Monday, June 09, 2008

Torture Awareness Month Update

Everyone's observing Torture Awareness Month in their own way.

The clique of criminals who rule us are making efforts to cover up the extent and specifics of the tortures to which prisoners at Guantanamo have been subjected, while doing so in a way that actually calls attention to the cover-up:
  • Urging interrogators in a printed operations manual to destroy their notes to avoid revealing torture.
  • Using a sound delay and mute button to prevent observers at the arraignment of five defendants in Guantanamo from hearing the men describe their treatment, while allowing several outright references to torture.

    The crudeness of these evasions makes it hard for those who want to deny that a systematic policy of torture is in effect to keep up the pretense.

    Carol Rosenberg's coverage for the Miami Herald of the show trials underway at Guantanamo is the best in the corporate media. Her account of the recent arraignment of Khaled Sheikh Mohammed and four other defendants makes vivid the surreal, Soviet atmosphere in which prosecutors and defendants cooperated to shed the defense lawyers who might slow down the express train to judicial murder/martyrdom/permanent destruction of witnesses to torture.

    Some other journalists who've already earned respect are about to mark this month by strengthening their reputation for putting the truth in front of the public. Here's a preview from one of them, John Walcott:

    Next Sunday, June 15, McClatchy will begin publishing the most extensive investigation to date of the treatment of detainees, not only at Guantanamo but also at Bagram and Kandahar in Afghanistan. Reporters Tom Lasseter and Matt Schofield tracked down and interviewed 66 former detainees -- more than any other organization, media or NGO, we think -- in 11 countries on three continents. They also interviewed former prison guards, interrogators, translators, Pentagon and administration officials, defense lawyers and Afghan intelligence and security officials to paint the most complete picture we could of who U.S. picked up, how and why, what happened to “suspected enemy combatants” and who’s responsible.

    The package was overseen by the McClatchy Washington Bureau’s Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign editor, Roy Gutman, the editor of "Crimes of War" and the author of a new book on U.S. policy toward Afghanistan before 9/11. It includes five main stories, a video, photos, numerous sidebars, the stories of all 66 former detainees and an online database.

    If you don’t live in an area served by one of our papers, or even if you do, you can find the whole package at starting on Sunday, June 15 and running for five days.
    [A heartfelt hat tip to bmaz at Emptywheel for all the items above.]

    The Supreme Court is observing Torture Awareness Month by upholding, narrowly, the principle of habeas corpus that is fundamental to preventing indefinite detention and torture: the guarantee of access to civilian federal courts to contest the basis of the detention. As Human Rights First pointed out in fighting Congress's craven passage of the habeas-stripping Military Commissions Act in September 2006, virtually everything known about the mistreatment of prisoners up to that point was made public only through the process of their habeas appeals.

    The Boumediene/Al Odah decision is not as far-reaching as some had hoped, but not as narrow as some had feared. It is resoundingly Constitution-affirming. A sigh of relief, a small sip of champagne.

    Speaking of affirming the Constitution, Rep. Dennis Kucinich and three co-sponsors this week made Bush's policy of torture two of the central articles of impeachment (pdf) introduced against him, along with 33 other high crimes and misdemeanors. The House Judiciary Committee has to take the next step.

    So. What are you doing for Torture Awareness Month?

    Update: 15 June, 2:00 pm - The McClatchy series has begun. Bless them for including photos of each of the detainees in their 'detainee database', a degree of humanization that even many sympathetic accounts have not reached.

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