Constitutional Law

The Aftermath of Guantanamo

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Lest we forget why quick action on Guantanamo is the right thing for our new president, see this book-length new report from U-Cal Berkeley's Human Rights Center (in cooperation with the International Human Rights Law Clinic and the Center for Constitutional Rights), Guantanamo and Its Aftermath: U.S. Detention and Interrogation Practices and Their Impact on Former Detainees.

Excerpts from their findings, as summarized in a press release:

based on a two-year study, [it] reveals in graphic detail the cumulative effect of Bush Administration policies on the lives of 62 released detainees. Many of the prisoners were sold into captivity and subjected to brutal treatment in U.S. prison camps in Afghanistan. Once in Guantanamo, prisoners were denied access to civilian courts to challenge the legality of their detention. Almost two-thirds of the former detainees interviewed reported having psychological problems since leaving Guantanamo.

……….
Researchers conducted interviews with released detainees in nine countries. The comprehensive study also includes in-depth interviews with key government officials, military experts, former guards, interrogators and other camp personnel.
………

The authors call for an independent, nonpartisan commission to lift the shroud of secrecy from Guantanamo and other detention sites. They further argue that the commission should have subpoena power and, if applicable, recommend further investigations of those allegedly responsible for any crimes committed at all levels of the civilian and military chain of command.

The authors warn that such a commission should not be undercut by the issuance of pardons, amnesties, or other measures that would protect those culpable from accountability. President-Elect Barack Obama has called for the closure of Guantanamo. The UC Berkeley report asks for even broader remedies.

……………

Over half of the study respondents who discussed their interrogation sessions at Guantanamo (31 of 55) characterized them as "abusive." Detainees reported being subjected to short shackling, stress positions, prolonged solitary confinement, and exposure to extreme temperatures, loud music, and
strobe lights for extended periods-often simultaneously. The authors conclude that the cumulative impact of these methods, especially over time, constitutes cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment and, in some cases, rises to the level of torture.
………….

Of the more than 770 detainees who have endured Guantanamo since it opened in 2002, more than 500 have been released without formal criminal charges or trial. So far, of the 250 or more who remain in detention, only 23 have been charged with a crime. Two have been convicted and one has pled guilty.

Links for a plethora of reason Gitmo coverage options.

NEXT: Ms. Wasilla Goes to Washington

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  1. The Libruls hate hate hate Bushitler. But the one excessive use of power I would support, they don’t have the balls for.

    I want to see W Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld tried for war crimes.

  2. Warren, if they go after Bush for war crimes, it exposes their guy to the same thing after he “intervenes” in Darfur or some shit like that. And they can’t have that–they’re in power now!

  3. Over half of the study respondents who discussed their interrogation sessions at Guantanamo (31 of 55) characterized them as “abusive.”

    So what’s with the other 24? Were they just lucky? Cooperative? Are the others lying? If Gitmo is a human rights nightmare, why wasn’t everyone abused? I doubt if nearly half the people let out of a gulag or concentration camp would say they weren’t abused. I’m not trolling here, I think this is puzzling.

  4. This is grotesque. The American President has done more damage to this country than a thousand airplanes crashing into a thousand buildings.

    If Obama had any balls (hah!) his first official act would be to eliminate any and all government provided security for Bush and Cheney. We will be spending millions to protect those assholes for the rest of their lives.

  5. P Brooks-

    Security is the last thing that I would take away from them. Strike them down and they will become more dangerous than you can possibly imagine, as martyrs in the War on Terror.

    I would take away their pensions and charge them with crimes in courts of law.

  6. Thoreau-

    You’re right, of course, but the thought that we will be protecting those bastards for the rest of their lives just aggravates the shit out of me. I want any American to be able to walk up to George W Bush and spit in his face.

    My number one preference would be to see them shackled together and put on a plane for the Hague on January 21.

  7. And they can pay for their defense out their own pockets.

  8. So what’s with the other 24? Were they just lucky? Cooperative? Are the others lying? If Gitmo is a human rights nightmare, why wasn’t everyone abused?

    There’s always the chance that they had been propagandized to expect even worse treatment. If you’re expecting to have your fingernails pulled out, run of the mill mistreatment doesn’t seem so bad. If I was sent to Attica, and managed to get out without being raped, but was smacked around a little now and then, if someone interviewed me about the conditions later I’d probably tell them I was delighted with how it turned out.

