric tons of carbon dioxide factories have spewed into the atmosphere has produced a greenhouse effect, trapping heat in the earth’s atmosphere.
The drought of the 1970s caused thousands of northern Mali Tuaregs to go to Libya. Col. Muammar Qaddafi organized them as a mercenary unit. Qaddafi, however, dissolved it in the late 1980s, at which time many Tuareg came back to Mali and participated in the 1990 coup.
“… Iyad Ag Ghali was born in the Kidal Region of northern Mali. He hails from the Ifoghas Family, a noble Tuareg family. The northern region, at that time, was prosperous owing to livestock development; however, it later suffered a severe drought which destroyed life in the region and made the residents migrate to distant countries, reaching Chad and Libya. (Late Libyan Leader)
Libyan dictator Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi took advantage of the Tuareg migration from northern (Mali) and established an independent Tuareg army that he called the “Islamic Legion” (also known as the Islamic Pan-African Legion). Iyad Ag Ghali joined this legion in early 1980s and showed tremendous courage. This prompted Al-Qadhafi to send him to Lebanon to fight against the Christian phalangists there. He also took part in the Chad war before returning to Mali as Al-Qadhafi announced the dissolution of the Islamic Legion. However, the moment he returned to Mali, he contributed to the 1990 military rebellion and became one of the outstanding leaders of the rebellion movement. It was he who led the final attack of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) against the Malian forces in Manaka City on 28 June 1990.”
Ghali was active in the secular Tuareg nationalist movement, National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), in northern Mali in the 1990s.
Then in the late 1990s, he came into contact with the Tablighi Jama’at, a Pakistan-based Muslim revivalist organization that specializes in helping secularized Muslims recover their faith. Tablighi Jama’at is politically quietist and not violent, but is relatively fundamentalist with regard to approach to Islam. Ghali became fanatically religious and gradually adopted Wahhabi ideas, becoming devoted to destroying the Sufi shrines so popular in Mali.
“When the rebellion movement broke out once again in northern Mali in 2006, former (Malian) President (Amadou) Toumani Toure assigned him the task of negotiating with the Tuareg. In August 2006, the negotiations resulted in the Algiers Accords. In 2007, the president appointed him as a consular adviser in Jedda, Saudi Arabia. However, in 2010, he returned after suspicions arose about his affiliation with Al-Qa’ida Organization. Having been deported to his country of origin, he reassumed his previous role as a mediator in releasing hostages; he had become wealthy by then. In 2011, he separated himself from the MNLA, established the “Ansar al-Din,” and, in alliance with jihadist movements, he became in control on the ground. In his first military move since he changed intellectual and ideological convictions, Iyad (Ag) Ghali attacked the city of Aguelhok in far northern Mali and took over a fortified military base of the army there.”
Ansar Dine, Ghali’s organization, doesn’t seem to me to have grown out of the 2011 Libyan War and return of Tuareg mercenaries from Libya. Ghali came back from Libya in the late 1980s, and his turn to radical Muslim fundamentalism happened in Mali in the late 1990s under Pakistani influence.
The return in 2011 of further mercenaries did contribute to the declaration of Azawad independence by the Berbers of the north by the secular nationalist Azawad National Liberation Movement. Its members don’t for the most part agree with Ghali’s harsh Wahhabi ideas.
In turn, the loss of territory in the north angered the Mali officer corps and contributed to their decision to make a coup against elected president Amadou Toumani Touré last March. The sanctions slapped on Mali as a result by its neighbors and by NATO members later last year forced the military to at least say that they were abadoning the coup, installing the speaker of parliament, Dioncounda Traoré and a national unity cabinet. This government was in turn overthrown by the officers in December, 2012, so that there has been a second coup.
The weakness of the Mali government likely is related to the drought years of the past decade, during which hundreds of thousands of Malians were forced to emigrate to other countries and the agricultural productivity and tax base of the more fertile south was devastated. This economic decline at the center made it easier for the rebel Tuareg of the north to declare their Azawad. There are several factions in the north, some of them Berber-nationalist and relatively secular, but the best fighters seem to be Ghali’s Ansar Dine, and their movement south last Thursday helped provoke the French intervention. The harsh drought conditions may or may not have contributed to the radicalization of sections of Mali’s Muslim population, though of course that the radicalization took the form of radical fundamentalism is an accident of history (in the Cold War period they likely would have turned Communist)
An important problem with the narrative line of “Zero Dark Thirty,” Kathryn Bigelow’s film about the Central Intelligence Agency’s quest for Usama Bin Laden, is not just that it comes across as pro-torture but that it ignores the elephant in the room: Bad intelligence elicited by torture almost derailed that quest to put down al-Qaeda by diverting most resources to Iraq.
