News Archive - 2011-04 (April 2011)

2011-04-01 #Iran Tens arrested at funeral, among them many of Mousavi's family members.

ImageWL Central will be updating news on Iran, with new items added at the top. All times are ET in USA.

You can contact me on twitter @carwinb or by email at Don't send media when links available. Most email is not encrypted and not anonymous. I cannot guarantee anyone's safety in transmission.

Current time and date in Tehran:

* Thank you to @Green_alpha, without whom these updates and translations, would not have been possible.

THURSDAY, March 31

  • Tens arrested at funeral, among them many of Mousavi's family members (Source:, Mousavi's Web site)


  • Mousavi's family announce in a letter to Tehran's prosecutor that they will not hold of Mousavi's father funeral without Mousavi's presence. (Source: Iran Green Voice)

Scroll down for prior coverage.

Other Related Sources and Live Blogs:

  • sahamnews.orgKarroubi's Web site
  • kaleme.comMousavi's Web site
  • Iran News Now (Dave Siavashi)
  • Enduring America (Scott Lucas)
  • Tehran Bureau (Josh Sharyar, Muhammad Sahimi and others)
  • Dissected News (James Miller)
  • Street Journalist
  • TheIranReporter

  • WEDNESDAY, March 19

    • Karroubi's son meets with parents after 38 days, says they are safe. (Source:

    WEDNESDAY, March 16

    • Karroubi's son reports on his personal Facebook page that a family friend met with Karroubi after 33 days. Says that father is safe and secure. (Source:, Karroubi's Web site)
    • More than 500 arrested last night in Tehran. (Source:, Mousavi's Web site

    SATURDAY, March 12
    • A representative of Mousavi's daughters spoke about their meeting with Mousavi and Rahnavard, his wife and their mother. The meeting was conducted under security force presence and under pressure. Mousavi communicated to them that all of his documents and personal belongings were seized during the February 14 attack on the Mousavi household. Security forces threatened Mousavi's daughter not to say anything about the meeting, but the daughters felt the public should know. (Source:, Mousavi's Web site)

    MONDAY, March 21

    • Tor anonymizing software has been targeted by the Iranian regime to identify and locate dissidents. (Source: Sify Telegraph)

      But, according to a report in the Telegraph, Andrew Lewman, executive director of Tor Project says: "Tor Project had known it could be attacked in this way 'for years', but had chosen not to take pre-emptive measures because 'we’re trying to have an arms race really slowly'. In the last few weeks developers have redesigned the software so that its traffic looks just like any other when it sets up an encrypted connection, and Iranian user numbers are now back to normal."


      We asked Tor to respond to our question, "Is the software 'safe' for use by people in Iran?" Runa A. Sandvik @runasand said:

      "If you are asking if Tor is working in Iran, then the answer is yes.
      However, It is important to note that plaintext over Tor is still
      plaintext[1]; Tor does not magically encrypt the Internet from end to
      end. You need to make sure that you are communicating over an
      encrypted channel, such as using https:// whenever you browse the web
      (and off-the-record for IM and GPG for email, for example)."


      [END UPDATE]

    • Political prisoners not allowed to call their families or meet them for the Persian New Year. (Source:, Mousavi's Web site)

    THURSDAY, March 10

    • Karroubi's family report the lights in his house for the first time in 18 days. (Source:
    • Revolutionary Guards have started to ask hackers with "goodwill" and "revolutionary activism" to join the fight for Iranian Republic. (Source: Iran Green Voice)
    • Secretariat of the Assembly of Experts Web site was hacked on Wednesday. The cyber attack placed fake news about the death of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. (Source:, Karroubi's Web site)
    • A Web site close to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad condemns Ali Fazli, commander of the Revolutionary Guards in Tehran province, for his son being a member of the Green Movement. General Ali Fazli, commander of the Revolutionary Guards in Tehran province, was arrested in 2009 for refusing to carry Khamenei's order to use force against demonstrators. (Source:, Karroubi's Web site)

    WEDNESDAY, March 9

    • Head of Basij calls Mousavi and Karroubi traitors, evil, corrupt and the mercenaries of foreign governments while asking for their prosecution. (Source:, Mousavi's Web site)
    • Chief prosecutor denies rumors, says Mousavi and Karroubi are in their homes, but all connections are cut. (Soure: BBC Persia)

    TUESDAY, March 8
    • Iranian Kurdish opposition parties to call on the Kurds in the country to rise up against the Islamic regime in Tehran. (Source: Rudaw)
    • Iranian security forces fired tear gas at demonstrators today. (Source:

      "Security forces blocked the roads to Enghelab (Revolution) Square (in central Tehran) and fired tear gas at people several times as they tried to stage anti-government demonstrations," the website said. reported "heavy security force deployments in several of Tehran's main squares."

      Foreign media have been banned from on-the-spot reporting of any unauthorised gatherings. (Source: AFP)

    • Female Basijis on streets to arrest women activsts for Women's Day Protest (Source: Iran Green Voice)
    • (VIDEO) Riot forces beating protestors in Tehran March 8, 2011 in Tehran, Iran

    • Mousavi and Rahnavard still in their homes under housearrest. (Source:
    • Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani lost his position as the head of the Experts Council. Mohammad-Reza Mahdavi Kani will be in power for 2 years now. (Source: )
    • 1000s expected to demonstrate in Iran on International Women's Day

      "On March 8, 2011, the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, thousands of men and women are expected to participate in demonstrations in Tehran and other major Iranian cities to demand much needed democratic reforms, including full legal equality for women."


    SUNDAY, March 6
    • Iran's National Security Council's leaked a report on 14th Feb protest that estimates the number of protesters 600 thousand up to 1 million. (Source:
    • A joint statement of the Islamic Association of Teachers of Universities and Islamic Association of Medical Society of Iran condemns the situation in Iran as well as the arrest of Mousavi and Karroubi. The statement says that Mousavi and Karroubi are the most prominent and honorable national characters. (Source:, Mousavi's Web site).
    • Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardebili condemns human rights conditions in Iran, saying what happens in Iran today in the name of Islam and Sharia is against law, any ethics, sharia and human dignity. (Source: Iran Green Voice)
    • Reports on tens of protesters detained on Feb 14th been kept in Revolutionary Guards's Afsarieh Detention Centre for the last 3 days under inhuman conditions. One of them told Human Rights House of Iran that he and others were kept in handcuffs the entire time, and had to sleep while sitting due to lack of space. They were also hit by guards. These circumstances are corroborated in other reports. (Source: Iran Green Voice)

    FRIDAY, March 4

    • Green Movement activists in the Holy City of Qom said in a statement that they will hold protest on Tuesday against the illegal arrest of Mousavi and Karroubi. (Source: Iran Green Voice)
    • Sahamnews reveals ''Vahid'', executive assistant in the office of Supreme Leader's office in charge of Karroubi's arrest and removal from his home. (Source: Sahamnews)
    • Rafsanjani's son finally resigns from Tehran Metro after severe pressures from government on Tehran municipality. (Source: Fars News)
    • Senior General of the Revolutionary Guard: "If next year parliamentary elections are not inline with our policies, the following year could be a dangerous and bloody one." (Source:
    • Iran's Chief Prosecutor: "There have been people within the judiciary system aiding the seditionists." (Green Movement) (Source: Iran Green Voice)
    • More arrests at Sharif University. (Source:, Mousavi's Web site)

    THURSDAY, March 3

    • Two more Sharif University students arrests confirmed. (Source: Iran Green Voice)
    • Mousavi's daughters address the nation in open letter. We have no news whatsoever from our parents, despite regime's propaganda claims to the contrary. (Source:
    • Chief of Iran's prisons: 55,000 people have been incarcerated in the last 1.5 year. No additional prisons built. Total number incarcerated is 220,000. Prison capacity is 85,000. Iran had one guard per 13 prisoners. (Source:
    • Urgent call for action by Amnesty International to release green leaders. (Source: Iran Green Voice)


  • Iranian Judiciary announces those convicted of going against national security will not be permitted a leave for Nowrooz (Persian New Year). (Source:
  • Vahedi, Senior advisor to Karroubi, calls Tehran's main prosecutor a liar. (Source: BBC)
  • Kayhan newspaper claims that the opposition leaders are allowed to meet close family members if they don't use their family to get out lies and create tension. (Source: Iran Green Voice )
  • Tehran's main prosecutor denies Mousavi and Karroubi being arrested. Saying they are at home, and the lights off being their decision. (Source: Iran Green Voice)
  • More than 200 protesters arrested yesterday on Tehran streets. (Source;

    • TUESDAY, March 1 [#10Esfand]
      • Video of today's protests on Enghelab St. (Source: Iran Green Voice)

        Iran Tehran 1 March 2011 'Death to Dictator'

      • Severe clashes in the streets of Tehran between security forces and people. People gathered at Ferdowsi Square. Two police vans on fire in Enghelab St. Reports of gun shots and extreme methods by security forces. (Source:
      • Rahana reports that security forces dealt violently with people, beating them, in front of the City Theatre on Vali Asr. Reports of Tear Gas. (Source:
      • Kaleme reports that people have gathered and are chanting at Tehran University and Revolution Square. (Source:, Mousavi's Web site)
      • 4 arrests on Keshavarz St. reported. (Source: Rahana
      • Tehran experiencing heavy security forces presence on central streets. Plain cloth Basijis on centeral Tehran streets and at important junctions and squares. Some anti riot and normal police. No sign as yet that we are aware of, of Revolutionary Guards. (Source: on the ground)
      • Facebook Profile for 10Esfand


2011-04-01 Armenian General Prosecutor's Office contradicted by WikiLeaks cables: on 'government-run sex trafficking' in Armenia

Cables on sex trafficking in Armenia reveal frank contempt toward victims and contradictory statements from the law enforcement officials on collusion in sex trafficking. The Republic of Armenia General Prosecutor's Office released an explanation on 14th February 2011 on the corruption allegation mentioned in a cable. The explanation in the official press release is contradicted by information on reports of Armenian investigative journalists and TIP reports published by the U.S. Department of State.

Concerning the information given to the US diplomats by the prostitutes that the employee of the RA General Prosecutor’s Office A. Yeremyan committed violations, it is informed that at that time the RA Prosecutor General tasked to conduct investigation, a interdepartmental committee was formed and all the appeals were checked which were not confirmed based on the conclusions of the interdepartmental committee and the results of the investigation.

The 'violations' mentioned above are mentioned in the cable 06YEREVAN1091, which was written in 2006. This assertion about the 'investigation' against complicity of an official A.Yeremyan has been proven to be false ever since 2006, the year the incident occurred, mainly by the Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP) published annually by the U.S. Department of State. The following are evidences that the General Prosecutor's Office did nothing meaningful on the allegation in 2006 until this day:

2006 TIP report:
The government failed to vigorously investigate and prosecute ongoing and widespread allegations of public officials' complicity in trafficking. Victim-blaming and lack of sensitivity for victims remain a problem among Armenian officials, particularly in the judiciary.

2007 TIP report:
In the first of two notable cases of official corruption during the reporting period, the government conducted an inadequate investigation of a senior investigator in the Prosecutor General's anti-trafficking unit, formally concluded that he did nothing wrong, eventually transferred him out of the unit, and demoted him.

2008 TIP report:
While the government elevated anti-trafficking responsibilities to the ministerial level, adopted a new National Action Plan, and drafted a National Referral Mechanism, it has yet to show tangible progress in identifying and protecting victims or in tackling trafficking complicity of government officials. … The Armenian government made some notable improvements in its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, but it failed to demonstrate evidence of investigations, prosecutions, convictions, and sentences of officials complicit in trafficking.

2009 TIP report:
In December 2008, the government reopened its investigation into a well-documented 2006 case in which a convicted trafficker was released from prison and escaped the country allegedly with the assistance of various government officials; this was an important step forward and results of this investigation warrant future monitoring.

2010 TIP report:
The Armenian government increased its overall law enforcement efforts against human trafficking during the reporting period, however, it did not demonstrate efforts to prosecute cases linked to previous allegations of government officials’ complicity.
Although there were no new reports of government officials’ complicity in trafficking over the last year, the government demonstrated only modest progress in the reopened investigation of a well-documented 2006 corruption case.

The US embassy has known that Prosecutor General Aghvan Hovsepyan and his investigators are guilty: "Basic facts are accurate"

In 06YEREVAN1091, the cable mentioned in the official press release from the Office in February, ambassador Evans vividly describes the culture of immunity and rampant power abuse in the prosecution of Armenia. Two victims of sex trafficking, Madoyan and Mkrtchyan accused two investigators under Hovsepyan, Aristakes Yeremyan and Armen Gasparyan, for threatening them to testify false statements favorable to their trafficker that she owe less money to the victims. Madoyan claimed that Yeremyan punched her in the face in 31st June, 2006 and 'accused them of blackmailing the trafficker' by filing police statements. The ambassador points out the clear contempt and negligence overtly shown in the investigation process.

When the ambassador pushed this case further to the prosecutor general Hovsepyan, he answered with the Armenian saying, "May God keep us from the evil that comes from prostitutes." Hovsepyan talked about the victims with an amazingly frank contempt, saying that such cases are common and most of them are ill-intentioned conspiracy of prostitutes unsatisfied with the money their pimp gives. He adamantly praised Yeremyan and tried hard to avoid serious investigation toward the alleged violence and threatening done by Yeremyan and Gasparyan.

The ambassador wrote in a comment that although details in the allegation reported by the victims are 'open to some questions', they are 'persuaded, however, that the basic facts of the case are accurate.' He noted that 'Hovsepyan's performance was in character and betrayed the Prosecutor General's apparent personal attitude toward trafficking victims and cases.'

The governmental authority takes a significant part in sex trafficking ring of Armenia; without it, the 'industry' cannot endure

The real picture of aid granted by the authorities is in fact a major factor that retains the current sex trafficking network. A great deal of evidence in the works of investigative journalists strongly indicate that the scale and level of sophistication regarding the sex trafficking in Armenia is impossible without active help from law enforcement personnel. A series of reports mainly from Armenian investigative journalist Edik Baghdasaryan, who received 'Defender of Armenia Freedom Award' from the U.S. ambassador in 2009 for his works, show how the cooperation of high-ranking officials in the prosecution turned out to be a crucial help for pimps and traffickers.

One of the most notorious cases is the escape of infamous pimp Anush Zakharyants from prison. Baghdasaryan's report on the incident reveals how the high-ranking members of Ministry of Justice, the Prosecutor's Office, and National Security Service worked jointly to forge legal documents, delete criminal records, and release Zakharyants. This incident is also mentioned as the latter of the two 'notable cases' reported in 2007 TIP Report, which shows no progress in further investigation or prosecution effort:

The second case involved a convicted trafficker who was released from prison temporarily under a provision of Armenian law, allegedly obtained her expired passport from government officials, and then fled the country. Although the government made limited efforts to locate the trafficker, she remained at large at the conclusion of the reporting period. No government officials were prosecuted for acts related to the trafficker's escape, although the three top officials of the prison were removed and remain under investigation.

Another cable discussing sex trafficking in Armenia, 06YEREVAN1019, describes a local NGO staff member, Artur Sakunts of the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly, reporting that 'police actually help facilitate prostitution'. He talks about allegations that 'the Vanadzor police protected pimps and threatened prostitutes who wanted to quit their jobs.' Other NGO staff also tells about cases of 'police patronizing the prostitutes.'

A case study : Aristakes Yeremyan

Aristakes Yeremyan, the investigator accused of wielding violence discussed in the cable, is a prime example that shows how high-ranking officials in the position of preventing the sex trafficking may actively play important roles in it with total immunity. Although he was transferred out from the unit and later demoted, no investigation was launched on the alleged crimes committed by him. He had been reported in various crime scenes of sex trafficking through other incidents. The 'scenes' vary from direct involvement to ones that are related with larger scale corruptions.

Direct involvement involves the case in 2006 in which he was charged with receiving $5,000 bribe from a "reputed pimp" Anahit Malkhasian. Larger scale corruption network was reported in 2006 regarding his active complicity with a trafficking ring from Armenia to United Arab Emirates, which the U.S. Department of State's 2008 TIP report officially confirmed and deplored that the government does nothing about it.

Also, many investigation procedures on anti-trafficking issues in which he attempted to distort the testimonies from victims are reported in the Hermine case. In this case, victim Hermine Zakaryan tells her story about how Yeremyan released a trafficker named Yenok and bluntly told her to 'write a statement saying that she has no charges to press against Yenok'. She declined and gave a detailed testimony on how Yenok beat her when she denied to work further as a sexual slave after her forced 'payment' was made. Despite her testimony that he beat her in the back and face and stabbed her in the leg, Yenok's name virtually disappeared from the case due to the efforts from Yeremyan and other investigators.

2011-04-01 WikiLeaks Cable Vindicates Struggle Against Dow Chemical in India

ImageThose in India who have fought Dow Chemical are finding themselves vindicated as a cable released from WikiLeaks and covered by The Hindu on the political maneuvering capabilities of Dow Chemical Company surfaces. The cable illuminates a corporation hampered by its connection to Union Carbide, a company it acquired about a decade ago that was responsible for one of the worst industrial disasters in world history in Bhopal.

The cable sent out on October 15, 2008, from the US Consulate in Mumbai reports on Maharashta Chief Minister (CM) Vilasrao Deshmukh’s decision to halt construction of a Dow Chemical Research and Development facility until a commission can further review Dow’s plans. The decision is made in an attempt to diffuse growing protests coming from Indians, particularly Warkari villagers, who are concerned about the facility’s construction in Pune.

Deshmukh travels to London to make the announcement that construction will be halted for at least thirty days. He announces the formation of a committee to be headed by a former High Court judge who can look into the Warkaris’ contentions. The committee is tasked with producing a report on what Maharashtra state officials should do next in regards to the Dow facility.

Dow informs the US Consulate that “three major groups” are responsible for hampering the corporation’s planned operations. NGOs and activists involved in a campaign for justice on behalf of victims of the Bhopal tragedy (that have targeted Dow since it purchased Union Carbide), a faction led by local Shiv Sena Member of Parliament Shivajirao Adilrao Patil (who has met with Dow several times but continues to “stir up trouble” and lead protests), and a religious sect, the Warkaris, who worship at a river shrine not far from the site and believe Dow will dispose of chemicals that will pollute the groundwater and river they “revere.”

Warkari religious leaders have met with Union Minister of Agriculture Sharad Pawar, who is from Maharashtra. Pawar dismissed their complaints saying “Dow is a good company” and the Warkaris “should not interfere in the industrial policies of the state.” The Warkaris publicly denounced Pawar’s connection to Dow and threatened to protest during the Commonwealth Youth Games planned for Pune in October. Pawar then asked Deskmukh to stop construction and review “charges” from villagers with a “second state-appointed commission.”

Political opportunism is on display as Patil postures himself as someone who can help Dow handle the protests. Patil met Dow’s CEO in July 2008 and stressed the need for Dow to use a public relations agency to explain the project to the villagers. However, Patil states the company didn’t listen, relied on police, began work on the site in spite of a growing backlash and that’s why Warkaris started to protest and then burned a Dow vehicle.

In October, according to the US diplomat who wrote the cable, Patil’s attitude is for the most part unchanged:

Patil reassured the CG that the safety of any American or Indian working for Dow will not be compromised. However, the strong police presence is focusing anger at Dow, and the situation could get out of control. He advised that Dow should go slow for now and reduce the police presence, and work harder to convince villagers that the facility is truly a research and development facility. He still thought that Dow should hire a public relations agency like the one that the local company Bharat Forge hired when it ran into problems, and give donations to local villagers to resolve the situation.

Patil is an operator. “Three months ago” he recommended a person to Dow, who could work as a “public relations specialist” for $20,000 USD per month. Dow’s Head of Corporate Affairs, Rakesh Chitkara, tells Folmsbee about this development and also describes hiring “a number of local villagers for construction projects.” Dow has also helped to “refurbish” a local school, expand water services and a number of other public works projects requested by the local village council with the hope that they can buy support of village leaders and further diffuse protest.

Charges the “public relations specialist” has to overcome include a belief that holes being drilled in the ground will contaminate the water. This, according to Chitkara, is “standard construction practice.” The corporation also has to address charges it will manufacture chemicals at the R&D plant. As Chitkara explains, it was “mistakenly labeled a manufacturing facility.”

Dow’s PR problem is coupled with individuals like Union Chemical and Fertilizer Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, who would like to exploit the company’s unpopularity for monetary gain. Not only is Dow struggling with the R&D plant in Pune but its plans to invest in a state-owned company in Gujarat that requires approval from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) hits a major speed bump. Paswan puts a hold on the project through the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers. He then demands “a large sum of money from the company” if they want the project approved. Dow refuses to pay. The hold on the investment project remains in place.

The cable on Dow appears to be nothing more than a report on what is happening on the ground with Dow. It is possible Dow expected some kind of diplomatic assistance from the State Department but the diplomat does not indicate the US government has any intention to intervene on behalf of Dow. However, in August 2010, ahead of President Barack Obama’s visit to India in November, the Times of India reported that the US government was pushing India to drop a Rs 1,500 crore demand that Dow compensate victims of the 1984 Bhopal industrial disaster.

For those unfamiliar, toxic gas leaked from a pesticide plant owned by Union Carbide. According to Amnesty International, over thirty-five tons of gas leaked out. At least twenty-four tons consisted of poisonous Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) and possibly other toxins like hydrogen cyanide, nitrous oxide and carbon monoxide.

In the days following the disaster, over seven thousand people died and, during the past fifteen years, more than 15,000 people have died from illnesses related to gas exposure. More than 100,000 have chronic and debilitating illnesses that cannot be treated as a result of the disaster.

Dow has operated in a limited capacity since the disaster and persisted in its refusal to properly address the impact the Bhopal disaster had on people. Dow Chemical is, of course, notable for its role in creating and producing Agent Orange, which was used in the Vietnam War. Veterans that have suffered health problems from Agent Orange continue to suffer as Dow Chemical asserts Agent Orange never posed a health risk.

On June 7, 2010, a Bhopal court sentenced eight people to two years in jail over the disaster. The eight Indians sentenced were former employees of the plant and were convicted of “death by negligence.” [Warren Anderson, American then-chairman of US-based Union Carbide, managed to escape accountability and was not mentioned in the verdict.]

A couple years later, the Maharashtra government is still “collaborating” with Dow Chemical. In March, Dow was invited to a business conference. Survivors of the Bhopal disaster protested. One member of the group Children Against Dow Carbide reacted, “It is shameful that the Indian Government is promoting Dow Chemical's business rather than holding it accountable."

The Hindu asked for Dow’s reaction to the released cable. Dow replied:

“Like all global companies, it is common for Dow leaders to meet with government leaders and officials wherever we do business and have plans to grow. It is also common for companies to discuss challenges and opportunities related to investment. This is an important part of doing business in any geography. The questions raised by you pertain to US Government's internal correspondence and should be directed to them.”

The reply was not surprising to The Hindu journalists covering the India Cables.

2011-04-01 WikiLeaks in today's media: Cablegate coverage

ImageEl País: Daniel Ortega, en la lista estadounidense de "los más buscados" (Daniel Ortega, on the U.S. list of "Most Wanted")

"Nicaragua no es una democracia pues los poderes del Estado están controlados por dos personas, el presidente, Daniel Ortega, y el opositor Arnoldo Alemán, expresidente, que no cumplen cárcel porque en el país centroamericano no hay justicia independiente, según un cable de la embajada de Estados Unidos en Managua. (Nicaragua is not a democracy because the branches of government are controlled by two people: the president Daniel Ortega and the opponent Arnoldo Aleman, former president, who are not in prison because the Central American country has no independent judiciary, according to an U.S. embassy cable from Managua.)"

Read more (Spanish) Google Translate

La Jornada: Falta el aval del Senado, pero ya votó Washington por Marisela Morales (The backing of the Mexican Senate is still lacking, but Washington already voted for Marisela Morales)

"Aunque todavía necesita pasar por la aprobación de la Cámara de Senadores, la abogada Marisela Morales Ibáñez ya tiene un voto: el de sus contrapartes en Estados Unidos. A finales de agosto de 2009, Morales fue incluida en la "lista corta" de posibles remplazantes de Eduardo Medina Mora, su nombre seguido de un solo comentario: "Tiene excelentes relaciones con sus interlocutores del gobierno de Estados Unidos". (While she still needs to go through the approval of the Senate, the lawyer Marisela Morales Ibáñez has already one vote: that of her U.S. counterparts. In late August 2009, Morales was included in a "short list" of possible replacements for Eduardo Medina Mora, his name followed by a single comment: "She has excellent relations with its partners in the United States government.")"

Read more (Spanish) Google Translate

(Image Credit: Dali Rău)

2011-04-02 Interview with Brandon Neely, former Guantanamo prison guard and Iraq veteran. "All these people on the streets that are dead...and we have a battalion guarding the oil refinery." (Part 4 of 8)

ImageThis is our first interview in a series of interviews with former Guantanamo Bay detention camp guards and detainees.

Several current and former U.S. soldiers have expressed interest in speaking publicly about their experience at Guantanamo: including a CIA psychologist, interrogators, guards, and medical personnel. They are disgusted with what they witnessed or took part in at Guantanamo, but declined my request for an interview, because they fear opening themselves up to prosecution by the US government, which required them to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement .

I was also told that many are afraid of being prosecuted for war crimes, since low level soldiers are often the ones who shoulder the brunt of punishment and backlash; whereas higher ranking officials seem to escape scrutiny completely.

Brandon Neely, has been a vocal critic of both Guantanamo Bay, and the war in Iraq. And he speaks from experience, since he was both a guard at Guantanamo during the the first six months the camp was open, and served in Iraq during the US invasion. In the course of his advocacy, he has offered testimony to the Center for Human Rights in the Americas, and appeared in numerous articles and on television programs, including a BBC program that recounts how he contacted two of his former prisoners on Facebook to express remorse for what he did. You can also find him, where I did, on twitter, @BrandonTXNeely.

What happens? You leave Guantanamo, and you are basically stationed...?

Yeah. I was at Fort Hood, when I left Guantanamo...I was at Fort Hood.

We go back to Fort Hood in June of '02 and then early March of '03 is when we leave and we are in Iraq in March of '03 to March of '04.

And, what was that like?

It was just an experience. It was just like you say, "War is hell."

As a soldier, you train, and you train, and you train. Okay, you train for war. You train for war. And, you've grown up with a military father. You know him, you know, 20 years, retired and him never going. He never had to go to war.

And, usually with training it was kinda like, "Wow! I'm going to get to do what we was trained to do." So, it was kind of like...I didn't want....I wanted to go. It was nervousness. But I had...when I left home like, I wasn't okay...I was leaving my wife and my kid...but I wasn't upset about it.

You know, you don’t want to leave them, but at the same time I was excited about going. Like, "Okay, man. We're really going to do this."

And then once you get involved in it, and once you really see what happens, and once you see the outcome of the, what the outcome is when you have to point your rifle really at a person and pull the trigger...or you look over and see this IED going off and you see the effects...then you realize that you were told what you were going to war for...and you kind of think, "Wow! This isn't what the real reason is." And you're seeing all this violence and all this loss of life and what it's really like...

...I think the violence is enough that it effects people...but, then you're put on top of it that you really felt like you were lied to. And, it's just...there's no way to explain. It's just like the lowest thing in the world.

And, you join the military to defend your country, and you are patriotic. And, you realize that you basically were lied to. The is no lower feeling than that.

I mean you I said was my main reason for getting out.

You know, even now, I'm not anti-American and I'm not anti-military, but...I couldn't...I mean a mass of guys that had been in 12-15 years....after getting out the military, around that same time, when they got back from Iraq. They were like, "I'm not putting my life on the line for this. I'm not doing it. There's no way I'm going back."

You say you were lied to, right? Okay? So, did you get a sense of why you where there? Or is it just a question of we don't know why? What is your sense why we were there?

Well, my thing was, if they knew from the beginning like...the first letter...lets go back a little bit...the first letter that I ever wrote home was probably two to three weeks in.

I actually had a chance to write. I wrote to my father, and I told him, "This is BS, pretty much," from the first letter I sent my father.

Then, you know, after I came back and years later...well, before I had went, I remember asking my Dad on the phone "Hey, why are we going to Iraq technically?" Cause my Dad follows politics.

He, like, "I can't give you a real answer. I have no clue." But, I just kinda blew him, okay...whatever.

But, I can remember going into Baghdad in Iraq thinking, "Okay. They know where these weapons of mass destruction are at. There is no reason we can't find them quick."

Then, like a year later we still hadn't found them. I'm like, "What's going on?"

But, I can remember going into Baghdad...early days in the war. I can remember going to this oil refinery...and there being a masses of soldiers, I don’t know if it was a battalion, and them being a mass of soldiers. I don't know if it was a whole battalion, but just crazy a amount protecting this oil refinery.

We had a hard time even as soldiers getting into the headquarters. So, where are we supposed to stay at. And, we're out on the streets of Baghdad and there are no soldiers.

All this shooting is going on and all these people on the streets that are dead and all this hell going off in the middle of the streets, and there's no soldiers.

They all at oil refinery.

I'm like, "What are doing to protect these people? When we are supposedly spreading democracy when all were doing is out guarding these oil refineries that is right down the road here?"

I didn't understand that part. That's really what had me like, "Yeah. I don't know if it's all about oil, or what...but I really got a bad taste in my mouth...along with other people.

They were like, "We're out in the street in four Humvees getting shot at, and there's a whole battalion of people at the oil refinery. Why aren't they out here?"

So, that was probably....that was the early days in the war that kinda made me: "What's going on here?"

What do you think the effect or the consequences of that kind of lack of common purpose...or just purpose does to a soldier?

The morale! Especially in a combat zone...low morale is a horrible thing to have. A lot of guys...It's just not like one or two people...

You know, there was like a lot of people going, "Man, what is going on here? What are we doing?" They were questioning themselves.

At the same time, you have to go out and do these missions. You have to do it. So, you end up fighting not because you are fighting for what you believe in. You are fighting for the guy next to you...the guy to the right of you and the guy to the left of you. So all y'all can get home in one piece.

You know, it's what it turns out to be's what guys end up fighting for.

Out of the whole platoon of guys that I went with, which would be about 41 people, I think 11 are still in the military. And, the other ones got out...I don't know if it is solely based on the war...but a lot of them will tell you it has to do with, "I was going back."

...and that's out of 40 something people that I was with the whole constantly with...not at the company but I was with them every day

You know, I still talk to these guys and the effects this...I mean just going there has had on their lives is like outrageous...

I was talking yesterday to a buddy of mine about it. We were talking one of my other buddies, who was like, 'You lose your innocence. You go there as an innocent kid, and you come back different."

My wife made that comment to us yesterday when we were talking. She is like, "Your facial expressions have never been the same." I mean it's just something little like that change forever...

I suppose that is probably pretty common for any man or woman who goes to war or witnesses war...


Do you think there is something particular about being in Iraq or being at Guantanamo that's different than just a soldier going to war and seeing what war is like?

Well, I don't know about Guantanamo. I think going there and actually you are in a war zone. You might get shot at and shoot back. You might even kill somebody. You might never get to see them face-to-face. You might just, you know, shoot what you got to do and go on.

Like Guantanamo you're coming face to face with these guys. And, you talk to them so it kind of get humanized. So you kind of see them as humans.

Then you start seeing some of the stuff going. I guess, at Guantanamo you would see it more first hand like. You would actually see the General and the Colonel on down there, giving his orders.

I guess it was more personalized. Like you actually got to see more of the action. I don't know, I just think that in general that war is hell, like you said in the comment earlier.

I think its already hell just to go to war, if it's something you truly believe in, but when you put on top of it, you you sais, you were lied to. It just makes it that much worse. And, makes you...

I know guys who were taking peoples lives, and they were like, "You know, if I really believed in what I was doing it might not bother me as much. But then you put on top of that...with you feel like you were lied makes it a hundred times worse.

Like, "Okay. Is this guy even fighting before we got there? Or, did he fight because he thought we were trying to do something to him ordeal? So, it makes it just like 10 times worse.

No. I can definitely...I can feel that. I get that.

Continue to Part 5 of 8

Brandon Neely Interview:

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2011-04-02 Interview with Brandon Neely, former Guantanamo prison guard and Iraq veteran. "He hits the detainee twice...right in the mouth. "BOOM! BOOM!" (Part 3 of 8)

ImageThis is our first interview in a series of interviews with former Guantanamo Bay detention camp guards and detainees.

Several current and former U.S. soldiers have expressed interest in speaking publicly about their experience at Guantanamo: including a CIA psychologist, interrogators, guards, and medical personnel. They are disgusted with what they witnessed or took part in at Guantanamo, but declined my request for an interview, because they fear opening themselves up to prosecution by the US government, which required them to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement .

I was also told that many are afraid of being prosecuted for war crimes, since low level soldiers are often the ones who shoulder the brunt of punishment and backlash; whereas higher ranking officials seem to escape scrutiny completely.

Brandon Neely, has been a vocal critic of both Guantanamo Bay, and the war in Iraq. And he speaks from experience, since he was both a guard at Guantanamo during the the first six months the camp was open, and served in Iraq during the US invasion. In the course of his advocacy, he has offered testimony to the Center for Human Rights in the Americas, and appeared in numerous articles and on television programs, including a BBC program that recounts how he contacted two of his former prisoners on Facebook to express remorse for what he did. You can also find him, where I did, on twitter, @BrandonTXNeely.

You said you reached out to someone on Facebook? Can you tell me what that was?

Yes. Shafiq Rasul. One of the guys who got shipped in through me. Actually, I found him on Facebook one day. I've been on Facebook since '07 or '08 or something. And, I sent him a message on Facebook, and we started having conversations on Facebook, which is quite weird.

Was there a social life between prisoners and the soldiers? I mean, you said, you talked to them. So obviously, you had casual conversations with them. Did you develop relationship with them?

Like, you know, we would work different different duties at the camp, so if I was on alpha, I knew who spoke English. And, you know you'd like speak to those guys in passing...having a conversations with.

I mean if I worked on another block, and knew who spoke English, and you would joke around with them and the guys. It wasn't just like me or was pretty much everybody that worked at the camp. Even the Marine General at time the camp spoke to them.

But it wasn't like you were sharing, you the time I know I wasn't... most people were still kind of cautious. You didn't tell them, "yeah, I'm from Houston, Texas or something." We didn't say anything like that. But, you know, we would talk. We would just talk about like I said, women, food, cars...whatever it was. We would have just any conversations, that, you know, a lot of 20 years old would have. But, you know, it was just casual conversations.

You talked about two experiences where you found yourself feeling...I am not going to put words in your mouth...but it sounds to me like basically your didn't sit right with what was going on, and you're in this position of the perpetrator and not the victim. So would that be a correct characterization?

Yeah. Exactly. It just weighed on me. You know, it just some of those incidents that you just don't forget about. It's just stayed with me.

Were there other incidences? Did you find yourself having to conceal how you felt...or where you able to express it...I'm trying to just...sort of...understand...I don't know...the kind of circumstances inside and outside for you as a soldier.

Yeah. You know, there were incidences early on too on charlie block, where a detainee refused to drink his Ensure [Commercial Vitamin Supplement Drink]. You know, the little carton of Ensure. So, I was working the block and it was the night. I happened to being working nights that night, cause we were still the only MP company there. So they called the Officer in charge of the camp at the time. I think it was the E-7 Star First Class with loops in it. And, then they came over there.

Well, they were like, "This detainee refuses to drink his Ensure [Commercial Vitamin Supplement Drink] can." The medic called them over there. So, what this guy can't refuse...

At the time...well at Camp X-Ray...I don't know how it is now...but back then if they refuse to take medication the internal reaction force team would come in and force the guy to take the medication or drink their Ensure [Commercial Vitamin Supplement Drink].

So they called the internal reaction force team...

That is so crazy by the way...

And they have the interpreter tell the detainee to take his Ensure [Commercial Vitamin Supplement Drink]...

It's like some kind of totalitarian brand awareness campaign...

Yeah. Well it's true. It's so true.

Well this guy he's shaking his head, "No." Like, he doesn't want drink his Ensure [Commercial Vitamin Supplement Drink]. So, the internal reaction force team goes in there. And, I'm like sitting there watching.

So, I'm on the block and I'm acting like I'm walking around. And, they go in there and, man, "POOW!" They hit the guy with the shield? "BOOM"

They push him up against in the corner of the cage...and they kind like...I'm trying to think of the best way to describe it, like...his right hand is handcuffed to one side of the cage, and his left hand is up there. He was kind of like, spread-eagled on the cage...if you can picture that. Kind of like he's on a cross, but he's against the cage.

And, the one man grabs his face, and the medic opens the can of Ensure [Commercial Vitamin Supplement Drink], and shoves it down his, pouring it in his throat. But, you know, the guy is moving his head...and its not even going on down his throat. It's going all over his chest.

Well, the detainee...or the medic looks around, looks at me starts pointing at me to move over to the right. I'm like, "What’s he doing?" So, he's like, "Move over to the right."

So, I move over to right. Well, I'm like, "What is this guy doing?" He hits the detainee twice...right in the mouth. "BOOM! BOOM!"

They take the guy down, hog-tie him and leave him in there.

So, I turned around. I realized that what happened was...he kind of position me and another guy I was standing with...positioned us so we were right in front of the Marine guard tower.

So, I guess, since we moved over he...I guess we were blocking for him punching the guy in the face.

Yeah, that was another incident I..and that was early on in the camp...within the first two weeks. I said, "Wow! Do you seriously have to do that? When this guy didn't even drink the Ensure [Commercial Vitamin Supplement Drink] can, anyways.

And, then later we found out, on talking to another detainee in bravo was weeks and weeks later: "So, hey know the whole reason he didn't drink that? He didn't know what it was. They didn't explain to him what it was. He thought he was getting poisoned."


The whole thing was that it could never happened, if they had the interpreter to explain to him exactly what it was.

Continue to Part 4 of 8

Brandon Neely Interview:

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2011-04-02 Interview with Brandon Neely, former Guantanamo prison guard and Iraq veteran. "Well don't worry about the video tape. It's taken care of. It's been destroyed." (Part 1 of 8)

ImageThis is our first interview in a series of interviews with former Guantanamo Bay detention camp guards and detainees.

Several current and former U.S. soldiers have expressed interest in speaking publicly about their experience at Guantanamo: including a CIA psychologist, interrogators, guards, and medical personnel. They are disgusted with what they witnessed or took part in at Guantanamo, but declined my request for an interview, because they fear opening themselves up to prosecution by the US government, which required them to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement .

I was also told that many are afraid of being prosecuted for war crimes, since low level soldiers are often the ones who shoulder the brunt of punishment and backlash; whereas higher ranking officials seem to escape scrutiny completely.

Brandon Neely, has been a vocal critic of both Guantanamo Bay, and the war in Iraq. And he speaks from experience, since he was both a guard at Guantanamo during the the first six months the camp was open, and served in Iraq during the US invasion. In the course of his advocacy, he has offered testimony to the Center for Human Rights in the Americas, and appeared in numerous articles and on television programs, including a BBC program that recounts how he contacted two of his former prisoners on Facebook to express remorse for what he did. You can also find him, where I did, on twitter, @BrandonTXNeely.

*Apologies for the first seconds of poor audio quality.

Listen to Part 1 of 8 here


Hi Brandon, how are you?

Good. How ‘bout yourself?

Pretty good. Thank you. So, tell me a little bit about yourself?

Well, I grew up in a regular household. Grew up with a mom and a sister. My dad was in the military, and he's retired. Grew up in a military household my whole life. Graduated high school. Didn't do too much for ‘bout a year, and decided to join the military year after that. August of 2000. Got out August of 2005.

What was your experience of the military like?

It was good, overall. I joined the military to give back to my country, patriotic, all the right reasons. I didn't need money for college. My parents could afford college and stuff, but I wasn't ready at the time to go. My overall experience of the military was great. The military was a good place. It helped me a lot. I grew a lot. I got trained, I just didn’t agree with a lot of the policies that were going on, so that was the whole reason I got out.

What were some of those policies you disagreed with?

After 9/11 happened, the military kind of changed. It went from a very family oriented place, to a…not stressful, but always on the go. Went from spending time with your family to staying deployed all the time.

But you know, I was as gung ho as anybody, if not more. I was ready to go to the front lines, and I did, you know, when 9/11 happened, I was ready to go. I thought, you know people really needed to pay for what happened, but then when I went to Guantanamo in June 2002, I was there for the first six months there at Camp X-Ray and then Camp Delta.

You know, being involved or seeing some of the stuff that I did see there, even at the time I thought, "Wow, this isn't quite right." But at the same time I kept thinking to myself, cause we were told everyday. "These guys are the worst of the worst. They're going to kill you. And, these guys were planning 9/11. And, these are the guys we caught on the battlefield, you know, fighting and killing Americans. And then, it was like, "Okay, so maybe they're getting what they kinda deserve."

And towards the end of that deployment, we were just kinda, and a couple of guys got together and was kinda like ah, you know, let's just put our heads down, go to work and when we leave there...when we leave Guantanamo we’re gonna just forget about this place and move on.
I came home in June 2002. Then a year later, little bit less than a year later, I ended up going to Iraq.

And the same thing. Okay, we're going to go into Iraq, and liberate this country...find all these weapons of mass destruction, do this great thing.

You know, we went there...was there for a year, then when no weapons of mass destruction. None of the stuff that we were told we were going to do, we did. And it was kinda of like, very I had know, just like, "Wow!" I was suprised. You never think that you'd be told to do something, and you find know, it's pretty much a lie.

So, you know, when I was in Iraq, was when I really decided to get out of the military. My time's done. I'm not going keep spending a year away from home, doing something that, I can't get behind one hundred per cent. So, I left the military in August of 2005.

It's more than you just leaving the military, because you do go do talk about your experience at Guantanamo Bay. So, obviously, something happened for you inside through that experience. Can you tell me a little bit about that? What happened for you?

Well, you know, there is a lot of Guantanamo. Most of the stuff that I know…that I took part in...I didn't have nothing to do with the interrogations. It was all basic stuff that happened on the blocks, or everyday dealing with detainees.

Cause, my primary job an MP...was pretty much as a prison guard. Worked from 8 to 12 hours a day...interaction with the detainees all day. I’ve always been real open and public about it. I was involved in the first incident that ever happened there at Camp X-Ray on January 11, 2002.

Where me and my escorting partner were escorting a detainee to Alpha Block, and he wouldn't he was like just frozen...and, you could tell he was real tense.

And, we took him inside the cell. Put him on his knees. Took off his leg shackles. And, when we started taking off his hand cuffs my escort partner went in to take one off and he jerked. I was standing to the left of him, had control of his elbow and his shoulder, and he jerked towards me. And. we started yelling at him, "Don't move! Don't move! Don't move!"

Then our are interpreters yelling at him, "Don't move! Don't move!" He did it two or three times, and the last time he jerked to the left, like it's hard to explain, but he just like jerked, and when he was like out of reaction, I just slammed him face first, and got on top of him...and as he was trying to get up...just kept pushing his head down on the cement, until the five man internal reaction force team came in the cell, and pulled me off.

And, they hog tied him, and left him there for...I couldn’t even tell you how long...I know it was a couple of hours 'cause when I left that day, he was still there.

And, I can remember coming back the next day. The next day, we were walking down the block, alpha block, and the side of his face was all scraped up. And one of the detainees on the alpha block was telling me, “Hey man you know the reason he kinda didn't listen to y’all because when we put him on his knees"...because at that time he still had their goggles on...goggles were the the last piece of equipment we took off him before we backed out of the he was like, "he thought he was going to be executed."

"When you put him on his knees, and he couldn't see, he thought you were going to shoot him, because in his country he'd known or had seen people that had been executed that way" So that's what happened.

And, I felt bad about it, but at the same time people that night...or during the actual incident happening...people were like, "Yeah, dude, you know,"...cause the guy I was with when it happened left the cell, and they were kinda, like, "Yeah, you did a good job, man. You got your peace (piece), kinda thing."

I was like, "Yeah. Yeah." But I never really settled with felt good about it. I was just whatever, kinda, went on with it.

There was a lot of other incidents, and one that really, really sticks out to me was...there was an incident on bravo block with a detainee named Juma.

He had I guess, he made a comment to one of the female MP's...I'm not exactly sure what was said...but, Jumo was kind of...I wouldn't say slow, I would say. Kinda didn't get everything going in. Actually, later I found out he had some mental issues that later have been dealt with since he's been released.

But he made a comment. I was in the back doing...hanging out with the internal reaction force team. I wasn't doing nothing. It was kind of a slow period in the day, and I was on escorting duties, and they got called to bravo block.

So me being nosy, and hanging out with these guys, I decided to go and see what was happening.

So they get there. And, they get briefed about a detainee refusing to comply. He made a comment to one of the female MP's, who were in here.

We're going to restrain him. And, we going to take out his goods. Like, they were going to take out his mat...and stuff like that. Just leave him with basic stuff, like the water bucket and the restroom bucket, and stuff like that...and his Koran.

Well they get there. They tell Juma to turn around and get on your knees. He kind of looks at them like...I'm not sure if he didn't understand or what.

The officer in charge of the block with the internal reaction force team... unlocked the padlock on the cell door...and didn't take it off. But when he unlocked it, Juma turned around, got on his hands and knees. And, when got on his knees and put his hands on his head like he was told to...but when he had opened the cell door...number one man, who carried a riot shield...threw the riot shield to the side, about three or four feet in between them...and he kinda like did a little gallop...and jumped up in the air and came back...on the back of Juma with his knee.

The other four guys came in there, and got on top of him...was punching him and kicking him, and while they were holding him down, they called the female MP to come in there, and they told her to hit him.

She hit him twice. And, then they tied him up, and then they stood up. There was just like blood all over the...on the cement of the cell.

Then the medics came in. They put him on a gurney and they ended up taking him to hospital that night, and he didn't come back for a day or two.

But, I can remember the irked internal reaction force team had to go with him. And, when we went back to our tents that night, and they didn't come back 'til late. I can remember them talking, we're all rounding them...talking and one of the guys made the comment, one of the higher ranked guys that was involved made the comment of, "I never heard my name and war crimes mentioned in the same sentence so many times."

And, somebody said, "Well, what about the video tape?" And, they were like, "Well don't worry about the video tape. It's taken care of. It's been destroyed."

That incident right there was really...No matter how gung ho I was and whatever...I was like that was truly, truly uncalled for. You know, and especially now that this guy is, you know, he was innocent. He's living a life now, you know, he's got a wife and he's got a kid. He was just in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Even that much. That was one of the things that really made...that was when I started seriously thinking about what was going on there.

Continue to Part 2 of 8

Brandon Neely Interview:

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2011-04-02 Interview with Brandon Neely, former Guantanamo prison guard and Iraq veteran. Joe Hickman said, "I would never have spoken out, unless I heard you first."(Part 5 of 8)

ImageThis is our first interview in a series of interviews with former Guantanamo Bay detention camp guards and detainees.

Several current and former U.S. soldiers have expressed interest in speaking publicly about their experience at Guantanamo: including a CIA psychologist, interrogators, guards, and medical personnel. They are disgusted with what they witnessed or took part in at Guantanamo, but declined my request for an interview, because they fear opening themselves up to prosecution by the US government, which required them to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement .

I was also told that many are afraid of being prosecuted for war crimes, since low level soldiers are often the ones who shoulder the brunt of punishment and backlash; whereas higher ranking officials seem to escape scrutiny completely.

Brandon Neely, has been a vocal critic of both Guantanamo Bay, and the war in Iraq. And he speaks from experience, since he was both a guard at Guantanamo during the the first six months the camp was open, and served in Iraq during the US invasion. In the course of his advocacy, he has offered testimony to the Center for Human Rights in the Americas, and appeared in numerous articles and on television programs, including a BBC program that recounts how he contacted two of his former prisoners on Facebook to express remorse for what he did. You can also find him, where I did, on twitter, @BrandonTXNeely.

What are you doing now? I came across you on twitter...and you have spoken at Congressional hearings...and, you talk about your experience...what is your purpose right now?

When I came back from do I put it? You know, I went through the whole depression phase, where you would drink, and you would just kind of stay to yourself. For years. For years.

It's just ridiculous. You never think, well it'll never happen to me, but it does. It just happens over time.

Like I jut lose drive. You don't do nothing. You quit working out. You stay away from people. And, it's really...that’s the way it happens.

So, I got out of the military in 05. We moved back to my hometown. I got a job. And there was days I was just head wasn't there.

I would get half way to work, and just call in and just come back home. And it was all wife would said, "What’s wrong?" I'd said, "I just don't feel like dealing with it today."

And then around 2008, you know, I would just talk to some friends ...and I don't know...I was angry at what was going on in the news.

I kept hearing Dick Cheney talking about know I remember him making a comment, "In February 2002 in Guantanamo, this was what was going on." And, I can remember looking to the TV, and I just being mad.

This was not true. He's lying. I used to always keep up with a lot of the issues like I happened to be on the Internet one day, and I was reading some article and I came across that UCDavid [University of California at Davis, Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas] thing.

And, exchanged emails with Almerindo [Ojeda, Director] from there. And, then over a couple of months it turned into the...put my energy with them... and which in return...they asked if they could give it to people they knew in the media. [He is referring to his testimony at the Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas]

But, honestly I never thought in a million years that it would have got the mainstream media press that it did, so I was quite surprised.

It's just, you kind of grew over the years...about me talking to the media and whoever...but at the same time, it’s really helped me too.

It's kind of like. I've met some good people. I've met some other Guantanamo guys, more and more veterans that have actually reached out to me....

Like you know, you've probably heard of Joe Hickman the guy that spoke about the Camp No with the murder-suicides? Like, I spoke to him right before he even spoke out. He was all like, "Dude, I would never have spoken out, unless I heard you first."


Wow. So, I was kind of like, maybe by me speaking and these guys are feeling better about they are coming forward. So, it's like this kind of like this fraternity of guys, who kind of like, stay close together, by doing this. But it has helped me.

I went to London at the end of 2009.

Then, did that documentary with the BBC where I went and I met up with Ruhal [Ahmed] and Shafiq [Rasul], two of guys from Camp X-Ray.

Then, I came back in December 2009, and it aired in January of 2010...and it was like...that was like my big push to, "Wow! It's time to maybe do something with myself."

So, kind of like it was a big life change event for me. I really got focus back into school. Got focus back on getting myself better.

It really helped me a lot. Like, I really changed. And now, I kind of went on the whole...I didn't speak to anybody in the media for it's been over a year, except in the last couple of months.

I was just getting my life back in order. But you know, I just want this, you know like the least my even mine story...but some of the detainees stories, and those first couple of months I was least let some people know what it was like in my experience...and some of the stuff that what went on. That's all. That's the only thing I was looking for at the time.

Continue to Part 6 of 8

Brandon Neely Interview:

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2011-04-02 Interview with Brandon Neely, former Guantanamo prison guard and Iraq veteran. "Because I've heard people say: 'Well I bet you wouldn't say that under oath.' Well, I betcha I would." (Part 7 of 8)

ImageThis is our first interview in a series of interviews with former Guantanamo Bay detention camp guards and detainees.

Several current and former U.S. soldiers have expressed interest in speaking publicly about their experience at Guantanamo: including a CIA psychologist, interrogators, guards, and medical personnel. They are disgusted with what they witnessed or took part in at Guantanamo, but declined my request for an interview, because they fear opening themselves up to prosecution by the US government, which required them to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement .

I was also told that many are afraid of being prosecuted for war crimes, since low level soldiers are often the ones who shoulder the brunt of punishment and backlash; whereas higher ranking officials seem to escape scrutiny completely.

Brandon Neely, has been a vocal critic of both Guantanamo Bay, and the war in Iraq. And he speaks from experience, since he was both a guard at Guantanamo during the the first six months the camp was open, and served in Iraq during the US invasion. In the course of his advocacy, he has offered testimony to the Center for Human Rights in the Americas, and appeared in numerous articles and on television programs, including a BBC program that recounts how he contacted two of his former prisoners on Facebook to express remorse for what he did. You can also find him, where I did, on twitter, @BrandonTXNeely.

I think that people like you have such an important voice. I am just so glad, and I am so honored that you allowed me to have a chance to talk to you about this. And, I just want to tell you keep doing what you are doing. It's just awesome.

Yeah. Definitely. I think like I told you before...I left. I refused any media and took a lot of heat for it.

But, at the same time I've told people if you would take pictures of me now...and go back to that BBC documentary...I don't even look the same.

I am working out. I'm look like I did when I was in the army now...I'm back to, you know being myself. I'm more confident, like, I mean I'm not nervous when I speak to media anymore. I know what I want to say.

Because, honestly, when all that stuff went down when I first spoke out I had no clue it was going to. I was by myself. I had a couple of friend, but its kind of like...well on the Monday I'm talking to these guys at UCDavis, and on Tuesday I had the Rachel Madow Show and Sixty Minutes knocking on my front door.

I'm panicking, you know? Like, I was panicking, what do I do? I am gonna be most hated man. It was horrible.

So, once I did all that and after I did the documentary then, I'm like, I'm never doing any more media. I needed to calm down.

Well, now it's like...after seeing how important it is, and how many supportive messages I've heard from people...just real regular citizens like, "You a lot of us don't agree with this, but we're not going to say nothing cause..."

I've heard from soldiers who say you know, "I would like to tell what happened." or tell my side of the story, but really Brandon, what does it matter? Nothing is ever going to change."

I really think that if something was going to happen, they are gonna be like. "Well. let these people talk out."

If more people would speak out...

I was talking to somebody the other day and it's like I've talk to a lot of people. I've talked to guards. I've even talked to some former interrogators.

I even talked to this psychologist one time, who worked inside the interrogation rooms, and so have other reporters, and stuff I've known talked to these people....and you hear their stories...but I can't tell in public what they told me, because I have nothing to back that up.

But, it's like, I know what they have said or what they have seen. And, I understand why they don’t go public.

Guys come to me, and they are like, "What happens when you go public?"

I'm not going to lie to them. I straight up tell them, "This is probably what's going to happen. This might be what happens. If I was you, I would get a lawyer, because technically we did sign a non-disclosure statement when we left Guantanamo, not to speak to the media , write a book, make a movie, et cetera."

So, that's a big issue too with former personnel at Guantanamo was that non-disclosure statement they signed. That you can't get a copy of it now.

We've tried to get copies. But they won't release a copy. But they say they have it.

What have you faced? I mean, what do you tell them. I mean you, you said you say this. You said you say that, but what is it? What have you faced?

A lot of guys are worried about it...

Okay, honestly, with's really split my family down the middle. I don't even talk to my extended family anymore. I almost got fired from my job.

People are asking, "What kind of comments are you getting"" I'm like, "Dude, like literally 98 per cent of comments I read I got from people were all positive."

I said you are always going to have people, no matter what side you are on that don't agree with you, and they're going to be nasty about it.

That's just a part of what happens.

You know, I'm always honest...and tell people exactly the backlash I have gotten, but at the same time I tell them, "Look, I still have my job. I'm still doing this, and it's not as bad as it seems, but this has happened, and you have to weigh those options for yourself. The majority of the things, don't worry about that. Cause they never came after nobody that has spoken out."

Have people asked you about Bradley Manning when you talk to the media?

Usually, when I do something lately like a lot about David Hicks and the basic Guantanamo stuff, nothing apart from that.

Do you have an opinion about on it *privately*?

Like, Bradley Manning?

I believe he became the fall the guy of the whole situation. Like, we have to pick one person to show the American people that were going to take down and it's going to be him.

Has the military said anything? Or commented on you? Or have you gotten any letters? Or has it simply been more personal conflict, like you said with you extended family or the threat of losing your job?

No. They've never directly say anything. There was rumors that well..they made comments we're coming after the non-disclosure statements, and some of the lawyers I had at the time...were kind of like, "Okay. If you're going to do it, let's do it! Because this is what they are going to come at you with, and you're going to have to get a copy of the non-disclosure statement."

I tried to get copies of it through various ways because we wanted to show it was illegal, and couldn't be held up in the court system.

But we could never get a copy of it. Nobody to this day can get a copy of it. Lawyers. You can't get it through the Freedom of information Act. No way.

But, they have confirmed that I did. That there is one in the first Associate Press article that was written about me. They did contact the Pentagon on the statement...and they said, "Oh, yeah. All soldiers leave there, signing some kind of confidentiality statement."

But they didn't go into detail about what you can do, and you can't do. But I know the day I left there, we were told, "You can't talk to the press. You can't write a book. You can't make a movie. Et cetera."

So, you know I even tell people: "I don't care if you are pro-Guantanamo or not. If you speak out, then you're just as guilty as me right now with the non disclosure statement."

"So, if they come after me, they are going to come after you too."

So, don't act like your better than God, because you signed it too," And, people are like, "Well it's different." I'm like, "It's not different. It goes both ways, you know."

Honestly, I'm not worried about it. If they were going to come after me, they would have already done it. But at the same time, I knew that speaking out that it was an option that they could do...but, at the same time, you just turn it around it give you a bigger platform...and, it turns around and puts the whole system on trial.

Absolutely. Yep. I kind of feel like a clean conscience sometimes is worth the sacrifice of whatever.


The thing is like, if I was a liar, you know if I was lying about anything, then they would have come after me. They would have come after me to make an example of me.

If anybody who was speaking out: If Joe Hickman was full of it...if any of these guys...or FBI guys...they would have make an example out of you.

And be like, "Look. This guys a loony. This is what we are doing to him. Look. He's a fraud." But they don't say nothing. They don't say nothing at all.

I mean if they came after me tomorrow, I'd be like, "Okay. Let's go ahead and do this." But, we've tried to like hearings in Washington like put us on...because I've heard people say: "Well I bet you wouldn't say that under oath." Well, I betcha I would.

But, they won't do it. You know. Just like, Joe Hickman, I mean, they wouldn't even...they didn't even do a real investigation about that.


And, he wasn't by himself. There was four other soldiers that vouched and backed up, and added to what he said.

But, they just want to sweep it under the rug and say well, "We don't need to go in the past. Lets go about the future."

I don't care if Guantanamo is the best place on earth right now. You can't forget about what happened there. You can't forget the history of it. You know we did this. You have to admit to it.

I've always said until we come out...until the government comes out and says, "Yes. This is what we've did done. We are wrong. We messed up. This is how we're going to fix it"...We'll never get over it. We'll always be looked at as, " Well this is what you all did!"

