[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
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
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
* 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
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
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
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
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
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