[Ppnews] Michael Goldfarb on Guantánamo and the War on Terror

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Feb 18 13:13:48 EST 2008


February 18, 2008

"We're Making This Up as We Go Along"

Michael Goldfarb on Guantánamo and the War on Terror


A week ago, I was invited by the BBC to be a 
guest on Richard Bacon's show on Radio 5 Live as 
part of an hour-long discussion about whether or 
not the six Guantánamo detainees charged in 
connection with the 9/11 attacks would receive a 
fair trial. The other guest was Michael Goldfarb, 
the online editor of WorldwideStandard.com, the 
Weekly Standard's Blog, who subsequently 
published a post that attempted to undermine my 
point of view, by mentioning one of my articles, 
on CounterPunch, in which I reported claims made 
by one of the Guantánamo detainees, Abdul Hamid 
al-Ghizzawi, that he has been infected with AIDS 
during his imprisonment at Guantánamo.

Mr. Goldfarb was dismissive of the article, which 
came as no surprise to me, because it also 
revealed -- as confirmed by the Chief Medical 
Doctor at Guantánamo -- that Mr. al-Ghizzawi has 
contracted tuberculosis during his imprisonment, 
and that he also suffers from hepatitis B, which 
was dormant before his arrival at the prison.

Those who read the full article would also have 
discovered that Mr. al-Ghizzawi's case is central 
to complaints made in sworn statements last year 
by military officers, who worked on the tribunals 
at Guantánamo, that the entire system was rigged, 
through the use of generalized and often generic 
information masquerading as specific intelligence 
against individual detainees, to rubber-stamp the 
administration's untested claims that everyone 
who had ended up in US custody -- however 
randomly -- was an "enemy combatant," who could 
be held indefinitely without charge or trial.

After the members of his first tribunal decided, 
based on the "paucity and weakness of the 
information provided both during and after the 
CSRT hearing," that there was "no factual basis" 
for concluding that Mr. al-Ghizzawi was an "enemy 
combatant," -- and that, by extension, it was 
probable that the true story, as Mr. al-Ghizzawi 
explained, was that he was a shopkeeper, married 
to an Afghan woman, who was seized by Afghan 
bounty hunters and sold to the US military -- the 
US military dismissed the members of his first 
tribunal and held a second, secret tribunal in 
which they concluded that he was an "enemy combatant" after all.

In the interests of shedding some light on Mr. 
Goldfarb's opinions, I reproduce below a 
transcript of part of last Monday's show, in 
which he helpfully described how, after 9/11, the 
US administration turned its back on 232 years of 
the law, replacing it with an ad-hoc system in 
which, to quote his exact words, "we're making these things up as we go along."

About twenty minutes into the show, Richard Bacon 
discussed the greater transparency that would be 
involved in the cases if they were transferred to US federal courts.

Richard Bacon: Why can't they be tried in front of a jury in a federal court?

Michael Goldfarb: Well, frankly, there are 
security issues. You know, we're not going to 
expose American citizens to sitting on a jury for al-Qaeda members ...

Richard Bacon: ... So a terror suspect has never 
been tried in the United States in a civil or federal court?

Michael Goldfarb: Terror suspects have been tried in a federal court

Richard Bacon: Well, why was that jury exposed to them?

Michael Goldfarb: I mean, if you arrest someone 
in this country, we've dealt with these things 
differently. The fundamental issue here is that 
we're making these things up as we go along. There was no way to do this. ...

Andy Worthington: It's an extraordinary 
confession that "we've been making this up as we 
go along." That's exactly what seems to have been 
happening since 9/11 in terms of the detention, 
interrogation and prosecution of these detainees. 
You know, what interests me is the issue that you 
raised of successful prosecutions that took place 
in the United States of terrorists before 9/11, 
and this is something that seems to be missed out 
on, because we're led to believe that the world 
started anew on 9/11. Whereas in fact, those of 
us who have longer memories will remember that 
there were the African embassy bombings and that 
there were earlier events, and that there were successful prosecutions.

Richard Bacon: And those juries were exposed to terrorists?

Andy Worthington: Yes, exactly, and it goes deeper than that

Michael Goldfarb: And that really worked out to 
prevent 9/11, didn't it? That really worked out 
to stymie the onslaught of these terrorists

Richard Bacon: Are you saying that it somehow contributed to 9/11?

Michael Goldfarb: I'm saying it was an 
ineffectual response to terrorism, to simply put 
them in civilian courts and say, "oh, we're going 
to treat this as though they're just criminals 
like any others." They're not criminals like others.

Andy Worthington: I don't see that that's an 
issue at all, and I see that they are criminals 
like others, actually. And the point I wanted to 
raise is that there's an interesting man named 
Dan Coleman, who was a former FBI interrogator, 
and he worked with a lot of these terrorist 
suspects before 9/11, and the interesting thing, 
the particularly interesting thing about the way 
Dan Coleman worked, which is germane to the whole 
thing we're talking about here, is that he -- and 
other FBI interrogators -- said, you might be 
able to get some tiny bit of information by 
beating the crap out of somebody, by torturing 
them, but that is not how to get to dig to the 
real truth about what's going on. You do that by 
building a relationship with the prisoners that 
you have, and a good interrogator can do that. 
And then you take them through the court system, because they're criminals.

Andy Worthington 
is a British historian, and the author of 
Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 
Detainees in America's Illegal Prison'. He can be 
reached at: <mailto:andy at andyworthington.co.uk>andy at andyworthington.co.uk

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