Nobody is ever going to start the healing process, until you know, you admit what you've done wrong. But obviously it seems like nobody wants to admit what they have done wrong, or what they allowed to go wrong...because it's not the thing to do. So.

Continue to Part 8 of 8

Brandon Neely Interview:

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2011-04-02 Interview with Brandon Neely, former Guantanamo prison guard and Iraq veteran. "It's amazing, there is a lot of former detainees that are on Facebook" (Part 6 of 8)

ImageThis is our first interview in a series of interviews with former Guantanamo Bay detention camp guards and detainees.

Several current and former U.S. soldiers have expressed interest in speaking publicly about their experience at Guantanamo: including a CIA psychologist, interrogators, guards, and medical personnel. They are disgusted with what they witnessed or took part in at Guantanamo, but declined my request for an interview, because they fear opening themselves up to prosecution by the US government, which required them to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement .

I was also told that many are afraid of being prosecuted for war crimes, since low level soldiers are often the ones who shoulder the brunt of punishment and backlash; whereas higher ranking officials seem to escape scrutiny completely.

Brandon Neely, has been a vocal critic of both Guantanamo Bay, and the war in Iraq. And he speaks from experience, since he was both a guard at Guantanamo during the the first six months the camp was open, and served in Iraq during the US invasion. In the course of his advocacy, he has offered testimony to the Center for Human Rights in the Americas, and appeared in numerous articles and on television programs, including a BBC program that recounts how he contacted two of his former prisoners on Facebook to express remorse for what he did. You can also find him, where I did, on twitter, @BrandonTXNeely.

What is powerful for me about what you just said was the fact know, I think that something really inherently good about being of service to our fellow man. Now, obviously there is a sphere a life that is certain cases if you just look at human history. But fundamentally, when we go to war with an unjust cause...and a dishonest creates essentially misery and destruction. And you go, and you...through a serious of events you find sounds to me like making amends, and suddenly that situation gets turned around. I think it’s actually quite beautiful to tell you the truth. I mean, in its ugliness. Sometimes, and I am speaking to you personally...maybe...this probably won't go in...I think that sometimes the worst things that happen to us actually...we regret them...but at the same time they make us useful, because we are able to be of service to people...and actually speak from a point of actually having been there.

Yeah. True.

There have been like so many responses I've got from TV. It's crazy the amount of emails or stuff I have had sent to me.

I think one of the best emails or comments I got was after the BBC documentary.

The BBC got an email form a woman...she was a school teacher in Iraq in Baghdad, and she emailed them and asked them could they send her a DVD of the documentary, because she wanted to show her students that Americans weren't bad people. That they do get along with Muslim people, and that they're not anti-Muslim and that they're not out to kill them, like some of the people, some of the soldiers were.

She said the way the some of the kids were being raised she wanted to show them that all people of all walks of life could get along. That was kind of like good...this woman is already in Iraq, and she's seen the show...but she wants to spread the message there for her school kids there.

It's like, "Okay, if this is the only person that sees it and it did that." I mean well that was good enough for me. I mean that was it. That was one of the bright spots of doing something like that.

That is so awesome. Totally awesome, man. How long have you been on social media? You connected with a lot of people through Facebook and I came across you on twitter.

Well twitter, I just got on.

I got on twitter for a reason. And, I hadn’t been on very long at all.

But Facebook, you know, I have been on Facebook for a while. Facebook was actually where I came across Shafiq [Razul]. It's amazing, there is a lot of former detainees that are on Facebook.

You just go to Facebook and type in their name and they are on Facebook.

And you see it's crazy how social media is contacting people. But at the same I've had people who've contacted me with messages or thanks...but also, at the same time other veterans, You know, "Hey man"...You know, there another know I've talked to a lot of the former guards, who have spoken out....but recently...I don't know if you have read the Truthout article with David Hicks, that Jason Leopold wrote?

The other guard in there, Albert Melise, who actually took part in some of the interrogations...he had actually talked about how he had short-shackled detainees...turn the AC all the way up...or turn the heat all the way up...turn loud music up.

He actually reached out to me two years ago. He was like, "Hey, Bro. Watching you and seeing what you're doing basically saved my life. All, I've done"...I mean he's never been to Iraq or Afghanistan.

All he has ever done was he was at Guantanamo for one year. But, I never realized...Guantanamo affected me...but not a much...for me it was a mixture of Guantanamo and a mixture of Iraq that kind of pushed me over the top.

To see the effects that Guantanamo alone has had on some of the other guards that were there after me. The effect it has had on their lives. It's amazing. I did not realize how much Guantanamo effects these guys, until they started to contact me.

But him in general. He was drinking a bottle of Bacardi 151 a night. He had no drive, nothing. And, that article was his first...where ever really said anything publicly.

But, he's just torn up inside...because he took part in that, and he feels horrible for it. And he's just lost. And it's sad to watch and hear him talk. It's just unreal.

Continue to Part 7 of 8

Brandon Neely Interview:

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2011-04-02 Interview with Brandon Neely, former Guantanamo prison guard and Iraq veteran. "Then Dave Hicks shows up...and you're like. 'Wow this is what a terrorist is?'" (Part 2 of 8)

ImageThis is our first interview in a series of interviews with former Guantanamo Bay detention camp guards and detainees.

Several current and former U.S. soldiers have expressed interest in speaking publicly about their experience at Guantanamo: including a CIA psychologist, interrogators, guards, and medical personnel. They are disgusted with what they witnessed or took part in at Guantanamo, but declined my request for an interview, because they fear opening themselves up to prosecution by the US government, which required them to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement .

I was also told that many are afraid of being prosecuted for war crimes, since low level soldiers are often the ones who shoulder the brunt of punishment and backlash; whereas higher ranking officials seem to escape scrutiny completely.

Brandon Neely, has been a vocal critic of both Guantanamo Bay, and the war in Iraq. And he speaks from experience, since he was both a guard at Guantanamo during the the first six months the camp was open, and served in Iraq during the US invasion. In the course of his advocacy, he has offered testimony to the Center for Human Rights in the Americas, and appeared in numerous articles and on television programs, including a BBC program that recounts how he contacted two of his former prisoners on Facebook to express remorse for what he did. You can also find him, where I did, on twitter, @BrandonTXNeely.

Did you find yourself talking with other soldiers about it, or was is a really solitary process?

Are you talking about during back then?


I had one guy I was real close with, because I was new to that company, because I actually volunteered to go to Guantanamo. So all the soldiers were there I was new with. A couple of us were.

So there was one guy in particular, we used to talk about...I used to talk to a lot. He had been in the Army about a year or two longer than I had.

He was actually the one that was like, "Hey man" know, cause they told us from before we even left the United States that the Geneva Convention was not going to be held in effect.

Well I didn't know about the Geneva Convention. I mean, they really don't give you this training on it. So it's something you think the higher-ups would, you know...

But, he starts telling me this stuff like, "Hey, this is the way it’s supposed to be. This is what you need to read.

This stuff," you know, "What's going on here is kinda wrong." You know, "It's messed up."

He was the guy that we, kinda like...okay...we should go to work, put our heads down, do our jobs, and when we leave Guantanamo we just gonna leave it like it're never gonna talk about it. We ain't coming back...kinda deal.

So he was the only one I ever really talked to about it. We talked what the other detainees said to each other.

About what was going on...kinda like not...kinda talking with each other about what was going on and what we didn’t agree with...but as far as talking to other didn' know you would hear people say stuff but it wasn’t something everybody talked about...a lot of people, actually at the time a lot of people in

Guantanamo when they were off work were either drinking alcohol all day, or just staying away from the camp as much as they could...just to stay away from that environment in general.

Was there any particular reason why you had volunteered to go to Guantanamo?

Yeah, as a matter of a fact had just came off...I had went to Egypt right after 9/11 as part of a security detail, where we were doing like protection for this General. And, when we came back...I was actually kinda upset that I went to Egypt instead of going somewhere you know, 9/11 just happened, I'm ready to go on the front lines and fight this war.

So, I end up going to Egypt it with like 15 other guys. Then...I was asleep one night in the barracks room, and they knocked on the door and said, "Hey, there’s a couple of deployments that are supposed to happen. Do you want to volunteer for one?"

I was like, "Yeah, sure." I wanted to go wherever I could go. I wanted. I figured, "Well we're fixing to go on the front lines. We're fixing to go do something." I mean, if we're going to deploy this fast.

I wanted to be of service. I really thought I was going gonna go out and fight this war. That's where I thought I was going. And, I ended up at Guantanamo. I was actually...when I found out where I was I wasn't the only one...but a lot of us...especially me...I was mad. I was mad that we were going to Guantanamo. I thought at the time, to go and babysit a bunch of people, when I should be out of here fighting some war. But that was the main reason I volunteered to go.

There's a saying, "War is hell." There's an aspect of the warrior life which's not civilized right? If you look at history?


So, you are in the army. You are a soldier. Did your understanding of the prisoners at Guantanamo change, and...can you tell me...if it did change...can you tell me how it change? What you thought of the prisoners prior to going down there? While you were first there? And, then as you gradually progressed to where you are at now, where you are actually speaking out against torture and Guantanamo Bay?

Yeah, you I am 20...21 years old going to Guantanamo. Everybody...I am upset about 9/11...and I'm like, I don't know what a terrorist looks like. I've always said, like, "What does a terrorist look like?" And, I didn't know if was going to be like some little green Martian coming of this bus or what.

And know these guys get off the bus...and you've got guys like Dave Hicks that shows up. This white Australian guy. That could just be my next-door neighbor. And, and you're like. "Wow this is what a terrorist is?"

But, you know, at the same time, you were told over and over that these are the hardened guys. But, once you would actually speak to the guys that spoke would hear them talk...I spoke to like Ruhal Ahmed on alpha block because I was over there a lot.

A lot of us did. You know, the guards used to work the block spoke to the English speaking detainees because when nothing was going on...which was a lot of the time...when they were fed and watered and stuff. There was nothing to do but walk around. And, we would talk to them.

I was speaking to Ruhal [Ahmed]. We'd talk about...we would talk about anything...from, like, women to Eminem, to Dr. Dre...which was the big music back then...going out to nightclubs.

I'm sitting here thinking, like, "Wow, this guy...I'm a year older than he is. We're sitting here talking about the doing the same things." Then he goes into detail back then...which he's later said, you know, now I went to, "Yeah, man. We went over, across the border from Pakistan. cause we was trying to buy pot. We were potheads. And we wanted to smoke pot and we were going to sell pot. This is what we were doing in there."

It was almost kind of funny. But, I didn't know. He was like, "Hey, you know, my buddy is on bravo block. Shafiq [Rasul]...he's like, he speaks English too. So we'll talk to him."

So, you know, you were speaking to a lot of these guys. And, you were hearing these stories some of the stories were like, "Man, I wasn't even in Afghanistan, I was in Pakistan and they come in and picked me up out of the house."

I'm like, "What?" They're telling us, they are getting them all from Afghanistan. Because you hear all these stories, and then it was kind of like you know, most of the time I would think like, "Well, man, these guys have got to be making these stories up." Because, there is no way that we are going to pick all these guys up and lock these guys up for no reason...if they're innocent.

So I started seeing them more...instead of hardened terrorist...I guess you start seeing them more a person.

Like, "Wow! These guys actually have families," Like, I can remember when Dave Hicks was telling me...talking about his little girl and his family. And I'm like, "Wow! You know, that was his main concern...was hearing from them...not when he was going to leave. He was like, "Man, you know, I hope my family finds out where I am at."

Then you realize that these guys have families. And especially when years later for me...when you go back and you look at it and you start reading about these guys and seeing where their at now, like you know these guys are innocent. They’re out now and they're free, and they have families and stuff. You're like, "Wow! I guess what they did tell me back in 2002 was right. And, they weren't these hardened criminals. And they're out living lives.

But they went through all this and look how their lives are.

And that's what kinda made me really angry. And made me really start, you know, kinda say anything. I didn't speak out for me to make any money or do anything like that. It was like, "Okay, maybe if some of us say something...maybe these guys...their story will be more believable. Maybe it gives them some kind of peace or closure for them. So they can be like, you know, not all the guys there, all the people there think or thought this way...or think this way now, you know, that some of these people are actually human.

You know it was one of the main reasons I said anything. That, that's what really got me going...when I reached out to Shafiq [Rasul] on the Internet...on Facebook...and, we just started having conversations back and forth.

You know. you find out a lot more about these detainees. They're innocent...that I remember.

There's been over 600 people released. It really made me mad that I was part of something that was so...wasn't ran the right way, because if you've got to do something with terrorism...and, you have to do something with know I think everybody would agree on that...but you can't just pick up every person who fits a certain profile. It's wrong. But, you have to do it the right way. You can't pick these people up, and torture them or hold them without trials. You have to do it the right way. And that's the problem that I had with it: that it has never been done the right way and it's not being done the right way.

Continue to Part 3 of 8

Brandon Neely Interview:

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2011-04-02 Interview with Brandon Neely, former Guantanamo prison guard. "It's not a right wing, left wing issue. It's a right or wrong issue."(Part 8 of 8)

ImageThis is our first interview in a series of interviews with former Guantanamo Bay detention camp guards and detainees.

Several current and former U.S. soldiers have expressed interest in speaking publicly about their experience at Guantanamo: including a CIA psychologist, interrogators, guards, and medical personnel. They are disgusted with what they witnessed or took part in at Guantanamo, but declined my request for an interview, because they fear opening themselves up to prosecution by the US government, which required them to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement .

I was also told that many are afraid of being prosecuted for war crimes, since low level soldiers are often the ones who shoulder the brunt of punishment and backlash; whereas higher ranking officials seem to escape scrutiny completely.

Brandon Neely, has been a vocal critic of both Guantanamo Bay, and the war in Iraq. And he speaks from experience, since he was both a guard at Guantanamo during the the first six months the camp was open, and served in Iraq during the US invasion. In the course of his advocacy, he has offered testimony to the Center for Human Rights in the Americas, and appeared in numerous articles and on television programs, including a BBC program that recounts how he contacted two of his former prisoners on Facebook to express remorse for what he did. You can also find him, where I did, on twitter, @BrandonTXNeely.

You've talk to your fellow soldiers, in Iraq, in Guantanamo...and there is a resistance to talking about it...or a fear of the consequences of it. And, I am sure there are consequences, even personal ones, like you said. Do you think that the more people that talk about it, the easy it will be for everybody?

Oh, yeah definitely.

Just look how that was five years ago. Or even since I've spoke out.

I mean look at the amount of people that have came forward: You've got Albert [Melise]. You've got Joe [Hickman] (and those four guys there). You got me. You have medics at UCDavis that actually, because they've seen an article with my name on it...and they've seen was was going on...they've actually spoken out to them.

You have a civilian contractor who was welding on Camp X-Ray who had seen some of the abuse with the internal reaction force team, while he was working there. I mean he came forward.

All these people have come forward. So obviously the more people that come forward. Cause there's always power in numbers. I mean you start off with two or three guys speaking out, and now you have ten. And, next year you have 15, what are they going to do?

I mean if they come after one, they have to come after everybody. There is power in numbers. And, the more people that talk and tell their stories, the more people are going to listen.

And the thing is.. a lot of people in the country want to hear it. They're just are not going to say it publicly, because they don't think it's the right thing to say.

Cause people are scared. My thing is. People want to play this political line, like, "You have to be on the right or you have to be on the left."

You don't have to do nothing. It's not a right wing, left wing issue. It's a right or wrong issue. That's the way I look at it, personally.

I don't like to get into: "Well I'm a republican, or I'm a..." To me, it's right or wrong. I mean, you're doing the right thing or that's it.

But people are worried about that line: "Well, I don't want to be called a liberal. You know, but ok. "Well I don't agree with that, but I can't have the name liberal attached to me."

Or, "I don't want to be known as a right wing nut job." Then you get these messages from these people like, "Hey thanks for speaking out. I really want to know what it was like then. Thanks for your support."

You know, but it's like, it's amazing that you hear even some guys from the military, "Hey, man. Appreciate you speaking out. It's nice to know that someone out there is still abiding by the oath. I wish I could have the courage to speak out too."

So, there are people out there. They's the fact that they have to do it.

I think the more they do it, the more that will.

I am like so...this is such an awesome experience for me. I am so, is such a pleasure to meet you. I really, really look forward to hearing more about you, and I am gonna keep an eye on you.

You too. Thanks for speaking with me.

Brandon Neely Interview:

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2011-04-02 This Week in WikiLeaks Podcast - Talking About the Anniversary of Release of 'Collateral Murder' w/ Ethan McCord [Update:1]

Update: An edited version of the podcast is now posted along with a complete transcript of the interview with Ethan McCord.

ImageApril 5th will mark one year since WikiLeaks first released the "Collateral Murder" video, which showed a 2007 Apache helicopter attack in Iraq. To mark the anniversary, the show's guest the show's guest was Ethan McCord, an Iraq War veteran and one of the US soldiers on the ground in Baghdad in 2007 who can be seen in the video helping to rescue children wounded in the attack.

In the aftermath of the attack, McCord's superiors ordered him to stop saving the wounded. He was deeply bothered by the fact that he was the only one interested in saving lives.

McCord recently appeared in a Panorama documentary. He talked about the shooters in the video being protected and not charged with war crimes, highlighted how the US had covered up the truth of the attack prior to WikiLeaks’ release of the video and juxtaposed that dark reality with the fact that former Pfc. Bradley Manning, alleged to have leaked the video (along with other material) to WikiLeaks, is being held in solitary confinement and abused and humiliated in prison. And, McCord said after the attack he could no longer justify being a US soldier in Iraq.

ImageMcCord has recently been going to schools to tell his story and talk to students about what it is really like to be in the military. He thinks he might have found his calling: talking to kids.

Here is a link that you can follow to play the podcast. You can also go to the CMN News page and download an .mp3 to listen to or go find it on iTunes by searching for "CMN News" and the podcast with Ethan McCord should appear.

Any ideas for future guests? Maybe, you want to come on the show and be part of a weekly discussion on WikiLeaks with the show's news correspondents? Shoot me a message on Twitter or to my email, which is


HOST, KEVIN GOSZTOLA: Welcome to another episode of “This Week in WikiLeaks.” This is a very special episode given the fact that we are marking the anniversary of a key release in the history of WikiLeaks and about a year ago they put out a “Collateral Murder” video, which is a video that showed US military and they were targeting and killing civilians in an Apache helicopter attack. A Reuters journalist and his driver was shot and killed by US soldiers from this helicopter then the video shows a Good Samaritan, whose name is Saleh Mutashar. He drives up in a van and ends up being killed as he is trying to save the wounded and he has two children, who are in the van who are also wounded as well. And then somewhat disturbingly there are soldiers that can be heard in the background cheerleading and making comments as they are firing upon these people.

Our guest for the show is actually someone who appears in the video and his name is Ethan McCord and he is an Iraq War veteran. Thank you Ethan for joining the show.

GUEST, ETHAN MCCORD: Thank you for having me.

GOSZTOLA: I’d like to begin broadly speaking. You can talk a bit about what happened in that incident, but I know you’ve shared a lot of that story [for example, in this Wired magazine interview] with people so I think with the most part if you know and are familiar with the “Collateral Murder” video you’ve heard a bit about what it was like so I guess more importantly I would like to know what it has been like for you in the past year to have this video circulating out there where people can actually see what it was like for you in the war and then to describe your experiences in that context ---

MCCORD: What you have to understand is this is just one piece of what I experienced in the war. This is just one day. I was there from February 2007 until November of 2007. There’s a lot of days in that time frame that are similar to this incident. However—When I came home from Iraq and the army, I had been trying to put this whole incident behind me. I didn’t really want to talk about that day because that day my whole views on the war changed.

I grew up extremely conservative in a military family and felt that it was my duty to join the military and go to war and fight for this nation. And, when I got there and started realizing we were killing innocent people, for the most part. And, you have to understand they say in that video we’re shooting civilians. Every person in Iraq is a civilian. There was no army that we were fighting. There was no military we were fighting. It was all civilians. So, you know there’s no uniformed people that we were fighting. That was the hardest part because you start to see these people that we are fighting over there are people who are trying to protect their own homes from us who invaded their country.

So, when I left the military and been trying to put this incident behind me—You know, last year I drop my kids off at school and came home and turned on the news with a cup of coffee and the first image I actually saw was me running across the screen and carrying the child.

Immediately, it felt like a slap in the face. I knew exactly what it was. Unfortunately, I had seen that image in my head plenty of times in the past. The first feeling I felt was anger that this was put out but then I started realizing that this needs to be out there. People need to see what soldiers are being put through, what the Iraqi people are being put through on a daily basis. I wanted to provide context for that video because it seemed that all these talking heads on the radio or on the TV were saying one thing when it was completely wrong. They had no idea what was going on that day. That’s when I decided to come out and start speaking about it, about my feelings, about what I felt at the time and that was why I started speaking on this and over the past year I’ve been part of many speaking engagements and have actually spoken to kids in classrooms to let them know the realities of war.

GOSZTOLA: Right and what has it been like and what can you say about how commanding officers give people who are in the military who experience these incidents – like how they actually don’t tend to want to listen to people who have complaints about incidents like this? What can you say about the need for veterans to have an outlet for explaining what they went through?

MCCORD: You know, when I was in the military, I never heard of We Are Not Your Soldiers or Courage to Resist. The military did a very good job of keeping those outlets away from us. If you wanted to talk to somebody, well you can go and talk to other veterans who are around the army post who are very adamant about this war is right, this war is just. So, when say someone like me who witnesses and experiences something like the WikiLeaks “Collateral Murder” and their view changes, you really have no one to speak to. You have to kind of ball it in.

For myself that day, when we had gotten back to the forward operating base I had asked to see mental health because I was having a hard time dealing with what I had just seen with the small children. I was told by a staff sergeant that I needed to suck it up and get the sand out of my vagina. So, there’s this stigma for especially in the infantry – You have to be thick-skinned and you have to be able to deal this. I mean your job basically is to kill people. You’re not there to save people, you’re not there to provide freedom and democracy because in the infantry you’re trained from the first day of basic training to kill, kill, kill. You know, what makes the green grass grow? Blood, blood, blood. That’s what’s pressed into you. So there’s no way to get to higher ups especially in my case the battalion commander for our unit 216 was Pat Tillman’s old XO and he had given us orders out in Iraq for 360 degree rotational fire to kill everybody on the street when we were hit by an IED including men, women and children. So, who do you go to? There’s no one there. And again you don’t have the outlets like We Are Not Your Soldiers or Courage to Resist right there for you to be able to talk to.

GOSZTOLA: Now, back in October—Well, actually I think it’s good to mention and you can talk a little bit about this. You actually with Josh Stieber put out an apology letter. What did it mean for you to be able to connect with some of these families in the aftermath?

MCCORD: First off, I think way too many people underestimate the power of forgiveness and, even though myself and Josh Stieber we didn’t pull the trigger that day, we were still guilty, I guess you could say, by association. We were a part of the system that was doing this to their families. And, we felt that we needed to heal ourselves as well as to heal others was to express feelings and our sorrow. So, we wrote the letter of reconciliation and responsibility.

From my understanding, a London reporter took the letter to the widow and the mother of the two children and she said that she can forgive me because if it wasn’t for me her children would have died and that was a huge weight being lifted off my shoulders. Forgiveness is an extremely powerful thing.

GOSZTOLA: And then in October you posted some video and some photos on and these were actually from Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry, the unit in the video and you said you were showing detainee abuse but the kind of abuse that’s not violent but the kind of mental, emotional and degrading type which actually seems to be less and less significant than the violent abuse. We don’t give that the kind of attention that many might say it deserves. And so, what I’m wondering is what went into your decision to release especially since you had been exposed through a “leak” yourself?

MCCORD: When I was in Iraq, I was witnessing these things happening. I was watching good men become somewhat of animals. And the dehumanization that was taking place in Iraq, of the people of Iraq, it was sickening. You know, again, it begins in basic training. You learn to despise these people, to hate them. And, you know I released these videos for the simple fact that I believe that every person should see what happens in war. The only way we are going to stop war is if people have to live it, if they have to see it thrown in their face—Just like the Afghanistan “Kill Teams.”

I believe everybody should look at those pictures. Everybody. Because, for too many people, the war is so far away and so distant that they go on about their normal lives and they don’t care about what’s going on over there. It doesn’t affect them. But, if you’re children are seeing these pictures and you’re looking at these pictures and you’re not feeling anything, then there’s something seriously wrong with you. You have to feel some kind of anger, remorse for what’s happening to these people.

We’re destroying these nations. We’re destroying these people over there. For what? Because I still don’t know. I served over there. I still don’t know why we’re killing these people. We were killing people for coming out of their homes, for trying to live their lives we were killing people. So, yeah, I believe everybody deserves to see what happens in war so that’s why I released the videos and sure they’re not graphic in nature as far as physical violence but if you sit there and abuse someone mentally for so long, do the scars not last longer than if you were to punch somebody in the face?

GOSZTOLA: And what you can say about, being somebody that has a connection to the military and for people who are in the military, if they get these photos and if they get this video, I guess, what are they dealing with when they decide whether or not to share them? Is there some kind of disciplinary procedure they can face for sharing this material?

MCCORD: Oh, absolutely —

GOSZTOLA: What’s the ramification for somebody that goes ahead and decides to post and share this widely?

MCCORD: Not only are you going to have to deal with the people who you serve with calling you a traitor and a piece of crap and everything else you know, you’re going to have to go through court-martials cause they can say that anything is classified. But, let’s take a look at this WikiLeaks video for just one second here. The video was released on April 5th of 2010. However, the entire incident was written about in a book by David Finkel called The Good Soldiers. So, they’re stating that this was classified, but it was already released back in 2009 through a book so how is it classified if it’s already for released? I mean, word for word this video is described in the book The Good Soldiers so yet we’re going to charge Bradley Manning for releasing classified information. Shouldn’t we also be charging David Finkel for writing this book detailing the entire engagement in his book in 2009? I think that this incident was unclassified as soon as it was written about and put in this book in 2009.

GOSZTOLA: You raise a key dilemma of when information on war ceases to be classified and it does appear most soldiers are not supposed to look at even declassified information because superiors will say it was once classified and if it wasn’t declassified properly you don’t have a right to know. What does that mean for people in the military that do have to process information?

MCCORD: You’re told to serve your country and it’s not your place to ask when and why and how. It’s your job to just do. So, it becomes an extreme moral dilemma for soldiers and you know a lot of soldiers they tend to self-justify what’s going on, what they’re seeing, what they’re doing. But, you know, here in lies the problem because once the self-justifying is done and you come back to the United States and you can no longer self-justify what you did, you end up having the problem like we do now with so many soldiers committing suicide. When the self-justification’s run out, you have to face your own soul, your own mind. Unfortunately, it becomes very tough to deal with and to justify what you did and so, yeah, it’s a huge moral dilemma for soldiers in the military. I know it was for me.

GOSZTOLA: My question also is wasn’t this video or some account of it released before WikiLeaks actually – That it did come up in the news and there was some account of it and it did appear to be incomplete and I’ve read an account that Bradley Manning saw—It’s suggested that he saw this coverage and he thought this isn’t exactly what happened and it raised an alarm in his mind and it’s possible that it had some role in motivating him to give it to WikiLeaks, if he in fact did leak it to WikiLeaks. What’s your reaction to the fact that sometimes these accounts are actually sanitized and what the impact can be on someone who has been involved in these incidents?

MCCORD: I know for a fact that incidents are whitewashed. Taking a look at the Afghanistan “Kill Teams” where they were using drop weapons—Many people in my unit used drop weapons in Iraq. And, we were always told if you engage and you kill somebody we’re going to have your back. This is the officer speaking. We’re going to protect you. So, you’re walking around Iraq with the idea—Many of the young soldiers had the idea we’re protected, we can do whatever because we’re the big bad USA. People are going to protect us. And I’m pretty sure that’s what the Afghanistan “Kill Team” was thinking at the time. You know, unfortunately in the military it’s only wrong if you get caught.

GOSZTOLA: In closing and going forward here, we’ve now expanded our military involvement in countries into Libya and I know that you’ve done some works with veterans addressing that need that they have. I know you’ve been active with Iraq Veterans Against the War and are very outspoken. So, I’d like to give you some time to talk about the expansion of our military into countries with little regard for the individuals who we are asking to be involved in these operations and also the fact of the reality of mission creep that can take place in these wars.

MCCORD: To me—and this is my personal opinion on the matter—You know, if you take a look all around the world, we’re the only country that has bases in other countries. There’s nobody else with a base or post in the United States or anywhere close to it. We’ve been branching out and putting bases everywhere. Look at World War II, Japan and Germany. Look at that we have bases in both those places there. So, Iraq is going to turn into a military base. Korea is a military base. So, are we going to probably put something in Libya? Who knows? You know, we only tend to step in when it’s beneficial to us or to our allies. And, you know with Libya being the large supplier of oil to Europe, you know it was in our best interest to help them.

I like that they say we are just aiding in this, the bombing, although we fired like what 122 missiles and Britain fired like two. And then they are saying well we are handing this over to NATO. Well, NATO—We’re the primary funder of NATO so again the weight is going to fall back on the United States in dealing with this.

GOSZTOLA: I do want to give you one more chance to talk about, before I let you go here, one more time connecting with children and kids on this and what’s it like when you are telling them this story. I imagine a lot of them maybe haven’t heard something like this and a lot of them maybe have a tough time processing it but they. I mean, I want to know if kids actually get it and appreciate hearing from you.

MCCORD: I actually think most kids appreciate it. Ninety-eight percent of them have no idea what war is. They play “Black Ops” or “Call of Duty” on Xbox but they have absolutely no idea that it’s not a video game. When you get shot, you don’t respond. When you kill somebody, they don’t respond. You’re actually taking the lives of people and you can’t go on about your day after you kill somebody like nothing happened. It lingers. It stays with you. And of course there’s some of these kids who are completely lost to the system, that are going to join the military no matter what you say. But, I’ve spoken with a lot and I, in fact, keep in contact with a lot who still message me on Facebook to let me know how they are doing, people who were going to join the military but once they saw my video and listened to me talk decided it wasn’t going to be the best for them.

I try to teach kids alternatives in joining the military. I speak—It’s not this glorified, glamorized job that TV and movies make it out to be. It’s a horrible horrible thing. And you know not only are you going to live in war but after the war you are going to live with and it’s just not worth it.

GOSZTOLA: Alright Ethan I want to thank you for coming on the show. Do you have anything that you feel like you would like to plug? Anything people should see? I should mention if anybody listening to this is in and around New York City you’re featured in a short documentary film that’s going to be screening at the Tribeca Festival and it’s called “Incident in New Baghdad.”

MCCORD: Correct –

GOSZTOLA: And do you have anything that you want to say?

MCCORD: I’m actually through that movie I’m releasing all my pictures of that day. They will be in that documentary. So, you’ll be able to see what I saw, what everybody else saw. It shows everything. I didn’t hold anything back in the pictures.

GOSZTOLA: Thank you again and good luck to you.

MCCORD: Thank you.


2011-04-02 WikiLeaks Notes: Parliamentarians question treatment of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks

UK MP quizzes Crown Prosecution Service over Assange extradition case

Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert has raised the relevance of the Human Rights Act to the role played by the UK Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in Sweden's attempt to extradite Julian Assange.

In reply to Mr Huppert's questions during a joint committee hearing on human rights, Keir Starmer, director of Public Prosecutions, admitted that the CPS "are bound by the Human Rights Act, and we are bound by our duties to the court." However, he added that human-rights issues would be for the courts to determine rather than for the CPS.

Impenetrable though those legal distinctions may appear in the abstract, parliamentary attention to possible politicization of law is significant where it appears that the boundaries between law and politics are not clear and stable.

Australian MP and shadow minister reflects on WikiLeaks, Spycatcher, and freedom of the press

Malcolm Turnbull (L-Wentworth), former leader of the Opposition in the Australian House of Representatives and the current shadow minister for Communications and Broadband, spoke to Sydney University Law School on 31 March about his experiences representing former MI5 officer Peter Wright, author of Spycatcher, and about the concerns and responsibilities the Australian government faces relative to Assange's own situation and to WikiLeaks publications generally.

Turnbull's recounting of the history of the Spycatcher case is both entertaining (Mrs Thatcher's dogged pursuit ended up raising Wright's profile and making him "very rich") and instructive as an analysis of a successful campaign against prior restraint. Turnbull draws a fair parallel between the judgement of the High Court of Australia in 1980 with the decision of the US Supreme Court in the Pentagon Papers case in 1971. He then uses those precedents to criticize the current stance of the Australian government towards an Australian citizen and the publishing activities of WikiLeaks:

The High Court was very clear in declaring that an Australian Court should not act “to protect the intelligence secrets and confidential political information” of a foreign government, even one which was a very friendly one and even in circumstances where the Australian Government requested the Court to do so.

I stress this point because it has a current relevance to the case of Julian Assange who you will remember our Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, described as someone who had broken the law by publishing the contents of confidential US State Department cables.

Not only was it perfectly obvious that Julian Assange had broken no Australian law (and despite the strenuous efforts of the American authorities there is no evidence to date he has broken any American ones) but the decision of the High Court in Spycatcher make it quite clear that any action in an Australian court to restrain Assange from publishing the State Department cables would have failed.

These remarks by the Prime Minister which were echoed by her Attorney General were particularly regrettable, not simply because she was so obviously in error from a legal point of view, but whatever one may think of Assange he is an Australian citizen.

More importantly perhaps, at the time he was being described as breaking the law by Ms Gillard, prominent American politicians and journalists were describing him as a terrorist and in some cases calling for him to be assassinated.

Much of the rest of Turnbull's address is taken up with a summary analysis of WikiLeaks' publications since April 2010, particularly of the release of the US State Department cables. Turnbull's reading is relatively conservative and in some places at least misleading. He singles out two cables as dangerous releases, one concerning infrastructure in other nations that might be vital to US national interests, the other the Harare cable claiming that Morgan Tsvangirai privately supported sanctions against Zimbabwe.

I am not able to assess the whole of the cable re infrastructure, but I have read the section on my own country, Canada, and it is at its most threatening ... amusing. Any citizen could have drawn up that list with a day or two's thought. It includes a list of border crossings between the US and Canada, for example.

In the case of the Harare cable, Turnbull seems unaware of the now widely discussed fact that the cable was originally published by the Guardian, and WikiLeaks simply followed suit.

In general Turnbull seems to have a non-professional's conventionally naïve faith in the protections and value-added that professional journalists claim for their own role as mediators in the publication of secret information and as gatekeepers between citizens and their governments.

For that reason, though, it is all the more notable that such a conservative spokesperson should be as clear-sighted as Turnbull is about the Australian government's responsibility to uphold and defend the rule of law, civil liberties, and human rights as those issues have arisen in Julian Assange's own extradition case, in extralegal actions already taken against WikiLeaks, and in rumoured legal actions against both, anywhere in the world.

2011-04-03 Support Eman al Obaidi: The aggravating circumstances of Gaddafi’s liability for rape as a war crime.

Amidst the cacophony of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Libya perpetrated by forces loyal to Muammar Gadaffi - which this writer finds unbearable - (and for which the command principle at least holds him ultimately responsible) including murders, torture, bombing and artillery destruction of civilian infrastructure and the like, the case of Eman al Obaidi stands alone as one of particular importance as well as nauseating repugnance.

Firstly we must acknowledge the presumption of innocence within the particular context of Eman’s allegations. This was brought to my attention by a tweet from Bianca Jagger who said on 28th March:

WHY ALLEGED? How dare the media question her veracity RT @latimes: Libyan woman who alleged rape remains missing>

I have the most enormous respect for Bianca Jagger and found her vehement statement on this matter appropriate on the face of the circumstances in the arena of probabilities but not necessarily in the arena of presumptive law. In one respect the presumption needed further explanation: the LA Times headlines clearly were missing some nuance in that their traditional headline using the word ‘alleged” implicitly acknowledged the presumption, but they erred in not commenting contextually – the probability arena.

The answer is of course is that the tradition of using the word ‘alleged’ in deference to the presumption of innocence does not of itself automatically raise a presumption that the complainant lacks veracity. On this the criminal justice system (and the media generally) are neutral before a trial: the accused is presumed innocent and the complainant is inherently presumed to be telling the truth until a court decides, as it must, whether the prosecution has discharged its burden of proof to the criminal standard, beyond reasonable doubt: whether the accused is guilty or conversely, whether the complainant lacked veracity in some form or other, which raised at a minimum, that “reasonable doubt” for a not guilty verdict.

We also take on board the possibility that an acquitted accused might still be guilty, which is one of the reasons that I rather like the Scottish additional verdict, (apart from guilty/not guilty) ie “not proven”

The presumption of innocence is fundamental to our western criminal justice systems, and is a human right in most jurisdictions, notwithstanding a howling and overwhelming majority of public opinion egged on sometimes by media generated moral panics, ie “Axe Murder Horror” which tends to ignore the presumption of innocence when the media name Mr X as “helping the police with their enquiries” and Mr X is a well known member of the criminal fraternity.

Can the presumption in any way be modified within the context of what can be characterised as a civil war? Well, yes and no.

The presumption must always stand despite a mountain of evidence for guilt which ultimately a duly constituted court of law – not the public gallery - must decide is sufficient or not for a conviction.

It can be said, and should have been said by the LA Times that the context of Eman al Obaidi seeking out journalists in Gadaffi terroritory at great personal risk (as was seen when the regime’s goons came out from behind their hotel waiter’s aprons and civilian uniforms to kidnap her) meant that the probability of the truth of her allegations was extraordinarily high or alternatively almost certainly true, especially so for what followed.

As we saw in the Wikileaks scoop “Collateral Murder,” by any reasonable interpretation of war crimes/crimes against humanity means the probability of conviction is likewise, extraordinarily high. Julian Assange himself well understands the presumption, being on the record as saying (if I recall correctly in relation to that video) words to the effect that it is a matter for a court to decide.

We can always say as individuals, and comply with judicial norms, that there is a prima facie case to answer, ie the evidence, on the face of it, is sufficient for a charge to be laid that is beyond mere suspicion.

By comparison, the allegations against Julian Assange by the two Swedish complainants, given the exculpatory sms/tweet messages and original narrative statements to police would most likely not pass a committal process in Australia or the UK, ie a prima facie case that would not pass muster.

The point I wished to develop in the case Eman al Obaidi is in the area of victim blaming. The bribes offered for her to retract the allegations in the meantime do not inspire confidence.

That offer reinforces the probability that there is, to put it mildly, even more substance to the allegations, if that were possible.

Victim blaming is a common form of rationalising criminality which defence lawyers such as yours truly see from time to time in defending clients accused of domestic violence. “She asked for it” and “If she hadn’t said that, I wouldn’t have belted her” are two not so uncommon refrains heard under client/lawyer privileged communications.

In the case of the Gaddafi regime, a not so subtle variation, in making the allegation, (the aggravation of a crime already committed to my stated level of highest probability) She is now being charged with what appears to be a form of criminal defamation:

A LIBYAN woman who claimed she was raped multiple times at a government-run checkpoint has been charged by the Government, a spokesman says.

"I heard that the attorney general brought her in for questioning because she is now not just the accuser, she is the accused. There is a case against her," Moussa Ibrahim said, adding that Eman al Obaidi offered no proof of her claims.

"She says four people kidnapped and raped her. One of them is the son of someone in the state. That is hardly political - the son of someone in the state is a human being," he said.

"Now the four guys are having a case filed against her because instead of going to a police station and filing a case against them, she went to the media and exposed their names. Now their honor is tainted, their families black-named, and this in the Islamic law is a very grave offence."

A few preliminary observations on that. Rape as a methodology of intimidation and as a political weapon in times of war is well documented as the recent example of Yugoslavia demonstrated. She didn’t go to the police first. So what. Going to the police first (given the predilictions of the Gadaffi regime for survival at any cost of murder and mayhem) would have ensured she disappeared without trace likely after some more rape and torture. Going to the hotel and telling her story to international journalist was arguably the one way, the only way that she has ensured her survival up until now ever since she made the world aware of her story. She offered no proof of her claims? Since when was it ever incumbent on a complainant to assemble a prosecution’s case Mr Libyan prosecutor?

“Now their honour is tainted” the regime says, a finding of guilt on Eman that indicates already the “justice” that Gadaffi’s regime will impose. “ A very grave offence in the Islamic law” which again pre-supposes her allegations are false. Islamic law takes a dim view of rape as well but as we can see here, as we have seen from recorded history, twisting religion for the benefit of a political cause, justifying the most horrendous crimes in the name of religion is a tedious and sickening familiarity.

Of course in a western context a false allegation attracts both criminal sanctions (if a demonstrably false complaint is made to police) and raises liability in civil law for damage to reputation. But here the Gadaffi regime excels itself in dishonesty, disengenuousness and reprehensible conduct. By charging Eman al Obaidi with defamation they clearly intend to intimidate her in retracting the allegations and if they don’t succeed in that, they will to the bitter end persecute this woman, blame her as the victim, using any excuse, including religion to further their cause.

Citizens from all over the world, let us not forget this incredibly brave woman. We need to keep her name and spirit alive in the public arena as her very survival is at stake, but also I would argue she is a symbol for the Libyan resistance to tyranny.

2011-04-03 WikiLeaks in today's media: Cablegate coverage

ImageEl País: "Los más buscados" por EE UU: el sandinismo antidemocrático y corruptor ("Most Wanted" by the U.S.: the Sandinistas undemocratic and corrupting)

"El gubernamental e izquierdista Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN), cuya revolución acabó en 1979 con la dictadura de Anastasio Somoza, prometió establecer la justicia social en Nicaragua, pero acabó siendo un movimiento corruptor, autoritario, que avasalló a la oposición y aceptó fondos del narcotráfico, según afirma un informe de la embajada de Estados Unidos en Managua. (The governmental and leftist National Sandinista Liberation Front (FSLN, Spanish acronym), whose revolution in 1979 ended the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza, promised to establish social justice in Nicaragua, but ended up being a spoiler movement, authoritarian, who overpowered the opposition and accepted funds drug trafficking, according to a report from the U.S. Embassy in Managua.)"

Read more (Spanish) Google Translate

(Image Credit: Dali Rău)

2011-04-04 Bradley Manning confirmed as a British citizen

ImageAs reported by the UK Friends of Bradley Manning, the British Government has tonight recognised that Bradley Manning is a citizen of the United Kingdom.

Ann Clwyd MP, spoke of Manning in parliament just after 10PM, a continuation of her previous efforts to raise Manning's case in the UK. On March 16, Ann Clwyd raised the question of Manning's treatment with Foreign Secretary, William Hague, during his testimony before the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. (The exchange between Clwyd and Hague appears in the last several minutes here.). The next day, Ann Clwyd formally requested during Business Questions in the Commons that a debate be held on the conditions of Manning's detention. She explicitly compared Manning's treatment to that "meted out" to prisoners at Guantanamo.

Tonight she was answered by Henry Bellingham MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who, while defending the US “effective and robust judicial system,” and stressing the limitations of UK involvement, also noted some very important points:

  • Human rights is “an irreducible core” of UK foreign policy and an essential part of that core is a commitment to the eradication of “cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.”
  • “The conditions an individual is detained in must meet international standards … this is particularly important in pretrial detention.”
  • If concerns are raised then, as a government, “we have an obligation to listen.”
  • Over 30 MPs had reported their constituents’ concerns to the Foreign Office.
  • On 29th March a senior official in the British Embassy in Washington called his counterpart in the US State Department. He handed over a copy of the “uncorrected evidence” of Ann Clwyd’s exchange with William Hague at the Foreign Affairs Committee, together with a copy of Early Day Motion 1624. This official drew attention to the fact that this debate in the UK now existed at the level of Parliamentary interest.
  • While noting that Manning's lawyer has said he “does not consider himself British” and “it is clear he is not asking for our help” he also said that Ann Clwyd’s “understanding of the British Nationality Act is accurate.” A child born abroad after 1983 to a British citizen “not by descent” automatically acquires citizenship at birth. Therefore, Manning is a British citizen.
  • In light of this debate he “would instruct our embassy to again report our concerns to the State Department.”

Amnesty International, has condemned the treatment of Manning, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture is investigating the case, Human Rights Watch has asked the US government to "publicly explain the precise reasons behind extremely restrictive and possibly punitive and degrading treatment," and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a press release charging that the US government's treatment of Manning as "cruel and unusual."

Previous WL Central coverage of Bradley Manning.

WL Central action page for Bradley Manning.

2011-04-04 Nigerian Elections: Candidates, as Previously Revealed in WikiLeaks Cables, Still Register to Vote Multiple Times

ImageNigerian elections that had been postponed until Monday, April 4th, have been postponed yet again by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which is headed by Professor Attahiru Jega. From the INEC headquarters, the rescheduling was announced by Jega, who said since announcing the rescheduling several requests made to the Commission have urged it to consult more widely and ensure the two-day postponement addresses all logistical issues.

The Commission consulted with the Chairmen of all the political parties in Nigeria and decided the best thing to do would be to reschedule the already rescheduled elections. Thus, the elections, assuming no more logistical problems (corruption) get in the way, will be held on the following dates: Saturday, April 9, Senate and House of Representatives Elections; Saturday, April 16, Presidential Elections, Tuesday, April 26, State of House of Assembly and Governorship Elections.”

This announcement undoubtedly means a tense pre-election social and political climate that has already seen hundreds killed in what Amnesty International calls “politically-motivated, communal and sectarian violence” will continue to persist.

When held, this will be Nigeria’s third general election since military rule ended in 1999. The country has held two previous elections in 2003 and 2007. Both elections resulted in allegations of rigging, voter intimidation and ballot vote snatching.

US State Embassy cables from Nigeria released by WikiLeaks to NEXT, a leading source for Nigerian news and commentary, show a country with a political class that is fundamentally corrupt. Political candidates vote multiple times, individuals can assume the presidency unconstitutionally, and the country’s ruling party is primarily a sect of crony elites wishing to hold on to access to money and power.

A cable from December 29, 2008, indicates then-Vice President Goodluck Jonathan voted four times in the 2007 election:

On December 17, Pol-Econ [political-economic] Chief and PolOff [political officer] called on the newly installed governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, at his offices in Benin City to discuss his recent success before the Appeals Court and the challenges facing his administration. Oshiomhole told PolOffs that he was able to successfully challenge the decision of the Independent National Election Commission, which had declared the Peoples Democratic Party candidate Oserheimen Osunbor the winner of the 2007 gubernatorial elections, in the courts because of the help of unpaid volunteers. He noted he had roughly 2,000 volunteers, who had worked at 120 polling places, and seven graduate students, who had systematically gone through ballots, result sheets and voter registration records line-by-line to produce documentary evidence of fraud.

Oshiomhole told PolOffs that it proved impossible to use forensic evidence because of the poor quality of thumbprints and that claims of intimidation also proved difficult to prove in a court of law, but documentary evidence, such as proof that the "Vice President" had voted four times, for example, proved decisive in the courts.

Contextualizing the revelation, NEXT adds that the allegation that now-President Jonathan helped himself win by voting four times is an allegation known to INEC. A source at the country’s electoral commission told NEXT that Jonathan was just “a high profile example of the rife multiple registrations that took place in Bayelsa, Mr. Jonathan’s home state, where he had served as governor, and other states in the broader Delta region.” The source told NEXT other public figures had also voted several times.

Late Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua, as revealed in one of the Nigerian cables, bypassed Jonathan, his vice-president, when his health became too much of a problem for him. He handed presidential duties over to Yayale Ahmed, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation at the time.

In a cable September 17, 2008, Ahmed notes “Yar'Adua had asked him to take over a lot of the day-to-day Executive responsibilities due to his health, and the new SGF said he would like to come to the U.S. in October so that he could meet directly with senior USG officials in his new capacity as SGF.” NEXT concludes, “The 59-year-old secretary to the government, apparently ran Nigeria, performing the functions of the president, while late president Yar’Adua lay sick, unable to discharge his duties.” The news organization also emphasizes the fact that Jonathan was “blocked” from being granted duties as Yar’Adua was dying.

Even after it became clear that the late president had become incapacitated and would no longer be able to perform the functions of his office, the cabal around him still blocked Mr. Jonathan from ascending to the position of acting president, until the National Assembly and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum stepped in.

As NEXT notes, this demonstrates Jonathan was “illegally bypassed.” That he was bypassed might not be all that surprising if you ask former US Ambassador Robin Sanders, who sent a cable on October 24, 2008 listing out Nigeria’s most influential personalities. Jonathan did not appear on the list.

NEXT is not sure why Jonathan did not appear:

…Conspicuously missing on the list — which had Turai, the late president’s wife, members of Mr. Yar’Adua inner circle, some governors, legislators, businesspersons, regional leaders and traditional rulers — was our country’s vice president at the time. It is curious that he was omitted from the list despite being a person of tremendous influence in the Niger Delta region and presiding over the amnesty programme (which tried to get the Niger Delta insurgency to abandon militancy). He also performed his very important constitutional role of overseeing the National Economic Council at the time.

Finally, a cable sent out on October 19, 2007, describes the ruling Nigerian Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) as a political party that cannot be viewed as a party “within the common western understanding.”

“Like velveeta cheese, the labeling claims it is a party, but upon further inspection, it lacks key ingredients most political parties share,” writes then-Charge d’Affairs Lisa Piascik. She expounds upon this belief:

This is in large part a result of its history and inception in 1997 as a coalition against the self-succession plans of military ruler General Sani Abacha rather than as a political party. Even the party's mission statement and directive principles lack an ideological basis upon which to form party policy. The PDP remains an agglomeration of interest groups formed around persons of prominence and power which are loosely tied together by a desire to remain in office and maintain access to the "national cake" or resources of the state. The main networks in the party currently center around former President Obasanjo and current President Yar'Adua, although other lesser players continue to have influence, and a new network of former governors is gaining influence. When viewing and interpreting developments such as the scandals surrounding House Speaker Patricia Etteh and Senate President David Mark or the intrigues surrounding investigation of former PDP governors, it is important to remember that the largest opposition to the PDP continues to come from within the party, not without.

And, she provides a brief summary of the history of the PDP:

Early in 1997, as military ruler Sani Abacha planned his self-succession and transformation into a civilian president, a group of 18 prominent northern politicians (later known as the G-18), some of whom had served previously as ministers under Abacha, came together to oppose Abacha's continued leadership. Southern politicians then joined in the opposition and the group came to number 34 members (G-34). With the 1998 death of Abacha and dissolution of the five parties his regime had established, the G-34 movement was uniquely positioned to form a new political party because of its already existing loose coalition and structure. As the movement declared its political ambitions, it was joined by several strongly pro-Abacha officials, a group of retired army generals, and several other smaller political associations. The new "party" was divided from the start along these lines. The PDP Mission statement and Directive Principles reflect the lack of any ideological consensus and call simply for the creation of a dynamic economy and democratic society.

The PDP’s history is possibly why, at the end of President Obasanjo’s presidency in May 2007 he “had completely taken over the organizational machinery of the PDP” and was “making all major decisions on membership, candidates and matters of party structure, including amendments to the PDP Constitution in December 2006 which virtually guaranteed him Chairmanship of the Board of Trustees.”

“The lack of internal democracy in the party has continued and was particularly evident in the lead-up to the 2007 elections and the selection of party candidates for state and national office,” concludes Piascik. “The PDP as a party remains fractious and bound only by the desires of those within it to maintain their seat of power and access to the nation's resources. The factions (or networks) within the party, overseen by highly placed "godfathers," are fluid and continue to evolve and change.”

As of 2010, Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer indicated that Nigeria suffered from a high level of corruption. Fifty percent or more respondents reported having to pay bribes when in contact with customs, education, judiciary, land-related services, medical services, police, registry and permit services, tax authorities and utilities. When asked how they thought the level of corruption had changed in the past three years, seventy-three percent said it increased. And, when asked to determine on a scale of 1-5 (5 being “extremely corrupt”) how corrupt institutions in Nigeria are, the results were a 4.5 for political parties, 4.2 for parliament/legislature, 3.5 for the judiciary, and 3.3 for public officials and civil servants in government.

Shell Oil Corporation continues to hold a grip over Nigeria. This revelation was one of the first revelations to come out of Cablegate. Recall, in December it was found out through a cable that the Government of Nigeria often “forgets” (or possibly doesn’t know) that Shell has people in “all the relevant ministries” and “access to everything” done in those ministries. That, in addition to the newness of democracy in Nigeria, only complicates matters further as the people of the Niger Delta, where Shell’s operations are primarily based, are not happy as their human rights are violated. A number of Nigerians are willing to act out and have acted violently against Shell.

Nigerians are immensely frustrated with the postponement. Professor Jega of INEC has lost much credibility after he was given one billion dollars to run the election and was unable to hold the election on time and avoid a fiasco. More importantly, it appears some high profile candidates have registered to vote multiple times in the election.

Jega, according to NEXT, refused to share names but said that "high profile double registrants" could face prosecution if they seek to manipulate votes in their favor by voting more than once. In response to Jega's admission, a spokesperson for the Nuhu Ribadu presidential campaign shared his belief that "all of the offenders were in the PDP."

It is highly likely that corruption takes place and that the political class, in their jostling for access to money and power, deprives the Nigerian people of open, free and fair elections.

2011-04-04 US Policy on Yemen Shifts as Tear Gas, Bullets Fired on Protesters in #Taiz and #Hudaydah

By now, those following the story closely are aware that the position of the US on President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime has shifted greatly. A near-180 has taken place.

As announced last evening, the New York Times reported the “United States, which long supported Yemen's president, even in the face of recent widespread protests, has now quietly shifted positions and has concluded that he is unlikely to bring about the required reforms and must be eased out of office, according to American and Yemeni officials.”

A news alert from the newspaper continued, “The American position began to shift in the past week, administration officials said. While American officials have not publicly pressed President Ali Abdullah Saleh to go, they have told allies and some reporters that they now view his hold on office as untenable, and they believe he should leave.”

Since the announcement, suggestions are now floating around that Saleh is buckling down. Well aware that he has lost much of the US’ support, his regime’s police and security forces are stepping in to suppress protests that are, in addition to the increased violence and instability, largely to blame for the US shift. reported on violence in Yemen, “At least 12 people were shot dead and over 500 injured when security forces opened fire on protestors. The protestors had left the main square and were marching on government buildings. Witnesses report that gunmen, some on rooftops, fired directly into the crowd. Tanks and military vehicles have surrounded government buildings in the city (AP, CNN). Protests have sprung up elsewhere in Yemen, including in Hudaydah and Mukalla, in solidarity with the people of Taiz.”

ImageAbdulkader Alguneid on Twitter has been giving rolling updates on what has been unfolding in Hudaydah and Taiz.

He reported that shops in downtown Taiz were closed as youth in the sit-in square had asked for this in response to Saleh’s brutality. Then an hour later he reported tens of thousands heading downtown to Gamal Street to demonstrate their anger at the regime’s use of tear gas and bullets.

Hours after demonstrations erupted, three major demonstrations, tear gas and live bullets were used at a demonstration outside of Alhayah hospital. Alguneid reported the demonstrators at Gamal Street were marching to the Governorate building, which the regime was likely to suppress.

Near the Governorate and Central Security barracks, the two demonstrations turned extremely violent as snipers fired from roofs at the presidential palace demonstrators. The toll from the violence was reported six hundred wounded and at least ten dead (later the numbers were updated to sixteen dead, one hundred and sixteen wounded and twelve hundred victims of tear gas.)

A standoff continued at Hawd Alashraf with Central Security. Villagers came to support the protest. Alguneid sent out a message suggesting Central Security took the dead with them to possibly keep the official death toll count down. Alguneid also noted the Brigadier Qairan, Security Chief, is brother in-law of #Saleh son Ahmed.

A dispatch from Laura Kasinof and J. David Goodman reported on the violence from security forces and plainclothes government supporters:

Witnesses said Monday’s clashes began when protesters tried to march on a presidential palace in Taiz, about two miles from the neighborhood where demonstrators have staged the sit-in.

Security forces confronted the crowds and tried to prevent them from continuing to the palace, using tear gas before firing bullets into the air and then at protesters as others fired from rooftops around the protest route, witnesses said.

The Associated Press, citing witnesses reached by telephone, said some protesters had been trampled by fleeing crowds.

“There were people dressed in both soldier uniforms and civilian clothes shooting live bullets from rooftops,” said Abdul Habib al-Qadasy, 47, an engineer who was at the protest in Taiz.

The description of the violence resembled a violent crackdown in the capital, Sana, two weeks ago, when snipers linked to the government fired from buildings in an effort to prevent protesters from marching. More than 50 people were killed.

The state news agency in Yemen suggested what happened was government supporters had clashed with protesters. This had affected 4 policemen. They also claimed protesters tried to enter the governorate after throwing stones, which forced police to open fire.

President Saleh met with people in the Ans district and Dhamar city the day of the violence. Those he gathered are likely members of a dwindling group of loyal supporters. They renewed their commitment to constitutional legitimacy and expressed their rejection of sabotage and chaos in Yemen. And those meeting Saleh also called on the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) calling for a transition from power to return to dialogue to end the crises in the country.

It’s hard to discern exactly how long Saleh has before he falls, whether he can maneuver security and military forces in some manner and preserve power, if the US will step up its intervention in the situation beyond shifting policy, and how this will impact the US global war on terror operations that Saleh has been providing political cover to for years now.

Gregory Johnsen, top Yemen expert, writes:

We should be clear, both scenarios - Salih leaving or staying - are potentially dangerous for US national security, which is one of the reasons the Obama administration is so hesitant to withdraw its support from Salih.

If Salih leaves the US is worried that the next government won't be as willing to meet US requests in fighting al-Qaeda as Salih has been in the past 14 months (because when journalists talk about Salih being an ally of the US in the war against AQAP this is the period they are referring to).

If, on the other hand, Salih stays, in the current environment it would likely take him several months to reassert control over much of the country that he has lost in recent weeks if he ever could, meaning that AQAP would not be as opposed as it has been. Salih has often been mocked as the "mayor of Sanaa," a snide journalistic and diplomatic remark that often betrays more about the speaker's lack of knowledge about Yemen than it does Salih's authority.

