Monday 13th of July 2020

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Gitmo Files” lifted the Pentagon’s lid on the prison, describing a corrupt system of military detention resting on torture, coerced testimony and “intelligence” manipulated to justify abuses at the base, writes Patrick Lawrence.


Today we continue our series The Revelations of WikiLeaks less than three months before the extradition hearing for imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange resumes in Britain. This is the seventh in a series of articles that is looking back on the major works of the publication that has altered the world since its founding in 2006. The series is an effort to counter mainstream media coverage, which these days largely ignores WikiLeaks’ work, and instead focuses on Assange’s personality. It is WikiLeaks’ uncovering of governments’ crimes and corruption that set the U.S. after Assange, ultimately leading to his arrest on April 11 last year and his indictment under the U.S. Espionage Act.

The Anatomy of a Colossal Crime
Perpetrated by the U.S. Government

By Patrick Lawrence
Special to Consortium News


WikiLeaks released a cache of classified documents on April 25, 2011, it called “Gitmo Files.” They consist of reports the Joint Task Force at Guantánamo Bay sent to the Southern Command in Miami, under which JTF–Gitmo had imprisoned and interrogated suspected terrorists since January 2002, four months after the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington. 

These memoranda, known as Detainee Assessment Briefs, or DABs, were written from 2002 to 2008. They contain JTF–Gitmo’s detailed judgments as to whether a prisoner should remain in prison or be released either to his home government or to a third country. Of the 779 prisoners detained at Guantánamo at its post–Sept. 11 peak, “Gitmo Files” is comprised of DABs on 765 of them. None had previously been made public. As was WikiLeaks’ practice, it gave numerous news organizations access to “Gitmo Files” at the time of publication. 

Prior to the WikiLeaks release, very little was known about the prison operation at the U.S. naval base on the southeastern coast of Cuba. In 2006, in response to a Freedom of Information suit filed by The Associated Press four years earlier, the Pentagon made public transcripts of military court hearings held at Guantánamo Bay. While these revealed the identities of some detainees for the first time, they contained little detail of how those imprisoned were treated, interrogated, and then judged. 

“Gitmo Files” thus lifted the lid on a Defense Department operation that had been shrouded in secrecy for the previous nine years. They describe a profoundly corrupt system of military detention and interrogation that rested on torture, coerced testimony, and “intelligence” manipulated to justify the military’s practices at the Guantánamo base. 

“Most of these documents reveal accounts of incompetence familiar to those who have studied Guantánamo closely,” wrote Andy Worthington, a WikiLeaks associate who managed the publisher’s analysis of the documents, “with innocent men detained by mistake (or because the U.S. was offering substantial bounties to its allies for al–Qaeda or Taliban suspects), and numerous insignificant Taliban conscripts from Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Worthington called the 765 documents WikiLeaks published “the anatomy of a colossal crime perpetrated by the U.S. government.” 



Obama’s First Term


Barack Obama had begun his first term as president slightly more than two years before WikiLeakspublished “Gitmo Files.” During his political campaign he had promised to close the facility within a year of assuming office; at that time 241 prisoners were still in detention. An interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force Obama appointed to review these cases concluded that only 36 could be prosecuted. 

But Obama succumbed to “the politics of fear in Congress,” as Worthington puts it. There were still 171 prisoners when “Gitmo Files” was published; 40 now remain — some cleared and awaiting release, some charged and awaiting military trial, some convicted, and others, 26 of the total, under indefinite detention. 



The Documents

The memoranda collected in “Gitmo Files” shine a revealing light into the U.S. military’s system of arrest, detention, and interrogation of terror suspects after the Sept. 11 tragedies. The files include the DABs covering the first 201 prisoners released from Guantánamo, between 2002 and 2004. Nothing had previously been known about these detainees. The military briefs on these cases recount the histories of innocent Afghans, Pakistanis, and others — a baker, a mechanic, former students, kitchen workers — who should never have been detained in the first place.

