Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Democratic Underground Forums - Stories of Korans Tossed Into Gitmo Toilets as Early as **March 2003**

KrazyKat makes good use of a Lex-Nex account:

The scapegoating of Newsweek by BushCo and its mouthpieces stikes me as far too strained and contrived. So much so that I did a Lexis-Nexis search for similar stories, and came up with hits dating from today back to March 2003. So why the meltdown now, and the damning of Newsweek for printing a story that been traveling through the press for more than two years?

So you(.PDF) see, Newsweek didn't invent this story; it's been reported on for years.

I'm sick of this all already, so I'm going to let John Rogers get in the last word:

-- Osama bin Ladin, Zaquari, and Omar are still strolling around ...
-- the Taliban is making a comeback. The Taliban, a group which after 9/11 which should have been so thoroughly vaporized in such a horrifyingly white-smoting-light-of-righteous-violence that even now a mere random combination of the syllables "Tal"," i", and "ban" should cause grown men to wet themselves at the unspeakable memory of their fate, they apparently have a sign-up sheet going in Pakistan like a fucking office softball team ...
-- Afghanistan's a destabilized hellhole.
-- Iraq, according to even the most optimistic of planners, will chew up American troops for at least five more years ...
-- Iraq is an insurgent war hell because (whether you agreed with the reasons for the original war or not) nobody planned for the occupation, based on the rosy beliefs of a few "government officials" ...
-- We have, demonstrably, statistically, one of the worst health care systems of the industrialized world ...
-- Tax cuts have put this country in the hole to the Chinese ...
-- North Korea and Iran are about to go nuclear ...
-- the government's now declared that pensions are fair game for the corporate fucking-off train, possibly stranding 36 million hard-working day-job Americans ...

... and they've got everyone screaming about Newsweek. That's ... just unspeakably beautiful. It's brilliant. That's Lex Luthor brilliant. It's so magnificently evil, I wish I'd done it, just to be able to say I pulled something like that off. When you manipulate public opinion like that so shamelessly, with such breathless artistry, you should seriously be doing it from inside a giant rampaging robot head. It's the only context that makes any sense.


Blogger Management said...

The scapegoating of Newsweek by BushCo and its mouthpieces stikes me as far too strained and contrived. So much so that I did a Lexis-Nexis search for similar stories, and came up with hits dating from today back to March 2003. So why the meltdown now, and the damning of Newsweek for printing a story that been traveling through the press for more than two years?

There also are multiple stories of other Koran-related indignities at Gitmo, such as stomping on the book, handling it inappropriately,and even sitting on it.

These stories hail from sources as diverse (and reliable) as the The Denver Post, the Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia), the Financial Times (London, England), The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Washington Post, among others.

Since these snips are from a Lexis-Nexis search, I can't link to the stories.

Mods, sorry for the long post, but I'm banking on importance. Thanks.
- - - - -
Copyright 2005 The Denver Post
All Rights Reserved
The Denver Post
January 9, 2005 Sunday
LENGTH: 1088 words
HEADLINE: Nightmare of Guantanamo.... U.S. prison camp in Cuba has become legal black hole, reporter says
BYLINE: John Freeman Special to The Denver Post

They were punched, slapped, denied sleep, had seen other prisoners sexually humiliated, hooded and forced to watch copies of the Koran being flushed down toilets. Eventually the pressure proved too much - they gave false confessions that the British intelligence service, MI5, later showed to be untrue. Upon their return to the United Kingdom they were released without being charged.

- - - - -
Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia)
January 3, 2005 Monday
LENGTH: 177 words
HEADLINE: Koran prayer torture claim
LONDON -- A British detainee claims he was tortured at Guantanamo Bay for reciting the Koran when talking was banned.

Moazzam Begg told lawyers he was tortured using the strappado, in which a prisoner is suspended from a bar with handcuffs, Britain's Observer newspaper said.

Mr Begg alleged he had been shaven several times against his will and a guard had said on one such occasion: "This is the part that really gets to you Muslims isn't it?"

- - - - -
Financial Times (London, England)
October 28, 2004 Thursday
London Edition 2
LENGTH: 310 words
HEADLINE: Four Britons held at Guantanamo sue US government
Four British subjects detained without trial for nearly three years in the US military base of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba are suing the US government.
In the first legal action of its kind, the former detainees, who were released in March, are alleging torture and other human rights violations.

In August Mr Ahmed, Mr Rasul and Mr Iqbal issued a 115-page dossier accusing the US of abuse, including allegations that they were beaten and had their Korans thrown into toilets.

- - - - -
October 18, 2004, Monday, FINAL EDITION
LENGTH: 820 words
HEADLINE: Spy case was a 'life-altering experience' for airman
BYLINE: Laura Parker
FAIRFIELD, Calif. ---- The day Ahmad Al Halabi, an Air Force translator at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was arrested, he was more puzzled than alarmed.

Al Halabi says he did not witness any treatment of prisoners that has now been called into question as abusive. But he says he saw things at Guantanamo that disturbed him. He says guards would purposely mishandle the Koran "just to see the detainees' reaction."

"All I wanted was for them to treat those prisoners like human beings," Al Halabi says.

- - - - -
Daily News (New York)
August 5, 2004 Thursday
LENGTH: 320 words
THREE BRITONS freed from the terror prison in Guantanamo Bay say they were stripped naked and faced other abuses that mirrored what happened to inmates in Iraq.

They say that rats and scorpions had free run of their sweltering cages, loud rock music was used to drown out the sound of prayers, and sleep deprivation was common.

"They would kick the Koran, throw it into the toilet and generally disrespect it," Asif Iqbal wrote.

- - - - -
The Independent (London)
August 5, 2004, Thursday
SECTION: First Edition; NEWS; Pg. 6
LENGTH: 729 words
BYLINE: JONATHAN BROWN Azmat Begg said his son's health was deteriorating Matthew Fearn/PA; Moazzam Begg: Held at Guantanamo for two years
THE FATHER of a British man being held in Guantanamo Bay called on the Government yesterday to immediately bring home the detainees following new claims of sexual, physical and psychological torture. Moazzam Begg, who is still in solitary confinement at the United States' military facility in Cuba after two and a half years, was described in a report published yesterday as being "in a very bad way".

In the report, released in New York, Asif Iqbal, Rhuhel Ahmed and Shafiq Rasul - the so-called Tipton Three - said one inmate was threatened after being shown a video in which hooded inmates were forced to sodomise each other. Guards allegedly threw prisoners' Korans into toilets, while others were injected with drugs, it was claimed.

- - - - -
The San Francisco Chronicle
LENGTH: 3005 words
Since reports first surfaced of abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, other accounts of ill treatment have surfaced in Iraq and at U.S. detention facilities in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay.
Prisoners have been forced to strip naked -- nudity is a violation of Muslim principles; forced to commit actual or simulated sex acts; prevented from sleeping; threatened with dogs; hooded; given electric shocks; beaten with fists, chains, boots and other objects; forced to maintain painful positions for hours; kept in frigid isolation rooms; subjected to loud music, strobe lights and diets of bread and water; urinated on and prevented from praying or reading the Koran.

- - - - -
The Observer
May 16, 2004
SECTION: Observer News Pages, Pg. 8
LENGTH: 2441 words
HEADLINE: Inside Guantanamo Bay: I was in extreme pain and so weak that I could barely stand. It was freezing cold and I was shaking like a washing machine. They questioned me at gunpoint and told me that if I confessed I could go home: As America struggles to come to terms with military abuse in Iraq, similar stories are emerging from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Tarek Dergoul, a Briton released from the camp in March, talks here for the first time about his two-year ordeal. By David Rose
BYLINE: David Rose
'THEY HAD already searched me and my cell twice that day, gone through my stuff, touched my Koran, felt my body around my private parts. And now they wanted to do it again, just to provoke me, but I said no, because if you submit to everything you turn into a zombie.

- - - - -
The Guardian (London) - Final Edition
May 14, 2004
SECTION: Guardian Home Pages, Pg. 1
LENGTH: 564 words
HEADLINE: Guantanamo abuse same as Abu Ghraib, say Britons
BYLINE: Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington, Tania Branigan and Vikram Dodd
Two British men who were held at Guantanamo Bay claimed that their US guards subjected them to abuse similar to that perpetrated at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

According to a source, who has interviewed them in secret since their release, they were initially too ashamed to talk about it, and are only now starting to give details. The source said: "They are embarrassed about talking about it because they feel humiliated. We have had an account that their religion was used against them, that a copy of the Koran was brought in front of them and pages torn out."

- - - - -
The Observer
March 14, 2004
SECTION: Observer News Pages, Pg. 5
LENGTH: 5420 words
HEADLINE: World Exclusive: Inside Guantanamo: How we survived jail hell: For two years the Tipton Three have been silent prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. Now, in this remarkable interview with David Rose, they describe for the first time the extraordinary story of their journey from the West Midlands to Camp Delta
BYLINE: David Rose

As Muslims, they were shocked when in repeated 'shakedown' searches of the sleeping tents, copies of the Koran would be trampled on by soldiers and, on one occasion, thrown into a toilet bucket. Throughout their stay at Kandahar the guards carried out head-counts every hour at night to keep the prisoners awake.

- - - - -
The Washington Post
March 26, 2003 Wednesday
Final Edition
LENGTH: 888 words
HEADLINE: Returning Afghans Talk of Guantanamo;
Out of Legal Limbo, Some Tell of Mistreatment
BYLINE: Marc Kaufman and April Witt, Washington Post Staff Writers
DATELINE: KABUL, Afghanistan March 25
Afghan men freed today after spending months in legal limbo as U.S. prisoners in the war on terrorism said they were generally well-fed and given medical care, but housed in cramped cells and sometimes shackled, hit and humiliated.

The men, the largest single group of Afghans to be released after months of detainment at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, gave varying accounts of how American forces treated them during interrogation and detainment. Some displayed medical records showing extensive care by American military doctors, while others complained that American soldiers insulted Islam by sitting on the Koran or dumping their sacred text into a toilet to taunt them.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Management said...


The Washington Post


Marc Kaufman and April Witt

Out of Legal Limbo, Some Tell of Mistreatment

KABUL - Afghan men freed today after spending months in legal limbo as U.S. prisoners in the war on terrorism said they were generally well-fed and given medical care, but housed in cramped cells and sometimes shackled, hit and humiliated.

After a chaotic day in which it was uncertain when, or if, all the prisoners would be released from Afghan custody, 18 men wearing new American sneakers and carrying brightly colored gym bags walked out of a run-down police compound here late today. Some hugged jubilantly, while others left feeling bitter and vengeful.

The men, the largest single group of Afghans to be released after months of detainment at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, gave varying accounts of how American forces treated them during interrogation and detainment. Some displayed medical records showing extensive care by American military doctors, while others complained that American soldiers insulted Islam by sitting on the Koran or dumping their sacred text into a toilet to taunt them.

The men uniformly said that American forces treated them more roughly during initial interrogation and captivity in Afghanistan than during the long detainment at Guantanamo.

All of those released said they were innocent and were not terrorists. Some acknowledged that they had fought with the Taliban , but said it was not by choice. Others said American forces snatched them away from ordinary lives as farmers, students or taxi drivers.

Sarajudim, 24, who like many Afghans uses only one name, was one of several men who said they were forced to fight with the Taliban after the United States declared war on terrorism. When Sarajudim and other conscripts tried to surrender and go home, they were betrayed by a powerful Afghan military commander , Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, who "sold" them to American forces for cash, he said.

"America wanted to capture terrorists and Dostum just wanted the money, so he sold me," Sarajudim said.

Sarajudim left the Kabul jail today carrying medical records in English, which he could not read, indicating he had received regular medical care at Guantanamo, including psychological counseling for "life circumstances issues."

"The American soldiers treated me well," he said. "I am very happy with them."

Dostum was one of several Afghan military figures who received U.S. financial backing for helping in the war against the Taliban.

Some of the men released today were close-shaven, but most kept their beards. The men who wore their beards in the long fashion of the Taliban complained most about poor treatment at the hands of Americans and insults against Islam.

Ehsannullah, 29, said American soldiers who initially questioned him in Kandahar before shipping him to Guantanamo hit him and taunted him by dumping the Koran in a toilet.

"It was a very bad situation for us," said Ehsannullah, who comes from the home region of the Taliban leader, Mohammad Omar. "We cried so much and shouted, 'Please do not do that to the Holy Koran.'"

Merza Khan, who had been captured in northern Afghanistan while fighting for the Taliban, said Americans in Kandahar tied him up and alternately forced him to lie face down on the ground, then squat with his hands on his head for hours. He also said he saw American soldiers throw the Koran on the ground and sit on it while in Kandahar.

The released prisoners' complaints come as the U.S. military is investigating the deaths of two Afghan prisoners interrogated at the U.S. military facility at Bagram air base, north of Kabul. A military doctor listed the two deaths as homicides, prompting the investigation. Human rights activists have also criticized the United States for detaining suspected terrorists indefinitely at Guantanamo and elsewhere without charging them with a crime.

None of the men freed today was told why he had been selected for release among the more than 600 others at Guantanamo. Few had family present to greet them, and most did not have money to catch a bus home.

An exception was Said Abasin, a Kabul taxi driver whose father, an airline official in Afghanistan, had loudly protested his son's captivity for months. Abasin said he was relieved and excited to be home, but could not forgive American officials for keeping him so long. "I am an innocent man who did nothing," he said.

Sulaiman Shah, who said he was a businessman captured for no reason in northern Afghanistan, said Americans generally treated him well, but he also remained bitter. "I was in such a small [cell] and couldn't go outside for many days," he said. "My toilet was next to my bed, and it was a very bad way to live."

The 18 prisoners were flown from Guantanamo to Bagram air base last week, then jailed in Kabul next to a reeking garbage dump. Afghan officials said they wanted to question the men so they wouldn't release any criminals by mistake.

The men arrived home wearing Western-style clothes and American sneakers given them at Guantanamo along with gym bags or knapsacks in which to store their few possessions.

Once in the Kabul jail, all 18 changed into donated clothes in the loose, flowing style traditionally worn in Afghanistan and Pakistan. One man said it was too hard to wash and pray according to the dictates of Islam while wearing Western clothes. But he, like the others, chose to wear his new sneakers home.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Management said...

How we survived jail hell

For two years the Tipton Three have been silent prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. Now, in this remarkable interview with David Rose, they describe for the first time the extraordinary story of their journey from the West Midlands to Camp Delta

Sunday March 14, 2004
The Observer

'When I woke up I didn't know where I was. I'd lost consciousness at the side of the container, but when I woke up I was in the middle - lying on top of dead bodies, breathing the stench of their blood and urine.

'They'd herded maybe 300 of us into each container, the type you get on ordinary lorries, packed in so tightly our knees were against our chests, and almost immediately we started to suffocate. We lived because someone made holes with a machine gun, though they were shooting low and still more died from the bullets. When we got out, about 20 in each container were still alive.'

In a safe house in southern England at the weekend, Asif Iqbal was describing his survival, together with his friends Ruhal Ahmed and Shafiq Rasul, after a massacre by US-backed Northern Alliance forces in Afghanistan - the start of a 26-month nightmare which ended last week with their release from the American detention camp at Guantanamo Bay.