    I also think that we have to remember, when dealing with people who were set free, that by definition these are the guys we realized should never have been sent to Guantanamo in the first place. I have to imagine that among the released guys there’s a continuum – some of them probably were so obviously harmless and clueless that they were never abused and were just let go; some of them seemed a little less harmless, and were subjected to some subset of abuses “just to be sure”; some of them seemed like hardcases and got the full spectrum, etc. I imagine the people who have not yet been released got the worst treatment of all – probably including abuses not listed here – and our unwillingness to let them go out into the world and beat a drum about our abuses is one of the reasons we won’t let them go. You have to wonder about the Uighurs, for example, since it’s been documented that we flew in Chinese torturers – oops, interrogators – and let them have a go.

  9. Please. I’m sure the U-Cal Berkeley’s Human Rights Center (in cooperation with the International Human Rights Law Clinic and the Center for Constitutional Rights)did a completely objective and reliable job “investigating” the horrors of Gitmo. We’re in a war here, folks. You people need to go back to your roots: obsessing about the gold standard and medicinal pot.

  10. So what’s with the other 24? Were they just lucky? Cooperative? Are the others lying? If Gitmo is a human rights nightmare, why wasn’t everyone abused?

    It’s also possible they fear being sent back if they speak out.

  11. We’re in a war here, folks.

    We have always been at war with Eurasia

  12. Maybe they liked the food, the showers and the television options.I’d be pissed if I was sent to Gitmo and couldn’t go to the beach though.

  13. I don’t think Obama will intervene in Darfur. If you were the first African-American President would you send troops to quell an African war scene? I doubt he wants to touch that with the longest of poles. That shit will get “dealt with” diplomatically.

  14. We’re in a war here, folks.

    Fat conservative civilians: telling America what war is since 2001.

  15. “Greetings, Citizen! Welcome to the Ministry of Love. Please remove your clothing and place it neatly on the table. The interviewer will be with you shortly. Do not attempt to leave.”

  16. As much as I agree that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al committed heinous crimes, as satisfying as it would be to see them pay for said crimes, I gotta say LET IT GO.

    We don’t prosecute former presidents of the United States, we vote them and their party out of office and let them fade into irrelevancy. Maybe in shithole third world nations where there is a reasonable fear that some miscreant may regain power through illegitimate means it makes sense to jail/exile/exeecute them. That’s not a worry here, there is no benefit from doing it here.

    Gerald Ford was right to pardon Nixon. Nixon was an asshole criminal but Ford wisely ended the debacle and did a fairly good job explaining to the American people why.

    Revenge harms the deliverer as well as the recipient. GWB is out of power and gone in 10 weeks. We adults will have to be satisfied with that.

  17. Just to expand on what J sub D said, these days it’s too much to expect the “good” cops to turn in the bad ones, so I doubt we’ll get better results from politicians.

  18. Very wise counsel. Revenge is a fool’s game.

    Besides which, there will be plenty of schadenfreude to go around as Obama spends his first two years in office dismantling the Bush administration’s legacy.

    You know. hopefully.

  19. Obscurity and irrelevance are the worst punishments for Bush and Cheney.

  20. Very wise counsel. Revenge is a fool’s game.

    Someone said that about one of my posts?!

    Those new meds must be working out after all! I guess that means no more of my vituperative rants. That is, unless this improvement in my brain chemistry proves short lived like all the others.

    We shall see the next time somebody or something really jerks my chain. 😉

  21. J sub D-

    Nixon resigned. Yes, he was backed into the corner, but he still could have fought and dragged it out. Yet he didn’t fight, he didn’t try to pull out whatever dirty tricks he still had up his sleeve, he didn’t send his loyalists to mount one final, desperate raid to destroy evidence, he didn’t try to blackmail his accusers. He resigned. He laid aside his powers rather than going out in a fight. I can respect that, so I understand why Ford pardoned him: He surrendered.

    These guys aren’t resigning. They go on TV and all but admit to torture and FISA violations, and insist that they did no wrong. They have not surrendered and thrown themselves on the mercy of anyone, and so they deserve no mercy, but rather the full application of law.

  22. J sub, I think everyone gets a great post at least once except for Lefiti and LoneWacko.

  23. BTW, this isn’t just about revenge. If it were about revenge, I’d be willing to give it up, given the way that revenge can escalate. Rather, this is about the message that future Presidents get. They have to get some message other than “If you violate every law you can think of, you’ll get to serve a full 8 year term and then leave office and enjoy all the perks of retirement.”

  24. I’d like to see the Joker and the Ace of Spades prosecuted, only so that we can actually, finally find out what kind of heinous bullshit the two of them really did, to find out what kind of lunatic destruction to our country was done under their watch and guide. Revenge is one thing, discovery is another.

