Kangaroo Commissions and Torture


Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

The five alleged 9/11 defendants currently being held at Guantanamo Bay where they have been detained since 2006, are currently preparing their defenses for trials that are scheduled for September 2014.  All five defendants have been subjected to what the United States government called enhanced interrogation techniques at CIA black sites even before they got to Gitmo.

“Five men are suspected to have planned the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The accused individuals are suspected 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four coconspirators: Walid bin Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali (Ammar al-Baluchi) and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi. Specifically, they are charged with eight crimes: conspiracy, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, murder in violation of the law of war, destruction of property in violation of the law of war, hijacking or hazarding a vessel or aircraft, and terrorism. They are being tried in front of a military commission at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba, which is where the men have been detained since September 2006.” Truth-Out

While these men may be guilty of the crimes that they are charged with, it is important to review just what our government did to these men in an attempt to obtain actionable intelligence and to “sell” the Iraq war to the United States public and the world.  The torture techniques did not provide any substantial intelligence.

“Not only did torture violate domestic and international law but it also produced faulty intelligence that stymied counterterrorism operations. In addition to Abu Zubaydah and Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed gave false intelligence to interrogators. Mohammed knew Osama bin Laden very well. While in US custody, he was tortured to reveal the location of the al-Qaeda founder and leader. It did not work. The key piece to finding bin Laden’s location in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and his ultimate killing by US Navy SEALs, in cooperation with the CIA, was the identity of his courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. Mohammed knew that courier.

But when Mohammed was tortured, he “repeatedly misled” interrogators about the courier’s identity,” reported Scott Shane and Charlie Savage in The New York Times. Investigative blogger Marcy Wheeler, on May 3, 2011, pointed out that if Mohammed revealed the true identity of the courier, “Bush might have gotten OBL [Osama bin Laden] 8 years ago.” Mohammed also lied about bin Laden’s location, which hindered efforts to find the al-Qaeda founder.” Truth-Out

Now that the government is finally getting around to provide a judicial commission, just how does the fact that these defendants were severely tortured and mistreated during their detention at CIA black sites around the world, impact on the pending military commissions?

At the October pretrial hearings the defense teams argued that the court’s protective gag order does not allow them to fully discuss the allegations against their clients and to discuss the torture that was inflicted on these men by the United States government and/or its agents.

“The defense lawyers argued the protective order’s restrictions undermine US obligations under the Convention Against Torture and effectively “silence” the defendants from speaking out about the torture they experienced. They urged the judge, Army Col. James Pohl, to either drop the death penalty or dismiss the case. Pohl, however, seemed perplexed as to what he could do. Even if the protective order were eliminated, the information in question would still be classified and the lawyers forbidden from disclosing it to outside parties. That’s because the judge does not have the authority to declassify information – that power comes from the executive branch.” Adam Hudson

The judge at the Military Commission pretrial hearing did not rule on the motion concerning the defense team’s requests to allow for the full disclosure of the torture that their clients endured at the governments hands.  However, he did order that the government must turn over all records and correspondence between US authorities and the International Red Cross about the conditions at Guantanamo Bay which may disclose some of the illegal interrogations and mistreatment.

If evidence obtained through torture is not admissible in these Military commissions, how does the government intend on producing enough evidence to convict these defendants?  The answer to that question lies in the so-called Clean Teams sent in to re-interrogate the defendants after the torture was stopped.  The Government claims that any information obtained after the torture was halted is unrelated to the previous years of torture and severe interrogation methods.

“Evidence obtained through torture is not allowed in the military commission. However, coerced evidence is permitted. In late 2006, FBI and military interrogators, known as the “clean team,” interrogated the five suspects to collect “virtually the same information the CIA had obtained” from them during their years in CIA black sites, according to a February 2008 Washington Post report. The goal was to collect statements that were “clean” from torture. “To ensure that the data would not be tainted by allegations of torture or illegal coercion, the FBI and military team won the suspects’ trust during the past 16 months by using time-tested rapport-building techniques,” the Post reported. The government is using these statements as evidence in the 9/11 case.