Their faces gaunt with accumulated stress and exhaustion, they spoke softly, still stunned by the change in their circumstances: 'I just can't believe we're sitting here,' Ahmed says. 'This time last week, we were in the cages at Guantanamo.'

The horror of their story needs no embellishment. One day, perhaps, there will be an inquiry into Guantanamo. Until then, some of their allegations - which, it can be assumed, America is likely to deny - cannot be corroborated. However, many of the experiences they describe, including gunpoint interrogations in Afghanistan and random brutality both there and in Guantanamo, have been related in identical terms by other freed detainees. Last October I spent four days at Guantanamo. Much of what the three men say about the regime and the camp's physical conditions I either saw or heard from US officials.

Having escaped the truck container massacre, they endured near-starvation in a jail run by the Afghan warlord, General Dostum. When the Red Cross appeared and promised to make contact with the British Embassy in Islamabad they thought they were going home. Instead, with the apparent agreement of British officials, they were handed over to the Americans, first for weeks of physical abuse at a detention camp in Kandahar, followed by more than two years in the desolation of Guantanamo.

Month after month they were interrogated, for 12 hours or more at a time, by American security agencies and, repeatedly, by MI5 - in all, they say, they endured 200 sessions each. But when they re-emerged to freedom on Wednesday after two final days of questioning at Paddington Green police station, every apparent shred of evidence had melted away. Iqbal, Rasul and Ahmed, together with the other early arrivals at Guantanamo, had been described by US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as 'the hardest of the hard core', lethal terrorists 'involved in an effort to kill thousands of Americans'. Even last week the British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, was claiming America had been justified in holding them.

Yet despite the denial of legal rights or due process, the authorities on both sides of the Atlantic have been forced to accept what the three men said all along - that they were never members of the Taliban, al-Qaeda or any other militant group. The Americans had justified their detention by claiming they were 'enemy combatants', but they were never armed and did not fight.

'They formally told us we were going home last Sunday [several weeks after this news was relayed to the media],' Rasul said. 'We had a final meeting with the FBI, and they tried to get us to sign a piece of paper which said something like I was admitting I'd had links with terrorism, and that if I ever did anything like this again the US could arrest me.' Like the other two detainees freed last week, Tarek Dergoul and Jamal al-Harith, they refused.

'They took us to the airport in chains,' said Rasul, 'and when we got there this huge plane was surrounded by armed men. As we walked towards the steps they had guns trained on us. This military police guy hands us over to the British, takes off our shackles and tells the Brit he can put on the handcuffs. But the British policemen say, "no, no, there's no need for handcuffs". We walk up the steps and they're not even touching me.

'For the first time in two years I'm walking somewhere without being frogmarched. We get to the door and someone says: "Good morning. Welcome aboard." '


Rasul, 26, Ahmed, 22, and Iqbal, 22, were boyhood friends from the Midlands town of Tipton. In Septem ber 2001 they travelled to Pakistan ahead of the marriage Iqbal's parents had arranged for him to a woman in Faisalabad. Ahmed was to be best man; Rasul hoped to do a computer course after the wedding.

The three were in no sense fundamentalists: their brand of Islam, they say, was never that of the Taliban. But like many young Muslims in Pakistan they crossed the border into Afghanistan in October 2001, as it became clear that, in the wake of the 11 September attacks on America, one of the poorest countries in the world was about to be attacked. They had no intention of joining the fighting, they insist, but only of giving humanitarian aid. In England, none of them was rich, but in Asia, the little money they had could go a long way. For a short time they used the savings accumulated for their trip to buy food and medical supplies for Afghan villagers.

But in Taliban-led Afghanistan one aspect of their appearance made them dangerously visible - they had no beards. Travelling through a bombed landscape, they tried to escape in a taxi. But instead of reaching safety they were driven further into danger - to the city of Kunduz, which was promptly surrounded and bombarded by Dostum's troops. Aware that a bloodbath was imminent, they tried to leave on a convoy of trucks but their own vehicle was shelled, killing almost everyone on board. 'We were trapped,' says Iqbal. 'There was nothing we could do but give ourselves up. They took our money, our shoes, all our warm clothes, and put us in lines.'

They were part of a vast column of prisoners, around 35,000, says Rasul: 'You'd look down the slope and there were lines and lines of people, as far as the eye could see. We went through the mountains and the open desert. There were these massive ditches full of bodies. We thought this was the end. We thought they were going to kill us all.' Many of the prisoners were wounded and died by the wayside.

After two days they ended up outside Shebargan prison and crammed into the containers - it was night, says Iqbal, and the massacre began under the glare of spotlights which the three men claim were operated by American special forces. 'The last thing I remember is that it got really hot, and everyone started screaming and banging. It was like someone had lit a fire beneath the containers. You could feel the moisture running off your body, and people were ripping off their clothes.'

When he came to, Iqbal had not drunk for more than two days. Maddened by thirst, he wiped the stream ing walls with a cloth, and sucked out the moisture, until he realised he was drinking the bodily fluids of the massacred prisoners. 'We were like zombies,' Iqbal says. 'We stank, we were covered in blood and the smell of death.'

Freed from the trucks which had become mass graves, they were taken into Shebargan prison, where they were held in appalling conditions for the next month. Much was open to the elements, and to make room inside its bare communal cells the prisoners lay down in four-hour shifts. They were fed a quarter of a naan bread a day, with a small cup of water: sometimes, says Rasul, there were fights over the rations. Often snow blew into the buildings.

Rasul says: 'There were people with horrific injuries - limbs that had been shot off and nothing was done. I'll never forget one Arab who was missing half his jaw. For 10 days until his death he was screaming and crying continuously, begging to be killed.'

A few days earlier Taliban prisoners had organised the uprising against their captors at Qala-i-Jhangi Fort at Mazar-e-Sharif, and western reporters paid a visit to Shebargan. They seemed blind to the misery there, Rasul says. 'All they seemed to be interested in was if any of us knew the American Taliban John Walker Lindh.'

After 10 days the Red Cross arrived, bringing some improvement and an increase in the water supply. But by now all three were malnourished and suffering from amoebic dysentery. Ahmed says: 'We were covered with lice. All day long you were scratching, scratching. I was bleeding from my chest, my head.' Iqbal adds: 'We lost so much weight that if I stood up I could carry water in the gap between my collar bones and my flesh.'

Prisoners died daily: of the 35,000 originally marched through the desert, only 4,500 were still alive, the three men estimate. All this time they could see American troops 50 metres from their prison wing on the other side of the gates.


After a month of this living hell, on 27 or 28 December, the Red Cross spoke to the three and promised they would contact the British Embassy in Islamabad and ask them to intervene on their behalf and notify their families that they were alive. Rasul's brother, Habib, says he had contacted the Foreign Office at the end of November and asked for help in tracing his missing brother.

In fact, very soon, the three would meet British officials. But Habib would be told nothing until February 8 - three weeks after his brother's arrival in Guantanamo.

Two days after the three talked to the Red Cross, Dostum's troops put them in chains, marched them through the main gate and handed them over to American special forces. Ahmed says: 'They put something like a sandbag over my head so you could see nothing. Then we got thrown on to a truck. They taped the sacks at the bottom of our necks, making it difficult to breathe.'

The Americans took them to Shebargan airport, where they were beaten, then loaded on a plane. 'I wanted to use the toilet,' Rasul says. 'Someone smacked me on the back of my head with his gun. I started peeing myself.'

Trussed like chickens, their chains replaced by plastic ties, they were flown to the US detention centre at Kandahar. The weather was freezing. Wearing only thin salwar kameez, with no socks or shoes, they were tied together with a rope and led into the camp, where they waited to be processed.

In the very different setting of a sitting room in suburban England, Iqbal demonstrates how they were made to kneel bent double, with their foreheads touching the ground: 'If your head wasn't touching the floor or you let it rise up a little they put their boots on the back of your neck and forced it down. We were kept like that for two or three hours.'

Rasul adds: 'I lifted up my head slightly because I was really in pain. The sergeant came up behind me, kicked my legs from underneath me, then knelt on my back. They took me outside and searched me while one man was sitting on me, kicking and punching.'

All this time they were still wearing their hoods. Then one soldier took a Stanley knife and cut off their clothes. Naked and freezing, they were made to squat while the soldiers searched their bodily cavities and photographed them. At last, they say, they were frog-marched through a barbed wire maze and put into a half-open tent where they were told to dress in blue prison overalls.

They had not washed since the container massacre a month earlier. There, Iqbal had sustained a ricochet wound to the elbow. Displaying an ugly purple scar, he explains that by the time he reached Kandahar, it had become infected. It was late at night by the time they had been processed, but next morning, they say, they were taken straight to their first interrogation. Rasul says: 'A special forces guy sat there holding a gun to my temple, a 9mm pistol. He said if I made any movement he'd blow my head off.'

Each endured several such sessions at Kandahar: each time, they say, they were questioned on their knees, in chains, always at gunpoint. Often they were kicked or beaten. (Other released detainees have described Kandahar in similar terms.)

Not all their interrogators were American. Iqbal and Rasul also describe an English officer in a maroon beret who said he was a member of the SAS. 'He had a posh English accent,' Rasul says. 'He mentioned the names of British prisons like Belmarsh and said we'd end up there.' Iqbal says the SAS officer told him: 'Don't worry, you won't be beaten today because you're with me.'

Ahmed says he was also questioned by an officer from MI5 and another Englishman who said he was from the British Embassy. 'All the time I was kneeling with a guy standing on the backs of my legs and another holding a gun to my head. The MI5 man says: "I'm from the UK, I'm from MI5, and I've got some questions for you." He says he was called Dave. He told me: "We've got your names, we've got your passports, we know you've been funded by an extremist group and we know you've been to this mosque in Birmingham. We've got photos of you." None of this was true.

'The second occasion was on the morning I left - they said I was going home. In fact I was on my way to Cuba.'

As Muslims, they were shocked when in repeated 'shakedown' searches of the sleeping tents, copies of the Koran would be trampled on by soldiers and, on one occasion, thrown into a toilet bucket. Throughout their stay at Kandahar the guards carried out head-counts every hour at night to keep the prisoners awake.

Rasul says: 'You'd just be dozing off and then you were made to get up, and that's the way it was all the way to morning.'

To Cuba

At 3AM on 13 January 2002, Rasul was moved to a new tent with Iqbal. Next morning their numbers were called out and they were made to sit while soldiers chained them tightly, sat them in a tent and attached another chain to a hook on the floor. 'These guys came in with clippers,' Rasul says, 'they shaved my hair and my beard; they cut all my clothes off and threw this medication over me, to kill the lice. Then they unlocked me from the floor and led me into another tent naked where they forced me to squat again and did another intimate cavity search.'

Instead of the blue overalls they were dressed in orange jumpsuits, chained and cuffed and made to wear thick gloves taped to their sleeves. Then, says Rasul: 'They made us sit outside on the gravel while they processed everyone. We had no water all day, but towards the end they gave us an MRE [a ready-to-eat US army meal] but no spoon. I had to try and trough it like an animal.'

The restraint device they were now forced to wear would become extremely familiar for the next 26 months - the 'three-piece suit', a body belt with a metal chain leading down to leg-irons with hand-shackles attached to it. Rasul says: 'I told the guard they'd put it on much too tight and he said: "You'll live." '

Before boarding a military aircraft they were dressed in earmuffs, goggles and surgical masks. Inside, they were chained to the floor with no backrests, and even when they requested the toilet, they were not released from their chains. 'Basically people wet their pants. You were pissing all over your legs.'

'The only thing that relieved the sensory deprivation and occupied me for the 22-hour flight was that I was in serious pain,' Rasul says. 'The guards told me to go to sleep but the belt was digging into me - when I finally got to Cuba I was bleeding. I lost feeling in my hands for the next six months.'

Rasul and Iqbal were on the second flight to the new Camp X-ray - the first had been three days earlier. (The Australian David Hicks and another British prisoner, Feroz Abbasi, were on that first flight.) Ahmed followed on 10 February on the fifth flight from Kandahar to Guantanamo Bay. 'When I got there,' he says, 'I was half dead. We had a two-hour stopover somewhere in Turkey. As we were being frog-marched from one plane to another, one of the guards stamped on the metal body bar of my three-piece suit so the leg-irons bit deeply into the flesh of my ankles.'

But Ahmed, at least, had been told where he was going. When Rasul and Iqbal landed they had no idea where they were: 'All I knew was that I was somewhere with intense heat,' Rasul says. 'An American voice shouted: "I am Sergeant so-and-so, US Marine Corps, you are arriving at your final destination." '

The Guantanamo airstrip lies a three-mile ferry journey across the bay from the detention facilities, a journey the prisoners made in a school bus. Iqbal says: 'The boat was moving in the swell, making the bus rock and the American guy says: "Stop moving." I couldn't stop, so he hit me.' Rasul made the mistake of telling a guard he was English. 'Traitor,' he yelled. Later, when Ahmed took the ferry, he heard a guard whispering: "This motherfucker speaks English." Repeatedly the guard kicked his leg: 'I couldn't move it for days, it was so badly bruised.'

At last they arrived at Camp X-ray, and became part of the group of orange-jumpsuited prisoners kneeling in the dust, still shackled and blindfolded, whose images went round the world. Rasul says: 'They made us kneel in that awkward way, and every time you moved, someone would kick you.

'The sun was beating down and the sweat was pouring into my eyes. I shouted for a doctor, someone poured water into my eyes and then I heard it again: "Traitor, traitor." ' Rasul was the last one processed, and by the time he got to his cage it was dark. First he was stripped naked and, still wearing his goggles and chains, he was given a piece of soap and told to shower for the first time since his capture. 'I looked around and I thought what the hell is this place?'

Iqbal recalls the moment his goggles were finally removed: 'I look up and I see all these other people who hadn't yet been processed in orange suits and goggles and I think I'm hallucinating.' Two days after arriving in Guantanamo Bay, with his family still desperate for information as to his whereabouts, Rasul was taken in his three-piece metal suit to an interrogation tent. 'I walk in and this guy says: "I'm from the Foreign Office, I've come from the British Embassy in America, and here is one of my colleagues who's from the embassy as well." Later he added his colleague was actually from MI5.'

Rasul asked where he was and the British officials replied: 'We can't disclose that information.' His family heard nothing for another three weeks. It would be many months before the British Government - which, in public, was voicing deep concerns about the lack of legal process at Guantanamo, and claiming it was trying to exert diplomatic pressure - would confirm that its own Security Service had connived from the outset.

Camp X-ray

In the early days at Camp X-ray, the conditions of detention were extreme.

The detainees were forbidden from talking to the person in the next cell and, Rasul recalls, fed tiny portions of food: 'They'd give you this big plate with a tiny pile of rice and a few beans. It was nouvelle cuisine, American-style. You were given less than 10 minutes to eat and if you hadn't finished the Marines would just take your plate away.' After a few more days Rasul was questioned again by MI5. The officer asked how he was. 'I started crying, saying I can't believe I'm here. He says: "I don't want to know how you are emotionally, I'm only interested in your physical state." '

After about a week the prisoners were allowed to speak to detainees in adjacent cells, and a few weeks later still were given copies of the Koran, a prayer mat, blankets and towels. Yet all witnessed or experienced brutality, especially from Guantanamo's own riot squad, the Extreme Reaction Force. Its acronym has led to a new verb peculiar to Guantanamo detainees: 'ERF-ing.' To be ERFed, says Rasul, means to be slammed on the floor by a soldier wielding a riot shield, pinned to the ground and assaulted.

