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A Truly Shocking Gitmo Story
October 1, 2009 12:11 PM   Subscribe

A Truly Shocking Gitmo Story: "the U.S. government tortured an innocent man to extract false confessions and then threatened him until he obligingly repeated those lies as though they were the truth." His lawyer notes, "The Obama Department of Justice, with Attorney General Holder piously proclaiming that this Administration repudiates torture, and follows the rule of law, in fact is following the Bush playbook to the letter." Unbelievable Evidence, but Good Enough for Seven Years in Prison notes, "Al Rabiah's treatment is reminiscent of what happened to Mohammed Jawad, the Afghan who was captured as a young teenager and held for almost seven years before he was released last month. Both detainees were locked up based mainly on coerced confessions that appear to have been false, and it looks like both might have remained imprisoned but for the intervention of the federal courts. " Also: Judge's Order to Release Kuwaiti Detainee Puts Obama in a Bind.
posted by shetterly (39 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Related.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:23 PM on October 1, 2009


Maybe I'm too cynical, but I don't find this "truly shocking."
posted by exogenous at 12:43 PM on October 1, 2009


It doesn't sound to me like this has much to do with Obama, so much as this is instead the result of Bush era Justice Department and Pentagon employees keeping on keeping on. It's impossible to tell based on any of those three links, of course, but this sounds like all the torture happened under the Bush administration, and that the people involved are all Bush era employees of the Justice Department and Pentagon who didn't want to admit they'd been horribly, horribly wrong. None of those articles make a convincing case that the continued prosecution has come down directly from Obama or Holder. It's certainly a failing that Holder hasn't gotten directly involved with these cases, but that's not really an indictment of the entire administration.
posted by Caduceus at 12:47 PM on October 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


...when you have clear evidence that Bush and Cheney knew some inmates to be innocent but tortured them anyway to manufacture evidence of their guilt, we know that there was nothing in the character of those two men to restrain the true nightmare scenario.

It will take decades, if not a century, to rebuild trust from the world that we, the United States, hold ourselves to a higher imperative. It is now impossible to legitimately decry the dehumanism in Iran or Burma or North Korea without seeming a hypocrite of the highest stripe. It will take a long time.
posted by netbros at 12:47 PM on October 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


The amount of time it takes us to regain our moral standing in the world is proportional to the vigor with which we prosecute those responsible for the crimes. So far, not so good.
posted by jamstigator at 12:57 PM on October 1, 2009 [10 favorites]


Finally, a truly shocking Gitmo story.
posted by m0nm0n at 12:58 PM on October 1, 2009


The amount of time it takes us to regain our moral standing in the world is proportional to the vigor with which we prosecute those responsible for the crimes. So far, not so good.

That, now, is an indictment of the administration, but that was an indictment we knew we'd have to make.
posted by Caduceus at 1:01 PM on October 1, 2009


Down the Rabbit hole: The Incredible, Vanishing Torture Documents
posted by adamvasco at 1:03 PM on October 1, 2009


So nine months after our new president takes office, 2 guys who'd been locked up for 7 years based on coerced confessions are finally freed. I'm confused, how exactly does that contradict Holder's claim that this administration "repudiates torture"?
posted by JaredSeth at 1:21 PM on October 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ah, I see Al Rabiah's not quite free yet. However the last link only states that the Obama admin can appeal the decision, not that they necessarily have any plans to do so.
posted by JaredSeth at 1:24 PM on October 1, 2009


jesus christ what moral standing? if you know anything about history other than the comic book shit you were shown in school you would realize we never had any. the false sense of it that was generated by ww2 was long gone before the bush admin. torture isn't new, only the general knowledge of torture among the population, most of which have accepted it and many of which are fervent supporters of it. there's your fucking moral standing, a myth, busted at last. obama has not put an end to torture, neither will he. obama, you see, is the current myth, the embodiment of all things hopefull yet impossible. democracy in america has been dead since the end of ww2. don't expect a popular revolution to come along bearing progressive banners and promising change. i've waited all my life for the revolution to come and now that it appears it might happen, there isn't a side worth choosing. the only thing left is to resist.
posted by kitchenrat at 1:37 PM on October 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Surely this...


