Torture and Detention

Frequently Asked Questions (scroll down for article archives and further resources)

"If anyone acts like they don't know their government is torturing people on a widespread and systematic scale, they are choosing NOT to know. We have to continue to lead people to act against this -- going out to people, into classes, to institutions, and on worldcantwait.org. Too many people have learned to accept this, there is not nearly enough opposition to the revelations about these top level torture meetings -- but this is something that can change quickly if a beginning core acts with moral clarity..." -Debra Sweet, Director of World Can't Wait

Indefinite Detention and Torture Under ObamaDownload this flier

Torture + Silence = Complicity!

Act Now to Stop Torture!

Has Obama put an end to torture, rendition, and indefinite detention? Facts you need to know:

1. Obama admits Bush officials tortured, but refuses to prosecute them.

Cheney has bragged about authorizing water boarding of detainees. In January 2009, Obama told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, that he believed water boarding was torture. Torture is a violation of Geneva Conventions. The Obama administration is, therefore, not only morally, but legally, required to prosecute Bush Regime officials for torture.

2. Under Obama, the U.S. is still holding detainees without charges or trial.

During the campaign Obama declared habeas corpus to be “the foundation of Anglo-American law.”Habeas corpus is your right to challenge your detention. It is a 900-year- old right. Without habeas corpus there are no restraints on a government’s powers to detain and punish.

Contrary to his rhetoric, the Obama administration is continuing the Bush Regime’s policies of denying prisoners habeas corpus rights and has even adopted the same arguments made by Bush. In February 2009, the Obama administration declared in Federal Court that it would not grant habeas corpus rights to detainees in U.S. custody in Bagram, Afghanistan.

In March 2009 Obama’s Justice Department claimed that Guantanamo prisoners who were detained before June 2008 had no habeas corpus rights. On May 21, 2010 the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the Obama administration, holding that three prisoners who are being held by the U. S. at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan cannot challenge their detention in U.S. courts.

3. Don’t be fooled just because Obama isn’t using the term “enemy combatant”

The Obama administration will no longer use the term “enemy combatant,” but it’s a change in name only: in the same court filing in which it made this announcement, Obama’s Justice Department made clear that it would continue to detain prisoners at Guantanamo without charge. As the NY Times put it:

[T]he [Obama] Justice Department argued that the president has the authority to detain terrorism suspects there without criminal charges, much as the Bush administration had asserted. It provided a broad definition of those who can be held, which was not significantly different from the one used by the Bush administration.

Meanwhile, Obama’s executive orders do not ban indefinite detention. In addition, at his confirmation hearing, Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder said: “There are possibly many other people who are not going to be able to be tried but who nevertheless are dangerous to this country… We’re going to have to try to figure out what we do with them.” Holder suggested prisoners could be detained for the length of their war of terror which, as we know, has no set end point.

4. Guantanamo is still open. The prison at Bagram is growing and torture is being committed.

According to Reuters, abuse of prisoners worsened shortly after the election of Obama:

Abuses began to pick up in December 2008 after Obama was elected, human rights lawyer Ahmed Ghappour told Reuters. He cited beatings, the dislocation of limbs, spraying of pepper spray into closed cells, applying pepper spray to toilet paper and over-forcefeeding detainees who are on hunger strike.”

Earlier this year Scott Horton reported in Harper’s Magazine on three murders of detainees in 2006 at Guantanamo that the military tried to cover up as suicides. More is coming out about torture at Bagram Detention Center in Afghanistan. Recently Andy Worthington reported on the detention and torture of three teenagers in his article, “Torture and the ‘Black’Prison,” or What Obama is Doing at Bagram (Part One).”

On June 7, 2010 Chris Floyd of Empire Burlesque wrote that under the Bush Regime medical personnel experimented on detainees to prove that the techniques used did not constitute torture. The chilling history of Nazi medical experimentation on those in concentration camps lurks in this revelation. (http://chris-floyd.com/articles/1-latest-news/1976- echoes-of-mengele-medical-experiments-torture-and- continuity-in-the-american-gulag.html)

This is a violation of Geneva Conventions and there is evidence that these experiments are going on under Obama.

5. Obama is continuing rendition.

During his confirmation hearing, new CIA director Leon Panetta made it clear the Obama administration will continue rendition. Rendition is the practice of kidnapping somebody in one country and shipping them to another country for detention. Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), said “Rendition is a violation of sovereignty. It’s a kidnapping. It’s force and violence…Once you open the door to rendition, you’re opening the door, essentially, to a lawless world.”