Iqbal and Rasul were at opposite ends of the same block and were forbidden from talking to each other. There was almost nothing to do. 'Time speeds up,' Rasul says. 'You just stare and the hours go clicking by. You'd look at people and see they'd lost it. There was nothing in their eyes any more. They didn't talk.'

As the weeks of detention became months they would sometimes see psychiatrists. The response to any complaint was always the same: an offer to administer Prozac. (On my visit to Guantanamo, the camp medical staff told me that at least a fifth of the detainees were taking anti-depressants.)

It was almost impossible to master the rules and know how to avoid punishment. There was only one rule that mattered, Rasul says: 'You have to obey whatever US government personnel tell you to do.'

In mid-2002 the prisoners were moved from the open cages with mesh walls at Camp X-ray to the pre-fabri cated metal cellblocks of Camp Delta. There, the standard punishment was transfer to solitary confinement in the sensory deprivation isolation wing. Once, Ahmed says, he was given isolation for writing 'Have a nice day' on a polystyrene cup. This was deemed 'malicious damage to US government property'. On another occasion, he was punished for singing.

The cells were about the size of a king-size mattress, made of mesh and metal, exposed to the relentless tropical heat, with no air conditioning. They contained a hole in the floor for a toilet, a tap producing yellow water which was so low they had to kneel to use it, and a narrow metal cot. Apart from interrogation, the only break in this confined monotony were showers and 20 minutes' exercise, two or three times a week. 'When we were on a block with English speakers, we'd go over the conversations again and again,' Ahmed says. 'Often they'd start by someone asking if you remembered a particular kind of food. Soon you'd exhaust the possibilities, repeat the same stories four or five times.'

Even this, however, was better than the isolation punishment block, or the fate which Iqbal endured for five months in 2002 - being placed in a wing where all the other prisoners spoke only Chinese.

The three Britons were visited at least six times by MI5 and Foreign Office staff, Rasul says: 'Every time the Foreign Office came we asked about what was going on, and whether we had solicitors. His reply was "I don't know, all I know is what's been on TV. Your case hasn't been on TV." '

In fact, their families had engaged lawyers in Britain and America soon after learning of their whereabouts in February 2002, and a federal lawsuit was launched in their name which, had they not been released, would have been argued before the Supreme Court next month. They were told of this by a guard a few weeks ago, almost two years after the suit was first filed.

In September 2003 Rasul was visited on consecutive days, first by the man from the Foreign Office, then by an MI5 officer. He asked the Foreign Office man about his legal status and was told: 'You should ask the MI5 guy who's coming tomorrow.' When he did so next day, the MI5 agent said: 'You should have asked Martin from the Foreign Office yesterday.' How long had they thought they would be at Guantanamo? I asked the three men. They reply in unison: 'Forever!'

How we survived jail hell, part two

Read part one here

David Rose
Sunday March 14, 2004
The Observer


For the second six months of 2002, the interrogations ceased. But from the beginning of 2003, interviews with MI5, the FBI, the CIA and US military intelligence became increasingly frequent. Rasul says: 'They kept taking us and taking us, showing us photos saying: "This guy says you've done this, this guy says you've done that" - what they meant was that other detainees desperate to get out were making allegations, making stuff up that they thought would help them get out of the camp.'

Last year the Americans introduced a formal system of rewards for co-operation with interrogators, so that detainees would be given an increasing number of so-called 'comfort items' such as books, extra clothes and utensils in return for their testimony. (The books, best-selling novels, usually came with pages torn out, which the censor had deemed too subversive or exciting.)

Experts on the psychology of interrogations and false confessions say that for pris oners who were already depressed and isolated by more than a year of arduous incarceration, this system seems almost calculated to produce fantastical accounts. Professor Gisli Gudjonsson of King's College London is perhaps the world's leading authority in this area, and he has testified in dozens of trials and helped expose numerous miscarriages of justice. One of the methods which his research has shown to be particularly prone to generating unreliable testimony is the use of deception, where an interrogator will claim he has incontrovertible proof of a suspect's guilt when in reality this does not exist.

Such methods, the three men say, were employed against them time and time again. For example, Rasul says, he was told that photographs of him and an 'al-Qaeda membership form' and his passport had been found in a raid on an Afghan cave. 'Actually I'd left my passport in Pakistan. Then the interrogator told me that next to my file they'd found my brother Habib's al-Qaeda file. The interrogator said he wasn't lying, and that next time he'd bring it with him. When it came to the next time, he claimed he'd made a mistake.'

The interrogators also used the good cop/bad cop routine. 'It was scary although I knew what they were doing. I think they tried it more with some of the Arabs and the young kids.'

Less funny were the conditions in which interrogations were conducted, in so-called 'booths' behind the cell blocks. Throughout their interviews, the detainees wore their three-piece suits, and were shackled to the floor.

In 2003, many more interrogators were brought in, some of them young and inexperienced. 'You'd look at these guys in their shorts and polo shirts and think: 'This guy's an interrogator? He's only 20 years old,' says Rasul. 'About two months ago one guy asked me: "If I wanted to get hold of surface-to-air missiles in Tipton, where would I go?" I started arguing with him. Did he really think I lived in some sort of war zone. I was scared in the interrogations but towards the end the questions just seemed stupid.'

However, last summer the situation of the Tipton Three suddenly took a seri ous turn for the worse. The Americans had a video of a meeting in August 2000 between Osama bin Laden and Mohamed Atta, the leader of the 9/11 hijackers. Behind bin Laden were three men, and in May 2003 someone alleged they were none other than Iqbal, Rasul and Ahmed.

For the previous two weeks, Rasul had been in the relatively comfortable conditions of Camp Four, the lower-security section of Guantanamo where prisoners are freely allowed to associate and play football and volleyball. Suddenly he and the others found themselves in solitary confinement in the isolation block for three months. Finally, Rasul says, a senior interrogator arrived from Washington and played him the video. He protested that the men in the video looked nothing like him and his friends, and none of them had worn beards. More to the point, in August 2000, when the video was shot, he had been working in a branch of the electronics store Curry's, and was enrolled at the University of Central England - a fact, he suggested, his interrogators could easily check. Instead, he says: 'They told me I could have falsified those records, that I could have had someone working with me at Curry's who could have faked my job records.' I'd got to the point where I just couldn't take any more. Do what you have to do, I told them. I'd been sitting there for three months in isolation so I said yes, it's me. Go ahead and put me on trial.' The other two made similar confessions.

Last September it was MI5 which for once helped them when they arrived at the camp with the documentary evidence which showed they could not have been in Afghanistan at the relevant time. Rasul says: 'We could prove our alibi. But what about other people, especially from countries where such records may not be available?'

There is also the danger that false testimony from one inmate, extracted by the Guantanamo incentives system, may breed a false confession from another. Iqbal recalls: 'One inmate said I had been in the Farouk terrorist training camp in Afghanistan. It led to a whole series of interrogations where they tried to persuade me that I had been. The way the system is it's accusation after accusation; if this one won't work maybe this one will, if that won't work try this one, until they finally get their confession.'

For those who do confess, and fail to sustain their alibis, trial by an American military commission and a possible death penalty awaits. Those who have been charged are no longer at Camp Delta, the three men reveal. They have been moved to a new, super-maximum security facility outside the main compound - Camp Echo. A few men have been returned thence to the main Guantanamo Camp; they describe a white-walled, sound-absorbent hell of 24-hour solitary confinement in cells smaller than Camp Delta's, with a guard permanently stationed outside each cell door. Camp Echo's current inmates, say the three men, include the Britons Feroz Abbasi and Moazzem Begg, and the Australian David Hicks. One detail of Hicks's life inside Guantanamo Bay reveals the desperate measures prisoners go to retain their sanity. He occupies his mind all day by catching and killing mice. More than a year ago, the three men said, Hicks renounced Islam and shaved off his beard. He no longer answers the call to prayer. 'He's just a little guy with a very deep voice,' says Rasul. 'If you met him you'd think he was the typical kind of Aussie you might see drinking Fosters in a bar.'


Proof of the Tipton Three's alibis led to rapidly improving treatment. Every Sunday after last September, Rasul says, they were taken to a shed they called the 'love shack', and allowed to sit unchained on a sofa to watch movies on DVD. They were allowed to read magazines, and were sometimes fed with hamburgers from Guantanamo's branch of McDonald's.

Unaware of the stream of leaks to the media which suggested their release might be imminent, they began to sense that the end of their ordeal might be drawing near. Even then, they were still being interrogated regularly. Rasul says: 'They'd still show us pictures, try to get names. My last interrogation was on 5 March. But I could see the guy was getting desperate. At one point he said: "Look, I'm from the CIA, I can get you anything. What do you want? Coke? Ice cream?" '

For men who had been through Kunduz and Kandahar, this was not impressive. All are convinced that there are no 'big-time' terrorists at Guantanamo: arguably the most dangerous, in American eyes, says Ahmed, is a group of Taliban mullahs. American intelligence sources have confirmed this view to me. The 'big-timers' - men such as Khalid Shaikh Mohamed, architect of 9/11, have never been near Guantanamo. One source says: 'Guantanamo may even be a bit of a front, designed to divert al-Qaeda's attention. It takes everybody's attention away from more important matters and locations where big fish are being held. The secrecy surrounding it makes everybody think that very serious stuff is going on there.'

The three say some of the inmates have seen such suspects - not in Cuba, but at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan. According to Iqbal, 'we spoke to people who'd been with them there when they were being interrogated. They said they flew them out of there alive, but in coffins.'

Reviled so publicly by Rumsfeld, now the Tipton Three must struggle to rebuild their lives. Their home town, say their families, has become too dangerous: effigies of men in orange jump suits have been strung from lampposts, while the area is a strongholds of the extreme right-wing BNP.

For now they have been marvelling at the little things, Rasul says: sitting in cars without chains and being able to operate the windows; finding that food does not arrive automatically at set hours, and can be tasty and varied. This weekend their dominant emotion is relief. As they come to reflect on the experience over the coming weeks, it seems likely to turn to a burning, righteous anger.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Guantánamo abuse same as Abu Ghraib, say Britons

Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington, Tania Branigan and Vikram Dodd
Friday May 14, 2004
The Guardian

Two British men who were held at Guantánamo Bay claimed that their US guards subjected them to abuse similar to that perpetrated at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

In an open letter to President George Bush, Britons Shafiq Rasul and Asif Iqbal accused US military officials of deliberately misleading the public about procedures at Guantánamo.

Mr Rasul and Mr Iqbal, who were freed in March after being arrested in Afghanistan and held without charge for more than two years, allege that heavy-handed treatment was systematic.

"From the moment of our arrival in Guantánamo Bay (and indeed from long before) we were deliberately humiliated and degraded by methods we now read US officials denying," the men write.

The men describe a regime that included assaults on prisoners, prolonged shackling in uncomfortable positions, strobe lights, loud music and being threatened with dogs.

At times, detainees would be taken to the interrogation room and chained naked on the floor, the letter says. Women would be brought to the room to "inappropriately provoke and indeed molest them. It was completely clear to all the detainees that this was happening to particularly vulnerable prisoners, especially those who had come from the strictest of Islamic backgrounds," the letter says.

Mr Iqbal and Mr Rasul have issued repeated allegations of abuse at the camp since their release last March. Previous allegations were dismissed by the US embassy in London, but after two weeks in which America has been convulsed by images of torture and humiliation, their latest challenge looked set to receive a more serious hearing.

The spotlight has shifted from Abu Ghraib to other detention facilities in America's war on terror as reports emerge from Afghanistan, as well as Iraq.

Shortly before their release last March, the two men say a new practice was instituted in what became known as the "Romeo" block. Prisoners were stripped completely. "After three days they would be given underwear. After another three days they would be given a top, and then after another three days given trouser bottoms," the letter says.

That account stands in direct contradiction to denials this week from a Pentagon spokesman, Colonel David McWilliams, that nudity and embarrassment were never used to break down prisoners. "We have no protocol that allows us to disrobe a detainee whatsoever," Col McWilliams told the Washington Post.

Clive Stafford Smith, the lawyer who acted for Mr Rasul and Mr Iqbal in a supreme court case in the US, said: "These guys had been trying to put it all behind them, but they have been reading the stuff this week and getting really angry that the US is lying again."

The Guardian has learned that some of the British detainees released from Guantánamo Bay have reported that they were sexually abused. There is no way to independently verify these details.

According to a source, who has interviewed them in secret since their release, they were initially too ashamed to talk about it, and are only now starting to give details. The source said: "They are embarrassed about talking about it because they feel humiliated. We have had an account that their religion was used against them, that a copy of the Koran was brought in front of them and pages torn out."

1:09 PM  
Blogger Management said...

'They Tied Me Up Like A Beast
And Began Kicking Me'

By David Rose

17 May, 2004
The Observer

'I was in extreme pain and so weak that I could barely stand. It was freezing cold and I was shaking like a washing machine. They questioned me at gunpoint and told me that if I confessed I could go home.
'They had already searched me and my cell twice that day, gone through my stuff, touched my Koran, felt my body around my private parts. And now they wanted to do it again, just to provoke me, but I said no, because if you submit to everything you turn into a zombie.

'I heard a guard talking into his radio, "ERF, ERF, ERF," and I knew what was coming - the Extreme Reaction Force. The five cowards, I called them - five guys running in with riot gear. They pepper-sprayed me in the face and I started vomiting; in all I must have brought up five cupfuls. They pinned me down and attacked me, poking their fingers in my eyes, and forced my head into the toilet pan and flushed. They tied me up like a beast and then they were kneeling on me, kicking and punching. Finally they dragged me out of the cell in chains, into the rec yard, and shaved my beard, my hair, my eyebrows.'

Tarek Dergoul, a British citizen born and brought up in east London and released without charge after almost two years at Guantanamo Bay, was describing one of many alleged assaults he says he suffered in American custody. With the world still reeling from the photographs of prisoner abuse and torture at the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq, Dergoul's testimony suggests that Guantanamo hides another terrible secret - proof, in the shape of hundreds of videos shot by US guards, that here, too, America's war against terror has led to wanton brutality against helpless detainees.

Dergoul, 26, was released at the same time as four other Britons in March, but was too traumatised by his experiences to tell his story until now. While it is shocking, it is also credible: his description of his interrogations and the 'ERF' squad's violent reprisals closely matches that from other released prisoners, including his fellow Britons, while possibly his most important claim, that the ERF was always filmed, has been confirmed by the US military.

'Much of his story is consistent with other accounts of detention conditions in both Afghanistan and Guantanamo,' said John Sifton, a New York-based official from Human Rights Watch who has interviewed numerous former Guantanamo prisoners in Pakistan and Afghanistan. 'It is now clear that there is a systemic problem of abuse throughout the US military's detention facilities - not merely misbehaviour by a few bad apples.'

Dergoul also disclosed personal experience of the techniques pioneered by the former Guantanamo commandant, General Geoffrey Miller, to 'set the conditions' for detainees' interrogation, which Miller then took to Iraq.

