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Archive for December 10th, 2007

9/11 : Man Held by C.I.A. Says He Was Tortured

Posted by musliminsuffer on December 10, 2007

In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful

=== News Update ===

9/11 : Man Held by C.I.A. Says He Was Tortured


Published: December 9, 2007

WASHINGTON, Dec. 8 — The first of the so-called high-value Guantánamo detainees to have seen a lawyer claims he was subjected to “state-sanctioned torture” while in secret C.I.A. prisons, and he has asked for a court order barring the government from destroying evidence of his treatment.

The request, in a filing by his lawyers, was made on Nov. 29, before officials from the Central Intelligence Agency acknowledged that the agency had destroyed videotapes of interrogations of two operatives of Al Qaeda that current and former officials said included the use of harsh techniques.

Lawyers for the detainee, Majid Khan, a former Baltimore resident, released documents in his case on Friday. They claim he “was subjected to an aggressive C.I.A. detention and interrogation program notable for its elaborate planning and ruthless application of torture” to numerous detainees.

The documents also suggest that Mr. Khan, 27, and other high-value detainees are now being held in a previously undisclosed area of the Guantánamo prison in Cuba he called Camp 7.

Those detainees include 14 men, some suspected of being former Qaeda officials, who President Bush acknowledged were held in a secret C.I.A. program. They were transferred to military custody at Guantánamo last year.

Asked about Mr. Khan’s assertions, Mark Mansfield, a C.I.A. spokesman, said, “the United States does not conduct or condone torture.” He said a small number of “hardened terrorists” had required what he called “special methods of questioning” in what he called a lawful and carefully run program.

The documents were heavily redacted by government security officials, and none of Mr. Khan’s specific assertions of torture could be read. One entire page was blacked out.

In addition to the court filing, Mr. Khan’s lawyers at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York released recently declassified notes of their first meetings with Mr. Khan, in October. The notes asserted that he had symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder because of his treatment, including memory problems and “frantic expression.” They said he was “painfully thin and pale.”

A Pentagon spokesman, Cmdr. Jeffrey D. Gordon, declined to respond to the assertions about Mr. Khan’s condition, saying that most detainees at Guantánamo gain weight.

Pentagon officials have said they believe that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, selected Mr. Khan, who grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore, to study the feasibility of blowing up gasoline stations and poisoning reservoirs in the United States. But he has not been charged with any offenses.

His lawyers said Mr. Khan, while living in Pakistan, was “forcibly disappeared” and that he had “admitted anything his interrogators demanded of him, regardless of the truth.”

Lawyers who represent Guantánamo detainees agree to stringent restrictions that bar them from disclosing information from their clients until it is cleared by government security officials.

The notes that were declassified from Mr. Khan’s lawyers, Gitanjali S. Gutierrez and J. Wells Dixon, say he “lives in Camp 7” and imply that he has contact with at least one other high-value detainee, Abu Zubaydah.

Officials at Guantánamo have not discussed the existence of a Camp 7. They often say publicly that the most recent center constructed there is Camp 6, a modern maximum-security building.

Commander Gordon, citing security concerns, declined to comment on the indication that there may be a secret detention unit, and added that “we do not disclose the exact location of detainees within Guantánamo.”

The request for an order barring the government from destroying any evidence of torture was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which is considering a challenge by Mr. Khan to his detention.

Mr. Khan’s lawyers claim that “there is a substantial risk that the torture evidence will disappear.” They did not specify what evidence they believe may exist.

An intelligence official speaking on the condition of anonymity said the C.I.A.’s interrogations of Mr. Khan were not videotaped.

Mr. Dixon, one of Mr. Khan’s lawyers, said Saturday that the admission that officials had destroyed videotapes of interrogations showed why such an order was needed.

“They are no longer entitled to a presumption that the government has acted lawfully or in good faith,” Mr. Dixon said.

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‘Well-Informed’ Source Tells CBS That Tapes Were Destroyed To Prevent Prosecution

Posted by musliminsuffer on December 10, 2007

In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful

=== News Update ===

‘Well-Informed’ Source Tells CBS That Tapes Were Destroyed To Prevent Prosecution

Last night on the CBS Evening News, national security correspondent David Martin reported that a “well-informed source” informed the network that the CIA destroyed the interrogation videos to “avoid criminal prosecution.”

