[Ppnews] CIA Detainees, Gitmo and Torture

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Sep 7 11:17:09 EDT 2006


Thursday, September 7th, 2006
As CIA Detainees Transferred to Guantanamo, President Bush 
Acknowledges Secret Prisons
http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/09/07/1350230

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President Bush has acknowledged for the first time the CIA has been 
operating a secret network of overseas prisons. Bush made the 
admission as he ordered 14 prisoners previously held by the CIA to be 
transferred to Guantanamo Bay where they could be tried by a military 
tribunal. Bush said the CIA is no longer holding any detainees but 
that the secret prisons may be re-opened. We get analysis from Center 
for Constitutional Rights attorney Barbara Olshansky. [includes rush 
transcript]

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On Wednesday, President Bush acknowledged for the first time that the 
CIA has been operating a secret network of overseas prisons. 
President Bush made the admission as he ordered 14 prisoners 
previously held by the CIA to be transferred to Guantanamo Bay where 
they could be tried by a military tribunal. The prisoners include 
alleged 9/11 mastermind Khaled Sheik Muhammad. Bush said the CIA is 
no longer holding any detainees but that the secret prisons may be re-opened.

He denied the U.S. ever uses torture but he admitted the CIA had used 
what he described as alternative procedures to force some prisoners 
to talk. Bush also urged Congress to authorize the use of military 
tribunals and to amend the War Crimes Act. The president said new 
laws were needed because of the Supreme Court's ruling in June in the 
Hamdan case.

    * Barbara Olshansky, attorney with the 
<http://www.ccr-ny.org/v2/home.asp>Center for Constitutional Rights. 
She is the author of "Secret Trials and Executions: Military 
Tribunals and the Threat to Democracy." She is also the co-author of 
"The Case for Impeachment: The Legal Argument for Removing President 
George W. Bush from Office."

JUAN GONZALEZ: On Wednesday, President Bush acknowledged for the 
first time that the CIA has been operating a secret network of 
overseas prisons.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Many specifics of this program, including 
where these detainees have been held and the details of their 
confinement, cannot be divulged. Doing so would provide our enemies 
with information they could use to take retribution against our 
allies and harm our country. I can say that questioning the detainees 
in this program has given us information that has saved innocent 
lives by helping us stop new attacks.

JUAN GONZALEZ: President Bush made the admission as he ordered 14 
prisoners previously held by the CIA to be transferred to Guantanamo 
Bay, where they could be tried by a military tribunal. The prisoners 
include alleged 9/11 mastermind Khaled Sheik Muhammad. Bush said the 
CIA is no longer holding any detainees, but that the secret prisons 
may be reopened.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: But as more high ranking terrorists are 
captured, the need to obtain intelligence from them will remain 
critical, and having a CIA program for questioning terrorists will 
continue to be crucial to getting life-saving information.

JUAN GONZALEZ: President Bush denied the U.S. ever uses torture, but 
he admitted the CIA had used what he described as alternative 
procedures to force some prisoners to talk. Bush also urged Congress 
to authorize the use of military tribunals and to amend the War 
Crimes Act. The President said new laws were needed because of the 
Supreme Court's ruling in June in the Hamdan case.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The court determined that a provision of 
the Geneva Conventions known as Common Article 3 applies to our war 
with al-Qaeda. This article includes provisions that prohibit 
outrages upon personal dignity and humiliating and degrading 
treatment. The problem is that these and other provisions of Common 
Article 3 are vague and undefined, and each could be interpreted in 
different ways by an American or foreign judges. And some believe our 
military and intelligence personnel involved in capturing and 
questioning terrorists could now be at risk of prosecution under the 
War Crimes Act, simply for doing their jobs in a thorough and 
professional way.

AMY GOODMAN: President Bush, yesterday. Barbara Olshansky joins us in 
the studio today, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional 
Rights, author of Secret Trials and Executions: Military Tribunals 
and the Threat to Democracy. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Barbara.