He said they included humiliation, prolonged exposure to intense heat and cold, sleep deprivation, being kept chained in painful positions, and the threat of 'rendition' to an Arab country where, his interrogators said, he would be subjected to full-blown torture.

On Friday Shafiq Rasul and Asif Iqbal, from Tipton in the West Midlands, who told their stories to The Observer when they were released, wrote an open letter to President George Bush, alleging they suffered very similar abusive treatment at Guantanamo. Within hours US military spokesmen denied their allegations, saying they were 'simply false'.

Now, however, Dergoul has revealed a means of proving the claims of violence at Guantanamo, potentially as dramatic as the Abu Ghraib photographs. Every time an ERF squad was deployed, he said, the entire process was recorded on digital video: 'There was always this guy behind the squad, filming everything that happened.'

Last night Lieutenant Colonel Leon Sumpter, the Guantanamo Joint Task Force spokesman, confirmed the videos existed, saying that all ERF actions were filmed so that they could 'be reviewed by the camp commander and the commanding general'.

All of them, he said , were kept in an archive at Guantanamo. He refused to say how many times the ERF squads had been used and would not discuss their training or composition, saying: 'We do not discuss operational aspects of the Joint Task Force mission.'

Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader, said the government must demand 'that these videos be delivered up and the truth of these very serious allegations properly determined once and for all. The videos provide an unequalled opportunity to check the veracity of what Mr Dergoul and the other former detainees are saying.'

In Washington, Senator Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, demanded that the videos be shown to Congress. 'If evidence exists that can establish whether there has been mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, it should be provided without delay,' he said. 'That must include any tapes or photos of the activities of the Extreme Reaction Force.'

The effects on Dergoul of his ordeal in Afghanistan and Guantanamo are very visible. A slight, slim man, he has difficulty walking: for weeks his American captors failed to treat his frostbitten feet, until a big toe turned gangrenous and had to be amputated. He has also lost most of his left arm, the result of a shrapnel wound. Two months after regaining his freedom he has nightmares and flashbacks, especially of his many beatings, and is about to begin treatment at the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture.

'I get migraines, I'm depressed and I suffer from memory loss. There's stuff that happened, embedded in my head, that I can't remember.'

He has nothing to live on because the Benefits Agency, wrongly believing he is not a British citizen, says he has lost his entitlement because he was out of the country, though a prisoner, for more than two years.

Born to Moroccan parents in Mile End in December 1977, Dergoul was once in trouble for stealing a computer chip, for which he was sentenced to community service. After leaving school at 15 he worked in a succession of jobs: selling double glazing, office cleaning, driving a minicab and as a carer at an old people's home in Suffolk. Living in east London, many of his friends were from Pakistan and he decided to visit the country for an extended holiday in July 2001.

'Before I went I'd never even heard of Osama bin Laden or the Taliban and I didn't know where Afghanistan was,' he said. 'I was not political and I didn't read the papers. My parents are religious but I never went to the mosque.'

After the 11 September attacks, he and two Pakistani friends had an idea for what, in hindsight, was one of the worst-judged business ventures of all time. With war looming, they thought many Afghans would want to flee their homes. Dergoul had £5,000 in cash, which he pooled with his friends' savings. 'The plan was to buy some property away from where the bombing was. We thought we could buy it very cheap, then sell it at a profit after the war.'

They travelled to Jalalabad and looked at several empty homes. On the verge of signing a deal, Dergoul and his friends spent the night in a villa. While they were asleep, he said, a bomb landed on it - killing his friends. He went outside and was hit by another bomb, sustaining shrapnel wounds.

For at least a week, unable to walk, he lay among the ruins, drinking from a tap that still worked, and living on biscuits and raisins he had in his pocket. Exposed to the freezing weather, his toes turned black from frostbite. At last he was found by troops loyal to the Northern Alliance. They treated him well, taking him to a hospital where he was given food and three operations. However, after five weeks he was driven to an airfield and handed over to Americans, who arrived by helicopter. Dergoul said the Americans paid $5,000 for him - according to Human Rights Watch, this was the standard fee for a 'terrorist' suspect. They flew him to the US detention camp at Bagram airbase, near Kabul.

As at Abu Ghraib, Dergoul said, violence and sexual humiliation appeared to be routine. 'When I arrived, with a bag over my head, I was stripped naked and taken to a big room with 15 or 20 MPs [military police]. They started taking photos and then they did a full cavity search. As they were doing that they were taking close-ups, concentrating on my private parts.'

Possibly because he was British, Dergoul said he was spared the beatings he saw being administered to others in neighbouring cages. 'Guards with guns and baseball bats would make the detainees squat for hours, and if they fell over from exhaustion, they'd beat them until they lost consciousness. They called it "beat down".'

His interrogators accused him of fighting with al-Qaeda in the Tora Bora mountains towards the end of the main Afghan war. At the time, he insisted, he had no idea of Tora Bora's significance and never went there. But in the course of 20 to 25 interrogations at Bagram - including one session with a British team from MI5 - he was told his family's assets would be seized.

'I was in extreme pain from the frostbite and other injuries and I was so weak I could barely stand. It was freezing cold and I was shaking and shivering like a washing machine. The interrogators - who questioned me at gunpoint - said if I confessed I'd be going home. Finally I agreed I'd been at Tora Bora - though I still wouldn't admit I'd ever met bin Laden.'

After about a month, in February 2002, Dergoul was taken south to another camp at Kandahar. His memories of this time are hazy: it was there that his feet, left untreated, went septic and, as the infection spread, he underwent a further amputation.

In three months there, he said, he had only two showers. Finally, on 1 May, he was dressed in goggles and an orange jump suit, injected with a sedative and flown to Guantanamo Bay.

For more than a year of the 22 months Dergoul spent at Camp Delta, he said, he was held in the isolation block, on the worst 'level four' regime - deprived of all stimulation or 'comfort items,' and sometimes allowed only a blanket between 11.30pm and 5.30am.

For the first time, he was becoming religious 'and my faith in Allah was giving me the strength to resist them'. One way in which he infuriated the guards was by translating their conversations into Arabic for the benefit of other detainees, and he also helped organise a series of hunger and non-co-operation strikes when the prisoners would refuse to go to interrogation or their twice-weekly shower and 15-minute exercise period.

No doubt, he agreed, this made him more of a target for the ERF. But he was never violent, he said, and unlike other prisoners he never tried to use his own excrement as a missile.

The report by General Antonio Taguba into Abu Ghraib states that abuse there began when Miller arrived there with 30 colleagues for a visit last September and instituted the system he had already created at Camp Delta - turning the guards into an interrogation tool by using them to 'set the conditions' or soften up prisoners before they were questioned.

Last week, General Lance Smith, deputy chief of the US Central Command, told a Senate hearing that some of the 20 techniques Miller authorised were banned in Iraq, because there, unlike Guantanamo, prisoners were supposedly protected by the Geneva Conventions.

So what are these 20 techniques? A US military spokeswoman said: 'They come from a classified document and we don't discuss its contents.' But the Senate has heard they include sleep deprivation, binding in uncomfortable positions and the use of excessive cold or heat. Dergoul said he experienced and witnessed all of them.

For one period of about a month last year, he said, guards would take him every day to an interrogation room in chains, seat him, chain him to a ring in the floor and then leave him alone for eight hours at a time.

'The air conditioning would really be blowing - it was freezing, which was incredibly painful on my amputation stumps. Eventually I'd need to urinate and in the end I would try to tilt my chair and go on the floor. They were watching through a one-way mirror. As soon as I wet myself, a woman MP would come in yelling, "Look what you've done! You're disgusting." '

Afterwards he would be taken back to his cell for about three hours. Then the guards would reappear and in Guantanamo slang tell him he was returning to the interrogation room: 'You have a reservation.' The process would begin again.

Dergoul also described the use of what was known as the 'short shackle' - steel bonds pulled tight to keep the subject bunched up, while chained to the floor. 'After a while, it was agony. You could hear the guards behind the mirror, making jokes, eating and drinking, knocking on the walls. It was not about trying to get information. It was just about trying to break you.' In their letter to Bush, Rasul and Iqbal also said they endured this procedure.

Another technique, applied in periods when Dergoul was being heavily interrogated, was to deny him clean clothes or bedding for up to three weeks, or to provide clothes which were several sizes too small.

Sometimes, Dergoul said, as with the 'attacks' by the ERF squads, interrogation sessions were videoed. Sumpter, the Guantanamo spokesman, said he could not confirm this claim.

Every four or five months, Dergoul said, he was visited by British diplomats and officials from MI5. Each time he complained bitterly about his treatment: 'I told them everything: about the stress positions, the interrogations, the ERF.'

Less than a month after he arrived, the Foreign Office sent a letter to his brother, Halid, which suggested they knew a lot about conditions at Guantanamo: although written in careful language, it described how he had been denied 'comfort items' and reported he felt as if he was 'living in the twilight zone'.

It also said he had lost a toe because he had not been treated with antibiotics. In public, however, the British government continued to defend the Americans' right to hold Dergoul and others at Guantanamo - as it still continues to do.

Dergoul's experiences have changed him forever, turning him into a devout and intensely political Muslim. 'I now look on America as a terrorist state because that's what they have done - terrorised us - and I condemn Britain as well for contributing to it. Half the people I met in Cuba had been purchased. If they really had been captured on the battlefield, as the Americans are always saying, maybe I could understand it.

'But maybe now they'll get their comeuppance. After what's happened at Abu Ghraib, if I'd been the Americans I would have destroyed those videos. Let them be shown. Then the world will know I'm telling the truth.'

Copyright: The Observer. UK.

1:09 PM  
Blogger Management said...

British men report abuse from Guantanamo
Beatings also endured in Afghanistan, they allege

By Jonathan Wald

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Three British men held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba for more than two years have accused the United States and Britain of humiliating and abusive treatment.

A 115-page statement, compiled by former detainees Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed and their attorney, Gareth Pierce, was released in New York Wednesday and sent to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

All three men, from Tipton in the West Midlands of England, were captured in November 2001 in Afghanistan during the U.S.-led military campaign to oust the Taliban. They eventually were transported to Guantanamo, and in March were flown back to London, where they were released without charge.

Iqbal and Ahmed, both 22, and Rasul, 27, said they endured beatings and unnecessarily severe treatment in Afghanistan and Guantanamo, situated near the southeastern tip of Cuba. They claim they were repeatedly kicked and punched, hooded, forced to strip, photographed naked, deprived of sleep, injected with drugs, shown pornography, forcibly shaved and shackled in painful positions.

On his arrival at Guantanamo, known colloquially as "Gitmo," a U.S. soldier allegedly told Iqbal, "You killed my family in the towers and now it's time to get you back."

U.S. soldiers "would kick the Koran, throw it into the toilet, and generally disrespect it," Iqbal said.

Ahmed said a U.S. soldier held a gun to his head while he was interrogated by a British Special Air Service officer who tried to make Ahmed admit he was in Afghanistan to take part in holy war. "He was told that if he moved they would shoot him," says the report.

Hundreds of detainees have tried to commit suicide in Guantanamo, according to the report.

The Pentagon defended the treatment of inmates in Guantanamo Bay.

"The United States operates humane and professional detention operations at Guantanamo Bay that is providing valuable information in the war on terrorism," said a Pentagon official. "The United States does not condone abuse of detainees which is prohibited by law. When questioning enemy combatants, U.S. personnel are required to follow this policy and applicable law."

In an open letter sent to President Bush and members of Congress in May, Rasul and Iqbal said the Pentagon is lying when officials deny using physically abusive and humiliating techniques to elicit information from them.

The Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, ruled on June 28 that U.S. authorities may detain American citizens and non-U.S. citizens as terror suspects but prisoners have the right to challenge their detention in a U.S. court. (Full story)

Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a legal group co-representing 53 other detainees at Guantanamo, said one of the most disturbing revelations in the statement was the report of systemic abuse.

"It's chilling to read it, not because of one incident but because of what you see here, the United States was running here, was a two-and-a-half year interrogation camp," Ratner said at a news conference to release the report.

"This report tells you how badly and how terribly what the administration can do to people when it is allowed to run a law-free zone," he said.

British and American interrogators, claims the report, accused the three men of appearing in a video taped in 2000 alongside Osama bin Laden and Mohammed Atta, the reputed ringleader of the September 11 attacks. All three initially maintained they were in Britain when the tape was made but said their harsh treatment forced them to give false confessions that they were in the video.

On one occasion, Iqbal was "left in a room and strobe lighting was put on and very loud music. It was a dance version of Eminem played repeatedly again and again."

"I was left in the room with the strobe lighting and loud music for about an hour before I was taken back to my cell," Iqbal recalls. "Nobody questioned me."

Once British intelligence confirmed the men's alibis, Rasul, Iqbal and Ahmed flew to Britain, where they were questioned and released shortly afterward.

"The methods used to induce false confessions from these three individuals saying they were at an Osama bin Laden training camp when they were in Great Britain are extremely troubling," said Barry Scheck, president of the National Criminal Defense Lawyers. "It's troubling because it's false information. It's extremely troubling because it violates every precept of the American justice system in terms of fair treatment of any prisoner."

Human rights lawyers have said they have no evidence that the offenses alleged to have been committed by interrogators in Guantanamo were as serious as the torture suffered by Iraqis in Abu Ghraib prison.

Louise Christian, a lawyer representing Tarek Dergoul, another British man released from Guantanamo at the same time as the three from Tipton, urged Washington on Tuesday to make public video of U.S. soldiers assaulting detainees in their cell.

Currently, 586 inmates are being held at Guantanamo, suspected of fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan or supporting al Qaeda.

CNN Producer Sheila Steffen contributed to this report.

1:09 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Spy case was a 'life-altering experience' for airman
By Laura Parker, USA TODAY
FAIRFIELD, Calif. — The day Ahmad Al Halabi, an Air Force translator at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was arrested, he was more puzzled than alarmed.
Al Halabi: "The American dream is still out there for me. I am pursuing it."
By Jack Gruber, USA TODAY

His focus had been on getting to Syria for his wedding before his non-refundable airline ticket expired. It wasn't until he had been jailed in a windowless cell and told that he could face the death penalty that he learned what to him was unthinkable: He had been accused of spying against the United States.

Over the next 14 months, he found himself in a kind of hell in an adopted country that he had once praised as having so many freedoms that even "the animals had rights." Al Halabi, however, spent 10 months in solitary confinement.

The case against him — part of the so-called spy ring case at Guantanamo — collapsed last month, when all of the spy charges were dropped after a black comedy of errors. But he pleaded guilty to lesser charges. He has been reduced in rank to airman basic and is being kicked out of the Air Force, a place he would like to stay, on a bad-conduct discharge.

Despite the ordeal, Al Halabi, 25, says he is not bitter. "The American dream is still out there for me. I am pursuing it," he says.

"It may have got a little more difficult because of the charges and labels," he says of his pursuit. "I am more cautious of what I do. It's been a life-altering experience."

Al Halabi is still absorbing the consequences of having been accused of something he says he didn't do.

He is aware that some friends have dropped him out of fear of being associated with a suspected spy.

Al Halabi's arrest so frightened his fiancee, who was left waiting with 200 relatives for her missing groom, that she's not sure she wants to move to the USA. He would like to visit her in the United Arab Emirates, where she lives, to calm her. But Al Halabi worries that if he leaves, he'll have trouble returning, although he's a naturalized U.S. citizen.

