As Josh Gerstein and Adam Serwer lay out, the Senate Armed Services Committee just passed a new version of the Defense Authorization mandating military detention for terrorists. The language on detention includes the following two paragraphs:
Except as provided in paragraph (4) [which is a national security exception], the Armed Forces of the United States shall hold a person described in paragraph (2) [an Al Qaeda related terrorist] who is captured in the course of hostilities authorized by the Authorization of the Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40) in military custody pending disposition of the war.
No amounts authorized to be appropriated or otherwise made available to the Department of Defense for fiscal year 2012 may be used to construct or modify any facility in the United States, its territories, or possessions to house any individual detained at Guantanamo for the purposes of detention or imprisonment in the custody or under the control of the Department of Defense unless authorized by Congress.
In other words, unless the government has a really good reason, they have to put accused terrorists caught during the AUMF-authorized war in military custody. And DOD can’t build a prison in the US specifically to house those detainees.
That makes it much more likely we’re going to put terrorist detainees at Gitmo, where as Carol Rosenberg recently reported, we spend 32 times as much holding prisoners as we spend in civilian prisons in the United States.
The Pentagon detention center that started out in January 2002 as a collection of crude open-air cells guarded by Marines in a muddy tent city is today arguably the most expensive prison on earth, costing taxpayers $800,000 annually for each of the 171 captives by Obama administration reckoning.
That’s more than 30 times the cost of keeping a captive on U.S. soil.
It’s still funded as an open-ended battlefield necessity, although the last prisoner arrived in March 2008. But it functions more like a gated community in an American suburb than a forward-operating base in one of Afghanistan’s violent provinces.
It’s a slow-motion Berlin Airlift — that’s been going on for 10 years,” says retired Army Brig. Gen. Greg Zanetti, a West Point graduate who in 2008 was deputy commander at the detention center.
Alternately, we could put them in Bagram, the population of which has been ballooning under Obama’s Administration.
Today, there are more than 3,000 detainees at Bagram, or five times the number (around 600) when President Barack Obama took office in January 2009. There are currently 18 times as many detainees at Bagram than at the U.S. military prison at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, naval base, whose prisoner population has dwindled from a peak of 780 to 170.
DOD is now reviewing bids from contractors to expand the facility to house up to 5,500 detainees. The project is expected to cost another $25 to $100 million when it is completed by the end of 2012.
It’s unclear what Bagram costs, per detainee.
But we do know it costs almost $1.2 million a year to keep a single troop in Afghanistan, for some of the same reasons it costs so much to keep Gitmo running, supply costs. The average federal prison guard in the US is paid about $55,000 (so figure $71,500 with benefits). Just the cost of the prison guard alone makes Bagram 16 times more expensive than a federal prison in the US, and that’s before you count the $60 million we’ve already spent on expanding the prison at Bagram and the $25 to $100 million we’re already planning on spending. And all those costs are based on a logistics chain through Pakistan, which is getting more and more questionable these day.
Meanwhile, the scary Underwear Bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab spent 21 months of pre-trial detention in a low security prison in MI. Not only did no one get hurt with him in low security custody in the US, but no one nationally even noticed!
This is ridiculous. The Republican insistence that we use military law when civilian law is better and cheaper is going to bankrupt this country. And it’s not going to keep us any safer.
This is what bmaz and hcgorman @ 12 are referencing:
Two Guantanamo detainees, Fahmi Al-Assani and Suleiman Al-Nahdi, have moved the D.C. Circuit to dismiss their habeas appeals (Al-Assani’s motion is here, Al-Nahdi’s is here). Both men lost their district court habeas cases in decisions by Judge Gladys Kessler; the Al Assani decision is here, the Al-Nahdi decision is here. Both men appealed, and today, both men have given up their appeals as lost causes.
Their lawyer, Richard Murphy, explained in an email,
Judge Kessler denied our clients’ habeas petitions and we appealed to the D.C. Circuit, but then stayed the appeals pending the outcome of several [other Guantanamo habeas] cases in which [Supreme Court] cert petitions had been filed. Once cert [review] was denied [by the Supreme Court] in all of the relevant cases coming out of the D.C. Circuit it became clear that the appeals were futile. Under the detention standard that has been developed by the D.C. Circuit (which the Supreme Court has refused to review), it is clear that the courts provide no hope for the men remaining at Guantanamo.
