by Stephen C. Webster
February 12, 2009
Three major human rights organizations have declared the Department of Defense was running secret prisons at Bagram and in Iraq, actively sought ways around the terms of the Geneva conventions and cooperated with the CIA’s “ghost detention” program which saw prisoners hidden from Red Cross oversight.
The arrival of the documents comes on the same day the ACLU published two unredacted pages of a government report which reveals detainees in US custody were tortured to death.
“These newly released documents confirm our suspicion that the tentacles of the CIA’s abusive program reached across agency lines,” said Margaret Satterthwaite, Director of the NYU International Human Rights Clinic, in a Thursday advisory. “In fact, it is increasingly obvious that defense officials engaged in legal gymnastics to find ways to cooperate with the CIA’s activities. A full accounting of all agencies must now take place to ensure that future abuses don’t continue under a different guise.”
The papers, part of a volley of responses to Freedom of Information Act requests, were released by Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice.
“One heavily redacted page mentions (PDF, page 34) an ‘undisclosed detention facility’ at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan,” he noted.
“Another, dated May 2004, highlights (PDF, page 17) how the Geneva Conventions can be interpreted to allow the CIA and the DoD to ghost detainees’ identities so they can be denied a visit from the International Committee of the Red Cross.
“This was done, according to a memo from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to ‘maximize intelligence collection efforts.’ In other words, give them more time to interrogate inmates.”
And perhaps most outrageous, a Feb. 2006 e-mail disclosed by the groups highlights an effort to limit bad press by delaying the release of a detainee “for 45 days or so until things cool down.”
“It is astonishing that the government may have delayed releasing men from Guantánamo in order to avoid bad press,” said CCR attorney Gitanjali Gutierrez, who represents many of the men held in Guantánamo, in an Amnesty International release. “Proposing to hold men for a month and a half after they were deemed releasable is inexcusable. The Obama Administration should avoid repeating this injustice and release the innocent individuals with all due haste.”
“Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Thursday that he had not seen the documents and wasn’t aware of the story,” reported CNN.
After Washington Post reporter Dana Priest revealed the existence of the CIA’s secret prisons in a November 2005 report, RAW STORY was the first publication to uncover the exact location of one such “black site” in Eastern Europe.
President Obama has signed an order mandating the closure of the CIA’s secret prisons and the US military prison Guantánamo Bay within a year of Jan. 22, 2009.