But if he stays, this description could very well turn out to be true, and for a US that worries that if AQAP isn't under any pressure it will be free to plan and launch attacks on the US such a scenario is rightly frightening. (Personally, I don't believe that even if Salih remains throughout this term - an outcome I believe is unlikely - he will ever be able to reassert control over the whole of Yemen).

So that is where the US is at in Yemen: two bad options.

There will be real limits to what the US can push for in Yemen. (Shouldn’t there be?)

What role should the US play moving forward? Or is stepping out of the way by making this shift public and then letting the Yemeni people confront the regime best for the people of Yemen?

That may be impossible to answer right now. And, unfortunately, if Yemenis want the US to help topple Saleh, that is likely out of the question given the Libyan intervention that was just launched.

2011-04-04 WikiLeaks Notes: UK Parliament to debate treatment of Bradley Manning

ImageAt the end of today's sitting, the UK Parliament at Westminster will debate the treatment of Bradley Manning, a debate that will be opened by Ann Clwyd (Labour-Cynon Valley).

Clwyd has raised Manning's plight and the concern for him of her constituents in Wales before in committee and in the Commons, and has received considered and relatively positive responses from both the foreign secretary and the leader in the Commons, as we reported here. Manning's mother is a Welsh citizen of the UK.

No time is given for the start of the debate. It is scheduled to go on until 10:30 pm or for half an hour, whichever is later.

Via @GregMitch on Twitter.

2011-04-04 WikiLeaks in today's media: Cablegate coverage

ImageEl País: La corrupción policial en Ecuador es generalizada (Police corruption is widespread in Ecuador)

"La corrupción "es generalizada" en las filas de la Policía Nacional de Ecuador y quien fuera su comandante, Jaime Aquilino Hurtado, utilizó su poder como la máxima autoridad del cuerpo para extorsionar, acumulando así dinero y propiedades, facilitar el tráfico de personas y obstruir las investigaciones contra compañeros corruptos. (Corruption is widespread "in the ranks of the National Police of Ecuador and who was their commander, Jaime Aquilino Hurtado, who used his power as the ultimate authority to extort the police, accumulating money and property, to facilitate the trafficking and to obstruct investigations against corrupt colleagues.)"

Read more (Spanish) Google Translate

El País: El fiasco de las pruebas de la CIA (The fiasco of the CIA evidence)

"El CD Rom facilitado por Microsoft Corporation a la CIA con los correos electrónicos de varios sospechosos de enviar desde España suicidas a Irak contenía información explosiva, pero en los tribunales españoles no sirvió de nada. (The CD Rom supplied by Microsoft Corporation to the CIA with the emails of several suspected suicide bombers sent from Spain to Iraq containing explosive information, but in the Spanish courts to no avail.)"

Read more (Spanish) Google Translate

La Jornada: EU dudaba de la viabilidad del PRI (U.S. had doubts about the viability of the PRI)

"Frente a la debacle de su partido en 2006, el ex presidente Luis Echeverría Álvarez dijo que su partido, el Revolucionario Institucional, debía cambiar de nombre. No hizo la propuesta, que se sepa, en las instancias adecuadas del tricolor, sino en un desayuno con personal de la embajada de Estados Unidos en México (cable 06MEXICO3196). (Faced with the debacle of his party in 2006, former President Luis Echeverria Alvarez said that his party, the PRI, should be renamed. He did not make ​​the proposal, as far as it is known, in the appropriate instances of the party, but at a breakfast with staff from the U.S. embassy in Mexico (cable 06MEXICO3196).)"

Read more (Spanish) Google Translate

La Jornada: PRI y PAN pactaron erosionar el apoyo a AMLO en 2006: Espino (PRI and PAN agreed on eroding support for Andrés Manuel López Obrador in 2006: Manuel Espino)

"Los primeros asombrados fueron los estadunidenses. Citaron así las palabras de Manuel Espino, presidente nacional del PAN, a dos meses de los comicios de 2006: “Añadió –sorprendentemente– que había hablado con Roberto Madrazo, candidato del PRI, y los dos acordaron enfocar sus respectivas energías para erosionar el apoyo a Andrés Manuel López Obrador” (cable 06MEXICO2409). (The first amazed were the Americans. They cited the words of Manuel Espino, national president of PAN, two months after the 2006 elections: "He said, surprisingly, that he had talked to Roberto Madrazo, the PRI candidate, and the two agreed on focusing their energy to erode support for Andrés Manuel López Obrador (06MEXICO2409 cable).)"

Read more (Spanish) Google Translate

La Jornada: Rumbo a Los Pinos Felipe Calderón ofreció a EU ser un socio más activo (Heading to Los Pinos, Felipe Calderón offered to the United States to be a more active partner)

"Un mes antes de las elecciones de 2006, dos figuras claves del equipo del entonces candidato Felipe Calderón Hinojosa se reunieron por separado con funcionarios de la embajada de Estados Unidos en México para asegurarles que, de ganar el panista, México sería un socio más activo de Washington. (A month before the 2006 elections, two key figures of the team of then candidate Felipe Calderón Hinojosa met separately with officials from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico to assure that, to win the PAN, Mexico would be an active partner of Washington.)"

Read more (Spanish) Google Translate

(Image Credit: Dali Rău)

2011-04-05 365 Days of #WikiLeaks (Since the 'Collateral Murder' Video Release) #365Leaks [Update:1]

Update:The final leg of #365Leaks will be completed during the next hours.

April 5 marks an important anniversary in the history of WikiLeaks. It was the day that WikiLeaks released the "Collateral Murder" video showing a 2007 Apache helicopter attack in New Baghdad. It was when WikiLeaks became a much more prominent organization.

Following "Collateral Murder," WikiLeaks went on to release the Afghan War Logs and the Iraq War Logs. At the end of the year, it began to release 250,000 US State Embassy Cables that still continue to be released. It went from just an organization posting documents to the web to one that made attempts to form partnerships with media organizations to provide context to the information being released.

The year also saw one soldier, Pfc. Bradley Manning, arrested and eventually taken to Quantico Marine brig. Suspected of (and later officially charged with) leaking the material WikiLeaks would go on to release throughout 2010, Manning has suffered cruel and unusual punishment and has been deprived of his right to a speedy trial. Brig officers appear to be using "learned helplessness" techniques to wear Manning down and force him to make a confession that can tie him to Assange and the wider WikiLeaks organization, making it possible for the US government to expand their targeting of WikiLeaks and anyone connected to the organization.

If Manning is responsible for leaking material many have benefited from reading in the past year, he is clearly a hero. Today, WL Central celebrates "365 Days of WikiLeaks." We also call attention to Manning's inhumane treatment, which must come to an end now, and call on everyone sympathetic to the cause of freedom of information and transparency to support this brave individual if he came to the conclusion that information he had access to needed to be seen by the world so massive injustice and suffering in wars and under repressive regimes could begin to come to an end.

Follow this feed as @kgosztola tweets #365Leaks — to honor the bold work of WikiLeaks over the past 365 days. Tweets will come throughout next days, specifically: (1) 7-9 am New York Time on April 5th (2) 8-10 pm New York Time on April 5th, (3) 7-9 am New York Time on April 6th and (4) and, finally, to finish up, (4) 8-10 pm New York Time on April 6th.

2011-04-05 Netherlands foreign minister expresses willingness to extradite Rop Gonggrijp to US (Updated)

ImageUpdate: Rop Gonggrijp writes on his blog: "It may be good if we all take a deep breath and get grounded a bit here. There are no new events other than the justice minister in The Netherlands providing rather obvious answers to questions from MPs. I really don’t think the minister giving perfectly predictable answers should be news. There is, as of yet, no indictment. Let alone an extradition request. I helped publish a video documenting war crimes. My lawyers and me have absolutely no idea what crime they could even charge me with. If they indeed want something from me, the prosecutors are likely facing the same problem.

"So there may very well never be an extradition request, just a very long period of nothing much happening. Which doesn’t mean this isn’t something to worry about or keep a close eye on. But it’s probably not worthy of getting in a nationwide or even global frenzy over just yet."

Uri Rosenthal, Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Netherlands, responded to questioning from Green MP Arjan El Fassed by saying that he does not rule out extradition of Rop Gonggrijp (pictured left) to the US.

Rop Gonggrijp is one of five private citizens who have had their personal online information subpoenaed by US federal prosecutors in relation to the release of the Collateral Murder video one year ago today. Besides Gonggrijp, the five include Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir, US computer programmer Jacob Appelbaum, Bradley Manning and Julian Assange. The ACLU and EFF have been assisting in an appeal by Birgitta Jonsdottir, Jacob Appelbaum and Rop Gonggrijp of the earlier ruling that the government can collect their private records.

Rosenthal stated that Gonggrijp was being investigated for his presumed role in releasing the Collateral Murder video. Gonggrijp has always denied being a part of Wikileaks, but confirmed that he had helped with "business supporting the preparation of the video". Rosenthal disclaimed any knowledge of the current treatment by the US of suspected Wikileaks source Bradley Manning, but concludes that the Netherlands is open to cooperate with any extradition request from the US. El Fassed found the answer "embarrassing" and promised to continue questioning the foreign minister for clarification in the upcoming debate on human rights.

None of Gonggrijp, Jonsdottir and Appelbaum have ever worked for Wikileaks, and only two of them were at all involved in the release of the Collateral Murder video. This case raises a very high bar for who can have their records subpoenaed and potentially be prosecuted for what has yet to be identified as a crime in any country involved. If Gonggrijp and Jonsdottir can be subpoenaed or prosecuted, why not every other service provider connected with the video, before or after? If Appelbaum can be included, why not every individual with a previous acquaintance with any of the people involved?

As pointed out earlier on WL Central:

A chilling footnote indicates Jonsdottir and Gonggrijp could face worse repercussions from this Twitter Order than Appelbaum:

Though they assert First and Fourth Amendment claims, petitioners cite no authority as to the applicability of the United States Constitution to non-citizens residing and acting outside of the U.S. See United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez, 494 U.S. 259, 265 (1990)(Fourth Amendment inapplicable where American authorities searched the home of a Mexican citizen and resident, who had no voluntary attachment to the United States; Wang v. Reno, 81 F.3d 808,817-18 (9th Cir. 1996)(alien entitled to 5th Amendment due process rights only after government created “special relationship with alien” by paroling him from China to U.S. to testify at drug trial). The Court has serious doubts as to whether Ms. Jonsdottir and Mr. Gonggrijp enjoy rights under the U.S. Constitution.

If the US does not recognize rights for citizens of other countries, it is even more imperative that the countries protect their own citizens.

For previous WL Central coverage of the Twitter Order, click here.

2011-04-06 Gazeta Wyborcza on CIA detention centers in Poland

On the 30th of March, Polish daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza published a fateful article that ultimately led to a criminal investigation. It detailed a document commissioned by Warsaw prosecutor Jerzy Mierzewski, who was then in charge of the investigation into alleged US detention facilities on Polish soil. He had asked external experts for advice on a variety of legal matters. After the external evaluation arrived, Mierzewski was removed from the investigation. Gazeta Wyborcza obtained the 50 page document by unknown means and published extracts from it. As a consequence of this publication, the newspaper itself became the focus of a criminal investigation.

This move came shortly after lawyers acting on behalf of a Guantanamo detainee filed a complaint against Poland at the European Court of Human Rights, and shortly before President Obama's visit to Poland.

According to the Gazeta Wyborcza article, Mierzewski had planned to file charges of breach of the constitution, false imprisonment and assistance in crimes against humanity, and had asked for advice, amongst other things, on the following matters:

- Does international law cover the operations of detention centers for people who are suspected of being terrorists?
- Does the legal framework of a country in which such a detention center exists have the power to shut it down?
- Does a confession that a person - who has been suspected of terrorist activity and has been detained - is a member of al Qaida have any influence on their legal status?
- What does it mean for the legal status of this person that he is detained outside a battlefield or an occupied area?

He received the following answers:

- There is no legal framework allowing foreign agencies to open any facilities in Poland which are beyond our control.
- The operation of such a center and the fact that people were detained there constitutes a breach of the constitution and of international law.
- Those who have been detained there qualify as victims of a war crime and a crime against humanity.
- There are no laws which apply directly to members of al Qaida.
- Regulations applied by the USA, for instance allowing waterboarding, do not agree with international law.

It would be speculative to try to reconstruct the entire strategy of the prosecution from these excerpts. It must be said, however, that they do contain some interesting information, for instance a clear answer that certain US practices breach international law.

As Peter Kemp, a legal practitioner and WL Central writer points out, torture is a crime of universal jurisdiction, and those who committed this crime can thus be tried in any other country in accordance with the Convention Against Torture Article 5(2):

"Each State Party shall likewise take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction over such offences in cases where the alleged offender is present in any territory under its jurisdiction and it does not extradite him pursuant to article 8 to any of the States mentioned in Paragraph 1 of this article."

Given these circumstances, he adds, any evidence on torture facilities on Polish soil which have been operated with the knowledge of the Polish authorities could have very dangerous consequences indeed not only for those involved but even to those who appear to have removed Mierzewski from the case if it could be proven that such conduct was to kill off the investigation, which would certainly make the perpetrators of such an act accessories to the original breach of the Convention. The danger is multiplied when Poland's membership in the EU is taken into consideration, as Poland is also obliged to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Article 5(1) of the ECHR reads:

"Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person.

5(1). No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law:"

Special camps where alleged terrorists were allegedly held, tortured and exposed to humiliating and degrading treatment would be a flagrant breach of Article 5. Kemp adds that if Polish authorities are moving towards quashing investigations in breach of Poland's obligations, the EU, one presumes, will be looking on and exerting some pressure at least behind the scenes.

For other WL Central coverage on the topic please see here.

2011-04-06 Hearing date set for Assange extradition appeal

The BBC first announced this morning that the High Court of England and Wales* has listed court dates of 12-13 July to hear Julian Assange's appeal against extradition from the UK to Sweden.

BBC reporter Dominic Hurst tweeted shortly after his first announcement that "Assange's appeal is against Judge Riddle's ruling that extradition to Sweden wouldn't breach his human rights," a summary repeated in this report from the Guardian.

Mark Stephens @markslarks, Assange's UK solicitor, then replied to a first question on Twitter from a WLC reporter: "dates correct. Detail wrong." When questioned further by another WLC reporter hoping for a lawyerly update, he tweeted: "will come when I return to the UK."

There is obviously some time for precising our understanding of what the appeal may entail. Parliamentary review of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) is also expected in June [citation needed and welcomed].

* NB: Scotland's legal system has always been independent from that of England and Wales.

2011-04-07 African refugees murdered, drowned in the Mediterranean

The UK's Independent is reporting from an Eritrean priest who tracks migrants across the Mediterranean that the bodies of murdered African migrants have been washing ashore in Libya. Father Mussie Zerai, who is in Rome, says that his contacts in Tripoli have seen five bodies in a hospital that are thought to be part of a group of approximately 335 predominantly Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees who have been missing since a few hours after departing Tajura on March 22 in a boat driven by a smuggler. “There are five bodies in total, two women, two boys and an Egyptian who we believe was the boat’s captain. Their bodies have gunshot wounds in them. Somebody shot them after they left Libya. ... This is a murky affair which must be investigated.” Father Zerai is quoted as saying.

A relative of two of the passengers reported them missing to Father’s Zerai’s organisation, Agenzia Habeshia, and human rights organization Everyone Group who say they immediately alerted the authorities to ask for patrols to be sent into international waters and requested the intervention of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “This morning, after two weeks of inaction and indifference from the authorities and international institutions, we heard from Don Mussie Zerai that the bodies of those migrants, riddled with bullets, are being washed ashore,” Roberto Malini, Matteo Pegoraro and Dario Picciau, co-presidents of the international humanitarian organization EveryOne Group reported. “It would appear that the boat carrying the refugees was attacked in the Mediterranean, and that the shots were so rapid that the migrants did not have time to sound the alarm with the satellite phone they’d taken on board."

EveryOne Group also criticizes Europe’s failure to send personnel and vessels to patrol the international waters between Italy and Libya, especially after the tragedy last night when a boat capsized with 200 Somalis and Eritreans on board (of which only 47 were rescued). “These tragedies out at sea” continue Malini, Pegoraro and Picciau, “highlight the lack of rescue plans for refugees. We need to deploy resources - both boats and aircraft - and modern rescue equipment, seeing the great number of migrants who are setting sail as we write despite the adverse weather conditions. There is a lack of advanced monitoring and logistics able to act urgently and effectively when the engine failure of a vessel is reported or an SOS is launched. It would appear that Europe is more focused on actions that will prevent the flow of refugees and getting round the Geneva Convention than implementing the necessary humanitarian policies.”

The plight of sub-Saharan Africans in Libya has been reported since the protests began on February 15, and yet very little has been done to evacuate them from the area. Father Zerai said “These were entirely preventable deaths. They could have been avoided if only Europe had heeded our pleas before the bombing began when we asked for the emergency evacuation of all refugees trapped on Libyan cities. So far only Italy has taken steps to evacuate around 110 refugees from Tripoli. Other European countries have preferred to take their time. As the refugees get more desperate they resort to making a dangerous journey across the Mediterranean on boats filled with desperate people hoping to rebuild their lives.”

This morning Italy searched for survivors after a boat with an estimated 200 Eritrean, Somalian and Sudanese refugees capsized off the island of Lampedusa. Rescuers managed to save 53 of them. The United Nations earlier reported two boats which departed Libya on March 22 and 25, carrying 335 and 68 refugees, were missing according to relatives. Last week around 60 bodies were washed up on the Libyan coast.

In addition to the estimated 2.5 million sub-Saharan Africans who already live in Libya, Europe worries that Libya may now be acting as an open gate from Africa. In 2008, Libya signed a treaty with Italy which required the Libyan navy to patrol and intercept migrant Africans trying to reach Europe, but when the UN began bombing Libya, Moussa Ibrahim announced that Libya would no longer stop sub-Saharan and other refugees from trying to enter Europe by boat. Italy's Interior Minister Roberto Maroni has announced "The prime minister will today sign a decree giving those already in Italy... a temporary residence permit for humanitarian protection that will allow them to travel around the Schengen zone. The overwhelming majority of the migrants want to join friends and relatives in France or other European countries." France has already returned a large number of immigrants crossing the border from Italy and promises to continue doing so, despite no border controls within the 25-nation Schengen zone, which includes most members of the European Union as well as Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

2011-04-07 Love the Future: Ai Weiwei detention

Image Photo by Ai Weiwei

Renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was detained on April 3 at Beijing Capital Airport by customs police while trying to travel to Hong Kong following three police visits to his studio last week. Now there are reports from police authorities late Wednesday that they are investigating Ai Weiwei "for suspected economic crimes in accordance with the law." Following the arrest, police searched his studio and his wife’s home and arrested his wife, his friend and former journalist Wen Tao, and eight of his employees, freeing his wife and the employees within 24 hours. They also confiscated more than 30 computers and hard drives as well as other documents.

The Communist Party's Global Times has spoken out against the reaction to Ai's detention in western countries (the first actual acknowledgement of his detention from Chinese media). In addition, they offer this explanation for his detention: Ai Weiwei is an activist. As a maverick of Chinese society, he likes "surprising speech" and "surprising behavior." He also likes to do something ambiguous in law. On April 1, he went to Taiwan via Hong Kong. But it was reported his departure procedures were incomplete.

Ai Weiwei likes to do something "others dare not do." He has been close to the red line of Chinese law. Objectively speaking, Chinese society does not have much experience in dealing with such persons. However, as long as Ai Weiwei continuously marches forward, he will inevitably touch the red line one day.

In such a populous country as China, it is normal to have several people like Ai Weiwei. But it is also normal to control their behaviors by law. In China, it is impossible to have no persons like Ai Weiwei or no "red line" for them in law.

Since Ai's detention, Chinese internet censorship of his name has turned into a contest between his supporters and the censors, resulting in even the phrase "Love the future" (爱未来) which looks and sounds similar to Ai Weiwei (艾未未) being used by his supporters and removed by the censors on Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo.

Ai, who designed the astounding “Bird’s Nest” stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics has been an outspoken activist for human rights and reform as well as an internationally recognized artist. Frequently his work has combined the two, as in a series of works where he represented the children killed in the Sichaun earthquake. In one work he collected the names of 5219 children killed in the earthquake, deaths many feel could have been prevented by more stringent building codes, and had different voices read each name in succession, resulting in a three and a half minute audio of names. In others, he has taken the style of bookbag used by the children to form giant snake patterns, for which he was arrested and beaten in 2009. He was placed under house arrest last November and his brand new studio was demolished shortly after.

China Digital Times has a great interview with Ai from December 17, 2009 where he says:

  • Today the government’s wisdom is to play dead; citizen’s wisdom is to kick [the government's] ass, regardless if it’s playing dead or really dead.
  • I never had any hope for China. I am only resisting the hopelessness China is imposing on me.
  • wtdd: How big is the possibility of organizing an opposition party, for example through Twitter?
    Ai Weiwei: The order should be, organizing people on Twitter first, then organizing a party.
  • zyl1989:Are you ready for prison? Or put it this way, the government has not yet put you into a prison cell. Is it because they do not think you are threatening enough?
    Ai Weiwei: I don’t think so. It is because the prison cell is not big enough.
  • If I give up the country I am in, then I have lost my reason to choose any other country. If I denied my current road, there is no other road in front of me.

Weiwei is one of the latest and most high profile of dozens of writers, artists, lawyers, and political activists who have been detained or confined to their homes in the recent Chinese crackdown on dissidents. Rumours of a Jasmine Revolution in China have sent the government and police into a panic earlier this year, which has not abated.

A must see statement from Ai Weiwei on TED:

2011-04-07 This Week in WikiLeaks Presents Danny Schechter Talking About US Media [Podcast]

At the Left Forum in NYC, I spoke on a panel called "What Has WikiLeaks Revealed." I presented with Danny Schechter, founder of MediaChannel, and someone who is a broadcast/print journalist and an internationally recognized speaker and writer on media issues.

Schechter and I each gave a presentation. That audio will be posted at some point. But, for now, as I prepare for the National Conference for Media Reform 2011 that is being held in Boston from Friday, April 8th through Sunday, April 10th, I would like to share what Schechter had to say on US media, particularly US corporate media.

*Click play button below to hear Schechter talk about the media

Schechter, who is known as "The News Dissector," talks about the responsibility we have to confront media and fight for another narrative. He has led by example, as he was the director behind the documentary "Weapons of Mass Deception" that looked closely at how broadcast news media in the US helped the government package and sell the Iraq War.

One of the things that bothered him during the war in Iraq (which is till ongoing) was the fact that a hundred thousand people would march on Washington and stand in front of the White House and scream and holler but no one would march on the Washington Post, which was ten blocks away, and was pumping propaganda for the war since Day One. Nobody would challenge “Meet the Press," was pumping out this "pablum" or any of the broadcast news shows.

"Those of us on the left who are so consumed with politics and politicians and theoretical issues have to be concerned about our media," says Schechter. And, we have to become "media activists willing to stand up against media distortion."

Listen to the full clip for more from Danny Schechter.

2011-04-07 UK Commons debate on Bradley Manning: video update

As WL Central reported on Tuesday, in an adjournment debate in the UK House of Commons on Monday evening, Henry Bellingham, parliamentary undersecretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, confirmed that Bradley Manning acquired British citizenship at birth.

The video of the debate is now available here.

The opening argument of MP Ann Clwyd (Labour - Cynon Valley) is notable for emphasizing that Bradley Manning's citizenship is not the sole reason a government of laws should be concerned about his treatment. She had earlier raised the interpretation of the British Nationality Act with the foreign minister in committee and in the Commons, but in this address, she reminds the government of its commitment to speak out against human-rights abuses everywhere, regardless of the victim's nationality. She also asks for assurances that Manning's British family will receive UK consular assistance in their future attempts to visit him at the US Marine base at Quantico, Virginia.

Bellingham responds affirmatively on all three counts -- on the strict interpretation of the Nationality Act (with qualifications based on Manning's right to privacy), on the commitment of the UK government to make formal representations to other nations concerning human-rights abuses, and on the willingness of the government to assist Manning's family in their attempts to visit him.

Previous WL Central coverage of Bradley Manning

WL Central action page for Bradley Manning

2011-04-08 Vote for Bradley Manning in The 2011 TIME 100 Poll, closes April 14

Vote for Bradley Manning in The 2011 TIME 100 Poll, here!

As of today, April 8, 2011, Bradley Manning is ranked at No. 39 out of 203 nominees for TIME Magazine's 2011 100 Poll. Julian Assange is ranked at No. 8.

The popular mag invites readers to: "Cast your votes for the leaders, artists, innovators, icons and heroes that you think are the most influential people in the world. The winner will be included in the TIME 100. Voting closes on April 14" (Source: TIME Magazine).


Bradley Manning is a prisoner of the United States, incarcerated in the marine brig at Quantico, Virginia. He has been imprisoned under cruel and inhumane conditions, classified as torture by Amnesty International, and the subject of an investigation by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. Human Rights Watch has asked the US government to "publicly explain the precise reasons behind extremely restrictive and possibly punitive and degrading treatment."

Some TIME commenters expressed suspicions over voting difficulties they experienced:


See more WL action for Bradley Manning, here.

2011-04-08 Vote for Julian Assange (Again) in The 2011 TIME 100 Poll, closes April 14

ImageVote for Julian Assange in The 2011 TIME 100 Poll, here!

As of today, April 8, 2011, Julian Assange is ranked number 8, behind Susan Boyle at number 4, Beyonce at number 3, Jay Chou at number 2 and Rain at number 1. Bradley Manning is ranked at No. 38 out of 203 nominees. The poll asks its readers to: "Cast your votes for the leaders, artists, innovators, icons and heroes that you think are the most influential people in the world. The winner will be included in the TIME 100. Voting closes on April 14."

In last year's Time Person of the Year poll, Julian Assange was the clear readers' favourite, 148,383 votes ahead of the runner up. (Bradley Manning did not receive a nomination for Person of the Year 2010.) Time ignored the readers votes and chose the tenth placed Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. Julian Assange received 382,026 votes, and a 92% average rating, Zuckerberg received 18,353 votes and a 52% average rating. As pointed out by many, Assange's organization takes information from public organizations and gives it freely to private citizens, while Zuckerberg's takes information from private citizens and sells it to public organizations. The distinction was famously acknowledged by Time managing editor Rick Stengel as: "While Assange attacks big institutions and governments through involuntary transparency with the goal of disempowering them, Zuckerberg enables individuals to voluntarily share information with the idea of empowering them. Assange sees the world as filled with real and imagined enemies; Zuckerberg sees the world as filled with potential friends."

In defending the move, Stengel said he felt that “When I make the choice, I think of [what] has actually affected people’s lives the most [in] the past year. Five years from now, who’s going to look smart? Julian Assange has been in the news a lot lately. I think five years from now, he’ll be an asterisk. If you really wanted to, [you would] make [leaker] Bradley Manning. Julian Assange was the wine bottle, and Bradley Manning supplied the wine. In the grand scheme of things, it will be a footnote to history.” He did not however, supply any information in the interview addressing why Bradley Manning was not nominated for Person of the Year, despite his stated opinion that Manning was the real newsmaker.

Last year as the Time Person of the Year vote concluded, Assange was in solitary confinement in a jail in London. Now, as fellow Time 100 nominee Bradley Manning continues in solitary confinement, Assange awaits an appeal trial on July 12 and 13 against his extradition. If it fails, it will most likely result in him being in solitary confinement again, this time in Sweden.

See more WL action for Wikileaks and Julian Assange, here.

2011-04-08 Another bloody Friday in #Syria [Updated]

ImageBashar al-Assad (right) with his brother Maher al-Assad (left) and brother-in-law Assef Shawkat (center) in 2000.

Update:Syrian state TV has aired footage of masked gunmen firing on protesters and police. There are many similar videos in different situations on the internet, and different ideas of who the snipers are, Syrian security forces, protesters, or outside forces.

Today protesters in Dara'a destroyed a statue of president Bashar al-Assad's older brother Basil al-Assad and reportedly burnt down the State TV building in Dara'a and set fire to a Baath Party outpost. Al Jazeera's correspondent Cal Perry reports that the army has now been deployed in large numbers to Dara'a. The government's earlier decision to arm the police force with electric batons instead of live ammunition was reversed today.

Syrian state TV (translated by Al Jazeera) said repeatedly today: Over the past Fridays there were a lot of demonstrations in which armed groups used weapons to kill people and security forces - and though we understand that protesting is a right of the population, we can no longer allow chaos to take place and official buildings to be destroyed. So we will use all the means to stop the chaos from taking place.

Protesters are calling for people to come out tonight in great numbers in other cities to take the pressure off of Dara'a.

Video of snipers from AP

Amnesty is now putting the death toll in Syria over the last three weeks at 171, with the majority killed by security forces firing live ammunition at protesters. This list detailing all people people imprisoned, missing and killed since the protests began, has now reached 770. Amnesty confirmed another eight people killed today, six from Dara'a and two in Homs, but they say the confirmations from today could rise significantly. A doctor in Dara'a told CNN that 22 unarmed civilians were shot dead in just Dara'a today. The Syrian government said it was nineteen of the security force. From AllVoices, Amar Qurabi, president of the Syrian NGO National Human Rights Organization, reported a total of 22 people dead in three cities. "We have a list of names of 17 protesters killed in Deraa (south) and we have been informed of the death of two protesters in Homs and three in Harasta." Reuters also puts the death toll in Dara'a at 17, from a "hospital source and activist." NewsTsar has graphic videos from a mosque in Dara'a.

President Bashar al-Assad signed a decree yesterday to finally (after a fifty year wait) give Syrian citizenship to tens of thousands of Kurds in Syria. There was still a huge protest today in the Kurdish city of Amouda, which does not seem appeased. There is no indication that Assad plans to stop or curb the violence directed at the protesters and open a real dialogue or implement the changes wanted by the protesters, particularly the scaling back and reform of the security and intelligence forces run by his brother Maher and brother in law Assef Shawket. Syrian protesters have vowed to come out and protest every Friday until the government meets their demands for meaningful change.

Previous WL Central coverage on Syria here.

Lataika today:

2011-04-08 WikiLeaks Challenges Media's Gatekeeper Function, Draws Attention to Press' Fealty & Allegiance to Power

ImageCitizens who are concerned with the state of media and democracy in the United States have gathered in Boston to talk about how to reform media. People are here to dig into some of the biggest developments in media, technology and democratic society to get closer to a truth, which can help citizens take action and improve and transform media in their communities.

One of the panels at the conference, "WikiLeaks, Journalism and Modern-Day Muckraking," offered attendees a chance to discuss how WikiLeaks has forced journalists to rethink their role in society and how, in an age of radical transparency, the need for muckraking journalism is greater than ever.

Participating panelists included Greg Mitchell of The Nation, Micah Sifry of the Personal Democracy Forum, Christopher Warren of Australian Media and the Entertainment & Arts Alliance, Emily Warren of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, and Glenn Greenwald of Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now! moderated.

Watch live streaming video from freespeechtv at

Goodman recounts the release of the “Collateral Murder” video, describing how she came to meet Ethan McCord, a soldier seen in the video rescuing two children wounded in thee Apache helicopter attack. She explains the panel will get to questions like, “What does it mean to get this information to people dedicated to transparency?”

Mitchell provides a quick chronology of the WikiLeaks releases over the past. He discusses the role of gatekeepers and how the press has traditionally decided what to cover and what to leak.

WikiLeaks has circumvented gatekeepers of the media, says Mitchell, and, in fact, inspired the press to take back their traditional gatekeeper function by working to set up their own “leak portals” (e.g. Al Jazeera English, New York Times, etc).

Sifry suggests the real story to come from WikiLeaks has to do not so much with the organization itself but the fact that it shows how people can do “transparency to the powerful.” It shows that institutions in government gain trust by being transparent, however, WikiLeaks is not responsible for that development. And, Sifry takes a stand on WikiLeaks saying it is a “broken organization” and Julian Assange runs it in an “autocratic” fashion.

He also says the New York Times is clearly broken, as he cites the fact that the way they covered the US State Embassy cables was through “keyword searches” in a database. They never looked up the word “kleptocracy” and had they the Times would have found a cable on Libya.

Warren doesn't quite agree with Sifry's assessment of WikiLeaks. If journalists had to pass the personality test the press asks Assange to pass, few would, says Warren. Warren gets into how WikiLeaks has revealed the weaknesses of American journalism. He also calls attention to the dangerous distinction that Assange or WikiLeaks is a "source" and not a "media organization," as legally that could have profound implications.

Bell talks about WikiLeaks being a "prism" for understanding the transformation of journalism and its structures, which has been rapidly unfolding over past years.

And, Greenwald considers events surrounding WikiLeaks to be one of the most revealing controversies in recent history. Journalists often think it important, Greenwald notes, to fake the pretense that they are a check on the powerful. But, in this case, the US media has barely even tried to establish any sort of an anti-establishment veneer. And, Greenwald supposes this is because they are part of the political structure in the US and see WikiLeaks’ releases as not only an attack on the US government but also an attack on the institution they are a part of—the press.

2011-04-09 Avaaz petition for Bradley Manning

ImageStop Wikileaks Torture - Sign the petition

To President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates:

We call on you to immediately end the torture, isolation and public humiliation of Bradley Manning. This treatment is a violation of his constitutionally guaranteed human rights, and a chilling deterrent to other potential whistleblowers committed to public integrity.

Right now, Wikileaks whistleblower Bradley Manning is being tortured in a US military prison. Manning is subjected to utter isolation that can drive many people insane, with short periods each day where he is stripped naked and abused by jeering inmates.

Manning is awaiting trial for releasing secret military documents to Wikileaks – including a video of US soldiers massacring Iraqi civilians. And his brutal treatment appears to be part of an intimidation campaign to silence whistleblowers and crack down on Wikileaks. The US government is split on this issue, with diplomats publicly criticizing the military for Manning's treatment, but President Obama has stood aside so far.

Obama cares about the US's global reputation - we need to show him that it's at stake here. Let's build a massive global call to the US government to stop torturing Manning and uphold the law. Sign the petition below -- our message will be delivered through hard-hitting ads and actions in Washington DC as soon as we reach 250,000 signatures.

Sign the petition here.

Other petitions on WL Central for Bradley Manning are here.

2011-04-09 Syrian security fires on mourners at mass funeral, UN Secretary-General is greatly disturbed #Syria [Updated]

Update: Six Syrian human rights groups, including the Syrian National Organisation for Human Rights, the Kurdish Committee for Human Rights and the Defence Committee for Democratic Freedom and Human Rights., released a joint statement saying twenty-six people were killed in Dara'a yesterday at the funerals of protesters killed the day before, and two more were shot dead in Homs yesterday. There are also many reports of people detained and missing.

Probably the best collection of youtube videos of the protests, organized by city, here.

Mass funerals were held in Syria today for the protesters killed yesterday, now reported as 37 by the National Organisation for Human Rights. In Dara'a, security forces fired on the mourners as thousands assembled near the old Omari mosque where six people were killed on March 22 and where the most violence has resulted since.

The UN Secretary-General's office has posted notes from a conversation he had today with President Bashar al Assad of Syria.

  • The Secretary-General said he was greatly disturbed by the latest reports of violence against protesters and concerned about the reports of the number of people killed and injured on Friday.
  • He said the killing of peaceful demonstrators was unacceptable and should be investigated. He took note of the President''s intention to investigate and encouraged early action in this regard.
  • He also noted there were reports that demonstrators had used violence and killed security personnel.
  • The Secretary-General underlined that violence from any side was deplorable.
  • The Secretary-General reiterated the duty of governments to protect civilians and respect the rights and freedoms of the population including the right of free speech and peaceful assembly. He said he also expected demonstrators to be peaceful.
  • The Secretary-General urged the release of detained demonstrators as soon as possible. He took note of President Assad''s announced reforms and said he was convinced that there was no alternative to an immediate and inclusive dialogue on comprehensive reforms.

There is far more and clearer documentation of attacks by security forces coming out of Syria. This video, uploaded today, reportedly shows Syrian security forces killing an ambulance crew member in Daraa on Friday April 4. A good collection of yesterday's Youtube videos.

Syrian security forces attack today.

#Banyas being stormed by army, this was scene in morning 2night a massacre 2moror larger protest via @Tharwacolamus.

Previous WL Central coverage on Syria here.

2011-04-10 @USDayofRage announces protest to reform elections, @USUncut targets corporate tax cheats #USDOR #USUncut


In a new announcement from Twitter Profile: @USDayofRage (currently 1,915 followers) via Twitlonger, the movement demands reforms to abate corruption in US elections:

Corporate influence corrupts our political parties, our elections, and the institutions of government.

Bought by hard and soft dollars, disloyal, incompetent, and wasteful special interests have usurped our nation’s civil and military power, spawning a host of threats to liberty and our national security.

We have had enough.

Legitimate government is born of the self-interest and will of the people expressed by its citizens in free and fair elections. It does not spring from a tyranny of corporate or royal patronage, or a system or ideology that runs counter to the aims of life.

The institutions of government were designed to protect the principles of our democratic republic and to serve the will of citizens.

Corporations, even those owned by foreign shareholders, use money to act as the voices of millions, while individual citizens, the legitimate voters, are silenced and demoralized by the farce.

Free and fair elections inspire good citizenship and public service, because they engage the intelligence and genuine good will of the American people.

They produce the kind of stewardship our nation desperately needs, because they ensure that citizens can influence their destiny, and make genuine contributions to society.

and fair elections remedy the myriad ills and abuses of a corrupt and illegitimate government, which prey on the resources and spirits of citizens. (These abuses and ills are listed on the official US Day of Rage twitter hash tag #USDOR.)

Therefore, we come now together to organize a national, non-violent protest.

We demand that integrity be restored to our elections.

One citizen. One dollar. One vote.

• Only citizens should make campaign contributions.
• Campaign contributions by citizens should not exceed one dollar to any political candidate or party.

Help us reclaim democracy on the US Day of Rage.

We will announce the date when we reach 50,000 followers.

Contact us on or @USDayofRage on Twitter.

ImageUS Uncut is another movement that is attempting reform through protest in the US.

From its website, US Uncut is a new movement inspired by UK Uncut, the anti-austerity movement that has swept the UK. ... US Uncut is a grassroots movement taking direct action against corporate tax cheats and unnecessary and unfair public service cuts across the U.S. Washington's proposed budget for the coming year sends a clear message: The wrath of budget cuts will fall upon the shoulders of hard-working Americans. That's unacceptable.

Among US Uncut's targets are Bank of America, Verizon, FedEx and GE. Their next announced days of action tax weekend April 15-18th. They are on Twitter @USUncut and news is posted under a hashtag #USUncut.

One of many protest videos posted on Youtube:

For previous Wl Coverage of developing protests in the Unites States, see here.

2011-04-10 Call for the Release of Ai WeiWei

<em>Image by Ai Weiwei</em>Petition from started by Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

On April 3, internationally acclaimed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was detained at the Beijing airport while en route to Hong Kong, and his papers and computers were seized from his studio compound.

We members of the international arts community express our concern for Ai’s freedom and disappointment in China’s reluctance to live up to its promise to nurture creativity and independent thought, the keys to “soft power” and cultural influence.

Our institutions have some of the largest online museum communities in the world. We have launched this online petition to our collective millions of Facebook fans and Twitter followers. By using Ai Weiwei’s favored medium of “social sculpture,” we hope to hasten the release of our visionary friend.

Richard Armstrong, Director, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation and Alexandra Munroe, Samsung Senior Curator, Asian Art
Michael Govan, Director, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Kaywin Feldman, President, Association of Art Museum Directors and Director and President, Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Glenn Lowry, Director, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Yongwoo Lee, President, The Gwangju Biennale Foundation
Vishakha Desai, President and Melissa Chiu, Vice President of Global Arts, Asia Society
Sir Nicholas Serota, Director, Tate and Chris Dercon, Director, Tate Modern
Jim Cuno, President and Director of the Art Institute of Chicago
Ann Philbin, Director of the Hammer Museum
Julián Zugazagoitia, Director of the Nelson Atkins Museum

Sign the petition at

Previous WL Central coverage on Ai Weiwei

2011-04-10 Gadhafi accepts African Union ceasefire guidelines #Libya

ImageImage from Reuters

A delegation of the African Union met today with Muammar Gadhafi and South African president Jacob Zuma announced "We have completed our mission with the brother leader, and the brother leader's delegation has accepted the road map as presented by us." The AU mission, is headed by Mauritanian president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and also includes, according to Al Jazeera, "Amadou Toumani Toure, Denis Sassou Nguessou and Yoweri Museveni - respectively the presidents of Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda." Since Denis Sassou Nguessou is the president of the Republic of Congo and the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo is Joseph Kabila, and both are members of the AU, it is unclear who the fifth country is. As reported on WL Central on March 20, the same delegation had earlier condemned the violence in Libya, but at that point the AFP unhelpfully referred to the fifth country as "the Congo". The Guardian says it is the Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville), and further says Uganda's foreign minister attended, not the president.

The agreement apparently calls for: a ceasefire and protection of civilians, humanitarian aid for Libyans and foreign workers - "especially Africans", dialogue between the two sides, an inclusive transitional period, and political reforms which "meet the aspirations of the Libyan people". The delegation will meet the anti-Gaddafi forces tomorrow and if they also agree, it will remain to be seen whether this cease fire is obeyed more than the one imposed by the United Nations was.

Anti-Gadhafi forces do not seem able to win a revolution with only a no fly zone and they have been condemning the NATO intervention as insufficient, demanding heavy artillery and more air strikes against Gadhafi forces. NATO has instead accidentally attacked tanks and fighters from the anti-Gadhafi side, and brought down an attempt by anti-Gadhafi forces to use a plane themselves. In a statement from NATO: As an example of NATO impartiality, a fighter aircraft (MiG 23) flown by TNC forces was intercepted and forced to land within minutes of taking off from the Benina Airfield near Bengazi yesterday. Under the UN mandated No-Fly-Zone no unauthorized aircraft is permitted to fly in Libyan airspace.

Al Jazeera reported today: Gaddafi’s soldiers occupied Ajdabiya for just 24 hours. In that time doctors here say 13 civilians were killed and more than a dozen injured. "We have no coordination. We have no organisation. We really have no strategy. We have no commander," Nasir Faraj, an irrigation engineer-turned fighter told Reuters. "Whenever Gaddafi starts bombarding us we just discuss what to do among ourselves and move. Some people run in one direction, and others go another way."

2011-04-11 Ivory Coast: Laurent Gbagbo arrested

ImageFrance24 is reporting that former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to acknowledge defeat in the election last November, has been captured and taken to the Abidjan headquarters of rival president Alassane Ouattara, according to "diplomatic sources". Early reports said he was arrested by French troops, there as part of a UN mission approved in March after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and French President Nicolas Sarkozy accused Gbagbo of using heavy weapons against civilians.

It is now being reported that Ouattara troops arrested him. Youssoufou Bamba, the U.N. envoy of president-elect Ouattara stated that Gbagbo has been arrested, is alive, and will be brought to justice, according to the Washington Post. They quote Bamba as saying, “That’s the Republican Forces of Cote d’Ivoire who have conducted the operation. Gbagbo is arrested. He is under our custody. . . . Right now, he is being brought to a safe location for the next course of action.” Bamba is also quoted as saying that he was confident that as “the news will spread” of Gbagbo’s arrest, his forces “will stop fighting and they will lay down their weapons.” He added: “Those fighting are fighting for nothing, because this man is over, this era is over. We will address the serious problem of the humanitarian situation and the security situation . . . and restore public order.”

Reuters reports that Farhan Haq, spokesman for the U.N. mission in Ivory Coast said they have “confirmed that former president Laurent Gbagbo has surrendered to the forces of Alassane Ouattara and is currently in their custody.” and that the U.N. mission was “providing protection and security in accordance with its mandate.”

Gbagbo supporters deny that Ouattara forces captured Gbagbo, saying UN and French forces who have been attacking the presidential residence by helicopter were the ones that carried out the operation and the capture, and Ouattara forces, if present, were negligible. They promise deep future resentment at the foreign "colonial" interference in this case.

2011-04-11 WikiLeaks Demonstrates Where Citizens Must Apply Pressure to Advance Media Reform and Justice #NCMR11

ImageA National Conference for Media Reform (NCMR) put on by Free Press took place over the weekend. Thousands of attendees gathered to discuss the state of media and democracy in the US and how best to fight for better media. While the discussions tended to be general conversations on policy and politics, social justice and movement building, journalism and public media, the role of culture and art in media making, or technology and innovation, one subject was continuously mentioned in panel sessions: WikiLeaks.

It would be a stretch to suggest this if it weren’t for the fact that at the “Media and Corporate Power: Beating Back the K Street Juggernaut” panel The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel mentioned an individual in Russia, who has drawn inspiration from WikiLeaks, and now plans to publish corporate documents from Russia to his own “leak portal” website. Vanden Heuvel wondered why media reformers don’t get their own “leak portal” website established for the sole purpose of giving whistleblowers a place to turn and having a central location for Americans to see the truth about corporate power in the US. Following her remark, Bob Edgar of Common Cause thought it important to add the US should stop torturing or abusing the soldier alleged to have leaked information to WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning.

The panel had nothing to do with WikiLeaks except for the fact that the issue of corporate power and transparency is critical to the story of WikiLeaks. The organization’s commitment to exposing secrets makes the organization an enemy of corporations, especially any corporation that has a well-established relationship with the political class in Washington and has records to prove just how they mutually work together to subvert democracy.

An organization like Free Press may prefer to not elevate WikiLeaks or any stateless news organization like it too much by making it a component of their agenda. That is understandable given the fact that the Knight Foundation, prior to the release of the Iraq War Logs and the beginning of Cablegate, awarded twelve groups with a “News Challenge” grant but did not award WikiLeaks a grant despite the organization’s request to spend about a half a million dollars “over two years to bring its anonymous method of leaking documents to local newspapers.” But, no organization in the world has exposed the fault lines in media and democracy like WikiLeaks has in the past year.

Part of the new news ecosystem that has arisen from what Yochai Benkler calls the “networked public sphere,” Benkler describes in piece of writing found in a book titled, “Will the Last Reporter Turn Out the Lights: The Collapse of Journalism and What Can Be Done to Fix It,” which was handed out to attendees at the conference:

On April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released a leaked video from a US military helicopter that appeared to show US pilots callously killing combatants and civilians alike, including two Reuters news staff. Reuters had been seeking release of the video unsuccessfully, under FOIA, for over two years. The video became front-page news in all the leading papers the next day. WikiLeaks is a very-low-budget nonprofit hosted in Sweden. The site originally described its origins as having been “founded by Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and startup company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa.” Its $600,000 annual budget is raised from contributions from around the world. Its resources are documents or videos uploaded by anyone, anywhere, securely and anonymously. It is a Wikipedia for leaks, produced by anyone who happens to be in the right place at the right time.

Attendees at the NCMR in Boston appeared to be keenly aware of the dangerous precedents, which would be set for media and democracy in the US, if the government were allowed to continue to suppress WikiLeaks and make an example of the organization as it has done. Keep in mind, already US-based companies like Visa and MasterCard have refused to process donations to WikiLeaks or Assange. PayPal has refused to allow WikiLeaks to use the service for donations. Amazon has censored the Wikileaks website, forcing it to go offline temporarily. Tableau opted to prohibit WikiLeaks from using its graphics service for data visualizations. The School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University warned students to refrain from commenting on the leaked diplomatic cables on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter—to not post links to the documents if they hoped to ever work for the State Department (while at the same time pledging to host World Press Freedom Day in 2011). The Obama Administration and the Department of Defense ordered hundreds of thousands of federal workers to not view the once secret cables or else. And, HBGary, a cybersecurity services firm, developed a plan to sabotage WikiLeaks on behalf of Bank of America (it now will likely face a Congressional probe).

WikiLeaks has demonstrated where media reform activists need to apply pressure to expand freedom and justice in American society.

On policy and politics, the issue of net neutrality is made clear. As Timothy Karr of Free Press said on an edition of Democracy Now!, “Should companies or the government be allowed to censor and block content that’s on the web at will, or do they need to follow constitutional law?” The US government’s current answer to that question is why WikiLeaks has asked individuals or organization to set up mirror sites to host the leaked information it has released.

Additionally, the organization has seen individuals sympathetic to it targeted. Jacob Appelbaum, Birgitta Jonsdottir, and Rop Gonggrijp, each with links to WikiLeaks, face an order from the Department of Justice to allow government to look at their Twitter account data to help with the government’s investigation of WikiLeaks. The case touches on issues of privacy, as the judge hearing the three’s legal arguments against disclosing information has argued the order is “a routine compelled disclosure of non-content information which petitioners voluntarily provided to Twitter pursuant to Twitter’s Privacy Policy.”

WikiLeaks has shown how movements can benefit from making a commitment to government openness and transparency a component of their struggle. US State Embassy cables were faxed into Egypt during the Egyptian uprising. Information activists believed the cables had the power to move Egyptians to join the revolution.

When it comes to journalism and public media, WikiLeaks shows how professional journalists in the corporate or Beltway media find themselves to be part of an elite class. They think citizens need them to understand and process current events and the political issues of the day. They find they should be deciding what to cover and what to leak and should cooperate with government when making decisions on coverage and leaks. Their worst fear is an organization like WikiLeaks that levels the playing field and challenges their “gatekeeper” role in society by publishing previously secret information for the public to read and cover on their own blog. They do not want citizen journalists to become as credible as they have historically been because then they might have to confront their allegiance and fealty to power. They do not want to be held accountable for failing to engage in the investigative journalism Americans should expect from the press.

WikiLeaks does not have a base of operations in the United States. Its founder Julian Assange is not a US citizen. Yet, the government has opened up a grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia to investigate WikiLeaks and politicians like Joe Lieberman and Dianne Feinstein would like to go after Assange and prosecute him under the Espionage Act. Bradley Manning, alleged to have leaked the information, continues to face inhumane treatment at Quantico Marine brig in Virginia. And, the political class remains committed to ensuring whistleblower protections for federal employees are further curtailed.

Media reform activists should learn from the government’s response to WikiLeaks. Organizations within the movement for media reform and justice should note how the limits of freedom in American democracy have been exposed.

The press' indifference to WikiLeaks means media reform activists must increase their investment and reliance on independent media willing to openly admit, as the great muckraker I.F. Stone said, governments lie. It means singling out Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others that promote Internet freedom abroad but overtly or covertly subvert it within the US. And, it means working to make it harder for the US government to criminalize and discredit those who use technology and innovation to its full potential.

Whether US citizens accept the limits power seeks to prescribe or impose will greatly determine the future of media and democracy, especially as independent media works to tell the stories of workers and the poor—that are being forced to bear the brunt of revitalizing an economy the financial sector helped collapse—and fight to expose the work of corporations that have hijacked American democracy.

2011-04-12 Devout Catholic Robert Mugabe continues to detain 13 for prayer meeting #Zimbabwe

ImageIn anticipation of the upcoming election in Zimbabwe, president Robert Mugabe and his ZANU PF party have, in the words of Human Rights Watch's Africa director Daniel Bekele, "resorted to its old campaign tactics of suppressing political opponents by harassment and intimidation." Human Rights Watch has called for them to end their harassment and arbitrary arrests of civil society activists and political opponents, as reported recently on WL Central.

This Saturday, police lobbed tear gas canisters into church windows at St Peters Kubatana in Highfield, reportedly sending parishioners jumping out through windows, and baton-charged the service. Mugabe is a devout Catholic who attended the Pope's funeral in 2005 despite an EU travel ban. Pius Ncube, the Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, and an outspoken critic of Mugabe, said of the trip, "That man will use any opportunity to fly to Europe to promote himself. ... The secretary of state might be rather too busy right now to talk to him, but when someone in the family has died, you appreciate all the sympathy you can get from all people, even murderers, crooks and thieves like Mugabe." Pius Ncube was exposed in 2007 as having a relationship with a married woman, and subsequently forbidden by the Vatican from speaking out about the Mugabe government. Mugabe, a violent anti-homosexual, has enjoyed a high level of cooperation from the Vatican, who also allowed his marriage to his second wife Grace, who was not a Catholic.

The prayer meeting was called to remember the assault on Mugabe political opponent Morgan Tsvangirai and other civic leaders by Mugabe supporters on March 11, 2007. After the police attack, the meeting was taken to Glen Norah church where dozens of people were injured by riot police during a turnout of thousands, including Tsvangirai. Police threw more than thirty teargas canisters to disperse the people, assaulted some people who attended the prayer service including children and made Glen Norah impassable with the chaos.

Nelson Chamisa, spokesman for Tsvangirai's political party the Movement for Democratic Change, told reporters, "Shakespeare Mukoyi, the MDC Harare Province Vice Chairperson has been kidnapped by suspected Zanu PF thugs at the prayer meeting when it was moved to Glen Norah from Highfield. His whereabouts are still unknown." He was located Monday at the Harare Remand Prison, and MDC officials said he had been badly beaten. Officials with the Christian Alliance said some of the other 13 still held in prison, including two pastors, were also beaten. The Christian Alliance officials said police intend to charge those held with causing violence.

Many reports say the Zanu PF party has been forced to hold the election now due to the supposed failing health of 87 year old Mugabe. Reports of Mugabe's health failing have been a constant staple in the news since he took power in 1987. His mother lived to be 100, but that has not stopped speculation and fear and hope of what will happen in the event of his death from dominating discussion of Zimbabwe politics for years.

Recent events have added more obstacles to Mugabe's hold on power. ZANU PF had a recent row with South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, who brokered the Southern African Development Community (SADC) backed unity government in Zimbabwe with Tsvangirai as prime minister. ZANU PF accused him of interfering in Zimbabwe's internal affairs and attacked him for voting for a no-fly zone over Libya at the UN Security Council. ZANU PF are themselves refusing funding and supervision from the South African Development Community and the United Nations for the upcoming elections, accusing the UN of having used its supervisory role in Ivory Coast to oust the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo. Yesterday, Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) boss, Menard Muzariri died, leaving a power imbalance in the party at a crucial moment.

Meanwhile, the international community continues to express its disapproval. The International Monetary Fund is refusing to lend to Zimbabwe after a strong critique of government policies. Amnesty International is demanding that hundreds of bodies found in a mass grave in northern Zimbabwe be exhumed by professional forensic experts to "enable adequate identification, determination of cause of death and criminal investigations." Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) have attacked Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs Patrick Chinamasa and the police for saying suspects could be detained in prisons without being brought to court while magistrates were on strike last week. Previous WL Central coverage of recent events in Zimbabwe tells of much more strife affecting the party and attempts to bring change.

But as shown in US State cable 07HARARE638, dated July 2007 and discussing the Mugabe government under the title 'The End Is Nigh', Mugabe has shown a resilience beyond all predictions, and even at the age of 87, he cannot be counted out yet at all. The discussion in this cable found "the idea of a South African-brokered transitional arrangement or government of national unity ... a ZANU-PF-led GNU, with perhaps a few MDC additions" was more likely to prolong than resolve the crisis, and indeed the following paragraph could still be written today:

Robert Mugabe has survived for so long because he is more clever and more ruthless than any other politician in Zimbabwe. To give the devil his due, he is a brilliant tactitian and has long thrived on his ability to abruptly change the rules of the game, radicalize the political dynamic and force everyone else to react to his agenda. However, he is fundamentally hampered by several factors: his ego and belief in his own infallibility; his obsessive focus on the past as a justification for everything in the present and future; his deep ignorance on economic issues (coupled with the belief that his 18 doctorates give him the authority to suspend the laws of economics, including supply and demand); and his essentially short-term, tactical style.

The US attitude in the cable does much to illustrate why Mugabe's policy of "playing the old colonial/race/imperialist themes to buy himself breathing room regionally and internationally" still works, as Ambassador Christopher W. Dell accepts noblesse oblige here:

Equally important is an active U.S. leadership role in the international community. The UK is ham-strung by its colonial past and domestic politics, thus, letting them set the pace alone merely limits our effectiveness. The EU is divided between the hard north and its soft southern underbelly. The Africans are only now beginning to find their voice. Rock solid partners like Australia don't pack enough punch to step out front and the UN is a non-player. Thus it falls to the U.S., once again, to take the lead, to say and do the hard things and to set the agenda.

The cable's conclusion reads much like the concluding paragraphs of most articles being written today, almost four years later:

All this in view, I'm convinced the end is not far off for the Mugabe regime. Of course, my predecessors and many other observers have all said the same thing, and yet Mugabe is still with us.

2011-04-12 Hosni Mubarak and Sons Detained for fifteen days #Egypt

ImageFormer Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak will be detained for 15 days, according to the facebook page of Egypt's prosecutor general, on accusations of corruption and abuse of authority. The facebook statement says the investigation will cover the orders to open fire on demonstrators (covered here on WL Central) as well as any abuse of the president's authority for personal gain.

Earlier today Mubarak was reported by state TV to be taken into intensive care after suffering heart problems following questioning over the killing of protesters and embezzling of public funds. Mubarak's sons sons Alaa and Gamal have also been detained for investigation regarding corruption and violence.

The announcement is a victory for protesters who early on Saturday filled Tahrir Square with hundreds of thousands for one of the biggest protests since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted. Protesters demanded a more thorough removal of the corrupt old regime and a transfer of power from the military council to civilian rule. Thirteen people are reported wounded and two dead from an attempt by the army to clear the protesters. "All of us, the people, the army and the government, feel regret for the events of last Saturday," the Egyptian prime minister, Essam Sharaf said on state TV on Monday.

MENA, the state news media, also reported that Safwat Sherif, former head of the upper house of parliament, was to be detained in Torah Prison for 15 days as part of a probe into accusations of graft, and Fathi Sorour, former speaker of the lower house of parliament, was detained for questioning on Wednesday over accusations he had amassed large amounts of money illegally. The panel, chaired by senior justice ministry official Essam el-Gawahri, has been investigating businessmen and former officials suspected of corruption.

2011-04-12 Strongarm Businessman & #Yemen Opposition Leader Hamid al-Ahmar: The Next US Puppet?

ImageThe Washington Post published a cable days ago on Hamid al-Ahmar, Islah Party leader, well-known businessman and de facto leader of Hashid, Yemen’s largest tribal confederation. The cable suggests that al-Ahmar aimed to remove President Ali Abdullah Saleh from power unless he “guaranteed” there would be “fairness” in the 2011 parliamentary elections, a unity government formed with movement leaders from South Yemen, and removed his relatives from power by December 2009.

