| UK ‘was inappropriately involved in rendition!’

UK ‘was inappropriately involved in rendition’ ~ BBC.

There is evidence Britain was inappropriately involved in the rendition and ill-treatment of terror suspects, an inquiry has revealed.

Retired judge Sir Peter Gibson reviewed 20,000 top secret documents after allegations of wrongdoing by MI5 and MI6 officers in the wake of 9/11.

He found no evidence officers were directly involved in the torture or rendition of suspects.

But he said further investigation was needed into evidence of complicity.

Minister without portfolio Ken Clarke announced that a further investigation by a committee of MPs and peers will now be held into areas of concern highlighted by Sir Peter.

Sir Peter told reporters: “It does appear from the documents that the United Kingdom may have been inappropriately involved in some renditions. That is a very serious matter. And no doubt any future inquiry would want to look at that.”

‘Not robust enough’

In a statement to MPs, Mr Clarke said the guidance for intelligence agencies on detention and torture was “inadequate” in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and “it is now clear that we were in some respects not prepared for the extreme demands suddenly placed on them”.

“The period of time was one in which we and our international partners were suddenly adapting to a completely new scale and type of threat from fundamentalist, religious extremists” – Ken Clarke, Minister without portfolio

The “oversight” of intelligence activities with detainees was “not robust enough,” the former justice secretary added.

Mr Clarke did not rule out the possibility of a judicial inquiry into rendition claims after the Intelligence and Security Committee has completed its report.

Jack Straw, who was foreign secretary during the period covered by Sir Peter’s report, welcomed the Parliamentary committee’s investigation, at which he and other witnesses will be able to give evidence.

But he stressed that he never condoned the ill-treatment of terror suspects during his time in office.

“I was never in any way complicit in the unlawful rendition or detention of individuals by the United States or any other states,” he told MPs.

‘Repeated objections’

He said he had agreed to the transfer of British nationals being held in the US to Guantanamo Bay but added: “We never agreed in any way to the mistreatment of those detainees or to the denial of their rights.”

He urged MPs to accept “that we made repeated objections to the United States government about these matters and that I was able to secure the release of all British detainees from Guantanamo Bay by January 2005”.

Sir Peter’s report does not offer final conclusions because it did not have the chance to interview witnesses because of ongoing police investigations. Instead it sets out 27 issues he feels need to be examined further.

“It would be wrong to leave these issues, many of which relate to matters of policy, unexamined for the unknown amount of time it will take for the police to complete their related investigations,” said Mr Clarke.

“The period of time was one in which we and our international partners were suddenly adapting to a completely new scale and type of threat from fundamentalist, religious extremists.

“Many UK intelligence officers had to operate in extraordinarily challenging environments subject to real personal danger. But everyone in the government and everyone in the agencies accept this bravery has to be combined with clear rules of proportionality, accountability, to ensure we uphold the values we are working hard to defend.

“While we accept intelligence operations must be conducted in the strictest secrecy, we also expect there to be strict oversight of those operations to ensure at all times they respect the human rights that are a cornerstone of this country’s values.”


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| Now even US general who opened Guantanamo prison says shut it down!

U.S. general who opened Guantanamo prison says shut it down ~ Jane Sutton, Reuters.



MIAMI (Reuters) – The U.S. general who opened the Guantanamo detention camp said Thursday it was a mistake and should be shut down because “it validates every negative perception of the United States.”

“In retrospect, the entire detention and interrogation strategy was wrong,” Marine Major General Michael Lehnert wrote in a column published in the Detroit Free Press.

Lehnert, now retired from the military and living in Michigan, was the first commander of the task force that opened the detention camp in January 2002 at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba.

He said the United States opened it “because we were legitimately angry and frightened” by the September 11 hijacked plane attacks in 2001 and thought the captives sent there would provide “a treasure trove of information and intelligence.”

He quickly became convinced that most of them never should have been sent there because they had little intelligence value and there was insufficient evidence linking them to war crimes, he wrote.

“We squandered the goodwill of the world after we were attacked by our actions in Guantanamo, both in terms of detention and torture,” Lehnert wrote. “Our decision to keep Guantanamo open has helped our enemies because it validates every negative perception of the United States.”