  25. “Big Green Monkey | November 13, 2008, 7:09pm | #
    I’d like to see the Joker and the Ace of Spades prosecuted, only so that we can actually, finally find out what kind of heinous bullshit the two of them really did, to find out what kind of lunatic destruction to our country was done under their watch and guide. Revenge is one thing, discovery is another.”

    Discovery is what historians are for. I’m sure they’ll find all kinds of interesting stuff. I can’t wait to read a book on the Bush/Cheney administration in 30 years or so.

  26. I’m with thoreau (as usual). Presidents break the law because they can. Prosecuting them for doing so is hardly “revenge.” It’s treating the President like any other citizen (or, in this case, criminal). Every time politics trumps justice, it lowers the bar for the next administration.

    Of course, I seriously doubt Cheney and Bush will be prosecuted, partly because Dems want the power the Bush administration created for itself, and partly because Pelosi and Reid don’t want anyone to know that they were well aware of what was going on.

  27. That’s not a worry here, there is no benefit from doing it here.

    Gotta disagree. A huge moral hazard has been created by the way the Bush administration has been able to run out the clock on its wrongdoing.

    The events of the last eight years have shown anyone who wants to see that administration officials can basically do whatever they want, and will get away with it if they can just stall long enough. If you defy subpoenas, “lose” emails, burn tapes, claim executive privilege, claim national security privilege, laugh at the Freedom of Information Act, set up whitewash “investigations”, grant immunity to anyone who might testify about what you’ve done, etc., and make it through to the next inauguration, you get to skate away.

    If Obama “lets bygones be bygones”, and his party lets him get away with that, this country deserves whatever happens to it next time a cock like Bush is in office. No matter how bad it is, it will be deserved.

  28. Exactly what law did the Bush administration break by opening Gitmo? Please cite the U.S. Code, or even a state law. Please enlighten me, I’d love to see it. Are you saying the U.S. can’t detain people it captures on a battlefield? Since when?

  29. scott, I don’t know what aspects of Gitmo are illegal, despite all the innocent people who were imprisoned there. What I want the Bush administration to go to jail for is breaking felony laws regarding wiretapping, which they’ve admitted to.

  30. Innocent people picked up on a battlefield. Yes, that’s very unfortunate. (And innocent people also get killed on battlefields). But innocent people are arrested and locked up in the criminal justice system here, even without prosecutorial misconduct or illegality. That doesn’t condemn the whole system.

    As to FISA, that wasn’t my question. I won’t defend Bush on that (but to be fair, they never admitted they were “guilty”, they argued they were complying with a VERY loose interpretation of the law.)

  31. They weren’t just picked up on battlefields. They were turned in for rewards, as well. But I agree it doesn’t condemn the whole system, as there are people who are part of the system who did their best to get the innocents released.

    As to FISA, they admit that they wiretapped without warrants. I don’t think it matters what they argue, just as it doesn’t matter that the guy driving the stolen car says he was just borrowing it. It’s a pretty open and shut case. Or it would be for a regular citizen.

  32. Fat conservative civilians: telling America what war is since 2001.

    Hey!!!! Bill O’Reilly is still the same size he was in college and George W. Bush can run a 6-minute mile.

  33. Discovery is what historians are for. I’m sure they’ll find all kinds of interesting stuff. I can’t wait to read a book on the Bush/Cheney administration in 30 years or so.

    BDB, I’m sure Bush will go down in history like other war-mongering socialists (FDR, Johnson, dare I say Lincoln).

  34. Scott-

    It takes a level of willful ignorance to believe things are fine and on the level in X-Ray.

    Account of a former detainee

    Don’t want to believe a dirty A-Rab, despite being one of the only ones clean enough for Bush to release?

    How about a member of the military who was given brain injuries when he roleplayed the part of a detainee in a training exercise?

    This is routine operations

    Saying the debate is about the right to detain our enemies is the height of strawman fabrication.

  35. Are you saying the U.S. can’t detain people it captures on a battlefield? Since when?
    Since many of them weren’t captured ‘on a battlefield’, but kidnapped from their homes by political or personal enemies and given to US troops for bribes or other considerations. We have little evidence any of these folks were anything remotely resembling ‘combatants’. That’s why they have to be tried in some kind of open court–otherwise we don’t know the US government is just lying. And they might go after us next. Why not? If they can get away with it once, they’ll do it again.

  36. Prosecutions are very unlikely, I think. William Calley helped kill 109 civilians at My Lai and only got 2 1/2 years of house arrest at Fort Benning.