Obama supporters have attempted to draw the distinction between this practice and “extraordinary rendition,” defined as the practice of transferring somebody to another country knowing that they will be tortured. During his confirmation hearing, Leon Panetta said that under the Bush administration, “There were efforts by the CIA to seek and to receive assurances that those individuals would not be mistreated.” So Panetta is embracing the practices of the Bush Regime by continuing rendition!

Panetta then added, “I will seek the same kind of assurances that those individuals will not be mistreated.” (emphasis added)

Articles on Torture and Detention:

Newly leaked documents show the ongoing travesty of Guantanamo

By Glenn Greenwald

Numerous media outlets -- The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Telegraph, and NPR, among others – last night published classified files on more than 700 past and present Guantanamo detainees. The leak was originally provided to WikiLeaks, which then gave them to the Post, NPR and others; the NYT and The Guardian claim to have received them from “another source” (WikiLeaks suggested the “other source” was Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a former WikiLeaks associate who WikiLeaks claims took, without authorization, many WikiLeaks files when he left).

The documents reveal vast new information about these detainees and, in particular, the shoddy and unreliable nature of the “evidence” used (both before and now) to justify their due-process-free detentions. There are several points worth noting about all this:

(1) Given that multiple media outlets have just published huge amounts of classified information, it is more difficult than ever to distinguish between WikiLeaks and, say, the NYT or the Post under the law. How could anyone possibly justify prosecuting WikiLeaks for disseminating classified information while not prosecuting these newspapers who have done exactly the same thing? If Dianne Feinstein, the DOJ and Newt Gingrich are eager to prosecute WikiLeaks for “espionage” – and they are – how can that not also sweep up these media outlets?

Read more...

Normalizing Evil: the N.Y. Times Take on the Guantanamo Files

By Chris Floyd 

More confirmation of imperial perfidy is on tap today from the trove of classified files originally obtained by WikiLeaks on the U.S. concentration camp in Guantanamo Bay. Most of the information released so far was already known -- to the very, very few who cared to find out -- having emerged in dribs and drabs and fragments in various places over the years.

But to see it gathered together, in raw form, in the words of the perpetrators and accomplices of this vast, still-ongoing crime, is a powerful, and sickening, experience.Almost as sickening as the atrocities themselves, however, is the way the release has been played in the New York Times, whose coverage of the document dump will set the tone for the American media and political establishments.

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WikiLeaks Reveals Secret Files on All Guantánamo Prisoners

GuantanamoBy Andy Worthington

Well, the cat is now out of the bag, and Guantánamo will, hopefully, be closer to closure — and the lies that powerful Americans tell about it will, hopefully, be closer to silence — as a result. For the last few weeks, I’ve been working as a media partner with WikiLeaks, along with the Washington Post, McClatchy Newspapers, El Pais, the Daily Telegraph, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, Aftonbladet, La Repubblica and L’Espresso, navigating thousands of previously unseen documents about Guantánamo that were made available to the whistleblowing website last year, allegedly by Pfc Bradley Manning, who has been imprisoned for nearly a year by the US government, awaiting a trial.

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Guantanamo Psychologist Led Rendition and Imprisonment of Afghan Boys, Complaint Charges

The psychologist also suggested that interrogators emphasize to Jawad that his family appeared to have forgotten him: 'Make him as uncomfortable as possible. Work him as hard as possible.'"

By Jeffrey Kaye

Four Ohio residents filed court papers last week seeking to compel the Ohio State Psychology Board to investigate Dr. Larry James, a retired Army colonel and former chief psychologist for the intelligence command at the Guantanamo Bay prison facility, who oversaw the brutal torture of detainees, including children.

The motion was filed by Harvard Law School's International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas on behalf of the four residents, which includes a psychologist, a veteran, a minister and a long-time mental health advocate. 

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Spanish Judge Drops Case Against Bush Lawyers

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New York and Madrid, April 14, 2011 – Yesterday a Spanish judge chose to dismiss a politically charged case against six former Bush administration officials for their part in creating a legal framework that permitted the torture of detainees held in U.S. custody. Judge Eloy Velasco made his decision claiming the U.S. would conduct its own investigation, freeing Spain from the obligation of investigating under its universal jurisdiction law. He based this on a mere seven-page submission by the U.S. despite its clear statement that “the Department of Justice has concluded that it is not appropriate to bring criminal cases with respect to any other executive branch officials, including those named in the complaint, who acted in reliance on [Office of Legal Counsel] memoranda during the course of their involvement with the policies and procedures for detention and interrogation.”  