Congress is debating an annual defense bill containing language that would give President Barack Obama more flexibility to repatriate or resettle Guantanamo detainees.

But the proposal maintains an “unwise and unnecessary ban” on transferring any to the United States, Lehnert said.

“Still, this is a step forward toward closing our nation’s most notorious prison — a prison that should never have been opened,” he wrote.

The first detainees arrived on January 11, 2002, one week after Lehnert was ordered to build the first 100 cells. The crude chain-link cages known as Camp X-Ray were used for about three and a half months and replaced by a series of more permanent prisons.

The United States has since held 779 men at the facility and 162 remain. Lehnert noted that many had been cleared for transfer by U.S. defense and intelligence agencies but were “stuck by politics.”

He said a handful should be transferred to the United States for prosecution or incarceration. He acknowledged the risk that some released detainees could go on to plan attacks against the United States, but said the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law trump that risk.

“It is time that the American people and our politicians accepted a level of risk in the defense of our constitutional values, just as our service men and women have gone into harm’s way time after time to defend our Constitution,” Lehnert wrote. “If we make a mockery of our values, it calls us to question what we are really fighting for.”

He added, “It is time to close Guantanamo. Our departure from Afghanistan is a perfect point in history to close the facility.”

(Reporting by Jane Sutton; Editing by Vicki Allen)



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| Enterally feeding: US denies what detainees clearly describe as Gitmo force-feeding!

US deny force-feeding in Guantanamo. As detainees describe force-feeding in Guantanamo ~ REPRIEVE UK.

The US authorities at Guantanamo have publicly denied that they are force feeding hunger-striking detainees. Meanwhile detainees continue to describe being force-fed.

In a BBC Radio 4 Today report from the prison, Colonel John Bogdan – who is in charge of the prison camp – denied that the US is force-feeding detainees on hunger-strike. When BBC reporter Jonathan Beale, reporting from the camp, said:“I’d call it force-feeding” Colonel Bogdan, replied: “It’s a bit of semantics…it is a medical procedure. We do this enteral feeding to regular patients in regular hospitals who need to be fed.”

Marine General John Kelly – Chief of the US Southern Command – also recently denied that the US engages in force-feeding, a practice denounced by the American Medical Association, the World Medical Association and the UN, saying: “We don’t force-feed right now at Gitmo.

Yet detainees who are being force-fed continue to describe the process to their lawyers in phone calls, letters and during legal visits.  Up to 140 detainees are now on hunger strike and the force-feeding figures are steadily rising – to 41 in the main camps this morning, according to the US military.

Reprieve client Abu Wa’el told one of his lawyers on a recent phone call. “I am protesting peacefully and they are taking me forcefully…they brought ERF and starting force-feeding, forcefully…they take me forcefully to feed me…all I am doing is a peaceful protest…but they are putting me on a force-feeding chair. Really, it should be called a torture chair and not a feeding chair.”

Another of Reprieve’s clients, Ahmed Belbacha, has said: “Later, they began feeding me through the nose The guard entered the tube through my nose, and then pumped the feeder. The food rushed into my stomach too quickly and I started to feel ill. I asked him to reduce the speed. He not only refused, but tried to turn it up.”

In a recently published op-ed in the New York Times, Samir Mokbel described the process: “I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone.”

Cori Crider, Reprieve’s Strategic Director and counsel for several hunger-strikers, said: “If the commander-in-chief calls it force-feeding, you’d think those below him would take note. Instead the military ‘PR’ strategy is to peddle an alternative reality that no one believes. My clients are protesting their indefinite detention using the only tool at their disposal: a hunger strike. They don’t want to be fed. And yet detainees are being brutally force-fed. It’s a fact.”


Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Clemency Wells in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8161 / clemency.wells@reprieve.org.uk

2. Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.


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Guantnamo hunger strikers subjected to harsh force feeding method condemend as cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment ~ The Guardian.

Human rights lawyers and activists have lobbied US Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel to end the use of a method of force feeding being used against Guantnamo hunger strikers, which they state is a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

100 of the 166 detainees are now on hunger strike. Detainees are being shackled to a chair, fitted with a mask and have tubes inserted through their nose and into their stomachs for up to two hours at a time. Detainess desribe the practice as excruciatingly painful. This method violates the Geneva Conventions.

