Economic and political analysis-Window on culture-Media criticism

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Gitmo Tribunals Imploding; Problems with the Official Explanation

The Nation provided a web only article "Rigged Trials at Gitmo" by Ross Tuttle discussing the legal ramifications of torture in the trial of six Guantanamo detainees.

The article explains the military tribunal process: "According to Col. Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor for Guantánamo's military commissions, the process has been manipulated by Administration appointees to foreclose the possibility of acquittal." Davis had resigned in October, claiming that "full, fair,open trials" were not possible under the current system.

Colonel Davis quotes Pentagon general counsel William Haynes saying to him that "we can't have acquittals" in reference to the trials. Davis resigned when Haynes was "put above him in the commission's chain of command" as explained in The Nation article.

Haynes was a political appointee whose nomination to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals fell through because of suspicions over "Haynes's role in writing, or supervising the writing of, Pentagon memos advocating the use of harsh interrogation techniques."

Col. Davis wasn't the first military attorney to quit based on allegations that the system was rigged; three other prosecutors had requested transfer out of the Office of Military Commissions, a group created explicitly by Bush for trying the alleged terrorists.

The Nation cites a LA Times article written by ACLU attorney Ben Wizner where he describes the process: "In an ordinary justice system, the accused must be acquitted to be released. In Guantánamo, the accused must plead guilty to be released."

Something is definitely the matter when career military officers can't prosecute those who allegedly participated in the most egregious crime of 9/11. Conviction of a terrorist should be notable achievement much sought outght by any attorney.

A strong case shouldn't need testimony from torture. Military attorneys would not resign if indeed the case were noble and based on viable evidence.

Still, the trial process in Guantanamo is imploding. Standards of evidence have been violated by harsh interrogation techniques. Whatever testimony had been gathered was tainted. So bad was the corruption of evidence deemed to be that in in 2006 the Pentagon reinterviewed the detainees without the use of torture. Writing in Harper's, Scott Horton refers to the new FBI interviewers as the "clean" team.

Another explanation could explain the mass lawyer defection: perhaps the detainees weren't guilty! Perhaps al Qaeda is not solely responsible for 9/11 or the detainees have insubstantial connections to al Qaeda. Al Qaeda simply means the Base in Arabic, and was in the beginning nothing more than a list of unaffiliated Islamists who'd fought the Soviets in Afghanistan. While al Qaeda has morphed into a more cogent force, the group's structure is assymetrical without a clear top-down command hierarchy. Egyptian al-Zawahiri and bin Laden are the two most popular figures but neither runs the organization day-to-day--if indeed such a command-and-control apparatus had ever existed.

Proving the guilt of a defendant seems an easy task if Davis's accusations are accurate. Winning a conviction under the system hardly seems much of a challenge. It's unlikely prosecutors had protested and quit as the result of a preponderance of evidence. Instead the methods in which evidence was gathered and asssembled must have violated established legal procedure. Any subsequent trials based on impropriately extracted evidence would therefore shatter the attorneys' ethics and obligation to uphold the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

While Bush has been able to brush away the law in Washington, the military's sense of duty may be proving a far tougher obstacle in the perverse trade-off of law for security. The attorneys are sworn to uphold the law and must place their obligation to a fair trial process above their willingness to just take orders. Otherwise, failing to follow the orders of one's superiors--the military judges presiding over the process--becomes insubordination.

Other articles are popping up about the Guantanamo trials as information enters the public domain about the cases, their evidence, and the tribunal process.

Alternet's Joshua Holland interviews Andy Worthington, author of The Guantanamo Files, who has gone through the case histories of all 749 Guanatanmo detainees. Worthington explores the conditions of the detainees' capture and discovered that many were sold to US forces as al Qaeda when the connection to the terrorist organization were vague. He explains:
Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham...described (tribunals) in an explosive statement last year as reliant upon generalized and often generic "evidence" that had nothing to do with the detainees in question, and was designed merely to rubber-stamp their designation as "enemy combatants" - you realize that, in connection with the "War on Terror," the presumption of innocence has been done away with completely.

For the first four and a half years after 9/11, every prisoner was effectively regarded as guilty until proved guilty. After the tribunals, 38 detainees were cleared for release - although the administration, denying the concepts of innocence and wrongful arrest, referred to them as "no longer enemy combatants" - and many more have been cleared in the review boards that have taken place every year since then, but for the 281 detainees who remain, it's apparent that the "evidence" against them has never really been tested at all.

Declaring whomever they'd caught in their dragnet an enemy combatant failed to distinguish between detainees. In the mad rush to declare all combatants to be terrorists, the presumption of guilt overcame any considerations of guilt or evidence.