The film is misleading precisely because it does what the Bush administration did not do. It stays with Afghanistan, Pakistan and al-Qaeda. At one point a CIA official complains that there are no other working groups concentrating on al-Qaeda, that it is just the handful of field officers around the table. But he does not say that the Bush administration ran off to Iraq and closed down the Bin Laden desk at the CIA. Nor do any of the characters admit that bad intelligence, including that gathered by torture, helped send the United States off on the Great Iraq Wild Goose Chase.
I care about this issue in part for reasons of my own biography. As a Baby Boomer who was against the Vietnam War, I had never had much to do with the US government until the September 11 attacks. Had I not been on the doorstep of 50 when they took place, I might well have enlisted. I felt 9/11 profoundly, to my very soul, and was depressed about it for years. I wanted to do what I could to understand al-Qaeda and help destroy it. When RAND and other providers of speakers in Washington asked me to come out and talk to analysts from various government agencies, I was pleased to do it. At the time, Arabists and Islam experts in the US were not so numerous, and pernicious self-proclaimed experts had proliferated. There was a lot of Islamophobia around, and most Americans who did not know the Middle East first hand did not realize that al-Qaeda was a tiny fringe, not representative of Islam.
I don’t know if all those talks I gave in DC to inter-agency audiences were ever useful in fighting al-Qaeda, but I certainly hope so, and I was proud to do my bit in presenting an informed and analytical approach to fighting the phenomenon. I was trying to model for them social analysis as academics understand it. I was also honored to address people who were doing their best to confront a major security challenge.
Bush and Cheney exploited al-Qaeda and the threat of terrorism to erode civil liberties at home and to reshape Iraq and its oil riches abroad. But they weren’t that interested in actually finding Bin Laden or rolling up al-Qaeda. Someone like myself, who could see that Iraq was a massive train wreck and that it actually prolonged al-Qaeda’s significance, was most inconvenient in 2005 and 2006.
So, I mind the the narrative of “Zero Dark Thirty” for personal reasons. It leaves out a key obstacle to the quest it recounts. Some of what is wrong with the film may derive from its beginnings, as a story about how the quest for Bin Laden failed. That premise had to be changed after May 2, 2011, of course. But a film that began with an exploration of failure should have highlighted the Iraq distraction and the bad intel from torture all the more.
Al-Qaeda operative Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi was captured trying to escape from Afghanistan in late 2001. He was sent to Egypt to be tortured, and under duress alleged that Saddam Hussein was training al-Qaeda agents in chemical weapons techniques. It was a total crock, and alleged solely to escape further pain. Al-Libi disavowed the allegation when he was returned to CIA custody. But Cheney and Condi Rice ran with the single-source, torture-induced assertion and it was inserted by Scooter Libby in Colin Powell’s infamous speech to the United Nations.
‘ “We clearly know that there were in the past and have been contacts between senior Iraqi officials and members of Al Qaeda going back for actually quite a long time,” Rice said. “We know too that several of the [Al Qaeda] detainees, in particular some high-ranking detainees, have said that Iraq provided some training to Al Qaeda in chemical weapons development.” ‘
In my book, Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East, I note that Gen. Bonaparte forbade the use of torture by French military interrogators in Cairo, on the grounds that it produced too much misinformation. Napoleon was not exactly squeamish. And even he would have been ashamed of the crew we had in Washington before last January.
In the end, I’m not entirely sure that the film shows torture succeeding for the CIA. In fact, al-Kuwaiti’s identity is confirmed by other techniques in the film. In one instance a man (“Ammar”) who was tortured to no effect is tricked into believing that he had already given up operational information. This kind of technique is called in intelligence work ‘false flag tradecraft,’ i.e. fooling an informant by feeding him or her a set of false premises. In part, this success comes from a rapport the man made with “Maya,” the relentless woman field officer. Again, in real life interrogations, such rapport and such false flag techniques are always more successful than torture.
In another scene, a Pakistani man who is interrogated begins by saying that he had been tortured in the past by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence, and is willing to cooperate to avoid further mistreatment at American hands. I suppose that exchange serves as a suggestion that torture works in the long run, but what he gives the Americans is this case freely given.