Lawyers for the detainees also state that they are being threatened with humiliating body cavity searches if they wish to have any contact with their lawyers, a practice condemned as sexual abuse.


Gitmo Collage



| Gitmo prison guard converts to Islam because of the living faith of Muslim detainees!

Guantanamo Bay prison guard converts to Islam because of the living faith of Muslim detainees ~ Kay Campbell, religion reporter for The Huntsville Times.

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Terry Holdbrooks Jr., 29, wears the beard of a bald Amish guy, the tattoos of a punk kid, and the twitchy alertness of a military policeman. Take him to a restaurant, and he’ll choose the chair with its back against the wall. Take his photo, and he’ll prefer to look away from the camera.

Part of that wariness Holdbrooks learned while guarding detainees from 2003 to 2004 at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. holding tank for military prisoners on the southeastern point of Cuba.

And part of that wariness he developed after he converted to Islam while stationed at Guantanamo. That was after months of midnight conversations with the Muslim detainees, and his conversion prompted several of his fellow soldiers to try several times to talk some “sense” into him so he wouldn’t “go over to the enemy,” as they put it.

Holdbrooks told the story of his conversion and of his observations of the controversial detention center to an audience of about 80 people at the Huntsville Islamic Center in Huntsville Saturday night, May 25, 2013. The camp, he said, tramples on every human right the U.S. has said it supports. The current hunger strike by 102 of the 166 prisoners has crossed 100 days. Many of those men were cleared to go home five or six years ago, Holdbrooks said. Their home countries tell their lawyers the U.S. won’t release them, and the U.S. tells them their home countries won’t receive them.

“They’ve lost hope. They’ve decided it’s better to die,” Holdbrooks said. “One of them is down to 70 pounds.”

Holdbrooks is traveling with Khalil Meek, a co-founder and executive director of the Texas-based Muslim Legal Fund of America. They are raising money for that non-profit civil rights organization, which helps pay for legal help for Muslims who are American citizens and who have been accused of vague crimes or placed on no-fly lists and other restrictions under the increasingly broad “anti-terrorism” provisions.

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“Traitor?” by Terry Holdbrooks Jr.

Even more than raising money for legal defense, Holdbrooks said, he wants to stir Americans to action. Holdbrooks’ self-published account of his experience at Guantanamo, “Traitor?,” was published this month — a 164-page single-space account whittled by an editor he worked with from his 500-page manuscript.

It’s available for sale online at www.GtmoBook.com.

“I tell this story and I wrote the book so idiot-simple that anyone could read and understand that the existence of Guantanamo is something to be ashamed of,” Holdbrooks said. “I just want to share information with people in depth and then let them make up their mind.”

“I may have become a Muslim, but I am not a traitor.”

12-year-old ‘terrorist’

At Guantanamo, Holdbrooks mulled over the information Army instructors had taught about Islam as he’d watched the so-called terrorists day after day. What he’d been told wasn’t lining up with what he observed. The detainees read their Qurans. They kept the daily schedule of prayers. They remained undiscouraged under horrendous pressure.

One of his duties was to escort prisoners to interrogations and then return them to their cells. He knew the kind of stresses and tortures they were undergoing in repeated questionings. He had dodged their thrown poop when anger ripped down the row of mesh wire cages. When detainees were punished with the “frequent flier program,” he’d moved men from one cell to another every two hours, round the clock.

“How can you wake up in Guantanamo and smile?” Holdbrooks asked them. “How can you believe there’s a God who cares about you?”

“I am happy to have spent time in Guantanamo,” said one detainee, the man who became his mentor, after his release. “Allah was testing my ‘deen’ (faith). When else would have I have five years away from all responsibilities, when the only thing I had was my Quran, and I could read it and learn Arabic and mental discipline?”

“Fortunately for us,” Holdbrooks said. “Most of them are bigger men than some of us would be.”

