Friday, April 27, 2007

Today's Capture Headlines Point Up Bush Lie

By Cernig

The media is buzzing with the news that an Al Qaida bigwig has been "captured" - only he hasn't - at least, not recently. The only thing the announcement of his capture really does is point out that Bush lied again.

If Abdul al-Hadi al-Iraqi is truly what he is accused of being - and there's never going to be a fair trial as the world understands those words to determine his guilt - then he is better locked up. But touting his "capture" today as the corporate media and rightwing bloggers want to is just downright misleading. What is certain is that he was captured some months ago and is only now being moved to Guantanamo Bay - but the military won't say outright when he was captured. Estimates range between 2002 and the latter part of last year.

The AP notes that:
A U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said the Iraqi had been captured late last year in an operation that involved many people in more than one country.

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano declined to say when and where al-Iraqi was captured. He called al-Iraqi "a veteran jihadist" and said his capture is "a significant victory in the fight against terror — getting him off the street is good news."

...The Pentagon took custody of al-Iraqi at Guantanamo Bay, the detention center for terror suspects, Whitman said. He is the 15th so-called high-value detainee to be taken to Guantanamo Bay after being held by the CIA in secret prisons abroad. The other 14 were sent to Guantanamo Bay last September and have since undergone military hearings there to affirm their status as enemy combatants eligible for military trials.
My pal Ken Anderson is rightly sceptical about the timing of the announcement and transfer:
The Tillman and Lynch testimonies were only the latest in an ongoing rush of bad news for Bush. So, you just had to know some vital announcement was in the offing. Right?

...Once again, we are being treated to the sight of the American media serving as a vehicle for White House/Pentagon propaganda designed to distract us from current imbroglios -- and there are a lot of them -- and make it seem like the military is winning, or at least not losing, the War on Terror™ by announcing the mere transfer of a years-long captured prisoner to Guantanomo Bay.
However, the folks at Amnesty International are paying far more attention than the media and they point out what should have been blaringly obvious to the keen story-sniffing poodles bloodhounds of the press.
If al-Iraqi was arrested prior to September 2006, where was he on September 6, 2006 when President Bush confirmed the existence of the secret CIA detention program, but stated that no one was at that time held in it?
A damn good question that one. And the answer appears to be that Bush simply lied back in September. That's not surprising, but it has worrying implications for this administrations disregard for the rule of law. "The lack of
information around this transfer only adds to the deep concerns surrounding the United States' conduct in the so-called 'war on terror'," said Amnesty International. And Amnesty isn't done with its questions.
Has he been subjected to the "alternative interrogation techniques" previously authorized for use by the CIA, but not elaborated upon by President Bush?

How many other people are in CIA custody?
Even if Bush were to respond to these questions, it is now very clear that we could not trust his answers. Since both the UN Human Rights Committee and the UN Committee Against Torture have told the US government that secret detentions and torture violate the US's treaty obligations and international law, it is easy to see why he would want to lie.

Update Thanks to Amnesty's fast thinking, the Busheviks are in damage control mode. Tomorrow's WaPo has the details (on page A16):
Bush acknowledged the CIA's detention program last September and transferred all 14 of its senior al-Qaeda suspects to Guantanamo Bay. One intelligence official said al-Iraqi was the first person held by the CIA since Bush made the acknowledgment, but the official would not say whether other people have been held since al-Iraqi was handed over to the agency earlier this year.

"What the president said in September was that there was no one in CIA custody at that time," the intelligence official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "This individual was captured late last year, well after the president's speech, and transferred to the CIA several weeks later." (emphasis mine)
As I now go back and re-read what Bush says, then this is technically correct although listeners could have been forgiven from the common use of the past tense for thinking that Bush meant no new detainees would be held in secret CIA prisons. In fact, the Bush speech of 6th September is actually explicit on the fact that the program would continue as soon as the administration thought it had legal cover:
The current transfers mean that there are now no terrorists in the CIA program. But as more high-ranking terrorists are captured, the need to obtain intelligence from them will remain critical -- and having a CIA program for questioning terrorists will continue to be crucial to getting life-saving information.

...the Supreme Court's recent decision has impaired our ability to prosecute terrorists through military commissions, and has put in question the future of the CIA program. In its ruling on military commissions, the Court determined that a provision of the Geneva Conventions known as "Common Article Three" applies to our war with al Qaeda. This article includes provisions that prohibit "outrages upon personal dignity" and "humiliating and degrading treatment." The problem is that these and other provisions of Common Article Three are vague and undefined, and each could be interpreted in different ways by American or foreign judges. And some believe our military and intelligence personnel involved in capturing and questioning terrorists could now be at risk of prosecution under the War Crimes Act...

...I'm asking Congress to pass legislation that will clarify the rules for our personnel fighting the war on terror. First, I'm asking Congress to list the specific, recognizable offenses that would be considered crimes under the War Crimes Act -- so our personnel can know clearly what is prohibited in the handling of terrorist enemies. Second, I'm asking that Congress make explicit that by following the standards of the Detainee Treatment Act our personnel are fulfilling America's obligations under Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions. Third, I'm asking that Congress make it clear that captured terrorists cannot use the Geneva Conventions as a basis to sue our personnel in courts -- in U.S. courts.
This all, of course, after he had denied that there were any such things as CIA secret prisons for months.

The legislation which Bush wanted to give a facade of legality to what is simply illegal by international law was passed as the Detainee Interrogation Bill. It mandated military commissions to determine the status of detainees. Today's announcement reveals that Bush has interpreted that as meaning "when we finally own up to having them" - doing an end run around the very legislation he himself wanted so much.

After the outcry in Europe when it became known that the CIA was running prisons there, we can be reasoably confident that they have moved to new lands. The most likely place now is Ethiopia.

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