This development strikes me as a big deal–albeit a quiet one that won’t get a lot of press attention. [...] - Benjamin Wittes, June 2, 2011
That grim assessment of the current posture of Guantanamo habeas petitions, which, for years, have been pending before federal judges serving in the Judicial Branch of the United States Government, was further illuminated and reinforced by this June 8, 2011 Benjamin Wittes post:
Habeas lawyer David Remes sent in the following comments on recent developments in D.C. Circuit case law. He emphasizes that he has been counsel in several of the cases discussed below and that the following represents his own opinion only:
I agree with my colleague Richard Murphy (here) that for Guantánamo detainees, seeking habeas relief has proven to be an exercise in futility. The D.C. Circuit appears to be dead-set against letting them prevail. It has not affirmed a grant in any habeas case, and it has remanded any denial that it did not affirm.
Moreover, the Supreme Court, having declared in Boumediene that detainees have a constitutional right to seek habeas relief, appears to have washed its hands of the matter. It denied review in every case brought to it by detainees this Term, including one, Kiyemba III, which eliminated the habeas remedy itself.
The D.C. Circuit has decided twelve habeas appeals on the merits. In four, the detainee prevailed in the district court; in eight, the government prevailed. The D.C. Circuit erased all four detainee wins. It reversed two outright (Adahi, Uthman) and remanded the other two (Salahi, Hatim). By contrast, the court →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Hot on the heels of the big DADT victory in Congress, which pretty much got passed in spite of Obama instead of because of him, comes this giant lump of coal for the Christmas stockings all those who believe in human rights, due process, the Constitution, and moral and legal obligations under international treaties and norms. From the Washington Post:
The Obama administration is preparing an executive order that would formalize indefinite detention without trial for some detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but allow those detainees and their lawyers to challenge the basis for continued incarceration, U.S. officials said.
The administration has long signaled that the use of prolonged detention, preferably at a facility in the United States, was one element of its plan to close Guantanamo. An interagency task force found that 48 of the 174 detainees remaining at the facility would have to be held in what the administration calls prolonged detention.
This is certainly not shocking, as the Obama Administration long ago indicated there were at least 48 or so detainees they felt too dangerous to release and their cases unable to be tried in any forum, Article III or military commission. This is, of course, because the evidence they have on said cases is so tainted by torture, misconduct and lack of veracity that it is simply not amenable to any legal process. Even one of their kangaroo courts would castigate the evidence and the US government proffering it. That is what happens when a country becomes that which it once stood against.
Pro Publica fills in some of the details:
But the order establishes indefinite detention as a long-term Obama administration policy and makes clear that the White House alone will manage a review process for those it chooses to hold without charge or trial.
Nearly two years after Obama’s pledge to close the prison at Guantanamo, more inmates there are formally facing the prospect of lifelong detention and fewer are facing charges than the day Obama was elected.
That is in part because Congress has made it difficult to move detainees to the United States for trial. But it also stems from the president’s embrace of indefinite detention and his assertion that the congressional authorization for military force, passed after the 2001 terrorist attacks, allows for such detention.
“It’s been clear for a while that the government would need to put in place some sort of periodic review, and that it would want it to improve on the annual review procedures used during the previous administration,” said Matthew Waxman, a professor at Columbia Law School who worked on detainee issues during the Bush administration.
Unfortunately, it does not appear as if this ballyhooed “review” amounts to anthing meaningful to the detainee. Although the detainee would have access to an attorney, it would obviously not be unfettered access, completely on the government’s self serving terms, there would be only limited access to evidence, and, most critically, the “review” would only weigh the necessity of the detention, not its lawfulness. In short, it is a joke.
So, the next time you hear Mr. Obama, or some spokesperson for his Administrations decrying the horrible Congress for placing a provision in legislation prohibiting the transfer of detainees to the US for civilian trial, keep in mind how quickly Mr. Obama rose up to take advantage of it – before the measure was even signed – and also keep in mind how Obama stood mute when he could have threatened a veto of such an inappropriate invasion of Executive Branch power by the Legislative Branch. Keep in mind that this is likely exactly what the Obama Administration wants to cover feckless and cowardly indecision and so they do not have to make the difficult political choice of actually protecting the Constitution and due process of law.
In a country founded on “self evident truths” such as life, liberty, equality, and due process of law, the timeless quote from Ben Franklin speaks to the peril imposed when the founding principles are discarded or compromised:
Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.