As Holdbrooks got to know the detainees, as he learned their stories during his long night shifts, he came to see the detainees as individuals. Many were men who enjoyed talking about the same things he does: Ethics, philosophy, history, religion. Many let him know what they thought of the 9/11 attacks: That they violate the teachings of Islam.

“Here, I had all the freedom in the world, and I’m miserable,” Holdbrooks said. “They have nothing, and they’re happy – it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out something’s going on.”

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Former Guatanamo Bay Army prison guard Terry Holdbrooks Jr. addresses an audience in the fellowship hall of the Huntsville Islamic Center in Huntsville, Ala., on Saturday, May 25, 2013. (Kay Campbell / KCampbell@al.com)

Tough kid

Terry Holdbrooks Jr. grew up a troubled kid with junkie parents who dumped him at 7 on his ex-hippy grandparents to be raised. By 18, he’d finished both high school – a year early – and trade school. He loved drugs, sex, rock-and-roll and tattoos – his ink would eventually cover his arms from shoulder to wrist. His earlobes have been stretched to so that they can hold a plug that a thumb could pass through.

So when Holdbrooks walked into an Army recruiter’s office in Arizona a year after 9/11 saying he wanted to “join the Army, go kill people and get paid for it,” the recruiter looked up briefly and turned back to his computer. “No, thank you,” the recruiter said.

“This was still right after 9/11,” Holdbrooks said. “The Army was flush with recruits, and they could take the cream of the crop.”

It wasn’t until his fourth visit to the office — when he took the ASVAB, the military’s aptitude test — that the recruiter realized Holdbrooks was worth pursuing.

Holdbrooks signed up for military police because it offered a bonus. When his unit was transferred to Guantanamo, the sergeant detoured through New York to take them to Ground Zero.

“Remember what Muslims did to us,” the sergeant told the soldiers. “Remember who you’re protecting.”

So Holdbrooks arrived at the hot, seared base expecting hulking killers in every cell. What he found were doctors, taxi drivers, professors. One scary “terrorist” was 12. Another was in his 70s and dying of tuberculosis. Holdbrooks identifies himself as antagonistic, questioning, independent person. He is naturally suspicious – and found his suspicions turning in a surprising direction.

“You start thinking, ‘Was I lied to?’” Holdbrooks said.

In this March 30, 2010 photo reviewed by the U.S. military, a U.S. trooper stands in the turret of a vehicle with a machine gun, left, as a guard looks out from a tower at the detention facility on Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Priceless gift

In the time he had off from his escort and cleaning duties at the prison, Holdbrooks began reading more about Islam online. The prisoner he talked the most to, a former chef from England, gave him his own copy of the Quran.

“You’ve got to realize the significance of that,” Holdbrooks said, his tough bravado breaking for a moment. “He’s in this cage for 23 and a-half hours every day. If you lose your Quran, you’re out of luck. That’s it. You’ve lost everything.”

It took Holdbrooks three nights to read it. As a restless seeker in his teens, he had studied Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, and never saw much sense in them. Monotheism, he decided, was responsible for a lot of misery, and he renounced religion.

But in the Quran, for the first time, he found a religious text that meets his criteria of logic.

“It made sense from beginning to end,” Holdbrooks said. “It doesn’t contradict itself. There’s no magic. It’s just a simple instruction manual for living.”

After three months of intense study and conversation, one night Holdbrooks told the detainee that he wanted to become Muslim.

“No,” the man said.

“Whoa,” Holdbrooks said, stirring laughter during his talk in Huntsville. “The guard wants to embrace Islam, and the bad guy says ‘no’? I must really suck.”

The detainee explained what he meant. Converting to Islam meant Holdbrooks would have to change his life. Change his diet. Quit drugs. Quit drinking. Stop profanity. Quit getting tattoos. And be prepared for his relationships to everything – wife, Army, government – to change.

Little by little, Holdbrooks made the changes. Holdbrooks found a measure of health, discipline and peace of mind he’d never had before. And he found a family.

“Every little step I took toward Islam, Islam was taking more steps toward me,” Holdbrooks said.

One night in December 2003, he was ready to stumble through the declaration of faith in Arabic. He read from a card on which the detainee had transliterated into English syllables the Arabic words for, “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.”