The cable from August 31, 2009, indicates Ahmar had plans for demonstrations that would rock Saleh’s regime:

Absent this fundamental shift in Saleh’s governance of the country, Ahmar will begin organizing anti-regime demonstrations in "every single governorate," modeled after the 1998 protests that helped topple Indonesian President Suharto. "We cannot copy the Indonesians exactly, but the idea is controlled chaos." Ahmar said he had conveyed his ultimatum to Saleh through Ahmar’s brothers (NFI) in early August, but had not yet received a response from the president or his inner circle.

Ahmar believes the country would be thrown into “complete chaos” without the support of the Saudi leadership and elements of Yemeni military particularly MG Ali Muhsin. Muhsin has joined the opposition and recently indicated support for a Gulf Cooperation Council initiative that would transfer power to the vice president. And, Saudi Arabia is playing a role as a key mediator in the conflict that continues to intensify in Yemen.

In the cable, Ahmar makes a prediction and shares his plan for pushing the military to no longer back President Saleh. It centers around the conflict in Sa’ada against the Houthis:

Ahmar predicted that the failure of the current military campaign in Sa’ada, along with the continued presence of Saleh’s relatives in positions of leadership, would eventually cause Saleh to lose the military’s loyalty. Deriding Saleh’s son, Special Operations Forces Commander Ahmed Ali, and his nephews Tariq, Yahya, and Ammar, as "clowns" who keep the loyalty of their men only by providing opportunities for corruption, Ahmar said the military would not stay in the barracks indefinitely if it saw fighting in Sa’ada as a futile enterprise under Saleh’s command. Ahmar compared the ROYG forces currently in Sa’ada to the various Ahmar-allied Hashid confederation tribes that had fought against the Houthis during previous campaigns. (Note: GPC Member of Parliament and Hashid leader Hussein al-Ahmar, Hamid’s brother, recently met with members of the "Hashid Popular Army" that fought on behalf of the ROYG in the last round of fighting in Sa’ada, according to an August 30 press report. End Note.) "A lot of blood was shed to make Sa’ada Yemeni and now Saleh is close to wasting it all. Saleh has lost the tribes and, this time, he will lose the military." The only solution in Sa’ada is to arrest Houthi leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi, according to Ahmar.

Ahmar appeared on BBC News at the end of March. He calls on President Saleh to leave the country. He also reiterates a belief noted in the cable that the next president should come from South Yemen because that will make unity possible.

Furthermore, the cable indicates Ahmar would like to see the Islah Party rule Yemen. Ahmar describes what a society ruled by the Islah Party would like:

Repeating comments he has made to EmbOffs in the past, Ahmar described the Islah Party as a moderate force within Yemeni society and described himself as a moderating element within Islah’s leadership. Islah will govern like the Turkish Welfare Party and "nobody fears extremism from Turkey," Ahmar said. The only things Islah would impose upon Yemeni society are a ban on the sale of alcohol and on prostitution and escort services. "No one will be forced to wear the headscarf and Yemenis will be allowed to do whatever they want in their own homes )- bring your girlfriend home and drink -- but just don’t do it public," Ahmar said. (Note: Alcohol sales outside Western hotels are already banned in Yemen. Islah regularly pushes the ROYG, with some success, to shut down massage parlors in Sana’a that are widely regarded as prostitution sites. End Note.) Ahmar asked what concerns, if any, the U.S. has with Islah’s platform and offered to make any changes that would ensure U.S. support for Islah.

Women with Islah Party affiliations have been, as Amnesty International reports, at the forefront of opposition protests for months now.

For years, Ahmar has been outspoken. He appeared on al Jazeera on May 8, 2009 and explicitly blamed President Saleh for the country’s failure. He said many of the things that the Stephen Seche notes in the cable; he called for President Saleh to step down and accused President Saleh of defying the constitution by giving all government and military posts to sons and relatives.

Michelle Shepherd, a reporter who is one of a handful of reporters that have been producing regular coverage of Yemen, profiled Ahmar in February forToronto Star. She reports Ahmar comes from “Yemeni bluebloods.” His family heads the tribal confederation Hashed. He and his brothers have ruled a “family empire” in Yemen since the family patriarch died in 2007.

Ahmar owns Sabafone, a cellular telecom that, as of December 2007, had more than a million and a half subscribers, the Islamic Bank of Saba, a newspaper, a satellite channel, and is the “proprietor” of a Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Baskin Robbins.

He speaks English fluently and, "as a youth, [he traveled] to the U.S to spend summers where he would stay with an American family in order to learn English." He attended Sana’a University and has a bachelor degree in economics with honors. He has a new home is in an “upscale neighborhood” that is “filled with marble, columns and decorated rich reds and gold.” His “business tycoon” in Yemen owns nearly half the city making it possible for him to influence community reaction to Saleh.

The youth reject the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative that is being circulated as a legitimate solution for transferring power from President Saleh to the vice president. At this point, Ahmar does not appear to hold a public position on the initiative. But, he did tell Shepherd in his interview with her in February the youth are not the “most influential.” He said, “The most important players in such a conservative society are the religious leaders and the tribal leaders.”

This is what many following the Yemen conflict closely have asserted.

Since the US is such a key player in Yemen, having mounted counterterrorism operations in the country as part of the US’ “global war on terror,” is it possible Ahmar is the next strongman the US would like to see take control of the country? Is he who diplomats and military leaders believe could bring the necessary stability to a country so business as usual can resume?

It certainly seems possible, especially since he is willing to fund the youth but has indicated he does not believe they are on the level of a tribal leader in Yemen. A possible scenario that could unfold appears to be one where a faction of tribal leaders, who make a deal with Western powers and Saudi Arabia, suffocate the youth movement that has been growing preventing them from having a voice in the power structure that is rejuvenated after President Saleh leaves.

The movement against President Saleh has mostly been peaceful. But, once President Saleh is gone, the country will have to find direction and will likely struggle like Egypt and Tunisia.

Photo is a screen shot from a BBC News interview with Hamid al-Ahmar.

2011-04-13 Doha summit supports Libyan rebels

They are starting to celebrate in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi as the news of the decisions taken at the meeting of the Libya International Contact Group earlier today in Doha, Qatar began to filter in. They see most of the decisions taken are supportive of their struggle to overthrow the 42 year old regime of Mummar Gaddafi and they expect that soon many more nations will join France and Qatar in recognizing the Transitional National Council as the sole legitimate government of Libya.

At the end of the one day summit, the group issued a statement calling for Gaddafi to step down. "Gaddafi and his regime has lost all legitimacy and he must leave power allowing the Libyan people to determine their own future," it said. The meeting which was hosted by Qatar and chaired by British Foreign Secretary William Hague and the Qatari prime minister, Hamed bin Jassem included representatives of NATO countries, Middle East and African countries and a number of international organizations. Ban ki Moon represented the United Nations. At this meeting were representatives of the Transitional National Council that has emerged as the leadership of the Libyan rebels. For many in the contact group it was their first opportunity to meet with the rebel leadership. Also in Qatar, ahead of the talks was Moussa Koussa, Libya's former foreign minister who became the most prominent member of Gaddafi's regime to deflect when he fled to London last month. Just how he got to Doha and what he was doing there remains something of a mystery. He had no formal role in the summit and the opposition Transitional Nation Council said they had no connection to him but he was reported to be having some meetings outside the summit.

The international contact group agreed to establish a "trust fund" to channel financial assistance to the rebels. Some of this funding is expected to come from Gaddafi's seized assets. The group warned that as many a 3.6 million people have been displaced by the fighting in Libya and that in places like Benhgazi conditions were becoming dire and a great amount of humanitarian aid was needed. There was a great deal of unity on providing this and also on the question of pressuring Gaddafi to step down. There was considerably less unity on the question of arming the rebels. Al Jazeera correspondent James Bays said "Statements from the UK and Qatar have agreed that the situation in Benghazi is urgent. And most is due to a lack of cash - it's not all about heavy weapons for frontline fighters; it's also about being able to pay public servants and getting schools back open."

While some, like German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle expressed "deep concerns" that money provided to the rebels might be used to buy weapons. William Hague took a differing view that arming the rebels in Benghazi would not be contrary to international law. Before the conference he told reporters "the arms embargo applies to all of Libya, but it is appropriate to equip people with what is needed to protect themselves".

The Qatar prime minister also seemed to agree, saying "Qatar starts by providing humanitarian supplies, including heating gas and other supplies. We have also taken 6,000 refugees. For all other needs, Qatar ... will make things available for the Libyan people to defend themselves." The Italian foreign minister, Franco Frattini, went further.

"Gaddafi's tactics are to put tanks in the streets - and we cannot have air strikes against people in the city streets, in the squares, in the highly populated areas," he said.

"Either we make it possible for these people to defend themselves, or we withdraw our claims of support."

The Belgian foreign minister Steven Vanackere sided with Germany in this apparent split among NATO allies.

"The UN resolution speaks about protecting civilians, not arming them," he said.

And that is the dilemma that those that seek to protect Libya civilians from Gaddafi's murderous assaults without taking sides in the struggle to overthrow Gaddafi face. The protesters that took up arms against Gaddafi when their peaceful protests against the regime were met by massive violence in February were not soldiers. They were farmers and salesmen and teachers and oil field workers, in a word, civilians. That is the principal reasons they have fought so poorly. They have much courage but they badly need better weapons, and most of all, training. They are civilians in need of protection by the international community except when they exercise their fundamental right to self-defense, they cease to be civilians. Catch 22.

This was the view expressed at the conference by Qatar's Sheik Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani when he said "And what are the rebels except civilians who have taken up arms to defend themselves in a difficult situation and an uneven battle?"

Gaddafi's government in Tripoli was unimpressed by the array of international forces in Qatar, which they called "more of an oil corporation than a true nation." The spokesman for Gaddafi's government had to say seemed to indicate they see Qatar as playing more of a leading role in opposing Gaddafi than the United States "We are very hopeful that the American people and the American government will not buy into the Qatari lies and Qatari schemes."

Indeed, the United States downplayed it's role in this conference. While Britain, France and other EU nations sent their foreign ministers, US President Obama sent Under Secretary William J Burns, who missed the press conference after the meeting.

Earlier this week an African Union delegation of five, led by South Africa's president Jacob Zuma, attempted to broker a ceasefire and a peace deal. Their 'road map' received Gaddafi's blessing because it allowed him to stay in power however it was nixed by the rebels for the same reason. Most in the opposition now see Gaddafi as a bad faith actor who can only be trusted to bring down a reign of terror on any opposition if he is allowed to remain in power and gain the upper hand. Even while he said that he was accepting the African Union peace plan, he continued his artillery and rocket attacks against Misrata on Monday, a city he has had under siege for six weeks "where conditions for civilians are said to be desperate."

Meanwhile in the west, where the anti-Gaddafi forces have been overwhelmed by his superior firepower, they have begun going over to guerrilla warfare. In the past week there have been attacks on army checkpoints and police stations even in Tripoli.

While the motivations and intentions of Qatar or the African Union in intervening in the Libyan situation may be unclear, it should be clear that the American government and other NATO countries have lies and schemes of their own and certainly Gaddafi does.

What makes the Libyan situation so complex is that now it is two wars in one. First there were the protests against the Libya regime starting in mid January, much like those taking place in Tunisia and Egypt at the time. Gaddafi met those protests with a level of gunfire and violence not seen in the other struggles going on in North Africa or the Middle East. Eventually the protesters went over to armed struggle themselves. With the most primitive of weapons and with great lost of life they stormed a fort in Benghazi and got their first real weapons. Then a part of the army in the east came over to the uprising as General Abdel Fattah Younes joined the opposition with 8,000 soldiers including 3,000 special forces. Already we had the makings of a civil war in Libya as a growing number of Libyans joined what had now become an armed struggle.

For six weeks this struggle has raged back and forward along the Mediterranean coast between Tripoli and Benghazi. The rebels at one point thought themselves to be marching on Tripoli, but with few heavy weapons, little training or experience and well overextended in their supply lines, Gaddafi's forces were able to roll them back easily. Gaddafi found his own supply lines overextended as he attempted to pound Adjanbya into the dust with his bombs and his shells and as he prepared his final assault on Benghazi.

Gaddafi has enjoyed a singular advantage that his brother dictators in Tunisia and Egypt did not have - billions in oil money. His effective control of Libya's oil, and the wealth generated by it has enabled him to support a regime uniquely independent of the people of his country. With Libya's small population and billions of petrodollars he has been able to afford some Libyans a fairly high standard of living. He has also been able to get the best weapons money can buy from the NATO countries that are now destroying them. Once he agreed to get rid of the weapons they felt threatened by, they were only too happy to sell him weapons useful for suppressing the Libyan people. He has also been able to buy the loyalty of a great many Libyans especially in Tripoli and Sirt, his home town and when that didn't prove enough to put down the rebellion, he had money to pay mercenaries to come into Libya to fight Libyans.

Paying Gaddafi for the Libyan oil, trading weapons for it, and then looking the other way as he ran a police state and abused his own people was a priori the role that the US, UK and EU played in this civil war that was decades in the making. At first NATO did nothing to interfere as Gaddafi moved to crush the uprising with massive violence, but even with mercenaries and aircraft and gunboats off shore he couldn't whip the rebels into staying down. It appeared that an ugly stalemate was developing in Libya with nasty implications for stability in the region and for the price of oil while world capitalism is still trying to climb out of the worst economic crisis since the '30's.

After Gaddafi's forces shelled and bombed the city of Ajdabiya killing hundreds and as he approached Benghazi with the stated intention to doing the same to this city of over a million, NATO was faced with the potential embarrassment of another massacre not of it's making on it's watch. It was also becoming increasingly clear that there could be no going back to business as usual with Gaddafi but they had little influence or knowledge about the rebels seeking to inherit Libya's oil.

So they began their own war against the Gaddafi regime in the name of stopping a massacre but with the same imperial intentions that have motivated their intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan among other places. This has led to a rather complex three sided war in which both the rebels and NATO are united in the goal of ousting Gaddafi but have difference over what will replace him.

The rebels want NATO's help in building a free and independent Libya whereas NATO wants another North African regime that is in their pocket. Most likely this explains why they have been slow to respond to Gaddafi's merciless shelling of Misrata. They have been using Gaddaffi to discipline the rebels, to force them to accept NATO's help on NATO's terms. A cynic might also think explains NATO's "friendly fire" attacks on rebel forces or the shooting down by NATO of one of the few ancient MIGs the rebels have managed to make airworthy.

Difference on just how to play the rebels was no doubt also behind the differences among NATO allies that came out at today's Doha conference.

2011-04-13 EFF Petition: Who Has Your Back?


Petition from EFF

On Monday, April 11, 2011, EFF launched a petition to the largest Internet companies asking them to stand with their users and be transparent in their practices. Here's a chart showing how they think each of the companies is doing right now — a gold star indicates that the company is doing a stellar job, a half-star indicates they are taking steps in the right direction. This page will be updated as companies change their practices in response to public demand.

Details on what they are asking for:

1. Promise to inform users when their data is sought by the government
Internet companies should promise to tell users when their data is being sought by the government and give users a chance to defend themselves, unless prohibited by law — like Twitter promises to do and did in the Wikileaks investigation.

3. Be transparent about when you hand over data to the government
Companies should publish reports on how often they provide user data to governments worldwide, like Google does. These reports should include all demands that can be disclosed under the law. Companies should also make public the policies they have about sharing data with the government such as guides for law enforcement, like Twitter does.

3. Fight for users' privacy rights in the courts and in Congress
Companies should resist overbroad demands, like Yahoo did recently, and should disclose no more information than required by law. Internet companies should support efforts to modernize electronic privacy laws to defend users in the digital age, like the Digital Due Process Coalition members do.

Click here to sign the EFF petition

For WL Central coverage of the Wikileaks Twitter case, click here.

2011-04-13 Future and Freedom in #Turkey - cable analysis series - Part 1, RELIGION

ImageTurkey is a land of many lands. A checkpoint, a bridge between the East and the West used by many cultures and civilizations across the history of humankind. In many ways, however, the country is not only divided by the classical dichotomy between Europe and Asia, as it is a nation made up of many different groups, clans and tribes. It is difficult to accept that those living in Bodrum along the Mediterranean beaches are from the same country as those living in the deserted Diyarbakir; and it would be hard to argue that those living in the orthodox Kayseri are the same culture as those in modern Istanbul. Colloquially one could say that Turkey suffers from an identity problem. This has been seen as an obstacle for the government, obsessed with standardizing religion so as to moderate extremist clans that have an unfavourable view in Europe. To unite people under the giant Turkish state, the government has spread the same flag over the whole country, trying to make it present in every village, town or major city. But far from making one single body of Anatolian citizens, the red fabric painted with a star and a moon all abroad the country only denounces the paradox of Turkish society in religious affairs.

We will be publishing a series of reports related to freedom on Turkish lands and minds. For more information or if you want to help us continue our work contact us at or on Twitter @wikileaks_world.


Turkey's reputation as a moderate, tolerant, and secular country is due in large measure to the oppressive and authoritarian manner in which the State monitors and controls religion” (05ANKARA6106).

Allowing rare exceptions, almost everyone in Turkey considers themselves a Muslim. According to U.S. diplomacy (2005), around 98% of the Turkish population are Muslims. This , however, is shallow information, as it is necessary to totally review the concept of ‘being a Muslim’ to understand specific ‘Turkish Islamism"’. While Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir are somewhat liberal cities, outside these big centers most people practice Islam in the traditional way. The general conclusion is that although the state tries to gather Muslims in Turkey into a single body, there are several differentiated sects and tribes of them in the country.

Religious structure was established in the 1924 Constitution, after the liberal revolution guided by the national hero Ataturk installed an ideological secular state, formally known in Turkey as Kemalism. The Kemalist doctrine proposes equality regarding the relationship between the state and religious sects. Apart from the possible benefits, it still implies the end of the traditional Muslim society (where each religious sect enjoyed a degree of autonomy, with their own leadership, collecting their own taxes and living according to their own system. In an attempt to implement this new social order, the Directorate for Religious Affairs (Diyanet) was created "to execute the works concerning the beliefs, worship, and ethics of Islam, enlighten the public about their religion, and administer the sacred worshipping places".

With these actions the Turkish government is essentially trying to reconstruct and portray Turkey as a moderate Islamic society:

Turkey has the reputation of being the home of "moderate Islam" because it combines a "secular" political system with a tolerant strand of Sunni Islam (…) The majority of Turks subscribe to the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam. The Hanafi school is one of the more open-minded and tolerant strands of Sunni Islam.” (05ANKARA6106)

ImageStandardization, however, is never without resistance. In this case, the problem is that Diyanet is always seen as adjacent to the Sunni majority, the religious majority in the country and currently in power. It is obvious that the Sunni Shafi'i and the Alevi sects do not have the same support by the state as the dominant Sunni Hanafi. This works in the same way as the Armenian Greagorians, Roman Catholics, Syriac Orthodox, Chaldean Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Bulgarian Orthodoxes, Georgian Orthodoxes and Protestants , all of which are also neglected by the government. Cables 05ANKARA1511, 05ANKARA1935 and 05ADANA191 detail the Christian persecution in Turkey, especially in the South, performed by the Directorate for Religious Affairs (Diyanet). To solve this bad reputation Diyanet has been designing “outreach programs”, aimed specifically towards certain religious groups so as to integrate or model them after what they believe will serve the nation.

"State funds are used to construct mosques, but the state spends no money on Alevi houses of worship, Jewish synagogues, or Christian churches. All Muslim school age students are required to take classes in the Hanafi-Sunni tradition of Islam, regardless of their personal sectarian beliefs. Non-Muslim students are not required to take these courses, but alternative courses are not offered by the state. Private religious classes are illegal and proselytizing by non-Muslims, while not illegal, is viewed with great suspicion and actively discouraged”. (05ANKARA6106).

For a more specific example, Cable 07ANKARA747, describes the attempt made by Diyanet to reach out to the important Alevi group: “Diyanet Foreign Relations Vice Chair Mehmet Gormez recently told us that the Diyanet is increasing its outreach efforts to Alevis to dispel the notion that the Diyanet is an exclusively Sunni organization”.

“The new programs include more in-depth training on Alevism for Sunni religious officials, government sponsored trips to Europe for Alevi religious leaders to support Alevi education and plans to publish a definitive Alevi history.This attempt, however, has been carried out for the wrong reasons, according to Alevi organizations. They have accused Diyanet of being “authoritative” and “insincere” in its actions. For example, Pir Sultan Abdal Alevi Association President Kazim Genc said that “Diyanet remains an exclusive, discriminatory Sunni organization. The Diyanet employs only Sunnis, and only meets with Alevi groups that share its views”

Many leaders have also pointed out that these “outreach plans” are merely carried out to please the European Union in their demand for equality towards Alevis, and a general feeling of failure and resentment is present:

“Many of Turkey's Alevis have long found it offensive that the GOT does not recognize them as a distinct relgious group or allow them to freely practice their religion (...) Alevis want the government to treat Alevism equally in public school religion courses and in the allocation of public funds for the construction and administration of cem houses.”

The headscarf polemic

In April 2007, military intervened to prevent the election as president of Abdullah Gul, a person whose wife wore the headscarf. The banning of the headscarf has always been a strong symbol of the secular state established by Ataturk's revolution. In the end, Abdullah won the presidential elections and in 2008 the AKP, led by him, in partnership with the MHP - Nationalist Movement Party -, passed a law allowing the wearing of headscarves in universities. Turkey's chief prosecutor, Abdurrahman Yalçınkaya, asked the Constitutional Court to close the AKP - Justice and Development Party - with accusations of 'anti-laicistic activities'. The case was concluded on 30 July 2008 with the judgment that the AKP had been at the centre of activities violating secularism. After deliberating for three months, Constitutional Court decided not to close the party, but the AKP was deprived of half of the grant provided by the Treasury.

Regarding this matter, a cable from 2008 classified by Ambassor Ross Wilson points out that Endorgan "allowed himself to be goaded by the National Action Party (MHP) into putting the headscarf ban at the head of the reform queue. For this short-term populist win, he sacrificed a larger constitutional reform package that would have significantly strengthened Turkey's democracy. (...) These and other missteps exacerbated fears among many that Erdogan was going too far, too fast; that there were no effective constraints on the AKP (especially after the military's botched intervention last spring); and that fundamentalists might soon dominate the bureaucracy, judiciary, universities, etc., to change Turkey in dangerous and permanent ways". (08ANKARA691).

Control for political objectives

Image The crusade for control over religion for political purposes has turned the supposed free, secular Turkish state into one that “actively monitors and represses religious expression ( …). The Turkish state hires and trains all religious officials (imams and muftis); appoints them to their posts; and pays their salaries. The state writes the sermons that most of the imams deliver at Friday prayers; picks which imam in each mosque gets to deliver the Friday sermon; and uses undercover intelligence officials to monitor their activities.”. (05ANKARA6106).

These actions are opposed to the ideals of the 1924 revolution of a secular and fair state. They seem to follow the political will to adapt Turkey to western standards as a part of the project of joining the E.U. This has forced the leading party, the AKP to adopt insincere behaviors regarding its objectives and legality. Although known as a religiously oriented party and supporting religion in the ways we exposed above, the AKP is officially and publicly a secular party, since Turkish constitution and party law bans parties formed around sectarianism, ethnicity or regionalism. On this subject 05ANKARA6106 states that: “nonetheless, AKP is an Islam-oriented political party. The leaders and grassroots members of AKP largely come from the Refah and Fazilet parties, banned for Islamic extremism in 1998 and 2001 respectively” (...)A variety of Embassy contacts assert that AKP's senior leadership does not really believe in religious tolerance, but merely pretends to support tolerance in an effort to court Western favor and promote Turkey's EU membership bid”.

In cable 04ANKARA7211, the crude political ambitions of Turkish politicians is revealed as ambassador Eric Edelman reported that “We have also run into the rarely openly-spoken, but widespread belief among adherents of the Turk-Islam synthesis that Turkey's role is to spread Islam in Europe, "to take back Andalusia and avenge the defeat at the siege of Vienna in 1683" as one participant in a recent meeting at AKP's main think tank put it”.

The result is that, “while Turkish law explicitly denies religiously-derived ideas and sentiments any place in the public square, religious institutions are not only under strict state control, but are in fact an integral part of the Turkish State apparatus”. (03ANKARA4767).

Thus, the fake secular political system has problems that require an urgent solution to turn Turkey into a country with reasonable levels of religious freedom. The selective subsidies given to religious infrastructure, the manipulation of religious education and the privileges given to Sunni beliefs and traditions are crippling the bold ideals of the Turkish republic dreamed in Ataturk´s revolution. As of now, “Islam as it is lived in Turkey is stultified, riddled with hypocrisy, ignorant and intolerant of other religions' presence in Turkey (…) Until Turkey ensures that the humanist strain in Islam prevails here, Islam in Turkey will remain a troubled, defensive force, hypocritical to an extreme degree and unwilling to adapt to the challenges of open society”. (04ANKARA7211).

2011-04-13 State Dept and Its Openness to Scrutiny on Bradley Manning & Human Rights

Acting Deputy Department Spokesman Mark C. Toner was confronted during a briefing with a few members of the press, who chose to confront the State Department on its handling of human rights especially the current detention and treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning on April 11.

In a video of the briefing, Matt Lee, a reporter for the Associated Press, asks about “the annual ritualistic dance” of the State Department’s release of the Human Rights Report, which China immediately condemned. He wonders if the annual report, which he considers to be an “annual exchange of vitriol,” will have any constructive effects on the State Department's April 11 & 12 meetings with China.

Toner responds saying he doesn’t consider the annual exchange to be vitriolic at all. And adds, “We are candid in our exchanges with China about human rights concerns both from the podium and in our private meetings with them. And certainly, we don’t regard it as an interference in our internal affairs when any foreign government or individual organization monitors our human rights practices. And we are proud to say that our system of government allows for that kind of comment without fear or without fear of recrimination. And it speaks to the value of our system, we feel.”

Lee seizes on Toner’s answer to ask a canny follow-up question, “Can you explain why, if the United States is proud of its human rights record, that the UN special rapporteur has complained that you’re not allowing him independent access to Bradley Manning?”

Responsibility is shifted to the Department of Defense, as Toner explains there have been conversations with the UN special rapporteur and “in terms of visits to PFC Manning, that’s something for the Department of Defense.” To which Lee asks if the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has the same problem.

“You are – the State Department is the direct contact with the ICRC. At least it was for the Guantanamo inmates. Have you had any contact with them?” asks Lee. Toner essentially repeats what he just said. Then another reporter jumps in.

MOHAMMED: If you welcome scrutiny, where’s the harm?

TONER: I said we’re having conversations with him. We’re trying to work with him to meet his needs. But I don’t understand the question.

MOHAMMED: Well, you said you welcome scrutiny from outsiders of the United States human rights record –

TONER: Right. We do.

QUESTION: — that you feel that it speaks to the strength of the U.S. system. So why does it take very lengthy conversations to agree to let a UN special rapporteur have access to an inmate?

TONER: For the specific visitation requests, that’s something the DOD process would best answer. We’ve been very clear that there’s a legal process underway. We’ve been forthright I think in talking about Pfc Manning’s situation. We are in ongoing conversations with the special rapporteur. We have nothing to hide. In terms of actual visit to Manning, that’s something DOD would handle.

The exchange is instructive because in the international community the US does not display a public position of openness to scrutiny of its handling of human rights at all. US leaders typically do not think they should be subjected to criticism anymore than China thinks the US has a right to report on their human rights record every year. And, a prime example of this reality can be seen in the US’ recent decision to join the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)

Subjected to a periodic review in November of last year, which all members of the council must face every so often, countries like Iran, Cuba, North Korea, China along with allies like the UK and Australia addressed human rights issues in the US. Cuba Ambassador Randolph Reyes Rodriguez called on the US to put on trial “perpetrators of torture, extrajudicial executions and serious violations of human rights committed in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram.” The UK and Australia condemned the death penalty, racial profiling and the failure to close Guantanamo.

The US does not find it should have to face criticism from countries like Iran, Cuba North Korea or China, countries that clearly violate human rights regularly, but the US itself is guilty of routine human rights violations. If it truly takes human rights seriously, it should be willing to let any and all countries share their views on the US. It should understand that each country in any discussion of human rights will have to own up to what they do if they want their concerns to be considered legitimate. Yet, the US reaction to talk of torture, closing Guantanamo, extrajudicial killings, war crimes, etc is all too often similar to Niles Gardener of the Heritage Foundation’s remark on an edition of Inside Story that covered the UNHRC’s periodic review of the US record on human rights: “For the United States to be subjected to this kind of abuse from many of the world’s worst human rights violators is frankly farcical…Why on Earth the Obama Administration is willing to subject the United States to this kind of humiliation is frankly beyond comprehension.”

Next, Lee and Toner go back and forth on Toner’s use of the word “forthright.” Lee references the forced resignation of PJ Crowley from the State Department stating, “It seems to me that the only person who was forthright in discussions of his treatment resigned several days after making those comments. Can you explain what you mean by you’ve been forthright in terms of his treatment?”

The resulting exchange demonstrates the following: (1) a legal process is underway so the State Department cannot talk openly yet (2) it can have a conversation on the case with the UN special rapporteur but the State Department is unable to share details with the press on conversations with the top UN investigator on torture. Finally, when it is pointed out that Toner has said the US is willing to open itself to scrutiny but, on the “first example anyone raises,” (3) it seems like there is a place for scrutiny of human rights but not here at this briefing.

TONER: Matt, I would raise with you that much of China’s report came from open source, which is what an independent media does and would note that that kind of independent media does serve a function and there are details about Manning’s case and other human rights concerns out there but I’m not going to talk about it here.

This quote is starkly revealing, as Toner seems to suggest he is not able to speak openly but “independent media” is able to do so and has been doing so. It’s almost as if Toner wants Lee to watch an edition of Democracy Now! or pull up to find the latest on Manning.

Essentially, Toner is not prepared to allow members of the press corps to be the check on power the two reporters challenging him are trying to be. He does not dispute the notion that there are reasons to be concerned. But, he’s just doing his job and, again, there’s a legal process underway.

Post originally appeared at

2011-04-13 The Israel Cables: Gaza is 'Hopeless for Now'

ImageViolence has escalated significantly in the past month between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The Itamar attack, which involved the stabbing of five members of a Jewish family by two individuals whom were believed to be Palestinians, and arms found, which Israel believed were being smuggled from Iran, inflamed tensions further. As some suggest Operation Cast Lead II has begun, Haaretz, Yedioth Ahronoth and Al Akhbar have begun to release US State Embassy cables on Israel from WikiLeaks.

Haaretz reports on Hamas and the Gaza Strip. According to a November 2009 cable, Israel has no clear or consistent policy and Israel has refused US requests to “allow more goods into Gaza to assist the population.” Also, months after Operation Cast Lead, Embassy Tel Aviv reported, “Israelis are enjoying the best security situation since the outbreak of the second intifada [in 2000], the result of Israeli intelligence successes in destroying the suicide bombing network in the West Bank as well as good security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority’s security forces.”

This cable [09TELAVIV2473] features Major General Yoav Galant, the Israel Defense Forces general responsible for Gaza and southern Israel, commenting:

Israel's political leadership has not yet made the necessary policy choices among competing priorities: a short-term priority of wanting Hamas to be strong enough to enforce the de facto ceasefire and prevent the firing of rockets and mortars into Israel; a medium-priority of preventing Hamas from consolidating its hold on Gaza; and a longer-term priority of avoiding a return of Israeli control of Gaza and full responsibility for the well-being of Gaza's civilian population. Israel appears determined to maintain its current policy of allowing only humanitarian supplies and limited commercial goods into Gaza, while sealing the borders into Israel. There are indications of progress in the indirect negotiations with Hamas over the release of Gilad Shalit in return for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, many of them hardened terrorists,but it is difficult to predict the timing of such a deal. Shalit's release would likely result in a more lenient Israeli policy toward the Gaza crossings, but a large prisoner exchange would be played by Hamas as a major political achievement and thus further damage the standing of Abu Mazen among Palestinians.

Haaretz explicitly notes the cable indicates that, in fact, “Israel wants Hamas to be strong enough to enforce the de facto ceasefire between the two sides and prevent the firing of rockets and mortars into Israel,” suggesting a détente could be established between the two. If you look at how a lull in violence has developed between the two in the past days, it does look like the ceasefire agreement Hamas would like between Israel will rest on the establishment of détente (or, perhaps, tahdiya, which is Arabic for “calming” or “quieting” and has been used to refer to temporary cessations of violence between Israel and Palestine).

Additionally, Haaretz covers a cable from September 21, 2005, which features Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, about four months before the Palestinian parliamentary elections that Hamas won, saying January 21, 2006 will be a “fateful day.” Gilad suggests Israel may not have given enough attention to the elections and says, “We are doomed if Hamas becomes a real power and part of political life, especially as the PA continues to be helpless."

The fear of doom was enough to spur Israel to intensify its control and strangulation of Gaza. From the Goldstone Report:

…[a] series of economic and political measures imposed against the Gaza Strip began around February 2006 with the Hamas electoral victory in the legislative elections. This was also accompanied by the withholding of financial support for the Gaza Strip by some donor countries and actions of other countries that amounted to open or tacit support of the Israeli blockade. Hamas took over effective power in the Gaza Strip on 15 June 2007. Shortly thereafter Israel declared the Gaza Strip a “hostile territory,” enacting a series of economic, social and military measures purportedly designed to isolate and strangle Hamas. These have made a deep impact on the population’s living standards.

The report notes that “no list of items allowed into the Gaza Strip nor the criteria for their selection [has been] made known to the public.”

A cable [07TELAVIV1733] covered by Yedioth Ahronoth reveals then-Israeli Director of Intelligence Amos Yadlin, in a meeting in June of 2007 with then-Ambassador Richard H. Jones, predicted “armed confrontation in Gaza between Hamas and Fatah” following the January 2006 elections. He singles out Hamas leader Khalid Mishal saying he feels Mishal gave his tacit consent to Hamas to militarily go after Fatah.

Yadlin considers Gaza to be “hopeless for now.” He comments Palestinians have to realize Hamas offers no solution. He talks about a scenario that could involve Fatah losing control of Gaza and expresses his view that the “development would please Israel since it would enable the IDF to treat Gaza as a hostile country rather than having to deal with Hamas as a non-state actor.” And, when asked if he is worried about Iran having a presence in Gaza, Yadlin says Israel can handle their presence “as long as Gaza does not have a port (sea or air).”

This view of Yadlin’s becomes more resolute. In a cable [07TELAVIV2280. In the cable, Dagan shares his view of Gaza:

Departing from official GOI policy, Dagan expressed his personal opinion that after more than a decade of trying to reach a final status agreement with the Palestinians, "nothing will be achieved." Only Israeli military operations against Hamas in the West Bank prevent them from expanding control beyond Gaza, lamented Dagan, without which Fatah would fall within one month and Abbas would join his "mysteriously wealthy" son in Qatar. Offering what he believed to be a conservative estimate, Dagan said that USD 6 billion had been invested in the Palestinian Authority since 1994. "What did it accomplish, other than adding a few more people to the Fortune 500?" asked Dagan. Although he expressed his personal faith in Salam Fayyad, Dagan said that the Palestinian Prime Minister had no power base. Fatah as a party would have to completely reorganize itself in order to regain credibility, argued Dagan, but instead they have turned once again to the "old guard." The Mossad Chief suggested that a completely new approach was required, but did not provide Townsend any additional details.

Dagan’s tenure as Mossad Chief came to an end in 2011. The Jerusalem Post, in an article on the end of “the Dagan era,” notes Dagan brought a “new sense of daring” to the position.

Meir Dagan was installed into the top intelligence post by prime minister Ariel Sharon, who had worked with him in the 1970s running a unit of elite commandos called Sayeret Rimon whose soldiers disguised themselves as Palestinians and raided the Gaza Strip in search of PLO fighters.

After his appointment in 2002, he immediately set out to revolutionize an organization that had been rocked by the botched assassination of Hamas's Damascus-based chief Khaled Mashaal in Amman in 1997, under the tenure of Mossad chief and former Labor MK Danny Yatom. Two Mossad agents were caught in the botched operation. In exchange for their release, and to salvage ties with a furious Jordan, Israel was forced to provide the antidote to save Mashaal's life and to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, notably including Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

As Mossad Chief, the Jerusalem Post reports CIA relations “peaked due to the Mossad’s success in once again providing critical intelligence and proving itself to be a major player.” There was “unprecedented cooperation between the agencies.” That cooperation likely made it possible for Dagan to carry out some key targeted assassinations:

In February 2008, a car bomb killed Imad Mughniyeh, Hizbullah's military commander in Damascus. Later that year, Gen. Muhammad Suleiman, Syrian President Bashar Assad's liaison to Hamas and Hizbullah and the head of the country's covert nuclear program, was shot dead by a sniper at his vacation home in the port city of Tartus. In January, the Mossad reportedly struck again, killing Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the Hamas arch terrorist, in Dubai.

Targeted assassinations or extrajudicial killings may be frowned upon in the international community, but, like Yadlin (who told Rep. Wexler in December 2008 Israel could use “targeted assassinations” on Hamas in Gaza), it is but another tool for minimizing an “axis of evil” that consists of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas.

It appears Israel has managed to get the Palestinian Authority to endorse Israel’s war on Hamas (and, thus, all Israeli incursions into Gaza mounted under the pretense of ridding Gaza of Hamas). In a meeting with General James L. Jones and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert [07TELAVIV3586], referring to Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, Olmert says there are “many layers of language in the Arab world.” This is Olmert’s way of saying the Palestinian Authority says one thing in private and does another in public (which is not exclusive to the Palestinians as anyone following the Cablegate releases understands by now).

Olmert explains, “In their one-on-one meetings, President Abbas always asks Olmert to take tougher actions against Hamas and its Gaza leadership. But when the IDF carries out operations in Gaza that kill terrorists, Saeb Erekat writes a letter to the UN complaining about it. Olmert said that the Palestinians say one thing to Secretary Rice and then ask him to do the opposite.” As revealed in the “Palestine Papers” released by Al Jazeera English, this behavior is similar to how the Palestinian Authority Leadership cooperated with the US and pushed to delay reference of the Goldstone Report to the United Nations Security Council.

On March 22, nineteen people including children were wounded when Israel launched air strikes on Gaza. Four unarmed civilians were killed while playing soccer in a backyard.

Israeli officials said the attacks were in response to rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza. Al Jazeera English reported the military “held Hamas ‘solely responsible for terrorist activity in the Gaza Strip.” Hamas was “warned not to continue its aggression.” Israel continued to attack the Gaza Strip throughout the end of March and the first days of April. Now, the Hamas-run government in Gaza has announced Palestinian groups have agreed to a ceasefire to halt the violence.

Palestinian youth increasingly recognize how political division between Hamas and Fatah is impacting their future. That is why on March 15 they held a “Day of Rage” calling for political unity between Hamas and Fatah.

The action was interfered with and suppressed. Fatah supporters of the Palestinian Authority attacked the pro-unity protesters in Ramallah. Intelligence officers closely monitored protesters interviews with the media. Fatah supporters burnt an American flag to make protests seem anti-American. And, Hamas security forces assaulted and forced protesters in Gaza to disperse and regroup.

2011-04-14 Theodor Reppe acquitted of WikiLeaks and Tor related charges

According to a March 19 article on Magdeburger Nachrichten, the owner of the German WikiLeaks domain, Theodor Reppe, had been accused of facilitating access to child pornography, and accessing it himself through his Tor server. All charges were dropped as he could demonstrate that he only forwarded Internet traffic to WikiLeaks, but did not himself maintain the site. (WikiLeaks published an Australian Internet blacklist which also contains links to child pornography sites.) Moreover, he could prove that the Tor server was used by many other individuals, rather than just by himself. Thus, the IP of his Tor server could not be linked to his own Internet activities.

2011-04-15 European Court of Justice opines that ISP filtering and blocking is prohibited under the Charter of Fundamental Rights

The European Court of Justice, the highest court in Europe, today gave its preliminary opinion on the appeal case between artists’ rights agency Sabam (Société Belge des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Editeurs) and ISP Scarlet Extended. Sabam won a court order in 2007 in Brussels Court which would force the ISP (then called Tiscali) to block users from illegally downloading copyrighted material and gave it six months to install the approved system Audible Magic music fingerprinting system. The ISP said the spying on its customers this entailed would be illegal.

In the preliminary opinion, which is usually the basis of the final ruling, Advocate General Cruz Villalón considers that the installation of that filtering and blocking system is a restriction on the right to respect for the privacy of communications and the right to protection of personal data, both of which are rights protected under the Charter of Fundamental Rights. By the same token, the deployment of such a system would restrict freedom of information, which is also protected by the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The Advocate General also objected to the system on the grounds that it would operate “…in abstracto and as a preventive measure, which means that a finding would not first have been made that there had been an actual infringement of an intellectual property right or even that an imminent infringement was likely.”

2011-04-15 Extradition and Canada's Sovereignty: The Prince of Pot and more

ImageVancouver native Marc Emery, was today denied a transfer to Canada to serve the final four years of his five year sentence. Emery's lawyer Kirk Tousaw said US authorities told his client that the US government refused his transfer on April 6 despite a recommendation from his sentencing judge that he be transferred and despite his meeting all the requirements, due to the “seriousness of the offence” and “law enforcement concerns.”

Marc's serious offense is selling marijuana seeds by mail to the US, a serious offense on the US side of the border, where the law equates one marijuana seed to one plant to 100 kilos of marijuana, but almost never prosecuted in Canada where seed shops are common, and the last conviction was against Emery in 1998 when he was fined $2,000. In fact on Wednesday, an Ontario court struck down Canada's laws that prohibit the possession and growing of marijuana as unconstitutional. The judge suspended his ruling for three months, to give the federal government time to appeal or respond; if they are unsuccessful, marijuana will be legal to possess and cultivate in Ontario in three months, which will set precedent for all of the other provinces. That would explain why the US has "law enforcement concerns," as Emery in Canada would have no chance of being in jail, much less serving repeated solitary confinement. According to the US - Canada Extradition Treaty, extradition applies only in cases where the “offenses are punishable by the laws of both Contracting Parties by a term of imprisonment exceeding one year.”

Extradition is also not permitted on political grounds. The US DEA’s office described his arrest: “Today’s arrest of Mark Scott Emery, publisher of Cannabis Culture Magazine and founder of a marijuana legalization group, is a significant blow, not only to the marijuana trafficking trade in the United States and Canada, but also to the marijuana legalization movement. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of Emery’s illicit profits are known to have been channeled to marijuana legalization groups active in the United States and Canada. Drug legalization lobbyists have one less pot of money to rely on.” The entire document described Marc’s political activity, not his seed selling. It is illegal in Canada to extradite a person for political activity, and yet Marc was extradited.

“This refusal is a terrible affront to the sovereignty of Canada,” Tousaw said. “Marc is a target of political persecution that appears to have transcended his conviction and now infects the treaty transfer process. He qualifies under every relevant factor and should have been allowed to serve out his jail term in Canada, close to his wife Jodie and in the country in which all of his activity took place. We call upon Prime Minister (Stephen) Harper and the leaders of the Liberal Party and NDP to stand up for this."

But actually the terrible affront to Canadian sovereignty began long before this refusal or Marc's extradition. Extradition between the US and Canada was changed in 1999 to allow simply a request from a prosecutor to enable extradition from Canada to the US, while still requiring the full legal process in reverse. Vancouver extradition lawyer Gary Botting says, “The new Act effectively reduces extradition in Canada from a traditionally judicial process (as it remains in the United States) to an essentially administrative process.”

According to Botting, the Canada US Extradition Treaty has never been ratified and is not, in his opinion, even legal. Whether it is, or is not, there is still far more room for due diligence to be demanded in the extradition requests from the US. Requests which do not meet the dual criminality requirement, which would not be prosecuted in Canada, need to be refused (this would obviously include all Canadians operating in Canada, see contrary examples here.). The Canadian government needs to demand at all times that the death penalty not be imposed, in accordance with the UN’s resolution. When Canadians are tried and sentenced in the US, the Canadian government needs to start meeting their responsibilities to bring prisoners home to serve their sentences.

The refusal of Emery's transfer raises concerns for other Canadians expecting transfer home as well. Omar Khadr certainly meets both the “seriousness of the offence” and “law enforcement concerns,” since he was tried for murder and it is unlikely that Canadians will be sympathetic to further harsh treatment of a man arrested as a child, who will have spent nine years in US torture camps, eight without a trial, and ended with a conviction in what was widely referred to as a political show trial at Guantanamo. Khadr's first year will be up at the end of October.

Canada is having another election on May 2, after opposition MPs voted 156-145 in favour of a motion finding Prime Minister Stephen Harper in contempt of Parliament and expressing non-confidence in the government. The current governing party was created in 2003 from a coalition of the right wing and ultra right wing parties in Canada, while the opposition is made up of several diverse left leaning parties and the separatist party of Quebec. The political situation has caused repeated elections, in 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2011, as the left and the separatists are able to keep the right in a minority position but not gain power themselves. Voter turnout has plummeted, leading to a 58.8% turnout in 2008, caused possibly in part by voter ennui, but also a sense that the important issues (extradition to the US among them) would be no different with either of the leading parties. Canada has refused to seek extradition or repatriation of Khadr under two Liberal prime ministers as well as the current Conservative one.

2011-04-15 New US Gov't Strategy for "Identity Ecosystems" in Cyberspace Unveiled at US Chamber of Commerce [Update:1]

The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC), which some believe could establish and require Internet users to have ID on the Internet, was unveiled today at the US Chamber of Commerce. NSTIC aims to establish "identity ecosystems," what the National Institute for Standards in Technology describes as a "a user-centric online environment, a set of technologies, policies, and agreed upon standards that securely supports transactions ranging from anonymous to fully authenticated and from low to high value."

Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke delivered the following remarks:

"I'm optimistic that NSTIC will jump-start a range of private-sector initiatives to enhance the security of online transactions. This strategy will leverage the power and imagination of entrepreneurs in the private sector to find uniquely American solutions. Other countries have chosen to rely on government-led initiatives to essentially create national ID cards. We don't think that's a good model, despite what you might have read on blogs frequented by the conspiracy theory set. To the contrary, we expect the private sector to lead the way in fulfilling the goals of NSTIC. Having a single issuer of identities creates unacceptable privacy and civil liberties issues. We also want to spur innovation, not limit it. And we want to set a floor for privacy protection that is higher than what we see today, without placing a ceiling on the potential of American innovators to make additional improvements over time. "

What might this mean for the Internet as citizens of the world know it today? As the US government, in cooperation with the private sector, works to preserve cyber infrastructure or networks that it considers to be “strategic national assets,” how might this protection of assets fundamentally alter key characteristics of the Internet, which many have grown to appreciate? In the age of WikiLeaks and Anonymous, in an era where the US government has been unable to prevent the Chinese government and military from stealing usernames and passwords for State Department computers, it seems that this strategic plan could transform the Internet into a realm that requires you to prove your identity with an approved and issued identification card every time you move in to a new website.

President George W. Bush, in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, used the climate to fundamentally transform security. The Bush Administration led a conditioning and recalibration of the way citizens in the country thought of civil liberties. This made possible a warrantless wiretapping program, which the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) considers to be “part of a broad pattern of the executive branch using "national security" as an excuse for encroaching on the privacy and free speech rights of Americans without adequate oversight.”

A “global war on terror” and the memory of a horrific tragedy allowed for the metamorphosis of society into a suspect society. Born were two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Other countries became zones for launching unmanned aircraft or drone strikes. And, citizens saw the US government detain and imprison indefinitely terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay, Baghram Air Force Base and other prisons denying them due process and in many cases subjecting them to harsh interrogations or torture.

All of these developments have, for the most part, become something US citizens have found a way to justify. In a society where citizens are told “if they see something, say something,” they believe the escalation of security, the detention, the strikes, and all the expansions of the deep state, which controls and operates the national security apparatuses in the US, is allowable. The civil liberties one has are not to be given up except in cases where one might be in danger and then, in that case, it is okay. So, in the past months, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) expanded the scope of its security forcing travelers to go through body scanners that might pose a risk to travelers’ health because of radiation or be subject to a pat-down procedure that if witnessed in public by a police officer would likely lead to the arrest of the person doing the pat-down.

Now, the connecting of systems in more and more ways, the increased complexity that has come as a result of innovation and the reality that, without cyber-connectivity, the economy of the United States could grind to a halt and its national security could be breached has pushed the US government in the past years to work in concert with the private sector to begin to bring order to a networked public sphere that many value because it does not require you to authenticate your identity and does not require you to be inspected before moving along to your destination.

A draft of NSTIC began to circulate in July of last year. Then, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) noted the possibility that this could lay a foundation for the establishment of a national identification card that would be required if one wanted to use the Internet. The draft explicitly said it did not advocate for such an establishment, but when considering the fact that the project went from being a “National Strategy for Secure Online Transactions” to a radically expanded project that called for “pervasive, authenticated digital IDs,” the EFF concluded that the strategic plan could not only pose huge risks to civil liberties but also “place unquestioning faith in authentication…as an approach to solving Internet security problems.”

Those advancing the cause of greater cybersecurity are already working to condition people to think of liberties and rights differently. Philip Reitinger, Deputy Undersecretary of Homeland Security for National Protection, provided testimony on cybersecurity before a House committee on homeland security just months ago. In the context of cybersecurity, Reitinger says, “DHS is committed to ancillary a public’s privacy, polite rights and polite liberties. Accordingly, a Department has implemented clever remoteness and polite rights and polite liberties standards into all of a cybersecurity programs and initiatives from a[n] outset. To support this, DHS determined an Oversight and Compliance Officer within NPPD, and pivotal cybersecurity crew accept specific training on a insurance of remoteness and other polite liberties as they describe to mechanism network certainty activities.”

One can imagine what Homeland Security might wish to deem polite rights and polite liberties and what it might seek to not designate as such. One can also imagine numerous civil rights and civil liberties protected by the US Constitution right now, which might be prohibited by an ever-growing and pervasive security agency. The use of the adjective “polite” is clearly an aim to shift the culture. Indeed, Reitinger describes a public relations or propaganda campaign the US government aims to use to change citizens’ way of thinking:

While substantial activity is focused on open and private zone vicious infrastructure protection, DHS is committed to building innovative ways to raise a ubiquitous public’s recognition about a significance of defence America’s mechanism systems and networks from attacks. Every October, DHS and open and private zone partners foster efforts to teach adults about guarding opposite cyber threats as part of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. In Mar 2010, Secretary Napolitano launched a National Cybersecurity Awareness Challenge, that called on ubiquitous open and private zone companies to rise artistic and innovative ways to raise cybersecurity awareness. In Jul 2010, 7 of a some-more than 80 proposals were comparison and famous during a White House ceremony. The winning proposals helped surprise a growth of a National Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign, Stop. Think. Connect., that DHS launched in and with private zone partners during a Oct 2010 National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Stop. Think. Connect., a summary grown with a private sector, has developed into an ongoing inhabitant open credentials debate designed to boost open bargain of cyber threats and how sold adults can rise safer cyber habits that will assistance make networks some-more secure. The debate fulfills a pivotal component of President Obama’s Cyberspace Policy Review, that tasked DHS with building a open recognition debate to surprise Americans about ways to use record safely. The module is partial of a NIST National Initiative for Cyber Education (NICE).

Lest you think that government officials aren’t going to begin to hype “threats” to our cybersecurity to expand control, establish greater order and grant the private sector increased access to alter and restructure the networked public sphere to serve their business interests, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) spoke at a US Chamber of Commerce event and said, “If there’s going to be another 9/11-type attack, it seems to me it will probably be carried out through cyberspace.”

Would these “identity ecosystems” make it possible for government and private companies to increasingly do what PayPal and Amazon did to WikiLeaks in December when it decided it would no longer let them use their services? In the latest annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community” presented by Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, WikiLeaks is considered an intelligence threat.

In addition to the threat posed by state intelligence services, the intelligence capabilities and activities of non-state actors are increasing in scope and sophistication.” And, the cyber environment provides unprecedented opportunities for adversaries to target the US due to our reliance on information systems.

The spectrum of threats includes espionage, cyber intrusions, organized crime, and the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive and classified US Government information, a notable recent example being the unlawful release of classified US documents by WikiLeaks. While the impacts of the WikiLeaks disclosures are still being assessed, we are moving aggressively to respond by protecting our information networks with improved CI analysis of audit and access controls, improving our ability to detect and respond to insider threats—while balancing the need to share information—and increasing awareness across the U.S. Government to the persistent and wide-ranging nature of foreign intelligence threats.

Finally, how appropriate is it that this plan is being unveiled at the US Chamber of Commerce? As reported by ThinkProgress in February, the US Chamber of Commerce communicated with private contractors that provide cybersecurity services to the US government — HBGary Federal, Palantir, Berico Technologies. It discussed with these cybersecurity service providers how ChamberWatch, the SEIU, MoveOn, ThinkProgress and other groups could be targeted and proposed efforts “to steal private computer information, spy on the families of the Chamber’s critics, and plant false documents within organizations opposed to the Chamber’s agenda.” (These same companies were also discovered to have developed plans to help Bank of America by sabotaging WikiLeaks through similar tactics.)

The US Chamber of Commerce conspired against citizen groups it deemed to be a threat to their operations. It was willing to steal information and destroy the lives of people. Does anyone really think this is an entity that should be behind any government plan to establish “identity ecosystems” to make the Internet more secure? One might ask, secure for whom?

Thus, it should be explicitly established that those behind this plan do not have the same philosophy or understanding of the Internet as American legal scholar Yochai Benkler, who in a recent paper outlined power and freedom in the networked society or economy. They do not view the realignment and change in “organization of production, power, and meaning making in contemporary society” as a good development. They do not celebrate how the Internet has changed power dynamics through democratization or the rise of “libertarian-anarchist cluster of radical individual freedom” from state and corporate power.

Those behind this plan cannot be expected to find acceptable the new freedom, which Benkler describes — a freedom that makes an entity less susceptible to another entity. And so, citizens of the world should understand, in order to ensure there will be no risks to business operations or bottom line profits, the private sector is likely to fight for an organization of the Internet that does away with users’ freedom and power. And, the easiest way to do that is under the guise of homeland or national security.

Photo by

2011-04-15 New Zealand passes controversial copyright law as part of Christchurch earthquake emergency measures [Update: 1]

ImageNew Zealand's Minister of Justice and Minister of Commerce Simon Power pictured left.


Phone: (04) 817 6803
Fax: (04) 817 6503


An internet buzz was caused by an MP of the currently governing National Party of New Zealand who posted the following tweet just hours before giving a speech in support of the new amendment.!/melissaleemp/status/57764856488669184

Her response to the online reaction below:!/melissaleemp/status/58120613474209792

Well, it depends. Is her composer friend also the copyright holder? Besides the strangeness of phrasing the friend's own work as "a compilation of K-pop", her speech shows, as pointed out at Torrent Freak, her understanding of the copyright laws she endorsed appears to be questionable, as does her innocence of copyright infringement. As the burden of proof has been passed to the accused by the law she endorsed, a more clear response is in order.

Her speech is also notable for claiming great losses of income by the entertainment industry due to file sharing, while at the same time giving a history of what she calls the multi - billion dollar Korean movie industry which she says was created by illegal file sharing.

New Zealand's Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill was passed yesterday as part of the emergency legislation dealing with the Christchurch earthquake, and will come into effect on September 1 of this year. It was passed by 111 votes to 11, and was supported by all parties except the Greens and independent MPs Chris Carter and Hone Harawira. The controversial amendment allows for internet accounts to be suspended for up to six months after the user is accused three times of copyright infringement, as well as providing "an efficient, low-cost process to hear illegal file-sharing claims" and awards of up to $15,000 to the copyright owner.

Terry Coles, the Managing director of one of New Zealand's top internet service providers (EOL) describes the law as "effectively useless" since it did not take into account hotspots, shared IP addresses and legal file sharing. Coles also said the ISPs should have been spoken to before the bill was passed, since they were the ones who would be approached by copyright owners and would have to divulge the identity of the accused customer.

Australia's Pirate Party condemned the action, saying Internet access is a universal service, similar to postal services, the phone or even electricity or water. In fact several countries, including Finland, Spain, Estonia and Greece have passed laws that enshrine the right to internet access for all citizens ... "The post office does not stop delivering to your house just because you are suspected of sending photocopies to someone. Yet this is precisely what the New Zealand government are proposing with their Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill. Under the legislation internet users accused of file-sharing three times will be disconnected," said Simon Frew, Acting Secretary.

Thomas Beagle, of Tech Liberty NZ, said the government’s linking of the law with the Christchurch situation was bizarre, plus: "One issue with the law is account-holder liability, which makes the person whose name is on the account legally responsible for all actions that happen across that connection. ... It is going to be punishing the wrong people in a big way. The internet is where we exercise our freedom of speech and our freedom of expression, we can’t cut people off from that in the same way we don’t cut off people’s power or water for wrongdoing.”

When the amendment was initially proposed in 1999, it was met with a huge protest, organized by the Creative Freedom Foundation (CFF). Bronwyn Holloway-Smith, one of the organisation’s founders, says the CFF has concerns with the new law, primarily the disconnection ability and presumption of guilt, but describes the law as an improvement over Section 92A. "A company accusing someone of an offence doesn’t need to provide evidence, the burden of proof is passed to the accused,” Holloway-Smith says. But a secretive trade pact between New Zealand and the US, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, will be the main focus of the organisation for now.

The Green MP suggests three courses of action:

  • join the reactivated ‘blackout’ campaign
  • write to the Minister of Justice (above) asking him to repeal the suspension punishment
  • write to the Labour party and ask them to commit to repeal if they are re-elected.

The old internet hashtags #blackout and #s92 are showing minimal activity so far.

2011-04-15 UPDATE Australian minister for immigration and citizenship responds to open letter regarding orphan from the Christmas Island boat tragedy


[2011-02-22 UPDATE The Catch 22 of Australian Immigration for child refugees like Seena]

The online investigative unit of ABC News Australia has obtained information of severe overcrowding at the refugee detention facility on Christmas Island. A planned capacity of 200 is now being utilised apparently now for some 522 inmates.

Almost half of the children currently held in immigration detention reached Australian shores without their parents.