However, Bormann challenged the “clean team” statements’ validity on “60 Minutes.” “It’s like Alice going down the rabbit hole, right,” Bormann saidd. “You torture them for three years. You keep them in captivity after you stopped torturing them, in a place like Guantanamo Bay. And then you send in agents from the same government that tortured them for three years to take statements. And then, if you’re Gen. Martins, you say, ‘Well those are now clean.’ Guess what? They’re not.” ‘ Adam Hudson

It is interesting that the prosecution believes that the Clean Team approach can absolve the government’s significant and long-term abuse of these defendants.  The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree doctrine means nothing to the government.  If evidence was obtained through illegal means, including coerced interrogations, that evidence cannot be used in a criminal trial against the defendant.  While this doctrine is settled law, the government is attempting to circumvent it and hide the torture from the court and the public.

The bottom line is that the government tortured the defendants and is attempting to hide its culpability in that torture.  If the so-called Clean Team approach was as successful as the FBI claims, it seems obvious that the torture was not only illegal, but unnecessary.  How should Judge Pohl rule on the motion to allow defense teams to discuss and argue the torture used on their client?

If the attorneys cannot present evidence that evidence was obtained illegally, how can this Military Commission ever be considered to be legitimate?  Can any government sponsored judicial system be fair if defendants are not allowed to view the evidence that the prosecution is using to put them on trial for their lives?  Should these defendants be tried in a Criminal courtroom in the United States?  What do you think?

Additional sources: 60 Minutes video.

33 thoughts on “Kangaroo Commissions and Torture”

  1. if the defendant was hit, you must acquit.

    if we incarcerate without trial, kill without warning or trial, or kill innocent bystanders without warning or cause. what’s the difference between them and us, the price of our weapons?

    we’re not starting down a slippery slope, we’re falling off a cliff.

  2. Jill, I did not say, nor do I know if these men are guilty. I do know they are avowed terrorists who profess proudly to want to destroy our infidel country. In my world, that makes them shitbirds. Read about the treatment and trial of the Nazi saboteurs is all I’m saying. It is edifying. It’s a very nasty business, always has been, always will be.

  3. So what happened to the “dirty” teams that preceded the “clean” ones? When and where did any of these motherless CIA/Military/Mercenary cretins face justice for violating U.S. and International law by torturing — and in many cases, killing or driving insane — those unfortunate souls who fell into their maniacal clutches and wouldn’t confess to what they hadn’t done?

  4. “Clean” teams are part of what will allow torture to continue. You would think that a govt. so dedicated to justice as this one would want to hear all about the torture of these detainees, since, after all, we now have clean teams, so no amount of knowledge about torture should matter–right?

    Of course, we are forbidden to hear about this torture, let alone having anyone prosecuted for committing, ordering and “legally” justifying it.

    Obama is the gift that just keeps on giving. He allows torturers to go free and commit torture himself, so no, these trials will not be in civilian court, nor will they be free and fair.

    Nick, I don’t understand how you know these people are guilty and how you know exactly what happened on 9/11 when there has been torture of suspects, no fair trials and even the 9/11 Commissioners have said vital, relevant information was withheld from them.

  5. Robin,
    suggesting that 9/11 was done by CIA and/or Mossad agents and that a corporation had no qualms about killing its employees is a striking charge and really deserves some evidence on your part, doesn’t it?

  6. many people today understand and realize that like the titanic 9/11 is an insurance scam. both took many many lives for the pursuit of money. except 9/11 served 3 purposes 1 to get rid of 3 buildings that were no longer serving their main purpose of generating money and 2. to take the lives of those the corporation was scared of. 600 of the people who were murdered on 9/11 worked for the biggest brokerage firm the usa had. i can’t remember the name right now but im sure someone knows the name of the company. it was in the process of breaking up and since they had the best of the best when it came to financial workers they had no conscience in killing all of them to keep them from going to work for others companies or countries that would benefit from their expertise…3 last but not least to begin a war that allowed the elites to run into afghanistan and take over their oil and other natural resources. while demonizing muslims who are well aware of what the truth is. and fight against what is being done to humanity.

    the so called hijackers were cia/mossad agents. the one thing never explained was how these hijackers managed to take over the planes with just box cutters, the official story being just one group of people decided to fight for the lives.. all bullcrap. from top to bottom.