These early-release detainees were among the easiest to identify as posing low or no security risks. Their stories reflect the indiscriminate method of arrests U.S. forces used immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks. “Gitmo Files” terms these detainees The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo” because no record of their presence at Gitmo had been made public prior to the April 2011 release.

They were effectively “disappeared” — unacknowledged detainees — apparently because their patent innocence was an embarrassment for the Pentagon and, especially, those operating the Guantánamo prison. 

Azizullah Asekzai was one of these early-release detainees. He was a family farmer in his early twenties when the Taliban conscripted him to fight its cause in Afghanistan. After one day of training on an AK–47, Asekzai attempted to escape to Kabul, but a local militia ambushed the vehicle he was traveling in and Asekzai was captured. He was subsequently turned over to U.S. forces; he was transferred to Guantánamo in June 2002. 

Asekzai’s DAB explains his transfer thus: 

The detainee was arrested and transported to Bamian, where he was imprisoned for almost five months before being transferred to U.S. forces. Detainee was subsequently transported to Guantánamo Bay Naval Base because of his knowledge of a Taliban draftee holding area in Konduz and of Mullah Mir Hamza, a Taliban official, in Gereshk District of Helmand Province.Joint Task Force Guantánamo considers the information obtained from him and about him as neither valuable nor tactically exploitable. [Italics added.] 

Asekzai’s DAB is dated March 2003, and he was released the following July. While his time at Guantánamo was relatively brief, his story is important because of the light it sheds on how those writing DABs manipulated the facts in case after case to mask what amounted to a dragnet method of arrests in Afghanistan. In Asekzai’s case, as in many others, this meant making up the military’s motives to obscure the groundless basis for his detention and transfer to Guantánamo. 

Here is an explanatory comment Wikileaks included with its “Unknown Prisoners” files: 

The “Reasons for Transfer” included in the documents, which have been repeatedly cited by media outlets as an explanation of why the prisoners were transferred to Guantánamo, are, in fact, lies that were grafted onto the prisoners’ files after their arrival at Guantánamo. This is because, contrary to the impression given in the files, no significant screening process took place before the prisoners’ transfer[s]…. Every prisoner who ended up in U.S. custody had to be sent to Guantánamo, even though the majority were not even seized by U.S. forces, but were seized by their Afghan and Pakistani allies at a time when substantial bounty payments for “al–Qaeda and Taliban suspects” were widespread. 

These bounty payments were not limited to small-time Afghan or Pakistani bounty hunters. In his 2006 memoir, “In the Line of Fire,” Pervez Musharrif, Pakistan’s former president, acknowledges that in handing over 369 terror suspects to the U.S., the Pakistani government “earned bounty payments totaling millions of dollars.”

“Gitmo Files” also includes a section on the 22 children also detained at Guantánamo after it opened. Three were still in detention at the time of the WikiLeaks release. In addition, the documents detail the cases of the 399 prisoners released from 2004 to the day “Gitmo Files” was published. They also give the background of the seven men who had died at Guantánamo by April 2011.

 

Read more:

https://consortiumnews.com/2020/06/24/the-revelations-of-wikileaks-no-7-...


the gitmo files...

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So what is moral clarity? The philosopher Susan Neiman, who wrote a book on the subject, says that it is not, in fact, a statically defined concept: it can be found only on a case-by-case basis. “Moral clarity, however, is about looking at each particular case, looking at all the facts, looking at all the context, and working out your answers,” she stated in a lecture. It should not be confused with moral simplicity: we may have clearly defined moral values, but the quest for the actual position of moral clarity is always complicated and specific to the circumstances. For Lowery, moral clarity is, he wrote, “first and foremost, about objective facts. Nazis are bad—objective fact. Black lives matter—objective fact. Climate change is real—objective fact. President Trump is a liar—objective fact.” In his Times Op-Ed, Lowery added that moral clarity involves naming what we observe without resorting to euphemisms, which includes labelling the President a racist. Moral clarity can also describe the journalist’s own position in relationship to the subject matter. “So often the questions that get the best/most insightful answers are posed from a place of moral clarity,” Lowery tweeted. “Questioning someone powerful from a place of ‘neutrality’ often, in practice, results in journalism that is inappropriately soft in its framing.

