[Ppnews] 'Black Site' Survivor Relates Horrific Tale

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Dec 19 19:42:09 EST 2007


Middle East
December 19, 2007
By William Fisher

NEW YORK, Dec 19 (IPS) - As human right lawyers sought to block U.S 
government efforts to stop a lawsuit against a Boeing subsidiary 
accused of flying detainees to "black sites" where they were 
tortured, a legal advocacy group published the first testimony of a 
victim of the Central Intelligence Agency's "enhanced interrogation" programme.

In the first-ever report of its kind, the Centre for Human Rights and 
Global Justice (CHRGJ) at New York University School of Law released 
a firsthand account of a survivor of enforced disappearance and 
torture at several CIA "black sites". The 63-page report, "Surviving 
the Darkness: Testimony from the U.S. 'Black Sites'", is an in-depth 
account of a former CIA detainee's experience in his own words.

The bone-chilling narrative tells the story of Mohamed Farag Ahmad 
Bashmilah, a Yemeni national who spent more than a year and a half in 
the CIA's secret detention programme. He was never charged with a 
terrorism-related crime.

The CHRGJ charges that Bashmilah was "illegally detained by the 
Jordanian intelligence service in October 2003, tortured into signing 
a false confession, and then handed over to an American rendition team."

The group says he spent the next 18 months in the U.S. secret 
detention network -- in sites believed to be in Afghanistan and 
possibly Eastern Europe. In May 2005, he was transferred to the 
custody of the Yemen government, which held him in proxy detention at 
the behest of the U.S. until he was put on trial and finally released 
in March 2006.

Bashmilah's story was made public as the American Civil Liberties 
Union (ACLU) filed legal papers opposing the CIA's attempt to throw 
out a lawsuit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc. for 
its participation in the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" programme.

The ACLU charged that the U.S. government is improperly invoking the 
"state secrets" privilege to avoid judicial scrutiny of this unlawful policy.

Steven Watt, an attorney with the ACLU's Human Rights Programme, told 
IPS, "Five men have been brutally abused with the help of a U.S. 
corporation, and they are entitled to their day in court."

"Jeppesen must not be given a free pass for its profitable 
participation in a torture programme," he said. "And the government 
should not be allowed to use the national security defence as a way 
to cover up its mistakes or, worse, its egregious abuses of human rights."

The ACLU filing comes in a lawsuit brought on behalf of five victims 
of the rendition programme who were kidnapped and secretly 
transferred by the CIA to U.S.-run overseas prisons or foreign 
intelligence agencies where they were interrogated and tortured.

According to the lawsuit, Jeppesen knowingly provided flight planning 
and essential logistical support to aircraft and crew used by the CIA 
for the clandestine rendition flights.

After the lawsuit was filed, the U.S. government intervened to seek 
its dismissal, contending that further litigation of the case would 
be harmful to national security. But the ACLU contends that the 
information needed to pursue this lawsuit, including details about 
the rendition programme, is already in the public domain.

It adds, "Jeppesen's involvement in the programme is also a matter of 
public record. It has been confirmed by extensive documentary 
evidence and eyewitness testimony, including the sworn declaration of 
a former senior Jeppesen employee, which was submitted in support of 
the ACLU filing."

In recent years, the government has asserted the once-rare "state 
secrets" claim with increasing regularity in an attempt to throw out 
lawsuits and justify withholding information from the public not only 
about the rendition programme, but also about illegal wiretapping, 
torture, and other breaches of U.S. and international law.

It has been 50 years since the United States Supreme Court last 
reviewed the use of the "state secrets" privilege. The Supreme Court 
recently refused to review the "state secrets" privilege in a lawsuit 
brought by Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen also represented by the 
ACLU, who was kidnapped and rendered to detention, interrogation, and 
torture in a CIA "black site" prison in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, more than 250 people once held in Iraqi prisons, including 
Abu Ghraib, have filed suit against a U.S. military contractor for 
alleged torture of detainees. The Centre for Constitutional Rights 
filed the lawsuit seeking millions of dollars in compensatory and 
punitive damages against CACI International Inc. of Arlington, Virginia.

The complaint alleges that CACI interrogators who were sent to Iraqi 
prisons directed and engaged in torture between 2003 and 2004. The 
lawsuit charges that the detainees were repeatedly beaten, sodomised, 
threatened with rape, kept naked in their cells, subjected to 
electric shock and attacked by unmuzzled dogs, among other humiliations.

The court action also names two CACI employees -- Stephen 
Stefanowski, known as "Big Steve", and Daniel Johnson, known as "DJ" 
-- accusing them of participating in the abuse of prisoners at Abu 
Ghraib. The suit alleges that the two CACI contractors directed 
Corporal Charles Graner and Sergeant Ivan Frederick. Graner was 
sentenced to 10 years in prison for this role in the Abu Ghraib 
scandal; Frederick is serving an eight-year jail term.

"These corporate guys worked in a conspiracy with those military guys 
to torture people," said Susan Burke, the lead attorney in the case.

"And now the military have been held accountable, but the company 
guys and the company have not been," she said.

The legal status of U.S. private contractors in Iraq and elsewhere 
abroad remains cloudy. The Iraqi government says they should be 
subject to Iraqi law, a position rejected by the U.S. It remains 
unclear whether they are subject to U.S. law. No U.S. court has yet 
decided a relevant case, though lawsuits have been brought against a 
number of contractors, including Blackwater, whose employees are 
accused of killing 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians in a shooting incident 
in September.

In the CACI case, to the surprise of some legal observers, the 
government did not intervene on behalf of the contractors and the 
court ruled that the litigation could go forward.

In a related development, the New York Times reported Wednesday that 
Pakistan's military and intelligence agencies, "apparently trying to 
avoid acknowledging an elaborate secret detention system, have 
quietly set free nearly 100 men suspected of links to terrorism, few 
of whom were charged."

Human rights groups in Pakistan say those released are some of the 
nearly 500 Pakistanis presumed to have disappeared into the hands of 
the Pakistani intelligence agencies cooperating with Washington's 
fight against terrorism since 2001.

The Times reported that no official reason has been given for the 
releases. But it quoted Pakistani sources as saying that as pressure 
has mounted to bring the cases into the courts, "the government has 
decided to jettison some suspects and spare itself the embarrassment 
of having to reveal that people have been held on flimsy evidence in 
the secret system."

Among those pressing to bring the cases into court was the chief 
justice of Pakistan's Supreme Court, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. He 
was dismissed by President Pervez Musharraf and remains in detention, 
although Musharraf last Saturday lifted the state of emergency he 
imposed in November.

The Times reported that the prisoner releases were "particularly 
galling to lawyers" because Musharraf had accused the courts of being 
soft on terrorists, and had used that claim as one justification for 
imposing emergency rule.

Copyright 2007 IPS-Inter Press Service. All rights reserved.

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