In relation to those child refugees, it gets worse, as Immigration's internal decision making follows Joseph Heller's "Catch 22" logic almost to the letter:

A young applicant's prospects of being reunited with their parents is further limited by what is known as the 'time of decision rule'. This means that if a young person turns 18 prior to their own protection visa being approved, or their family members' visas being approved, their right to reunite with their parents under the split-family provision is lost.

Readers of "Catch 22" may recall that whenever those World War Two pilots got near the required number of missions to be sent home, Colonel Cathcart simply increased the number of missions required for all pilots.

The Immigration Department does not classify the parent of someone over 18 as 'a member of the immediate family' and therefore they are ineligible to apply under 'split-family' provisions.

Catch 22 Chapter 39 explains this rather well: "They have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing." As the child refugee reaches 18 years of age, the "mission" parameters are changed. After 18, only a different visa can be applied for with a much reduced chance of success.

Springvale Monash Legal Service is part of a consortium which assists unaccompanied minors with visa applications. An as yet unreleased report it is preparing for the UN says:

"At present, we have visa applications lodged by refugee minors for family reunification that have been awaiting decisions for over 12 months. Given the current processing delays, it is envisaged that a majority of the refugee minors will be ineligible to be re-united with their families in Australia as they will have turned 18 by the time of the decision."

On 18th October 2010 Prime Minister Gillard and the Minister for Immigration made an announcement:

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Bowen today announced that the Australian Government had decided to expand its existing residence determination program and will begin moving significant numbers of children and vulnerable family groups out of immigration detention facilities and into community-based accommodation....

The Government intends to progressively move several hundred children and families into community-based accommodation - with the assistance of community organisations - by June 2011.

To date, the halfway point, the ABC reports that only 5% of the children in detention have been moved into community based accomodation.

It would seem that Seena Akhliqi Sheikhdost and many other refugee children in detention face the "Catch 22" provisions of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and will be denied their rights contrary to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

37(b) No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time;

While that provision was designed primarily for the application of criminal law, its application to wholly innocent and vulnerable children must increase its force.

The Prime Minister and Minister for Immigration meantime do not appear to be honouring their commitments. The practise of their obligations under the Convention on Rights of the Child are likewise, highly questionable.

Peter H. Kemp
Solicitor of the Supreme Court of NSW.

Again the Minister's contact details here.

2011-02-16 Open Letter to Australian Immigration Minister: Seena Akhliqi 8, sent back to Christmas Island.

To: Immigration Minister of Australia, The Honourable Chris Bowen

Dear Minister

An eight year old orphaned child named Seena Akhliqi Sheikhdost who was present when his father was buried on Tuesday, in Australia, (his mother, Samir Aram's body was never found), is being sent back to detention on Christmas Island under your authority.

This Iranian child has been traumatised from fleeing his homeland, then he watched both his parents die in front of him in the boat tragedy off Christmas Island recently, while nearly drowning himself.

As a matter of compassion and cognisant of the UN Convention on Refugees 1951, and the human rights owed to this vulnerable, orphaned child, we, many citizens of Australia and of other nations, ask you to release him into the care of his existing family in Sydney.

He is detained in the Construction camp on Christmas Island and is being cared for by his aunty Fatima.

Minister, this child slept alone in detention for more than six nights in Charlie compound after the tragedy, until some members of his extended family arrived. His Aunty Fatima, one of those members, said she was on Christmas island for two days before she was told of the tragedy and reunited with Seena. Fatima now says the boy is self harming and banging his head and kicking his legs.

Seena apparently is not allowed to attend school while in detention on Christmas Island, this was reported by the Australian newspaper on 15th February, a decision based on so called "competing priorities."

Other detained children have reported that Seena ran to the fence whenever new boat arrivals came to the camp in buses. He told the other children that his mother and father would be on that bus. When they did not get off the bus, he said that they would be on the next bus. Prior to the funeral in Australia, he waited for his parents to turn up on every bus that arrived.

Minister your decision to return Seena to Christmas Island detention (of which the Human Rights Commissioner and Commonwealth Ombudsman have apparently remarked negatively) reminds us of the history of one of your predecessors, Philip Ruddock who repeatedly returned Shayan Badraie to his Villawood detention centre so many years ago.

As you are aware, our legal system finally acted in the Supreme Court of NSW, and awarded a compensation payment of $400,000 to Shayan Badraie, also an Iranian boy, in 2006.

Minister, how could such an eight year old boy and his carers ever be a threat or great burden to our nation? He has other family in Sydney and we ask you again, to release him along with his current caregivers, on grounds of compassion and in the spirit of the Convention on Refugees.

Does history have to repeat itself in Australia with these vulnerable children?

Yours Faithfully
Peter Kemp
Solicitor of the Supreme Court of NSW

(The minister's contact details here.)

2011-04-15 UPDATE Australian minister for immigration and citizenship responds to open letter regarding orphan from the Christmas Island boat tragedy


[2011-02-22 UPDATE The Catch 22 of Australian Immigration for child refugees like Seena]

The online investigative unit of ABC News Australia has obtained information of severe overcrowding at the refugee detention facility on Christmas Island. A planned capacity of 200 is now being utilised apparently now for some 522 inmates.

Almost half of the children currently held in immigration detention reached Australian shores without their parents.

In relation to those child refugees, it gets worse, as Immigration's internal decision making follows Joseph Heller's "Catch 22" logic almost to the letter:

A young applicant's prospects of being reunited with their parents is further limited by what is known as the 'time of decision rule'. This means that if a young person turns 18 prior to their own protection visa being approved, or their family members' visas being approved, their right to reunite with their parents under the split-family provision is lost.

Readers of "Catch 22" may recall that whenever those World War Two pilots got near the required number of missions to be sent home, Colonel Cathcart simply increased the number of missions required for all pilots.

The Immigration Department does not classify the parent of someone over 18 as 'a member of the immediate family' and therefore they are ineligible to apply under 'split-family' provisions.

Catch 22 Chapter 39 explains this rather well: "They have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing." As the child refugee reaches 18 years of age, the "mission" parameters are changed. After 18, only a different visa can be applied for with a much reduced chance of success.

Springvale Monash Legal Service is part of a consortium which assists unaccompanied minors with visa applications. An as yet unreleased report it is preparing for the UN says:

"At present, we have visa applications lodged by refugee minors for family reunification that have been awaiting decisions for over 12 months. Given the current processing delays, it is envisaged that a majority of the refugee minors will be ineligible to be re-united with their families in Australia as they will have turned 18 by the time of the decision."

On 18th October 2010 Prime Minister Gillard and the Minister for Immigration made an announcement:

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Bowen today announced that the Australian Government had decided to expand its existing residence determination program and will begin moving significant numbers of children and vulnerable family groups out of immigration detention facilities and into community-based accommodation....

The Government intends to progressively move several hundred children and families into community-based accommodation - with the assistance of community organisations - by June 2011.

To date, the halfway point, the ABC reports that only 5% of the children in detention have been moved into community based accomodation.

It would seem that Seena Akhliqi Sheikhdost and many other refugee children in detention face the "Catch 22" provisions of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and will be denied their rights contrary to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

37(b) No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time;

While that provision was designed primarily for the application of criminal law, its application to wholly innocent and vulnerable children must increase its force.

The Prime Minister and Minister for Immigration meantime do not appear to be honouring their commitments. The practise of their obligations under the Convention on Rights of the Child are likewise, highly questionable.

Peter H. Kemp
Solicitor of the Supreme Court of NSW.

Again the Minister's contact details here.

2011-02-16 Open Letter to Australian Immigration Minister: Seena Akhliqi 8, sent back to Christmas Island.

To: Immigration Minister of Australia, The Honourable Chris Bowen

Dear Minister

An eight year old orphaned child named Seena Akhliqi Sheikhdost who was present when his father was buried on Tuesday, in Australia, (his mother, Samir Aram's body was never found), is being sent back to detention on Christmas Island under your authority.

This Iranian child has been traumatised from fleeing his homeland, then he watched both his parents die in front of him in the boat tragedy off Christmas Island recently, while nearly drowning himself.

As a matter of compassion and cognisant of the UN Convention on Refugees 1951, and the human rights owed to this vulnerable, orphaned child, we, many citizens of Australia and of other nations, ask you to release him into the care of his existing family in Sydney.

He is detained in the Construction camp on Christmas Island and is being cared for by his aunty Fatima.

Minister, this child slept alone in detention for more than six nights in Charlie compound after the tragedy, until some members of his extended family arrived. His Aunty Fatima, one of those members, said she was on Christmas island for two days before she was told of the tragedy and reunited with Seena. Fatima now says the boy is self harming and banging his head and kicking his legs.

Seena apparently is not allowed to attend school while in detention on Christmas Island, this was reported by the Australian newspaper on 15th February, a decision based on so called "competing priorities."

Other detained children have reported that Seena ran to the fence whenever new boat arrivals came to the camp in buses. He told the other children that his mother and father would be on that bus. When they did not get off the bus, he said that they would be on the next bus. Prior to the funeral in Australia, he waited for his parents to turn up on every bus that arrived.

Minister your decision to return Seena to Christmas Island detention (of which the Human Rights Commissioner and Commonwealth Ombudsman have apparently remarked negatively) reminds us of the history of one of your predecessors, Philip Ruddock who repeatedly returned Shayan Badraie to his Villawood detention centre so many years ago.

As you are aware, our legal system finally acted in the Supreme Court of NSW, and awarded a compensation payment of $400,000 to Shayan Badraie, also an Iranian boy, in 2006.

Minister, how could such an eight year old boy and his carers ever be a threat or great burden to our nation? He has other family in Sydney and we ask you again, to release him along with his current caregivers, on grounds of compassion and in the spirit of the Convention on Refugees.

Does history have to repeat itself in Australia with these vulnerable children?

Yours Faithfully
Peter Kemp
Solicitor of the Supreme Court of NSW

(The minister's contact details here.)

2011-04-16 Edward Fox of WikiLeaks Helpful in Showing Government's Failure to Demobilize Paramilitaries

ImageUpdate: The edited podcast is posted along with a full transcript of Edward Fox of's interview.

The guest for this episode of "This Week in WikiLeaks" was Edward Fox, who is with Colombia Reports. He has been editing and organizing releases of the US State Embassy cables that deal with Colombia. On the show, we will talk about how the cables are impacting Colombia, what has been revealed and discuss some specific revelations concerning FARC, the US-based Drummond Coal corporation, the DAS wiretap scandal and, finally, the revelation that the US has been using drones in Colombia since 2006.

Following the interview with Fox, the show wrapped with a brief look at the cables from Israel that are being released and what they are revealing. WL Central has covered what they show about Israeli officials’ views on Hamas in Gaza. There is much more to hone in on, as another aspect of the cables that deserves attention is fear and trepidation on Iran. The cables also appear to affirm some aspects of Al Jazeera English’s “Palestine Papers,” which gave the impression that the Palestinian Authority can be very deferential toward Israel and often take action that pretty much betrays the people of Palestine’s interests or well-being.

Here's a widget you can click play on to listen to the episode:

Or, you can go to this page and click on episode on Colombia that appears in the CMN News list (it is likely the most recent one). Or, you can search for the episode on iTunes. Search for "CMN News" and it will appear to download.

Now, a few plugs: WL Central continues to do excellent coverage of all the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. If you haven't been keeping up on what is happening, check the front page for updates on various countries. The updates on Bahrain and Syria are particularly superb.

If you don't know already, The Nation's Greg Mitchell has a book out on Bradley Manning titled Bradley Manning: Truth and Consequences. It can be purchased in e-book form here or in print form here. (The host of this podcast helped Mitchell with a section of the book.) He continues to keep up on the latest WikiLeaks news and views over at

You can follow me on Twitter @kgosztola.

Transcript of Edward Fox's Interview


KEVIN GOSZTOLA, Host: Hello, Edward. Welcome to the show. And Edward is with Colombia Reports and he has been editing and organizing the releases of the State Embassy cables on the website—talking about them, helping to make sure there’s a context to the cables. So, I would like to begin the interview, Edward, could you talk about Colombia Reports began covering these Colombian cables?

EDWARD FOX, COLOMBIAREPORTS.COM: Really, we’ve been relying on other people’s coverage because obviously, when the original cache was released, they made international newspapers. WikiLeaks wasn’t publishing as newspapers were reporting on certain cables. So, we started out with that but then in February two major Colombian news sources were given a set of cable, with one in particular El Espectador was given 16,000 cables written specifically to Colombia. We’ve been relying mainly on their reporting of it but also if and when we can use the WikiLeaks. Because, with El Espectador, they tend to at times to try to make stories out that isn’t necessarily a story so we have to sift through what was released into public domain at the time four years ago for example and determine what exactly are revelations and what aren’t.

GOSZTOLA: So far, in your coverage, what are some of the revelations that have stuck out to you? What do you feel is having the most impact in Colombia at this point?

FOX: Within Colombian politics itself, they’ve been keeping very quiet about certain revelations that have come out the main reason being accepted in the context a lot of the revelations relate to investigations that have been ongoing for close to three years now. Specifically, the one to do with the Colombian Intelligence Agency, the DAS, which had investigations against it since 2008 into the wiretapping that it’s alleged to have carried out under the presidency of Alvaro Uribe. So, there’s been some very interesting stuff that’s come out with regards to who ordered the wiretapping. But, a lot of it so far has been really – because it’s against the former government and too many people who have been accused of ordering the wiretap are now no longer in Colombia. And, the former government is very much being sort of marginalized. And the current government of Juan Manuel Santos is really making an effort to make a break from the past basically. So they are not speaking out too much on stuff that has come out from WikiLeaks. In fact, I believe in February the interior justice minister said they’re not worried about any revelations that come out through WikiLeaks and since then they’ve kept very quiet.

GOSZTOLA: So, really trying to move forward and put the past behind them. Can you talk a little bit about what’s going on here. A few weeks ago I saw Colombia Reports ran a story about US drones being used in the country since 2006. We know that there are US military or some type of security forces on the ground. It seems like there’s a range—maybe some CIA, maybe some FBI. Who knows. Would you like to talk about what’s your finding in the cables on those forces?

FOX: The revelation that the US has been using drones since 2006—I myself personally am not all that surprised by that because you have to set in the context that US military involvement in Colombia has been pretty heavy for the past decade. I think the US government has spent close to 8 billion dollars. And given that drone technology over the past decade has really taken off, you have to think it’s not that surprising that they’ve employed it in Colombia to tackle drug trafficking and guerrilla forces in the country.

The main thing though that I think is most interesting about this particular release, which wasn’t elaborated in the cable, is who was controlling these drones. Is it US forces on the ground within Colombia itself? Or did they leave it in the hands of Colombia forces? But, unfortunately, to date we’ve had no further information released through WikiLeaks cables on this matter. There’s only been the one cable mentioning the fact that the US had been using drones since 2006.

GOSZTOLA: Is there anything that you would care to add? I’m going to read a quote. This actually ran on coming from Julian Assange in a video interview that he did—Colombia Reports cited a video interview that he did with a Colombia weekly Semana. And he said, “What it's about is that there are several powerful companies and lobbies in Washington such as Lockheed Martin, say Raytheon, Northrop Grumman; military intelligence contractors who lobby Congress and their contacts within the Pentagon and the CIA to engage in special programs in Colombia with provisos written to make sure that the money actually cycles back to the United States." And he talks about money being transferred from US taxpayers, etc. What can you say about what you are finding in the cables on US weapons manufacturers?

FOX: To date, very little has been released on it. I have to say Julian Assange’s comments seem to be in reference that could be coming up in a WikiLeaks cable release or he’s positing his own opinion regarding the matter because to date we’ve had nothing related to that specifically that implicates any defense companies in the lobbying of Congress. But, again, in my own personal opinion and for that of Colombia Reports, setting it in the context of the military and the US, it’s very unsurprising. You have to think that since 2008, even earlier in fact, US private companies have been carrying out fumigation operations against coca plantations. And one would imagine there’s a strong impetus there from private companies who are flying out these planes and, for example, the people who manufacture the pesticides they use. So the fact that there’s a vested interest for private companies, multinationals, is unsurprising. As to lobbying in Congress, it’s again very, very likely. But, to date, we need more information through the WikiLeaks cables to corroborate this.

GOSZTOLA: And there was also a revelation about Drummond Coal, the US-based corporation, and possible instance where they killed some trade unionists. Is there anything you can say on that story? And then maybe broadly you can speak to the dynamics in that country that a person who would be a part of a trade union would face? Perhaps, from coverage you can sort of bring out what it’s like for a trade unionist.

FOX: Trade unionist, to give a very basic understanding, trade unionists in Colombia have typically been persecuted—membership within Colombia is very low, labor rights activists are constantly under threat. So, to give a very basic understanding. With regards to Drummond in particular, prior to the WikiLeaks cable release regarding their possible links with paramilitaries, last year in testimony given by former leaders of the paramilitary organization, the AUC, they said that Drummond had in a personal meeting congratulated them on the killing of two unionist leaders in 2001. So, the actual point of their being a link between Drummond and paramilitaries has been eluded to in the public domain for the last first two years. I think the first case against Drummond was filed in 2009. However, in the WikiLeaks cable release, the interesting thing is the US had an apparent concern over the links between the two groups but yet it seemed to do nothing beyond this. They stuck very much to rhetoric and especially now and it’s part of the case that has been filed against Drummond. Former president Alvaro Uribe has been asked to come and testify and the US government has, while not explicitly said they’ve granted him immunity, has done pretty much everything to grant him immunity by saying that the judge of the courts in Birmingham, Alabama, which is where Drummond Coal company is from, should explore every other legal avenue to obtain information regarding Drummond’s link to paramilitaries before they bring Uribe in to testify. So, I find that very interesting. Despite the US and its professed concern over the matter, they as a government have done very little to help proceedings at the moment it seems.

GOSZTOLA: What can you tell our listeners about these right wing paramilitaries in Colombia for those who are unaware? It seems that from these cables, and you can further illuminate, from what I’ve seen these right wing paramilitaries have some pretty unsavory connections to the Colombian government and what happens on a day-to-day basis. Do you think that’s correct?

FOX: Oh, absolutely. Now not so much but historically within the last decade yes. To give a very brief history ---

The paramilitaries or right wing organizations grew in Colombia during the late, really [inaudible] in the late 1980s, mid 90s born out of the big landowners wanted to protect their land from guerrillas. And gradually these right wing militias grew into the umbrella paramilitary organization, the AUC, which then only then became classified as a terrorist organization by the US in 2002 despite the atrocities it had committed since its inception in 1997. Then, enter the demobilization process in 2003, which culminated in the forming of the Justice and Peace Law by the Colombian government which sought to, through the demobilization process, grant benefits to former AUC leaders in the hope that they would give testimony regarding the crimes that they had committed and some form of compensation to the families of the victims. However, through this testimony, a lot has since come out with former AUC leaders saying that they were in fact supporting politicians at the time with them having an influence on a number of elections for congressmen and members of the previous government under Alvaro Uribe. And that’s grown into a scandal, which has now become known as a parapolitics scandal.

With regards to WikiLeaks on the matter, it’s been very helpful to highlight the breakdown of the demobilization process, which is widely regarded now as a failure within Colombia. Because, what it failed to do was really dismantle the organization and bring in mid-level leaders, low-level fighters. It really only focused on the main commanders at AUC. So what happened was a lot of these people either never entered into the demobilization process and instead carried it on forming new groups known as neo-paramilitaries now, which the government currently refers to them as “BACRIMs” cause they don’t want to give them the paramilitary title, or people entered the demobilization process, realized they wouldn’t be granted the benefits that their higher level commanders were being given, and so re-armed and joined these neo-paramilitary groups.

So, that’s been great that WikiLeaks in that respect that WikiLeaks has shown how the people in the Colombia government, the Organization of the American States (the OAS), and even the US government could see, in 2006, that the process was not working and the Colombian government and the police were failing to stop the rise of these neo-paramilitary organizations. To return, to the parapolitics scandal itself –

What’s been most interesting in that—this is an aside really from the WikiLeaks cables—is that now we have in Colombia a lot of politicians being investigated, a lot of indeed being sentenced for their ties to paramilitary organizations. But, they’ve only been sentenced for minimal periods, between five to I believe the longest sentence recently was seven years, which I believe was handed down to Alvaro Uribe’s cousin, who was a former congressman, Mario Uribe. Now, not only has the demobilization process been a failure in handing down long sentences to paramilitaries who committed crimes against humanity and what not, it’s also been a failure in the sense that now these politicians who had ties are being given low sentences—There’s a high possibility that these politicians are being given preferential treatment within the Colombian prison system, with the case of one former politicians who was sentenced for parapolitics who it was discovered that he was having parties within his prison cell and it really shows that, while at face value the Colombian government seems to be doing what it should be doing which is investigating these ties and sentencing the people who are guilty, they’re really not handing down sentences that go hand in hand with the crimes that were committed.

For example, personal interest on this is if the paramilitary organizations were guilty of crimes against humanity, then is there a link therefore that would make politicians complicit in these crimes against humanity? And if the Colombian government is unwilling to investigate politicians for crimes against humanity, the Supreme Court in fact said in February that they will not do so. Then, does this open up an avenue for the International Criminal Court to become involved in the process.

GOSZTOLA: It does appear that at this current juncture Colombia is having to deal with accusations that it does not uphold human rights. I saw a story on your website drawing attention to that and dealing with coalitions not really feeling they are upholding their human rights as they should. Now before I have you go I want to have you address—Obviously this is a major organization inside Colombia, the FARC, and for most people who just follow Colombia in passing it seems that if they know anything they know of the FARC being present in Colombia. So, just to hint to that you may have to de-mystify the organization a little bit, as there is a stereotype for it but then also talk about what you are finding in the cables as you report on these for Colombia Reports.

FOX: Sure, first I will give a very basic rundown of who the FARC are and where they stand now within the Colombian conflict. And then I will speak about, there’s a release this week regarding the FARC and their presence in Ecuador and possible financing of the Ecuadorean election in 2006. So, firstly, the FARC is historically a left-wing Marxist guerrilla organization. It began in 1964, I believe, out of political marginalization. They reached their peak in numbers, or not necessarily their peak, certainly a decade ago during peace talks with the government of Andres Pastrana. They were at close to I think 20,000 fighters. Comparative to now, they have been weakened a lot. They are down to 7,000 or 8,000 in guerilla fighters. And, at the moment, they’re still in combat against the security forces in Colombia but dialogue this year, more so certainly than under the former administration has been focused more and possible peace talks between the government and FARC. So, while this should be taken with a grain of salt because this has been spoken about in the past and peace talks have failed, there certainly a different foundation than what has been for the last 8 years of the Uribe administration. There’s more potential for some form of peace negotiations between Santos and the FARC.

However, this week it was revealed through WikiLeaks from cables that were sent from Quito in Ecuador that the FARC, who have historically used Ecuador as a base for re-arming and so on and so forth, they may have possibly funded the presidential campaign of President of Ecuador Rafael Correa. However, to throw in a caveat for that, the WikiLeaks cable itself said this source who gave their information it’s very tenuous and I think you have to set it in the context of left-wing states in South America, particularly those Venezuela and Ecuador bordering Colombia. Colombia who’s historically had close ties with the United States. There’s always the possibility that they will be falsely accused of ties to a left-wing guerrilla organization purely through political ideology and accusations by Colombia and the US. Personally, I don’t know the veracity of those comments. I certainly can’t speak to regarding the FARC financing of the Ecuadorean president. However, the prosecutor general’s office in Ecuador said that it’s going to investigate the matter and guess we’ll have to wait and see what will come out of it.

GOSZTOLA: Now, you mention Venezuela so I do know that there’s been some stuff to come out and it appears that Colombia has --- That between Colombia and the US there has been some work to take on the rising influence of Venezuela in the region. Is there anything you would like to say on that before I would let you go?

FOX: Only that through WikiLeaks it’s been shown—Everyone knows that during the Uribe presidency ties, diplomatic ties with Venezuela were particularly strained. And Uribe was very weary of Chavez’s influence in region. Probably the most interesting thing to come out through the cables is that the Colombian security forces have been doing clandestine operations in Venezuela as the FARC have influence there or apparently used to have encampments there. Santos said this week they no longer exist there. However, it would be a lot more interesting had the Colombian government carried out operations there without the Venezuelan government’s knowledge. But in the cables it does note that Colombian forces were in fact working in collaboration with Venezuelan police and the Venezuelan army. But, generally the dialogue that has been coming out through the WikiLeaks cables is that Uribe was very, very weary of Chavez to the extent that he even requested anti-aircraft missiles from the US for fear of a Venezuelan air force attack against Colombia. But there is a definite of sensationalism in that.

GOSZTOLA: I want to thank you for coming on the show. You’re doing some great work. It’s really necessary as I’ve seen—I’ve heard from some individuals: This is a deluge of data we have being released here. If somebody’s not contextualizing it or doing some kind of reporting on what this means, then the public of this entire world can’t really understand what this information means and most likely they’re just going to ignore it. So, you’re part of a group of journalists that is doing some very valuable work through your organization Colombia Reports. So, thank you.

FOX: Thank you very much.


2011-04-17 50th Anniversary of the Bay of Pigs Invasion: CIA Continues to Maintain Embargo on the 'Official History'

ImageThe National Security Archive has, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion, filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to force the release of the CIA's "Official History of the Bay of Pigs Operation." The lawsuit charges the CIA has "wrongfully withheld" a multi-volume study the Archive requested in 2005 that is "the most important and substantive CIA-produced study of this episode."

Director of the Archive's Cuba Documentation Project Peter Kornbluh has called on the CIA to release the report under President Barack Obama's Executive Order 13526 , which states that "no information may remain classified indefinitely." (Of course, denying FOIA requests doesn't mean documents will be classified indefinitely. It just means they aren't getting released now.)

One might wonder, how long does this have to go on before someone goes ahead and declassifies the material? What is the government hiding? Is there any chance someone will just leak the report to WikiLeaks and end this travesty?

The Bay of Pigs invasion is an episode in US foreign policy that is considered to be a sham. Beyond that, it's unclear what has been learned from the incident.

On February 3, 1961, a memo for Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara was written titled, "Military Evaluation of the CIA Para-Military Plan, Cuba." It detailed the following in relation to overthrowing the Castro Regime: the operation would be dependent on local Cuban support, the beachhead area would be the best area in Cuba for accomplishment of a Task Force mission, an airborne assault would likely not be opposed and thus would be successful, and an amphibious assault would be successful even if lightly opposed. The plan detailed in the memo had a "likelihood of achieving military success" depending on political factors like "the size of a popular uprising or substantial follow-on forces." It would not "necessarily require overt US intervention."

This document and other documents that have already been declassified and are in the public domain detail the reprehensibility of the invasion. Anyone reading them would be forgiven for wondering if those developing foreign policy and running the military and intelligence agencies in the US throughout the past decade have been inspired and influenced by plans developed for Cuba in the run-up to the Bay of Pigs.

The world might consider what has changed since then. US operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Colombia, Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen all can be compared to the Bay of Pigs. WikiLeaks has lifted the veil on much of these US operations revealing that assassinations or extrajudicial/targeted killings of people play a key part in the global "war on terror." Through the Afghanistan War Logs, it was revealed that the US has a unit, Task Force 373, which hunts top Taliban for detention or death without trial. The Logs also showed "non 373" operations involving drones. Drones happen to be a 21st Century tool for the US that could be at the center of an assassination plot. What might have happened if the CIA under the Kennedy Administration had been able to employ drone technology to go after Fidel Castro?

Also, recently it was "discovered" the CIA had a secret al Qaeda assassination program that Vice President Dick Cheney possibly prevented the CIA from telling Congress about. Far more similar to the Bay of Pigs operations, the program that, in July 2009 was reportedly canceled , possibly involved "attempts to use assassins to kill or capture senior terrorists." The plan involved the development of "small paramilitary teams that could carry out "surgical' strikes on high-value targets" but supposedly was "bogged down" with "basic operational and logistical questions."

While a 1976 order was signed by President Gerald Ford and banned the CIA from carrying out assassinations, the world was declared a battlefield in the aftermath of 9/11. (Actually, one might ask if the US has ever not thought the world is its battlefield.) Targeted assassinations of any terror suspects became permissible no matter the legal questions they raised. In fact, as Glenn Greenwald covered in June of 2010, the Obama Administration picked up where the Bush Administration left off and began to justify the government's right to target Americans for assassination without giving them due process.

With the US intervening along with support from France, the UK and various other countries, it appears the Washington Consensus has not changed. CIA boots are indeed on the ground in Libya. What they are doing exactly is largely unknown (although it has been reported they are gathering intelligence). Furthermore, the issues officials thought "Cuban Exiles" could pose are the same issues those following the situation closely might warn about today when talking about the rebel forces in Libya.

The CIA counted on a sizeable number of indigenous volunteers and had arms ready for 1,500 volunteers. Officials noted that a "major problem could arise in control of indigenous personnel." The invasion also called for contact with "guerrilla bands" operating in the general area of the operations.

"According to currently available intelligence, it is estimated that within a 25 mile radius of the objective area, five guerrilla bands with a total estimated strength of 660 may cooperate with the task force. Another guerrilla band with an estimated strength of 90 is operating approximately 30 miles west of the objective area. Two additional guerrilla bands are operating some 40 miles north of the objective area. The concept is for those bands to reinforce the invasion force in the beachhead area. This part of the concept is not considered sound."[emphasis added]

On local indigenous support, officials noted "continued support of the invasion would depend largely on the identification of leaders with the hopes and aspirations of the bulk of the population." Noting the perils of "wholesale bombings," officials understood force had to be restrained or else Cubans would, in reaction to a high loss of life, unite behind Castro.

April 15, 1961, eight B-26 planes from the Cuban Expeditionary Force carried out air strikes to destroy Castro's air capability. Similar to what happened with the two Libyan pilots that defected to Malta, a Cuban pilot and three of his comrades landed at 7 am at the Miami International Airport claim to have defected from Castro's air force. But, what happened was suspicious: They claimed to have carried out attacks against Castro's airfields but reporters noted the planes' machine guns had not been fired and the planes' noses were made of solid metal while Castro's B-26 planes were made of plastic.

The "Benghazi Rebels" of the Bay of Pigs invasion were to set up a "counterrevolutionary government" to be recognized on Cuban soil. The strategy involved a "propaganda action plan " to maintain the morale of the anti-Castro fighting forces, instruct pro-patriot forces and tell them how to join the fight, intimidate pro-Castro forces and make them defect or become panic-stricken, confused and uncertain, present the desired picture of the internal fighting, and appeal to other government and peoples for support through the dramatic presentation of declarations of the fighting forces and new government. But, the invasion massively failed. The Cuban military forces were able to overwhelm the planned operation and many of US-backed forces involved were kidnapped or killed.

In retrospect, it seems that the CIA planners were hoping to be able to assassinate Castro and that would be ultimately how the Bay of Pigs operation would succeed. That's not surprising given the following document titled "A Study of Assassination ," which was likely published around December 31st, 1953. Detailing how assassination could be employed in foreign operations, the document took multiple Freedom of Information Act requests before the CIA finally declassified some fourteen hundred pages of over one hundred thousand pages estimated to be in the secret archives on the "Guatemalan destabilization program."

"The Classifications" portion shows how the government planned to respond to an assassination attempt on a leader like Castro:

The techniques employed will vary according to whether the subject is unaware of his danger, aware but unguarded, or guarded. They will also be affected by whether or not the assassin is to be killed with the subject. Hereafter, assassinations in which the subject is unaware will be termed "simple"; those where the subject is aware but unguarded will be termed "chase"; those where the victim is guarded will be termed "guarded."

If the assassin is to die with the subject, the act will be called "lost." If the assassin is to escape, the adjective will be "safe." It should be noted that no compromises should exist here. The assassin must not fall alive into enemy hands.

A further type division is caused by the need to conceal the fact that the subject was actually the victim of assassination, rather than an accident or natural causes. If such concealment is desirable the operation will be called "secret"; if concealment is immaterial, the act will be called "open"; while if the assassination requires publicity to be effective it will be termed "terroristic."

Following these definitions, the assassination of Julius Caesar was safe, simple, and terroristic, while that of Huey Long was lost, guarded and open. Obviously, successful secret assassinations are not recorded as assassination at all. [Illeg] of Thailand and Augustus Caesar may have been the victims of safe, guarded and secret assassination. Chase assassinations usually involve clandestine agents or members of criminal organizations.

The section titled "Employment" is interesting given how adamant the US has been in recent history to preserve the tool of assassination:

Assassination is an extreme measure not normally used in clandestine operations. It should be assumed that it will never be ordered or authorized by any U.S. Headquarters, though the latter may in rare instances agree to its execution by members of an associated foreign service. This reticence is partly due to the necessity for committing communications to paper. No assassination instructions should ever be written or recorded. Consequently, the decision to employ this technique must nearly always be reached in the field, at the area where the act will take place. Decision and instructions should be confined to an absolute minimum of persons. Ideally, only one person will be involved. No report may be made, but usually the act will be properly covered by normal news services, whose output is available to all concerned.

[*For a full chronology of the Bay of Pigs that includes details obtained from documents procured through FOIA requests, click here.]

CIA Director Allen Dulles admitted in the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs, "I don't think that the CIA should run paramilitary operations of the type in Cuba, and possibly not of the type run in [REDACTED]. The Cuban operation has had a very serious effect on all our work. I believe there should be a new set-up. I think we should limit ourselves more to secret intelligence collection and operations of the non-military." But, as previously mentioned, the CIA continues to develop assassination programs. Half a century later, the CIA is taking heat for the destabilizing impact of its presence in Pakistan. Hundreds of American personnel have been asked to leave the country and Pakistani military and state officials want more information on the agency's covert operations.

Add to that what unfolded with Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor who the Obama Administration tried to pretend was a diplomat, and the continued use of drones in Pakistan, it is clear the CIA has learned very little from the Bay of Pigs invasion. If anything, it's embraced many of the tactics that were part of plans with the hope that a do-over here and a do-over there might at some point produce a favorable outcome the agency can celebrate.

The CIA's willingness to engage in such perversions as the Bay of Pigs should compel us to line up behind organizations like the National Security Archive. The more sunshine on the past half century's activities and operations, the more likely we are to reign in a rogue element that has been given carte blanche for far too many barbarous foreign policy experiments. And, if the National Security Archive cannot use proper legal channels to get the information disclosed, then a courageous person should draw inspiration from alleged whistleblower Bradley Manning and just leak the remaining unjustifiably classified material already.

2011-04-18 Shadowy figures play with real lives in #Syria

ImageImage credit: SkyNews

"We are extremely concerned that lives are endangered as a result of this article based on WikiLeaks," a senior Obama administration official told Fox News Monday morning. "The concern regards what (the) Syrians might do to those that work for (Barada), given that (Assad and his security forces) are prone to crack down and could well use this as an excuse -- blaming it on foreigners."

It is unfortunate that it took a Washington Post article on US involvement in Syria for the US government to feel concern, and that it chose to do so based on the disclosure of their actions rather than the actions. US State cables published by the Washington Post have illustrated reason for concern over US involvement for a very long time, and have also shown that US actions have been known to the Syrian government for a very long time.

Cable 09DAMASCUS306 dated April 28, 2009 states: "The SARG would undoubtedly view any U.S. funds going to illegal political groups as tantamount to supporting regime change. This would inevitably include the various expatriate reform organizations operating in Europe and the U.S., most of which have little to no effect on civil society or human rights in Syria."

As related in cable 09DAMASCUS477 dated July 8, 2009, it did not take the publication of the US State cables for the Syrian government to become aware of US activity. "... report begs the question of how much and for how long SARG has known about Democracy Council operations in Syria and, by extension, the MJD's participation. Reporting in other channels suggest the Syrian Muhubarat may already have penetrated the MJD and is using MJD contacts to track U.S. democracy programming. If the SARG does know, but has chosen not to intervene openly, it raises the possibility that the SARG may be mounting a campaign to entrap democracy activists receiving illegal (under Syrian law) foreign assistance."

From cable 09DAMASCUS692 dated September 23, 2009: "It is unclear to what extent SARG intelligence services understand how USG money enters Syria and through which proxy organizations. What is clear, however, is that security agents are increasingly focused on this issue when they interrogate human rights and civil society activists."

Much earlier, cable 06DAMASCUS701 dated February 21, 2006 describes the reaction of Syrian opposition groups to a public announcement by the US that it had designated five million US dollars for the Syrian opposition. The embassy was told at that time that such actions could be very harmful to the opposition's efforts, and that the human rights and civil society activists were left with the impression that the US government saw them as just another "chip in the game" and were not serious about helping them. The US government was perceived as either naive or uncaring. It was also pointed out that anyone visiting the website the US government had set up for the program would instantly be targeted by the Syrian government. Accepting foreign funding is illegal in Syria, and anyone caught would be accused of treason and face the death penalty.

The most likely applicants for the funding, according to the embassy contacts, were the Syrian government themselves. One contact described the funding as a terrible idea that would be used by the regime to discredit the opposition and had already made the opposition look like US agents in the eyes of "most Syrians" even with no government effort. The US was told that funding would help the Syrian regime consolidate its position. One dismissed it as a stunt with a small amount of money that would make no impact (as previous US funding of the opposition had made no impact) and said that it had angered most Syrians who resented the US interference in their affairs. It was also pointed out that, for the damage caused, five million dollars was a very low amount compared to the 75 million pledged to the Iranian opposition.

Today US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the US was not working to undermine the Syrian government, but rather to "promote a transformation to a more democratic process." The first half of that strategy is working excellently well, as US involvement has contributed more than any other factor to keeping Assad in power and attracting suspicion to any dissidents. But promoting democracy requires a better understanding of what democracy actually is. In the US, where the last "democratic" election cost an estimated US$5.3 billion, the basic premise of a democracy as an indication of the free will of the citizens has been lost and is now equated with money spent.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry today denied US accusations of Iranian assistance to Assad, saying “We deny these claims and we are sure that the Syrian government is able to resolve the internal problems and respond appropriately to people’s demands.”

The Syrian government has very effectively cast doubt and suspicion on the identity, motivations and backing of the Syrians protesting this year. Even the snipers shooting people have had their identity questioned. If the US government was using its embassy to undermine the credibility of Assad's opposition, they have done a very good job. The list of people imprisoned, missing and killed since the protests began is now at 925, as what ought to be a straightforward matter of removing a corrupt and sadistic government has become a game of propaganda and suspicion with no one ever sure who they are fighting against or beside.

Previous WL Central coverage on Syria.

2011-04-18 State Dept Spokesman's Newspeak on Whether the US is Undermining the Syria Government

The Washington Post’s coverage of US State Embassy cables that suggest the US has been secretly backing Syrian opposition groups snowballed into a big story today. With the regime gunning down more protesters, senior Obama Administration officials took the opportunity to rehash the talking point that the disclosure of information obtained by WikiLeaks could endanger lives.

Whether the US is working to undermine the Syrian government or not became a key topic for Acting Deputy State Department Spokesman Mark C. Toner, who currently fills this position because PJ Crowley was forced out of the position after being too forthright about his position on alleged whistleblower Bradley Manning.

*Scroll to about the 5:40 mark to watch the exchange on Syria.

Fox News’ James Rosen bluntly asks, “Is the United States Government, through any programs or means, trying to destabilize the Assad regime in Syria?” Rather than answer the question, Toner immediately reacted, “Well, the premise of your question is whether we are engaged in…” Rosen cut him off saying, “There was no premise,” and “it was a flat-out question.”

The State Department, unfortunately, is incapable of providing flat-out answers to flat-out questions. This problem is not exclusive to the State Department; many in the US government have this problem. That’s why Fox News host Shepherd Smith is so frustrated these days and thinks “the only straight answers we get anymore” come from WikiLeaks.

What follows is instructive. Toner tries to cut off the conversation by suggesting if this has to do with the classified cables then this conversation is over:

MR. TONER: Yes, but, as you know, James, we need to be careful in – to identify what we’re talking about because if you’re talking about a news story based on the contents of – or the alleged contents of classified cables, then I can’t speak to the specific substance of that.

QUESTION: I didn’t ask you to speak to anything specific. My question was, very broadly, is the United States Government, through any programs or means, presently working to destabilize the Asad regime in Syria? If the answer is no, you should feel free to say so.

Rosen did not share his motivation for asking this question. He doesn’t even say “WikiLeaks.” That’s probably because saying “WikiLeaks” would be the easiest way to ensure the question went unanswered.

With the routine disclaimer out of the way, Toner manages to say something that sort of has to do with the question:

MR. TONER: Well, we do – and look, this is a – to talk about Syria, but we should also talk globally here. The U.S. democracy and governance programs in Syria, it’s no different than programs that the United States has in many other democratic governments around the world – or countries around the world. This is part of our support for civil society and nongovernmental organizations. What’s different, I think, in this situation is that the Syrian Government perceives this kind of assistance as a threat to its control over the Syrian people.

Rosen, unhappy with this answer, asks the question again, directly. Toner states plainly:

MR. TONER: No. We are not working to undermine that government. What we are trying to do in Syria, through our civil society support, is to build the kind of democratic institutions, frankly, that we’re trying to do in countries around the globe. My own personal experience, when I was in Poland in the 1990s, we worked enormously with civil society and nongovernmental organizations. The difference here, as I said, is that the Syrian Government perceives this kind of assistance as a threat to its existence.

In case you were thinking, why wouldn’t the Syrian government find this to be a threat to its existence, one reporter asks, “Explain how trying to promote democratic institutions in an undemocratic society is not trying to undermine that undemocratic society.” The answer she gets:

MR. TONER: Well, again, trying to promote a transformation to a more democratic process in the society is not undermining necessarily the existing government. What we’re trying to do, and what President Asad is facing right now, is a push by his very own people to move in a more democratic direction. We have been working for many years, both in Syria and other places in the world, to promote those ideals because we believe they’re in the long-range benefit to these societies.

This is pure newspeak. Toner simply chooses to use the word “transform” instead of the word “undermine.” Just ask this question: if what is happening in Syria is the result of promoting democratic transformation, clearly, isn’t that promotion having a destabilizing effect right now? Doesn’t it seem like President Bashar al-Assad is increasingly losing control?

At least, he admits this democracy promotion is not exclusive to Syria. He doesn’t share details, but the reality is that this freedom agenda has been in play in Iran and other countries where “color revolutions” have played out. Democracy promotion is a significant state-sponsored operation, a tool for advancing foreign policy and influencing governments. And, that influence aims to subvert the government especially governments like Syria, which the US has condemned for working too closely with Iran, having ties with Hezbollah and aspiring to be a nuclear power.

What Toner fails to note is that promoting democracy often endangers the lives of those involved in promotion efforts. It’s not WikiLeaks that endangers lives but a government that incompetently and sloppily engages in democracy promotion on behalf of its own interests will likely be found out and, when found out, the US will have to either stand firm behind the people it has been working to support or pretend nothing has been going on and allow the government to possibly massacre people who have been plotting to bring radical change or full-scale revolution.

One of the cables in the Washington Post story Toner will neither confirm nor deny the contents of cites “evidence that the Syrian intelligence service was aware of the connection between the London exile group and the Democracy Council in Los Angeles.” That cable addresses this concern, “If the [Syrian government] does know, but has chosen not to intervene openly, it raises the possibility that the [government] may be mounting a campaign to entrap democracy activists.”

The cable is titled, "MURKY ALLIANCES: MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD, THE MOVEMENT FOR JUSTICE AND DEMOCRACY, AND THE DAMASCUS DECLARATION." Just how do "murky alliances" help the civic societies of these countries the US is not undermining?

Now, let’s recap. Previously, Toner taught us the US is willing to let any foreign government or individual organization monitor US human rights but not the UN, which would like the US to allow its Special Rapporteur on Torture access to Bradley Manning, who is believed to have been abused and mistreated at Quantico. It’s not correct that if you are forthright on what is truly happening with matters like the detention of Manning that you will be asked to resign.

With regards to Syria, it now becomes evident, again, classified information remains classified even if it is leaked to the press and published as part of a news story that can be easily accessed by any citizen. And, despite the US’ history of interventions that go all the way back to the Bay of Pigs and prior to that failed operation, the US does not work to undermine countries globally. It works to transform them.

2011-04-19 #Syria government passes more meaningless reform, continues killing protesters

ImageThe Syrian government today passed a bill that lifted the country's 48 year old emergency law as well as abolished the state security court for political prisoners and approved a law allowing 'regulated' peaceful protests requiring Interior Ministry permission. In a country with 10,000 political prisoners, walking into the Interior Ministry to obtain permission for a protest does not seem risk free. Neither can a protest be peaceful when Syrian security are firing at it as has been the case in the current protests. There is also a total ban on political gatherings, and the Interior Ministry today called the current protests a mutiny by armed Salafi militants who it promised to 'punish with the strongest penalties.'

The Ministry said it will not be lenient with such terrorist acts and it will work strictly to enhance security and stability all over Syria and pursue terrorists everywhere to bring them to justice.The Ministry called on the citizens to tell about the whereabouts of terrorists and suspects and not allow them to exploit the freedom atmosphere to shed blood and corrupt public and private properties.

Assad's government has so far released political prisoners and detained many more, replaced the government while retaining the Assad family and friends who control all government, military, intelligence and economy, and lifted the emergency law while retaining all of the other laws that allow the Assad government to operate as it pleases, such as guaranteed immunity for crimes committed in the line of duty for the secret police. Protesters were once again unimpressed by the reforms and promised to continue protesting.

Protesters are asking for freedom and human dignity, the release of the rest of the political prisoners, freedom of speech, and legalized political opposition groups. Increasingly, they are also demanding regime change.

Hours before announcing the new bill, security forces killed a reported 17 people during an attack on protesters in Homs on Sunday night. Syrian police have also reportedly arrested opposition figure Mahmoud Issa. More protesters were killed today, according to SANA news agency and others. Amnesty reports at least 26 more protesters have died in recent days, bringing the total to some 220 over the past month. On Sunday, security forces reportedly killed 17 protesters in Homs and three mourners at a funeral in nearby Talbisah, with five more protesters reported killed in Latakia on Monday. A tribal leader, Muhammad al-‘Aliwi, also died in custody on Monday, possibly as a result of torture.

Previous WL Central coverage on Syria.

2011-04-19 Khadr defense accuse Guantanamo prosecutors of trickery

Image Defense attorneys for Canadian child soldier Omar Khadr, filed a motion yesterday requesting that Khadr's sentence be reduced from eight years to four. Defense claims that prosecutors had misled them into believing Khadr's plea bargain would be thrown out if they challenged the prosecution's star witness, a psychiatrist named Dr. Michael Welner. According to the motion, Army Col. Patrick Parrish, the judge presiding over Khadr’s case, joked that “Dr. Welner would have been as likely to be accurate if he used a Ouija board”.

Dr. Welner, who was called to assess the future danger to be expected from Khadr, wrote in his response to the clemency request, “I encountered.... an area where no systematic guidelines are chronicled and no actuarial measures are available.” Khadr’s lawyers write that Dr. Michael Welner's testimony was “unscientific” and “designed solely to inflame and mislead the jury.”

Welner's testimony, based on a brief interview with Khadr, covered a great deal of territory, including statements that Khadr's family was a big influence on him (he was captured at 15 and spent the ensuing eight years in Guantanamo), and simultaneously that because he had been imprisoned without trial in maximum security torture facilities for eight years, he had been "marinated in jihad" and could not be "deradicalized". Despite the statement that he was radicalized at Guantanamo, he could not be released to Canada because of insufficient "deradicalization" programs in Canada. Welnar also stated that a devout Muslim would not fit in in Canada.

Interviews with Welnar and his testimony all concentrate on Khadr's "easy smile" and other seeming virtues that appear sinister to the psychiatrist. The same psychiatrist says of Khadr, he is very dangerous because “he’s physically resilient”, “socially agile”, ”street smart”, “the other detainees give him regard”, athletic and taller than most detainees, “charming”, speaks various languages and that he “has attracted more attention to Cuba than Fidel”. Also, he is a prayer leader and speaks fluent English so can communicate with guards and has become a leader. He has the “stardust of royalty”, is “devout”, “identifies with his family,” and has become his family’s “white sheep”. He is “charming” and carries himself with “grace.” On a “superficial” level he seems very “Westernized.” And he is a “rock star” of Guantánamo. All of this makes him very dangerous.

As if being a tall, athletic, ambitious, charismatic, graceful, resilient, street smart, charming, multi-lingual, prayer leader was not enough, he has read Harry Potter. Which is escapism. For someone to want to escape Guantánamo or Bagram seems strange to this psychiatrist. He has also read CS Lewis, Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Ismael Beah, Danielle Steele and John Grisham, along with many educational texts etc., but Harry Potter seemed much more worthy of note. He is obviously not a Christian.

Khadr and his lawyers are hoping that when he has served his first year in maximum security, 'near' solitary confinement in Guantanamo, where he continues to be interrogated by US officials with no legal counsel present, he will be returned to Canada for the remainder of his sentence. Despite diplomatic notes that suggest willingness on the part of Canada's government, there are no guarantees of this, and Canada's record in the entire case has been abysmal, leading to accusations that Canadian officials have been complicit in Omar's torture and illegal interrogation.

The Canadian government has fought against providing Omar's defense with the documentation regarding his case, resulting in a 2008 Supreme Court of Canada unanimous decision that the government had acted illegally, contravening §. 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and an order that the videotapes of the interrogation be released. In April 2009, the Federal Court of Canada ruled once again that Khadr's rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms had been violated. It concluded that Canada had a "duty to protect" Khadr and ordered the Canadian government to request that the U.S. return him to Canada as soon as possible. In August 2009, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the decision in a 2–1 ruling. In January 2010, in a unanimous 9–0 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the participation of Canadian officials in Khadr's interrogations at Guantanamo clearly violated his rights under the Charter but stopped short of ordering the government to seek Khadr's return to Canada, leaving it to the government to determine how it would balance foreign policy and uphold Khadr's constitutional rights.

The question of Canada's complicity has been dependent on whether the government was actually aware of Khadr's torture, while they have for years insisted they were receiving assurances that he was being treated properly. At the six minute mark in Khadr's interrogation video, he tells the Canadian interrogator that his testimony was untrue and he only gave it to stop the torture at Bagram. Wikileaks cable 08OTTAWA918 tells of Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) Director Judd's reaction to the video release and Canadian law in general.

Judd derided recent judgments in Canada's courts that threaten to undermine foreign government intelligence and information-sharing with Canada. These judgments posit that Canadian authorities cannot use information that may have been derived from torture, and that any Canadian public official who conveys such information may be subject to criminal prosecution. This, he commented, put the government in a reverse-onus situation whereby it would have to prove the innocence of partner nations in the face of assumed wrongdoing.

Judd credited Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority Conservative government for taking it on the chin and pressing ahead with common sense measures despite court challenges and political knocks from the opposition and interest groups. When asked to look to the future, Judd predicted that Canada would soon implement UK-like legal procedures that make intelligence available to vetted defense lawyers who see everything the judge sees.

Judd commented that cherry-picked sections of the court-ordered release of a DVD of Guantanamo detainee and Canadian citizen Omar Khadr (ref D) would likely show three (Canadian) adults interrogating a kid who breaks down in tears. He observed that the images would no doubt trigger knee-jerk anti-Americanism and paroxysms of moral outrage, a Canadian specialty, as well as lead to a new round of heightened pressure on the government to press for Khadr's return to Canada. He predicted that PM Harper's government would nonetheless continue to resist this pressure.

A CBC documentary is one of the best sources for the Khadr story up to the 2008 date when his trial was supposed to be held.

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

2011-04-19 Second appeal to the American Medical Association concerning Bradley Manning

President Obama recently stated that Private Manning’s conditions comply with the Pentagon’s basic standards. Given that those standards apparently permit Private Manning to be subjected to plainly unconstitutional conditions, it is clear that the Department of Defense must adapt its standards to meet the demands of the constitution. - American Civil Liberties Union


Second open letter to the president of the American Medical Association

Dear Dr. Wilson,

There has been a disappointing and disturbing silence in answer to the registered letter I sent to you and the American Medical Association you represent. In this letter, sent on February 23rd, 2011, I asked the AMA to take all measures in their power to stop the abuse of medical terminology and the medical profession assisting in torture. More specifically, I asked you to speak out against the sale of the torturous ‘prevention of injury’ procedure used on Bradley Manning to the greater public as a form of justified “care”.

We know from professional literature on extreme forms of abuse that it is attractive to many perpetrators to shift labels to conceal the real nature and seriousness of their actions. These relabeling techniques help them to shrug off responsibility, to maintain their position in society and to further disempower their victims by confusing them (see professional literature on e.g. the phenomenon of gaslighting). The following three articles show us how important it is to continue to correctly label the treatment of Bradley Manning as torture and as inappropriate:

Pioneers of Torture
The National Shame of the US Military's 'Slow Torture' of Bradley Manning
Stanford prison experiment

And although the AMA has so far remained guilty by association, two other US groups of medical professionals have given their frank professional condemnation:

Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Physicians for Human Rights

Also non medical professionals have made clear condemnations of what is going on:

Private Manning’s Humiliation
Manning, Obama and U.S. moral leadership

My reason for writing you once more is my deep conviction that it is a serious case for alarm that the AMA hasn’t come forward in this case yet, in order to clearly draw the line on abuse and torture. The loss in this case is partially to Bradley Manning (who now has to depend on medical staff that have shown they have no defense against being compromised or corrupted) but also to your organization and the medical profession in general.

When I did my physiotherapy training, years ago, the Hippocrates Oath was summarized as “heal, do not harm”. As we were working in an atmosphere where integrity was the norm and the level of patient care was high, we used this sentence to carefully dissect each case, to discover what were the interested parties and their opinions. It was used to teach us that the world view, wishes and judgement of the patient would not always match that of others - but in the end should prevail in any medical decision. This to prevent “violations under the cloak of care”: situations where a patient is so overpowered by medical staff or hospital atmosphere that he accepts a treatment he doesn’t feel good about, because he can’t succeed in getting heard.

I would never have dreamed that there would come a time where I have to evoke the same oath at the other end of the spectrum, the end it was originally intended for! Hippocrates crafted this oath to clearly divide between warriors (who in the period also used to tend to wounds) and unarmed “real” medical staff. And by his oath, he made non-violence, and the ethics and the level of trust that is resultant from them, the foundation of the medical professions.

My question to you is: Would anybody in the US seriously want a doctor who is not ultimately and primarily motivated by patient care, but rather by greed, status, professional pride, career opportunities or whatever other motivations there can be? What does it mean for the medical profession in general if doctors agree, as in the case of Bradley Manning, to completely leave patient interests out of the equation and instead tend to their own salary, the will of the Quantico commander and greasing of the working relations with the army and the government? Is he the one and only exception from the right treatment? Or is he an example of a deep lack of ethics and professionalism that should alarm each and every person who will ever needs the services of a doctor in the United States?

And my second question to you is: Is there any amount of money, any award, any job promotion, any image in the outside world, which can compensate you for loss of professionalism or integrity? Can anything compensate for losing those elements so essential to the profession: compassion, honest relationship with the patient, and ultimately also power to heal - where healing is difficult?

It is my deep conviction that any medical professional who is not trained and supported by his professional peer-group (I mean you, the American Medical Association!) to protect his patients in the face of such flagrant abuses, such as Bradley Manning faces right now, is certainly unfit to perform the much more delicate balancing act which is necessary to prevent the “violations under the cloak of care”. Someone who is complicit in torture (even if it is just one single act) has crossed a boundary, and that crossing will affect their professional stance towards all their other patients, and more fundamentally, their regard for human life.

These observations become even more a cause of concern when I look at the poor state of mental health-care in your country: by far the richest country in the world. I remind you that US prisons contain more than five times the amount of inmates in prisons in any other country. And I have been told that one of the causes behind this grim overall picture is the fact that many people who are badly in need of psychiatric care end up, without much care at all, somewhere in the prison system.

The American government has tried to hush away concerns for Bradley Manning, declaring that his treatment is in no way unusual. Is it possible that this is indeed the shocking truth? That Bradley Manning’s case is just exceptional because it has grabbed the limelight? Does he represent many others who have no name to the world; those who are routinely degraded, abused, kept in solitary confinement - or in other ways tortured - by the American prison system?

And is this then the truth about the American Medical Association: That they have never stood up and asked for proper treatment and proper patient care for all these psychiatric patients? That they have never told the United States that it could and should do better? That they have allowed society to go muddle along with unsatisfactory “solutions” that are seen as cheap or convenient? That doctors and other medical staff are in fact complicit and jointly responsible for the broad acceptance of this completely failed “prison” system, and concurrent horridly low levels of psychiatric care?

Could that be the shameful truth and the real answer, when I ask you why you haven’t sent me a decent reply yet?

And yes, I am not an American and not a paying member of your Association. If that’s your reason to not answer me - let me know your price and I will pay your fee! Because, even from the other end of the world, it is unbelievably hard to see a medical organization that does not have the necessary pride and professionalism to join these ranks:

- The UN rapporteur on torture
- Amnesty international
- Human Rights Watch
- the ACLU
- Yale and Harvard law schools

I hope that the AMA will now come to its senses and strongly condemn the treatment of Bradley Manning (No 9. on the TIME Person of the Year list).

Awaiting your reply,

Yours Sincerely,

Mirjam Eikelboom

Other ways to support Bradley Manning here.

Previous WL Central coverage on Bradley Manning here.

2011-04-19 WikiLeaks Notes: Manning to be moved to Fort Leavenworth, upcoming events

ImageBradley Manning moving to Fort Leavenworth

'US officials' say private Bradley Manning is being moved to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas according to the Associated Press. An announcement is expected tomorrow at the Pentagon. "The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the move has not yet been made public."

Fort Leavenworth is home to the United States Disciplinary Barracks, the U.S. military's only maximum-security facility, which houses male service members convicted at court-martial for violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. According to Wikipedia, only enlisted prisoners with sentences over five years, commissioned officers, and prisoners convicted of offenses related to national security are confined to the USDB. Manning is still awaiting trial. Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility, opened October 5, 2010, is also on the Fort Leavenworth site and may be the one Manning is headed to.