    The corporation is so arrogant in the plans they no longer even attempt to plan unfallible attacks. their attacks have gotten sloppier and sloppier because the worlds eyes and minds are kept pointing toward the muslims. and yet they are not the ones who own the banks, media, hollywood, music, etc. how the corporation sits back and laughs that even as sloppy as they have gotten their mind control of the masses is complete because no matter what proof comes out the people ignore it to point to the muslims..

    does anyone really believe thats the real osa in the ocean? if so i have a couple of volcanoes in manhattan i’ll sell to you for a great price!!!!!

  7. nick spinelli 1, December 1, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    If you read the book, Saboteurs: The Nazi Raid on America you’ll get a historical perspective on how we treat this ilk. In most ways these shitbirds have been treated much better than the Nazi saboteurs, and they killed no one!
    Shitbird is the taxon from which the government evolved, according to an expert genetists:

    Humans are actually hybrids, who emerged as an offspring of a male pig and a female chimpanzee, according to one of the world’s leading geneticist.

    Turning the theory of human ancestry on its head, Dr Eugene McCarthy — one of the world’s leading authorities on hybridization in animals from the University of Georgia has suggested that humans didn’t evolve from just apes but was a backcross hybrid of a chimpanzee and pigs.

    (Times of India, “Humans emerged from male pig and female chimp, world’s top geneticist says“). That makes sense in this context.

    “Things are getting curiouser and curiouser.” – Alice

  8. CIA made doctors torture suspected terrorists after 9/11, taskforce finds
    Doctors were asked to torture detainees for intelligence gathering, and unethical practices continue, review concludes
    By Sarah Boseley, health editor
    The Guardian
    Sunday 3 November 2013

    Doctors and psychologists working for the US military violated the ethical codes of their profession under instruction from the defence department and the CIA to become involved in the torture and degrading treatment of suspected terrorists, an investigation has concluded.

    The report of the Taskforce on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centres concludes that after 9/11, health professionals working with the military and intelligence services “designed and participated in cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and torture of detainees”.

    Medical professionals were in effect told that their ethical mantra “first do no harm” did not apply, because they were not treating people who were ill.

    The report lays blame primarily on the defence department (DoD) and the CIA, which required their healthcare staff to put aside any scruples in the interests of intelligence gathering and security practices that caused severe harm to detainees, from waterboarding to sleep deprivation and force-feeding.

    The two-year review by the 19-member taskforce, Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror, supported by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) and the Open Society Foundations, says that the DoD termed those involved in interrogation “safety officers” rather than doctors. Doctors and nurses were required to participate in the force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strike, against the rules of the World Medical Association and the American Medical Association. Doctors and psychologists working for the DoD were required to breach patient confidentiality and share what they knew of the prisoner’s physical and psychological condition with interrogators and were used as interrogators themselves. They also failed to comply with recommendations from the army surgeon general on reporting abuse of detainees.

    The CIA’s office of medical services played a critical role in advising the justice department that “enhanced interrogation” methods, such as extended sleep deprivation and waterboarding, which are recognised as forms of torture, were medically acceptable. CIA medical personnel were present when waterboarding was taking place, the taskforce says.

    Although the DoD has taken steps to address concerns over practices at Guantánamo Bay in recent years, and the CIA has said it no longer has suspects in detention, the taskforce says that these “changed roles for health professionals and anaemic ethical standards” remain.

    “The American public has a right to know that the covenant with its physicians to follow professional ethical expectations is firm regardless of where they serve,” said Dr Gerald Thomson, professor of medicine emeritus at Columbia University and member of the taskforce.

  9. The Terrorism That Torture Didn’t Stop
    Supporters of “enhanced interrogation” tout dubious claims of its effectiveness but ignore two cases where it failed to thwart terrorism.
    By Katherine Hawkins
    November 7, 2013

    Over four years after President Obama promised to “look forward, not backward” regarding the CIA’s brutal treatment of captives under the Bush administration, the issue has not gone away. The torture debate may fade from the headlines for weeks or months at a time, but it always come back. Last year the trigger was the release of Zero Dark Thirty. A few weeks ago, it was Abu Anas al-Libi’s capture, shipboard interrogation and transfer to the United States for trial. Later this year, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) will vote on whether to begin declassification of its 6,000-page report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects.

    Often, debates about torture focuses on whether it leads to high-profile counterterrorism successes: the killing of Osama bin Laden, the capture of high-level suspects like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the disruption of terrorist plots against Los Angeles or London. The public evidence suggests—and according to Democratic senators, the SSCI report will definitively prove—that defenders of “enhanced interrogation” have greatly exaggerated the role that torture played in these events.