Yet, of course, since 9/11 that is exactly what the United States has done and what has resulted in return. Fareed Zakaria has a piece up at Newsweek speaking to the senseless and destructive madness that has consumed the US since the 9/11 attacks:
The error this time is more damaging. September 11 was a shock to the American psyche and the American system. As a result, we overreacted.
Some 30,000 people are now employed exclusively to listen in on phone conversations and other communications in the United States. And yet no one in Army intelligence noticed that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan had been making a series of strange threats at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he trained. The father of the Nigerian “Christmas bomber” reported his son’s radicalism to the U.S. Embassy. But that message never made its way to the right people in this vast security apparatus. The plot was foiled only by the bomber’s own incompetence and some alert passengers.
Such mistakes might be excusable. But the rise of this national-security state has entailed a vast expansion in the government’s powers that now touches every aspect of American life, even when seemingly unrelated to terrorism.
In the past, the U.S. government has built up for wars, assumed emergency authority, and sometimes abused that power, yet always demobilized after the war. But this is a war without end. When do we declare victory? When do the emergency powers cease?
Conservatives are worried about the growing power of the state. Surely this usurpation is more worrisome than a few federal stimulus programs. When James Madison pondered this issue, he came to a simple conclusion: “Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germs of every other … In war, too, the discretionary power of the executive is extended?.?.?.?and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.
“No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual war,” Madison concluded.
Indeed it is a chilling picture we have allowed our political “leaders” to paint us into, and Zakaria does not even hit some of the most disturbing impingements on due process and the rule of law such as the government arrogating itself the right to summarily execute American citizens with no judicial trial or due process whatsoever and the legal black hole that is Guantanamo and the Obama Military Commission and indefinite detention program. That is, as a nation, who and what we are today and it has bought us nothing except world scorn, geometrically more enemies, a plundered treasury, ignored and dilapidated domestic infrastructure, swelling joblessness and exploding income inequality.
But, hey, at least we have increased security and all those oppressive terrorist modalities are only for al-Qaida and the bad foreigners, right? No. The rot is now who we are, towards ourselves in addition to “them”. And that is where we finally get to the subject of the title of this post. Nothing demonstrates the deadly rot virus that has been injected into the blood of the American ethos than the story of Zeitoun. (more after jump) →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
You might not know it from the asleep at the wheel major media, but the Bush/Cheney war on terror foundation has taken some serious hits recently, from news of the murder of Gul Rahman at the Salt Pit, to the selective prosecution of David Passaro, to the finding by Judge Walker that the wiretapping was illegal, to widely acclaimed terror pros Steve Kappes and Phil Mudd both suddenly bailing from their high ranking intelligence jobs. You can add to the list a hard slap down by a Federal Court of the government’s continued use of bogus evidence obtained by brutal torture to try to justify continued detention of detainees at Guantanamo.
On Wednesday, Judge Henry H. Kennedy of the DC District Court issued his written opinion in the Habeas Petition by Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman, and it is a testament of what it looks like when a legitimate court encounters the unconscionable torture and innuendo evidence the US Government, under both the Bush and Obama Administrations, has been relying on to hold the detainees at Gitmo.
Uthman had been captured in the Afganistan/Pakistan border region (allegedly in the general area of Tora Bora, although that was never established) with a large group of others all rounded up en masse. Uthman claims he was a teacher innocently traveling, the DOJ asserted he was a key bodyguard for bin Laden. The evidence proffered against Uthman came almost exclusively from two other detainees, Sharqwi Abdu Ali AI-Hajj and Sanad Yislam Ali Al Kazimi, who both assert they fabricated the statements in response to severe torture.
Here is how the handling of Hajj and Kazimi was described by Uthman, and found credible by the court:
Uthman has submitted to the Court a declaration of Kristin B. Wilhelm, an attorney who represents Hajj, summarizing Hajj’s description to her of his treatment →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
It has now been a little over a month since we learned just how far over the due process rule of law cliff the Obama Administration has gone with regard to politicization of the DOJ prosecutorial function in relation to terrorist trials. That striking realization came courtesy of Jane Mayer’s and Josh Gerstein’s respective reports on the Rahm/Obama negotiations with Lindsay Graham to go strictly with military commissions and Eric Holder’s seeming resignation that such may indeed be the case.