Press briefing at the Pentagon contained the following:

  • Manning's pretrial period is expected to continue a very long time yet. Repeated many times.
  • Manning's conditions to be determined by assessment of his mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health.
  • The move is because of the duration of his incarceration and the expected future duration.
  • Best question: How can you say his conditions at Quantico had nothing to do with his move if you are looking for a 'better' place?
  • Answer: "I won't say his conditions at Quantico had nothing to do with this"

Event: The Chaser’s Empty Vessel (featuring Julian Assange's lawyer Jennifer Robinson)

On 20th April, Australian satirical comedy group The Chaser (best known for their popular television show The Chaser's War On Everything) are appearing at the Kings Cross Hotel for a night of live discussion, music and drinking, hosted by Sydney's FBi Radio. Details are located here.

Wikileaks Goes Large at the Sydney Writers' Festival

The month of May is also shaping up to be a busy one for Sydney Wikileaks-watchers. The Sydney Writers' Festival is featuring several panel discussions on both Julian Assange and Wikileaks from 19th - 21st May (enter 'Assange' or 'Wikileaks' into the site's search feature for all listings). Arguably the big ticket event is Who's Afraid of Wikileaks? featuring Andrew Fowler, Suelette Dreyfus, Guy Rundle, Barbara Gunnell, Robert Manne and Paul Barratt (facilitator), on May 20.

Event: (Melbourne) Griffith Review Lecture - Rebel, Public Nuisance and Dreamer: Julian Assange Standing Alone

Barbara Gunnell is also speaking at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne on June 9, discussing her lead essay, ‘Whistleblowers, Wikileaks and Journalism’. Gunnell is a contributor to 'The Observer' and former associate editor of 'The New Statesman'.

2011-04-20 Will Pentagon's Transfer to Ft. Leavenworth Further Isolate Bradley Manning?

The Pentagon’s decision to transfer the alleged whistleblower to WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning, caught Manning’s defense by surprise. Manning’s move was not reported to his defense counsel until “twenty minutes before the Pentagon’s press briefing.” The way his defense learned of the move was the same way most citizens of the world did: by reading the information that was leaked to the Associated Press just before the briefing. Supporters of Manning are now watching closely, planning to call attention to any new violation of his rights that might occur.

David E. Coombs, Manning's lawyer, says the Pentagon had been thinking about moving Manning for a long time. So, the timing of the move did not surprise Manning’s lawyer David E. Coombs. He blogged:

The defense recently received reliable reports of a private meeting held on 13 January 2011, involving high-level Quantico officials where it was ordered that PFC Manning would remain in maximum custody and under prevention of injury watch indefinitely. The order to keep PFC Manning under these unduly harsh conditions was issued by a senior Quantico official who stated he would not risk anything happening “on his watch.” When challenged by a Brig psychiatrist present at the meeting that there was no mental health justification for the decision, the senior Quantico official issuing the order responded, “We will do whatever we want to do.” Based upon these statements and others, the defense was in the process of filing a writ of habeas corpus seeking a court ruling that the Quantico Brig violated PFC Manning’s constitutional right to due process. See United States ex. rel. Accardi v. Shaughnessy, 74 S.Ct. 499 (1954) (violation of due process where result of board proceeding was predetermined); United States v. Anderson, 49 M.J. 575 (N.M. Ct. Crim. App. 1998) (illegal punishment where Marine Corps had an unwritten policy automatically placing certain detainees in MAX custody). The facts surrounding PFC Manning’s pretrial confinement at Quantico make it clear that his detention was not “in compliance with legal and regulatory standards in all respects” as maintained at the Pentagon press briefing.

The Bradley Manning Support Network, which formed to “provide prisoner support” during his imprisonment, put out a press release indicating concern over the move. Kevin Zeese, an organizer with the Support Network, says his “transfer from Virginia to Kansas limits his access to his civilian attorney David Coombs of Rhode Island. It also severely limits visitation opportunities by his East Coast family and friends.” Jeff Paterson of Courage to Resist and the Support Network says, “It wasn’t a secret that we were preparing to rally one to two thousand for an upcoming DC-area pre-trial hearing.”

Is it possible he is being moved because the Bradley Manning Support Group has been successfully mobilizing people to protest his detention at Quantico? On March 20, a day that was declared Bradley Manning International Support Day, hundreds turned out for a protest at Quantico, just one day after the eighth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War. Reports from Firedoglake indicated “the ratio of police to protesters was disproportionate.” About one hundred regular police officers were present, six on horseback. Dozens of riot police with police dogs and then about a half-dozen military officers with gas masks carrying automatic weapons and tear gas were there. And, prior to the protest, the base the director of operations raised “the specter of infrastructure damage, vandalism or harassment to USMC personnel” through a “Threat Advisory” issued just prior to the planned protest.

Unfortunately for the Pentagon, which probably wishes citizens would just allow proper procedures to unfold without interfering with protests and grassroots campaigns, Iraq War veteran Ethan McCord, one of the soldiers who appears in the video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack which Manning allegedly leaked, happens to be a Kansas resident. He has pledged to help build support for Manning while he is in Kansas saying, “Bradley Manning is accused of doing nothing more than heroically telling the truth. I and many others here in Kansas are already planning support actions at Leavenworth.”

The Pentagon denies that this move is in reaction to growing criticism. They claim it has nothing to do with UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez being denied a visit with Manning. They suggest all was well at Quantico and that this move is merely because “the Virginia facility does not customarily hold pre-trial detainees for more than a few months" and Manning has been under arrest for nearly a year now.

Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich, however, asserts, “Any move of Pfc. Manning does not change the underlying fact, which has not been disputed by the Department of Defense, that he has been held under conditions which may in fact constitute ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ in violation of the 8th amendment.” He says the Department of Defense has failed to provide “timely answers to even the most basic questions and have thus far refused to allow” him to meet with Manning. This move, Kucinich says, will not stop his effort to get the Department of Defense to grant his “legitimate request” to meet with Manning to fulfill his “oversight responsibilities as a member of Congress and a member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.”

Bradley Manning’s detention and the cruel and unusual punishment he is believed to have experienced has earned him quite a bit of worldwide support. Avaaz, a website that employs technology and ethics to organize citizens on pressing issues, has a global petition, “Stop WikiLeaks Torture,” that has over 528,000 signatures. A letter calling attention to how Manning’s detention was likely violating his Fifth and Eighth Amendment rights. They condemned Quantico brig’s procedures that appeared to be disrupting his senses and personality. Of the many signatories, President Barack Obama’s own constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe was one of them.

The Obama Administration once considered Fort Leavenworth as an option for resettling Guantanamo detainees so that the Guantanamo Bay prison could be closed. The maximum-security prison where the detainees were almost settled is not likely to be where Manning is relocated; the Pentagon says he will likely end up in the medium-security facility. Still, there’s a bit of a quirk of fate that Manning would end up being held in close proximity to prison cells, which almost housed terror suspects.

The relocation of the detainees was to be the Obama Administration’s solution to a key problem: the US currently holds detainees without evidence to support their prosecution but finds them to be too dangerous to release. Nearly fifty detainees have been given this designation and it is likely that these individuals could have been moved to Fort Leavenworth to be illegally held without due process.

Manning faces over twenty charges, some which involve the leaking of information that has not surfaced or been released by WikiLeaks. It is unclear what kind of case the Pentagon has against Manning. Manning has seen and read information the Pentagon does not want people to read (except for those in the military and government who are granted access). If released, he would have an authority to go after Pentagon practices and procedures and US conduct in wars that few are able to achieve. Which might leave one to wonder if, even without a good case, Manning might just languish in a cell indefinitely in Fort Leavenworth.

The “learned helplessness” techniques have already been used on Manning at Quantico; will the violations of due process and the right to a trial, which detainees at Guantanamo face, escalate at Ft. Leavenworth?

Through his alleged leaking of classified information, Bradley Manning has exposed how many US systems work. The world should not be surprised if his detention exposes more abhorrent aspects of US military operations and calls more attention to how the powerful in the US can abuse the civil and military legal system.

The following video is from a support rally for Bradley Manning and information freedom held at City Hall in NYC on April 7, 2011.

2011-04-21 Interview with Terry Holdbrooks, former Guantanamo guard.

ImageThis is our second interview in a series of interviews with former Guantanamo Bay detention camp guards and detainees.

Several current and former U.S. soldiers have expressed interest in speaking publicly about their experience at Guantanamo: including a CIA psychologist, interrogators, guards, and medical personnel. They are disgusted with what they witnessed or took part in at Guantanamo, but declined my request for an interview, because they fear opening themselves up to prosecution by the US government, which required them to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement.

I was also told that many are afraid of being prosecuted for war crimes, since low level soldiers are often the ones who shoulder the brunt of punishment and backlash; whereas higher ranking officials seem to escape scrutiny completely.

Terry Holdbrooks is a former guard at the Guantanamo Bay detention camps. He was stationed at GTMO in 2003 and 2004. During his time there, he converted to Islam. He is now a vocal critic of the camp. You can find him on twitter @BrotherMustafa

Holdbrooks'testimony for UCDavis's "The Guantánamo Testimonials Project" can be read here.

In 2009, Holdbrooks was interviewed by Toronto Star reporter Michelle Shephard, the author of Guantanamo's Child, a book about Guantanamo captive Omar Khadr, who was a minor when he was captured and sent to Guantanam in March of 2009. You can read more about that interview, here, .

For previous WL Central coverage of Khadr, see 2011-04-19 Khadr defense accuse Guantanamo prosecutors of trickery. Or, for previous WL coverage of Guantanamo, see this.

To listen or read my previous WL Central interview with Brandon Neely, another former guard at Guantanamo, see this.

Our interview was conducted by phone for an hour and then by email, because 40 minutes of audio from our phone conversation was lost, which is a major bummer.

Tell me a little bit about yourself before you entered the military.

Before I entered the military I was an atheist. 

I came from an interesting background of a two drug using parents...biological parents...who decided to separate when I was seven...and pawn me off on my grandparents. And, my grandparents were left over hippies...and one was a cancer survivor.

Politics never played much of an interest in the home, neither did faith. They weren't really issues of importance. Issues of importance were good academic grades, strong worth ethic...things like that.

There wasn't really much of a care of anything else. My grandmother passed away about the time I was seventeen...just before I graduated And, her and my grandfather had moved out of the house just a couple months prior to her passing, so I had a house to myself. Which is kind of odd - a seventeen year old with a five bedroom house.

But when she passed away, my great grandmother changed that, and kind of gave me the ultimatum of go to college or get a job. And, there was really nothing that I wanted to go to college for. I hadn't found what I wanted to do yet. So, I had to look for a job, and I am not really much of a person that likes jobs to be honest with you.

I just don't enjoy a...I have an issue with people trying to have me do something the way that just seems to be redundant.

You know, if I could find a more effective means of accomplishing the situation, I would rather just do it the way that I am gonna do it.

So, yeah, I had a number of odd and interesting jobs when I was younger, any case...I decided to enlist in the military.

9/11 had absolutely no bearing, whatsoever, on my decision to enlist in the military.

I know a lot of soldiers ended up joining as a result of 9/11, but as far as I was concerned. It was kind of a blessing. It was a wake up call for the United States that we are not untouchable.

Two oceans doesn't separate us from trouble. But, I am the only human I think in the United States who feels that way. A lot of people seem to call me a sociopath for not having these great overwhelming feelings of sorrow and remorse, and sympathy for the situation.

I understand it is simply what it was. One event that occurred, and you've got two choices: You can either be a survivor or you can be a victim.

Is that a response that is more for...are you positioning yourself against your critics or do you feel that in your heart?

No. No. No. I feel that in my heart: You can either be a survivor, or be a victim. I just can't stand it when people take the "Oh, pity me route."

If you lost a family member in 9/11, obviously I can understand that but otherwise just move past it.

I do want to talk about your time in the military. And, of course, I want to talk about your time about your time at Guantanamo Bay. And, I want to talk about where you are at, and what your stance is on that...but where are you now?

I'm starting my bachelors courses. I am hoping to have my book published in the next two or three months, hopefully.

And, that book is...?

The name of it is actually going through a change.

We were going to entitled it Traitor...kind of in response to my Newsweek article.

When the Newsweek article came out there was...I think...35 hundred comments in the first three days. Half of them were saying, you know, "We should have left this traitor, sympathizer, towel-head, sand-nigger, yada yada yada"....every other name you can think of that would be awful to call somebody..."We should have left him in Guantanamo with his buddies."

And, then the other half of them were giving me praise: "Thank you, This person is speaking the truth. This person is being honest. This is a great thing."

I just though "traitor" was an interesting title, because how many of these people who are condemning me...have they been in the military? Did they go to Guantanamo? Are they 35 years old playing Dungeons and Dragons and hanging out in their mother's basement?

So, I thought it was an interesting title, but we are changing the new title, and I am kind of personifying some more situations and providing more dialogue as opposed to telling you how somebody felt. I am trying to show how they felt.

Do you feel like you are a traitor?

No. But I also in kind wouldn't feel that I am a very patriotic individual either.

Fair enough. What do you think about patriotism? What do you think about that idea?

It's healthy in small doses.

Help me understand how you got stationed at Guantanamo, and what happened while you were there?

Well, nobody really chooses where they are gonna get stationed. The military kind of sends you where they need you.

Being that there are not that many individuals in the military who are correctional officers...the closest job...similar job would be military police.

So, they send military police officers in place of correctional officers.

That is how I ended up going down there was that I was a military police officer. And, they needed people to fill the fill the missions so to say.

It was interesting, we had two weeks of ill prepared training from individuals who had never been to Guantanamo, and knew nothing about it. They were teaching us how to work in Guantanamo.

I just thought that was kinda funny, you know, choosing people who haven't been there, and don't know about it to train us how to work in an environment they have never been to.

That seemed interesting to me...

Did it seem interesting to you or did it seem like it was poorly managed?

Oh yeah. Absolutely poorly managed. It's the six P's - Piss Poor Planning Prevents Proper Performance.

So you are at Guantanamo and what happens?

It's just so much of a mass subject about it. Obviously, there's the various camps that are down there.

Then there is what the public knows, what the public doesn't know.

Somethings about it have been greatly published...other factors like Camp Iguana, I don't think has ever been discussed.

Camp 7 has never been discussed. These aren't really things that come out in the media all too often.

Well, lets talk about the things that aren't in the media. Let's talk about the things that people don't know. What don't people know about Guantanamo Bay?

Well, one, to defend it has exceptional health care...exceptional food. There is no invasion of ability to practice freedom of religion. There is no invasion of the detainees being able to practice Islam. They are allowed to practice Islam freely...loud and proud and everything else. But that never seems to be talked about.

Anybody, when they think about Guantanamo, the images that are conjured are torture and abuse, and water-boarding et cetera.

Water-boarding really isn't that bad of a torture mechanism in comparison to some of the other things that have happened in Guantanamo.

But Camp Iguana was always interesting, and that never gets mentioned in the news.

We had two twelve years olds and a thirteen year old in Camp Iguana. And that would have been in 2003. So, maybe they were picked up when they were two elevens and a twelve year old? I don't know.

I have a hard time trying to see what two eleven and a twelve year olds could have to contribute to the war on terror. How are they helping Al Quaeda?

And on the flip side of that...Camp Seven (the camp that is clear does not exist). That was just actually recently published, I think in, say October or November...somebody did an article about it.

But, as soon as they did an article, the article was redacted and taken down from the Internet.

I think this was with the Huffington Post.

And, it was taken out quickly. It was only up for a few days.

And, as quickly as it was up it disappeared.

Camp 7 was where the individuals of maximum security...individuals that actually were worth having there. That is where they were at.

And, it wasn't many. A handful of people.

That would have been were Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would have been, and what's his name...John Walker Lindh...had he ever gone there...John Walker Lindh, would have been in Camp 7.

Do you have personal experience with those two places?

Camp Iguana, yes. Camp 7, no.

Camp 7 do I explain this in civilian was a privatized situation.

We didn't necessarily have military looking at it. We had other individuals that were contracted to come down there and to work in it. Just simply due to the nature of it, and the security that was involved.

It wasn't something that was open to the general public, so to say. The general public being the military. It wasn't open to the military.

Food would get served to it daily, and the individuals who were working food, were obviously told not to discuss any locations of the camps.

Medics were told not to discuss any location of the camps. Things like that.

And, interrogators were obviously told the same things. So, were linguists.

One of the interesting things about Guantanamo, is that...if you were to look at it from sort of like an aerial view...metaphorically speaking...not literally...but, if you were to look at it from an aerial's almost like a chess board...

...where you have army-military-police, and that's a pawn. And, then you have army-linguists, and that's a pawn. And, then you have CIA got a knight. FBI interrogators, you have a bishop. Military interrogators, you have a rook.

You know all these little working pieces...but none of these pieces intermingle. None of these pieces talk with each other.

You know, military does talk with...or Army doesn't talk with Marines...medics don't talk with linguists...interrogators don't talk with military police. Everybody was isolated to themselves...and being micromanaged and monitored.

Our mail and Internet activity and phone calls home were being monitored. And, if we said something that would perhaps violate op-sec, you know, your conversation would be terminated...or your computer would be terminated or something instantly.

Everything was being monitored.

And, it's as if there were this one great mastermind or perhaps two great masterminds playing a chess game with these moving pieces and each moving piece was being monitored and screened for intelligence incase, you know...the interrogators, aren't getting the intelligence...then perhaps the military police officers are getting, or some other situation...everybody was being monitored, and nobody was really trusted.

Who is the mastermind? Or what agency or group is the mastermind? Is there one, do you think?

I wish I knew that. (laughs) I wish I knew that. You have to understand my feelings about the whole "war on terror" is that it is a fictitious war.

We created a war and staged an attack to keep a president in power.

He had some horrible approval ratings prior to 9/11 and after 9/11 he skyrocketed and got elected again somehow.

At the end of the...there is just entirely too much proof that...that there is no way 9/11 could have happened from two planes.

You know, two planes doesn't take down three towers in the course of a square mile. It doesn't happen. Just not possible.

Let alone one of those towers being two blocks away from the two towers, and it got hit by debris, and supposedly started a fire and collapsed...rather imploded. Just like the other two towers. Imploded.

It's just...I don't know. I have a hard time talking with human beings that believe it honestly happened because two planes hit two towers. I just. I don't know...

Let's widen the space in the interview. Lets widen the space. Lets talk. Let's talk about what you think. Okay. So what I am getting from you is that your opinions about Guantanamo go beyond the issue of US torture or US ex-judicial processes.

Oh, yeah. Most definitely.

Guantanamo was our way of calming down the American public after telling them for months and months and months, " Terror alert elevated. Don't fly. Stay at home. Don't spend money." This, that, and the other.

You have to calm them down. And, you have to show them, "Oh! We got the bad guy. We got the results." It's like any magician. You know, when a magician does a magic trick, they're not really doing magic. They're just fooling you, and making you pay attention to the one thing while they do something else.

So Guantanamo was how the US fooled the public, and said, "Here, we got the bad guys. Don't worry anymore. Go back out. Spend money. Stimulate the economy."

The fact of the matter is that we don't have the bad guys. We didn't have the bad guys. I don't think we are ever really going to have the bad guys be honest I don't think there is that many bad guys that are out there.

There's no mass army of Al Quaeda and the Taliban certainly hasn't had a direct issue with us. They haven't had a direct relation to the events that happened on 9/11.

9/11 was 19 out of the 21 of the high-jackers being Saudi.

Why haven't we gone to Saudi Arabia? Why haven't we even talked with Saudi Arabia?

Before your experience at Guantanamo Bay, where you were a soldier who converted to Islam, and the got a lot of flack for it....did you believe that there was such a thing as a fair or just political system?

I certainly think that my family raised me to not trust or believe in the government.

One can not trust or believe the government, and still believe that there is the possibility of having a fair and just political society.

We would like to all believe that.

I mean you certainly need to believe in that. Because, if you can't believe in that, and you have no faith in society, then that obviously creates a very lonely and depressing world to live in.

So, I think some people...whether they believe it or they just accept it...they choose to go with it, because its easier to have that then the alternative.

And I don't think that I have ever put entirely too much conscious thought to the situation prior to Guantanamo.

But, it's certainly not something that I think a 17 or 18 boy would be thinking know, the idea of, "What kind of society do I live in? Is this a fair society? Is this an honest society? Is America truly the country that it says that it is, and that we claim to be?

Well, I disagree with you. Because, I think, I was thinking those things at age 17.

Oh, you were certainly far more intellectual than I am.

I don't know if it's an intellectual exercise...but, I don't want to go off on a tangent...I am not trying to bore the hell out of you.

(laughs) Go ahead and ask the questions you want. It's no problem.

Maybe you could actually tell me about your time personally as a soldier at Guantanamo Bay.

It was a very lonely year.

I had two friends the entire time I was in Guantanamo...and I have maintained friendships with the two of those people since leaving the military...since leaving Guantanamo et cetera.

I actually just saw one them last October. Spent a week with him in his home in Germany. He is still stationed in the military.

Flew out there. Found out he was in Germany. So, I went and saw him. Stayed with him for a week. And, we had a blast. We had a great time. It was almost as if the five years hadn't elapsed since we had it was just a three day weekend...

But the two friendships that I have maintained from there...from the military have been very strong and very dear.

But, obviously with the excommunication that I faced for my unit...having an interest in Islam...having an interest in Arabic....wanting to know about the Middle East...wanting to understand more about this war....and all the working pieces of it...that really raised some eyebrows and makes people feel unsafe...

...or... questionable about your interests...and what not...questionable about your allegiance...

You know, when you are brainwashed, and told to believe that the...Islam is the enemy...that we are at war with Islam...and the Middle Easterners...and Arabs that hate us...and they hate everything about us... you know, that is what we were told, day in and day out...

And, I just...I had a hard time know...tell me I have to hate somebody...but you don't give me an adequate reason as to why...then, I am going to have a very hard time hating somebody...

It's a little hard for me to accept the idea that 1.3 billion people hate the United States. A good chunk of those people living...a fair chunk of those people living in the United States...

...If so many people had a problem with the US, the US would have a lot more issues than we do. That is just common sense as far as I am concerned, any case...

No, I saw Guantanamo as an opportunity to learn from 45 different know, about this way of life all around the world. "What's your social inculturation like in your society? What is your education like in your society? What rights do you have in your society?"

There was no way that I was going to pass it up. There was a rule not to talk to detainees, but there was no way I was going to pass that up.

What did you talk about? Did you talk about those things? What else did you talk about with them?

Oh, we talked about politics. We talked about religion. We would talk about education. We would talk about society.

They would ask me questions about the US. I would ask them questions about whatever country they cam from.

We would go back and forth and what I found to be very interesting talking with non US that when we would get into an argument as opposed to you know one party saying I am right, and you are wrong....and you have to believe me because I am right...

...a question would be posed to me such as, "You really believe that is how history happened? Do you really believe that this is what is going on? Why don't you go home and look into this book or look into this idea...or Google search this or that...and, read over it?"

Instead of them telling me that I was wrong in some circumstance they would just tell me, "Go look into this," or "Go research this."

You know, when you send somebody out with an objective and an open minded way, they are more likely to interpret and absorb information and take it in.

As opposed to being told to, "No you are wrong...go and work this and prove that I am right."

So I thought that was interesting. I mean that's a the dynamic that I was would finish when having conversations with individuals. It was also interesting to me that being told that they are the "worst of the worst, these dirt farmers, and towel heads." And, "These people who hate us..."

Let's talk about that for a second. Who told you that?

Oh, that was our military leadership. That was our direct leadership and individuals...[audio indecipherable].

[The rest of the interview was conducted via email.]

Everyone from our squad leaders on up.

Did you sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement like Brandon Neely [See WL Central’s interview with Brandon Neely, former Guantanamo guard]?

No. I didn’t, oddly enough.

What were the names of the three boys you mentioned who were captured and imprisoned at Guantanamo?

They were not public information.

Did you interact with them?

No, I did not work with them.

Why are so many soldiers hesitant to speak about their time at Guantanamo?

I imagine because many do not feel anything for the detainees…or they are still in the service…or they do not want the attention that comes with.

Half of the people who have heard my story call me a traitor, who would want that?

No one wants to step up, and do what’s right, but that is part of being a patriot isn’t it?

Why aren't you afraid like other soldiers to speak about your experiences at Guantanamo?

I am not afraid because I have nothing to lose. The army cannot do anything to me about it…and it needs to be spoken about.
The situation of GTMO is a skid mark on the underpants of American history, sadly.

Did you witness abuse at Guantanamo? If so can you tell me what happened?

Yes, I witnessed abuse many times…usually people getting their hands smashed or stepped on…or their heads used to open doors or flushed in a toilet.

Sometimes detainees would be kicked. This was not a common place…and it was nothing like Bagram and Abu Ghraib.

GTMO is far more civil than those two in comparison. It is still sad though, and embarrassing.

Did you witness torture at Guantanamo? If so can you tell me what happened?

Yes and no. Torture is long-lasting, psychological and emotional damage, and that happened in interrogation.

We did not see that often as guards.

I saw stress positions being used…and other tactics that have been published already and do not come as a surprise to anyone.

Again, GTMO is not like its brother facilities. It is far more humane, somehow?

Did you witness anything beautiful at Guantanamo? If so, what?

(lol) No, not really. If you look at an aerial view of Cuba, GTMO is the ugliest part of Cuba…sure enough, it is where we own land.

Why did you feel separate from your unit? Looking back, has your opinion about your being ostracized changed or evolved?

I was separated and ostracized, because I was compassionate and thought about the situation.

I questioned what we were doing. I did not get my rocks off by abusing and being rude to helpless people…and I wanted to learn as much as I could about every one of them.

How many times in life can you learn about 45 different cultures and countries and ways of life? I wasn’t going to let it pass, even if my unit was going to call me a "sympathizer" and a "traitor".

Why didn't you speak up or become a conscientious objector?

Because I had a wife and a job…a future career ahead of me, and my family was proud.

I wanted to be something, and I thought to myself, “If I could make it through having not done something I would regret, I would be ok.”

I was wrong.

What is it about Islam, or Islamic culture (history, language, art) that you find special or endearing, or illuminating...?

Discipline…it is a very disciplined and regimented lifestyle. Islam is not just a religion, it is a way of life.

It is like still being in the military, and I find the simplicity that it delivers to be amazing.

Did you discover that at Guantanamo?


Related Press:


For previous WL Central coverage of Khadr, see 2011-04-19 Khadr defense accuse Guantanamo prosecutors of trickery. Or, for previous WL coverage of Guantanamo, see this.

To listen or read my previous WL Central interview with Brandon Neely, another former guard at Guantanamo, see this.

2011-04-21 Syrian government lobbies for seat on UN Human Rights Council while preparing large scale attack on Friday protests and students

"We don’t believe the government anymore. All their decisions are just ink on paper for us." - Omar Ali, a Kurdish-Syrian activist.

Thirteen human rights groups have signed a press release condemning the Arab League's support of Syria's bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. The regional group for Syria has the same number of nominations as they have seats available, so at this point Syria seems guaranteed a seat. While the human rights groups feel that support for Syria's bid is an "an insult to the UN body and its mission", a quick glance at the current membership shows Syria, who have killed some 220-250 of their own citizens in recent weeks and detained and tortured close to a thousand, should feel right at home. While Libya was recently suspended, the council still has Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Gabon, Nigeria, Cameroon and enough other countries with sordid human rights records to constitute a jury of their peers. They need support from half of the members, when the vote takes place on May 20.

SANA state news agency today published the decrees on ending the state of emergency, abolishing the Supreme State Security Court, and regulating the right to peaceful demonstration, signed today by President Bashar al-Assad. Opposition activist Haitham al-Maleh told Reuters the move was "useless", and "The problem is that the ruling elite and the security have put their hands on the judiciary, and that other legislation they had introduced exempted the security forces from being held accountable to law."

Abdel Halim Khaddam, a former Syrian vice president based in Paris told BBC Arabic: "The crisis in Syria has nothing to do with the presence or absence of the state of emergency. It is not the state of emergency that arrests people and takes them to jail and it is not the state of emergency that fires on people. ... Assad has exposed himself completely before the people, through the crimes committed by his security apparatus. This has created a deep feeling among Syrians that the continuation of the regime would be a catastrophe. The depth of the rift between the regime and the majority of the people... will lead to the collapse of a regime desperately struggling to survive."

Yesterday protests continued unabated by the announcement, as the country gears up for what both sides are expecting to be a huge demonstration with huge retaliation. This week has seen a concentration on government crackdown on students and universities, with many arrested and beaten. Security is readying for Friday, when protests are expected in 40 or more cites, by deploying armed security in plainclothes everywhere protests are expected. Tanks are reported in Tahrir Square in Homs.

2011-04-21 WikiLeaks Notes: Tim Hetherington at the Frontline Club

Tim Hetherington was a photojournalist and Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker who was killed, along with his equally acclaimed colleague Chris Hondros, on Wednesday, 20 April, as they worked to cover a group of rebels opposed to the Gadhafi regime in Misrata, Libya.

In January 2009, Hetherington talked with his colleague James Brabazon at the Frontline Club in London about their work in West Africa. The discussion is a seminar on how interconnected politics are among former colonies artificially constructed as separate nations. Listen especially at about 1.11, when Hetherington talks about the problem of Western reporters dropping in to grab topical stories without grasping the historical and cultural context.

Many are dying in Libya and elsewhere because of the international crime of aggressive war, and most of those who die will not be memorialized in the international media, including the blogosphere. It still matters to recognize the value of every individual life. Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros knew better than most how many human beings are being slaughtered and ignored as if nameless, as if they didn't matter, and they worked precisely to reinscribe that truth: we all matter. All honour to them.

And on Chris Hondros, from the Editor and Publisher article:

It was Chris Hondros, a photographer for Getty Images, who took the photos of the Tal Afar checkpoint shooting while embedded with a unit of the 25th Infantry Division. He encountered some anger from the military last January after Getty chose not to agree to the military's request to delay sending them out. "They never asked me to censor," Hondros emphasizes, "they asked me to delay." But delay can sometimes mean the photos arrive too late to ever be used.

Though he had not violated any ground rules, he chose to leave the next day. "Even if I had not sent those photos, I would have left that embed," he says. "The incident had been a high stress one, and it didn't start me out on a good footing with these particular soldiers. It's impossible to be operating under hostility in an embedded situation."

His photographs of the blood-spattered, traumatized children were widely distributed to U.S. papers -- but few ran more than a single photo. By contrast, Hondros says, those photographs "seemingly dominated the discourse in Europe, where they were run in full over multiple pages by many important papers there."

Via @rj_gallagher on Twitter

2011-04-22 President Obama Condemns Bradley Manning's Contempt for the Rule of Law

Obama on Manning: “He Broke the Law”

At a fundraiser for President Barack Obama at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco, a group of progressive supporters of Bradley Manning paid tens of thousands of dollars to attend and disrupt the event. Oakland activist Naomi Pitcairn personally paid for tickets so people from her group could attend. The group sang a song with lyrics they wrote expressing their disgust with the way the Obama Administration has responded to Manning’s inhumane treatment.

Someone with the group also managed to confront President Obama on Manning. Obama’s handlers may have been preoccupied because in this clip that runs about a minute Obama opens up about what he thinks about what Manning did.

“People can have philosophical ideas about certain things,” President Obama explains. “But, look, I can’t conduct diplomacy on open source.” He then goes on to add that he has to abide by certain classified information rules or law and if he had released material like Manning did he’d be breaking the law.

Now, here is the remark that deserves the most attention: “We’re a nation of laws. We don’t individually make our decisions about how the laws operate.” He adds, “He broke the law.” Finally, before removing himself from the conversation, he says Manning “dumped” information and “it wasn’t the same thing” as what Daniel Ellsberg did because what Ellsberg leaked “wasn’t classified in the same way.”

First, President Obama says Bradley Manning did it. It is not entirely clear that he did it unless you solely rely on the chat logs published by Wired magazine. Manning is the alleged whistleblower in the case. And, displaying this attitude that he is guilty before he actually is put on trial and convicted may prejudice Manning’s case. In the same way that criminal and civil liberties lawyer Alan Dershowitz suggested former President George W. Bush was prejudicing the legal process against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange when he declared he's "willfully and repeatedly done great harm” and refused to participate in an event with Assange, Obama was making it hard for Manning to get a fair military trial. Because consider this: if the Commander-in-Chief openly says a soldier is guilty of a crime, then what are the chance the military hands down a sentence that runs contrary to the Commander-in-Chief?

Second, President Obama’s suggestion that supporters of Manning’s alleged action want the government to have “open source” diplomacy plays to the dominant narrative. Nobody thus far has suggested that all diplomacy be conducted out in the open. Why a number of people support the disclosure of the “Collateral Murder” video, the Afghanistan and Iraq War Logs and the US State Embassy Cables is because of the extent of corruption, human rights abuses, backroom deals, lobbying for US corporations, spying, manipulation of justice, etc.

Finally, the suggestion that the US is a nation of laws and people don’t get to make decisions about how the laws operate demands clarification. He may be right in the sense that the majority of US citizens do not get to make decisions about how laws operate. But, President Obama can make such decisions and has made such decisions. He can wield the power of the unitary executive and outright skirt the law. He can promote a culture of overriding the laws of this country as well.

President Obama can defy a judge’s order, as the San Francisco Chronicle did February 28, 2009, when it filed papers refusing to allow lawyers for an Islamic organization to review classified surveillance documents related to their case. Obama can have his administration file a brief essentially saying, “This decision is committed to the discretion of the Executive Branch and is not subject to judicial review. Moreover, the Court does not have independent power” to grant counsel access to classified information “when the Executive Branch has denied them such access.”

President Obama can continue to allow warrantless wiretapping in the country that explicitly violates laws. He can choose to not oppose the notion that a President can ignore Congressional restrictions on domestic eavesdropping and violate FISA by eavesdropping on US citizens without a warrant.

President Obama can take the US to war in Libya and embrace lawlessness. He can embrace the idea that the President is the “sole organ for the Nation in foreign affairs,” continue the “ideology of lawlessness” promoted by former Bush Administration officials like John Yoo and commit to the pursuit of a mission even if Congress chooses to pass a resolution restricting or outright opposing the mission.

President Obama can refuse to follow a court order and not release photos showing torture.

President Obama can choose to not take apart the legal architecture the Bush Administration set up to give them the authority to militarily detain without charge or trial detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

His administration can cite “state secrets” privileges and prevent torture victims from obtaining justice or compensation in US courts. It can push a “targeted killing” program that could potentially be used to kill US citizens suspected of terrorism, without giving attention to the legal questions raised by such a program. It can prevent investigations of officials who likely violated the law by pushing policies of torture and abuse in prisons.

Most importantly, he can have his administration aggressively pursue whistleblowers and fine tune the law so that individuals like Thomas Drake, who allegedly leaked information about waste and incomepetence at the National Security Agency (NSA) and Bradley Manning, become examples of what happens to citizens that choose to act out against government power and expose the system.

Contrary to what he suggests, if he thinks he can manipulate the law like the Bush Administration, than he can probably release classified information selectively to the media like Julian Assange and WikiLeaks has done as well. Former vice president Dick Cheney asserted in 2006 that he could declassify whatever information he wanted because of an executive order that granted the president and him “classification authority.” Chances are the Obama Administration would be willing to suggest this order still gave them the power to release material (if necessary).

Ideally, the US is a nation of laws but in reality it is not. The Executive Branch led by the President of the United States can choose what legal restrictions to abide by and what not to and it can choose what violations of the law to prosecute and what not to prosecute.

Thus, Manning can become a captive of the American system while soldiers who committed the act shown in the “Collateral Murder” video walk free, while the superiors who promote a culture of inhumanity that leads to incidents like what is seen in the “Collateral Murder” video aren’t held accountable and while former Bush Administration officials that engaged in lawless activity go unprosecuted.

2011-04-22 WikiLeaks Notes: Oral hearing for WikiLeaks Twitter appeal cancelled

Oral hearing for Wikileaks Twitter appeal cancelled

Today's hearing of oral arguments has been cancelled in the appeal of last month's order over whether the US government has the right to access the online information of three Twitter users in aid of its WikiLeaks investigation, and also whether they can be informed of what other internet companies have turned over their information without notifying them. The three, Icelandic MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir, US citizen Jacob Appelbaum and Rop Gonggrijp of the Netherlands, were all notified by Twitter of the order against their data. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have been assisting the three users with their challenge.

EFF earlier wrote "cooperating counsel John Keker of Keker and Van Nest will urge the court Friday to require the government to protect the First Amendment freedoms of speech and association of the Twitter users and the Fourth Amendment rights of the users in their locations. ACLU attorney Aden Fine will ask the court to unseal all documents related to other requests for private data".

US District Court Judge Liam O'Grady canceled the hearing and will instead issue a ruling after reading both sides' written briefs.

2011-04-23 Director of New Film on 'Collateral Murder': It's a 'Perfect Microcosm" of Iraq War

A new short documentary called, “Incident in New Baghdad,” premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on Sunday. The film tells the story of Iraq war veteran Ethan McCord, a soldier who appears in the “Collateral Murder” video rescuing two wounded children.

The director, James Spione, attended an event at Revolution Books in NYC on April 21, 2011. He talks about his initial reaction to the video WikiLeaks released and how he was horrified. But, then he began to pay attention to the media response and found it was pretty much the same on every channel.

It didn’t matter if it was Fox, ABC, CNN, CBS or MSNBC. It really didn’t matter. For the most part, each media channel’s response was “let’s find two people with opinions we know in advance and we’ll have them argue about this and they’ll say things we already know they are going to say and we’ll say that we were journalists and we did our job. And, it’s bullshit.”

Spione was doing research on the Internet and he found an interview with McCord. He thought it was interesting that he had actually been on the scene and wondered why the media was not talking to him about the incident. So, he decided to fly out and spend some days in Wichita, Kansas meeting McCord, shooting and doing an extensive interview for the film.

This is Spione’s “first political film.” He says he has done fiction films and in the last ten years has become more and more involved in documentary filmmaking. With this short film, he hopes to make it into a longer film that will look at the incidents from different points of view—the point of view of Iraqis, dissenting views from his company that was on the scene—because, as he concludes, the “Collateral Murder” incident is a “perfect microcosm” of the Iraq War.

Also, McCord, who was in NYC to attend the festival premiere of the film with director James Spione, recounted the incident and I shot and edited a clip of him speaking for

McCord describes what it was like that day to see the civilians maimed by the Apache helicopter. He talks about rescuing a girl and boy from a van. Their father, who was trying to help two journalists killed in the incident, was dead.

His platoon leader told him to stop worrying about thos “m’fin kids” and pull security. When he was back at the Forward Operating Base, he was having trouble coping with what happened, he says. He wanted to see mental health. He was laughed at by a superior officer and told to “suck it up” and get the sand out of his vagina.

For what it’s worth, McCord thinks the weapons the civilians had out were probably for show, meaning they saw the journalists and wanted to get their picture taken and be made famous.

The “Collateral Murder” incident was “one incident of many,” McCord concludes. Things like that happen on a daily basis in Iraq and you can see from that incident, he says, we should not be in Iraq.

2011-04-23 My trip to the "Free Bradley Manning Rally" ... six weeks early

Authored by Jonathan Getzchman

So I drove down to Leavenworth, Kansas today for a "Free Bradley Manning Rally" ... that was happening six weeks from now. I had a funny feeling something was wrong when I got to the address for the protest an hour late, and no one was there. The next funny feeling I had followed re-reading the two links I had seen about the rally ... I had read them both incorrectly.

Soooo ... Leavenworth. I'm here ... in a clash of decisions I sung, "Should I stay or should I go?"

I meditated for a bit, creating space to find out why I was here ... then a thought hit me: I wonder if I can ask for and receive an impromptu interview with Bradley Manning ... ask, sure ... receive? Hmmm ...

I took several deep breaths and decided I was doing nothing wrong, so no ill could befall me if I tried. I remembered that our brothers and sisters in the military are human beings like the rest of us, and they would understand my reasons.

I pulled up the driveway into the Leavenworth Prison (1300 Metropolitan ... where the rally was to be ... six weeks from now) passed the sign saying, "Vehicles may be subject to search/you must show ID" and accepted it as a possibility, parked and walked up the hill to the "Visitor processing center".

I opened an old school, screen porch door and looked inside to find a sharply dressed, black prison guard at a desk.

"Hello, I'm Jonathan Getzschman from There is a "Free Bradley Manning" rally here on June 4th, and I was wondering if I could interview Mr. Manning before then ... like now."

"Who is Bradley Manning?" asked the guard.

After some explaining, the guard said, "You mean that military kid? He's two miles up the road at Fort Leavenworth Prison."

HAH! The rally was scheduled at the wrong address ... no longer my fault.

I asked the guard if he thought there was ANY chance I might have of interviewing Manning.

"You never know," he responded. "Good luck sir."

Obviously a sign from God, I proceeded to the military base. On the way in, as I passed more signs that now said, "Vehicles WILL be searched and you MUST have ALL forms of ID necessary," I accepted the now inevitability that my personal belongings would be rooted thru ... breathing ... breathing ...

As I approached the first "check point" there were guards in shiny uniforms swarming the road blocks asking for and receiving papers ... that I didn't have. Three of them then approached me ... two younger white males and an older one.

"What are you here for?" asked one of the younger guys.

"My name is Jonathan Getzschman of and I was wondering if there was anyway I could interview Bradley Manning before the rally on June 4th." The two younger guards looked at each other, and their furrowed brows turned into an expression "already-always-knowing" that I was another one of "those people."

"Ok sir ... we're going to need you to turn off your vehicle, open all the doors, the hood, the trunk and stand in front of it."

I didn't argue. "I was just throwing it out there ... just in case there was a way I could get a chance to talk to him."

"Where did you drive from?" asked the first guard, as I prepared my van for inspection.

"St. Louis."

"You drove all the way from St. Louis to ask us if you could do an interview?" the guard asked eyeing me suspiciously.

"Yeah." Although a complete lie, my ego was still fragile from having my own "already-always-knowing" moment about the date of the rally, so I stuck to it. "I just want to hear his story. I don't mean to mess with your schedule or be a bother."

"Yeah ..." the guard said. "Why don't you show me your ID and proof of insurance and stand in front of your vehicle."

The other, younger guard searched my vehicle, looking through my bag first. "People who want to find out about a guy who tried to mess up our country makes it our job to find about you."

"Well, I love our country," I said, "and I wanted to hear his side of the story."

As they continued to inspect my van, I heard one of them say, "Why does this keep happening?" and the other said, "Something must have gone down that we haven't heard about yet." (Huh?) Yeah, something like that ... but what an interesting exchange.

"What's this group you're with?"

" ... it's a "Free Press" activist organization," I responded, "that seeks to insure that the People's rights aren't violated by intimidation or government censorship." It was at that point that they pulled out my protest sign, "AMNESTY for TRANSPARENCY," made eye contact with each other ... and both rolled their eyes.

"Oooooookaaaaaay ..."

"Is he clean?" the older guard asked as he approached us.

"Yeah, he's clean. Mr. Gechezmenn? I'm sorry about having to put you through that sir, but it's protocol. You can't just drive into a military base and ask to speak to high level security risk like that kid."

"Who would I need to ask permission from?"

"The Staff Judge Advocate ... you'll have to call him and schedule an appointment."

"Can I write his name down?" I asked. I wasn't sure if I could leave the front of the vehicle yet. He motioned over, and I grabbed my journal.

"Staff ... Judge ... Advocate ... you ever watch 'JAG' on TV?" one of them asked.


"That's the guy you gotta get ahold of. Don't do it this way again."

"Yes sir." I was led to the exit gate by the older guard, and he gave me back my license on the way out. Only about fifteen minutes had passed ... I could breathe again ... that was the longest breath I ever held.

2011-04-23 Wikileaks Notes: Manning rally June 4, Obama spokesman denies Obama said what he said

ImageRally for Bradley Manning

A rally is being planned at Leavenworth on June 4 "to protest the indefinite detention and unconstitutional torture of Bradley Manning." The Facebook page is here.

Obama spokesman denies Obama expressed the view he expressed

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor denies that US President Obama was "expressing a view as to the guilt or innocence of Pfc. Manning specifically" when he said, regarding Bradley Manning, "He broke the law."

Regarding Obama's further statement that he has to abide by the laws as well as Manning, Steven Aftergood, a classified information expert at the Federation of American Scientists, agreed with the point made earlier by WL Central, “There are rules and procedures governing the de-classification process, but those rules also are based in presidential authority. The president has supreme authority over what is classified.”

While the White House is playing down the significance of the president's statement, Manning supporters are not. UK Friends of Bradley Manning writes: It is not surprising that the White House is keen to play down this incident. Military case law indicates that “pretrial publicity itself may constitute unlawful command influence” (United States v. Simpson, 58 MJ 368) and, if this is raised at court martial, the US Government will have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the case has not been prejudiced. (United States v. Reed, 65 M.J. 487) Should unlawful command influence be proven, incidentally, then dismissal of the case is possible “as a last resort.” (United States v. Douglas, 68 M.J. 349)

2011-04-24 This Week in WikiLeaks - Ethan McCord & Kevin Zeese on Bradley Manning & Soldiers in War

ImageThe tenth episode of "This Week in WikiLeaks" features Iraq war veteran Ethan McCord and Bradley Manning Support Network Steering Committee member Kevin Zeese. McCord and Zeese have both appeared on "This Week in WikiLeaks." They are part of this week's episode because I recorded them talking at an event in New York City organized by World Can't Wait to promote a new short documentary, "Incident in New Baghdad."

Run time is about 1 hour for the episode.

To listen, click on the play button on the widget below:

Here is a link that you can follow to play the podcast. You can also go to the CMN News page and download an .mp3 to listen to or go find it on iTunes by searching for "CMN News" and the podcast with Ethan McCord should appear.

WLCentral previously posted video from this event. The podcast features more from McCord. He talks about soldiers being trained to commit incidents like what is seen in the "Collateral Murder" video and how the infantry is taught to treat humans outside their infantry like dirt. He addresses why there may not be more soldiers engaging in acts of resistance like Bradley Manning did.

McCord suggests the army goes after these 17, 18 or 19 year old kids because they don’t have empathy yet and they can easily be molded into killers. They want people who aren’t going to think about if what they are doing is wrong. Also, it’s very hard for soldiers to “take off that hero hat.”

“In order to change the soldiers and the way they act, we have to change the system," says McCord. Also, he says "everybody is taking pictures." McCord took pictures and he gave all of his pictures to the director of "Incident in New Baghdad" and they appear in the film.

Zeese in his statement says, "Bradley was a truth-teller in a time when telling the truth is something that is dangerous to do and he’s paying the price for it." He describes the police force that came out at Quantico on March 20 and how authorities would not let veterans lay flowers at a war memorial as part of a Bradley Manning support rally. He asks people to become a part of Support Network's organizing efforts.

Any ideas for future guests? Maybe, you want to come on the show and be part of a weekly discussion on WikiLeaks with the show's news correspondents? Shoot me a message on Twitter @kgosztola or to my email, which is

2011-04-25 New York Times, NPR Collude with US Government on Gitmo Files Coverage

ImageA statement from the Pentagon was published just after 9 pm ET on April 24th, no more than an hour or two after the New York Times had posted their package covering the Gitmo Files they had not obtained from WikiLeaks. The statement was posted on NPR and the Times website. Yet, again, it seems this is an instance of complete collusion between the press and government.

Michael Calderone reports "representatives from NPR and the Times visited the White House and spoke with Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell and members of Joint Task Force Guantanamo." And, "The news organizations agreed to some redactions requested by government officials but not all of them."

Recall, in February, it was found out that the Times had met with the State Department prior to their release of the US State Embassy Cables. Marcy Wheeler over at Firedoglake highlighted NYT’s close cooperation with the State Department:

Because of the range of the material and the very nature of diplomacy, the embassy cables were bound to be more explosive than the War Logs. Dean Baquet, our Washington bureau chief, gave the White House an early warning on Nov. 19. The following Tuesday, two days before Thanksgiving, Baquet and two colleagues were invited to a windowless room at the State Department, where they encountered an unsmiling crowd. Representatives from the White House, the State Department, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the C.I.A., the Defense Intelligence Agency, the F.B.I. and the Pentagon gathered around a conference table. Others, who never identified themselves, lined the walls. A solitary note-taker tapped away on a computer.

The meeting was off the record, but it is fair to say the mood was tense. Scott Shane, one reporter who participated in the meeting, described “an undertone of suppressed outrage and frustration.”

Subsequent meetings, which soon gave way to daily conference calls, were more businesslike. Before each discussion, our Washington bureau sent over a batch of specific cables that we intended to use in the coming days. They were circulated to regional specialists, who funneled their reactions to a small group at State, who came to our daily conversations with a list of priorities and arguments to back them up. We relayed the government’s concerns, and our own decisions regarding them, to the other news outlets.

Once again, the Timesopted to subvert its duty and be for the State instead of fully owning its role as a member of the Fourth Estate. It chose to cover for power instead of covering power. [Unfortunately, on matters of national security and war, this is what typically happens.]

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell’s statement is a well-prepared statement. It does not simply condemn the release of the files and then make a general note about the US and how it is committed to upholding human rights and so on and so forth. The statement clearly outlines that a Guantanamo Task Force was established in January 2009 and suggests that the material published may be outdated because the Task Force has made assessments of detainees and those reports were not released.

The statement also claims, “Both the previous and the current Administrations have made every effort to act with the utmost care and diligence in transferring detainees from Guantanamo.” That may be mostly true, as the US State Embassy cables released by WikiLeaks indicated Guantanamo detainees had been used as “bargaining chips.” American diplomats bargained with countries to help empty the prison by resettling detainees. They told Slovenia if it wanted to get a meeting with President Barack Obama. They offered Kiribati incentives “worth millions of dollars to take Chinese Muslim detainees.” Diplomats suggested to Belgium that by taking detainees it could be a “low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe.”

If the process of resettling has not worked as planned, perhaps the manner in which the US went about trying to resettle detainees is partly to blame for the inconvenience these terror suspects have caused the supreme power. Or, perhaps, the fact that, as Amy Davidson of the New Yorker writes, the US reasoning for detaining individuals does "not always really involve a belief that a prisoner is dangerous to us or has committed some crime; sometimes (and this is more debased) we mostly think we might find him useful"—Perhaps, that has something to do with the complications being experienced.

The Pentagon statement notes the “previous Administration transferred 537 detainees; to date, the current Administration has transferred 67” Former President George W. Bush occupied the position of US President of the United States for eight years. That means on average Bush released 67 detainees each year of his presidency. But, actually, that’s a poor calculation because the first detainee wasn’t released from Guantanamo until 2002. So, in reality, Bush released an average of 89 detainees each year he was president.

How many detainees has Obama released each year thus far? About 34 detainees each year. And, unlike Bush, President Obama was actually committed to closing Guantanamo.

The statement continues, “Both Administrations have made the protection of American citizens the top priority and we are concerned that the disclosure of these documents could be damaging to those efforts.”

The “security” of American citizens is of so much concern that detainees are a different class of people in the United States. They are de-human and not allowed civilian trials in the United States. They are “enemy combatants” and not prisoners of war and thus are not able to claim protections under the Geneva Conventions.

Finally, the statement concludes, “We will continue to work with allies and partners around the world to mitigate threats to the U.S. and other countries and to work toward the ultimate closure of the Guantanamo detention facility, consistent with good security practices and our values as a nation.”

But, just how hard does the Pentagon and the Obama Administration plan to work to close Guantanamo? In 2009, the Senate canceled $80 million to fund the relocation of Guantanamo detainees. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye and Republican Sen. James Inhofe slid a provision into a war appropriations bill that made it so “none of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this act may be used to transfer, release, or incarcerate any individual who was detained as of May 19, 2009, at Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to or within the United States."

In March of this year, President Obama announced he would restart military commissions for Guantanamo detainees and no longer push to secure civilian trials for the detainees in the United States. He also announced “a new process for continuing to hold those detainees not charged or convicted but deemed too dangerous to be free.”

Despite the fact that he had pledged to close Guantanamo by January 2010 days after his inauguration, he defended military commissions saying they “ensure our security and our values are strengthened.” But, these announcements virtually ensured that Guantanamo would continue to stay open.

Where are these detainees going to go when not being tried? And, if they are not being given civilian trials, what makes anyone think they will be resettled in civilian prisons? They would have to be held at military prisons. And, what is the likelihood that they would be resettled in prisons on the US mainland if there is no political will to support trying detainees in cities like New York?

The Obama Administration currently has no public campaign to close the Guantanamo prison beyond the words that are printed in this statement. It is not advocating vigorously for the closure. It is much harder for it to defend the prison’s closure than it is to defend it staying fully operational.

The Pentagon is not suggesting the release of this information will endanger lives. The Times and other news organizations are already spinning the reports as information that shows what alleged terrorists were up to on September 11 and after before they were seized or captured. Thus, the release of the information could, if spun correctly by media, help the government defend continuing the "war on terror." It could obscure revelations on the flawed process of assessing whether a detainee is dangerous or not, whether a detainee has information that can be used to capture leaders of al Qaeda, whether a detainee deserved to be transferred to Guantanamo, etc.

The disclosure of information will hurt the government not because this information was "obtained illegally" but because, like many releases from WikiLeaks, it shows us the truth of what has been going on with detainees right down to specific details about each detainee in the prison.

Contrary to Morrell’s suggestion, the released documents are more likely to help spur efforts to close Guantanamo than damage the efforts. The release will force Americans to once again ask themselves why the military prison in Cuba needs to remain open. It will give human rights organizations another opportunity to force the political class in Washington to confront the prison, one the Bush Administration crafted legal justification to help prevent officials from being prosecuted for illegal or inhumane conduct.

It may not have the impact of getting the prison closed, but the transparency or disclosure is still valuable to the world. If this doesn’t catalyze a second burst of will from America to close the prison, one thing is certain: It will reveal yet another inhuman and callous American reality.

2011-04-25 The Gitmo Files: What Can Be Found in Each File

ImageMcClatchy Newspapers writes “the US military set up a human intelligence laboratory at Guantanamo,” the Washington Post details new classified military documents obtained by the “anti-secrecy organization” present “new details” of detainees whereabouts on Sept 11, 2001 and afterward and the Daily Telegraph reports that it has exposed “America’s own analysis of almost ten years of controversial interrogations on the world’s most dangerous terrorists.”

Months after news organizations reported the Guantanamo Files might be WikiLeaks’ next release, the files are now posted on the WikiLeaks website. Nearly 800 documents, memoranda from Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO), the combined force in charge of the Guantanamo Bay prison to US Southern Command in Miami, Florida.

The memoranda do not detail torture or how detainees were interrogated. The reports from between 2002 and 2008 show how JTF-GTMO justified when to keep detainees and also when it chose to release detainees. In cases of detainees “released,” that detainee’s “transfer” is detailed to “the custody of his own government or that of some othergovernment.”

The reports represent not just JTF-GTMO but, according to WikiLeaks, they also represent the Criminal Investigation Task Force created by the Department of Defense to conduct interrogations and the Behavioral Science Teams (BSCTs) consisting of psychologists who had “a major say in “exploitation” of [detainees] in interrogations.”

The Washington Post, the McClatchy Company, El Pais, the Telegraph, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, Aftonbladet,La Repubblica, L’Espresso, and Andy Worthington are each listed as partners. (The New York Times has coverage of the documents but is not listed as a partner and neither is NPR.)

What is a Guantanamo file?

First, the detainee’s personal information is listed. That information includes what the US considers to be the detainee’s name, aliases, place and date of birth, citizenship. The information also includes an Internment Serial Number (ISN).

The second section describes detainees’ mental health or physical health issues.

The third section is a “JTF-GTMO Assessment.” This section is where recommendations on whether a detainee should be held or released can be found. “Executive Summaries” in this section provide explanation for why a detainee should continue to be detained or released. The section denotes whether the detainee is a low, medium or high-risk detainee. And, under “Summary of Changes,” whether there have been changes in the information provided since the last report on the detainee is listed.

The fourth section is the detainee’s own testimony detailing the detainee’s background and how the detainee was seized and captured.

The fifth section is “capture information.” This section may be one of the more interesting sections in the released reports. Here one can see “Reasons for Transfer.” These are alleged reasons for the detainee’s transfer. WikiLeaks, however, notes there is reason to be skeptical:

The reason that [these reasons are] unconvincing is because, as former interrogator Chris Mackey (a pseudonym) explained in his book The Interrogators, the US high command, based in Camp Doha, Kuwait, stipulated that every prisoner who ended up in US custody had to be transferred to Guantánamo -- and that there were no exceptions; in other words, the "Reasons for transfer" were grafted on afterwards, as an attempt to justify the largely random rounding-up of prisoners.

A sixth section contains an analysis from the Task Force explaining whether the Force finds the detainee’s testimony to be convincing.

The seventh section presents an assessment detailing how much of a threat the detainee happens to be. This is another one of the more interesting sections of the reports because the “Reasons for Continued Detention” often come from statements from fellow detainees in Guantanamo or secret prisons run by the CIA where torture or other forms of coercion have been used to get detainees to talk. In some cases, detainees were offered rewards such as better treatment if they made statements on detainees in US military custody.

This section also looks at the “detainee’s conduct” and how a detainee has behaved citing “disciplinary infractions.”

The eighth section contains a “Detainee Intelligence Value Assessment.” This information suggests areas of intelligence that could be further “exploited.”

Finally, the “EC Status,” yet another interesting section, details whether the detainee is to still be considered an “enemy combatant” or not. Based on findings from the Combatant Status Review Tribunals, just 38 out of 558 detainees that came before tribunals held in 2004-05 were determined to no longer be enemy combatants.

Now, as of 12:15 AM ET on April 25, sixty-seven detainee reports have been posted on the WikiLeaks website.

This is WikiLeaks first new leak since Cablegate. Presumably, WikiLeaks will continue to post US State Embassy Cables to its website as it releases these files.

*WLCentral will have coverage all week of the Guantanamo Files. Check back here regularly for updates.

2011-04-25 The “Bradley Manning Exception to the Bill of Rights” Devastates the Credibility of the Military Justice System

President Obama Makes a Fair Trial of Bradley Manning Impossible By Declaring Him Guilty

Authored by Kevin Zeese

The credibility of the military justice system is being undermined by the prosecution of Bradley Manning. His abusive punishment without trial violates his due process rights; his harsh treatment in solitary confinement-torture conditions violates the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment; and now the commander-in-chief has announced his guilt before trial making a fair trial impossible. A Bradley Manning exception to the Bill of Rights is developing as the Obama administration seeks Manning’s punishment no matter what constitutional protections they violate.