    No, what I’d really like to see is transparency, like the truth and reconciliation commision in South Africa. Which amendments of the Bill of Rights were suspended? Who gave the orders for extraordinary rendition and who wrote the guidelines for torture? How many people actually fell into the system, and how many of those ended up dead or broken? What was the wiretapping program that was so heinous that even John Ashcroft wouldn’t go along with it?

    I’d like to have all this stuff become public knowledge, so bloggers and historians and the military and intelligence communities can look at it and draw lessons for the future. And if that helps discredit some politicians and their ideas, that’s cool too.

  37. First off I would like to thank President Bush for the job he did. There has not been one attack of our soil since 2001. I don’t know why anyone would want to turn these people loose to kill Americans. What do you want to do make them US citizens?

    http://gal.darkervision.com/2008/05/08/ex-guantanamo-bay-prisoner-dies-in-suicide-attack-guantanamo-bay-the-perfect-recruitment-and-training-camp-for-prisoners/

  38. What do you want to do make them US citizens?

    Absolutely, Bob! Nailed it on the head. Great discussion. I also feel they should get gay marriages and abortions, but I feel that way about everyone.

  39. There has not been one attack of our soil since 2001.

    Yep, only the one attack on our soil during his watch, Bravo!

    It’s just a damn shame he can’t be our President forever.

  40. “Gerald Ford was right to pardon Nixon. Nixon was an asshole criminal but Ford wisely ended the debacle and did a fairly good job explaining to the American people why.”

    Sorry, but not a chance. Where did the push for expanded presidental powers come from? Dick Cheney. Who did he work for and get his ideas about presidential power? Nixon. The question you should be asking yourself is what ideas do all the people from the Bush whitehouse have about excutive authority. Many of them will be in powerful positions in the future, and god knows what they will do.

  41. It’s times to shut down Guantanamo.

  42. I don’t know why anyone would want to turn these people loose to kill Americans. What do you want to do make them US citizens?

    Again, this just papers over the fact that we’ve already released almost 500 of these guys.

    That’s almost 500 times that, by our government’s own admission, we fucked up and sent people to an extrajudicial detention camp for no good reason, where they were subject to interrogations that our own FBI protested and walked away from, and where they were subject to show trials that military lawyer after military lawyer has declared farces and resigned and walked away from. [Yes, the grammar in all that is shitty, but I hope the sentence is still comprehensible.]

    And we have more guys that we’ve said we want to let go but can’t find a way to get rid of administratively.

    If the government can make 500 mistakes like that, it’s reasonable to assume that maybe some of the guys still being held are mistakes, too. You don’t get to fuck up 500 times, and then tell me, “Oh, but we’re right about the guys we’ve still got, so just trust our judgment on this one!” Those 500 mistakes mean that in any individual case of persons still being held, there may be another mistake. The only way to resolve that is due process, which while not perfect is the best means we know of to try to figure out if someone has been detained by mistake.

    And as for making them US citizens – US law prohibits the deportation of persons to countries where they may be subject to torture or other human rights violations. That means that as a matter of law, we can’t send the Uighurs back to China, for example. It further means that once we took them into US custody, if we decided not to try them or could not try them, they were entitled to political asylum. You may not like the fact that this means release into the US, but it’s our fuckup not theirs. We fucked up when we took them into custody and release into the US is the price we pay for that, according to our own laws.

  43. Ok guys, name me a president since William H. Harrison who has not committed crimes while in office. Mark my words, prosecuting this asshole would open up a partisan can of worms we will all regret in short order.

  44. Criminalizing policy differences is a fool’s game, and prosecuting people who surrender power peacefully is the shortest road to ending Consitutional transitions from one administration to the next.

    You may not like the fact that this means release into the US, but it’s our fuckup not theirs. We fucked up when we took them into custody and release into the US is the price we pay for that, according to our own laws.

    If Obama releases these people into the US as free men, I will take back everything I ever said or thought about him being a go-along-to-get-along machine politician who would never place his own career in jeopardy to do the right thing.

    I would also post as Crow Eating Dumbass for a full year.

    So let it be written.

  45. Criminalizing policy differences is a fool’s game, and prosecuting people who surrender power peacefully is the shortest road to ending Consitutional transitions from one administration to the next.

    Yup. Unless you want to see every President ever again doing the perp walk out of office, let it go.

  46. Fine, then.

    Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Let it all come out. The only crime you can be charged with is obstruction, complete immunity for all acts you divulge in testimony before the Commission.

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