He was accused of attempting to deliver about 200 secret documents to unknown enemies in his native Syria. A week before his court-martial, however, military officials concluded that only one document was classified secret.

Al Halabi pleaded guilty to four counts, including taking two souvenir snapshots at the prison camp where more than 600 suspected al-Qaeda operatives and Taliban soldiers are being held.

He says he hasn't taken a photograph since. He has also stopped collecting memorabilia to document his life. That's partly what got him into trouble: keeping a copy of his orders, which were stamped "secret," as a souvenir of his role in America's war on terrorism.

Because Al Halabi was the subject of a counterintelligence inquiry, he says he wonders whether agents are still investigating him.

When he misplaced his calendar recently, his first thought was that agents had secretly searched his room, as they did in their investigation of him.

Before it all went so wrong, Al Halabi looked at his six-month tour at Guantanamo with pride. His job was to translate mail to and from the prisoners into English.

But he was also asked to visit the cellblocks and translate for the guards. Al Halabi once accompanied a prisoner into surgery for a knee operation.

He also was in charge of handing out library books. Investigators seized a cellblock roster that included a series of numbers next to the name of an Australian prisoner named David Hicks. Investigators speculated that the digits could be a secret coded message.

Al Halabi said the numbers were references to library books. Hicks was on the waiting list to receive a Harry Potter book.

"The Brits were always arguing about which volume of Harry Potter they could have," he says.

When a number of prisoners attempted suicide, Al Halabi helped write a plan for holding funerals. And when a wooden coffin was shipped to the base, he helped paint it green.

Al Halabi says he did not witness any treatment of prisoners that has now been called into question as abusive. But he says he saw things at Guantanamo that disturbed him. He says guards would purposely mishandle the Koran "just to see the detainees' reaction."

"All I wanted was for them to treat those prisoners like human beings," Al Halabi says.

But he says that view was seen as sympathy toward the enemy, and it fueled suspicions about him.

He says the small group of U.S. troops at Guantanamo who were Muslim sometimes felt like they were an island on an island. The non-Muslim guards resented their explanations about the proper handling of the Koran. Some guards derided them as "detainee lovers." Yet the prisoners called them infidels and threw urine and feces at them.

"We were caught in the middle," Al Halabi says with a shrug.

He says it is difficult to explain Guantanamo to someone who has not been there.

"It's its own world," Al Halabi says. "It's got its own rules."

1:10 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Guantanamo four plan to sue US
Four British men held at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp for nearly three years are suing the US government.

The ex-detainees are alleging torture and other human rights violations.

In the first action of its kind, Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal, Rhuhel Ahmed and Jamal al-Harith each demanded £5.5m, in the suits filed in Washington DC.

But a Pentagon official said the allegations were false and the men were not entitled to a pay out because they had been captured in combat.

Among the defendants named are US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers.

'Beatings' claim

The former detainees - three from Tipton in the West Midlands and Mr al-Harith, 37, from Manchester - filed the suits in Washington DC on Wednesday.

The men were released from the US naval base in Cuba in March.

They claim they were subjected to beatings and abuse during their "arbitrary" detention at Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

After they were freed, all the men were questioned by British police but released without charge.

It is un-American to torture people. It is un-American to hold people indefinitely without access to counsel, courts or family.
Lead lawyer Eric Lewis
The lawsuits were filed in Washington by the men's lawyers at Baach Robinson and Lewis.

The action is being brought under the Alien Tort Claims Act, Geneva Conventions, and Religious Freedom Restoration Act, according to a statement from the Center for Constitutional Rights.

The New York-based centre is supporting the four men.


The four former detainees are seeking damages but primarily want Rumsfeld and other defendants to be held accountable for their actions, said Eric Lewis, the lead lawyer in the case.

"This is a case about preserving an American ideal - the rule of law," Lewis said at a news conference.

"It is un-American to torture people. It is un-American to hold people indefinitely without access to counsel, courts or family. It is un-American to flout international treaty obligations."

In response, a Pentagon official said: "The allegations of torture are false. But the Department of Defence will not comment on specific details.

"Under US law, there is no basis to pay claims to individuals captured during combat.

"The four were captured in Afghanistan while fighting illegally for al-Qaeda.

"They were detained as a result of their activities in Afghanistan."

If the case proceeds, it will be heard in the Federal District Court in Washington DC.

The suit also names Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, former commander at Guantanamo Bay base, as well as other named officials and up to 100 "John Does" who allegedly were "involved in the illegal torture of plaintiffs" at the camp.

Dossier of 'abuse'

In August, Mr Ahmed, 22, Mr Rasul, 27, and Mr Iqbal, 22, accused the US of a catalogue of shocking abuses in a 115-page dossier.

The 'Tipton Three' alleged that they were beaten, stripped, shackled and deprived of sleep during their detention.

It was alleged that guards threw prisoners' Korans into toilets and attempted to force them to give up their religious faith.

There were claims that detainees were forcibly injected with unidentified drugs and intimidated with unmuzzled dogs.

The three men each said they eventually gave false confessions that they appeared in a video with al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Mohammed Atta, one of the September 11 hijackers.

They said this was despite the fact they could prove they were in Britain when the video was made.

1:10 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Desecration of Koran Had Been Reported Before

By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 18, 2005; A12

Newsweek magazine's now-retracted story that a military guard at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, flushed a copy of the Koran down a toilet has sparked angry denunciations by the White House and the Pentagon, which have linked the article to Muslim riots and deaths abroad.

But American and international media have widely reported similar allegations from detainees and others of desecration of the Muslim holy book for more than two years.

James Yee, a former Muslim chaplain at the prison who was investigated and cleared of charges of mishandling classified material, has asserted that guards' mishandling and mistreatment of detainees' Korans led the prisoners to launch a hunger strike in March 2002. Detainee lawyers, attributing their information to an interrogator, have said the strike ended only when military leaders issued an apology to the detainees over the camp loudspeaker. But they said mishandling of the Koran persisted.

Erik Saar, a former Army translator at Guantanamo Bay who has written a book about mistreatment of detainees at the military prison, said in interviews and in his book that he never saw a Koran flushed in a toilet but that guards routinely ignored prisoners' sensitivities by tossing it on the ground while searching their cells.

And numerous detainees, whose stories are uncorroborated, have said to various media outlets that at detention facilities in Guantanamo Bay and Afghanistan, the Koran was stepped on, tossed on the floor and placed in latrines.

"They tore the Koran to pieces in front of us, threw it into the toilet," former detainee Aryat Vahitov told Russian television in June 2004.

Under fire from the White House, Newsweek on Monday retracted the May 9 article in which it reported that a government investigation had confirmed an instance of a Koran being put in the toilet. Newsweek editors now say their source, a senior government official, is no longer sure that the alleged incident is confirmed in the investigation.

Yesterday, the administration called on Newsweek to explain how it got the story wrong and to report about U.S. military efforts to ensure that the Koran is handled with respect. The White House, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld have cited the damage done to the United States' reputation in the Muslim world by Newsweek's original report.

Yesterday, Pentagon spokesman Lawrence T. Di Rita said previous detainee allegations have not been considered credible.

"I'm not aware that we've ever had any specific, credible allegations to investigate. We certainly didn't investigate detainees' lawyers on television saying, 'This is what happened to my detainee,' " he said.

But he added that "in the wake of the Newsweek piece, we thought it useful to go back and review to be sure."

To Muslims, the Koran is a sacred text that should never be dropped, defiled or ridiculed. When Newsweek's report was reprinted in the Arab media, it sparked public protests and riots in Afghanistan and other countries that left 16 people dead.

Several lawyers for Guantanamo Bay detainees contended yesterday that other forms of alleged mistreatment of detainees, some reported in e-mails by FBI personnel stationed at Guantanamo Bay, have helped fuel anti-American sentiment in Arab countries. They accused the White House of being disingenuous about the insults it has already acknowledged occurred at the base.

The government has acknowledged that two female interrogators have been reprimanded, one for making sexually suggestive remarks to a detainee, and the other for smearing fake menstrual blood on a captive. Detainee lawyers said the purpose of the tactics was to cause stress based on the prisoners' religious beliefs that they would be unclean and could not pray.

FBI allegations of harsh treatment of captives are under investigation by the Pentagon.

"It's a measure of how deeply our global credibility has suffered that this inflammatory allegation was given immediate credence," said Joseph Margulies, an attorney for former detainee Mamdouh Habib. "You are only prepared to believe this if the U.S. reputation has fallen so badly. If you learned that a female interrogator smeared fake menstrual blood on a detainee, as we did learn, then, of course, you're going to believe that they could throw a Koran in a toilet." Dozens of detainees have said in declassified court records that Guantanamo Bay detention officials and military guards engaged in widespread religious and sexual humiliation of detainees. Detainees said the goal was to make them feel impure, shake their faith and try to gain information.

Yesterday, several former detainees said they witnessed military police and guards at Guantanamo Bay throwing their copies of the Koran on the ground, stomping on them with their feet, and tossing them into buckets and areas used as latrines.

Former detainee Abdallah Tabarak told a Moroccan newspaper in December that he saw guards throw Korans in the toilet, according to a BBC translation of the article.

"When I wanted to pray, they would burst into my cell with police dogs to terrorize me and prevent me from praying," he said. "They also would trample the Koran underfoot and throw it in the urine bucket. We staged protests in the prison about the desecrating of the Holy Koran, so the management promised us that they would issue orders to the American soldiers not to touch the copies of the Koran again."

The Pentagon issued those rules on Jan. 19, 2003, requiring that the Koran not be placed on "the floor, near the toilet or sink, near the feet, or dirty/wet areas."

5:02 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Red Cross told U.S. of Koran incidents

By Cam Simpson and Mark Silva
Washington Bureau

May 19, 2005

WASHINGTON -- The International Committee of the Red Cross documented what it called credible information about U.S. personnel disrespecting or mishandling Korans at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and pointed it out to the Pentagon in confidential reports during 2002 and early 2003, an ICRC spokesman said Wednesday.

Representatives of the ICRC, who have played a key role in investigating abuse allegations at the facility in Cuba and other U.S. military prisons, never witnessed such incidents firsthand during on-site visits, said Simon Schorno, an ICRC spokesman in Washington.

But ICRC delegates, who have been granted access to the secretive camp since January 2002, gathered and corroborated enough similar, independent reports from detainees to raise the issue multiple times with Guantanamo commanders and with Pentagon officials, Schorno said in an interview Wednesday.

Following the ICRC's reports, the Defense Department command in Guantanamo issued almost three pages of detailed, written guidelines for treatment of Korans. Schorno said ICRC representatives did not receive any other complaints or document similar incidents following the issuance of the guidelines on Jan. 19, 2003.

The issue of how Korans are handled by American personnel guarding Muslim detainees moved into the spotlight after protests in Muslim nations, including deadly riots in Afghanistan, that followed a now-retracted report in Newsweek magazine. That story said U.S. investigators had confirmed that interrogators had flushed a Koran down a toilet.

The Koran is Islam's holiest book, and mistreating it is seen as an offense against God.

Following the firestorm over the report and the riots, the ICRC declined Wednesday to discuss what kind of alleged incidents were involved, how many there were or how often it reported them to American officials prior to the release of the 2003 Koran guidelines.

"We don't want to comment specifically on specific instances of desecration, only on the general level of how the Koran was disrespected," Schorno said.

Schorno did say, however, that there were "multiple" instances involved and that the ICRC made confidential reports about such incidents "multiple" times to Guantanamo and Pentagon officials.

In addition to the retracted Newsweek story, senior Bush administration officials have repeatedly downplayed other reports regarding alleged abuses of the Koran at Guantanamo, largely dismissing them because they came from current or former detainees.

Pentagon confirms reports

Asked about the ICRC's confidential reports Wednesday night, Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, confirmed their existence but sought to downplay the seriousness of their content. He said they were forwarded "on rare occasions" and called them "detainee allegations which they [the ICRC] could not corroborate."

But that is not how Schorno, the ICRC spokesman, portrayed the reports.

"All information we received were corroborated allegations," he said, adding, "We certainly corroborated mentions of the events by detainees themselves."

`Not just one person'

Schorno also said: "Obviously, it is not just one person telling us something happened and we just fire up. We take it very seriously, and very carefully, and document everything in our confidential reports."

It was not clear whether the ICRC's corroboration went beyond statements made independently by detainees.

The organization has said that it insists on speaking "in total privacy to each and every detainee held" when its delegates and translators visit military detention facilities.

Still, Whitman said there was nothing in the ICRC reports that approximated the information published in the story retracted by Newsweek.

"The representations that were made to the United States military at Guantanamo by the ICRC are consistent with the types of things we have found in various [U.S. military] log entries about handling Korans, such as the accidental dropping of a Koran," he said.

Senior administration officials also have been pointing to the Jan. 19, 2003, guidelines this week as proof of the military's sensitivity about Muslim religious issues, but they did not note that the ICRC had confidentially reported specific concerns before the guidelines were issued.

The procedures outlined in the memorandum, which is entitled "Inspecting/Handling Detainee Korans Standard Operating Procedure," are exacting. Among other things, they mandate that chaplains or Muslim interpreters should inspect all Korans, and that military police should not touch the holy books.

The guidelines also specify that Korans should not be "placed in offensive areas such as the floor, near the toilet or sink, near the feet, or dirty/wet areas," according to a copy.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan suggested Tuesday that the guidelines should be broadly reported in the wake of the retracted Newsweek story.

"The military put in place policies and procedures to make sure that the Koran was handled, or is handled, with the utmost care and respect," he said.

U.S. credited for response

The ICRC gave U.S. officials credit for taking corrective action at Guantanamo by issuing the guidelines, with Schorno saying Wednesday, "We brought it up to the attention of the authorities, and it was followed through."

He also said, "The memo doesn't mention the ICRC, but we know that our comments are taken seriously."

Still, Schorno did not say the guidelines were issued specifically in response to the ICRC's reports. Schorno's remarks Wednesday represented a departure from the ICRC's customary policy of confidentiality with the governments it deals with in an effort to maintain their trust and the organization's neutrality.

A senior State Department official, speaking only on the condition that he not be named, said Wednesday the issuance of the guidelines followed the ICRC's reports and that they were "a credit to the fact that we investigate and correct practices and problems."

Whitman, the Pentagon spokesman, said he was not aware of "any specific precipitating event that caused the command to codify those in a written policy."

Whitman also said, "The ICRC works very closely with us to help us identify concerns with respect to detainees on a variety of issues, to include religious issues. But I can't make any direct correlation there" between ICRC concerns on the Koran and the issuance of the 2003 guidelines.

9:38 PM  
Blogger Management said...

That Ironic Smell ...
... is what caused us to become concerned, and break into Irony's apartment. To, of course, find it dead. Irony is not only dead, but the cats had a while to work on its soft bits as it lay on the kitchen floor.

I come back from a four day holiday with no news coverage to find this?

(Warning -- Atypical rant commencing.)

This administration -- the guys who threw out the Geneva Convention (fact - and proudly, just ask the AG); sends prisoners to countries so they can be tortured (factitty fact fact); and put into place policies which led to images of Muslim men, 70-90% of whom were innocent according to the Department of Defense, being electroshocked , dog attacked, and bound naked, these images being spread worldwide -- these guys claim Newsweek is damaging America's image abroad? Newsweek?