On Thursday April 21, 2011 in San Francisco a group of Bradley Manning supporters protested the prosecution of Manning at a Barack Obama fundraising event. One of Manning’s supporters was able to question the president directly afterwards and during the conversation, Obama said on videotape that Manning was guilty.

Can you imagine if the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamene’i, pronounced an Iranian military whistle blower “guilty” before any trial was held? Khamene’i is the commander-in-chief of all armed forces in Iran, just as President Obama is the commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed services. Would anyone in the United States think that a trial before Iranian military officers that followed such a pronouncement could be fair? The U.S. government would use the situation to make propaganda points about the phony justice system in Iran.

President Obama’s pronouncement about Manning, “He broke the law,” amounts to unlawful command influence – something prohibited in military trials because it is devastating to the military justice system. Manning will be judged by a jury of military officers in a military court where everyone involved follows the orders of the commander-in-chief. How are these officers going to rule against their commander-in-chief, especially after Manning has been tortured in solitary confinement for almost a year? Any officer who finds Manning “not guilty” will have no chance of advancing his career after doing so.

Article 37 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice makes undue command influence unlawful. Unlawful Command Influence has been called “the carcinoma of the military justice system” and is often described as “the mortal enemy of military justice.” The importance of the command structure in the military makes command influence a threat to fair trails, i.e. “because the inherent power and influence of command are necessary and omnipresent facets of military life, everyone involved in both unit command and in military justice must exercise constant vigilance to protect against command influence becoming unlawful.”

Accordingly, “Unlawful Command Influence occurs when senior personnel, wittingly or unwittingly, have acted to influence court members, witnesses, or others participating in military justice cases. Such unlawful influence not only jeopardizes the validity of the judicial process, it undermines the morale of military members, their respect for the chain of command, and public confidence in the military.” Further, even: “The ‘appearance of unlawful command influence is as devastating to the military justice system as the actual manipulation of any given trial.’” The commander-in-chief announcing guilt before trial is an unprecedented case of unlawful command influence.

When unlawful command influence occurs a heavy burden is put on the prosecution to “prove beyond a reasonable doubt that: (1) the facts upon which the unlawful command influence is based are untrue; (2) those facts do not constitute unlawful command influence; or (3) the unlawful command influence will not affect the proceedings.” Since President Obama is on videotape announcing the finding of guilt it will be impossible to prove either of the first two points. To prove the third point will require the court to enter into a charade where officers claim they are not influenced by the commander-in-chief. In reality, the president announcing the guilt of Manning before he is tried will influence every officer who wants to continue to advance in his or her career. And, since Manning has already been punished severely before trial officers will be even less likely to find Manning not guilty because that would raise questions about his abusive treatment.

Military case law indicates that “pretrial publicity itself may constitute unlawful command influence.” When the president speaks it results in national media attention (see a google search for “Obama Manning guilty” produced 1.5 million stories by April 24th). Of course, the president’s statement of Manning’s guilt was not the only pre-trial publicity in Manning’s case. In addition, the brutal treatment Manning has received during pre-trial detention has also received widespread media attention. The combination of this mistreatment and the president’s statements shows that the military from the Quantico command to the commander-in-chief saw Manning as guilty and wanted him punished harshly.

Military courts have held over and over that if unlawful command influence is proven then dismissal of the case is appropriate. (See United States v. Douglas, 68 M.J. 349 (2010) and the cases cited therein.) “[D]ismissal of charges is appropriate when an accused would be prejudiced or no useful purpose would be served by continuing the proceedings.” There is no question Manning has been prejudiced and it is hard to imagine how the proceedings can be cleansed of this unlawful command influence so there is no useful purpose in continuing.

The White House made an inept attempt to try and change the obvious meaning of the president’s statement. Politico reports: “White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said Obama was in fact making a general statement that did not go specifically to the charges against Manning. ‘The president was emphasizing that, in general, the unauthorized release of classified information is not a lawful act,’ he said Friday night. ‘He was not expressing a view as to the guilt or innocence of Pfc. Manning specifically.’” This clarification is inept because Obama was quite specific in his comments saying: “He broke the law.

Unlawful command influence causes “exceptional harm ... to the fairness and public perception of military justice when it does arise” This harm is magnified in the case of Bradley Manning because of the severe mistreatment he has received in Quantico before even being tried. This is a case where punishment in Quantico and a finding of guilt by the commander-in-chief both came before trial. The sooner this prosecution ends the less damage that will be done to the reputation of the military justice system.

Kevin Zeese is an attorney who directs Come Home America (www.ComeHomeAmerica.US) and is on the steering committee of the Bradley Manning Support Network (

2011-04-25 Will WikiLeaks vs. NYT, The Guardian & Daniel Domscheit-Berg Drama Overshadow Contents of Gitmo Files?

ImageThe release of the files should draw attention to the reality that, despite US President Barack Obama’s promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, the prison is still open. In fact, El Pais has posted analysis to complement coverage of the Guantanamo Files, which details how “legal and political setbacks” prevented Obama from closing the military prison:

Barack Obama criticized George W. Bush for orchestrating, executive order, a labyrinthine detention center that sent hundreds of terror suspects after the attacks of [September 11th] , condemning them to oblivion and without the right to a fair trial in civil court. Obama has perpetuated the shame of Guantánamo to the president's decision, also through an executive order to reinstate the military commissions created by Bush and formalize the system of indefinite detention, which offers the only solution to many of the 172 inmates who reside in the prison to rot within its walls.

There is no other solution. And there is none because the invention was conceived Guantanamo from violating the most basic principle of humanity and legality rules for governing the United States and the developed democracies for centuries. To send to whom the administration of George W. Bush considered suspected of violating U.S. and be soldiers of Al Qaeda, the legal architects of the "war on terror" was invented the concept of unlawful enemy combatants, thus bypassing the safeguards offered by the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war . Detainees in secret CIA prisons anywhere in the world began to land in Guantanamo in January 2002, hooded and shackled hand and foot.

It should draw attention to each of the individual reports and place them in the context of information that journalists have already reported. It should help us further understand what has been going on in the dark and murky military prison that has become so notorious and perhaps further color the world's understanding of documents the ACLU and other organizations have managed to obtain in the past years.

But, the New York Times has published coverage of the documents and did not obtain them from WikiLeaks. Also, according to Greg Mitchell, who has been covering WikiLeaks for with a daily blog since Cablegate began, “"WikiLeaks abruptly lifted the embargo Sunday night, after the organization became aware that the documents had been leaked to other news organizations, which were about to publish stories about them."

By 8:50 ET, the Times had posted a story on the Gitmo Files. The Telegraph then reported seeing the cables. The Pentagon had posted a statement that was circulating by 9:15 PM ET. Around 9:20 PM ET, WikiLeaks began to post the files and had an editorial written by Andy Worthington up on the site framing the Guantanamo Files. As 9:50 ET rolled around, the Washington Post finally had their package on the Guantanamo Files posted.

The Times claimed that the Guardian and NPR had files. NPR reported it had obtained the files from the Times. And, by 11:10, The Guardian’s David Leigh was talking about the media organization’s the just released files, which he said were obtained from the Times.

The timeline of events in the release of the documents raises numerous questions, as many of the WikiLeaks releases have. Some of these questions Mitchell asks:

Who leaked the WikiLeaks files to The Times? To summarize: WikiLeaks gave its Gitmo files to 7 news outlets but not the NYT or The Guardian, probably due to falling out with them over previous leaks. But someone leaked the files to the Times, which in turn gave them to The Guardian and NPR. The Times decided to go ahead tonight with covering / publishing files tonight, and WikiLeaks and partners apparently then rushed to lift embargo and come out with their coverage an hour or two behind the Times. At least that's all suggested by McClatchy and The Guardian. Or did NYT learn that embarge was about to be broken and so moved "abruptly" first? In any case: WHO LEAKED THE FILES TO THE TIMES? Remember, the Times is not claiming that it got them from a government or Gitmo or military source, or from the original leaker -- it says these ARE the WikiLeaks documents. So does that mean they came from one of several disgruntled ex-WikiLeakers?

The tension WikiLeaks has with prominent newspapers of the world like the New York Times and The Guardian now inevitably means any release will have this sort of drama. Like teenagers in high school, WikiLeaks selects a few “trusted” media organizations to provide the material. But, since it has sour relationships with organizations and a few disgruntled former members of WikiLeaks out there like Daniel Domscheit-Berg (who likely still has many of the files WikiLeaks plans to release), the material that is planned for release gets shared with other news organizations. And, in some cases, the “trusted” organization defies WikiLeaks and shares the material with organizations that have been left out so they can get in on the coverage.

At 12:00 pm ET, WikiLeaks tweeted, “Domschiet, NYT, Guardian, attempted Gitmo spoiler against our 8 group coalition. We had intel on them and published first.”

It appears WikiLeaks moved to release the files at this time because there was a conspiracy afoot to pre-empt WikiLeaks’ release, which may have been planned to take place some time later on April 25th and late in the evening on Easter Sunday.

Now the material is out. The reports deserve more attention than what just unfolded in the past twenty-four hours between some of the world’s most prominent media organizations. Nonetheless, WikiLeaks yet again demonstrates how it is a prism for understanding how the press operates.

The Guardian and the New York Times desperately wanted to beat WikiLeaks on the release. And that is not just because the two media organizations have beefs with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. It’s also because WikiLeaks challenges their traditional role as gatekeepers—organizations that decide what to leak and what not to leak and when to leak material and when not to leak material. Beating WikiLeaks was about reclaiming that gatekeeper function, but, unfortunately for the organizations that weren’t in on the project, they were unable to get their material up and out to people before the partners and WikiLeaks began to cover the Guantanamo Files.

2011-04-26 #Iran Protests scheduled for May 1, Ahmadinezhad's impeachment under consideration by Majlis

ImageWL Central will be updating news on Iran, with new items added at the top. All times are ET in USA.

You can contact me on twitter @carwinb or by email at Don't send media when links available. Most email is not encrypted and not anonymous. I cannot guarantee anyone's safety in transmission.

Current time and date in Tehran:

For WL Coverage of Iran see March and February.

TUESDAY, April 26

  • Ahmadinezhad's impeachment under consideration by the Majlis, the Islamic Consultative Assembly or People's House. (Source:
  • Protests scheduled for April 31 May 1 in Tehran. Green Path of Hope has announced protests on Labor Day in Iran and invited people to join them in their cause. (Source:

SUNDAY, April 17

  • Iranian Minister of Intelligence, Heidar Moslehi, tenders resignation, Supreme Leader refuses.

    The AP has reported that Iranian Minister of Intelligence, Heidar Moslehi, has resigned:

    The departure of Heidar Moslehi could signal another high-profile rift between Ahmadinejad and a member of his government over his hard-line policies.

    The report Sunday on IRNA gave no details about the resignation, but noted that Moslehi will keep a role as an adviser. Moslehi played a key role in the crackdown on opposition groups after the disputed re-election of Ahmadinejad in 2009.

    In December, Ahmadinejad fired his longtime foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, after apparent disagreements over how to handle Western pressures.

    Just as the piece was published news arrived from Iranian state owned Press TV that, "Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has rejected the resignation of Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi, reinstating him to the position."

    Moslehi tendered his resignation on Sunday.

    Shortly after his resignation, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accepted the resignation and appointed Moslehi as the presidential advisor in intelligence affairs.

    The Leader, however, rejected the intelligence minister's resignation.

  • Rumors that protests are scheduled for April 31

    Sources tells us that protests are scheduled for April 31, but we have been unable to confirm.

Other Related Sources and Live Blogs:

2011-04-26 Julian Assange says Rudolf Elmer is being held hostage for Swiss banking data


Julian Assange told the Times of India Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami, that the Swiss banking data that was handed to him on January 17 of this year has not been released because the source, Rudolf Elmer, gave the data to Assange publically and was immediately arrested pending a criminal investigation. Assange told Goswami, "We have had an indirect offer through a third party that if we return what they believe to be the data then they will work to acquit Mr. Elmer to be free. So my ability to talk about this subject is of course limited by the fact that the Swiss bank has a hostage."

Assange also stated that India seems like it is losing per capita much more tax money than Germany.

2011-04-26 Open Letter to Kevin Rudd: On Julian Assange and Guantanamo Bay revelations.

Kevin Rudd
Minister Foreign Affairs
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Minister
1) Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

Firstly I would like to say that the international community who support Julian Assange would undoubtedly thank you for your support of him on the issue of his legal rights in the UK and scotching the threats made by your colleagues the prime minister Ms Gillard and attorney general Mr McClelland to cancel his passport late last year. Your support of human rights in relation to Julian Assange is to be commended, including the intercession of our diplomats on his behalf asking certain questions of Swedish authorities (1) which it is assumed emanated from your good offices.

More could be done for example to point out to the European Union that their European Arrest Warrant System is disgracefully flawed and subject to serial abuses by member states (especially Poland) now that showing a prima facie case has been removed entirely from extradition procedures in the European Union’s EAW system. Australia as you would likely be aware, did not extradite without the applicant nation showing a prima facie case up until 1985 when the “no evidence” and “dual criminality” provisions became available to applicant nations under amended legislation.(2) Where subjected to abuse, prima facie requirements should be reinstated.

As you are also no doubt aware the US Department of Justice is leaving no pebble unturned in their vengeful attempts to find - or more likely - manufacture some evidence against Julian Assange for a charge of conspiracy to commit espionage.

This is happening despite First Amendment protections which the DOJ’s epigones are attempting to undermine as they engage in polemical arguments using gymnastic semantics in the US media, in an exercise to assert he is not a journalist as a means to preclude those rights, contrary to the US constitution.

It has been said that a US grand jury can be persuaded to indict a ham sandwich and it is quite likely that a sealed indictment has been prepared by a Virginian grand jury awaiting the outcome of the UK’s extradition proceedings or the legal proceedings against Mr Assange in Sweden should he be extradited there. Sweden has a bad record in allowing rendition at the behest of the CIA and consequently there is a legitimate question as to how the Swedes would behave in a US request to extradite Julian Assange before legal proceedings occur in Sweden.

If, as many in the world suspect, that the Swedish charges will give way to a US extradition, there will be some major headaches at your Department, not the least of which is the fact that a majority of voters supported the release of the diplomatic cables and by direct inference the activities of Julian Assange.(3)

Should the Australian government not vehemently oppose this further extradition, there will be – and I only predict this - a political fallout the likes of which the Australian polity has not seen since the demonstrations against the Vietnam war and more recently demonstrations by ordinary Australians against the wanton killings by the Indonesian Military in East Timor in 1999, which Honourable Minister, you will have well noted at the time, overcame the Jakarta lobby influencing the Howard Government to acquiesce in the crimes of the Indonesian military.

In this case, the Australian US Alliance will come under significant threat when it will become quite clear that a proverbial Australian “underdog” becomes the subject of contempt for his rights by the untrammeled violence of a US legal system, seemingly out of control by any reasonable standards of justice for foreigners. He has already been labelled as a “high tech terrorist” by no less than the US Vice President, Joe Biden.(4)

The way that Bradley Manning, a US citizen, is being treated while his trial is delayed for unclear reasons, is a firm indicator that if Julian Assange is extradited, that he will be held for a long period of time on remand, likely under similar appalling conditions to Bradley Manning, for trial, with the hatred and vitriol of so called US “patriots” in the media every day baying for his blood.

This will all undoubtedly preclude a fair trial: Julian Assange will become the scapegoat, (among others like Bradley Manning) for all the abysmal negligent failures and debacles of US foreign policy in the last decade or so, of which you are well aware as a foreign policy expert. All that he has done is to be the messenger of the information, including the diplomatic cables which has revealed those failures and debacles beyond any doubt, along with prima facie war crimes and crimes against humanity.

With friends like the USA making a complete hash of divide and conquer strategy in the Middle East of late, and little old Australia still embroiled in futile, historically proven senseless wars like in Afghanistan where we appear to be at the US’ bidding: who needs enemies in a rapidly developing multi-polar world?

Is it too much to ask that Australia could develop a mildly independent foreign policy? Are we still beholden to the USA for the naval battles of Midway and the Coral Sea in perpetuity? Why isn’t your colleage attorney general investigating for prosecution under our laws, those in the US inciting the murder of Julian Assange or at the very least publicly saying it’s unacceptable?

Those are likely rhetorical questions, Minister, as many are aware of the supine nature of Australian foreign policy in relation to the US, the fawning and servility of Australian Prime Ministers in Washington is ongoing and unbecoming a nation proud of its achievements and heritage, especially that of a “fair go”. All that posturing should be left to former prime ministers on US cocktail circuits for politically rejected “deputy sherrifs”.

And therein lies the problem for the protection of the human rights of Julian Assange by Australian politicians with the noted exception of yourself and some others.

We the supporters of democracy and justice worldwide urge you to continue to defend the rights of Julian Assange with his organisation to inform us. Without a free press disseminating information we cannot have a true democracy. Our very own High Court has ruled that we have an implied right under our constitution to political communication, as a prerequisite to democracy, a mirror image in part of US First Amendment rights.

For an update Minister on matters relating to Julian Assange please refer to a meeting held at Parliament House Canberra on 2nd March this year:

2) The Guantanamo Bay leaks.

Minister, you are undoubtedly aware of the most recent leaks and likely your staff have already downloaded the Pdf files on Habib and Hicks. These disclose proof that the treatment of Habib in Egypt was particularly egregious, a clear violation of the Convention against Torture. The report on Habib in part said While in the custody of the Egyptian Government, under extreme duress(5) he made certain admissions. Those admissions were palpably false and made as a result of torture and reinforce the impracticality of torture as well as its illegality: that victims will say anything to make the torture stop and further, any evidence given in those circumstances is inadmissable in any fair court with the likely exception perhaps of Military Commission Tribunals soon to be reinstated after the further unwise decision by President Obama to allow trials in Guantanamo by that Tribunal process, a process on his presidential campaign trail you might recall that he labelled as “flawed.”

Any convictions of inmates will be accordingly tainted by such unfair processes, where hearsay evidence rules remain degraded and the world notes that all the defendants are “aliens” never US citizens If the truth is that the commissions are too unfair to be used on U.S. citizens, they're really too unfair to be used on anyone .(6)

Mr Habib was a victim also of Australian complicity in the torture perpetrated upon him, a sad reflection on the Howard government’s gross dereliction of duty to an Australian citizen, the bill for damages at legal settlement picked up by us the Australian taxpayers, (more disgraceful fruits of servile foreign policy, Minister) instead, (from a moral viewpoint) of being prised from the pockets of those wilfully negligent ministers responsible.

In the case of David Hicks, the report is stuffed with hyperbole, supposition and exaggeration, redolent of the excitable, juvenile and paranoid behaviour of the Japanese spy chasing Kempeitai in WW2 whose belief in the Greater South East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere is matched in the modern era by US military belief in the infalliable ways of yet another “Emperor” and the “Pax Americana” of eternal wars.

One suspects that the Commonwealth’s lawyers have already advised you Minister that Hicks’ so called guilty plea to a charge of supporting a terrorist organisation, is a legal nullity. Conceived by John Howard to neutralise the issue shortly before the 2007 election, a guilty plea founded in coercion – being locked up for five years without charge – is not and never can be valid. The plea was made under the most severe duress that the banality of illegal detention – contraventions of Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions -- in the black hole of Guantanamo Bay could perpetrate and still perpetuates.

The fact is that the Howard inspired “deal” was founded in grubby political necessity, coercion and duress which makes it a nullity and it should publicly be refuted by the Australian government. That “deal” with the Bush administration was a disgrace and has no foundation in justice as any jurist will tell you. And that’s not even mentioning retrospective laws unknown to Hicks at the time he allegedly committed them, laws which even John Howard was not game enough to enact.(7)

It is likely therefore that the real reason for the delay of confiscation of the proceeds of Hicks’ book under the Proceeds of Crime Act, (not primarily Senator Brandis’ assertions of fear of a lefty backlash [8] although such a backlash would be forthcoming) is that Hicks lawyers might rightfully ask for a ruling on the validity of his guilty plea on an international law basis (Geneva Conventions, Convention Against Torture etc) and if that was granted, the Australian government might not like the resulting judgement, and possible legal costs for his defence awarded against the government.

That in turn would open up a whole raft of claims by Hicks against the government and to coin a phrase some would likely say in relation to confiscation litigation: bring it on.

Lastly Minister, as Senator Teddy Kennedy once said It’s a big job cleaning up after a big elephant an interesting turn of phrase impliedly referring to the symbol of a particular political party. Likewise with Hicks and Habib there is some cleaning up still to do as Habib pursues the Egyptian government. Hicks has yet to overturn his false conviction but still the revelations keep coming.

Were Julian Assange to join their ranks, banged up similarly in some other US hell-hole, you will really have a monumental “clean up” job to do and accordingly I strongly urge you to head it off by telling the US in no uncertain terms to cease and desist, the majority of Australian people will never accept it and the US risks severe damage to the Alliance.

Friends listen to each other's legitimate arguments and if they don't the friendship weakens. Is that what the US wants in their blind rage of wanting to metaphorically shoot the messenger (some literally) and to hell with the consequences? Is that justice for an Australian citizen for which much of the world has great respect?

We wish you well Minister and trust you will continue to support the human rights of all Australians and the rights of those so cruelly violated in the middle east, particularly Bahrain at this moment in time.

Kevin Rudd can be contacted here:

Yours Faithfully
Peter Kemp
Solicitor of the Supreme Court of NSW


2011-04-26 The Guantanamo Children: These Aren't What You'd Call 'Little League' Terrorists

Image*With research assistance from Heather Marsh

Pakistani national Naqib Ullah (also Naqibullah) was 14 years old and out doing an errand for his father when he was kidnapped from his village in Khan, Afghanistan by 11 men that called themselves, “Samoud’s people.” The men, according to Ullah, “forcibly raped him at gunpoint”. He was taken back to the men’s village encampment and “forced to do manual work.”

Ullah was in the camp for three days when, in December 2002, US forces raided the camp. The group had been forewarned. They ordered Ullah and others to stay behind and fight US forces. He was captured and had a weapon but it had not been fired. He was transported to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in January 2003 because the military believed he might have knowledge of “Taliban resistance efforts and local leaders.”

This teenager is just one of twenty-two juveniles who wound up in Guantanamo. And, with the release of the Gitmo Files by WikiLeaks, more details on the capture, transfer, detention and release of juvenile detainees are becoming known.

Article 1 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as “every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.”

UN officials have called on the US to “respect the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” which “aims to increase the protection of children during armed conflicts. It requires that all States parties ‘take all feasible measures’ to ensure that members of their armed forces under the age of 18 do not take a direct part in hostilities.” The UN has tried to remind the US “that children under 18 are entitled to special protection and so any voluntary recruitment under the age of 18 must include sufficient safeguards.” But, the Pentagon has effectively shrugged off the concerns of the UN in the same way they shrugged off the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture’s concerns about Bradley Manning when he was being held at Quantico.

For example, eight years prior to the release of the Gitmo Files, then-Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld, when asked about “the juveniles in Guantanamo,” complained, “This constant refrain of "the juveniles," as though there's a hundred of children in there -- these are not children. Dick Myers responded to that. There are plenty of people who have been killed by people who were still in their teens.”

Indeed, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dick Myers did respond. This was his characterization of the children in Guantanamo:

I would say, despite their age, these are very, very dangerous people. They are people that have been vetted mainly in Afghanistan and gone through a thorough process to determine what their involvement was. Some have killed. Some have stated they're going to kill again. So they may be juveniles, but they're not on a little-league team anywhere, they're on a major league team, and it's a terrorist team. And they're in Guantanamo for a very good reason -- for our safety, for your safety.


These remarks represent the Pentagon’s disregard for the reality that “juveniles” or children might be armed and exploited by terrorist groups. They may have no way out. They may be assaulted sexually or violently if they refuse to fight.

Seventeen year-old Abdullah R. Razaq was with a group of thirty-one other “Arabs, which consisted mostly of Usama Bin Laden bodyguards,” when Pakistani authorities captured him in December 2001. He was transferred to a prison facility in Peshawar and then transferred into the custody of US forces on December 26, 2001, and transported to Kandahar.

His continued detention rests on JTF-GTMO’s assessment that he is “an al-Qaida member” and has “associated with numerous other al-Qaida members, including senior al-Qaida operatives.” It also rests on JTF-GTMO’s assessment that he was “selected and prepared by al-Qaida senior leadership for a special mission to attack US forces at PSAB in Saudi Arabia” and is “a former member of UBL’s 55th Arab Brigade who engaged in combat action against US and Coalition forces at Tora Bora.”

Razaq, however, denies being a member of al-Qaida. JTF-GTMO’s “Evaluation of Detainee’s Account,” reads:

Detainee has denied that he was a member of al-Qaida, but admitted that he traveled to Afghanistan to join the jihad and become a martyr, trained extensively at al-Qaida training camps, was selected by senior al-Qaida leaders for a mission to attack PSAB, and fought on the Bagram battle lines. He has also acknowledged having been present at Tora Bora during meetings of senior al-Qaida commanders during the battle. Detainee has reported about his brother SA-231, and has provided much of what is known about SA-231’s timeline. However, he continues to omit specific details regarding SA-231’s activities and his associates at Tora Bora, and has not acknowledged being a UBL bodyguard or a member of UBL’s security detail. He has provided very little information of value about UBL, Sayf al-Adl, or other senior al-Qaida figures to whom he had access, and it is not clear whether he has no valuable information about them or if he is deliberately withholding important information. Detainee has been generally cooperative, though he has used resistance techniques to protect certain past activities and associates, such as periodically changing his account and filling in recent chronological gaps in his timeline with activities conducted at earlier times.

He is assessed to be a “HIGH risk” but, Razaq’s testimony before an Administrative Review Board in 2006 raises doubts about whether Razaq’s was ever involved and cooperated with al-Qaida. During Round 2, he does not appear to have any information that would connect him to al Qaida other than the fact that he went to fight in Chechnya and trained at the al Farouq Training Camp, where others connected to al Qaida have trained. He explicitly says he is not “friends with Usama Bin Laden.” He is alleged to be on a “list” but corrects the military charging him with being on a list of suspected al Qaida members by stating the list is a print-out from a computer in Karachi that was taken by a person who “took all the prisoners’ names to see if they were listed as being missing.”

A Designated Military Officer at the hearing claims again that he and his brother received specialized training on SAM-7A and B missiles. He says it is not true. Then, he explains that “psychological torture” has been used on him to find out if he had trained on the weapon.

This is not the first board I have attended. I attended three other boards. For each Board, I get a new interrogator. Each new interrogator made the allegation that I had trained on SAM-7. Three years ago I was at Camp III and they interrogated me for a month. The air conditioning temperature was 54 degrees. It was very cold. They let me sit there for long hours and they brought big speakers with loud noises. They tortured me while standing up and they insulted me and my religion. They have done many things to me. They have done worse to my brother. While I was being tortured, they asked me whether I had trained on SAM-7 and I told them no. Up to this point, they still ask me and this allegation is still in my folder. If I wanted to lie and say yes, I would have told them when I was being tortured. Please excuse me for what I just said, but this is what happened.

Razaq says he told the interrogators at Camp V about the torture but they wrote it down and did not change anything. He told the interrogators it was cold and he wanted to go back to his cellblock. But, “there was no use in telling them.”

Keeping Razaq in detention becomes further dubious when reading this part of the “Intelligence Assessment” from his report:

Detainee has provided no information regarding UBL, UBL’s security practices and bodyguards, or any of the other information expected as a result of placement as a UBL bodyguard or security detail member. Detainee has not yet been confirmed to have been a UBL bodyguard, and it is not clear whether he is specifically withholding valuable information about UBL and the bodyguards or whether he had only limited exposure to them. Detainee has been partially exploited but remains of significant intelligence value.

Razaq was transferred back to Saudi Arabia, where he was born, in September of 2007.

It’s worth noting with regards to Razaq’s age the assessment has what appears to be a discrepancy error that calls into question whether the military really knew his age. In his “Prior History,” it reads, “In early 2000, when detainee was 18 years old, his 22-year old brother, Abd Abdallah Ibrahim Latif al-Sharakh, aka (Abbad), was killed while participating in jihad in Chechnya.” However, his date of birth is listed as “18 January 1984.” He could not have been 18 years old when his brother died if he was actually born in 1984.

The most well known juvenile detainee to be imprisoned at Guantanamo is Omar Ahmed Khadr. His assessment report from January 2004 explains the reason for his continued detention was because “his father is a senior Al-Qaida financier and reportedly the fourth in command underneath Usama Bin Laden in the Al-Qaida organization.” His brother and him were encouraged to go to Afghanistan and fight the US with the support of Al-Qaida and the Taliban. And, according to JTF-GTMO, though just sixteen years old at the time of his travel, he is “intelligent and educated and understands the gravity of his actions and affiliations.” And, he admitted to participating in mining operations and “harassing attacks” against US forces.

This assessment stands in stark contrast to then-UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy’s contention that Khadr is a child soldier whom the US should help rehabilitate.

“Like other children abused by armed groups around the world who are repatriated to their home communities and undergo re-education for their reintegration, Omar should be given the same protections afforded these children…Trying young people for war crimes with regard to acts committed when they are minors could create a dangerous international precedent.”

The US became the first nation since World War II to prosecute an alleged child soldier for war crimes with the trying of a child soldier in a military tribunal. Khadr accepted a plea deal in advance so the trial was largely symbolic, but so questionable in every aspect it was widely referred to as a show trial. His defense attorney, Dennis Edney, thought a plea deal was the only way Khadr would get out of Guantanamo Bay.

Khadr was not only faced with the prospect of a military tribunal that rested on dubious charges like “Murder in Violation of the Law of War” but he also faced a situation where the judge had allowed the prosecution to admit evidence obtained when he was tortured into the trial.

The torture of Khadr is worth explicitly noting. Just what he experienced is harrowing to revisit. From an affidavit submitted by Khadr in February 2008, here’s just some of the torture Khadr describes:

…Around the time of Ramadan in 2003, an Afghan man, claiming to be from the Afghan government, interrogated me at Guantanamo. A military interrogator was in the room at the time. The Afghan man said his name was "Izmarai" (Lion), and that he was from Wardeq. He spoke mostly in Farsi, and a little in Pashto and English. He had an American flag on his trousers. The Afghan man appeared displeased with the answers that I was giving him, and after some time both the Afghan and the military interrogator left the room. A military official then removed my chair and short-shackled me by my hands and feet to a bolt in the floor. Military officials then moved my hands behind my knees. They left me in the room in this condition for approximately five to six hours, causing me extreme pain. Occasionally, a military officer and the interrogators would come in and laugh at me.

During the course of his interrogation of me, the Afghan man told me that a new detention center was being built in Afghanistan for non-cooperative detainees at Guantanamo. The Afghan man told me that I would be sent to Afghanistan and raped. The Afghan man also told me that they like small boys in Afghanistan, a comment that I understood as a threat of sexual violence. Before leaving the room, the Afghan man took a piece of paper on which my picture appeared, and wrote on it in the Pashto language, "This detainee must be transferred to Bagram."

Khadr’s detailing of torture would not provoke any judicial empathy. What the juvenile shared would be completely and callously overlooked by a judge who, on August 17, 2010, turned down his motion to prevent statements that were “the product of torture, involuntary [and] unreliable” from being used against him.

Judge Parrish contended, “There is no credible evidence that the accused was ever tortured,” and added,“While the accused was 15 years old at the time he was captured, he was not immature for his age.”

As Andy Worthington, who has partnered with WikiLeaks to cover the Gitmo Files, wrote, “All this really demonstrates is how spectacularly [the judge] missed the point. Held for two years without access to a lawyer, for three years without ever being charged, and at no point treated as a juvenile deserving of rehabilitation, Khadr's entire experience of US detention has been lawless and abusive, and, in any case, it should be irrelevant whether a 15-year old apparently made self-incriminating statements, when the focus should be on his father, Ahmed Khadr, an alleged fundraiser for Osama bin Laden, who was responsible for indoctrinating his child in the first place.”

US unwillingness to release Khadr is even more atrocious when considered alongside JTF-GTMO's assessment of Naqib Ullah, who was recommended for release on August 15, 2003. JTF-GTMO conclude, eight months after he had been brought to Guantanamo, Ullah is a "kidnap victim and a forced conscript of a local warring tribe, affiliated with the Taliban." They further conclude:

Though the detainee may still have some remaining intelligence, it's been assessed that that information does not outweigh the necessity to remove the juvenile from his current environment and afford him an opportunity to "grow out" of the radical extremism he has been subject to. Based on the detainee folder, the knowledgeability brief, and interrogations by JTF Guantanamo, the detainee has no further intelligence value to the United States. Detainee has not expressed thoughts of violence or made threats toward the US or its allies during interrogations or in the course of his detention. He is considered low threat to the US, its interest and its allies.

Anyone who reads that and considers the assessment in conjunction with the case of Khadr must conclude that Khadr's crime is really being born to a father with ties to al Qaeda. One must also conclude that perhaps it was less taboo for the Bush Administration in 2003 to release detainees without trying them or keeping them in indefinite detention than it is for the Obama Administration now. And, perhaps, that's why JTF-GTMO labeled as a "HIGH" value intelligence asset in their assessment: to justify not giving him an opportunity to "rehabilitate" and "grow out" of his "extremism."

At 6:00 PM New York Time, files on Omar Khadr, Naqib Ullah, Abdulrazzaq al-Sharekh, and Yasser al-Zahrani have all been released.

Here’s a list of juveniles whose reports have yet to be released:

Mohamed Jawad (ISN 900) Born 1985, seized December 2002
Mohammed El-Gharani (ISN 269) Born 1986, seized October 2001
Faris Muslim al-Ansari (ISN 253) Born 1984, seized December 2001
Hassan bin Attash (ISN 1456) Born 1985, seized 11 September 2002
Asadullah (ISN 912) Born 1988, seized December 2002
Mohammed Ismail (ISN 930) Born 1984, according to Pentagon list, but DoD admitted on his release that he was under 16 when seized in late 2002
Abdul Qudus (ISN 929) Born 1988, seized late 2002
Shams Ullah (ISN 783) Born 1986, arrived in Guantánamo October 2002
Qari Esmhatulla (ISN 591) Born 1984, seized March 2002
Peta Mohammed (ISN 908) Born 1985, seized December 2002
Yousef al-Shehri (ISN 114) Born 8 September 1985, seized November 2001
Abdulsalam al-Shehri (ISN 132) Born 14 December 1984, seized November 2001
Rasul Kudayev (ISN 82) Born 23 January 1984, seized November 2001
Haji Mohammed Ayub (ISN 279) Born 15 April 1984, seized December 2001
Mohammed Omar (ISN 540) Born 1986, seized December 2001
Saji Ur Rahman (ISN 545) Born 1984, seized December 2001 (Rahman said he was 15 when captured)
Khalil Rahman Hafez (ISN 301) Born 20 January 1984, seized December 2001
Sultan Ahmad (ISN 842) Born 1 November 1984, seized before November 2002

2011-04-26 WikiLeaks notes: David House: WikiLeaks grand jury subpoenas are being issued for violations of the Espionage Act


David House tweets Wikileaks grand jury subpoenas are being issued

Bradley Manning friend and supporter David House tweeted Subpoenas are being issued in the WikiLeaks grand jury. Violations of Espionage Act. No further comment at this time. two hours after tweeting "Are you now, or have you ever been, a WikiLeaks supporter?"

Julian Assange's defense attorney Mark Stephens retweeted the subpoenas comment, but followed up with @lockean how do you know? and was answered by House @MarksLarks FBI is making house calls

And now from Wikileaks: Fresh subpoenas are being issued in the WikiLeaks Alexandra, VA secret grand jury in relation to the espionage act.

Write to Bradley Manning

Jonathan Getzschman has obtained the following information for anyone wanting to write to Bradley Manning. A large and ongoing volume of mail would remind his new home that we are still watching.

Bradley Manning 89289
830 Sabalu Road
Fort Leavenworth, KS 66027

Letters will be rejected if they contain any of the following:

  • Solicitations for gambling/lottery, business or pen pal correspondence.
  • Blackmail, threats or indecent subject matter
  • Plans or plots for escape
  • Codes

2011-04-26 WikiLeaks: Kozloduy NPP incident in 2006 – lack of transparency and violations of the safety regulations

A report of the U.S. Ambassador John Beyrle from 19th May 2005, shared by Wikileaks with their media partner Bivol unveils new details about the incident in Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant that happened on 1st March 2006.

Five years ago the Bulgarian society was kept in disinformation about the serious technical failure of the Nuclear Power Plant, which the staff became aware of during an emergency turn-off of the reactor which came as a result from the switch-off of one of the cooling pumps.

Actually, the incident was disclosed in a publication of the nuclear expert Georgi Kaschiev for “Spiegel”. It comes out that on 1st March 2006, 22 mechanisms failed to operate from 61 control stub-sinkers in total, which are supposed to suffocate the reactor.

“The central security system did not come into action”, Kaschiev said then, and he compared the incident to a car drive at full speed without brakes.

Initially, the Nuclear Power Plant management board and its controlling authority, the Nuclear Regulation Agency, denied in a coordinated voice the seriousness of the incident, evaluated at the “zero” grade from the INES scale by them. The director the Nuclear Regulation Agency, Sergey Tsachev, defined the publications in the western print media as “exaggerations” in the eve of the 20th anniversary since the catastrophe in Chernobil. Kaschiev was alleged by Minister Ovcharov that “he makes everything possible in order to discredit the Bulgarian energy sector and the whole country”.

The U.S. Embassy was informed about the incident a week before the coming out of the publication in “Spiegel” on 25th April 2006.

After the Spiegel publication and the verbal storm raging out in the mass media, the energy regulatory authority, the Agency for Nuclear Regulation, was forced to report on the incident in the International Atomic Energy Agency. At the end, it was evaluated at second grade from INES scale. That discrepancy with the initial evaluation of the incident seriousness became a reason for the opposition to ask for the resignation of the energy Minister Ovcharov.

The technical explanation for the incident was spoken out at a special press conference of the directors of the nuclear power plant at the beginning of May, 2006. In his opinion, the drive mechanisms of the sinkers got stuck due to the long period of inactiveness, which had continued for 197 days because of the trouble-free work of the reactor. The decision was those drive units to be checked periodically through manual activation in order to prevent new adhesions.

That long “trouble-free work” leads to a paradox. If the incident had happened some months later, most probably a greater number of mechanisms would have blocked and the situation would have come out of control – that is what expertise sources of the U.S. Embassy point out.

Besides the technical failure, there was human factor interference. The power plant management board has allowed the work of the reactor for another 6 hours after the defect was already stated, which is “a clear violation of the safety guidelines”, the cable further goes.

However, the information about that violation was kept in secret from the Bulgarian publicity and no one shouldered the responsibility.

Another source of the U.S. Embassy said that the director of the power plant, Ivan Ivanov, received a threat of being “knocked off”, unless he keeps in secret details about the incident.

“Kozloduy” Nuclear Power Plant is a state company having the Ministry of Economy, Energy and Tourism as its principal, and the chief who can “knock off” the director Ivan Ivanov at that time is the minister Ovcharov, one of the noisiest opponents of the closure of the small blocks ib Kozloduy and a downright supporter of the “Belene” Nuclear Power Plant project.

These statements make the suspicions even stronger that officials and politicians related to the nuclear sector are much more afraid of information, rather then from possible radiation leaks.

Recently, the deputy chairman of “EcoGlasnost” National Movement, Petar Penchev, announced that he was threatened by a DANS (bulgarian special services) officer for disclosing data about the radioation emissions form “Kozloduy” Nuclear Power Plant at a conference, which in his point of view surpass hundreds of times the emissions from the European nuclear power plants. “EcoGlasnost” National Movement was the organization that sent the signal to the Chief Prosecutor of Bulgaria “for covering the incident in “Kozloduy” Nuclear Power Plant in 2006”.

Beyrle analysed the refusal to announce timely and transparent information covering the incident in the lights of the coming euro membership and vexation of the Bulgarian government at the European ultimatum to stop Kozloduy old blocks.

“Any indication that Unit 5, which is to remain operational, is unsafe would seriously undermine the assertion of many officials that the forced closure of Units 3 and 4 is unjust”, the U.S. Ambassador writes.

The lack of transparency is one of the key topics in the cables from Sofia which discuss issues from the energy sector and Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant, but they also touch on the projects for Belene Nuclear Power Plant, South Stream and Bourgas-Alexandropoulis pipelines.

2011-04-27 #WikiLeaks media partner, Andy Worthington on #Guantanamo Files and the War on Terror

Image Andy Worthington is a journalist, blogger, and author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison. He is also co-director of a new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo”.

In 2009, Worthington revealed information about the demise of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi the former US 'ghost prisoner' whose alleged suicide death in a Libyan jail is still under suspicion.

Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi's testimony, which was obtained under torture and coercion, and later recanted, was cited by the George W. Bush Administration in the months preceding the 2003 invasion of Iraq as evidence of a connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.

The head of the Washington office of Human Rights Watch stated al-Libi was "Exhibit A" in hearings on the relationship between pre-Iraq War false intelligence and torture. Confirmation of al-Libi's location came two weeks prior to his death.

Most recently, Worthington partnered with WikiLeaks on its latest release of thousands of pages of documents regarding the cases of 758 out of 779 Guantanamo detainees dating between 2002 and 2008. The documents consist of memoranda from JTF-GTMO, the Joint Task Force at Guantánamo Bay, to US Southern Command in Miami, Florida.

You can find Mr. Worthington on his Web site or on twitter @GuantanamoAndy.



I wanted to talk to you a little bit about a couple things that you had mentioned when you were talking with Amy Goodwin on Democracy Now. One of the things you talked about was that ‘guidelines’ needed to be set up for filtering or discriminating the content that was found in the documents. Could you tell me a little bit about what that would be like in terms of application?

Well, you know, to be honest...a certain amount of hard work is required and some of that has already been done… I am glad to know…by some of the journalists who’ve been writing about it already...who have worked out that a lot of this supposed ‘body of evidence’ consists of allegations that have been made by a small number of prisoners… who have made repeated allegations against large numbers of their fellow prisoners, which have been called into doubt.

Now, you know, the doubts about this information are not necessarily mentioned, in fact, they are rarely mentioned in these military documents.

But they have been mentioned elsewhere...and, so you know, I suppose a certain amount of cross referencing is required.

You know, some of these stories have emerged in media reports over the years…and some of them have emerged in court cases, where the prisoner, you know, have had their habeas corpus petitions examined by judges in a district court in Washington DC. They involve essentially a number of ‘high value’ detainees making allegations about a large number of the prisoners.

These are people held for quite a long time, in secret CIA prisons, where they were subjected to torture.

One of them is Abu Zubaydah and he turns up over and over again.

He was the first ‘high value’ detainee that the Bush administration specifically attempted to re-write the rules on torture so that they could torture him.

He was water boarded...subjected to a form of controlled drowning 83 times, in the month after his torture was approved by lawyers in the Justice Department.

On what basis they could possibly be regarded as credible…any of the claims that he made against his fellow prisoners, you know, is rather beyond me. And, you know, he is not the only one. There are other high value detainees who appear in these documents.

Other problems are with informants within Guantanamo.

So, people who have been regarded as useful within Guantanamo, because they have made allegations against a large number of prisoners. And, the easiest way to imagine this is…that the way that this happened…is that the authorities would show prisoners photographs of other prisoners and say, “Do you know this person? What do you know about this person?”

And, and I think that helps to understand how easy it would be for somebody to say, "Oh yes. I know that person,” even if they didn’t. Just to get somebody off their back. Or in the cases of some of the people in Guantanamo…to get favors.

You know, there is an interrogator saying, “What would you like? Would you like a nice meal? Would you like a TV? What kind of stuff could we give you if you helped us out here?”

People…either because they are put under horrible pressure…or because they were enticed in this way...many people…or a certain number of people came up with these false stories about other prisoners.

As I say, these have been exposed in other context…but I would say even bigger than that is the problem so many of the people held in Guantanamo and in the ‘War on Terror' have said…those people who have been released, “Look in the end I cracked. I told them things that they wanted to hear that weren’t true.”

It’s very understandable why people did that.

Very often when people think about this circumstance in which people are held , and they imagine themselves in it they say, “Well I am not sure how I would have taken it. I am sure I would have cracked within a short amount of time.”

So that is what we are dealing with.

And, it requires a certain amount of dedication on the part of people reading these stories…to understand, that it isn't a coherent network of intelligence.

Actually what it is, is a bunch of people rounded up largely indiscriminately…most bought by the US military...not screened adequately on capture, taken to Guantanamo, and when they didn't really know who they had...they started to try and piece it together.

And the only material that they had to do that with was the prisoners themselves.

Do you think that the American media is partly responsible for the manifestation of a system like Guantanamo?

Well, I don't think that they thoroughly complained enough about it...It was a difficult issue.

It is a difficult issue, in the sense of knowing exactly what to make of who is held there.

And you know, that is why it is important for people to understand how random it was, and how arrogant it was of the United States under President Bush to deny Geneva Convention Rights to prisoners…and, to implement torture, all of these awful things.

I am not sure that everybody quite realizes how wrong the whole foundation of the 'War on Terror' is.

Because, what we have at Guantanamo are people who are labeled 'enemy combatants' by the Bush administration.

Now, Obama, early on, his justice department dropped that terminology. They knew that, that was pretty toxic.

But they haven't replaced it with anything. There is no name for these people now.

But, what they are not is either criminal suspects allegedly responsible for terrorist activities...or enemy prisoners of war...held according to the Geneva Conventions.

Now those are the only two ways in which you are allowed to hold people prisoner and deprive them of their liberty.

So there is still this third category of human being...invented by the Bush administration...called ‘enemy combatants’ intended to be held without any rights whatsoever.

And, what has happened there is that terrorists suspects have been confused with soldiers.

So, apart from all the innocent people held at Guantanamo...there were foot soldiers for the Taliban.

And the purpose of Guantanamo has been to dress these people to be more significant than they were.

Many of them were not...anything more than soldiers fighting against other Muslims in Afghanistan. And, that particular conflict morphed into a ‘War on Terror’, a war against the US…after the US led invasion.

I am trying to understand Guantanamo from an institutional the sense that institutions are suppose to underpin and support democratic principles...or the foundational principles of a society. So, you had mentioned that there was a third category of human being...I wonder if there is a fourth category of human being called the corporation. You mention ‘fear politics’ or the ‘season of fear’. What is the source of that? Is it simply socio-political phenomena that happens when a country is attacked? Or is there more to the story then simply the sophistry, or the propaganda, or the agenda setting of politicians with a view towards national security? Are there other forces at play?

I mean I think there are a few forces at play.

I think the starting point would be to say...the Bush administration was so severely rattled, and understandably after the 9/11 attacks.

And, that instead of taking a measured response they wanted to be strong. They wanted vengeance...and, they threw out what they regarded as all these weak kind of laws restricting what they could that was there starting point.

Now I think, I think it would be too generous to them to say that, that remains their agenda for very long.

Because, what has become apparent on the Iraq War over the years, has been early December 2001...people were pushing for moving on to Iraq.

On the day that the 9/11attacks took place, British officials who were in Washington D.C., told Jane Mayer, of the New Yorker, how shocked they were that hours after the attacks, people were talking about, “When can we invade Iraq?”

Iraq had no connection to it.

But there were people who wanted Iraq to have a connection to it, and who were pushing for that invasion which eventually took place in March 2003.

And, you know, one particular prisoner…and he turns up a lot in these documents just released as well. He is called Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi.

He was captured. He was sent to Egypt, where he was tortured on behalf of the CIA…and where he said that two Al Qaeda operatives had been meeting with Saddam Hussein to discuss obtaining chemical and biological weapons.

That was used by Colin Powell in his submission to the United Nations, a month before the invasion in February 2003, as a justification for war.

Now al-Libi had recanted what he had said…that he had produced under torture in Egypt.

But, you know…was that deliberately used to justify an invasion of Iraq? Or did Cheney and other people in the administration believe what al-Libi said?

It is one or the other.

They either thought that torture was producing the information that they needed or, even more worryingly, they were cynically ‘exploiting’ somebody like al-Libi to justify an illegal invasion of a sovereign country.

Whichever one it is, is bad.

If it is the latter, then Cheney, who I believe was driving this, has committed the most enormous crime I think that a vice president of the Unites States could do.

This is my last question. Is there a historical parallel that comes to mind when you think about Guantanamo…either its model...of the crimes committed?

You some ways...the United States reacted in the Second World War...the internment of so many Japanese Americans…for something that came to be looked at afterwards as a horrible overreaction.

There is a historical pattern, I suppose of overreacting to things...then being able to look back at it afterwards and say, “Oh dear. That was a bit over the top. That was wrong. We undermined our fundamental values by doing that.”

Now, you know, we are nearly ten years on from the 9/11 attacks and from the opening of Guantanamo and I think it is time for that point to be reached.

But there are a number of forces within the United States, powerful forces, both in congress and in the media who are dedicated to keeping this alive.

They want more of this.

So you know, I think that actually the struggle that is still underway is the kind of struggle for the soul of America, and it doesn't just involve arbitrarily detaining a bunch of Muslims in this little corner of Cuba, outside of all the norms.

It is everything else that went with it.

It was the deliberate the highest level of the Bush government to use torture as part of this process of holding people outside of the norms...of domestic and international law.

And, that has been accepted.

But Obama has failed by not calling to account the people within the Bush administration who authorized this, who implemented, who issued the legal advice.

There are too many people in the Unites States, who believe that torture justified.

It is counterproductive, and it is illegal. The story has drifted, and it needs to be addressed.

And, that is why I think it is so crucial.

I think that all of this is really two sided…with people who understand that there used to be right and wrong, and that something terrible has happened.

And the other people who have got increasingly violent and hysterical in their approach to things…and, fear is part of that. I am sure that this is being manipulated in some ways.

Who has made money out of not just the ‘War on Terror’, but the wars of the last ten years? Well, it tends to be arms manufacturers and big companies like Halliburton.

You know, very few people have actually benefitted financially. But the corporate interests that have are obviously tied in with the governments as well. So, all of that is worth looking at as well, really.

I thank you very much for your time. You have been very generous.

Okay. You are welcome.

2011-04-27 Interview w/ investigative journo, Jason Leopold, about the latest #WikiLeaks release & #Guantanamo

Image Jason Leopold is the deputy managing editor of and a co-founder of The Public Record.

As an investigative journalist he has written extensively on the Guantanamo Bay detention and torture camp, Enron, and the Military. The list goes on.

In February 2011, Leopold interview Australian David Hicks, a former Guantanamo detainee. It was Hicks' first interview about the torture and abuse he endured at Guantanamo, and his struggle with the injustice of US ex-judicial processes.

Leopold and his colleague, Jeffrey Kaye, have also investigated medical experiments at Guantanamo and psychological techniques used to design Bush's torture program.

His work has been published in The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, Salon, The Wall Street Journal, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Financial Times, Alternet, Z Magazine, Earth Island Journal, Homeland Security Today, and numerous other national and international publications.

Leopold was the recipient of the Project Censored award two times for his investigative work on Halliburton and Enron. He was awarded the Thomas Jefferson award by The Military Religious Freedom Foundation for a series of stories on the rise of Christian fundamentalism in the U.S. Military.

You can find him on twitter at @JasonLeopold.

What is particularly unique about the documents from the latest Wikileaks’ release?

These documents are unique because they actually confirm long held suspicions about the use of informants…the fact that many of the detainees…in fact the majority of the detainees…were simply innocent individuals, who were sold to the US for bounty.

They also confirm that the US military, frankly, was…they really had no idea what they were doing. I think that they were making it up as they went along.

The intelligence of these documents...if that is what some people want to call it…is highly suspicious.

Much of it has certain cases…has been debunked a long time ago…I mean we are already talking about ten years into Guantanamo.

So, I think what is really, really important about these documents is that it shines a light on the crimes...and that is really what they are...the crime committed by the United States government…and in some cases…some of its allies in the name of national security in the ‘War on Terror’.

And, I think that, that is really ultimately what's crucial…that people should take away from this…

There are some individuals who the US caught that are...that should be held...but I don't mean held in the sense of being held indefinitely.

They literally just swept people up and tried to figure out who were the ones they wanted, so to speak.

What I mean is that they took all these...they just swept up know...Muslims...they swept them all up...they brought them over to Guantanamo and they said, "Okay. In this big pile there is going to be a terrorist.”

What is really unique about the documents is that it shows how just a handful of detainees were providing information on a bulk of other detainees…or a majority of other detainees…and that the US used that as evidence that these individuals were Al Qaeda.

I think it shows that in terms of Al Qaeda, we are talking…maybe thirty people.

You have been covering Guantanamo for a very long time. So you pretty good perspective on the coverage leading up to this particular leak. How would you describe the coverage in the American press about Guantanamo prior to the leak?

I think the coverage in the US media has been terrible.

Certainly, there are a handful of reporters that do a really good job, who work for mainstream publications...who a do a good job in terms of what they are covering.

But, for the most part, the coverage has awful.

When you depend heavily on the Pentagon for information...for talking obviously becomes difficult to tell the real story.

I think that the media has not done enough digging. Has not actually gone out and tried to pull out some of the harder stories out of Guantanamo.

Can you give me an example of one of those stories?

One story that I have focused heavily on is the experimentation aspect and what took place at Guantanamo.

Guantanamo has been called a ‘battle lab'.

That is how former military officials who were there described it to the Senate Armed Services Committee. They described it as a 'battle lab'.

And, what they mean was is that Guantanamo itself was an experiment. And, I think that is absolutely true.

I think that many of the things that took place at Guantanamo in terms of the type of torture…the video cameras that were there…watching the wasn't just for security purposes.

I think that there were, based on my own investigation, there were far more nefarious purposes for the use of drugs…of many different things

So, I think that the horrific stories, and there are probably a lot of them, and some of them are missing, and so...dealing with stories like that...really puts a face o the whole effort...the whole war effort…the whole ‘War on Terror’.

And, those are the stories that I think are missing. The ones where you see how of the detainees have suffered.

Do you think these documents will make a difference in American coverage of Guantanamo?

I was very critical of one of the first stories that surfaced from The New York Times...that surfaced on Sunday evening.

I think that was a terrible story, because it is a story that was completely sanitized and lacked content.

So, you know, and that is obviously a publication that had these documents for quite a while. So, I was very disappointed with that.

I think that there certainly have been quite a number of good stories that have surfaced particularly from Carol Rosenberg. She is someone who has covered Guantanamo for a decade.

Ultimately, this is what’s really important about the documents. It will force people to continue talking about Guantanamo.

It will force, perhaps, resulting pressure being applied to lawmakers, the President…whether that pressure is by the United Nations of Human Rights groups.

The most important thing is that we continue to talk about this, and I think that, that is really what these documents will help with.

They will force the conversation to continue. And, it will change the narrative.

But, the administration...the Obama administration, frankly, for them not talking about this has probably been something, I am sure, they were very happy about...people moving on from it.

And, I think that the fact that the media is covering it in a critical way, currently at least…when I say the media, I actually want to single out newspapers like the Guardian, and some other foreign publications, because they are doing a great job.

So, I think ultimately that is what is important about this…that people continue talking about it, because lets face it…it’s not as if Guantanamo torture is on the front page of every newspaper…even though, I think, it should be…because we are talking about crimes. Crimes. War crimes, here.

I wonder about information availability versus coverage particularly in the American press and how these leaks will affect American perception and understanding of Guantanamo, and what if anything will manifest from that. Prior to this leak there was a plethora of information…incriminating information…already available.

I'll just mention, for example, the Senate Armed Services Committee of the most explosive reports to come out of any sort of congressional official investigation into the way the US treated detainees in the custody of the Department of Defense.

It was a report that was released a couple of years ago by the Senate Armed Services Committee. That is a damning report.

It talks about the fact detainees where killed in US custody. Murdered. I am talking about murder.

I mean, this report talks about how the torture program was based on the US military's resistance to interrogation survival training technique.

Something that I had perhaps spent, perhaps, the past five months on and recently published a report about.

So, yes, you are absolutely right there are a number of documents and a number of reports that are out there. The problem is that people, and that includes some journalists, frankly don't take the time to read it.

You know, I recently just looked at that Senate Armed Services Committee report again, and it certainly takes on a new life with the release of these files.

I think, if you hold this report up...if you read that report along side reading the files of the detainees, you really come away with understanding perhaps how that so called intelligence…what the US identified in these files…how they obtained it…largely, it was through torture or other coercive interrogation methods.

There are so many components and so many individuals that contribute to the phenomenon of Guantanamo. When you look at all the documents pre and post leak, and having gone through so much of you have a sense of what the rational for the system was or is?

You know, that’s a really, really great question.

I think that there are some people in the previous administration who believed that we need to lock up…to create a system outside of the law…outside of any US legal framework…and capture these prisoners and torture them to the point that they will tell us what we need to know about this massive terrorist organization…that we were told was Al Qaeda.

As I said earlier, one of the things about the documents that struck me was that it is not a massive organization.

At least in my eyes...the documents…are evidence of that.

But, it’s hard to tell what the motivations are for some people.

I mean Dick Cheney...look, this is a guy who signed off before he left office...this is man who admitted that he personally okayed the torture of nearly three-dozen detainees, and the water boarding of ‘high value’ detainees.

So, I think that after 9/11, the intelligence communities, particularly the CIA felt that they missed it. They missed…”How did they miss this? How did they miss understanding what they needed to know about this organization, Al Qaeda.”

As Dick Cheney said, they turned to the dark side. The gloves came off.

I think that for other people, Guantanamo truly was a ‘battle lab’. It was a laboratory. This was where certain types of psychological experiments take place.

My colleague [Jeffrey Kaye], who I have written extensively with on issues related to various types of experimentation that went on at Guantanamo...I mean he said that the documents show that there was psychological research taking place.

One thing in those documents that they continue to talk about is ‘exploiting the detainees’...exploitation.

You can see that they are trying to turn the detainees into informants…that they are trying to get them to be agents for the US government.

The rational is’s really difficulty to provide one answer. I think that each individual has different answers.

I think that, there are some people in the previous administration, who just felt that these detainees are not human beings. They are animals. Truly...animals.

