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Solly Mack

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Current location: Back of Beyond
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 84,266

About Me

Busy observing the group dynamics of dust bunnies.

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Without torture prosecutions, we can't claim to be a nation of laws

Without torture prosecutions, we can't claim to be a nation of laws

Imagine what the U.S. reaction -- from government officials to everyday people -- would be if we learned that agents of another country had grabbed people from outside its borders, spirited them away to clandestine chambers in third countries, and tortured them. Special forces would be deployed. The United Nations Security Council would convene. Sanctions would be imposed amid talk of isolating a rogue nation from the civilized world.

But because it was the U.S., it's likely nothing will happen despite calls for prosecutions. The Justice Department, which has already passed on prosecutions once, affirmed Tuesday that it will not reopen investigations into possible illegal acts committed by CIA agents and officials, or the people hired by them (yes, the U.S. even outsources torture).

Torture is illegal. Letting those responsible for such inhumane acts slip away without being brought to justice compounds the crime. We like to think of ourselves as a nation governed by laws, but to shrug off torture by agents of our own government tells the world that we not only find the crimes inconsequential, but we’ve turned off the international beacon of justice.

“The CIA detention and interrogation program was immoral, illegal, out of control and (the committee persuasively argues) unnecessary. President Obama's admission this summer that "we tortured some folks" doesn't begin to convey the appalling violations of human rights and international law cataloged by the Intelligence Committee. The officials who carried out these acts shamed themselves and their country.”

US hid UK links in CIA torture report at request of British spy agencies

US hid UK links in CIA torture report at request of British spy agencies

References to Britain’s intelligence agencies were deleted at their request from the damning US report on the CIA’s use of torture after 9/11, it has emerged.

A spokesman for David Cameron acknowledged the UK had been granted deletions in advance of the publication, contrasting with earlier assertions by No 10. Downing Street said any redactions were only requested on “national security” grounds and contained nothing to suggest UK agencies had participated in torture or rendition.

However, the admission will fuel suspicions that the report – while heavily critical of the CIA – was effectively sanitised to conceal the way in which close allies of the US became involved in the global kidnap and torture programme that was mounted after the al-Qaida attacks.

On Wednesday, the day the report was published, asked whether redactions had been sought, Cameron’s official spokesman told reporters there had been “none whatsoever, to my knowledge”.

Redha al-Najar, Detainee in Torture Report, Released to Afghan Government

Redha al-Najar, Detainee in Torture Report, Released to Afghan Government

The United States has handed over to Afghanistan a suspected al Qaeda militant named in a U.S. Senate report as one of the first objects of harsh interrogation techniques in a CIA "dungeon" near Kabul, his lawyer told Reuters on Wednesday.

Redha al-Najar, a Tunisian who is one of the longest-serving detainees from the U.S. "war on terror", was captured as a suspected bodyguard of Osama Bin Laden in May 2002.

He has never been charged or had the chance to prove his innocence in court, and does not have prisoner of war status. The Senate report said he had been subjected to a psychological ordeal that had left him a "broken man".

His lawyer, Tina Foster, said the U.S. government had notified her that Najar had been transferred from the U.S.-run detention center at Bagram Airfield on Tuesday, six days before the government was due to make a submission to the Supreme Court about his treatment.

U.S. Closes Bagram Detention Center, Hands Over Last Afghan Prisoners

The U.S. has closed its controversial detention center near Bagram Air Base, leaving it with no prisoners in Afghanistan, after it turned over two Tunisian prisoners mentioned in the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on CIA interrogation techniques to Afghan authorities, defense officials told NBC News on Wednesday.

The Pentagon told NBC News that it "no longer operates detention facilities in Afghanistan nor maintains custody of any detainees" after the final handover. Under Washington's agreement with Kabul, the handoff to Afghanistan wasn't due to go into effect until Jan. 1. Defense officials said they couldn't explain why the U.S. was getting out three weeks early.

A spokesperson for the State Department would neither confirm nor deny the detainees' identities. The spokesperson told NBC News that the transfers were due to the Jan. 1 deadline and were "not linked to the release of the Senate committee report on detention and interrogation."