 

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https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/why-are-some-journalists-a...

 

Read from top and all articles on this site from the beginning... And no, Donald Trump does not lie. He may say very stupid things, but they are not lies like those of Obama, Bush, Clinton and the rest of them... He may fudge a few things because everyone hates him for actually being honest with the bullshit... so he tries to dodge bullets...

 

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the torture of assange is a disgrace. free assange now...

The Lancet medical journal has published a second letter drafted by physicians from around the world demanding an end to the ongoing mistreatment of WikiLeaks publisher and founder Julian Assange.

Two hundred and sixteen medical professionals signed an article published in The Lancet medical journal demanding an end to the "ongoing torture and medical neglect" of award-wining WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, who remains incarcerated in Britain's Belmarsh maximum-security prison. Clinical psychologist Dr Lissa Johnson, who co-authored the letter, explained to Sputnik why she and her colleagues felt it necessary to draft this latest version despite having already published a letter in February.

Sputnik: Why did you co-author this letter in The Lancet demanding an “end to the torture and medical neglect of Julian Assange”?

Dr Lissa Johnson: We wrote this letter because it is now over a year since the UN Rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, reported that Julian Assange is suffering all symptoms typical of prolonged exposure to psychological torture. Although professor Melzer attributed that torture to "collective persecution" by the US, the UK, Sweden and Ecuador, all governments involved have failed to investigate Professor Melzer’s findings, or bring Julian Assange's torture to an end. So we - an international group of doctors and some psychologists - began writing to governments late last year, and then in The Lancet in February this year, underlining the medical seriousness of Nils’ Melzer’s reports. We stressed that psychological torture is a medical issue and a life-threatening condition, reinforcing the warning that Julian Assange’s inhumane treatment may soon end up costing his life. 

However, not only has no government authority responsible for Julian Assange’s welfare acted to end his torture and medical neglect, that torture has only intensified since our February letter. We therefore reiterated our calls in The Lancet ahead of International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, detailing the ways in which Julian Assange's torture has escalated since February, pointing out that government officials are legally obligated to cease his torture. 

Given that media reporting of Julian Assange’s case has been sorely lacking, we also sought to fill in the blanks regarding the nature of his mistreatment.

Sputnik: How has Julian Assange's torture intensified since your last Lancet letter?

Dr Lissa Johnson: Throughout his extradition proceedings and court hearings Julian Assange has been prevented from engaging in his own defence. This is an extremely serious matter, as he is fighting 175 years in US supermax prisons.

Importantly, Julian Assange is fighting controversial and unprecedented Espionage Act charges which cast journalism as espionage, effectively placing him on trial for publishing activity. Yet he is being treated like a violent criminal, and subjected to degrading and dehumanising treatment as a result. That treatment has included unnecessary strip-searches, handcuffing, confiscation of privileged legal documents, and keeping him in a bullet-proof glass enclosure where he is unable to hear or participate in his own trial, or communicate with his lawyers. These extreme measures are being imposed despite the fact that Julian Assange is unsentenced, charged with nothing under UK law, and is arbitrarily detained in Belmarsh prison according to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. 

We explain in The Lancet that we are not the only group to protest these abuses. After the first phase of his extradition proceedings, the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) described Julian Assange's treatment during the proceedings as “shocking and excessive”, likening it to the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. 

In addition to abuse of his fair trial rights and his inhumane treatment in court, we pointed out that, medically, denial of Julian Assange's emergency bail application in March has placed his life at even greater risk than it was previously. Not only has this placed Julian Assange in harm’s way from a deadly virus, he is kept in isolation for at least 23 hours a day under coronavirus lockdown measures, and is therefore entirely unable to meet with his lawyers to prepare for the second phase of his extradition hearing. All of this intensifies his psychological torture, by intensifying solitary confinement, helplessness and defencelessness in the face of threat. 