There are two new developments that would seem to indicate the Obama Administration is indeed moving toward capitulation to the neocon howlers on the issue of military tribunals over civilian trials. First, from Main Justice comes word that the Graham/Emanuel deal is looking like it is on and Graham has finalized his proposal on terrorist detentions and trials band and he and the administration are circulating it on the hill:
Graham’s proposal comes after weeks of discussion between the South Carolina senator and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. In January, Emanuel and Graham began talks on a deal: Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, would be tried in a military tribunal, in exchange for Graham’s support for a new U.S. detention center to replace Guantanamo Bay. (Graham has warned that his support for closing Gitmo would be affected by a civilian trial for KSM, which he adamantly opposes.) According to an unnamed administration official cited by The Post, those discussions have broadened and Graham now hopes to reach a “grand bargain” that would resolve many outstanding questions concerning terrorist detention.
The White House opposes some of the ideas in Graham’s proposal, such as a separate national security court to try alleged terrorist detainees, according to The Post. But other provisions — including one that would create a standard process for dealing with habeas petitions, where alleged terrorists challenge their status as “unlawful enemy combatants” in U.S. courts — are likely to find support, The Post said.
It is all disquieting enough, but the last part signals a abject willingness by the Obama Administration to have Congress restrict habeas access to courts; I guess they are noticing that real courts keep thinking there is no justification for detention of the people they have salted away for years at Gitmo.
The second piece of news comes vis Mike Isikoff and the Declassified Blog:
The White House may yet be several weeks away from announcing whether it plans to overrule Attorney General Eric Holder and order that the 9/11 conspirators be tried before military commissions rather than in civilian courts. But it’s not hard to figure out which way the wind is blowing.
The Pentagon is set to announce that Secretary of Defense Bob Gates has appointed a new chief judicial officer for the Office of Military Commissions, according to three Defense Department sources familiar with the decision. The appointment, which could come as early as Wednesday, paves the way for the Pentagon to begin convening a series of high-profile terror trials before military commissions at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay–the very same →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
I have long pointed out the close connection between the CIA’s OIG report on torture and the tapes of Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation. The key dates are:
January 2003: CIA IG begins investigation into detainee interrogation.
February 10, 2003: Jane Harman writes a letter recording CIA Counsel Scott Muller drawing a connection between the torture tapes and the CIA IG investigation.
You discussed the fact that there is videotape of Abu Zubaydah following his capture that will be destroyed after the Inspector General finishes his inquiry
May 2003: CIA IG reviews the torture tapes at black site.
May 2004: CIA IG completes investigation, finding that CIA interrogation techniques are "cruel and inhumane."
May 2004: CIA and White House discuss destroying the tapes of Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation.
November 9, 2005: Most complete report of IG investigation appears, revealing the "cruel and inhumane" conclusion.
Mid-November 2005: Torture tapes destroyed.
While there are surely other reasons why the CIA destroyed the torture tape, one thing the destruction of the tapes did was to eliminate one key piece of evidence that led the CIA’s own IG to conclude that the CIA’s interrogation methods were cruel and inhumane.
Well, over the course of the DOJ’s IG investigation into interrogation techniques, the CIA once again prevented investigators from accessing information–this time in the form of an interview of Abu Zubaydah–that would contribute to a conclusion that interrogation treatment was cruel and inhumane. In a footnote, DOJ’s IG report reveals that it interviewed High-Value Detainees at Gitmo, but that CIA refused to let DOJ’s IG to interview Abu Zubaydah.
When the OIG investigative team was preparing for its trip to GTMO in early 2007, we asked the DOD for permission to interview several detainees, including Zubaydah. The DOD agreed, stating that our interviews would not interfere with their attempts to obtain any intelligence from the detainees, including Zubaydah. However, the CIA Acting General Counsel [John Rizzo] objected to our interviewing Zubaydah. [three lines redacted]
Marty Lederman links to the important opinion disqualifying General Thomas Hartmann from any involvement in Salim Ahmed Hamdan’s–Osama bin Laden’s driver–military tribunal. (Kudos to Marty Lederman for thwacking the traditional media for touting an opinion’s limited availability–and then not providing a link to that opinion.)
As Marty notes, the opinion does much more than the traditional press coverage of the opinion lets on–though as always, Carol Rosenberg’s coverage of the show trials is quite good. The opinion basically affirms that the Gitmo show trials under Hartmann have been just that–trials driven by political motivations rather than legal evidence. Go read the opinion, written by Judge Keith Allred, for the timeline it offers of Hartmann’s (and others’) attempts to tailor the show trials to political considerations.