On Thursday, in a memo to CIA employees, Director Michael Hayden claimed that the videotapes were destroyed because they “posed a serious security risk“:

Beyond their lack of intelligence value — as the interrogation sessions had already been exhaustively detailed in written channels — and the absence of any legal or internal reason to keep them, the tapes posed a serious security risk. Were they ever to leak, they would permit identification of your CIA colleagues who had served in the program, exposing them and their families to retaliation from al-Qa’ida and its sympathizers.

CBS’s Martin reported, however, that a high-level anonymous source says that’s not true:

A well-informed source tells CBS News the videotapes of the interrogation of two high-level al Qaeda operatives were destroyed to protect CIA officers from criminal prosecution.

Watch it: a Video

On Friday, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) scoffed at Hayden’s rationale for destroying the tapes, calling it a “pathetic excuse.” “You’d have to burn every document at the CIA that has the identity of an agent on it under that theory,” Levin said.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), however, said he would not side with calls for an investigation because he believed the CIA’s actions were legal. “That doesn’t mean I like it,” McCain added.

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Some in Congress knew of CIA methods

Posted by musliminsuffer on December 10, 2007

In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful

=== News Update ===

Some in Congress knew of CIA methods

By Warrick and Dan Eggen

The Washington Post

Sunday, December 9, 2007 – Page updated at 01:29 AM

WASHINGTON — In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included future-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was given a virtual tour of the CIA’s overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.

“The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough,” said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange.

Congressional leaders from both parties would later seize on waterboarding — a form of simulated drowning that is the most extreme and widely condemned interrogation technique — as a symbol of the worst excesses of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism effort.

The CIA last week admitted that its videotape of an interrogation of one of the waterboarded detainees and tapes of the harsh interrogations of others were destroyed in 2005 against the advice of Justice Department and White House officials, provoking allegations that its actions were illegal and the destruction was a cover-up.

Saturday, the Justice Department and the CIA said they had started a preliminary inquiry into the tapes’ destruction.

Long before “waterboarding” entered the public discourse, the CIA gave key legislative overseers about 30 private briefings, some of which included descriptions of that technique and other harsh interrogation methods, according to multiple U.S. officials with firsthand knowledge.

With one known exception, no formal objections were raised by the lawmakers briefed about the harsh methods during the two years in which waterboarding was employed, from 2002 to 2003, said Democrats and Republicans with direct knowledge of the matter.

The lawmakers who held oversight roles during the period included Pelosi and fellow Democrats Rep. Jane Harman, of California, and Sens. Bob Graham, of Florida, and Jay Rockefeller, of West Virginia, and Republicans Rep. Porter Goss, of Florida, and Sen. Pat Roberts, of Kansas. Individual lawmakers’ recollections of the early briefings varied dramatically, but officials present during the meetings described the reaction as mostly quiet acquiescence, if not outright support.

“Among those being briefed, there was a pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing,” said Goss, who chaired the House intelligence committee from 1997 to 2004 and served as CIA director from 2004 to 2006. “And the reaction in the room was not just approval but encouragement.”

Congressional officials said the groups’ ability to challenge the practices was hampered by strict rules of secrecy that prohibited them from being able to take notes or consult legal experts or members of their own staffs. And while various officials have described the briefings as detailed and graphic, it is unclear what members were told about waterboarding and how it is conducted.

“In fairness, the environment was different then because we were closer to Sept. 11 and people were still in a panic,” said one U.S. official present during the early briefings. “But there was no objecting, no hand-wringing. The attitude was, ‘We don’t care what you do to those guys as long as you get the information you need to protect the American people.’ “

Only after information about the practice began to leak in news accounts in 2005 — by which time the CIA had already abandoned waterboarding — did doubts about its legality among individual lawmakers evolve into more widespread dissent.

U.S. law requires the CIA to inform Congress of covert activities and allows the briefings to be limited in certain highly sensitive cases to a “Gang of Eight,” including the four top congressional leaders of both parties and the four senior intelligence-committee members.

In this case, most briefings about detainee programs were limited to the “Gang of Four,” the top Republicans and Democrats on the two committees. A few staff members were permitted to attend some briefings.