The screenplay does, nevertheless, have a fascination with torture, and implies at several points its utility, as Karen Greenberg showed in these pages last week. Thus, when al-Kuwaiti’s true identity is established, a field officer complains that it can no longer be double-checked with detainees because President Obama had closed down the torture program. This odd complaint assumes that detainees who had protected his identity despite years of abuse and brutalization would have fingered al-Kuwaiti if only waterboarded a few times more.
“I asked CIA Director Leon Panetta for the facts, and he told me the following: The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. The first mention of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — the nickname of the al-Qaeda courier who ultimately led us to bin Laden — as well as a description of him as an important member of al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country, who we believe was not tortured. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts or an accurate description of his role in al-Qaeda. In fact, the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on Khalid Sheik Mohammed produced false and misleading information. He specifically told his interrogators that Abu Ahmed had moved to Peshawar, got married and ceased his role as an al-Qaeda facilitator — none of which was true. According to the staff of the Senate intelligence committee, the best intelligence gained from a CIA detainee — information describing Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti’s real role in al-Qaeda and his true relationship to bin Laden — was obtained through standard, noncoercive means.”
McCain was tortured while a POW in Vietnam and is among the few prominent American politicians to stand forthrightly against what George W. Bush and Dick Cheney did in committing the US to war crimes. He is a critic of the film, and I think his view of this matter should be taken extremely seriously.
I did not like “Zero Dark Thirty” as a film. I found it emotionally thin, grim and relentless. It failed to establish an emotional connection to any of the characters, or to flesh them out as characters. The violence is deployed for the purposes of surprise rather than suspense, so that its dramatic effect is limited. It is episodic (we know that the Islamabad Marriott was blown up; shouldn’t the film present a theory as to why?) Any suspense is further blunted by our lack of connection to the protagonist. Whereas in “Argo,” my heart was in my mouth when the embassy employees were in danger, I just couldn’t summon that kind of interest in Jessica Chastain’s “Maya.” The characters remain undeveloped because this film is plot driven, but also because it is primarily didactic, intended to send a message. Unfortunately, instead of glorifying the genuine heroes who have mostly rolled up al-Qaeda (an evil organization that wants to kill your children), it covers many of them with the shame of war crimes.
These steps were unconstitutional in Poland on two grounds: first, high Polish officials surrendered sovereignty over Polish territory to the US Central Intelligence Agency. Second, torture is forbidden in Poland. In addition, it contravenes European Union conventions and treaties.
Poland had only escaped the grip of the Soviet Union in 1989, and so its democracy was a fledgling one. For the Bush administration to seduce its high officials into committing torture risked permanently marring its politics and undermining that democracy. Polish human rights workers have been deeply critical of Soviet-era torture, and to be put in the position of having to acknowledge this practice in their own country weakens their moral standing and besmirches the name of those tortured in the Stalinist era.
Some detainees at Guantanamo are guilty of plotting or carrying out terrorist operations of some magnitude, and that George W. Bush should have transformed them into victims of torture is the most degrading thing he did to those killed on September 11. In other instances, the US swept up a lot of innocents or petty criminals in its dragnet against al-Qaeda, and torturing them was not only useless and illegal, but actually a way to lose hearts and minds in the Muslim world and so was supremely self-defeating.
President Barack Obama ordered, on coming into office, that waterboarding and other torture cease. He has, however, gone out of his way to block victims of torture from launching legal actions, and has run interference for guilty officials, ensuring that there is no accountability for the torture programs.
Former Polish officials who allowed the torture on their soil, including the then head of Polish intelligence and the then prime minister and president, may be called to testify before the State Tribunal, Poland’s equivalent of the Supreme Court. The prime minister was Leszek Miller. The President of Poland at the time, Aleksander Kwasniewski, had not been told by his intelligence officials about the black site. But in 2003 when George W. Bush visited Warsaw, he thanked Kwasniewski so profusely and warmly for Poland’s help in the “war on terror” that the Polish leader became suspicious, since he hadn’t to his knowledge actually done much. He made inquiries, discovered the truth, and shut the prison down.
This darkly comic anecdote demonstrates a number of important points. First, W. is thick as two blocks of wood. Second, he knew about the torture programs and about the farming out of torture to US allies, which is a punishable offense in US law. Third, the practice of torture, being illegal in Europe, impels intelligence agencies to go rogue and establish black cells inside themselves that can hide operations from the president and other civilian political leaders. (Allegedly PM Miller did know about the operation). This procedure, adopted under US pressure, profoundly undermined democracy and human rights in Poland.