No, wait a minute...
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:40 PM on October 1, 2009


the U.S. government tortured an innocent man to extract false confessions and then threatened him until he obligingly repeated those lies as though they were the truth

Wait—who didn't think this was happening after about, say, April 2004?
posted by oaf at 1:45 PM on October 1, 2009


democracy in america has been dead since the end of ww2...i've waited all my life for the revolution to come and now that it appears it might happen, there isn't a side worth choosing. the only thing left is to resist.

What's different between democracy now and pre-WWII, again?
Which revolution appears to be coming, again?
Resist what, again (other than the SHIFT key)?

I see words, but they don't seem to mean anything...
posted by coolguymichael at 1:50 PM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


hahahaha US of A moral hahahahahah standing hahahahahahahahahaha

REMEMBER 9/11, YES, THAT IS RIGHT, SEPTEMBER ELEVEN NINETEEN SEVENTY THREE.

Wow, it is fun to write like a nut. Now with more restraint, AFAIK the USA has never had the moral high ground in the eyes of anyone south of the Rio Bravo
posted by dirty lies at 2:02 PM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can't really parse what this is about.

But it should be obvious to anyone by now that Obama is on board with a lot of horrible Bush policies. We can make silly excuses all day but he is the Chief Executive and he is letting these things go on- in fact his goal seems to be to change as little as possible. It's a little bizarre after all the (totally justified) carping about Bush and Cheney, to now hear people asserting that the buck stops somewhere besides the Oval Office.

Cognitive dissonance is a hell of a drug, it seems.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:16 PM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


It will take decades, if not a century, to rebuild trust from the world

Trust me, I say this as a Brit, some places will never forgive & forget.




And they shouldn't.
posted by dash_slot- at 2:17 PM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


re: Moral high ground. Really? I mean, I'm as not gung-ho patriotic as the next guy, but "never?"

Out of the major players in WWII, let's say:

a) Hitler's Germany
b) imperial Japan
c) Stalin's USSR
d) USA
e) Great Britain

You don't think d), in conjunction with e), had any kind of objective moral high ground?
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:19 PM on October 1, 2009


I think most people in Europe looked up to the U.S. after WWII, all the way up through, I dunno, the 1990s maybe? Obviously people in south America or the middle east would have had a different view.
posted by delmoi at 2:22 PM on October 1, 2009


Steve Inskeep interviewed some Iranian spokesman on NPR this morning. And by "interviewed", of course I mean "vainly attempted to force into confessing Iran's Pure Evil-ness". When the "Why don't you just admit you're building nukes?" tack grew stale, Inskeep switched to the crackdown on election protesters.

Now I don't know whether it was the persistent ridicule from Greenwald and Sullivan on NPR's cowardice concerning the word when applied to Bush or what. But he grudgingly mumbled "Our reputation suffered after the torture of American prisoners..." before declaiming "... AREN'T YOU TERRIBLE FOR TORTURING PRISONERS TOO??"

I couldn't believe NPR slipped up and uttered the "T" word with respect to our fearless terror warriors.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:49 PM on October 1, 2009


I think the question of whether "moral standing" really exists in any form on the international stage is a good one, and is in any way extricable from "diplomatic standing." Our allies like us because we trade well with them and are powerful enough to back them up in a fight, and possibly because of a shared culture or history. I have no doubt that our torture of innocent people (and even of not-so-innocent people, I mean come on, this is fucking torture) makes other nations like us a lot less, but I have trouble imagining a world where any one nation or culture looks up to and aspires to the morals of another. In my experience, cultures just don't think in that way.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:59 PM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I haven't had time to digest the holding, but a quick search of the .pdf demonstrates that Eric Holder's name is nowhere in it.

from the story:

The Obama Department of Justice, with Attorney General Holder piously proclaiming that this Administration repudiates torture, and follows the rule of law, in fact is following the Bush playbook to the letter. In this case, the DoJ defended the abusive and coercive interrogation techniques used against Fouad. Thank God, though, that we have an independent judiciary. The importance of the writ of habeas corpus and independent judges has never been more clear.

If there's one thing I'm tired of, it is far, far left pundits attempting to somehow extrapolate the Obama Administration's policy on detainee issues or any of the issues regarding Bush era national-security abuses by cherry-picking from court cases involving these issues.