    In all the debates about whether torture “worked,” though, there is another part of the record that is almost always forgotten: the attacks that torture did not prevent. There are no documented cases of “ticking time bombs” being defused by torture. But there are Al Qaeda plots that were not stopped, even when suspects with knowledge of the conspiracy were being brutally interrogated in CIA custody—a fact that has never been fully reported.

    Twelve people were killed, and dozens more injured, in two of these attacks: a 2002 attack on an oil tanker off the coast of Yemen, and an August 2003 suicide bombing of a hotel in Jakarta. According to FBI agent Ali Soufan, the oil tanker attack might have been prevented if the CIA had not been so determined to “render” a juvenile detainee to torture overseas despite his having provided actionable intelligence about the plot to the FBI.

  10. Nick: Are you referring to the Judge at Gitmo or the defendants? There are “shitbirds” and then there are “shitbirds” in Cuba (Gitmo or less).

  11. Sounds like everyone commenting buys the government narrative, which is pure bullshit.

    The hijackers and those that controlled them were 15/19 (79%) Saudi military / intelligence (Fighting Terrorism For 200 Years – 3, see videos). The other 21% must have been directed by the 79% for a coordinated effort to work.

    The Saudis who were involved were allowed to fly out of the U.S. on 9/11 when no other planes could fly.

    The trial will be a trial of patsies.

  12. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have undermined American values.

    We used to be better than other countries – no more.

    There will always be an asterisks after these verdicts.

  13. Everyone deserves a day in a real court & soon, but the trial of only the alleged Muslim planners without the government (USA, Israel, UK or whatever) co-conspiritors & deliberate misleaders/planners/facilitators, makes the trials a farce as far as the bigger truths are concerned.

  14. If you read the book, Saboteurs: The Nazi Raid on America you’ll get a historical perspective on how we treat this ilk. In most ways these shitbirds have been treated much better than the Nazi saboteurs, and they killed no one!

  15. There is a “conventional wisdom” that people do not confess to crimes they did not commit. Nothing could be further from the truth. Approximately one out of every four people who have been exonerated so far by DNA evidence “confessed” to the crime they did not commit.

    While torture is by definition coercive, there are many other coercive interrogation techniques so subtle it takes an expert to spot them. Unfortunately, most interrogations are not recorded on video or audio. If there is a recording, it is typically only the last two or three minutes where the suspect makes a statement confessing. The previous hours or even days of questioning never seem to get recorded.

  16. The Exceptional Nation (the United States) set some international standards for trials, judges and nation states in the post WWII years in Nurnberg (Deustsch spulling). Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia. If it passes WordPress:

    The Judges’ Trial (or the Justice Trial, or, officially, The United States of America vs. Josef Altstötter, et al.) was the third of the 12 trials for war crimes the U.S. authorities held in their occupation zone in Germany in Nuremberg after the end of World War II. These twelve trials were all held before U.S. military courts, not before the International Military Tribunal, but took place in the same rooms at the Palace of Justice. The twelve U.S. trials are collectively known as the “Subsequent Nuremberg Trials” or, more formally, as the “Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals” (NMT).

    The defendants in this case were 16 German jurists and lawyers. Nine had been officials of the Reich Ministry of Justice, the others were prosecutors and judges of the Special Courts and People’s Courts of Nazi Germany. They were—amongst other charges—held responsible for implementing and furthering the Nazi “racial purity” program through the eugenic and racial laws.

    The judges in this case, heard before Military Tribunal III, were Carrington T. Marshall (presiding judge), former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio; James T. Brand, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Oregon; Mallory B. Blair, formerly judge of the Third Court of Appeals of Texas; and Justin Woodward Harding of the Bar of the State of Ohio as an alternate judge. Marshall had to retire due to illness on June 19, 1947, at which point Brand became president and Harding a full member of the tribunal. The Chief of Counsel for the Prosecution was Telford Taylor; his deputy was Charles M. LaFollette. The indictment was presented on January 4, 1947; the trial lasted from March 5 to December 4, 1947. Ten of the defendants were found guilty; four received sentences for lifetime imprisonment, the rest received prison sentences of varying lengths. Four persons were acquitted of all charges.

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