The harsh interrogations approved by Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld meant that detainees were tortured, and put in a position where they would confess just to stop the pain. If the Spanish Inquisition were any indicator of how the interrogations went, detainees were assumed to be guilty and their confession, extracted during torture, was treated as evidence of guilt. During the Salem witch trials, if an accused "witch" were to die during their "confession", it was considered proof of guilt.

Seeing boogeymen behind every Afghan rock--and in just about every other nation which had a radical Islamic presence--convinced the witchhunters that the terrorists were everywhere. Taliban and al Qaeda were merged into a single force in this zealous over-simplification. Anyone who opposed the US was a terrorist. Anyone delivered to US forces by a supposedly friendly government was considered to be a terrorist. The individual's circumstances were secondary to the desire of the military to capture bad guys. The crusade had been launched and lasted well into the Iraq War--it persists today as a cornerstone for the War on Terror.

The Worthington interview explains the overzealous administration, which sought to prove that al Qaeda did present a threat, and that their immediate confessions were vital to protecting national security:
It's also worth noting, however, what happened at Guantanamo in the fall of 2002. The administration was disappointed by the quality of the intelligence obtained from the detainees and decided that it was because they had been trained by Al Qaeda to resist interrogation, whereas in fact they were mostly innocent men or foot soldiers and had no worthwhile intelligence to give.

The idea that the Gitmo detainees were captured on the battlefield is completely inaccurate. Worthington explains:
The overwhelming majority (of detainees) were not captured on any kind of battlefield at all and, as an analysis of Pentagon documents by the Seton Hall Law School showed, were not even captured by U.S. forces. Eighty-six percent were captured by the Americans' allies, who then handed them over, or sold them, as discussed above. It's also worth noting that several dozen detainees were captured in 17 other countries, including Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Egypt, the Gambia, Georgia, Indonesia, Iran, Mauritania, Thailand and Zambia.

Worthington goes on to explain how many Gitmo detainees where simply caught at the wrong time and place. Others were not caught at all, but rather pawned off fro reward money, regardless of their affiliation to al Qaeda. We see the same technique used in Iraq today, where factions threaten to turn in their rivals to the Americans, calling them al Qaeda, in exchange for the reward money. In actuality, the prisoners are unaffiliated with al Qaeda or any terrorist group.

Here from The Independent of England is an article about insider in the tribunals process who've become whistleblowers. The number of senior military officers who've protested the treatment of detainees and the legality of tribunal process is remarkable and provides evidence of a conspiracy to convict the defendants.

What Really Happened: The 9/11 Truth

I'll advance a theory here that the 9/11 Commission report is flat out wrong in assigning blame to al Qaeda for the destruction of the three World Trade Center buildings. My evidence is circumstantial, based largely on the fact that Osama never admitted his role in the bombings. Rather than point any fingers, I'll simply make my case that the O.E. (Official Explanation) could never have been true.

The Taliban who'd unwittingly hosted Osama bin Laden had offered to turn bin Laden over to the Americans long before 9/11. Shortly after the event, the Taliban requested proof of bin Laden's role in the bombings from the Americans, at which point they'd promised to turn him over. Yet no proof came. Even now the FBI admits no direct link between OBL and 9/11 (source); OBL's wanted poster does not include any mention of 9/11.

The Official Explanation is a tenuous and illogical basis on which to make an argument that al Qaeda and bin Laden deserve full responsibility. The O.E. is largely laid out in the 9/11 Commission report, which has had prominent defections since its publishing with many participants seeking to revise their testimony. Limiting 9/11 culpability to the terrorist group al Qaeda overshadows the involvement of other governments--notably the Saudi, Pakistani, and Israeli--in 9/11.

Odd how the miltary machine, led by a Bush group that was clearly politically motivated to do battle, turned the 9/11 event into justification for two wars. The War on Terror is completely an artificial creation; if anything the US deserves blame for letting the mujhadeen in Afghanistan continue their jihad: we financed al Qaeda and forgot about them after the Soviets left Afghanistan.

With so much of US foreign policy fixated on the idea of global terrorists, it became politically expedient to find terrorists to justify ongoing wars. The terrorists became both the target and chief rationalization to expand the war on terror. Many other nations were eager to present an image of cooperation; rendition flights and other extralegal behaviors were tolerated in Western Europe and other nations.

After 9/11, the threat of what terrorists could do provided a sense of urgency to find these terrorists and to get them to talk--"actionable intelligence." Live detainees were treated as if they had "actionable intelligence" that could prevent the carrying out of some nefarious terrorist attack. Harsh interrgoations--torture--were authorized to prevent such attacks.