“I knew I’d finally said it right when their faces lit up,” Holdbrooks said.

Guantanamo protest.jpg
Holding a single flower each, two protesters wearing black hoods and orange jump suits take part in a demonstration in front of the White House in Washington, Friday, May 24, 2013, calling for the closing of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The protest was organized by a coalition of groups including Witness Against Torture. Former Guantanamo Army guard Terry Holdbrooks Jr., who spoke in Huntsville, Ala., on Saturday, May 25, 2013, is among those calling for a swift closure for the prison. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

After Gitmo

But after Gitmo, when he rotated back to the States, he lost his grip on both peace and discipline.

He was honorably discharged early — for “generalized personality disorder,” the Army told him, although Holdbrooks wonders if his new faith influenced the decision. He and his wife divorced. He began trying to drink away his memories of Guantanamo.

“But you can’t drink away things like that,” Holdbrooks said.

By the end of 2008, he found himself wondering, “When was I happy?” The answer, he realized, surprised him: When he was in Guantanamo – because there he was being a good Muslim.

Holdbrook has been clean since 2009 – a victory he credits to following Muslim dietary codes, including daytime fasting several days a week all year, not just during Ramadan. Last fall, he married a nurse he met at his mosque. They had spent a year of careful getting acquainted in accordance with Muslim guidelines – which meant a lot of chaperoned visits, he said. He’s finished a bachelor’s degree in sociology. He spends most weekends traveling with the Muslim Legal Fund of America to tell his story and to encourage Muslims to become involved in pushing for policy changes.

Holdbrooks is part of a small, but growing, number of former Gitmo guards who are speaking out about conditions at the center. But in addition for adding to the chorus calling for the camp’s closure, he has a message for fellow Muslims.

If the Prophet Muhammad were to come back to Earth today, Holdbrooks said, he would find the best examples of Islam in the United States. American Muslims have a responsibility to live their faith so others can see a true example, not the perversions of the terrorists or the tyranny of corrupt governments in some majority-Muslim nations.

“You can’t be afraid to be a Muslim in public,” Holdbrooks said. “Tell your neighbors you’re Muslim. Invite them into your home. Invite them to visit the masjid to see our secret bomb factories.”

“If it’s time to pray – pray. The whole world is an acceptable place to pray.”

Note for further reading: A book just published by the University of Florida Press:“Selling Guantanamo: Exploding the Propaganda surrounding America’s Most Notorious Military Prison” by Berry College associate professor of government John Hickman, takes the idea of its prison back to its original justification.

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| US Electoral Inadequacies: Fifteen Issues this Election is Not About!

Neither candidate is interested in stopping the use of the death penalty for federal or state crimes.

Neither candidate is interested in eliminating or reducing the 5,113 US nuclear warheads.

Neither candidate is campaigning to close Guantanamo prison.

Neither candidate has called for arresting and prosecuting high ranking people on Wall Street for the subprime mortgage catastrophe.

Neither candidate is interested in holding anyone in the Bush administration accountable for the torture committed by US personnel against prisoners in Guantanamo or in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Neither candidate is interested in stopping the use of drones to assassinate people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia.

Neither candidate is against warrantless surveillance, indefinite detention, or racial profiling in fighting “terrorism.”

Neither candidate is interested in fighting for a living wage. In fact neither are really committed beyond lip service to raising the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour – which, if it kept pace with inflation since the 1960s should be about $10 an hour.

Neither candidate was interested in arresting Osama bin Laden and having him tried in court.

Neither candidate will declare they refuse to bomb Iran.

Neither candidate is refusing to take huge campaign contributions from people and organizations.

Neither candidate proposes any significant specific steps to reverse global warming.

Neither candidate is talking about the over 2 million people in jails and prisons in the US.

Neither candidate proposes to create public jobs so everyone who wants to work can.

Neither candidate opposes the nuclear power industry. In fact both support expansion.


Bill Quigley

Bill Quigley is Associate Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans.  He is a Katrina survivor and has been active in human rights in Haiti for years. He volunteers with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and the Bureau de Avocats Internationaux (BAI) in Port au Prince. Contact Bill at quigley77@gmail.com