I’m particularly interested in the coincidence of timing the opinion reveals. The Bush Administration started crafting its show trials at precisely the same time–fall 2006–when it was engineering the firing of 8 US Attorneys for political reasons.
5. About 28 September of 2006, [Colonel Morris Davis] attended a meeting of the Senior Oversight Group, held in the office of Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England. During one of these meetings, Mr. England said "there could be strategic political value in getting some of these cases going before the [November 2006--editorial comment original] elections. We need to think about who could be tried" or words to that effect. The commission takes judicial notice that the Supreme Court issued Hamdan v. Rumsfeld in June 2006 and that the Military Commissions Act was not signed until late October 2006. Consequently, there was no possible way in which any military commission case could be referred, much less brought to trial, before the November 2006 elections.
Colonel Davis viewed [England's] remark as an opinion, rather than a command. Colonel Davis affirmatively denies that this statement had any effect on any decision he made with respect to Mr. Hamdan’s case.
7. During the same meeting, then-Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Mr. Steve Cambone opined that Department of Defense (DoD) attorneys were not sufficiently experienced to handle these cases, and that they needed to get some Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys involved. Although no DOJ attorney had made an appearance in a military commission hearing before that date, they have since been assigned to military commission trial teams.
Scott Horton has more on the news that Jim Haynes has lawyered up–borrowing Dick’s trusty lawyer–in the face of scrutiny from Armed Services. Scott seems to imply that Armed Services is closing in on Haynes on perjury charges.
I’ve been looking into this trying to get a sense of what, exactly, the Armed Services Committee is so eager to discuss with Haynes. Two possibilities emerge.
First is the subject that Isikoff identifies: committee staffers have been carefully assembling secondary accounts concerning Haynes’s role in the process of authorizing highly coercive interrogation techniques, in preparing memoranda, and in soliciting memoranda to cover his advice from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. Haynes’s relationship and dealings with OLC are drawing particular attention. Similarly, staffers are looking very carefully at Haynes’s prior appearances before the Committee, as well as his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee in connection with his nomination to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
My hunch is that the facts and circumstances surrounding the preparation of the two “torture memoranda,” which I have dubbed Yoo Prime (August 2002) and Yoo Two (March 2003) will be right in the center of questioning. Something that Haynes said, it seems, doesn’t sit right with the investigators.
The second matter is Haynes’s role in restructuring the Military Commissions at Guantánamo and tasking prosecutors and the legal advisor to the convening authority. This is the point on which the president of the New York City Bar, apparently now joined by other bar associations, is pressing for Haynes’s examination under oath. Accusations come from the former chief prosecutor, Colonel Morris Davis, among others. Davis has recently stated that he is prepared to submit to a lie-detector test about the matter. Haynes has refused to make public comment, offering only a bland statement that he “disputes” Davis’s charges through a Pentagon public affairs spokesman. [my emphasis]
The increasingly valuable WikiLeaks reveals that a Mass Communications Specialist at Gitmo has been altering Wikipedia and other web resources to hide detainee numbers and otherwise counter reports of poor conditions at the prison.
The US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay has been caught conducting covert propaganda attacks on the internet. The attacks, exposed this week in a report by the government transparency group Wikileaks, include deleting detainee ID numbers from Wikipedia last month, the systematic posting of unattributed "self praise" comments on news organization web sites in response to negative press, boosting pro-Guantanamo stories on the internet news site Digg and even modifying Fidel Castro’s encyclopedia article to describe the Cuban president as "an admitted transexual" [sic].
Shayana Kadidal, Managing Attorney of the Center for Constitutional Rights Guantanamo Global Justice Initiative, said in response to the report:
"The military’s efforts to alter the record by vandalizing Wikipedia are of a piece with the amateurism of their other public relations efforts: [such as] their ridiculous claims that released detainees who criticize the United States in the media have ‘returned to the battlefield’."
We finally got rid of Karen Hughes as Chief Propaganda Specialist. But we’ve apparently got some schmo in Cuba trying to pitch Castro as a transsexual.
Stuff like this always reminds me of my discovery, as a college professor, that most Americans have the crudest understanding of how language works. I can’t decide how to judge the trade-off. It means our government rarely gets away with propaganda. But it also reflects a widespread inability to think critically.