In essence, Polish intelligence behaved the way Stieg Larsson depicted Swedish intelligence as behaving, in his Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Or it behaved as Barry Eisler’s CIA and DIA villains do in his Ben Treven novels, such as Inside Out . Unfortunately, what happened in Poland is all too real, and it also happened in Langley, as Glenn Carle discovered (see his The Interrogator. Carle refers to what happened in the Bush era as a “coup.”
The USG Open Source center translated an article in mid-February that spilled the beans about the torture program in Poland and the lawsuits it is generating, which may help explain why PM Tusk has gone so public.
‘More Guantanamo Detainees Claim To Have Been Tortured by CIA in Poland
Report by Ewa Losinska: “Poland Again Accused of Torture”
Saturday, February 18, 2012
Document Type: OSC Translated Text …
The Palestinian Abu Zubayda maintains that he was imprisoned in the Mazury region [of Poland].
The number of prisoners from Guantanamo who maintain that they were tortured by the CIA in Poland is increasing. Lawyers feel that the successive allegations undermine our country’s credibility.
The Palestinian man Abu Zubaydah is considering filing a complaint against Poland in Strasbourg — says Bartlomiej Jankowski, one of his defense attorneys. Already last year, the Palestinian filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights against Lithuania, where he alleges he was detained starting in 2005.
In May 2011, the Saudi man Abd al Rahim Al-Nashiri, suspected of involvement in the attack against the American warship the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000, filed a complaint with the court. It speaks of torture and the violation of his right to life. He is demanding recognition that Poland violated the human rights convention guaranteeing the right to life and freedom. He also complains about the sluggishness of the Polish investigation into the CIA prison case.
That investigation has been underway since 2008. Now it has been suddenly shifted from the prosecutor’s office in Warsaw to the one in Krakow.
The Saudi and the Palestinian are today in the US prison in Guantanamo, but they have the status of wronged individuals in the Polish investigation. “The change of prosecutor’s office will further prolong the proceedings,” says Mikolaj Pietrzak, representing al-Nashiri. Al-Nashiri’s defenders have asked the court in Strasbourg to treat his complaint as a priority. He faces the death penalty in the United States.
The Yemeni man Walid bin Attash (who is also at Guantanamo), suspected of preparing the attack against the USS Cole destroyer, claims that he was imprisoned in Poland. His representative Cheryl Bormann has just visited Warsaw. She wants to file a request to have her client awarded the status of a wronged individual in the Polish investigation. She met with lawyers from the Helsinki Human Rights Foundation and members of parliament from the Palikot Movement.
“The American attorney asked us to take an interest in the prison issue,” confirms MP Artur Debski from the Palikot Movement, a member of the Intelligence Services Committee.
A CIA prison is alleged to have existed in the Mazury region from December 2002 to September 2003. This is confirmed by data obtained by the Helsinki Foundation from the Polish Air Navigation Services Agency and Border Guard about the routes of US military planes and landings at the airport in Szymany. It is also discussed by a report from the CIA’s inspector general.
“Another prisoner who was brought to Poland was Khalid Sheikh Mohammad,” says Dr. Adam Bodnar from the Helsinki Human Rights Foundation. The Palestinian is said to have led al-Qa’ida’s preparations for the attack against America in 2001. “Europe will not cease to be interested in the case of CIA prisons in Poland. Our credibility and prestige depend on the results of the Polish investigation,” he adds.
The UN Human Rights Council and the Council of Europe are interested in the Polish investigation. “We know who was held in CIA prisons in Poland and what interrogation methods were used,” Thomas Hammarberg, commissioner for human rights, said in October 2011. In his view, they may be deemed to constitute torture.
Will the result of the Polish investigation be charges against politicians or intelligence chiefs for consenting to the use of torture? Theoretically the former highest ranking Polish officials could be summoned before the Tribunal of State for relinquishing sovereignty over part of Polish territory — lawyers say. Such a motion would have to be backed by 115 members of parliament. However, politicians are denying the existence of CIA prisons in Poland.
(Description of Source: Warsaw Rzeczpospolita in Polish — center-right political and economic daily; widely read by political and business elites; paper of record; often critical of Donald Tusk’s Civic Platform (PO) and sympathetic to Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s Law and Justice (PiS) party; tends to be skeptical of Poland’s ties with Russia and positive on US-Polish security ties; urges interest in Warsaw’s policy toward eastern neighbors)
Bin Laden’s letter underscores how dangerous al-Qaeda feels President Barack Obama is. Despite Ayman al-Zawahiri’s racist attack on Obama as a “house Negro,” and the ways in which Obama’s American adversaries underestimated him, it is clear that he is perhaps the most formidable leader the US could have had in the effort to polish off al-Qaeda and to improve American standing in the world. (Favorability ratings for the US in world opinion polling improved dramatically on his election).
