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- By Andrew LebovichAndrew Lebovich is a Sahel consultant and researcher with the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, based in Dakar, Senegal.
Britain forced to reveal details of Gitmo detainee’s abuse
Following an 18-month legal battle, on Feb. 10 a British appeals court forced the government to release intelligence sent from the United States showing that British resident Binyam Mohamed had been abused in U.S. custody and that the British government knew about it. Foreign Secretary David Miliband had argued against revealing the seven redacted paragraphs from a judge’s report on the intelligence, arguing it would hurt relations with the United States.
A condensed excerpt:
[Binyam Mohamed] had been intentionally subjected to continuous sleep deprivation. The effects of the sleep deprivation were carefully observed…It was reported that combined with the sleep deprivation, threats and inducements were made to him. His fears of being removed from United States custody and "disappearing" were played upon…[T]he interviews were having a marked effect upon him and causing him significant mental stress and suffering.
Mohamed was arrested in Pakistan in 2002, sent to Guantánamo in 2004, and returned to Britain in February 2009. He is one of seven former Gitmo detainees suing the British government, alleging its involvement in their extraordinary rendition and torture.
U.S. officials, including National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, downplayed the likelihood of changes in intelligence-sharing between the countries.
Brennan hits the Sunday talk-show circuit to strike back at the GOP
This week, powerful Capitol Hill Republicans punched at Barack Obama‘s administration for treating terrorism subjects as criminals (Mirandized and tried in criminal courts) rather than enemy combatants (not Mirandized and tried in military tribunals).
President Obama’s chief counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan, took the hardest hits. Sen. Kit Bond, a Republican from Missouri and ranking member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, suggested firing Brennan and wondered "whether we can trust [Brennan] after he has been a mouthpiece for the political arm that I thought only came out of the White House press office" in an interview with the National Review Online.
Brennan took to television to argue that no Republicans objected to failed "underwear bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab‘s arrest and treatment when he briefed them on the day of the attack. In a USA Today op-ed, Brennan wrote, "Politically motivated criticism and unfounded fear-mongering only serve the goals of al-Qaeda. Terrorists are not 100-feet tall."
Former FBI agent Ali Soufan offered his must-read take on the furor in the New York Times:
Whether suspects cooperate depends on the skill of the interrogator and the mindset of the suspects — not whether they’ve been told they can remain silent. When legally required, I’ve read some top Qaeda terrorists their rights and they’ve still provided valuable intelligence. Now we’ve learned that "despite" being read his Miranda rights, Mr. Abdulmutallab is cooperating with his FBI interrogators. This should have been no surprise. Critics were also off base in claiming that the two FBI agents who first questioned Mr. Abdulmutallab were inexperienced local officials. They were veterans of counterterrorism work, at home and abroad….[The FBI] is owed an apology.
300 terrorists convicted? Republicans dispute Bush administration tally.
This week, Republicans also alleged that the Obama administration is wrong about its oft-repeated contention that more than 300 terrorists have been successfully prosecuted in civilian courts. But, the White House didn’t invent the numbers. They appear in a 2009 Justice Department budget proposal prepared by none other than George W. Bush’s administration.
A trial to watch
Civil rights attorney Ralph Fertig is challenging the law banning the provision of "material support" — anything from supplying weapons to public relations advice — to terrorist groups. He contends the law, under which 150 people have been prosecuted since 2001, is too vague and violates First Amendment rights.
Court case tests civilian trials for Gitmo detainees
A New York judge is reviewing the pending case of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, the first Guantánamo detainee to face a civilian jury, to see if he was denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial. If the judge determines the United States held Ghailani for purposes unrelated to national security, he might dismiss the case, auguring possible challenges to the eventual trial of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Controversial interrogation teams get the green light
On Jan. 28, National Security Advisor James L. Jones officially authorized the creation of the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or HIG. Its teams of FBI-led counterterrorism experts will interrogate detained suspects around the world and develop best-practice interrogation techniques. Some teams have reportedly already been deployed.
Controversially, the HIG teams will make case-by-case assessments on whether to Mirandize detainees and might not have to follow the Geneva Conventions-compliant Army Field Manual.
Trials and tribulations: More Khadr controversy, Zazi’s father arraigned, Palau takes Uighurs
- The planned July military tribunal for Canadian Omar Khadr might come under heavy international criticism. Khadr was only 15 when he allegedly killed a U.S. Special Forces medic with a grenade in Afghanistan.
- On Feb. 9, Mohammed Wali Zazi, the father of accused terrorist Najibullah Zazi, pleaded not guilty to charges that he tampered with evidence in his son’s case.
- On Feb. 8, Palau offered to take the remaining five Uighur detainees held at Guantánamo.
- The five Americans detained in Pakistan on suspicion of planning terrorist attacks have accused FBI agents of overseeing their torture and interrogation.
- A key figure in the development of Bush’s military tribunal system, Col. William Lietzau, will become the Pentagon’s new deputy assistant secretary for detainee affairs. Lietzau will help draft new legal structures for dealing with terrorism suspects.
- On Feb. 11, the European Parliament rejected an interim agreement between the United States and the European Union that would have allowed U.S. authorities to monitor financial transactions handled by a European banking consortium.