BARBARA OLSHANSKY: Thank you for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: Your response to President Bush's address.

BARBARA OLSHANSKY: You know, there are several. The President's 
speech came along with a series of documents: a Department of Defense 
directive, a new Army field manual that was revised, and this bill. 
If you put them all together, it says some very interesting things. 
First, there is the admission, like you said, of the existence of 
secret prisons, which we knew and they have categorically denied, all 
across Europe and all across the United States.

But this idea of the CIA program, that language that the President 
used, we know that that program is a codeword for the use of torture. 
There's just no doubt about it, because we know how badly people were 
tortured in Iraq, in Afghanistan and in Guantanamo, and we know that 
not just from detainees' testimony, but from the testimony of FBI 
officials, CIA officials. Lots of people have come forward. And the 
President then is asking the American public and Congress to approve 
a program of torture going forward.

And when he says the United States doesn't torture and I never 
authorize torture, that is a very interesting word play, because all 
of the government's documents, all of the White House documents, go 
to this issue of redefining torture in a way that we don't define it 
in the United States or in the world. And that definition says 
torture only occurs when someone's at the risk of immediate full 
organ failure or death. So that's the word "torture" that the 
president is using. That's not our constitutional definition of 
torture. That's not the international definition of torture. And you 
know what? That's not the American people's definition of torture.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And what about this whole issue of the War Crimes Act 
and having Congress revisit that?

BARBARA OLSHANSKY: Well, that one is really on the same -- in the 
same arena. It is retroactive immunity for everyone that engaged in 
torture. And the fact is that torture policy really specifically came 
down from the highest on the high. And in fact, the President, in his 
speech yesterday, admitted that, that he authorized it, that Rumsfeld 
put it into effect. And so now we know everyone did it. They said it. 
And, you know, that idea of being authorized from the top, well, we 
now know that that happened. And soldiers who follow a policy that 
violates the law, you know what, we don't exonerate them, because 
that idea of "they told me to do it," you know, that principle went 
out in Nuremburg in the Second World War when it was used by Nazi 
soldiers. We don't abide by that. No one in the world does. And 
that's what the President is asking for now: immunity for everyone 
who is going to say, "My superior told me so."

JUAN GONZALEZ: Why did all of this come now, this sort of a 
coordinated decision now to bring this to the forefront, to try to 
push it through Congress at this stage?

BARBARA OLSHANSKY: I think that it is really fundamentally a 
political move. I think this is an administration that is very 
scared. There's an election coming up. I think the numbers for this 
president have been extremely low. I think there have been case after 
case in the Supreme Court, where the justices -- and these are 
conservative justices -- have said, "You can't do this. You don't get 
a blank check. You don't get to work outside the Constitution, 
outside the rule of law." And they've said it -- they said it in 
Rasul v. Bush, about challenging the detentions. They said it in 
Hamdi, about giving someone the most basic due process. And they said 
it in Hamdan, about what our due process requires in any kind of 
court that we hold. And so now you have a bill, this huge 86-page 
bill, that is an attempt to overrule every Supreme Court decision 
that's come down in the war on terror.

AMY GOODMAN: In what way?

BARBARA OLSHANSKY: Well, it says that the Detainee Treatment Act 
fulfills all of our requirements under the Geneva Conventions to 
outlaw cruel and inhuman treatment. But the Detainee Treatment Act 
prohibits anyone from enforcing its prohibition. We can't ever go 
into court to stop cruel treatment or torture. So the idea that it 
fulfills our obligations is just unbelievable nonsense.

And then it says the Geneva Conventions can't ever be enforced by an 
individual in court. Our courts have never said that. And no country 
around the world has ever said that. You know, if we can't go into 
court to enforce what our individual rights -- right? --your right to 
a trial, your right not to be brutally treated, all of those are 
individual rights. If we say people can't go into court to enforce 
them, what's going to happen to our soldiers in every other country 
where they are captured? They don't get to invoke those protections. 
How blind could this administration be to the effects on our own guys 
everywhere they're fighting?

