Watching the Shadows
US President Donald Trump signed an executive order Jan. 30 to continue operations at the Guantánamo Bay detention center. The order states that the facility is "legal, safe, humane, and conducted consistent with United States and international law." Trump's new executive order not only allows for those detained currently to remain detained, but also allows for the US to transport new persons to the facility when lawful and necessary. Trump's order revokes the 2009 order from then-president Barack Obama that was intended to close the facility at Guantánamo and transfer detainees to other detention facilities, their home countries or to a third country. There are currently 41 detainees in custody at Guantánamo.
Military judge James Pohl ruled Jan. 19 that no wrongdoing occurred when he authorized the destruction of a CIA secret prison, or "black site," despite the fact that a protection order was in effect on any remains from the CIA black sites. Prosecutors, citing national security powers, obtained permission from the judge to give defense attorneys photographs and a diagram of the site as a substitute for preservation the actual facility. According to Pohl, defense attorneys failed to show that "the physical evidence is of such central importance to an issue that is essential to a fair trial, or that there is no adequate substitute for the physical evidence." According to the Miami Herald, from 2002-2006, prisoners at the black site were subjected to waterboarding, sexual abuse, and other forms of torture.
Eleven Guantánamo inmates filed a writ of habeas corpus (PDF) in the US District Court for the District of Columbia on Jan. 11, claiming that their indefinite detention is due to President Donald Trump's anti-Muslim stance. The inmates argue they can only be legally kept at Guantánamo if their individual circumstances show that they would otherwise return to the battlefield. However, the suit claims that Trump's declaration that all Guantánamo inmates will remain in the prison camp does not take into account any of their individual circumstances, but instead is based on Trump's antipathy toward Muslims. Some of the petitioners have been at Guantánamo for the entirety of its 16 years in use as a prison. Two of the detainees were in the process of being cleared for release under the Obama administration, before the Trump administration put a stop to the release process for all inmates. The petition states that the indefinite detentions violate the due process clause of the Constitution.
Note just how far things have deteriorated. The Washington Post on Dec. 25 ran a piece, "Kremlin trolls burned across the Internet as Washington debated options," citing FBI sources to the effect that one "Alice Donovan," who wrote several pieces for Counterpunch over the past year, was actually a "probable Russian troll." Although her initial e-mail to Counterpunch said "I'm a beginner freelance journalist," the implication is "she" (who knows?) was really part of a Kremlin-directed propaganda campaign. In a retort, "Go Ask Alice: the Curious Case of 'Alice Donovan'," Counterpunch editor Jeffrey St. Clair responds with one of the most refreshingly blatant displays of cynicism we've seen in a while:
UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer issued a statement Dec. 13 calling on the US to end impunity for "perpetrators and policymakers responsible for years of gruesome abuse" at Guantánamo Bay and other detention facilities. Melzer urged US authorities to take action on the 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee Report, which found that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) deliberately misled Congress and the White House about information obtained using so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" between 2002 and 2007. Melzer contends that the US us in violation of the Convention Against Torture by failing to prosecute instances of torture outlined in the Senate Report, "sending a dangerous message of complacency and impunity to officials in the US and around the world." (Jurist, Dec. 14)
The US Supreme Court stated on Nov. 27 that it would not review (PDF) a lawsuit over a drone strike in Yemen that killed five people. Earlier this year, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia dismissed (PDF) the lawsuit by the families of two Yemeni men allegedly killed by a US drone strike in 2012. The plaintiffs argued that the two family members were victims of a "'signature strike," an attack in which the US "targets an unidentified person...based on a pattern of suspicious behavior as identified through metadata." Further, the plaintiffs argued that the drone operators waited until the two men joined the other three men initially targeted in the strike, in direct violation of international law. A unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel upheld a lower court's finding that "a court should not second-guess an Executive's decision about the appropriate military response" to a potential threat.
Valerie Plame, an ex-spook beloved by the left, got in hot water when she tweeted an article by fellow ex-spook beloved by the (far) right Philip Giraldi with the lovely title "America's Jews Are Driving America's Wars." In the subsequent outrage, The American Conservative finally gave Giraldi the sack. But Giraldi's Judeophobia seems not to bother others. He continues to have Unz Review for a platform, and they love him over at the (conspiranoid-right) Veterans Today. And the Council for the National Interest predictably continues to embrace Giraldi as their executive director. This outfit, fronted by our nemesis Alison Weir, is just what its name sounds like—a beltway body of paleocon right-nationalists paranoid about Jewish subversion.
The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled (PDF) Aug. 16 that Judge Scott Silliman should have recused himself in a case concerning multiple defendants who were charged with aiding in the 9-11 attacks. The petitioner, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, argued that Silliman was biased in the matter and cited a 2010 comment in which Silliman called Mohammad and his co-defendants the major conspirators in th attacks. The court found that because Silliman "expressed an opinion that Petitioner is guilty of the very crimes of which he is accused," he manifested an "apparent bias" and thus should have recused himself. The court granted the petition seeking recusal of Silliman and vacated a decision (PDF) by the US Court of Military Commission to reinstate charges for "attacking civilians and destroying property in violation of the law of war" against Mohammad and his co-defendants.