But Bin Laden, like many observers, woefully underestimated Joe Biden.
7. Biden, when elected to the Senate in 1972, was the 6th-youngest person ever to achieve that position. He ran, with virtually no money, against a long-time Republican incumbent, campaigning on the environment, getting out of Vietnam, and civil rights, and won an upset victory through sheer doggedness and a face to face statewide campaign.
6. Biden faced a tough emotional battle soon after his first senate victory when his wife and bady daughter were killed in an automobile accident. He overcame this horrible tragedy to rebuild his life.
5. Biden proved enormously popular as a senator in Delaware, winning another 6 elections handily, and becoming the state’s longest-serving senator in history.
4. Biden as head of the Senate Judiciary Committee spearheaded the landmark Violence Against Women Act of 1994, which provided billions to stop domestic abuse and which he considers his major legislative achievement. Let us just say that al-Qaeda doesn’t share Biden’s values.
3. Biden was ranking minority member or chair of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee for many years. He was a major voice for intervention in the Balkan War to stop Croat and Serb massacres of Bosnian Muslims, and called for lifting the then arms embargo and for arming the Bosnians. It was Biden, not Bin Laden, who did most to save Balkan Muslims.
2. Biden was a hawk on air intervention to stop the neo-fascist Slobodan Milosevic from massacring Kosovo Muslims. Again, it was Biden and the Clinton administration, not Bin Laden, who deserve the gratitude of Muslims for this intervention.
The policy of targeted assassinations and drone strikes as the cornerstone of an evolving U.S. counterterrorism policy carries some short-term tactical benefits but little in the way of lasting strategic success. Rather, the recent deaths of radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki from an American drone strike and Osama bin Laden from a raid deep inside Pakistan should instead remind us a fundamental fact: the Muslim world is engaged in a broader war of ideas. While the U.S. may have individual victories, if we reduce the thrust of American policy to targeted assassinations, we could well end up stoking the radical flame we are trying to extinguish.
The name of al-Awlaki’s radical Al Qaeda magazine was the source of his power: “Inspire.” And al-Awlaki’s ability to inspire came from waging a holy war for God—where individuals do not matter, only service to the greater cause does. He is now a martyr for that cause.
Over the course of six years, as a former federal prosecutor and investigator, I have interviewed at great length more than a hundred radical Islamic extremists and terrorists. One common theme emerged: they were fighting for their vision of the Islamic faith, where death is simply a means, human dignity a foreign concept, and Heaven the reward. As one Taliban fighter told me: “If I live, I fight against the American infidels for God; if I die I go to Heaven.”
Nearly all the extremists I interviewed were young men between the ages of 18 and 30, with a deep desire to be good Muslims, and highly impressionable to the teachings of al-Awaki and others. But they do not depend on those men.
The ideas of fighting in a holy war for God and their fellow Muslims inspired the Jihadists I interviewed. Not bin Laden or al-Awaki. In fact, of the more than one hundred Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters I interviewed over the course of almost six years, not a single one cited bin Laden as his inspiration to fight.
Other religious Muslims and scholars must counter the ideas of jihad. Indeed, I chronicled many Jihadists leaving the path of violence when exposed to the corruption of the Taliban and Al Qaeda and to a different interpretation of Islam. In Iraq, I have documented how Al Qaeda routinely lied and manipulated vulnerable young men into becoming suicide bombers. Indeed, our greatest weapon against bin Laden would have been to continually re-broadcast the impromptu taping of December 2001 where bin Laden laughed when recounting that some of so-called “muscle hijackers” from Asir in the south of Saudi Arabia never were told they had embarked on a suicide mission until the very end. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, I also interviewed many young Taliban fighters who became disillusioned by the theft of oil and other commodities by Taliban leaders, in alliance with the Pakistani Army and its intelligence agency. Al-Awlaki’s three arrests for the solicitation of prostitutes in San Diego and the Washington, D.C., area would have accomplished more to discredit him than a drone strike.
The role of the United States must be to take a back seat to the wider religious, cultural and political debate occurring throughout the Muslim world. We cannot afford to continually place the U.S. front and center by reducing this struggle to the assassinations of individuals. Our ultimate danger lies not in these men, but their message of extremism. Our ultimate hope lies in the courageous Muslims who have led the path away from the hatred of the radicals. By a policy that emphasizes killing alone, in the end, we may simply harden the resolve of the most recalcitrant.