The US approach to terror-fighting hinges on the concept that radical Islamic terrorists were capable of launching additional attacks, yet proof of their operational capability remains oddly elusive even after 6 1/2 years of hunting al Qaeda. The White House framed the threat posed by al Qaeda as limitless, talking up the threat. On MSNBC, Keith Olbermann just provided another accounting of the Nexus of Politics and Terror that saw terror threats timed to coincide with times of greatest political opportunity for the Bush administration.

Any Muslim who'd advocated violence was lumped in with al Qaeda, captured, detained, or killed. Dead men can't profess their innocence, or explain how the US had armed and financed them, so dead terrorists were preferable to live ones.

Unfortunately, dead terrorists can't be paraded before the angry victims of their attacks like the hapless East Asian prisoners in Orwell's 1984 were carted through the streets of a future London.

Unlike Nuremburg, a full news blackout surrounds the military tribunal in Guanatanamo. The US military doesn't want the detainees to air their grievances, to say certain things--we are left to wonder what could possibly be so threatening.

Surely the US could do better if there had been an operation launched by al Qaeda to destroy the Twin Towers. Such an operation should have thousands of leads to follow up on, countless investigatory angles, and reams of evidence. The best the US can do is six defendants including Osama's part-time limo driver and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind. KSM had been waterboarded and during the course of his interrogation confessed to things that had occurred after his arrest.

I'd brought up the fact that two of KSM's sons had been detained with him, which could well have led to confessions if those techniques were threatened to be used on his boys. Here's what I said on June 12th:
One example of interrogators hearing all they wanted to hear--and then some--may have been Khalid Shiekh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of 9/11. KSM, as he is referred to, apparently did everything for al Qaeda except maybe their limo driving for which another man stands accused.

Khalid Shiek Mohammed's sons were allegedly detained by US forces:
"In September 2002, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's two young sons, aged seven and nine, were arrested. According to eyewitnesses, the two were held in an adult detention center for at least four months while U.S. agents questioned the children about their father's whereabouts." (Source)

KSM was allegedly waterboarded--which is a clear practice of torture--and proceeded to spill his guts. Deciphering the truth out of what Mohammed has confessed to is proving to be impossible. Admitted to a myriad of crimes--probably including some we never directly accused him of--KSM must have been a good example of the effectiveness of torture, at least until the breadth of his confessions brought into question the plausibility of individual confessions. Underlings must have pleased their political bosses in Washington who'd been eager to pin 9/11 on him and al Qaeda.

In short, 9/11 had been pinned on KSM. He'd admitted everything. Confessions are fine if he'd been summarily executed or "tried to escape" but proving his guilt is not as easy as parading his confession, which had clearly been made under duress or torture.

Surely there'd be more substantial evidence then a confession tortured out of KSM, being that he was supposedly al Qaeda's chief planner.

I think the far more likely scenario is that al Qaeda was not operating alone in destroying the World Trade Center buildings. Elements of the plan were in my opinions carried out by al Qaeda-affiliated personnnel, but the complete lack of proof available for trial 6 1/2 years later shows that there's no way al Qaeda planned or executed the whole operation that brought down the three towers.

The next and very scary question is who did 9/11? Who gained by it? With so much of our current military aggression based on a flawed assumption, it's very likely that the US has lashed out at the wrong people.

Even the act of thinking independently and questioning the Official Explanation has been considered unpatriotic. So many artificial constructs have been built upon the shaky assumption that OBL and al Qaeda, acting alone, did 9/11 that any other explanation would require revisitation of every single assumption made to date. It's simply easier for the National Security State and continuity of propaganda for the initial explanation to persist despite its contradictions and inadequacies.

The lack of appropriately-obtained evidence and the inadequacy of the military tribunal system in trying the alleged conspirators could reflect the truth that 9/11 involved other governments, and possibly even our own, or some form of an inside job. It's very possible that our government knew the hijackings would happen, and stood down. Most conspicuously, virtually no investigation of 9/11 followed the 9/11 Commission report; nor were any of its initial conclusions that 9/11 had been al Qaeda operating alone ever contested.

I'm not going to explain why I think 9/11 was an inside job. I can only offer the evidence that the Official Explanation is inaccurate, and point out the inconsistencies in the government's blame of al Qaeda exclusively and in entirety. If al Qaeda were acting independently, surely more evidence would be available identifying key operational planners and methods. Despite the best efforts of the world's largest government, al Qaeda is charged with the crime but little evidence is available with which terrorists can be charged.