Gee, any of you idiots bitching about Newsweek stop to think why the Afghan people even believed this? It's not like the plate was set for this to be credible behaviour.

Abdul: Mumar, my friend, even though I was innocent, they tortured me, stripped me naked, waterboarded me, had dogs attack me, and shocked my nuts!
Mumar: I heard they also desecrated the Qu'ran.
Abdul: Please! How could you believe such a thing?
Mumar: ... Dude, they shocked your nuts.
Abdul: So? They have taken cultural sensitivity courses. They would never cross that line!
Mumar: I am filled with shame at jumping to unwarranted conclusions.

Did Newsweek fuck up? Of course. They single-sourced a story. Although I'm a little hazy about how this causality of blame works:

1.) Newsweek hears from government official about Qu'ran abuse.
2.) Newsweek, knowing this is controversial, gives the story to another government official for confirmation.
3.) This government official does not correct that item.
4.) Newsweek publishes story with a single detail which has been reported multiple times in other newspapers.
5.) Afghanistan, already a tinderbox because of the incompetence of even more government officials who botched the reconstruction, erupts. Into riots which, according to someone who is probably smarter than I, oh, say, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are actually related to the ongoing reconciliation process more than the article.
6.) Government officials bemoan Newsweek's carelessness.

Of course, nobody cared when the media single-sourced stories on, say, WMD's or whether the occupation would go smoothly. But we're sharper now.

According to the autopsy, what finally pushed Irony over the edge was this:

Larry DiRita, the spokesman for the Pentagon, actually had the NUTSACK to say, of the original source "People are dead because of what this sonuvabitch said. How could he be credible now?"

He actually had the big brass stones, standing there atop Iraq with no WMD's, no links to al-queda, and no links to 9-11 ... he had the unholy testicular power to stand on the corpses of 1600 dead American soldiers, 15,000 wounded American soldiers, tens of thousands of probably-dead-but-we-don't-count-them-because-they're-brown innocent bystander Iraquis and claim the moral high ground on credibility?

I am actually beyond humor. I'm in awe.

So let me see if I understand this.

-- Osama bin Ladin, Zaquari, and Omar are still strolling around ...
-- the Taliban is making a comeback. The Taliban, a group which after 9/11 which should have been so thoroughly vaporized in such a horrifyingly white-smoting-light-of-righteous-violence that even now a mere random combination of the syllables "Tal"," i", and "ban" should cause grown men to wet themselves at the unspeakable memory of their fate, they apparently have a sign-up sheet going in Pakistan like a fucking office softball team ...
-- Afghanistan's a destabilized hellhole.
-- Iraq, according to even the most optimistic of planners, will chew up American troops for at least five more years ...
-- Iraq is an insurgent war hell because (whether you agreed with the reasons for the original war or not) nobody planned for the occupation, based on the rosy beliefs of a few "government officials" ...
-- We have, demonstrably, statistically, one of the worst health care systems of the industrialized world ...
-- Tax cuts have put this country in the hole to the Chinese ...
-- North Korea and Iran are about to go nuclear ...
-- the government's now declared that pensions are fair game for the corporate fucking-off train, possibly stranding 36 million hard-working day-job Americans ...

... and they've got everyone screaming about Newsweek. That's ... just unspeakably beautiful. It's brilliant. That's Lex Luthor brilliant. It's so magnificently evil, I wish I'd done it, just to be able to say I pulled something like that off. When you manipulate public opinion like that so shamelessly, with such breathless artistry, you should seriously be doing it from inside a giant rampaging robot head. It's the only context that makes any sense.

We are officially in post-modern politics in the US.

Really, congrats to everyone who gives a rat's ass about this. I can't wait until the day, standing in the flaming ruins of America's impending economic collapse, watching as Third World countries race past us in technology, education and power, our populace grown disaffected and violently cynical over repeated betrayals and trivializations of the great governmental process, the day when I can turn to my trusty gyrocopter pal and -- raising my voice over the inconvenient weeping of another mother whose kid has died in Iraq -- say "Hey, remember when Newsweek single-sourced a story?"

Boy, that'll be the kicker right there.

9:39 PM  
Blogger Management said...

DoD News Briefing

To view slides used during the briefing:

SEC. RUMSFELD: Good afternoon.

In 1961, President Kennedy took office and found a U.S. defense establishment that was still largely arranged to re-fight World War II. He ordered an extensive consolidation of bases to meet the challenges of the Cold War that was then flaring into a somewhat dangerous phase. Subsequent presidents have continued to refine U.S. military infrastructure as the threats to our country have evolved.

And today the Department of Defense again is in need of change and adjustment. Current arrangements pretty much designed for the Cold War must give way to the new demands of war against extremists and other evolving 21st century challenges.

At the direction of the president, and with the support of the Congress, this department has undertaken several initiatives to address our new circumstance, including, as you know, we've been changing the U.S. Global Posture, forging new partnerships to fight extremism, transforming U.S. military to a more agile Joint Expeditionary Force, and reforming the way the department does its business.

Tomorrow, at the direction of the Congress, the department will present another component of that strategy -- its recommendations to the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission for changes to U.S. military installations. This is an important process. Consider the array of issues of concern to this department: making sure the troops have proper equipment, relieving stress on the force, improving the ability of the forces to cooperate jointly, and protecting forces stationed at vulnerable bases and locations across this country and around the world. If one thinks about those priorities, it clearly makes sense to do all that one can to identify and remove whatever excess exists, to be able to better address those pressing needs, and by so doing, the American taxpayer benefits. This, in essence, is the logic and the imperative of BRAC.

Let me make a few comments about that process that has been undertaken over the past two and a half years.

First, as required by law, the primary factor in each BRAC recommendation has been an assessment of an installation's underlying military value. Indeed, military judgments have played the key role from the outset, and properly so. In a time of war, whenever we can find ways to increase support for military needs to help the warfighters, we should do no less.

Second, the previous four BRAC rounds, in 1998 – (sic) [1988], '91 and '93 and '95, over time have eliminated some 21 percent of then- excess U.S. military infrastructure, and reallocated many billions of dollars to pressing military needs. This year's recommendation, if approved by the BRAC commission, approved by the president, and ultimately approved by the Congress of the United States, should result in some $5.5 billion in recurring annual savings; a net savings of $48.8 billion over 20 years. When combined with the proposed changes to U.S. global posture, that projected 20-year net saving increases from $48.8 billion to $64.2 billion, or some $6.7 billion per year.

Third, for the first time, these deliberations took place with an emphasis on jointness. The military recognizes that operating jointly reduces overhead costs, improves efficiencies; and facilitates cooperative training, research and operations. Importantly, these consolidations also free up personnel and resources to reduce stress on the force and improve force protection. The department also considered potential contingency and surge requirements, and possible increases in active-duty troop levels.

The current BRAC effort began more than two years ago with the development of a 20-year force structure plan and an exhaustive top- to-bottom inventory of U.S. facilities worldwide. In fact, one might say that the process started even earlier with the Global Posture Review that we began in 2001, now some four years ago. Indeed, the considerations related to global posture fed into the BRAC analysis, allowing the department to anticipate and prepare for the return of tens of thousands of personnel and their families, and the knowledge gained by the two-year Global Posture Review has informed the BRAC deliberations in important ways.

Through extensive consultation with the service secretaries, with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the combatant commanders, a panel of high-ranking military and civilian officials developed stringent criteria and conditions and matrices to assess the military business and support operations of the department, as well as every facility and military base in the country, taking into account lessons learned from previous BRAC rounds.

The word "base" of course includes much more than one traditionally thinks of, of a military base. It includes ports, airfields, industrial and research facilities, lease space, and the like.

A word about the criteria used. In addition to assessments of military value, the department also examined other key factors, including the economic impact on existing communities in the vicinity of military installations; the extent and timing of potential costs and savings; the ability of existing and potential receiving communities' infrastructure to support forces, missions and personnel; and the environmental impact, including the impact of costs related to environmental restoration, compliance, and waste management.

I'm advised that during these deliberations, senior military and civilian leaders invested thousands of hours, and their staffs expended tens of thousands of hours to this important work. They examined an estimated 25 million pieces of data, and they considered some 1,000 different scenarios. The analysis used certified data under a process monitored by the Government Accounting – (sic) [Accountability] Office and the Department of Defense's inspection and audit agencies.

The department is recommending fewer major base closures than had earlier been anticipated, due in part to the return of tens of thousands of troops through our Global Posture Review, and also due to decisions to reduce lease space by moving activities from lease space into owned facilities.

Nonetheless, the changes that will occur will affect a number of communities, communities that have warmly embraced nearby military installations for a good many years, indeed, in some cases decades. The department will take great care to work with these communities, with the respect that they have earned, and the government stands ready with economic assistance.

With the strong support of the president, the Department of Defense and other departments of government, are prepared to provide personnel transfer and job-training assistance, in collaboration with the Department of Labor; provide local economic adjustment assistance through the Department of Defense's Office of Economic Adjustment; use our authorities to accelerate and support reuse needs; and work with the Department of Commerce and other federal agencies to assist local economic recovery.

More information on economic assistance, as well as other information relating to BRAC, can be found on the department's website, which I believe is shown up there.


It's helpful to note that many local economies impacted by previous BRAC decisions successfully found ways to get positive results out of a situation that at first must have seemed dire -- which, of course, is a tribute to the ingenuity and resilience of the American people. For example -- I've never been through a BRAC before, so this is my first time; that occurred after I had left the department many years ago. But I'm told that within a decade of the base's closure, the community around Pease Air Force Base in New Hampshire employed an aggressive economic development plan to generate more than a thousand percent increase in civilian jobs.

In Arizona, Williams Air Force Base became the Williams Gateway Airport and has attracted many civilian jobs, and its education center is bringing in thousands of students.

And many cities have turned shutdown Navy bases into new business centers with thousands of new jobs.

All affected communities will not be able to replicate such positive results, of course, but every effort will be made to assist.

With the submission tomorrow, the Defense Department will complete its statutory role in the BRAC process. All further decisions, deliberations and analysis will occur under the auspices of the statutory BRAC commission, and ultimately from the commission to the president of the United States, and then to the Congress of the United States.

Because the BRAC commission can assess more information and will have the opportunity to hold hearings and learn from potentially impacted communities, it's possible that the commission may make some changes to these recommendations, as have prior BRAC commissions. I'm told that prior BRACs have made some 10 to 15 percent changes in what was recommended.

I do want to thank the BRAC commissioners for agreeing to serve our country, and for undertaking this important assignment. It's a difficult one. And we appreciate it.

One final note. I want to thank the many civilian and military personnel in this department, including Chairman Dick Myers and the Joint Chiefs of Staff who are here; Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who chaired the Infrastructure Executive Council; the service secretaries; Undersecretary Mike Wynne and his very able team, some of which are sitting over there, who have devoted countless hours to developing these recommendations. The department has relied heavily on their judgment, analysis and recommendations, and believes that the process put in place was fair and deliberative. I have full confidence that all of those who have participated are dedicated to the very best military interests of our nation and to the outstanding men and women who serve in uniform.

General Myers?

GEN. MYERS: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. And good afternoon.

The 2005 BRAC process ensures that the United States will continue to have the best-trained and best-equipped military to meet the threats and challenges of the 21st century. BRAC is not a stand- alone event, but it's a necessary step to improving the warfighting capability of the joint force. It is properly sequenced with the recent release of the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy, and has been informed by the Global Basing Strategy.

The functions and values of all military installations were reviewed, and all recommendations are rooted in the congressionally approved selection criteria. The recommendations will support the 20- year Force Structure Plan recently submitted to Congress.

The 2005 BRAC process enabled the services to match facilities to force structure, and to make the best use of defense dollars. We also worked very hard with the combatant commanders to ensure that the BRAC recommendations support the homeland defense mission.

As part of the BRAC process, we looked at all our facilities from a force protection standpoint, and the BRAC recommendations help us better protect our service members and our DOD employees. BRAC has given us the opportunity to increase our combat efficiency and effectiveness, and return our forces to the deployable force structure, thereby reducing stress on the force. Many of our BRAC recommendations will also help ease stress on our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and civilians, and our contractors, by allowing us to provide modern, world-class facilities and more efficient and joint organizations.

As the secretary said, military value was the primary consideration in the BRAC decision-making process, and there were four major areas that we focused on. The first one was current and future mission capabilities and the impact on operational readiness of the total force -- meaning the active duty, the Guard and the Reserve; the availability and condition of land facilities and associated airspace, to include training areas; maintaining sufficient capacity to accommodate contingency mobilization, surge, and future total force requirements; and cost of operations and manpower implications.

Senior military leadership, including the service chiefs, combatant commanders, and members of the Joint Staff, looked at how we should close and realign our current infrastructure to maximize our warfighting capability. And we had three objectives when we did that: continuing the progress we have made in transforming our force, including how we integrate our Reserve component into the total force, and preparing them for the 21st century; and how we posture our forces globally to be more flexible and agile. Second, configuring our infrastructure to enhance joint warfighting, facilitate joint training, and improve efficiency. And finally, converting unneeded capacity into warfighting capability.

Let me describe the BRAC process briefly in just a little bit more detail than the secretary did. And that is we had seven joint cross-service groups and the military departments who began looking at all our facilities and capabilities and our requirements, and then they came up with proposals. The best of their proposals became what we call scenarios. We evaluated a total of approximately 1,000 scenarios in great detail against the eight different criteria. The combatant commanders analyzed them and made inputs on them as part of the process as well.

Secretary Wynne chaired a steering group that provided oversight for this process and ensured the efforts of the various groups were integrated. Recommendations were then forwarded to the executive council chaired by the deputy secretary of Defense, and I sat on that committee as well as did the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the secretaries of the services. We made final recommendations to Secretary Rumsfeld. So that was the process.

Finally, I'd like to thank the hundreds of service members, civilians and contract support at the combatant commands, within the services and on the joint staff who have spent countless hours to help prepare these recommendations. It's my belief that the process we went through was very thorough, very rigorous, and that we had full joint- and senior-level involvement from across the armed forces.

This is really important and necessary work as we structure our military for the 21st century. And in the last four years, we've been about trying to get this department and our military force ready for the 21st century. BRAC is an integral part of that. It's a necessary part of that. It is not an appendage; it is integral to our ability to structure ourselves to be able to defend this country well into the future.

So with that, I think, General Cody.

GEN. RICHARD CODY (vice chief of staff, U.S. Army): Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Thank you, Chairman.

Good afternoon. Chief of Staff of the Army General Peter Schoomaker is presently returning from the AOR, so I'm privileged today to talk to you about the Army's approach to BRAC. Because of the dramatic changes that have occurred in the nation's security environment over the past 15 years, the Army is transforming the way it fights, the way it organizes, the way it's postured and the way it does business. The Army has aggressively moved to develop a force that is more expeditionary, more joint, more rapidly deployable and more adaptive.

Because of these changes in the strategic environment, the Army must organize, train, equip and be based to effectively support our transformation and meet the evolving threats of today and tomorrow. At the same time, the Army is committed to providing stability, predictability and a quality of life for our soldiers and their families that mirrors their outstanding service to this nation.

