Watching the Shadows
The ACLU and Human Rights First filed suit in Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's home state of Illinois on behalf of eight men who suffered psychological and physicial injuries while detained by US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Rumsfeld bears direct responsibility" because he "personally signed off" on policies guiding prisoner treatment, said ACLU director Anthony Romero. Also named are Col. Thomas Pappas, Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski and Lt.
On Feb. 28, a federal judge in South Carolina ruled that the U.S. must charge or release accused "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla within 45 days. The Justice Department vows it will appeal. Padilla, a US citizen, has been held without traditional legal rights as an "enemy combatant" since June 2002. (Bloomberg, March 1)
Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin announced yesterday that his country will not participate in the missile defense system that the US hopes to build for North America. "This is our airspace, we're a sovereign nation and you don't intrude on a sovereign nation's airspace without seeking permission," Martin said.
The Justice Department has dropped its claim that allegations by FBI contract translator Sibel Edmonds of grave security breaches at the translation unit are classified. Edmonds' claims had already been made public in letters to the DoJ inspector general by senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), but were retroactively classified by the Department. The declassification will allow Edmonds' suit against the FBI to go ahead. Edmonds claims she was improperly fired for bringing the problems to light—some of which she says compromised anti-terrorism operations. (UPI, Feb. 22) The Project on Government Accuntability (POGO) had sued the DoJ and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to get the materials declassified. The declassification will also allow Edmonds' testimony in a civil suit related to the 9-11 attacks. (WP, Feb. 23)
Ahmed Abu Ali, 23, of Virginia, held for 20 months in Saudi Arabia, was flown to the US yesterday to face charges of plotting to assassinate President Bush. At his court hearing in Alexandria he requested permission to show scars on his back as proof he was tortured by Saudi authorities. The request was blocked by federal prosecutors, who also argued that he should be denied bail and held indefinitely, charging links to al-Qaeda and saying he would pose "an exceptionally grave danger" if released. A doctor who examined him reportedly found "no evidence of physical mistreatment." A lawsuit filed by his family is seeking release of details on his detainment and treatment in Saudi Arabia, charging he was arrested and held there at US behest. A valedictorian at the Islamic Saudi Academy in Alexandria, he went to Saudi Arabia to study, and was never officially charged with any crime there. Priti Patel of the group Human Rights First warned that the torture allegations could taint the government's case: "If the information comes from mistreatment in Saudi Arabia, it would raise questions about whether there's enough evidence for the indictment to hold." (UK Guardian, Feb. 23)
Al-Jazeera has aired another propaganda video from Ayman al-Zawahiri, now said to be al-Qaeda's number two man after Osama bin Laden. "Your new crusade will end, God willing, with the same defeat as its predecessors, but only after you have suffered tens of thousands of dead and the destruction of your economy," Zawahiri said in his message to "the peoples of the West" broadcast by the Qatar-based satellite channel. (AFP, Feb. 21)
In an uncharacterstically strong and principled lead editorial Feb. 19, the NY Times says its "Time for an Accounting" on Abu Ghraib and the administration's policy on torture and detainment generally. Maybe, finally, a sign that elite consciences are beginning to stir. It is worth quoting at length:
The NY Times' Feb. 18 front-page profile of John Negroponte, Bush's appointment as Director of National Intelligence, did at least mention—albeit towards the end, at the bottom of page 16—"allegations that he played down human rights violations in Honduras when their exposure could have undermined the Reagan administration's Latin American agenda." (NYT, Feb. 18)