Sputnik: What is the basis of your claims that Mr Assange is being mistreated to such an extent that the law is being violated?

Dr Lissa Johnson: Under the Convention Against Torture, which the UK has ratified, those acting in official capacities can be held complicit and accountable not only for perpetration of torture, but for their silent acquiescence and consent. In the UK, such complicity is prohibited not only under the Convention Against Torture but also under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and section 134 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, whereby it is an offence for any public official to “intentionally inflict severe pain or suffering on another in the performance or purported performance of his official duties”. Although we didn’t mention it in The Lancet letter, states also have a duty to investigate findings of torture such as those of the UN Rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer. That duty is being is abrogated here. 

While we are not lawyers, in our professional capacities we are routinely expected to recognise and report unlawful behaviour that places people, including third parties, at risk. We are upholding that obligation here, and reporting the torture of Julian Assange to the public whose rights and freedoms his torture endangers. 

Sputnik: You write that “Isolation and under-stimulation are key psychological torture tactics, capable of inducing severe despair, disorientation, destabilisation, and disintegration of crucial mental functions”. Can you explain why this would be the case?

Dr Lissa Johnson: As we detailed in a letter to the Australian government last year, meaningful human interaction and mental stimulation are minimum necessary requirements for human psychological and mental functioning, much as food and water are minimum necessary requirements for human physical functioning. Depriving people of social contact and simulation, particularly while exposing them to danger such as US extradition or a deadly disease, is the psychological equivalent of inflicting relentless physical starvation and assault. 

Solitary confinement, for instance, does not simply cause loneliness, boredom and malaise. It reduces neuronal activity in the brain, which can lead to severe and long-lasting brain changes, including impairment in basic abilities to reason, think, remember and speak. It also causes severe psychological suffering and trauma, which can become unbearable, and often results in self-harm, suicidality and a breakdown in psychological functioning. Chelsea Manning has said of her time in solitary confinement, “I was alive but I was dead.

Sputnik: How do you respond to critics who might say that doctors should remain apolitical and not get involved in matters such as Julian Assange’s extradition case?

Dr Lissa Johnson: In Julian Assange’s extradition case, silence and acquiescence are the political stance. The Convention Against Torture carries what are known as positive obligations, or obligations to ‘do something’ to prevent torture and ill-treatment. Flouting that obligation by doing nothing in the face of a UN official’s warnings is the politically-motivated course of action. It serves to protect a politically-motivated persecution, in which a publisher is being tortured for journalism.  

In terms of the complicity of silence, my own area of expertise involves the psychology of atrocity and human rights abuse. The reality is that silence is the social bedrock of atrocity. It is ‘Human Rights 101' that human rights will only be upheld if citizens demand it of their governments.

As a result, in a democracy, it is the responsibility of citizens to hold their governments accountable for violations of rights. The psychology of power is such that power will be abused, and abuses of power will escalate, if citizens remain silent in the face of those abuses. Julian Assange’s case is therefore not only a litmus test-case for press freedom, but for fundamental human rights, including the right to be free from torture. To avoid taking a stance in this situation is, by default, to take a stand on the wrong side of torture. It is not an issue of politics. It is an issue of universal human rights. 

Sputnik: What are you calling for now?

Dr Lissa Johnson: We are reiterating our demand for an end to the torture and medical neglect of Julian Assange, and joining the world’s leading authorities on human rights and international law calling for his immediate release from prison and an end to the extradition proceedings against him. As we pointed out in The Lancet, press freedom and human rights organisations, from Reporters Without Borders to Human Rights Watch to the Council of Europe, are condemning the Espionage Act charges against Julian Assange and the US extradition request, with all that it entails.

 

Read more:

https://sputniknews.com/analysis/202007021079768354-julian-assanges-tort...

 

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the fluidity of disinterested "justice" in the magna carta country...