But Tina Foster, al-Najar's attorney, said her client — one of the first detainees to have been subjected to the CIA's "enhanced interrogation techniques" — and other detainees were shuttled among various detention centers for years "to avoid scrutiny by U.S. courts." She said al-Najar was turned over less than a week before the U.S. government was to have filed a response to the Supreme Court about his treatment.

CIA torture report: Europe must come clean about its own complicity

CIA torture report: Europe must come clean about its own complicity

Under President Bush the CIA used a web of European airports and bases for its extraordinary rendition flights, secretly transferring terror suspects across borders for interrogation. Some European states helped the CIA to carry out kidnappings. Others hosted CIA “black sites” – in effect, torture chambers – on their territory. The 600-page redacted summary of the 6,000-page report, published on Tuesday by the Senate intelligence committee, will no doubt be scrutinised to see what it may reveal of the continent’s involvement in these abuses.

In 2007 a special investigator for the Council of Europe, Dick Marty, concluded that there was “enough evidence to state” that American secret prisons existed in Poland and Romania. He added that the “illegal deportation of suspects by CIA kidnapping teams in Europe” amounted to “a massive and systematic violation of human rights”.

After 9/11 the CIA reached out to its European allies as it embarked on its detention and extraordinary rendition operation. The aim was to place detainees beyond the reach of law. The active participation of dozens of foreign governments made both the renditions and interrogations possible. How many in Europe will now be pressed to disclose the full extent of their involvement in these operations?

To this day the exact scale of European complicity remains unknown. This is because of the secrecy maintained for years by the US and its partner governments. Washington has never confirmed the location of secret CIA prisons, nor named the governments that cooperated, and nor indeed does the material just published. A decade on, there is still no public comprehensive account.

Torture planning began in 2001, Senate report reveals (from 2009)

Just a blast from the past. 2009 Senate Armed Services Committee Report on Treatment of Detainees

To hear former President Bush tell it, you would think the United States only turned to the techniques in desperation. When Bush announced the existence of the CIA’s interrogation program in September 2006, for example, he argued that suspected al-Qaida operative Abu Zubaydah stopped cooperating with interrogators after his capture on March 28, 2002, forcing the agency to get rough. “We knew that Zubaydah had more information that could save innocent lives,” Bush said. “But he stopped talking. As his questioning proceeded, it became clear that he had received training on how to resist interrogation,” the president said. “And so, the CIA used an alternative set of procedures.”

Not to worry, the president explained. “The Department of Justice reviewed the authorized methods extensively, and determined them to be lawful.”

But that’s not how it happened

To set up the torture program, the Department of Defense and the CIA reverse engineered something called SERE training, which was conducted by the JPRA. Based on Cold War communist techniques used to force false confessions, in SERE school elite U.S. troops undergo stress positions, isolation, hooding, slapping, sleep deprivation and, until recently, waterboarding to simulate illegal tactics they might face if captured by an enemy who violated the Geneva Conventions.

In either December 2001 or January 2002, two psychologists affiliated with the SERE program, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, developed the first written proposal for reverse engineering the training for use on al-Qaida suspects. Their paper made its way to the Joint Staff. (Salon first zeroed in on the pair in a June 2007 article.) The military also then began discussions at that time about using the ideas at Guantánamo.

In early March 2002, Jessen began two-week, “ad-hoc ‘crash’” courses for training government interrogators slated for Guantánamo. The courses therefore began before the allegedly uncooperative Zubaydah was ever captured, and Zubaydah was the first allegedly high-level al-Qaida operative in U.S. custody after 9/11.

Torture planning began in 2001, Senate report reveals

Of Toxic Bondage

On Tuesday morning I went in for my first dose of chemo and to have my mask fitted for radiation therapy.

First up was my weekly blood work at the lab, complete with visits from the dietitian and the hospital social worker. Both got a little squeamish during the blood draws. They both begged off and said they would see me later.

It was an active morning filled with nurses walking me back and forth between the two treatment clinics, deciding on who would get me first. Sort of a ghoulish popularity contest but you take what you can get.

