Watching the Shadows
Human rights lawyers on March 26 filed an emergency motion (PDF) in the US District Court for the District of Columbia alleging that guards at Guantánamo Bay have denied drinking water and sufficient clothing to a Yemeni prisoner. The motion was filed only a day before a fact-finding visit to the US detention center in Cuba by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the lawyers contend that such treatment is being used to undermine an ongoing hunger strike by Musa'ab Omar al-Madhwani and 30 additional inmates.
Defense lawyers for detainees held at Guantánamo Bay and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) sent a letter (PDF) to Rear Admiral John Smith Jr. describing harsh conditions faced by the detainees and indicated that the detainees have begun to protest the conditions, including participating in a hunger strike. The letter alleged that "camp authorities have been confiscating detainees' personal items, including blankets, sheets, towels, mats, razors, toothbrushes, books, family photos, religious CDs, and letters, including legal mail; and restricting their exercise, seemingly without provocation or cause."
You knew this one was inevitable. It is profoundly odious to have to favorably cite the monstrous Alan Dershowitz, but he's raised the alarm on something really alarming—not without distorting it in the service of his propaganda crusade. In a comment appearing Feb. 25 on Canada's National Post (among other places) Dershowitz portrays Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras, apparently shortlisted to succeed Pope Benedict, as floating conspiracy theories about how the Vatican sex scandal (now reaching surreal proportions, as the Daily Mail gloats) was instrumented by (you guessed it) the Jews.
Military lawyers from the US Navy on Feb. 12 said that surveillance equipment deployed throughout the Guantánamo Bay detention center was not used to breach attorney-client privilege. The officials indicated that devices used to record audio and video were routinely placed throughout the detention center, but they were only used for security purposes. The surveillance devices were often concealed in common objects such as smoke detectors. The lawyers admitted that a person would not know they were under surveillance, but that the prosecuting lawyers did not review any of the recordings. Officials also indicated that some legal mailings had been opened and searched for contraband and then delivered to the detainee. They said that they did not read any of the documents.
The current apocalyptic zeitgeist was made all too clear by the recent hoopla over the turning of the Maya calendar, so it was inevitable that the morbidly paranoid would glom on to the papal resignation—just as they did the Vatican's opening of the Knights Templar archives a few years back. The Irish Central on Feb. 11 provides some fodder, recalling the prophecies of Saint Malachy, a 12th century bishop of Armagh, who supposedly predicted the names of all future popes—accurate up to this point, supposedly. And after Benedict XVI, he wrote: "In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church there will reign Peter the Roman, who will feed his flock amid many tribulations, after which the seven-hilled city will be destroyed and the dreadful Judge will judge the people. The End." Gee, thanks.
The media are suddenly abuzz with reports that the CIA has been operating a secret airbase for unmanned drones in Saudi Arabia for the past two years, from which it has launched numerous strikes on purported militants of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in neighboring Yemen—including those that killed Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, both US citizens who had never been charged with any crimes by the US government. The relevation follows the leaking to NBC this week of a confidential Justice Department memo finding that the US can order the killing of its own citizens if they are believed to be "senior operational leaders" of al-Qaeda or "an associated force"—even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the US.
Hmmm. The last time we made note of retired CIA agent John Kiriakou six years ago, he had just confirmed the use of waterboarding during the interrogation of al-Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah—and by all appearances seemed to be justifying it. Kiriakou said that the tactic's efficacy in helping to disrupt "a number of attacks, maybe dozens" outweighed its harshness. Now he's just been sentenced to 30 months in prison for blowing the cover on a fellow CIA agent. Having copped a plea in the case, he nonetheless portrays himself as a "whistleblower" on CIA torture. The judge didn't buy it. "This is not a case of a whistleblower," US District Judge Leonie Brinkema told Kiriakou at his sentencing hearing. "This is a case of a man who betrayed a solemn trust." (Government Security News, Jan. 28)
The Milan Court of Appeals on Feb. 1 convicted three US nationals for their roles in the 2003 "rendition" kidnapping of Egyptian cleric and terror suspect Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr AKA Abu Omar. Due to diplomatic immunity, all three men had been acquitted in the previous trial where the Milan court convicted 23 former CIA agents. Vacating the acquittals, the court now sentenced former CIA station chief Jeff Castelli to seven years, and the two other Americans, Betnie Madero and Ralph Russomando, to six years. The appeals process has been separated for Castelli and the other two men for technical reasons, and the appellate court's reasoning is expected to be released this month.