Perhaps High Value Interrogation Group Members Don’t Make the Best Doctors?

As Josh Gerstein reported last week, the Public Defenders Office for Southern District of NY and DOJ spent much of Tuesday and Wednesday fighting about whether Abu Anas al-Libi should get a lawyer. On Friday, Lewis Kaplan (who also presided over the Ahmed Ghailani trial) decided he should not.

Then, sometime over the weekend (that is, no more than 2 days after DOJ won the fight to continue to keep al-Libi detained with no lawyer) al-Libi was brought to NY, though he won’t show up in court until tomorrow.

One excuse the government is giving for the apparent change in plans is al-Libi’s health problems.

Al-Libi has longstanding health issues and will get medical testing while in custody to determine whether he needs treatment, U.S. officials said.

As Gerstein also noted, al-Libi’s floating interrogation came to an end before such time as the Red Cross would normally have opportunity to inspect the conditions of his detention.

All of which stinks.

I think several things may have happened:

  • Something happened during al-Libi’s interrogation that worsened, or threatened to exacerbate, his health issues and the government realized they needed those health issues off their hands before they had another dead interrogee on their hands
  • The government convinced itself they couldn’t sustain an enemy combatant under the AUMF claim
  • The government decided al-Libi didn’t have much intelligence of worth so they’ll just deal him off now as if the whole floating interrogation never happened

Meanwhile, the press is generally reporting al-Libi’s (secret, over the weekend) arrival in NY as if it hails a new day, when the arguments the government made to detain him nevertheless remain unchallenged.

Update: This makes sense. Al-Libi had stopped taking food or water.

The decision to bring the suspect, Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, to New York came after he stopped eating and drinking aboard the Navy vessel, the San Antonio, which made his chronic health conditions worse, several officials said. Mr. Ruqai’s wife has said that her husband has a severe case of hepatitis C.

5 replies
  1. Snoopdido says:

    If as the news media reports ( and that al-Libi was transferred from military custody to law enforcement custody on Saturday and arrived in New York on Saturday accompanied by the FBI, it begs the question of whether he was informed of his right to counsel on Saturday and whether counsel was made available to him on Saturday.

    The specific details described in those news media reports:

    “A law enforcement source told CBS News senior investigative producer Pat Milton that al-Libi was brought into Stewart Air Force base just outside of New York City accompanied by New York FBI agents. The source said that al-Libi did answer some questions posed to him by interrogators. A second source described al-Libi’s demeanor as matter of fact. ”


    “A senior law enforcement official told Fox News he was transferred from military custody to law enforcement Saturday morning and flown to New York, where he arrived Saturday night.”

    An additional item is when the US High Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG) was aware of al-Libi’s health issues. From that same Fox News report:

    “The official said that shortly after his capture, U.S. officials found he suffered from several pre-existing chronic health conditions and that the medical treatment he required exceeded what he could get in military custody at sea.”

    So is it the case that the HIG began/continued al-Libi’s interrogation aboard the USS Antonio even AFTER the US was aware of al-Libi’s health issues that they themselves say exceeded the medical treatment al-Libi could get aboard the ship?

  2. scribe says:

    And, to boot, he gets sent before the designated torture-ratifying judge in the SDNY. The guy who took over that spot after Mukasey moved over to AG.

    Nice job of judge shopping, DoJ.

  3. bevin says:

    Every aspect of this story is shocking. Not surprising-so low have we fallen- but shocking.
    It is a measure of the depravity of..(what? the government? the political class? the media and those working in it? society?) that no attempt seems to be made to mask the details- the secret interrogation on the USS Lubianka, the refusal to provide counsel to the prisoner, the secretion of the kidnapped detainee from ICRC observers- from the public.
    Rather with a Bushian smirk the administration allows that, yes, it is tough. No, it doesn’t care for legal contraints. Yes, it is leading a lynch mob and yip, the verdict is predictable.

  4. C says:

    @bevin: I agree. When you stop and think about it, it is horrific than in just one decade we went from a nation against torture to one where floating torture cells are not just public knowledge but actively celebrated. While the past history of our wars is no cause for great joy it is an entirely different thing, an entirely shameful thing, that lawless “interrogation” is not news, not something to be wrestled with or discussed in the public press. No, it is just something that is accepted as a fact of life.

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