Within this strategic context, the Army is taking a very thoughtful, deliberate and thorough approach to the BRAC process. And we have carefully weighed the impact of our recommendations.

Through this process, the Army has worked closely with our sister services, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, to provide recommendations that create an infrastructure with significant military value, promotes joint operations, provides basing for forces redeploying from overseas, reduces redundant infrastructure, produce net savings to the department and to the American people, and finally, optimize the Army transformation effort.

We believe that the recommendations in BRAC '05 will holistically transform our current infrastructure and support the Army modular force, while supporting the needs of the combatant commander. These BRAC proposals will posture the Army in the best possible manner to meet the strategic and operational requirements of this century, and will provide stability and an improved standard of living for our hard-working soldiers and their families.

BRAC is not an easy process, and I too want to thank the BRAC commissioners for their hard work and dedication on taking this task. I also want to thank the Office of Secretary of Defense, the services, the Joint Chiefs of Staffs and the combatant commanders for their incredible cooperation and teamwork during the process.

And finally, I want to thank those within the Department of the Army, the military and civilian and contractors, who have dedicated great energy, expertise, and precision to this effort, never forgetting that in the end, the Army soldier and our extended Army family -- and the Army local communities -- are at the centerpiece of all we do.

Thank you.

ADM. VERNON E. "VERN" CLARK (Chief of Naval Operations): Good afternoon. Of course, I'm the Chief of the Navy and for those of you who are sitting in the audience here in the Pentagon press corps, you know that I've been talking about the requirement to run our Navy more effectively and, accordingly, more efficiently for almost five years. And I have spoken on a number of occasions, for years now, about the requirement for another BRAC round. And I can -- I want to reemphasize just a couple of points.

The secretary and the chairman both talked about the fact that there were hundreds and even thousands of people that have been involved in this process, and I want to report to you that I'm one of those. Along with thousands of people in the Navy and my vice chief, we have been intimately involved in this process, and, as the chairman said, I'm a member of the IEC.

There are two or three points that bear repeating. This, the recommendations that are being forwarded are, first and foremost, more joint than we could ever could have thought about in previous BRAC rounds. And the reason for that is we are much -- much more a joint force today.

We have examples, today, of joint bases, but they are limited in number. And we have learned throughout this process of the value of a joint base approach. And I believe, very strongly, that that kind of solution will serve us well in the future.

The chairman also talked about the joint cross-service groups. I want to just say that I had members of the United States Navy represented on every one of those teams, and as a result -- and then I was briefed frequently on the analysis that they were undertaking and the process that they were going through.

Our focus has been throughout on getting the best military value, and that ties to the point that I made initially about running our Navy in the most effective and efficient way possible. But at the end of the day, it was always about the best military value for the United States Navy and the joint force.

I also want to make the point that I believe that these recommendations will serve our nation well as we have the opportunity to take a long-range view about the way our -- in my case, the United States Navy ought to be structured for the next 20 years. And so this whole -- all of this analysis was conducted with an eye toward the future, a 20-year future.

And finally, I just want to say that because we're interested in effective and efficient operations, every time we look at one of these issues, I was looking at resources. In addition to military value, the mantra that I've laid out for our Navy over the last five years is the things that we do need to be good for sailors, but they also need to be good for the taxpayers. And it is my belief that these actions will lead to exactly that.

And so, in conclusion, I believe that this entire process has been of great value to the United States Navy. And of course there is much process still to come, and it is our understanding and my understanding that we would be party to that as the commission takes on its work. We are very hopeful that these recommendations will be seen through the process, and we believe that they will benefit the United States Navy and the United States military greatly.

Thank you.

GENERAL MICHAEL W. HAGEE (Commandant of the Marine Corps): Good afternoon.

As Admiral Clark mentioned, a major part of this BRAC was about looking for joint solutions to our infrastructure needs as we develop recommendations for the more efficient and effective use of our bases and stations. A significant effort, as the secretary of Defense mentioned, went into the review of infrastructure capacity and military value of our current installations to support not only today's needs, but also the future force structure needs.

We believe the recommendations will improve organizational alignments and ensure our readiness and expeditionary capability to deploy quickly. We look forward to working with the BRAC commission in their analysis of the recommendations.

Thank you.

GEN. JOHN JUMPER (Air Force chief of staff): Good afternoon. I'm John Jumper, the Air Force chief of staff, and I'd like to start by thanking the leadership in OSD that indeed put together a very thorough process that, as Admiral Clark and Dick Cody said, we were all able to sign up to with no problem at all. And as Vern Clark said, we had several meetings that transitioned from a planned 4-5 p.m. that transitioned into a 10:00 p.m. pizza party as we -- as we got through the details of this process.

For the United States Air Force, this continues an ongoing transformation, as the secretary said, over several years to make our structures and our organizations more agile and better able to cope with the world that we find ourselves in today. And for the Air Force, we also intend to take full advantage of the vast experience that exists out there in our total force, with our Air National Guard and our Air Force Reserve. We also see this accelerating and normalizing the joint processes and the joint training, the joint research, as the secretary said, and you heard from others, as well as implementing rapidly lessons learned that can only be solved in joint ways. This we will do with these organizations and basing structures that come forth in BRAC. We also need to retain our access to precious training space and make that training space as joint as we can as we look into the future. All of this, as you've heard today, based on very rigorous analysis, has placed a premium on military value.

And finally, to our community partners out there, I grew up in the Air Force. My dad was in the Air Force for 28 years. I lived at 26 bases before I started my own career. And now, twenty-plus bases later, I have been and lived at many of the Air Force bases around the United States during my lifetime, and we have very close personal relationships with each and every one of these communities. No one is a stranger out there. And as the secretary said, we pledge not only the resources, as he did, of the department, but certainly of the United States Air Force, to stand by our community partners as we make these transitions that flow from the full process of BRAC.

Thank you very much.

Q: Can you give us a sneak preview, Mr. Secretary?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you, gentlemen.

We'd be happy to respond to a few questions. I would suggest they be on BRAC, since that's the -- we have the experts here. We have the Secretary of the Army Fran Harvey. We've got Gordon England, the Secretary of the Navy, and probably tomorrow noon, the -- he will become the acting deputy secretary of Defense, as Paul Wolfowitz departs for the World Bank.

Yeah, Charlie, yes.

Q: Mr. Secretary, realizing that you don't plan to release details of this until tomorrow, which I guess would be heartburn city on the Hill, could you at least tell us, without going -- without naming bases, could you tell us the number of bases that you will --

SEC. RUMSFELD: I could, but I won't. (Laughter.)

Q: (Groaning.) Oh, no.

SEC. RUMSFELD: It -- you have precise answer to a very specific question. I'll tell you, the members of the House and the members of the Senate and the governors and the mayors and the people who have elected responsibility for -- to their constituents -- we feel we owe them the opportunity to be told first by us. And so what we're going to do is to leave everything till sometime tomorrow, I believe --

STAFF: Tomorrow morning.

SEC. RUMSFELD: -- tomorrow morning, and the members of the House and Senate will be given simultaneously the information about this, in detail, as it relates to their concerns and interests and proper interest indeed.

So I don't think getting into a number-counting business is a useful thing at the present time.

Q: On the -- (inaudible).

SEC. RUMSFELD: And you have completed your question, Charlie.

Q: (Off mike.)

SEC. RUMSFELD: You have done a terrific opening for us.

And Barbara?

Q: Mr. Secretary, I don't mean to be difficult, sir, but this news briefing was not --

SEC. RUMSFELD: Let's go back to Charlie. (Laughter.)

Q: To follow up on numbers, then.

Q: All right.

Q: The $5 billion claim --

SEC. RUMSFELD: Wait. Let Barbara --

Q: Thank you, sir.

SEC. RUMSFELD: I don't mean to be difficult.

Q: I don't, but this briefing -- it was not told to any of the news media there would be a single-subject briefing. And since you do discuss warfighting and --

SEC. RUMSFELD: Okay. Why don't we take a few questions on BRAC, and then we'll take a couple of questions --

Q: Will you come back to me, sir?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I'll try. I'll try.


Q: Mr. Secretary, when you delineate the savings, you throw out a claim of 5.5 billion (dollars) in non-recurring and $48 billion over 20 years. That seems kind of high -- 48 billion (dollars), because the past base closures, GAO said, had netted about 28 billion (dollars) for the first four. Can you give us a sense of the assumptions behind those numbers?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Mike, do you want to -- Mike's the one who has calculated -- Mike Wynne, who's the undersecretary of Defense --

MICHAEL WYNNE (undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics): What the --

(Cross talk.)

Q: To the microphone, please.

MR. WYNNE: Thank you very much.

Tony, what the secretary indicated was 5.5 billion (dollars) of annual recurring savings, following the completion of the non- recurring investment. Over a 20-year period, then, using OMB discounted rates, it comes to a net present value of 48-point- something billion dollars. And I didn't have the number right at my ready position.

So we did in fact use the normal OMB discounted rates out there to get the number.

Q: (Off mike) -- these have been vetted and certified --

MR. WYNNE: We've had a very transparent process that you'll, I'm sure, find out about, because the General Accountability Office and the Inspector General Offices have been our best friends.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Mr. Secretary, could I get in line behind Barbara for a non-BRAC question, please, when you come back?

Q: Mr. Secretary, on the BRAC --


Q: -- with this new emphasis on jointness in this round, can we expect to see more sort of megabases in the more spacious South and West?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I'm not going to get into that, of locations or anything like that. It will all be available tomorrow. What we wanted to do today was to focus on the process and the scope of it and the logic behind it.

Q: Well, without naming an area, can you tell us whether we can expect to see more sort or large bases -- (inaudible) -- with people from different services?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, we're going to keep the same size military and have a surge capability and reduce the number of bases.

GEN. MYERS: And there will be jointness. I don't know it will be in the sense that you're talking about it, but you'll see, when it's released, that the degree with which the services coordinate, integrate and operate together will be increased, and it will include how we manage some of our bases and posts.


Q: A question on the process, if I may. (Off mike) -- but there has been some back and forth on Capitol Hill about how the process ought to work, and I wonder if you feel that you were given enough leeway, enough authority to do the things you needed to do during the review, or was there too much picking away at it by the Hill?

SEC. RUMSFELD: You know, I take the world like I find it. And the law is the law, the statute's the statute, the process is the process. We followed the statute, we followed the process, and never looked back. We just did what we were told to do.

And the one thing I'll say to characterize it that I found was that there were so many people spending so many hours analyzing so much data, and looking at interrelationships, and testing priorities one against another, that when it came to me, it struck me that it was highly interdependent, and that the proposals, while they will fall out as this happens here and that happens there, were not independent, stand-alone decisions. They were decisions that were made as part of a cloth, a fabric. And it concerned me that were I to have reached into the middle of that and said, "Gee, I think this ought to be this way instead of that way," I would -- I could not have known all of the linkages that had gone into the consideration by the services, by the joint cross -- what do you call those groups?

STAFF: Joint cross-service groups.

SEC. RUMSFELD: -- joint cross-service groups. And I found that the complexity of all of that and the amount of data that had been analyzed would have required someone to have traced that thread all the way back through that process if one were to decide to make a change. And for that reason, I made no changes from the recommendations --

Q: You were reluctant to make changes, because if you pulled a thread, the whole thing would fall apart.

SEC. RUMSFELD: No, it wouldn't fall apart, Charlie. No. I -- Charlie, I didn't say anything like fall apart. I said the relationships of one thread looks like it's a standalone thing, but in fact, it was based on analysis and relationships that run throughout the entire base structure of our country.

(Cross talk, laughter.)

Q: (Inaudible) -- example of that, without naming bases, actually, of how that works?

SEC. RUMSFELD: You'll see them tomorrow -- (inaudible).

(Cross talk.)

GEN : You could take a base that has a certain amount of infrastructure on it, for instance, and a certain amount of force structure things. Airplanes. You may shut the base down, but the airplanes aren't going away, necessarily; they're going somewhere else. So the places that receives them has to have the training ranges, the ramp space, and all those sorts of things that go with it. And there may be other things that are relocating to that same base. So, I mean, there are lot of things that are interrelated in that sense. So -- does that help a little bit, Eric? I mean, it's --

Q: Mr. Secretary --

Q: Can you talk to --

Q: Thank you. To follow up on your point about moving people from leased space into military-owned space, will there be any sort of offsetting shift from military space into the private sector? For example, through a broad scale moving of servicing contracts and maintenance contracts away from government-owned facilities into contract with the private sector?

SEC. RUMSFELD?: That's really not a BRAC issue. That is an ongoing process that happens in this department all the time --

Q: Given that there are a lot of depots and government-owned shipyards and things like that, that perform those maintenance contracts -- are their services going to stay with the government, or is there going to be a move to move some of those servicing contracts into the private sector?

SEC. RUMSFELD: We will announce our decisions tomorrow.

Q: Mr. Secretary, is there a figure on excess capacity that you have finally come to? I know different numbers have been floating around --


Q: And, General, could you -- well, or both of you -- could you talk about how force protection on domestic bases against the threat of terrorism, if that -- how much that played a role, or if that played a role in the decisions you were making?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I'll answer the first part, and why don't you do the force protection, Dick.

We had been told that the prior BRACs reduced about 21 percent of what I presume was then the base structure. And they decided that -- this -- combined, those four decided that 21 percent of what had existed didn't need to. And that's proven to be the case.

We had been told that there could be as much as 20 to 25 percent excess capacity, but without a lot of precision to that. Did that include leased space? Didn't it include leased space? And the like. Did it include surge, or didn't it include surge? Which, of course, is part of the statute.

As it turns out, as I think I've indicated publicly, the actual number that we -- the recommendations that came to me were less than that by a substantial amount. Instead of 20 to 25 (percent), it's closer to 5 to 10 percent, I think.

Is that roughly right?

GEN. MYERS: Roughly right.

SEC. RUMSFELD: And I use a range because it's hard to calculate it and you have to define what the numerator and the denominators are. But it is a considerably less amount, and the reasons for that were the criteria or the standards we had to use: military value, surge capability, economic impact, accommodating people coming from overseas, and accommodating people being moved out of leased space into owned space. So it's a lower number. It's still a sizeable number, obviously.

GEN. MYERS: In terms of force protection, there's many ways we looked at that, but a couple of ways that I'll point out. One is that many of the leased buildings and the leased base that the DOD leases does not meet the DOD requirements for force protection. So we solve a lot of that by moving them to permanent facilities on installations which, just by their nature, are more secure.

There's another aspect. We looked at it from the homeland defense viewpoint and the department's obligations under homeland defense in terms of consequence management, air defense, maritime defense. And we made sure that our combatant commanders that are responsible for that were in this process for that very reason, to make sure we could carry out our obligations for homeland defense as well.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Now should we take one last question on BRAC and then a couple of questions not on BRAC?


Q: In the list that's presented tomorrow, will that also include what will happen to the overseas bases?


Q: And at what point will you lay out what -- you know, what happens in those bases if forces will be pulled out?

SEC. RUMSFELD: As they reach fruition -- it won't be a massive layout of the world. What it will be is a decision to take some steps in part of the world, and many negotiation and discussion with your first choice or your second choice or your third choice, and then a decision that's worked out with another country, at which point it's announced. So there won't be any big announcement about overseas bases.