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Holder, Obama and the Cowardly Shame of Guantánamo and the 9/11 Trial

By Andy Worthington American Flag and Barbed Wire

Since May 2009, when President Obama first bowed to Republican pressure on national security issues, and abandoned a plan by White House Counsel Greg Craig to rehouse on the US mainland a couple of cleared prisoners at Guantánamo who were at risk of torture if repatriated, it has been apparent that no principles are sufficiently important to the administration that officials won’t jettison them the moment that critics start howling.

After this first success with the cleared prisoners — blocking entry to the US for the Uighurs, Muslims from China’s Xinjiang province, who had been cleared for release by a US court — Republicans, and, to a lesser extent, dissenters within Obama’s own party, realized that the power to shape national security issues was in their hands, particularly when the magic word “Guantánamo” was invoked.

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Obama: Guantanamo to be used for Detainee “Trials”

 
Heavily tortured Guantanamo detainee Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was supposed to be the most “slam dunk” case the Obama Administration had to present to the civilian courts. He was, after all, the confessed “mastermind” behind the September 11 attacks.
 
But underscoring the administration’s newfound faith in sham trials as a substitute for actual trials, the White House has reversed its decision and is now planning to try Mohammed at Guantanamo Bay, in a military tribunal.

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"Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo" Available from World Can't Wait

By Debra Sweet Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo

We are very happy to announce that readers of UK-based writer Andy Worthington's definitive anti-torture research and reporting can now order copies of the film directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington: Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo directly through World Can't Wait.

As featured on Democracy Now!, ABC News and Truthout.
 
With Guantánamo not closing anytime soon — if ever — it is more important than ever that people who care about the crimes and injustices committed in their names have the opportunity to discover the truth, and “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” provides the perfect opportunity to discover the truth about Guantánamo, telling the story of the prison, and of the prisoners Shaker Aamer (still held), and Binyam Mohamed and Omar Deghayes (both released), through the testimony of former prisoners, lawyers Tom Wilner and Clive Stafford Smith, and Guantánamo expert Andy Worthington.

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"Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo" Video Available from World Can't Wait

By Andy Worthington Outside The Law: Stories from Guantanamo

‘Outside the Law’ is a powerful film that has helped ensure that Guantánamo and the men unlawfully held there have not been forgotten.”

Kate Allen, Director, Amnesty International UK

“[T]his is a strong movie examining the imprisonment and subsequent torture of those falsely accused of anti-American conspiracy.”
Joe Burnham, Time Out

As featured on Democracy Now!, ABC News and Truthout.

Readers in the US who want to see the documentary fim, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” which I co-directed with my filmmaker friend Polly Nash, can now bypass the previous route to buying a DVD in the States — via the production company here in the UK — and buy it direct from The World Can’t Wait in New York, for just $10 post free.

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“A Story About Lost and Broken Things”: Mohammed Jawad, A Child in Guantánamo, and the Lawyer Who Fought for Him

By Andy Worthington 

Every now and then, someone in the mainstream media cuts through the general — and shameful — indifference about Guantánamo, publishing a powerful story that should change hearts and minds. This is the case with a feature in the latest issue of GQ by Michael Paterniti about one of the more notorious cases of cruelty at Guantánamo — that of the teenage prisoner Mohammed Jawad, released in August 2009 — although it will probably do no more than awaken a few more people to the gross injustices perpetrated at Guantánamo, and elsewhere in the “War on Terror,” by the Bush administration.

Sadly, it will probably do little to help those still held, abandoned by President Obama and unfairly vilified by opportunistic Republicans, whose continued presence in an experimental prison devoted to holding people neither as criminal suspects not as prisoners of war ought to be an unconscionable act for Americans to be engaging in, over two years after Bush left office, even though it has become, instead, a cause for amnesia, indifference or “patriotic” support that is deeply troubling for the health of the United States as a country that any longer has any comprehension of the difference between right and wrong.

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Obama Official Forced Out After Questioning Bradley Manning's Torture

By Chris Floyd Yes we can torture Bradley Manning

This was so obviously predictable that I didn't bother to predict it, but now we have it: "PJ Crowley resigns over Bradley Manning remarks." Crowley, as you recall, was the official spokesman at the State Department who dared utter a fragment of the truth last week when he said that the Obama Administration's torture of Bradley Manning is "counterproductive and stupid."

To be sure, Crowley hastened to assure his audience -- an MIT seminar -- that he thought Manning belonged behind bars for throwing some light on the violent, witless and criminal grindings of the American war machine. But his remarks did drag the Obama Administration's torture regimen into the light of day. Even the sainted Nobel Peace Prize Laureate his own self was forced to address the issue when he was asked in a press conference about Crowley's statement.

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World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.