Evidence connecting specific al Qaeda operators to 9/11 hasn't been appearing in the trials. One would think our government would be eager to show the world evidence of specific 9/11 terror activities connected to al Qaeda and specific defendants. Desperate to keep the Official Explanation intact, patsies like KSM are being tromped before the military tribunals. Looking deeper at Mohammed Atta reveals the man was a cocaine-using, alcohol-abusing, topless club-goer with an Anglo girlfiriend, hardly a typical martyr.

Naturally if there were a cover-up, the O.E. would claim that the terrorists acted alone, then died, leaving few traces. The 9/11 Commission report seems content to state that Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda acted independently. Why is proving that assumption so hard, even where the court system have made a conviction a virtual certainty?

If the US really wanted to learn who'd really been involved, surely it would have done more to identify and prosecute the specific individuals involved. If these Gitmo trials are the best that can be done to prosecute the 9/11 ringleaders, it's robably because the government knows its O.E. is fake and therefore there is no need to investigate 9/11 lest new truths be revealed that threaten the O.E..

Our government wanted to blame al Qaeda exclusively for 9/11. According to NYC Fire Department, the WTC buildings had been rigged with explosives, including WTC 7, which housed a safe with evidence pertaining to large-scale SEC investigation after the tech bubble collapse. A fresh WTC lease was signed just before the event; the buildings' owner knew that asbestos repairs would cost over $100 million dollars.

These little bits of evidence add up; none are addressed by the government. The scarcity of surviving suspects to bring to trial is more contradiction in the O.E.. Truth-seekers should not be surprised by the possibility of government complicity but rather approach the event with the greatest degree of suspicion. On the "bombs in the building" accusation, I believe the veracity of the NYC FD more than anyone else.

If Washington were involved in or prescient of 9/11, torture would produce coerced testimony from radical Islamists that admitted their responsibility for 9/11. If 9/11 was preventable, then the War on Terror has been launched against completely innocent people, who've been tortured and admitted their "crimes" only to stop the pain and agony.

Our military can't now observe the most basic evidentiary procedures because of the previous politicization of the War on Terror. The prosecutions have been run for political purposes.

Perhaps Washington had reasons to demand that detainees be tortured other than seeking out actionable intelligence. Torture might anchor them in the story that our government wanted told by al Qaeda-linked detainees: that it had been al Qaeda and al Qaeda alone. The legal actions of our government in pursuing the war on terror hint at an underlying frustration and despair to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that 9/11 was the product of al Qaeda alone.

Misconduct in waging the terror war could mask our government's own desire to exercise control over its own populace through the fear of terror. Failing to investigate and prosecute all those responsible is more than a symptom of mere incompetence--it's potentially an admission that terrorism and its proxy al Qaeda provides a valuable method of manipulating fear and justifying wars.

It's not a coincidence that the wars that followed the event have been geared at large energy reserves. The resource war angle also provides a serious motive for blaming the Arabs or more specifically the Taliban and the Iraqis.

Redacted sections of the initial 9/11 report provide examples of how "friendly governments" helped the hijackers. The Saudi government was intimately involved in helping the hijackers set up in the U.S., and their involvement was retroactively deleted from reports. And a general from Pakistan who met with prominent American politicians the morning of 9/11 had sent Mohammed Atta money, so many of our "friends" may have been directly involved.

Also, the Clean Break strategy advocated by Israel stood to gain; the Pearl Harbor-type event saw the subsequent launch of two major wars against foes of Israel. The "moving van" incident on 9/11 involved 5 Israelis with military intelligence ties cheering the 9/11 attacks from atop a van in New Jersey, clearly pleased that the US would now be intervening against Israel's enemies. The Israelis may have informed the FBI as to the hijacker's intentions; a text message from Israel company Odigo went out the morning of 9/11 warning Israeli nationals not to come to work.

With the ramifications of 9/11 so major, one would think most people would be very concerned about these disturbing contradictions in the Official Explanation. Yet for some reason when it comes to 9/11, most Americans seem to just go along, although polls show many do carry substantial doubts about the government's story.

As the consequences of just going along and getting into multiple wars grow, more and more Americans are waking up to the inevitable conclusion that 9/11 was not planned and executed by al Qaeda acting alone, and that other players and actors and even our own government took advantage of the event and directly participated in 9/11.



  • At 2:15 PM, Blogger jbpeebles said…

    David Bromwich over at HuffPo provided some key links to the Guantanamo saga. Bromwich spotlights a poorly written hit piece on Col. Davis over by William Glaberson at the NYT. (Truthout has posted the article.)
    Scott Horton has an article in Harper's on Davis and the whole sordid tribunal mess which is worth reading.
    Prisonplanet also provided support to the original post.


Post a Comment

<< Home