That they should be locked up outside of the law…so, we can do whatever we want with them.

It sort of brings me to another area...where very early on...this war...this ‘War on Terror’…and, we heard many previous officials in the former administration, the Bush administration rather, say that this was more or less a war with…basically Jesus versus Mohammed. Very much a religious war.

So, to circle back around to your's's very difficult to say what the rational was.

From the documents it appears that they made it up as they went along.

Looking at Guantanamo from an institutional perspective…on the local level the instincts at play seem have plenty of parallels... human beings looking at other human beings as sub-human or treating groups of people as second class citizens...

When I talked to my European friends about the latest Wikileaks release, they expressed an emphatic, "Well now your country can charge responsible parties with war crimes."

But, you and I can talk about war crimes that are evidenced, or that may be evidenced by these leaked documents and previous the actions and admissions of government officials…the reality is that being Americans in the Unites States...the likelihood that any crimes be brought to justice seems a stretch in terms of the political reality.

What we are describing here seems more akin to our former cold war enemy...something more Eastern block style...then, perhaps, we care to admit.

Those former regimes were champions of human rights on paper and by word, but not in deed...and the ideology that propped up and justified those system contradicted reality on the ground, but that very same ideology was a rational for the system to justify itself and its tyranny. So is that what we are dealing with here?

I agree. I mean I understand what you are saying. It's funny you talk about speaking to your European friends…”Perhaps the Bush administration should be brought up on war crimes”…you know, I think many people feel that way.

But that will never happen because no body has the political will to take that on.

And, in addition to that...look at the Obama administration preaching...preaching to Iran and China about human rights...Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stating the other day that Syria, I believe, needs to stop detaining and torturing prisoners.

So we are very good at preaching...but we obviously can't practice what we preach. I just think that is why the detainees, they really looked as…I wouldn't say second class citizens...or third class…they were animals.

They were not human. And, it was very important for the Bush administration to make sure the public understood that these people were not human…and that was part of their whole campaign as well…if that makes sense.

It does. Have you followed the money? Terry Holdbrooks talked about Camp 7 being a privatized you know anything about the contractors that are down there? Or that have been down there?

Yes, I do. It’s very difficult to penetrate that.

Look, there were contractors there that set up the whole video monitoring system. A subsidiary of Cheney's former firm, Halliburton, Kellogg Brown & Root, built the camps.

There are a number of contractors there. But, literally getting to the money aspect of it is difficult, because you are reliant on the government to some degree…to fulfill a ‘Freedom of Information Act Request’. Which, in some cases, they just won't do.

Was there a specific question that you had with regard to that?

As I said, I want to understand what the rational…the forces that drove its manifestation. I believe that, in a sense, Americans knew what was going on at Guantanamo...

I would actually beg to differ...I don't think Americans, the general public, actually is fully aware of what went on at Guantanamo.

Recently, I spent about five months investigating with my colleague, Jeffrey Kaye...we investigated the use of a very controversial drug that was given to all detainees upon arrival at Guantanamo.

This was a drug called Mefloquine. It was to treat malaria. However, it was a drug that was given in large doses…1250 mg…it was a treatment dose as opposed to a prophylactic dose.

The Department of Defense says that they were very concerned about malaria returning to Afghanistan, but it turns out the way in which they administered this drug…which by the way has been known to cause suicidal thoughts, homicidal thoughts, hallucinations…it’s just a drug that has a dark history in a way.

People have testified to the fact that it is like taking LSD.

That is something that we spent quite a bit of time on.

We actually got the standard operating procedure document showing that this is a drug that was given at unprecedented treatment doses.

But, for the most part, the general public does not realize that, that was something done.

I mean it really does raise questions. And, you know, you talk about Guantanamo. Guantanamo, at one point back in the 90s housed Haitian refugees. The way that we treated Haitian refugees, who were at Guantanamo…I will just use the same example with the drug.

They were brought to Guantanamo. They were not given treatment doses of this controversial drug. It just goes to the point that I am trying to make, which is that we really treated the individuals that were captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere like animals. And, I don't think that the public fully understands or has been able to grasp that.

I thank you so much for your time.

My pleasure. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.

2011-04-27 WikiLeaks Notes: Shaker Aamer, Times of India interview, National Institute of Military Justice on Obama

ImageUK fighting for Guantanamo detainee Shaker Aamer's release

Foreign Secretary William Hague will raise the case of Shaker Aamer with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she comes to the UK in May. Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt has told the BBC that dealing with the US on the issue is "frustrating". "We believe we are doing the very best that we can by trying to meet any objections the United States might have and putting the case for Shaker Aamer to return to the United Kingdom."

The US State Department will not comment on the diplomatic negotiations involving Aamer, except to say that "discussions on the case are ongoing". Aamer has never been charged and he has been approved for release by both the Bush and Obama administrations, but 'legal expert' Benjamin Wittes told BBC "It's not, just to say you'll let that person roam around freely."

But sources close to the case say the sticking point is that the US wants Mr Aamer sent to his homeland of Saudi Arabia where it is argued he would be less able to speak out.

via @Asher_Wolf

Obama guilty of unlawful command influence

Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, told NBC News that Obama's statement "He broke the law," regarding Bradley Manning "is unlawful command influence," which includes an assumption of guilt. "The president shouldn't have said it. He should have been more circumspect."

But in the end, Fidell predicts the issue should not adversely affect the prosecution's case against Manning. While a defense lawyer could claim the president's statement unlawfully prejudices the case against his client, potential jurors could be screened to ensure they are not aware of the remark.

Interview with Julian Assange

The full Julian Assange interview with the Times of India, part one and part two.

2011-04-28 'Abdul Khadr' and other errors in the Guanatanamo files

The first Canadian Guantanamo file released was Omar Khadr, a much anticipated and very thin file that discussed the captured child's intelligence value as a son of a suspected Al Qaeda member and contributed nothing else of value or accuracy. (Except in this file, the 'medic' he was accused of killing in his trial is accurately described as a Special Forces soldier.)

The second widely anticipated Canadian file is that of 'Abdul Khadr', assumed to refer to Abdurahman Khadr, Omar's brother who has claimed he was in Guantanamo as a CIA plant. He was one of the ten detainees whose information was not included in the 2007 files published by the US Department of Defense under the Freedom of Information Act. Unfortunately the file does not match biographical details of any of the Khadr family (there are brothers Abdulkareem and Abdullah as well, but neither was ever in Guantanamo).

Jason Leopold, deputy managing editor of, tweeted "ive discovered that at least 1 of the photos in #Guantanamo files is not the detainee identified by military/govt. No idea who the person is"

So not only is all of the information about the suspects highly suspect, obtained from unreliable and tortured testimony and mistaken identities, some of the files are not even who they are labeled as.

2011-04-28 CORRECTION: Four young protesters sentenced to death , applied after 15 days unless lawyers appeal. #Bahrain

WL Central will be updating news on Bahrain, with new items added at the top. All times are ET in USA. You can contact me on twitter @carwinb or by email at Don't send media when links available. Most email is not encrypted and not anonymous. I cannot guarantee anyone's safety in transmission.

Current time and date in Manama, Bahrain:

Send Arabic #firstaid images by MMS/SMS/email or print as fliers usng #Bahrain.

  • [CORRECTION] Four young protesters sentenced to death. Sentence to be applied after 15 days unless lawyers appeal. Amnesty calls for halt to any execution and due process in civil court. The seven young protesters were tried in military court. Three were sentenced to life. The other four given the death penalty.

    Amnesty calls for halt to execution of four young men who were protesters sentenced to die tomorrow by firing squad. Three others sentenced to life in prison.

    [CORRECTION] My sincere apologies for the error in today's report. I regret any pain the headline may have caused. Please see revised headline and subtitle. - @carwinb


    *Picture via @a340aviator

    Death Sentence:

    • Ali Hassan AlSingace: 19 years old
    • Qasim Hasan Matar: 20 years old
    • Saeed Abduljalil Saeed: 19 years old
    • AbdulAziz AbdulRidha: 24 years old

    Life Sentences:

    • Isa Abdulla Kadhem: 19 years old
    • Sayed Sadiq Ali: 19 years old
    • Hussain Jaffar: 19 years old

    Excerpt from Amnesty International:

    Authorities in Bahrain must not allow the execution of four protesters sentenced to death by a military court over the killing of two police officers in anti-government demonstrations last month, Amnesty International said today...

    ...“In this case, the accused were tried before a special military court, although they are civilians. It also appears that the trial was conducted behind closed doors. As well, those sentenced have no right of appeal except to another special military court, raising great fears about the fairness of the entire process.”

    The court sentenced Ali Abdullah Hassan al-Sankis, Qassim Hassan Matar, Saeed Abduljalil Saeed and Adbulaziz Abdulridha Ibrahim Hussain to death on 28 April.

    Three other defendants tried with them, Issa Abdullah Kadhim Ali, Sadeq Ali Mahdi and Hussein Jaafar Abdulkarim, were sentenced to life in prison by the same court. All seven accused are reported to have denied the charges. (Source: Amnesty International

    European Parliament condemns death sentence.

THURSDAY, April 20


  • Fortune and coincidence shower authoritarian regimes and their telecom friends this 'Arab Spring'

    Internet service in Bahrain will be affected by 30 to 40% for 5 to 10 days due to repair on the FOG sea cable - (Fiber Optic Gulf) which runs through UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait. (Source:

    Sources in the report were said to be amazed it would take the repair vessel a week to travel from the UAE to fix the cable.

    Back in early March, the acting assistant undersecretary for International Services Engineer, Samah Abulbanat, was reported to have already confirmed that a vessel had set out to fix the FOG cable. (

    Back on March 2, she had indicated the ministry had already detected the cause of the interruption, saying it was expected to be fixed back then in four or five days, provided the weather is conducive at the Arabian Gulf.(

    Fortune and coincidence shower authoritarian regimes and their telecom friends this 'Arab Spring'.

    Back in late January, Yemen News Agency reported that the Arab Telecom and Info Council was due to meet in Beirut on what ended up being the day that Egypt left the Internet.

    The meeting’s agenda was to review the current situation of Arab broadbands projects as well as proposals made for the technical operation of these broadbands for the interest and under the full supervision of the Arab League. (Source:

    The Ministers' Beirut meeting, presided over by Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Jamil Al-Mulla , was scheduled to occur in parallel to the Arab Telecom & Internet Forum 2011.

    According to the event Web site, the forum was cancelled "[d]ue to the unfortunate incidents that Lebanon is witnessing" - referring to violent protest against Hezbollah's nomination of a candidate for the post of prime minister.

    Hosted by inter-governmental organizations, sponsored by multi-national telecom and defense firms, and "in the presence" of government ministries, the focus of this year was to be "the importance of the role of IT during emergencies and crises." (Source: Al-Iktissad PR)

    Thuraya Telecom Co, a satellite telecom firm, had scheduled a dedicated session on the role of information and communication technology (ICT) solutions in managing national security. (Source: Maritime Executive)

    Thuraya satellites cover 140 countries and can reach remote land and sea areas unreachable by terrestrial networks. They provides 'NettedComms' or secured autonomous networks for government segments - that is, "satellite-based ‘solutions’ that integrate different telecom technologies into a single closed user group, enabling users with different telecom devices to communicate effectively during security and disaster recover activities.”

MONDAY, April 18


    As previously reported (scroll down to April 17), there are few independent journalists left able to cover unfolding events in #Bahrain, due to the gov'ts brutal crackdown.

    So, as yet, there are unconfirmed reports that 50 female students have been beaten; and, 17 female students and nine teachers were arrested from Yethreb girls secondary school in Hamad Town by security forces this morning.

    Facebook Page: Release the arrested students from Yathreb School reports:

    According to the accounts of parents, the students were beaten inside the school, without knowing the real reasons behind what happened. (Source: Facebook Page: Release the arrested students from Yathreb School)

    According to someone we spoke with, the 50 girls were beaten with hoses and sticks against a wall, and the 17 students, taken to police station, had Clorox bleach thrown on them.

    Also, according to the Facebook Page: Release the arrested students from Yathreb School, the students were released and told to report back to the police station in the morning.

    But we were told by one secondary source who spoke to eyewitnesses that: while most of the students were released and told to report back to police in the morning, the teachers and three fourteen year old students are still being detained.

    In another statement from eyewitnesses, taken at our request, by another person who identified themself as a family member of one of the arrested teachers:


    Image of Security Forces Surrounding the Girls Secondary School


SUNDAY, April 17

Other Resources:
FRIDAY, April 15, 2011
  • A nation on hunger strike. Alkhawaja's daughter joined by others to protest ex-judicial arrests, torture, and killings in Bahrain

    Calls for a nationwide hunger strike have appeared on twitter. The nationwide hunger strike is meant to show solidarity with the hundreds of Bahraini caught in ex-judicial detainments, who are now under grave threat of torture and death.



    Zainab Al Khawajah (@angryarabiya), the daughter of prominent human rights activist, Abdulhadi Alkhawajahas now been joined by Mohammed Al Daaysi (@MDaaysi) in a hunger strike. Al Daaysi (@MDaaysi) is the cousin of a missing female pediatrician from Salmaniya Hospital, Dr. Khulood. He is in his fifth day without food.


    See also, Mohammed Al Daaysi' blog As I deprive myself from food.

    Dr. Khulood was detained by police forces on or around the 5th of April. According to a Facebook advocacy Fan Page: "She disappeared from Salmaniya hospital following what was told to her was a doctors meeting and it was eventually found out that she is being held for an undisclosed reason" (Source: Facebook Fan Page: Free Khulood AlSayyad).


    Her arrest came after a crackdown by the Bahraini and Saudi forces on peaceful protesters at the pearl roundabout. Dr.Khulood and many other doctors are being detained for protesting, providing aid to those injured during the crackdown (which is part of their Job), and for speaking to the media.

    Doctors at Salmaniya hospital evidenced the brutality of the attacks by the police forces and the regime is trying to slience them and accusing them of being disloyal to the Country and Ruling Family. (Source: Facebook Fan Page: Free Khulood AlSayyad)

    One person I spoke with said that, Dr. Khulood was one of the medical personnel targeted on the now defunct Facebook Fan 'Terror' Page: Together to detect traitors Bahrain.

    [Scroll down for previous coverage and today's update on Bahraini use of Facebook to crowdsource threats and targeting of demonstrators].

    Ms. Al Khawaja, as reported previously (scroll down), commenced a hunger strike 5 days ago after Bahraini security forces severely beat and arrested Alkhawaja's father, Human Rights activist Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, her husband, Wafi Almajed, and her brother-in-law, Hussain Ahmed Hussain.


    Her uncle was also arrested three weeks ago, with no further information available. Human Rghts Watch has called for his immediate release, as have Physicians for Human Rights. Frontline defenders has released a report about the concern that Abdulhadi Alkhawaja may be at high risk of torture while in incommunicado detention.

    On April 13, Human Rights Watch called on the Bahraini government to disclose the whereabouts of detainees, and to permit them contact with their families and lawyers. They also called on the Bahraini government to open detention centers to independent inspection. The action came after the torture and death of three of detainees in custody: Ali Isa Ibrahim Saqer, Zakaria Rashid Hassan al-Asherri, and Hassan Jassim Mohammed Maki. (Source: Human Rights Watch):

    With the death of a fourth person, Kareem Fakhrawi, Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said, "Four detainee deaths in nine days is a crime, not a coincidence. The government tells families of detainees nothing about their whereabouts or well-being while they are alive or about the circumstances of their deaths." (Source: Human Rights Watch)

    The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that, "Fakhrawi is one of numerous investors in Al-Wasat, local journalists told CPJ. He is also a book publisher, the owner of one of Bahrain's biggest bookstores, and a member of Al-Wefaq, Bahrain's chief opposition party" (Source:The Committee to Protect Journalists)

    According to the same CPJ report, "Bahrain's official news agency said on its Twitter feed that Fakhrawi died of kidney failure. Photographs published online, however, show a body identified as that of Fakhrawi with extensive cuts and bruises." (Source:The Committee to Protect Journalists)

    Wifaq National Islamic Society had collected names of 430 people who relatives say have been arrested since demonstrations began on February 14. (Source: Human Rights Watch)

    Attached to this entry, below (scroll to the bottom), are the lists of those detained, killed, targeted, and missing as of March 31, (from 15 days) ago via the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

  • Facebook Terror Page,' Together to detect traitors Bahrain' taken down. Sequel Appears.

    In an update to WL coverage from Monday, the Facebook 'Terror' Page being used to crowd-source target and threaten demonstrators, Together to detect traitors Bahrain has apparently been taken down.

    The Facebook Page had around 355 photos and contained images of people with arrows and circles drawn around their faces and bodies. Many of the people targeted were medical personnel, like D. Khulood, above.

    The site has now been replaced with Together to detect traitors Bahrain 2. There are currently 63 pictures on the site.

    Another site, Bahrain against false media, that targeted bloggers (see below) is still operational.

    WEDNESDAY, April 13
  • Despite calls from human rights orgs & Alkhawaja's daughter face to face with Clinton, Obama admin silent on arrest and beating of prominent human rights figure.

    Maryam Alkhawaja, daughter of Human Rights activist Abdulhadi Alkhawaja speaks to Secretary Clinton at the US Islamic World Forum.

    In an update to our April 8th WL coverage (scroll down), and events reported by Zainab Alkhawaja (@angryarabiya) and aggregated by @dubpool, here. An online petition calls for the release of 'Abdulhadi Alkhawaja and All Political Prisoners in Bahrain'.

    The petition is in support of Zainab Alkhawaja, @angryarabiya, the daughter of Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, and her open letter to President Obama and concurrent hunger strike.

    Read Zainab Alkhawaja Open Letter to President Obama or listen to VOA reportage and interview with Ms. Alkhawaja.

    Bahraini security forces severely beat and arrested Zainab Alkhawaja's father, Human Rights activist Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, her husband, Wafi Almajed, and her brother-in-law, Hussain Ahmed Hussain.

    Her uncle was also arrested three weeks ago, with no further information available. Human Rghts Watch has called for his immediate release, as have Physicians for Human Rights. Frontline defenders has released a report about the concern that Abdulhadi Alkhawaja may be at high risk of torture while in incommunicado detention.

    *Picture via @angryarabia


    The online petition:

    In a case of reprisal in Manana, Bahrain on April 9 2011, prominent human rights defender and former Middle East & North Africa Director of Frontline Defenders (an international foundation that protects human rights defenders at risk), Abdulhadi Alkhawaja was severely beaten and arrested along with two of his son-in-laws, Wafi Almajid and Hussein Ahmed. Alkhawaja is a very prominent human rights activist not just in Bahrain but internationally. He has reported to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and is the founder and former director of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. Alkhawaja was also mentioned by the Crown Prince of Bahrain in a 2004 Wikileaks Cable.

    On April 9th, Bahraini security forces broke the front door to the house wearing masks, dragged Alkhawaja down the stairs, and then beat him so severely that he was left unconscious with blood stains on the staircase. The Bahraini security forces repeatedly threatened Alkhawaja that they would kill him. His daughter, Zainab Alkhawaja told the Bahraini Security Forces that there was no need to beat him because he would go with them peacefully, and upon saying this, she was beaten as well. Additionally the security forces also severely beat Mohammad Almasqati, the President of the Bahrain Youth Society of Human Rights, threw him into a room, told him not to come out, and then closed the door.

    This latest raid is part of a series of raids conducted after Saudi Arabian troops moved into Bahrain as part of a regional force from the Gulf Cooperation Council, the first cross-border intervention since a wave of popular uprisings swept through parts of the Arab world. Thousands of pro-democracy protestors took the streets in Bahrain beginning Feb. 14, demanding democratic reforms through free elections from their Sunni monarch.

    Bahrain receives U.S military aid and assistance, and is the home of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet. In violation of the U.S Arms Export Control Act, the U.S continues to supply Bahrain with military hardware used to repress protestors. As such we demand that the United States state department pressure the Bahraini government to free Abdulhadi Alkawaja and all other arrested and disappeared peoples, and respect the Bahraini people’s universal rights of freedom of association, assembly and expression.

    Sign the petition here

    The US State Department remains silent. As written by the editorial board of the Washington Post:

    The Obama administration opposes the crackdown; it has tried to strengthen the regime’s reformists and has pushed for a return to negotiations. But apart from an initial critique of the use of force by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and one statement about the arrest of a blogger, the administration has remained silent. Worse, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates appeared to bolster the Saudis’ hard line during a visit last week to Riyadh, saying that “we already have evidence that the Iranians are trying to exploit the situation in Bahrain.” (Source: The Washington Post)

  • Facebook is being used to crowd source threats and to target Bahraini demonstrators and bloggers

    Facebook 'Fan Pages' are being used to crowd source threats and to target demonstrators and bloggers in Bahrain. One such Facebook Fan Page is Together to detect traitors Bahrain, which targets demonstrators, including medical personnel.

    Another, Facebook Fan Page, Bahrain against false media, has targeted bloggers (see below).

    The Facebook Fan Page, Together to detect traitors Bahrain has around 355 photos with arrows and circles drawn around people's faces. Many of the photos show medical personnel.



  • Image

    One person I spoke with said that despite many people having reported the 'Fan Pages' to Facebook, no actions have yet been taken. In the photograph below, Bahraini bloggers are being targeted. The caption reads:

    following the post of the anti-goverment group who incited others to rise against our King and country... we conclude that under the banner of Unite bh this group (picture attached) attempted to trick the international media and residents and citizens of the country to join them in their hate campaign under the disguise of pro-democracy while in fact it was purely anti goverment. Lairs and factions of this radical group and possible members are being investigated at this time

  • Two bloggers have died in custody, torture marking their bodies. Human Rights advocate, Nabeel Rajab, is now to be hauled before a military tribunal accused of doctoring the photos despite the condemnation of and backing of Rajab by Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights Watch.

    On April 10, Bahrain minister of interior announced the death of Isa Saqer. However, pictures show evidence of torture.

    Zakaria alAsheri, who's death was also announced yesterday, is a blogger who was arrested because of his responsibility for the now closed

    AlAsheri's family informed The Bahrain Center for Human Rights that Zakaria never had sickle cell anemia, which the authorities said was the cause of death. (Source: Bahrain Center for Human Rights). His arrest and death has been condemned by Reporters Without Boarders.

    The RWB report goes on to say:

    Three other netizens are still detained. They are Fadhel Abdulla Ali Al-Marzooq (arrested on 24 March), Ali Hasan Salman Al-Satrawi (arrested on 25 March) and Hani Muslim Mohamed Al-Taif (arrested on 27 March). Marzooq and Taif moderated forums in which Internet users could discuss the ongoing events. Satrawi was a forum member. There is no news of Abduljalil Al-Singace, a blogger arrested on 16 March.

    Reporters Without Borders is also worried that Nabeel Rajab, the head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, has been accused by a military prosecutor of posting a “fabricated” photo of the injuries inflicted on Ali Isa Saqer, one of two people who died in detention on 9 April. Rajab posted the photo on Twitter the same day, saying Saqer had died as a result of mistreatment while in police custody. (Source: Reporters Without Borders)

    As reported by CNN, "Human Rights Watch says the body of Ali Isa Saqer, a protester that died after he was arrested in Bahrain, showed signs of "horrific abuse" and torture" (CNN)

  • Video reported as Saudi Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden refusing note from Arab and Muslim community condemning Saudi intervention/invasion in Bahrain. (Uploaded April 9, 2011)

  • Facebook Event calls for protests across Arab world on April 15

    A Facebook Event Page ARABS UNITE 4 FREEDOM calls for protests across the Arab world on April 15:

    Arab peoples Unite on Friday the 15th, and go out as one big protest across the Arab world. If dictators can unite against people protesting for their rights, the Arab people, who demand their freedom, can unite as well. (Source: Facebook Event: ARABS UNITE 4 FREEDOM)

[Updates from Previous Coverage]

  • Army and Police in Karzakkan village April 8, 2011

  • Raw footage of Bahrain Police and Security Forces at Salmaniya Medical Complex 9Uploadd April 5, 2011)

FRIDAY, April 8
  • Prominent human rights defender, Abdulhadi Alhkawaja arrested along with two son-in-laws

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights reports that the prominent human rights defended and former Mena director at Frontline defenders, Abdulhadi Alhkawaja has just been arrested along with two of his son-in-laws- Wafi Almajid and Hussein Ahmed.

    According to a BCHR spokesperson:

    "They broke the front door to the house and then beat them severely along with Mohammad Almasqati, the president of the Bahrain youth society of human rights. But they through Mohammad into a room and told him not to come out and then closed the door. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja was beaten so severely that the blood stain is still visible on the stair case. And when his oldest daughter, Zainab, tried to intervene she was beaten as well.

    On their search for Abdulhadi Alkhawaja they went to his apartment first and didn’t find him there. They then went to his cousin’s house and he wasn’t there either but his cousin, Habib Alhalwachi, was and they arrested him. They finally went to the home of his daughter, Zainab Alkhawaja, and found him, arrested him and two others as mentioned above.

    URGENT PLEAS for intervention as all three are under arrest, high risk of torture, and their lives maybe in danger.

    *via @angryarabiya

SUNDAY, April 3

  • Member of Alkhalifa royal family, @MohdSAlkhalifa, who threatened Bahraini blogger, @emoodz, with violence and arrest on Twitter now threatens arrest for #FreeEmoodz supporters.

    Blogger has now been under arrest. #FreeEmoodz hash tag formed.

    Yesterday we reported that the member of the Alkhalifa royal family had previously told Bahraini blogger, @emoodz: "Look you AlMasqati, I know you well and I know where you live. If you dont stop what you are doing, I swear by God I will have your family searching for you. Those who give warning are excused." The second reads tells him there is a warrant for his arrest. (Source of Translation: Bahrain Center for Human Rights, also scroll down for images)

  • Image



  • The only independent newspaper in Bahrain, AlWasat newspaper has been suspended for allegedly "publishing unethical and unprofessional reports" (Source: Bahrain News Agency)

  • At least 27, among them one child and one women, have died since the beginning of protests February 14.

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights reports that Bahrain's ministry of interior announced on the "death of Mr Hassan Jassim Mohammed Makki, aged 39, on April 3 in a detention centre where he has been kept since his arrest on 28 March as a suspect of being involved in the recent unrest. The General Inspector of the Ministry, Ibrahim Habib A-Ghaith, claimed that the cause of death is a hereditary blood disease suffered by detainee." (Source: @MohdSAlkhalifa threatens @emoodz the Bahraini blogger with violence and arrest on Twitter.

    Mohammed AlMasqati, @emoodz, was threatened by a member of the royal family on Twitter, @MohdSAlkhalifa. Now @emoodz has been arrested.

    The first picture of the threat (in Arabic) reads: "Look you AlMasqati, I know you well and I know where you live. If you dont stop what you are doing, I swear by God I will have your family searching for you. Those who give warning are excused." The second reads tells him there is a warrant for his arrest. (Source of Translation: Bahrain Center for Human Rights)

  • Image


    This same royal family member, Mohammed S. AlKhalifa, has been attacking several people on the internet threatening to arrest them/go after them.


  • Saudi officials say US traded silence in Bahrain for Saudi backing in Libya

    "Saudi officials say they gave their backing to Western air strikes on Libya in exchange for the United States muting its criticism of the authorities in Bahrain, a close ally of the desert kingdom." (Source: Telegraph)

  • BCHR Lists of Arrested, Targeted, and Killed

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights reports that more than 370 people have been detained or are missing since the state's euphemistic "national safety" campaign." (Source: Bahrain Centre for Human Rights)

    All detainees are at great risk for all types of physical, psychological and sexual torture. Among them, Ayat AlQurmezi, a 20 year old poet was arrested because she read a poem about the AlKhalifa family. She has now been admitted to the Bahrain Defense Force hospital.

    All detainees are being held incommunicado with no access to lawyers, which is typically when torture happens. Two of the arrested women are pregnant.

    Among those arrested are teachers, doctors, poets, artists, photographers and activists, dissidents and human rights activists and members of political societies.

    Many of the detainees or missing persons were arrested from SMC hospital after being injured with police shots and before the completion of their treatment.

    The place of detention of the vast majority of detainees is unknown.

    Youngest missing child is no older than 12years of age (Ahmed Ali Thamer Abbas Yahya).

    (Source: Bahrain Centre for Human Rights)

    One detainee who was released approximately one month ago gives the following testimony of how he was tortured:

    They arrested me and took me, I didn't know who they were.

    Then they asked me do you know where you are? And I said no.

    They responded "You are in the National Security Apparatus. Do you know what the National Security Apparatus is?" I said, "Yes."

    They said, "You've been arrested before by the National Security Apparatus. Before it was just the cutting of ears, now we cut heads." This was their introduction.

    I was surrounded by security forces, and the lieutenant ordered one of the men to bring two buckets. I had no idea what was going on. He also ordered them to strip me of my clothes. I refused so they came by force and cut my pants. I was stripped naked of all my clothes.

    They then brought the two buckets, I did not know what was in them as I was blindfolded. My feet were tied and my hands were handcuffed behind my back. They lifted me up and put me in the bucket. One of them said "I want to see you make waves." I said, "Why? I will not. Why should I? " I heard the sound of something which sounded like electric current, and he said, "Do it or you will get a taste of this". So I obeyed.

    I was doing this for a few minutes, and there was an air conditioner that was turned on to the fullest directed straight at me at close proximity. They then threw the other bucket on me which had water and ice in it. I was shaking from the cold and they were making fun of me.

    They then started with the use of electricity in the genital area and other sensitive areas. Behind the ear, in the mouth, the backside, the fingertips, everywhere sensitive, the umbilicus. They used it on every place they thought would have the most effect. I was screaming, and one of them told me, "No one here can help you."

    My screaming got louder so they put the electricity into my mouth and I lost consciousness. They revived me through beating me with hoses and the electricity. They told me "We want you to die a slow death. We do not want a confession from you, we want you to die. We will kill you in a way that you will be begging for death."

    This was the beginning of my arrest.

  • BCHR lists of arrested, targeted, and killed.

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights has published a list of detained and missing persons available here: XLS Download of a renewable list of detainees and missing persons in Bahrain from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights

    SCROLL DOWN. See bottom of entry for other lists complied by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights including:

    • List of Detainees since February 14 in Bahrain (20110331)
    • List of Medical Workers and Injured Protesters Disappeared or Detained in Bahrain (20110330)
    • List of Recently Killed in Bahrain (20110330)
    • List of Targeted for Arrest in Bahrain (20110330)
    • List of Female Detainees (20110330)
  • Saudi army destroying a Shai religious banner

See March 1 through 21, March 22 through 31, and February for previous WL Central coverage.

BCHR and BYSHR: List of Detainees since February 14 in Bahrain (20110331) PDF189.02 KB
BCHR and BYSHR: List of Medical Workers and Injured Protesters Disappeared or Detained in Bahrain (20110330) PDF88.69 KB
BCHR and BYSHR: List of Recently Killed in Bahrain (20110330) PDF114.33 KB
BCHR and BYSHR: List of Targeted for Arrest in Bahrain (20110330) PDF61.86 KB
BCHR and BYSHR: List of Female Detainees (20110330) PDF55.33 KB

2011-04-28 Juvenile Detainee Was Said to Be 'Easily Influenced' By Men at Guantanamo & Therefore a Risk

Image“We are getting into classified and unclassified. All this is just about me proving what I did. If I did the things I did, I would admit that I did. Things I didn’t do, I will say clearly I didn’t do them. But if the Tribunal is saying there are more classified things, classified information – they have to prove that – I am not asking to see the witnesses, if you have any. I need just their names to prove that your documents are true. I think this is not justice; it is not right. It hasn’t been witnessed in the whole human history. If you base your judgments or the accusations against me on classified information, then there is no need to continue. Let’s just stop it right here.” – Faris Muslim al-Ansari, Guantanamo Detainee (ISN #253) at his Combatant Status Review Tribunal in September 2004

Seventeen years old when captured in December 2001, Fais Muslim Al Ansari (ISN:253) went before a tribunal and had his status as an enemy combatant reviewed. In his testimony, it is apparent al-Ansari, who at the time was twenty years old, understood the injustice of the system he was being subjected to at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. This understanding likely led him to participate in a hunger strike with over one hundred other detainees, many of which would be force fed as they attempted to protest detention conditions and their inability to adequately dispute their continued detention.

The newly released Guantanamo Files, which were recently published by WikiLeaks, reveal details on al-Ansari, especially how he challenged the guard force and staff at the military prison. The published the height and weight records of all but ten of the captives being held at Guantanamo on March 16, 2007. Al-Ansari was one of the men whose height and weight record was not published.

Whatever the report claims he confessed to doing during his detention was likely the result of torture, abuse or fear. It does not appear in the report that JTF-GTMO was all that confident he had any reason to be considered a risk. His intelligence assessment says the single-source reporting by YM-252 of his training and fighting in Afghanistan “has not been corroborated.” Al-Ansari has no information on the Taliban or Al-Qaida to share and thus JTF-GTMO’s best conclusion to justify his continued detention is he “never served in any role of significance for Taliban or Al-Qaida” and is just an “average mujahid.”

Al-Ansari has since been released but not because a review board or tribunal recommended his release. There is little information on what has happened since his release. The New York Times notes he was released to Saudi Arabia.

It should not be forgotten that al-Ansari was a juvenile when he was captured and detained. However, most likely, al-Ansari never was treated like one because the US military only considers those under the age of 16 to be “juveniles.” This contradicts Article 1 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which defines a child as "every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier," and he will probably never be compensated for being robbed of his years as an adolescent.

Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson explained in April 2003 when confronted with the issue of juvenile detainees, “They are in a secure environment free from the influences of older detainees” and “are receiving specialist mental health care, in recognition of the difficult circumstances that child combatants go through, and some basic education in terms of reading and writing." But, the children would not be allowed access to lawyers because the US continued to consider them “enemy combatants.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross addressed this effort to give children at Guantanamo special attention in its first assessment of juvenile detainees on August 25, 2003:

The US authorities have made efforts to provide special measures for some of the juveniles, including housing them separately from the adult population and providing specialist counseling. Nonetheless, the ICRC does not consider Guantanamo an appropriate place to detain juveniles. It is especially concerned about the fact that they are held away from their families and worries about the possible psychological impact this experience could have at such an important stage in their development.

The impact to the juveniles’ psychological development appears to have the most impact on their parents. Upon their return, parents have found them to be impatient. According to the Manchester Guardian Weekly, father of “Asudullah” complained that his son now refuses to listen to elders and are “disobedient.” They long for the amenities of the prison (that which is provided to alleviate some of the guilt those in the military have for capturing the children in the first place). They ironically miss detention, which is an understated reason why ICRC and other human rights groups have so adamantly opposed their detention.

Abdul Qudus, an Afghan national, was seventeen when Afghan military forces near Gereshk arrested him after he and a friend approached the forces and asked for a weapon to kill Americans. He was turned over to the US and transported to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on February 7, 2003, because of his “association with a local leader, Mulla Maulaw Abdul, teachings encourag[ing] students to attack Americans.”

Qudus continued to be detained because “he told the Afghan military forces that if they gave him a weapon, he would shoot Americans, and readily admitted this throughout his detention.” However, it’s important to note that this statement cannot be considered without considering the circumstances, which led to him making this confession.

What led to Qudus making this statement? Was he tortured? Was he put in a stress position? Was he threatened by interrogators? Was he told he would be transported to a worse prison if he didn’t give interrogators certain information? If he didn’t confess?

JTF-GTMO also concludes in their assessment that he is “easily influenced” and the men he has been around while being detained make it possible he would be “vulnerable to recruitment for terrorist or supportive groups.” This claim could easily have been baseless and a smokescreen to justify keeping Qudus detained. Also, JTF-GTMO is essentially suggesting, in January 2004, that they are possibly responsible for radicalizing this teenager and, because he has been held among terror suspects, he may not have been dangerous before but now that he has been here it is unquestionably certain that he could potentially engage in terrorism against America.

Most interesting is the “Coordination” section of the assessment:

JTF Guantanamo notified the Criminal Investigative Task Force of this recommendation on 24 October 2003. As of 12 November 2003, CITF stated they require more investigation to make a threat assessment. Until further law enforcement investigation is conducted by CITF and an assessment is made, JTF GTMO and CITF cannot agree on the risk of this particular detainee.

This is clear evidence of the internal war that has gone on behind closed doors especially with detainees like Qudus, who are juveniles and should probably not be in Guantanamo.

As detailed by The Guardian, “time and time again” the CITF was at odds with JTF-GTMO and “deferred” to JTF-GTMO that “in the context of Guantanamo reflected a “profound difference in interrogation techniques and conclusions.”

CITF, whose members are drawn from the army, navy and air force, is part of the defence department and is based at Fort Belvoir, near Washington. Its approach to interrogation was to try to befriend prisoners, chat to them over tea, win their confidence and build up information gradually. Some members of the team eventually went public, in television interviews and Senate hearings, saying that harsh interrogation techniques made cases unprosecutable and were counterproductive in any case, pushing detainees into cocoons of silence.

By contrast, JTF GTMO is made up of troops from a traditional military background. They saw their mission as primarily intelligence-gathering rather than constructing a legal case. Again, in the case of Oshan, the commander's report emphasises he was transferred to Guantánamo in hopes of providing intelligence. "Detainee may provide information on the refugee camp outside Spin Buldok, AF(Afghanistan), and Islamic presence in the Philippines," the report says.

Over and over again the stress in the reports is on intelligence-gathering.

Some of the troops transferred to JTF Guantánamo had no background in interrogation. Among the first were a group from Fort Huachuca, Arizona. They had had six weeks of training in how to withstand torture – very different from conducting interrogations.

The military used harsh techniques abhorred by the CITF and the CIA went even further. It was responsible for one of the most notorious cases at Guantánamo, the waterboarding of the self-confessed al-Qaida leader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The CIA had relative independence. It ran a secret camp, Camp Seven, whose existence only became public late on, in 2008.

Also operating on the island was the FBI, which approached interrogations in much the same way as the CITF and opposed waterboarding and similar methods. Jane Mayer, in her book The Dark Side, records one interrogation in which the FBI claimed to have been getting "phenomenal" information, only to be pushed out by a CIA team. The FBI, fearful of being implicated in something potentially illegal, fled the scene.

Qudus, born in 1988, is likely the youngest detainee to be held at Guantanamo. He is one of thirty-eight detainees the Bush Administration managed to admit did not meet the definition of “enemy combatant” during the Combatant Status Review Tribunals. And, that’s refreshing when viewing this exchange that occurred during his review before the Tribunal:

Personal Representative: 3.2. (The detainee is associated with individuals willing to participate in attacks against Americans.)

Detainee [Qudus]: Who are these people that I was associated with? Why don’t you tell me their names? I don’t know these people.

Tribunal President: We don’t have that information either. This is all we know. We do not know the names.

Detainee: You should have gotten complete information before you brought everybody here as detainees. This is not correct. Somebody must have some kind of animosity against me.

The US should have but under the “war on terror” it did not think it had to follow basic tenets of domestic and international law. The US claimed detainees were under the authority of the military and could be denied prisoner of war status, access to the courts and to attorneys, and contact with their families. The US decided the Geneva Conventions could not be applied to their detention. A system was created that wholly subverted the law and continues to subvert the law.

At this point, 764 of 779 “files” have been released by WikiLeaks.

Check back for more coverage on juvenile detainees that have been held at Guantanamo.

2011-04-28 Putin to bulgarian PM: Bulgarians "risk being cold" this winter if they don't advance russian energy projects


A set of cables about Bulgarian energy business, published by the Wikileaks media partner, discloses a realm of "energy mafia", murky intermediaries, connected with organized crime, and Russian financial interests.

The cables reveal how Russia was blackmailing Bulgarians to advance the construction of new pipelines for Russian gas and oil, and of a new nuclear power plant in Belene (the only Russian project of this type in EU).

Describing his September 1, 2009, meeting with Putin in Gdansk, Borissov said Putin implied (in an off-the-record remark) that Bulgarians "risk being cold" during the upcoming winter if Borissov did not move forward with the projects.

Bulgaria is 100% dependent from Russian gas and nuclear fuel and was the most affected country during the gas supply cuts in 2009.

Translation of the full analysis by will follow shortly.

2011-04-28 Telegraph tries all Guantanamo detainees, #ThatWasFast

The Telegraph has released a new searchable database where you can sort through all Guantanamo detainees by nationality, current situation (released or still in Guantanamo) and at last, "Type of Detainee" which will tell you if they are Extremist, Innocent or Terrorist. If only the US Department of Defense had used this database years ago.

While most will be pleased to know that no 'Terrorists' have been released, there are 15 of them apparently in Guantanamo, all awaiting trials which are apparently no longer necessary. Abdul Qadir Yousef Hussein is declared innocent but still in Guantanamo. All of the other innocent detainees have, in the Telegraph's judgment, been released.

2011-04-29 Canada's democratic revolution #cdnpoli #elxn41

ImageCanada has a federal election on May 2. While there is nothing new in that, there have been four called in the last seven years, this is already easily the most interesting one of the four. It started when MPs voted 156-145 to find the government in contempt of Parliament, a first in the history of the Commonwealth. They brought down the government on March 25 to force another election, something Prime Minister Harper called "a dangerous and unnecessary exercise." Harper's Conservative Party of Canada, a coalition between Canada's old right leaning conservative party and the newer and much farther right leaning Reform Party, has been governing with a precarious minority since 2006. Harper prorogued Parliament for three months in 2008 to avoid a vote of confidence, and once in 2010 to cripple the Afghan detainee investigation, and the government was still brought down twice.

Michael Ignatieff, the leader of Canada's Liberal party, frequently referred to as "the natural ruling party of Canada" due to their time spent in power, said "There are only two alternatives here. More of this disrespect for democracy, more of this contempt for the Canadian people, or a compassionate, responsible Liberal government." That seemed a reasonable statement, considering that some form of the Liberal or Conservative parties (and once a coalition of the two) have governed Canada since confederation. So reasonable that he used it to rebut his opponents in the leadership debate; "But Jack, at least we get into government," he replied, although no one really was expecting anything other than another Harper minority or perhaps a Harper majority. (Harper renamed the government of Canada "the Harper Government.")

The best situation the people who hate Harper could envision was another minority government which would then be brought down again, but hopefully this time the opposition would form a coalition. People have turned to creative ideas for the Anyone But Harper campaign, including vote swapping and a huge amount of grass roots campaigning on social media and other venues. The Canadian and international media alike have decreed that voting for a party other than the big two was downright irresponsible as it would 'split the vote' and give Harper a majority. Harper is campaigning, not to be elected, but for a majority, and his attacks are directed primarily against a coalition.

The problem is, Canada is a traditionally liberal leaning country with a centre conservative element and neither of those options are currently available, despite the familiar party names. The Conservatives have been pulled much farther right than Canadians are accustomed to by the merger with the Reform party and the election of Harper as leader. The Liberals are currently led by a former Harvard professor who wrote in an op-ed in New York Times magazine on May 2, 2004:

"To defeat evil, we may have to traffic in evils: indefinite detention of suspects, coercive interrogations, targeted assassinations, even pre-emptive war. These are evils because each strays from national and international law and because they kill people or deprive them of freedom without due process. They can be justified only because they prevent the greater evil."

In Canada, Liberals do not usually advocate pre-emptive wars and torture. He has not been seen as an effective opposition, he has supported many controversial Conservative policies, including Canadian involvement in Afghanistan. He has never been able to attract enough support to have a realistic chance of being elected, and the anti-Harper dreams have been focused on a coalition government. Some thoughts on possible election results from Murray Dobbin:

A number of constitutional experts are already mulling over the possibility of what some refer to as a kind “informal constitutional coup” - Harper refusing to accept the results of a non-confidence vote. According to a Hill Times story quoting University of Ottawa constitutional law expert Errol Mendes, ignoring such a vote “…would amount to a sort of informal constitutional coup. Essentially that position he’s taking is he’s not the Prime Minister shackled by the will of the people, he’s the elected president of Canada.”

Queen’s University professor Ned Franks, stated: “If it’s early in the new Parliament, if it’s a defeat on a vote of confidence, the Governor General is entitled to inquire whether there is another person who would enjoy the confidence of the House.”

But Harper could delay the opening of Parliament, funding the government with special warrants through Order in Council and the Governor General. Running the government in this manner for six or eight months would provide Harper with the argument that the opposition parties were simply conspiring to defeat a government that had been functioning effectively for many months. And he then refuses to go.

But Canada actually has 18 parties registered in the current federal election, and four currently in the House of Commons. It has frequently been difficult to convince the governing parties and state media of this. In the last election, Green party candidate Elizabeth May was only included in the televised leaders debates after a public outcry, and this year the media consortium that decides such things excluded her successfully. With the last election, the Greens had lost their one seat in the House. Polls also unfairly exclude the minor parties from their questions, affecting voter response. The politically entwined media also do their bit to promote the two parties with ties to all things corporate in Canada.

But people do not seem to be listening. An 'endorsement' of Harper by the Globe and Mail has received so far 4,388 comments, primarily hostile. A week ago, it became apparent that something was happening with the perennial also-ran New Democratic Party which received 18.18% of the vote in the last election and currently holds 36 seats of 308 in the House of Commons. First pulling support from former Bloc Québécois supporters in Quebec, then climbing rapidly in British Columbia, the fifty year old party suddenly rocketed into second place, ahead of the Liberals.

In one day, between April 26 and 27, as the Conservatives dropped nearly six points in the polls from 46.9 per cent, the NDP support rose five points from 21 per cent.

Allan Gregg, chair of Harris-Decima polling firm said “This is unprecedented. In all the years I’ve been following federal elections, and I think this is my 11th, I have never seen anything like this. First, I’ve never seen a third party surge in the polls. And I’ve also never seen a party surge this much. Jack Layton and the New Democrats have doubled their popular vote since this election started ... and it’s not over yet.”

Both the Liberal and Bloc parties have coaxed former leaders out of retirement in an attempt to recapture public interest. Wikileaks has done their part by releasing 1800 new cables to help voters make an informed decision. And crowds in Canada are ignoring all the mainstream media as they choose parties they believe in instead of the two they were told were the only choice.

Picture credit to CBC National reporter Rosemary Barton "Uh. Yeah. This is an NDP rally in Saskatoon."


Green rally via @CamilleLabchuk


Voter turnout had been plummeting in the last elections, with only 58.8% bothering to show up in 2008. After the advance polls this Easter weekend, Susan Friend, a spokeswoman for Elections Canada, said “This is the biggest voter turnout at an advance poll ever.” There are vote mobs being organized across the country, particularly at universities. Whatever happens on May 2, one thing has already happened in Canadian politics; the effective two party system is gone.

2011-04-29 Canadians plot to bring down a government they haven't voted for yet #Elxn41 #wlcan #Cdnpoli

ImageAs pollsters and pundits all agree that none can guess what the votes, much less the seats will look like after the May 2 election, almost all of the possibilities are anything but straightforward. A Conservative majority would be straightforward, and may happen. Ontario controls 106 of Canada's 308 seats and is subject to a three way vote split in many ridings. The latest EKOS seat projection states it is conceivable that the Conservatives could back into a majority with just slightly more than one-third of the overall votes. This would see the Conservatives in power until they call another election.

Other than that, here are the options likely now:

1. The Conservatives win a minority government. This we have seen for five years. The Conservatives will then be open to another non confidence vote, which may bring their government down for a third time. They were not able to pass their budget in March so would probably have to bring it before the House soon. Or not. One idea from Murray Dobbin:

A number of constitutional experts are already mulling over the possibility of what some refer to as a kind “informal constitutional coup” - Harper refusing to accept the results of a non-confidence vote. According to a Hill Times story quoting University of Ottawa constitutional law expert Errol Mendes, ignoring such a vote “…would amount to a sort of informal constitutional coup. Essentially that position he’s taking is he’s not the Prime Minister shackled by the will of the people, he’s the elected president of Canada.”

Queen’s University professor Ned Franks, stated: “If it’s early in the new Parliament, if it’s a defeat on a vote of confidence, the Governor General is entitled to inquire whether there is another person who would enjoy the confidence of the House.”

But Harper could delay the opening of Parliament, funding the government with special warrants through Order in Council and the Governor General. Running the government in this manner for six or eight months would provide Harper with the argument that the opposition parties were simply conspiring to defeat a government that had been functioning effectively for many months. And he then refuses to go.

2. A party that is not the conservatives wins a minority government. Usually, this means that party will govern. But the Conservatives still have the option (and there is a good chance it would be exercised) of facing the House in a post election confidence vote instead of leaving quietly.

The outcome of any minority scenario is going to depend on the third place party, now looking to be the Liberals, who may have made themselves the most powerful party in Canada by dropping to third. Most pundits agree that convincing the Liberals to accept third place, and drop from "Canada's natural ruling party" to support the NDP in a coalition government would be difficult. But within the eroded ranks of the Liberals, there are people who are violently against supporting the NDP and others who are violently against supporting the Conservatives. If the Liberal leader attempts a coalition with either the NDP or the Conservatives, he risks having a large number of MP's cross the floor or risk losing the support of their constituents.

May should be interesting.

2011-04-29 Does Canada treasure its parliamentary democracy? #Elxn41 #wlcan #Cdnpoli

Canada is currently ranked eighth or ninth in the world among organizations which claim to measure the state of democracy. The parliamentary democracy practiced in Canada is something that the citizens of many dictatorships are trying to implement. The current government of Canada has been accused several times of holding lightly the democratic principles Canada is governed by, and last month the current government was actually found in contempt of parliament, the first time this has occurred in the history of the Commonwealth. That same current government is projected to win either a minority or majority government on Monday, prompting constitutional expert Peter Russell to ask below, "Does Canada treasure its parliamentary democracy?"

As the world's fourth oldest parliamentary democracy, Russell would like Canadians to be aware of the basic principles of democracy at stake in this election. He describes parliament as being set up so that the monarch was required to disclose their spending and finds the prospect of electing a prime minister found in contempt of parliament for not revealing his spending to be a far bigger issue than 'partisan bickering'.

2011-04-29 White House Punishing Press for Reporting on Bradley Manning

Reports have emerged over efforts by the Obama administration to chastise the San Francisco Chronicle, and in particular its reporter, Carla Marinucci, for reporting on a protest staged during an Obama fundraiser in support of incarcerated whistleblower, Bradley Manning.

Marinucci was present during the San Francisco fundraiser on April 21st when several Obama supporters stood to address the president with a protest song written specially for such occasions.

Along with other attendees at the event, the SF Chronicle reporter used her video-capable phone to record the event. She later posted the video in her report on the episode.

This action, by staunch supporters of the president, all of whom payed at least the minimum of $5000 to attend the event, was a stark indicator of how the administration's inhumane treatment of Bradley Manning is beginning to alienate the president's base, as he faces into his reelection campaign.

Marinucci's footage was not the only footage that made it online. It was apparently, however, the only footage released by an official news outlet. The SF Chronicle was present at the event as part of the "print pool" - a common arrangement used by the White House when the full press corps is not able to attend. The conditions for this arrangement are that reports on the event remain textual, and that the report is submitted to the White House for redistribution to reporters who were not able to attend.

These conditions are now being used as a pretext to exclude Carla Marinucci from the 'print pool' for further events in the Bay Area. This is a clear demonstration of how authorities exert control over the media through the use of soft power - under the threat of removal of access and privileges when journalists start doing journalism.

Besides encroaching on the freedom of the press to report on matters of high public interest embarrassing to the president, the move would appear to be redundant, since Marinucci was not the only party to the event who recorded footage, nor was she the only person to post that video on the internet.

2011-04-29 WikiLeaks on Canada in time for the election #Elxn41 #wlcan #Cdnpoli

Just in time for the federal election in Canada, Wikileaks has released 2222 cables about the Canadian government. With two days until the election, this is a crowd sourcing job.

Wikileaks has asked people to post their findings on reddit or you can tweet them with the following hashtags (in order of importance): #Elxn41 #wlcan #Cdnpoli

Or you can add them to the comments below.

2011-04-30 Omar Khadr's counsel: "There is nothing about this Canadian government that I trust"


Co-authored by Alexa O'Brien

WL Central's Heather Marsh spoke this week to Dennis Edney, the Canadian defense counsel for Guantanamo inmate Omar Khadr. Following is an excerpt from the interviews.

Click here to listen to the interview excerpt with Dennis Edney.

Photo credit: Colin Perkel / The Canadian Press


Have you read the Wikileaks release ... the Guantanamo file on Omar Khadr?


Do you have any observations on that?

Of course. I do. What is it that I should say about that? Well, the one thing that is striking is how unreliable the evidence is to keep people in Guantanamo Bay. So much of the evidence relied upon and detaining people in Guantanamo Bay is second-hand hearsay, unreliable, and not the kind of evidence that would stand up in any court of law, proper court of law.

What a lot of people got ... or a lot of the media got out of Omar Khadr's report is that he was being treated not so much as a criminal, but as an intelligence asset because of his family.

Which is quite ... Absolutely. And what does it suggest? What intelligence does a fifteen year old boy have? What it was is that he was being held there because of his father. So, that's what they were looking for ... information about his father ... and so, his son has been left to rot in Guantanamo Bay because the Americans want to know about the father.

Before his sentencing last fall the US and Canada exchanged diplomatic notes, where the US asked if Canada would consider favorably his application to be transferred to Canada, and Canada said they were inclined to favorably consider it. And then the Foreign Affairs Minister stood up in the House of Commons and said that their government would implement it. What do you think is the significance of that, and how confident are you that they will actually come through with that, and he will be coming home in the fall. We have had a few extradition cases that haven't turned out so well ...

Well, there is nothing about this Canadian government that I trust. In every single case that we have won, and in fact we have won every case that we have set about, the Canadian government seems to be interested, not in justice, but in wearing us out so that we will tire of fighting. What they do is that they appeal each and every decision. So there is not good intention on behalf of the Canadian government when it comes to Omar Khadr. I don't know why that is, unless it's just sheer bigotry.

Because the approach by the American government and the Canadian government towards Brenda Martin, who was convicted of fraud in Mexico and then we sent a private plane to bring her back, and we lobbied on her behalf, and yet we won't do that for a young boy who has all types of international protection available to him, including being treated as a child soldier. So, no I don't have any trust in the Canadian government. But, their own answer said that they would bring him back. We entered into a plea agreement based upon that, their commitment, and if they don't carry through then I guess we will have no choice but to go ahead and fight them in court as we have been doing for the last eight years. Not something I look forward to.

I missed your last statement. Sorry.

I said it is not something that I look forward to. And, you know, I am sort of exhausted fighting the Canadian government, but I have no choice.

Omar Khadr was captured when he was fifteen years old, with two bullet wounds that went completely through his chest and shrapnel in his eyes. He was initially held in Bagram, where he was first 'interrogated' by convicted killer Joshua Claus, and then transferred to Guantanamo Bay, where he has been held for the last eight years. He was accused by the US government of killing a special forces soldier (described in the trial as a 'medic', referred to in the Guantanamo files and everywhere else as a Special Forces soldier), despite a great deal of evidence that he could not possibly have done it. He was 'tried' in front of a US military tribunal last fall, for the non-existent crime “murder in violation of the law of war.” The trial was widely referred to as a show trial, both because Khadr had already been offered a plea deal, and because of the amount of irregularities apparent throughout the proceedings. He is the first child to be tried for a war crime since world war two.

Dennis Edney, who worked during the trial on a team headed by US military defense, has represented Omar Khadr for the last eight years, against the Canadian government. WL Central described some of the proceedings earlier:

The Canadian government has fought against providing Omar's defense with the documentation regarding his case, resulting in a 2008 Supreme Court of Canada unanimous decision that the government had acted illegally, contravening §. 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and an order that the videotapes of the interrogation be released. In April 2009, the Federal Court of Canada ruled once again that Khadr's rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms had been violated. It concluded that Canada had a "duty to protect" Khadr and ordered the Canadian government to request that the U.S. return him to Canada as soon as possible. In August 2009, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the decision in a 2–1 ruling. In January 2010, in a unanimous 9–0 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the participation of Canadian officials in Khadr's interrogations at Guantanamo clearly violated his rights under the Charter but stopped short of ordering the government to seek Khadr's return to Canada, leaving it to the government to determine how it would balance foreign policy and uphold Khadr's constitutional rights.

Previous WL Central coverage of Omar Khadr here.

Interview with Dennis Edney.m4a5.64 MB

2011-04-30 White House now denies blacklisting reporter

The White House is denying, contrary to reports, that it was seeking to blacklist the San Francisco Chronicle reporter, Carla Marinucci.

WL Central reported yesterday how the White House was seeking to punish the San Francisco news organization for reporting on a protest against the inhumane pretrial incarceration of alleged military whistleblower Bradley Manning, during a fundraiser for President Obama on the 21st of April.

It had been reported that the journalist Carla Marinucci's use of video from the event was being viewed as a transgression against the regulations covering "print-pool" invitations to White House events, and that this was to be used as the pretext for her exclusion from future events.

Now, the White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has issued a statement denying that any such punishments were being issued to the press for reporting on an issue of legitimate public interest:

The San Francisco Chronicle violated the coverage rules that they -– and every other media outlet –- agreed to as part of joining the press pool for that event. If they thought the rules were too restrictive they should have raised that at the beginning. However, no reporters have been banned from covering future presidential events and the White House of course would have no problem including any reporter who follows the rules in pool-only events.

This puts the White House's version of events in direct conflict with that of the San Francisco Chronicle, which reported yesterday in three separate articles on the issue.

Furthermore, in an email to Michael Calderone published in part at the Huffington Post, SF Chronicle editor Ward Bushee suggests that Carney's public statement is misleading at best. According to Bushee, the blacklist of Carla Marinucci was initially a certainty, but the White House also attempted to suppress even this story, by threatening further retaliation and revocation of access should the Chronicle report on the ban.

Sadly, we expected the White House to respond in this manner based on our experiences yesterday. It is not a truthful response. It follows a day of off-the-record exchanges required by key people in the White House communications office who told us it would remove our reporter, then threatened retaliation to Chronicle and Hearst reporters if we reported on the ban, and then recanted to say our reporter might not be removed after all.

If the San Francisco newspaper is to be trusted, it therefore transpires that not only has the White House sought to reward a diligent press by blacklisting reporters, and not only has it furthermore attempted to prevent news of this ever reaching the public by threatening a newspaper, but it is now issuing a public statement with the express intent of rewriting history.