JUAN GONZALEZ: Now, in the conversation we had before we went on the 
air, you mentioned also that the bill addresses this whole issue of 
whether American citizens can be held as enemy combatants and put in 
military tribunals versus being tried in regular American courts.

BARBARA OLSHANSKY: Yeah. And this was something that really we have 
had a number of conversations about, you know, with people on the 
Hill, some people in the White House, about the fact that an 
administration bill that was leaked included the word "people" 
instead of the word "aliens," because the President's November 13th 
military order in 2001 said "non-citizens." Well, now, the language 
says an unlawful enemy combatant can be any individual. And it's very 
clear that that means Americans. It can mean anyone in the world. 
There is no exclusion, you know, for Americans. And the language of 
who can be an enemy combatant has been tremendously expanded. So it 
could be, you know, not only al-Qaeda and other terrorist 
organizations, but other associated forces and just others who are 
unnamed. And it's any hostile act, not necessarily a military act. Am 
I hostile by talking about what's wrong with this, by sitting here 
with you? How are we going to know that? And then I end up in 
Guantanamo in a military commission, where the death penalty can 
result? This is astounding stuff.

AMY GOODMAN: The legislation that President Bush is proposing would 
limit the ability of prisoners to access all evidence. The 
Republicans, who are challenging the proposal, are very significant. 
I mean, you've got John McCain, who was a prisoner of war himself. 
You've got Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a former 
military lawyer, still serving in the Air National Guard as a reserve 
judge, and Senator John Warner of Virginia, chair of the Armed 
Services Committee.

BARBARA OLSHANSKY: Yeah. I think these are people that are so 
familiar with our military justice system that they should know, and 
I think what they are saying means they do know that we have an 
existing military justice system that's worked for more than 50 
years. It's incredibly effective. It is a well thought out, well 
established, well ruled, you know, system that everyone believes in 
in the military. And people can't see any reason for permitting the 
President this new power to create a system wholly outside of 
everyone else, an entire new universe with new words and new terms 
and new offenses that are outside the law and that he has just fabricated.

AMY GOODMAN: At the same time, the military held a news conference, 
the Pentagon, talking about new rules. What are they?

BARBARA OLSHANSKY: Well, there are many more rules in here than were 
spelled out before. So they talk about some of the offenses for the 
first time, because in the first go-around, no offenses were set 
forth. So you had no idea what you would be tried for. And in fact, 
you'd be designated for a military trial, and, you know, a year 
later, they'd say, we think you did a, b, and c. So they sort of went 
back and crafted the crime based on what they thought you did.

Now, there are some crimes that are specified in the bill. The 
problem is, there are many crimes that are not recognizable in the 
laws of war. And so, we're still doing that, creating things out of 
whole cloth, when we have a military justice system that specifies 
those crimes. What are the crimes that people commit when they are in 
the military?

And for people that are not military soldiers, for civilians, we know 
what we can accuse them of: every kind of regular criminal act, 
including things -- war crimes, including genocide. We can go after 
terrorists for all of those things.

And this is that fundamental divide that we come to again, which is, 
you know, the criminal justice system, being a perfectly valid system 
to try terrorists. And in the UK, what happened recently in London 
just shows that. They did an investigation. They stopped anything 
before it happened. Those people are able to be tried. There is 
nothing that is fundamentally tricky about this. What's tricky is 
when you hold people in indefinite detention and torture them.

AMY GOODMAN: Barbara Olshansky, I want to thank you very much for 
joining us, with the Center for Constitutional Rights, an attorney 
who is author of the book, Secret Trials and Executions: Military 
Tribunals and the Threat to Democracy, also coauthor of The Case for 
Impeachment: The Legal Argument for Removing President George W. Bush 
from Office.


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