Despite the secrecy surrounding the “enhanced interrogation” program, information about the use of waterboarding nonetheless began to seep out. In September 2006, the CIA for the first time briefed all members of the House and Senate intelligence committees.

U.S. officials knowledgeable about the CIA’s use of the technique say it was used on three individuals: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks; Abu Zubaydah, a senior al-Qaida member and Osama bin Laden associate captured in Pakistan in March 2002; and a third detainee who has not been publicly identified.

Lawmakers have varied recollections about the topics covered in the briefings.

Graham said he has no memory of being told about waterboarding or other harsh tactics. Graham left the Senate intelligence committee in January 2003 and was replaced by Rockefeller. “Personally, I was unaware of it, so I couldn’t object,” Graham said.

Pelosi declined to comment on her reaction to the classified briefings. But a congressional source familiar with Pelosi’s position said the California lawmaker recalled discussions about enhanced interrogation.

The source said Pelosi recalls that techniques described by the CIA were still in the planning stage — they had been designed and cleared with agency lawyers but not put in practice — and acknowledged Pelosi did not raise objections at the time.

Harman disclosed Friday that she filed a classified letter to the CIA in February 2003 as an official protest about the interrogation program. Harman said she had been prevented from publicly discussing the letter or the CIA’s program because of strict rules of secrecy.

Roberts declined to comment on his participation in the briefings. Rockefeller also declined to talk about the briefings, but his public statements show him leading the push in 2005 for expanded congressional oversight and a probe of CIA interrogation practices.

“I proposed without success, both in committee and on the Senate floor, that the committee undertake an investigation of the CIA’s detention and interrogation activities,” Rockefeller said Friday.

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Congress Wants Probe of Tape Destruction

Posted by musliminsuffer on December 10, 2007

In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful

=== News Update ===

Congress Wants Probe of Tape Destruction

By PAMELA HESS – 1 day ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — Angry congressional Democrats demanded Friday that the Justice Department investigate why the CIA destroyed videotapes of the interrogation of two terrorism suspects.

The Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, called on Attorney General Michael Mukasey to find out “whether CIA officials who destroyed these videotapes and withheld information about their existence from official proceedings violated the law.”

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., accused the CIA of a cover-up. “We haven’t seen anything like this since the 18 1/2-minute gap in the tapes of President Richard Nixon,” he said in a Senate floor speech.

And Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., told reporters the CIA’s explanation that the tapes were destroyed to protect agents’ identities is “a pathetic excuse,” adding: “You’d have to burn every document at the CIA that has the identity of an agent on it under that theory.”

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee sent letters to CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden and Mukasey asking whether the Justice Department gave legal advice to the CIA on the destruction of the tapes, and whether it was planning an obstruction-of-justice investigation.

White House press secretary Dana Perino said Friday that President Bush did not recall being told about the tapes or their destruction. But she could not rule out White House involvement in the decision to destroy the tapes, saying she had only asked the president about it, not others.

Perino refused to say whether the destruction could have been an obstruction of justice or a threat to cases against terrorism suspects. If the attorney general decides to investigate, “of course the White House would support that,” she said.

In a daily press briefing dedicated almost solely to the topic of the CIA tapes, Perino responded 19 times that she didn’t know or couldn’t comment.

At least one White House official, then-White House Counsel Harriet Miers, knew about the CIA’s planned destruction of videotapes in 2005 that documented the interrogation of two al-Qaida operatives, ABC news reported Friday. Three officials told ABC News that Miers urged the CIA not to destroy the tapes. White House officials declined to comment on the report.

The spy agency destroyed the tapes in November 2005, at a time when human rights groups and lawyers for detainees were clamoring for information about the agency’s secret detention and interrogation program, and Congress and U.S. courts were debating where “enhanced interrogation” crossed the line into torture.

Also at that time, the Senate Intelligence Committee was asking whether the videotapes showed CIA interrogators were complying with interrogation guidelines. The CIA refused twice in 2005 to provide the committee with its general counsel’s report on the tapes, according to Committee Chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

Hayden told agency employees Thursday that the recordings were destroyed out of fear the tapes would leak and reveal the identities of interrogators. He said the sessions were videotaped to provide an added layer of legal protection for interrogators using new, harsh methods. President Bush had just authorized those methods as a way to break down the defenses of recalcitrant prisoners.