Radiation won out but only after the Chemo nurses placed my IV. It took 4 sticks to get one going. The death grip I had on the deceptively comfortable lounge chair might have been part of the problem. I was already mad at the chair. When I first sat down the chair reclined back on its own and my feet came out from under me. I can't control a lot of what is happening to me now but I still wanted to control where my feet went - and on the floor was where I wanted them.

At the radiation clinic a very nice woman explained what she and a very nice man were going to do to me. It began by them asking me to remove my shirt and then laying me out on a table connected to the X-Ray. A pillow was placed under my knees and my bra straps and hospital gown were pushed down my shoulders. Once on the table they explained how they were going to place my hands in fluffy cuffs that would be attached to my feet. I had to bend my knees up on the table and they placed a foot hold around each foot. Each foot hold was attached to a cord that was attached to the fluffy cuffs that ended in a loop knot. Once I straightened my legs out the cord would pull against my hands forcing my shoulders down and tightening the fluffy cuffs around my wrists.

Once in position I had to remain as still as possible for the X-Rays.

So here I am not only agreeing to be placed in bondage - I'm the very instrument of my bondage. I don't think they make a safe word for that level of kink. And would I even listen to myself if I shouted out my safe word? Turns out, I wouldn't. They told me to stretch my legs out more to pull the cuffs tighter and I did - again and again. My fingers were numb by the time it was over.

Next up comes the mask. The mesh mask starts out flat and fairly solid. It is washed in a warm bath to soften it up and then this flat piece of mesh is pushed down over your face, stretching to form around your head. My mask includes the tops of my shoulders. Once they get the mesh pressed down to the table there are screws that lock the mesh into place and you can't move your head.

So now I'm hog tied and wearing a mask that brought to mind Hannibal Lecter. Every time one of them would ask me a question I wanted to answer "Yes, Clarice" or "No, Clarice" through the lip binding mesh.

I had to stifle my giggles. The mind goes where the mind goes.

The session ends and I thank them both for a good time. The woman walks me over to Chemo.

While the nurse is getting my various bags ready I tell her about the kinky time over in Radiation and she doesn't stifle her giggles. Which is good since I'm laughing about it with my husband. I've made my peace with the chair... thanks in no small part to the large dose of Benadryl.

I was getting a loading dose and would be there for two hours.

The dietitian shows back up while I'm drifting in and out of sleep. I had slept poorly the night before so a Benadryl induced nap was most welcomed. The dietitian had a lot of info and thankfully she had handouts.

A lot of Do's and Don't's about what I could eat and what things to avoid. I did my best to follow along.

When she got to the part about the bathroom activities that would now require a Hazmat team my eyes popped wide open.

I kid, of course. I won't need to call a Hazmat team - I have to be my own Hazmat team.

Lot of poo-jokes possible there and believe me when I say I thought of a bunch.

I'm still giggling over it.

So, a long day. A day of firsts. A stressful day. A scary day.

But, OH!...a day where I could still laugh.


When Bobby entered school he became an instant favorite with his teachers. He was well dressed and polite to adults. Quick with the answers, Bobby was bright and engaging. He seemed to get along with everyone.

Always smiling and offering to help his teachers and classmates, Bobby was the shining example of what a student should be.

During recess one day a student was seen in a heap on the ground. Scuffed up and disheveled, the child was crying. When the teacher asked what was wrong, the crying child said that 'Bobby pushed me down'.

When confronted with the accusation, Bobby didn't deny his actions but said he was not trying to hurt the other boy. That he was trying to keep the other child from hurting himself on the playground.

Bobby said the crying child was trying to climb up the big-boy slide and that it was much too dangerous for him.Bobby said he just wanted to stop the other boy from being injured.

The teacher, being impressed with Bobby's concern for others, still cautioned him that pushing people down isn't the way to help them. Bobby said he felt bad about his actions and promised not do it again.

The crying child was told to dry his eyes because Bobby now knew it was wrong to knock people down and it wouldn't happen again.

Bobby apologized for any misunderstanding, saying he would do better in the future. The recipient of Bobby's help was told to dry his eyes and stay away from the big-boy slide.

As he got older there would be more and more incidents of students being the beneficiaries of Bobby's help. And Bobby being Bobby, polite, so well dressed, coming from such a good

family, and still quick with the answers, he always explained his good intentions and then promised to do better next time. Teachers would praise Bobby's ability to admit when he was wrong and how he was

always striving to do better.