We know the rough numbers -- you know, seventy -- plus or minus -- 70,000 very likely being moved back to the U.S. and territories, and upper -- plus or minus -- 100,000 dependents. But the announcements as to exactly how they will be done will be dependent upon the negotiations in each country. And we may have a set of preferences. And we'll go to the first choice and try to see what of our preferences and their interests converge. And to the extent that works out, fine. To the extent it doesn't, we'll go to the second choice and see if the mixture there between our respective interests converge in a way that's preferable to the first choice. And you wouldn't announce anything until you'd made that decision.

Q: Just to follow that, will you tell us where in this country you've carved out space for the forces coming home?

SEC. RUMSFELD: We do, I think. We will.

Q: (Off mike) -- so you will tell us that.


Q: In the BRAC. Right.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Yes. Yes. We had the -- I mean, that's the wonderful advantage of having spent four years looking at the world, so that we knew roughly what was coming back, but not how it was going to be rearranged overseas.

Okay. Barbara. Not to be difficult, but --

Q: No -- (off mike).

General Myers, I guess it's perhaps -- let me ask you to begin with. By the U.S. military's own estimates, hundreds of Iraqi civilians and security forces killed in Iraq over the last several weeks -- car bombs at an all-time high, they tell us. Separate from the political process, separate from individual military ongoing operations out in the west, your own statement is that the insurgency is at the capacity it was a year ago. What if anything can you tell us that the United States military is doing more of, differently, anything to bring down the level of violence in Iraq, and given the fact that this Marine Corps squad, I believe, from Ohio was virtually decimated in an attack in western Iraq, when's the last time that ever happened in the U.S. military, in the Marine Corps in combat? What are you doing to bring the violence down?

GEN. MYERS: Well, first of all, I think one of your assumptions was that the violence was seen as separate from the political process, and I would take exception to that. I've had discussions with General Abizaid, of course, and General Casey on that, and I believe what they would tell you if they were standing here is what I believe, is that what we're seeing here with the vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices and those vehicles that are -- we also have stationary vehicles that are used as improvised explosive devices.

So what we're seeing is really an attempt to discredit this new Cabinet and new government; to try to get the Iraqi people -- they do it in a funny way because this is, in most cases, Iraqis blowing up other Iraqis. And I don't know how they expect to curry favor with the Iraqi population when we have Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence. So it is part -- I would submit it's not separate from the political process, it's very much a part of the political process.

And, of course, what we're doing about it is continuing on the strategy that we've had, which is to get the Iraqis in front of this process. I can tell you that the intelligence is better and better every day, from Iraqis, which is an important part of this. They are -- the polls show they are sick and tired of this violence as well, which they should be, because it's the innocents that are being harmed most by it.

In terms of the Marine incident, I don't know if that's the worst. It was a terrible tragedy when they ran over a land mine and --

Q: Is there anything that you're doing besides your ongoing strategy? Is there anything different, more, anything you weren't doing before? Is it just sticking with --

GEN. MYERS: Barbara, yeah -- no, every time -- every time you have spike in violence, and we have a spike here in early May in violence, I think what you have to do is just step back a minute and think about what we're doing. We're involved in an insurgency, a very violent insurgency. If there was a magic bullet, then General Casey and General Abizaid or I, or somebody on the staff more likely, would have found it. This requires patience. This is not something that we're going to go out and knee-jerk to every time we -- you know, it's -- we've always -- we've stood up here and said this is a thinking and adapting adversary. They are thinking and adapting. The vehicle- borne improvised explosive device is a very tough device to thwart.

And so, sure, we work on it every day. But I wouldn't look for results tomorrow. This is a -- this -- one thing we know about insurgencies is that they last from, you know, three, four years to nine years. These are tough fights. And in the end, it's going to have to be the Iraqis that win this. So it's not U.S. forces.

Q: General, I have a follow-up, if I may. A follow-up, please?

SEC. RUMSFELD: We'll make this the last one.

Q: May I do a follow-up, please? And Barbara and I are not in collusion, but I have more or less the same question, but I'm going to be a little more specific, General.

Last time we met with you, you said the capacity of the insurgents was roughly the same now as it was a year ago. And a few minutes later you said, "But we are definitely winning."

They seem to be contradictory. And General Petraeus tells us that one of his major problems is this 2,000-mile, very porous border, much of it between Syria and Iraq, much of it between Iran and Iraq.

How can you possibly stop the rising level of insurgency if you can't seal off the borders?

GEN. MYERS: Well, sealing borders is an issue we've talked about a lot in this room, I think, and anybody that wants to come to a map and help us -- to help you understand that borders, Ivan, can't be sealed. Now, is there good work going on at the borders? There absolutely is. You're talking about borders, let me just talk to you about borders for a second.

We've got some folks from Homeland Security Department -- George Casey visited them today out on the western border, and he said from a year ago when he went out there and he went to a border post and it was just chaos. They didn't have facilities. They didn't have any information technology to help them. These folks from Homeland Security have been over there helping the Iraqis. And this same border post that he went to today and he said it is remarkable, it is ordered; they have the information technology to properly screen folks that are trying to come in the country. You know most of the people that come into Iraq come in on false papers. I mean they come across a border station, and they have appropriate paperwork as far as the border station is concerned. They're not -- they don't have to sneak across, and this will fix some of that.

The other part of that is we need cooperation from Iraq's neighbors and that's being worked as well, and very vigorously, I might add.

(Cross talk.)

Q: Do either one of you have anything about the demonstrations in Afghanistan, which were apparently sparked by reports that there was a lack of respect by some interrogators at Guantanamo for the Koran. Do either one of you have anything to say about that?

GEN. MYERS: It's the -- it's a judgment of our commander in Afghanistan, General Eikenberry, that in fact the violence that we saw in Jalalabad was not necessarily the result of the allegations about disrespect for the Koran -- and I'll get to that in just a minute -- but more tied up in the political process and the reconciliation process that President Karzai and his Cabinet is conducting in Afghanistan. So that's -- that was his judgment today in an after- action of that violence. He didn't -- he thought it was not at all tied to the article in the magazine.

General Craddock, our commander of Southern Command, has been in Guantanamo for the last couple of days digging into this issue to see if there was a time when the Koran was not respected. I can tell you that the version of the Koran that we provide to detainees is approved by the ICRC. So we're very careful about that. They have looked through the logs, the interrogation logs, and they cannot confirm yet that there were ever the case of the toilet incident, except for one case, a log entry, which they still have to confirm, where a detainee was reported by a guard to be ripping pages out of a Koran and putting in the toilet to stop it up as a protest. But not where the U.S. did it.

Now, there -- so it's something we're going to look at. That's still unconfirmed; it's a log entry that has to be confirmed. There are several log entries that show that the Koran may have been moved to -- and the detainees became irritated about it, but never an incident where it was thrown in the toilet.

SEC. RUMSFELD: The experts here are here, if people have questions on BRAC. And I think --

Q: (Off mike) -- talk to tomorrow. (Laughter.)


9:40 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Stop Newsweek... Before It Kills Again!

Newsweek must be destroyed - for the sake of national security! Oh, dear readers, you may have believed it to be just an innocent newsweekly with an unnatural preoccupation for health features ("Your Liver: The New Urban Nightmare?"), but through such reliable sources such as the White House and some schmuck with a keyboard you will know the truth: that Newsweek has killed over a dozen Afghans with a toilet and will do it again unless it is stopped. But that's not all. The Great Toilet Stab-in-the-Back of '05 was merely the tip of the iceberg of Newsweek's many crimes against America.

The Medium Lobster has learned that while it was spreading lies about Korans at Guantanamo Bay, Newsweek managed to torture hundreds of prisoners at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and Afghanistan, killing dozens of them in the process. And apparently Newsweek has not been content to torture prisoners on its own. It has also kidnapped citizens of other countries and flown them to dictatorships to be tortured! The Medium Lobster has said it before and he will, no doubt, say it again: no blood for mainstream media.

If this were not enough, it has just come to my attention that Newsweek spread discredited rumors and outright lies to goad the United States into invading another country, with no justification and no plan for the occupation, costing tens of thousands of innocent lives. And not only has the lumbering dinosaur of legacy media turned to the callow slaughtering of innocents, but it hasn't even come up with an exit strategy! You can bet the plucky pajama-clad kids in the blogosphere would have us in and out of a war in a couple of months.

Newsweek - and the entire liberal media! - is responsible for smearing America's good name with the blood of innocents. This is a violation which must be answered for, and there is no answer for it but the replacement of the free press with the only entity pure enough and untainted enough to restore the image of America's government: America's government. The Medium Lobster can direct you to the torches and pitchforks.

8:56 AM  
Blogger Management said...

Last update: May 18, 2005 at 7:12 AM
Editorial: Newsweek/It doesn't deserve the diatribes
Published May 18, 2005

The White House has gone ballistic over the retracted statement in the May 9 Newsweek that "investigators probing abuses at Guantanamo Bay have confirmed" that "interrogators, in an attempt to rattle suspects, placed Qur'ans on toilets and, in at least one case, flushed a holy book down the toilet." White House spokesman Scott McClellan flat-out said Newsweek was responsible for causing the rioting in Afghanistan that led to at least 17 deaths. Newsweek editors appear to have accepted that responsibility. They shouldn't have; the White House is simply changing the subject from abuse at Guantanamo to Newsweek's journalism. It would have been prudent, and more responsible, for Newsweek to have confirmed the story with a second source; that failure gave the White House the opening it has now seized to such good effect. Newsweek then compounded the error by going only halfway in its first correction.

Newsweek used as a source a "senior government official," normally a Cabinet secretary or someone fairly close to that rank, who had previously been a reliable source. It then showed the report to two Pentagon officials before publication. One declined comment and one corrected another aspect of the story. Neither challenged the Qur'an-in-the-toilet statement.

Only after the report had been printed did the original source back away from his assertion that he had seen the confirmation in a military report on abuse at Guantanamo. On reflection, he thought perhaps he saw it in other reports or drafts; but he did see it.

As for this short Newsweek item causing the rioting and deaths in Afghanistan, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan told Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers that the violence was "not at all" tied to Newsweek, but was an insurgency seeking to prevent the national reconciliation that President Hamid Karzai is trying to promote. Before the Newsweek item was even published, both the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse reported a new surge of Taliban-led violence.

Besides, the White House itself committed much more egregious errors in the way it so casually used dubious intelligence to make a case for going to war in Iraq. As the blog Daily Kos pointed out Tuesday, McClellan seems to have a double standard. In his discussion with reporters on July 17, 2003, he was asked: Bush is "president of the United States. This thing he told the country on the verge of taking the nation to war has turned out to be, by your own account, not reliable. That's his fault, isn't it?"

McClellan responded: "No."

The accusations concerning Qur'ans in toilets have been published repeatedly over the past three years in a number of media, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, a number of other American newspapers, the BBC and a Moroccan Islamic newspaper. The only thing Newsweek added was a claim of "official confirmation." While not a small thing, that supposed confirmation did not break this story; it is old news. And one source's faulty memory over where he saw information about it does not prove that the accusations of Qur'an abuse are untrue. Indeed, they still deserve further investigation.

The White House response fits a pattern of trying to intimidate the press from exploring issues the administration doesn't want explored. Compare it, for example, to the Dan Rather report on President Bush's military service. To this day, we don't know if what Rather reported was accurate or not, or to what degree it may have been accurate. Nor do we know whether the documents he cited were genuine. All we know is that CBS can't verify that they were genuine.

Yet the hullabaloo caused by that incident appears to have intimidated other journalists from trying to pin down the full truth about Bush's military service. And now there will probably be less enterprise reporting on prisoner abuse or anything else that might embarrass this administration. It also fits neatly in with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's effort to muzzle public television and radio. This behavior seems so Nixonian, except that the current crew is much better at the press-intimidation game than William Safire and Vice President Spiro Agnew were. For Newsweek and other media that come in for this treatment, we have one word: Resist.

8:57 AM  
Blogger Management said...

Newsweek report on Quran matches many earlier accounts


Contrary to White House assertions, the allegations of religious desecration at Guantanamo published by Newsweek May 6 are common among ex-prisoners and have been widely reported outside the United States, RAW STORY has learned.


Several former detainees at the Guantanamo and Bagram airbase prisons have reported instances of their handlers sitting or standing on the Quran, throwing or kicking it in toilets, and urinating on it.

Where the Newsweek report likely erred was in saying that the U.S. was slated to acknowledge desecrating the Quran in internal investigations, and in relying on a single anonymous source to make grave allegations. But reports of desecration are manifold.

One such incident—during which the Koran allegedly was thrown in a pile and stepped on—prompted a hunger strike among Guantanamo detainees in Mar. 2002, which led to an apology. The New York Times interviewed former detainee Nasser Nijer Naser al-Mutairi May 1, who said the protest ended with a senior officer delivering an apology to the entire camp.

"A former interrogator at Guantanamo, in an interview with the Times, confirmed the accounts of the hunger strikes, including the public expression of regret over the treatment of the Korans," Times reporters Neil A. Lewis and Eric Schmitt wrote in "Inquiry Finds Abuses at Guantanamo Bay."

The hunger strike and apology story was also confirmed by another former detainee, Shafiq Rasul, interviewed by the UK Guardian in 2003 (James Meek, "The people the law forgot," Guardian, Dec. 3, 2003) It was also confirmed by former prisoner Jamal al-Harith in an interview with the Daily Mirror (Rosa Prince and Gary Jones, "My Hell in Camp X-ray World Exclusive," Daily Mirror, Mar. 12, 2004).

The toilet incident was reported in the Washington Post in a 2003 interview with a former detainee from Afghanistan:

"Ehsannullah, 29, said American soldiers who initially questioned him in Kandahar before shipping him to Guantanamo hit him and taunted him by dumping the Koran in a toilet. ‘It was a very bad situation for us,’ said Ehsannullah, who comes from the home region of the Taliban leader, Mohammad Omar. ‘We cried so much and shouted, Please do not do that to the Holy Koran.’ (Marc Kaufman and April Witt, "Out of Legal Limbo, Some Tell of Mistreatment," Washington Post, Mar. 26, 2003.)

Also citing the toilet incident is testimony by Asif Iqbal, a former Guantanamo detainee who was released to British custody in Mar. 2004 and subsequently freed without charge:

"The behaviour of the guards towards our religious practices as well as the Koran was also, in my view, designed to cause us as much distress as possible. They would kick the Koran, throw it into the toilet and generally disrespect it." (Center for Constitution Rights, Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, (Aug. 4, 2004, deposition available here.)

The claim that US troops at Bagram airbase prison in Afghanistan urinated on the Koran was made by former detainee Mohamed Mazouz, a Moroccan, as reported in the Moroccan newspaper, La Gazette du Maroc. (Abdelhak Najib, "Les Américains pissaient sur le Coran et abusaient de nous sexuellement", Apr. 11, 2005). An English translation is available on the Cage Prisoners web site (which describes itself as a "non-sectarian Islamic human rights website"):

Tarek Derghoul, another of the British detainees, similarly cites instances of Koran desecration in an interview with, available at:

Desecration of the Koran was also mentioned by former Guantanamo detainee Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost and reported by the BBC in early May 2005. (Haroon Rashid, "Ex-inmates share Guantanamo ordeal," May 2, 2005).

8:58 AM  

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