[Marxism] US govt. orders detainees: how you were tortured is our little secret

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sat Nov 4 05:33:24 MST 2006


U.S. Seeks Silence on CIA Prisons
Court Is Asked to Bar Detainees From Talking About Interrogations


By Carol D. Leonnig and Eric Rich
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, November 4, 2006; A01


The Bush administration has told a federal judge that terrorism suspects
held in secret CIA prisons should not be allowed to reveal details of
the "alternative interrogation methods" that their captors used to get
them to talk.

The government says in new court filings that those interrogation
methods are now among the nation's most sensitive national security
secrets and that their release -- even to the detainees' own attorneys
-- "could reasonably be expected to cause extremely grave damage."
Terrorists could use the information to train in counter-interrogation
techniques and foil government efforts to elicit information about their
methods and plots, according to government documents submitted to U.S.
District Judge Reggie B. Walton on Oct. 26.

The battle over legal rights for terrorism suspects detained for years
in CIA prisons centers on Majid Khan, a 26-year-old former Catonsville
resident who was one of 14 high-value detainees transferred in September
from the "black" sites to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay,
Cuba. A lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which
represents many detainees at Guantanamo, is seeking emergency access to
him.

The government, in trying to block lawyers' access to the 14 detainees,
effectively asserts that the detainees' experiences are a secret that
should never be shared with the public.

Because Khan "was detained by CIA in this program, he may have come into
possession of information, including locations of detention, conditions
of detention, and alternative interrogation techniques that is
classified at the TOP SECRET//SCI level," an affidavit from CIA
Information Review Officer Marilyn A. Dorn states, using the acronym for
"sensitive compartmented information."

Gitanjali Gutierrez, an attorney for Khan's family, responded in a court
document yesterday that there is no evidence that Khan had top-secret
information. "Rather," she said, "the executive is attempting to misuse
its classification authority . . . to conceal illegal or embarrassing
executive conduct."

Joseph Margulies, a Northwestern University law professor who has
represented several detainees at Guantanamo, said the prisoners "can't
even say what our government did to these guys to elicit the statements
that are the basis for them being held. Kafka-esque doesn't do it
justice. This is 'Alice in Wonderland.' "

Kathleen Blomquist, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said yesterday
that details of the CIA program must be protected from disclosure. She
said the lawyer's proposal for talking with Khan "is inadequate to
protect unique and potentially highly classified information that is
vital to our country's ability to fight terrorism."

Government lawyers also argue in court papers that detainees such as
Khan previously held in CIA sites have no automatic right to speak to
lawyers because the new Military Commissions Act, signed by President
Bush last month, stripped them of access to U.S. courts. That law
established separate military trials for terrorism suspects.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is
considering whether Guantanamo detainees have the right to challenge
their imprisonment in U.S. courts. The government urged Walton to defer
any decision on access to lawyers until the higher court rules.

The government filing expresses concern that detainee attorneys will
provide their clients with information about the outside world and relay
information about detainees to others. In an affidavit, Guantanamo's
staff judge advocate, Cmdr. Patrick M. McCarthy, said that in one case a
detainee's attorney took questions from a BBC reporter with him into a
meeting with a detainee at the camp. Such indirect interviews are
"inconsistent with the purpose of counsel access" at the prison,
McCarthy wrote.

Dorn said in the court papers that for lawyers to speak to former CIA
detainees under the security protocol used for other Guantanamo
detainees "poses an unacceptable risk of disclosure." But detainee
attorneys said they have followed the protocol to the letter, and none
has been accused of releasing information without government clearance.

Captives who have spent time in the secret prisons, and their advocates,
have said the detainees were sometimes treated harshly with techniques
that included "waterboarding," which simulates drowning. Bush has
declared that the administration will not tolerate the use of torture
but has pressed to retain the use of unspecified "alternative"
interrogation methods.

The government argues that once rules are set for the new military
commissions, the high-value detainees will have military lawyers and
"unprecedented" rights to challenge charges against them in that venue.

U.S. officials say Khan, a Pakistani national who lived in the United
States for seven years, took orders from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the man
accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Mohammed allegedly
asked Khan to research poisoning U.S. reservoirs and considered him for
an operation to assassinate the Pakistani president.

In a separate court document filed last night, Khan's attorneys offered
declarations from Khaled al-Masri, a released detainee who said he was
held with Khan in a dingy CIA prison called "the salt pit" in
Afghanistan. There, prisoners slept on the floor, wore diapers and were
given tainted water that made them vomit, Masri said. American
interrogators treated him roughly, he said, and told him he "was in a
land where there were no laws."

Khan's family did not learn of his whereabouts until Bush announced his
transfer in September, more than three years after he was seized in
Pakistan.

The family said Khan was staying with a brother in Karachi, Pakistan, in
March 2003 when men, who were not in uniform, burst into the apartment
late one night and put hoods over the heads of Khan, his brother
Mohammad and his brother's wife. The couple's 1-month-old son was also
seized.

Another brother, Mahmood Khan, who has lived in the United States since
1989, said in an interview this week that the four were hustled into
police vehicles and taken to an undisclosed location, where they were
separated and held in windowless rooms. His sister-in-law and her baby
remained together, he said.

According to Mahmood, Mohammad said they were questioned repeatedly by
men who identified themselves as members of Pakistan's intelligence
service and others who identified themselves as U.S. officials.
Mohammad's wife was released after seven days, and he was released after
three months, without charge. He was left on a street corner without
explanation, Mahmood said.

Periodically, he said, people who identified themselves as Pakistani
officials contacted Mohammad and assured him that his brother would soon
be released and that they ought not contact a lawyer or speak with the
news media.

"We had no way of knowing who had him or where he was," Mahmood Khan
said this week at the family home outside Baltimore. He said they
complied with the requests because they believed anything else could
delay his brother's release.

In Maryland, Khan's family was under constant FBI surveillance from the
moment of his arrest, his brother said. The FBI raided their house the
day after the arrest , removing computer equipment, papers and videos.
Each family member was questioned extensively and shown photographs of
terrorism suspects that Mahmood Khan said none of them recognized. For
much of the next year, he said, they were followed everywhere.

"Pretty much we were scared," he said. "We live in this country. We have
everything here."

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.




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