Destruction of the tapes came in the midst of an intense national debate about how forcefully prisoners could be grilled to get them to talk. Not long after the tapes were destroyed, Congress adopted the Detainee Treatment Act, championed by Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who was tortured while a prisoner of war in Vietnam. The law prohibits not only torture, but cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of all U.S. detainees, including those in CIA custody.

Also in the fall of 2005, the Supreme Court heard a case involving the legal rights of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. It decided in June 2006 that al-Qaida prisoners are protected by the Geneva Conventions’ prohibitions on torture and cruel treatment.

At the time, the CIA also was concerned that its operatives involved in prisoner interrogation might be subject to legal charges over the treatment of detainees. Some agency employees have bought liability insurance as a hedge against that possibility.

The decision to destroy the tapes was made by Jose Rodriguez, then the head of the CIA’s clandestine directorate of operations under CIA Director Porter Goss.

Hayden said congressional intelligence committee members were made aware in February 2003 both of the tapes and the CIA’s ultimate plan to destroy them. That claim was denied by several members of the panels, including Republican Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, who was then chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

The Senate Intelligence Committee did not learn of the tapes’ destruction until November 2006, and Rockefeller said he was not told in 2003 of the plan to destroy them. The House Intelligence Committee learned of the tapes’ destruction in March 2007.

Republicans were mostly mum about the CIA disclosure. McCain, a presidential candidate, said while campaigning in New Hampshire on Friday that he would not side with Democrats’ calls for an investigation because he believed the CIA’s actions were legal.

“That doesn’t mean I like it,” McCain added.

“Of course I object to it,” he said of the tapes being destroyed. “Right now, our intelligence agencies need credibility and this is not helpful to that.”

At least one of the tapes showed the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah, the first high-value detainee taken by the CIA in 2002. Zubaydah, under harsh questioning, told CIA interrogators about alleged 9/11 accomplice Ramzi Binalshibh, Bush said publicly in 2006. The two men’s confessions also led to the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, whom the U.S. government said was the mastermind behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Hayden told agency employees the interrogations were legal, and said the tapes were not relevant to “any internal, legislative, or judicial inquiries.”

Lawyers for U.S. detainees believe otherwise.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, which coordinates the work of all attorneys representing U.S. prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, says the CIA may have destroyed crucial evidence a court said it was entitled to in 2004.

The center said Friday it is now “deeply concerned” the CIA may have destroyed evidence relating to Majid Khan, a former CIA detainee now held at Guantanamo.

Revelations about the tapes also may affect ongoing terrorism trials.

Convicted terrorism conspirator Jose Padilla’s lawyers claimed in a Florida federal court that Zubaydah was tortured into saying Padilla was an al-Qaida associate. The Justice Department dismissed Padilla’s allegations as “meritless,” saying Padilla’s legal team could not prove that Zubaydah had been tortured.

Padilla and his two co-defendants will be sentenced next month. They face life in prison on three terror-related convictions.

Then-U.S. District Judge Mukasey, now attorney general, signed the warrant used by the FBI to arrest Padilla in May 2002. That warrant relied in part on information obtained from Zubaydah, court records show.

In a separate case, attorneys for al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui in 2003 began seeking videotapes of interrogations they believed might help their client. In November 2005 a federal judge ordered the government to disclose whether it had video or audio tapes of specific interrogations. Eleven days later, the government denied it had them.

Gerald Zerkin, one of Moussaoui’s lawyers in the penalty phase of his trial, recalled some of the defense efforts to obtain testimony from video or audio tapes of the interrogations of top al-Qaida detainees. “Obviously the important witnesses included Zubaydah, Binalshibh and KSM (Khalid Sheikh Mohammed)… those are the guys at the head of the witness list,” Zerkin said. He could not recall specifically which tapes he requested or the phrasing of his discovery requests, which he said were probably still classified.

The tapes also were not provided to the 9/11 Commission, which relied heavily on intelligence reports about Zubaydah and Binalshibh’s 2002 interrogations. CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said the agency did not subvert the 9/11 commission’s work.

“Because it was thought the commission could ask about tapes at some point,” he said, “they were not destroyed while the commission was active.”

Associated Press writers Curt Anderson in Miami and Jennifer Loven, Deb Riechmann and Matt Barakat in Washington contributed to this report.

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