How lucky his fellow students were to have someone like Bobby looking after them! Isn't it any wonder his name was Bobby Beacon! So kind, so caring, so magnanimous!

One day a student was found naked and unconscious in the bathroom. His face a bloody mess; his body drenched in water. At the hospital, the student said that Bobby beat him

and repeatedly shoved his head in the toilet.

'Shocked! Shocked! I tell you! No one could have anticipated this!' was the immediate reaction from his parents and teachers. Bobby knows better! Bobby was a shining example of benevolence!

The hospitalized student must be lying! There had to be a good reason for Bobby's actions!

Bobby, as always, had an explanation.

The beaten and bloody student was up to no good. He had bad-mouthed the principal! He smoked pot! He cut class!He associated with drop-outs! He was a bully! Bobby said he had to

do what he did to protect others. That was he just trying to help.

But, of course! His teachers knew there had to be a good reason. The injured student was a trouble-maker and Bobby was just trying to make the school safer for everyone. Bobby wasn't hurting the other

student. He was engaged in tough love!

Not everyone agreed. Many students came forward to tell how Bobby had helped them as well. Stories of being tripped up on stairs and shoved against lockers began to emerge.

Many were accused of hating the school and of trying to make Bobby look bad.

Still, fearing how it could look to outsiders, the school threatened to harshly repuke Bobby unless he promised to change his ways.

Bobby, being Bobby, spoke before the whole school. Saying how he was only trying to help. How he had the best of intentions and acted in good faith. How mistakes were made and that everyone

could learn from what has happened and they could all strive to do better in the future. Now that they all knew that tough love wasn't the way to act.

'What a great speech!' exclaimed his parents and teachers. Many of whom spoke of how this was the best outcome for everyone involved. How those helped by Bobby should now follow his example

and put all this unpleasantness behind them. That Bobby was moving on with his life and they should too.

Until the next time...

US psychology body declines to rebuke member in Guantánamo torture case

America’s professional association of psychologists has quietly declined to rebuke one of its members, a retired US army reserve officer, for his role in one of the most brutal interrogations known to have to taken place at Guantánamo Bay, the Guardian has learned.

The decision not to pursue any disciplinary measure against John Leso, a former army reserve major, is the latest case in which someone involved in the post-9/11 torture of detainees has faced no legal or even professional consequences.

Documents that emerged from a Senate armed services committee torture inquiry detailed Leso’s involvement in an early “Behavioral Science Consultation Team” at Guantánamo, which was instrumental in crafting torture techniques out of measures taught to US troops to withstand brutal treatment.

Leso is the latest case in which US officials involved with torture have escaped legal or professional consequences. A justice department investigation into CIA torture resulted in no indictments, and it never considered examining the architects of torture policy. Nor has torture caused its architects to suffer professionally: some have returned to tenured academic positions, awarded federal judgeships and sit on the boards of major corporations.

Close Guantánamo Tour January 2014

A couple of upcoming events for those who can make it.

"Doctors of the Dark Side" viewing to be held at the Unitarian Church of All Souls 1157 Lexington Avenue (at 80th Street) New York, NY, 10075 from January 9th-17th.

Doctors of the Dark Side exposes the scandal behind the torture scandal — how psychologists and physicians implemented and covered up the torture of detainees in US controlled military prisons. The stories of four detainees and the doctors involved in their abuse show how essential doctors have been to the torture program.

Doctors of the Dark Side documentary link.

Sponsored by: Peace and Justice Task Force of All Souls Unitarian Church, The Center for Constitutional Rights, New York Campaign Against Torture, No More Guantanamos, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Resistance Cinema, Revolution Books, Witness Against Torture, and World Can’t Wait.

and the January 11 Day of Action in D.C..

There will free housing for the D.C. event. Email for more info. Email addy at link.

Sponsoring Organizations: Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Blue Lantern Project, CloseGuantanamo.org. Codepink, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, Defending Dissent Foundation, Interfaith Action for Human Rights, Project Salam: Support and Legal Advocacy for Muslims, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Reprieve, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition, Witness Against Torture, World Can't Wait.
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