First, doing so gives an impression that the government is "supporting" Bush positions. Poppycock. When the United States goes into court, it goes into court to win, just like every other litigant. This continual expectation that suddenly, prosecutors are going to just start releasing everyone is totally unrealistic. Prosecutors are hugely reluctant to cease prosecutions, and there are usually important interests which are not directly obvious to the non-legal observer that are being upheld.

Second, we, and the authors of this piece have no idea about the facts of the case. Take for example the rampant speculations on the part of the author:

. . . also noted that an interrogator had expressed doubt about the supposed eyewitness at the time (much of the ruling is redacted, but this seemed to involve a claim that al-Rabiah’s oldest son was with him in Afghanistan, when this was demonstrably not the case).

and his medical records, which obviously indicated mental health problems (although the description was redacted).

“multiple exhibits in the record demonstrating [his] unreliability as a witness” (although, sadly, the exact number of prisoners against whom he had made verifiably false allegations was redacted),

After this, apparently following some kind of advice given to the lead interrogator (by an unknown party whose identity and suggestions were redacted),

A news story should never use the word 'apparently.' Either you have the facts or you do not.

Possibly in reference to the use of sleep deprivation (although it could also have been another “enhanced interrogation technique”),

Again, speculation.

Although the other techniques are not described, they undoubtedly included some or all of the following -- prolonged isolation, the use of extreme heat and cold, short-shackling in painful stress positions, forced nudity, forced grooming, religious and sexual humiliation, and the use of loud music and noise

Undoubtedly? The writer does not have facts. Rather than speculate, he ought to limit his description to the facts he knows.

In the following pages of the ruling, which are again fill of redactions, it is nevertheless possible to glimpse the progress of this game that was not only grim and cynical, but also potentially deadly (because, as a prisoner put forward for a trial by Military Commission, it was always possible that the government would have pressed for the death sentence had al-Rabiah been convicted).

Again, Worthington refers to things that are "always possible."

Readers can fill in the gaps through the judge’s response to the redacted passages. “Incredibly,” she wrote, “these are the confessions that the Government has asked the Court to accept as truthful in this case.”

On the contrary, readers should not fill in any gaps in a legal document. We do not know.

In the second phase, despite extensive redactions to the ruling, it is clear that al-Rabiah was repeatedly interrogated, although he “express[ed] frustration to FBI agents that he was repeatedly asked, among other questions, whether he had ever seen Osama bin Laden, and remark[ed] that his answer was ‘no’ and would continue to remain ‘no.’” What happened next, in a “new three-pronged approach,” is unknown, as the details are severely redacted

If you don't have facts, leave those parts out. Also, any time anyone says it is "clear" you know it isn't. Worthington needs to cite to the record, and avoid the use of the word "clear" and let the reader decide.

Third, these writers many, many times will, without informing the reader, make assumptions about who is making the day-to-day litigation decisions precisely to give the reader the impression that Obama's political appointees at Justice are making the decisions:

it amaze[d] me that no one in the Justice Department, under President Obama, investigated the CIA analyst’s report,” the truth, as revealed in the unclassified ruling, is even bleaker.

It transpires that Justice Department officials had read the report, but tried to discredit the analyst’s verdict, “arguing that it represented the opinion of only one analyst,”


It is impossible for Mr. Worthington to know who from the Justice Department read these reports. Was it a political appointee? We cannot know, because that is attorney workproduct--privileged information to be kept from the other side in any litigation, whether it involves a fender-bender or a criminal case against a detainee. Perhaps it was. But it is wrong to assume, without evidence that a poltical appointee made that decision. I am fortunate enough to know people at Justice who do this sort of work and they do not bring every decision to a poltical appointee. Indeed, not all the positions are filled to this date.

Indeed, Worthington carries on with his speculations without knowing who approved anything:

The Obama Department of Justice, with Attorney General Holder piously proclaiming that this Administration repudiates torture, and follows the rule of law, in fact is following the Bush playbook to the letter. In this case, the DoJ defended the abusive and coercive interrogation techniques used against Fouad.

This is exactly wrong. First, even a cursory reading of the ruling demonstrates that the Obama administration did not "defend the abusive and coercive interrogation techniques." What they did was sought to keep this prisoner from receving a Writ of Habeus Corpus. The fact that they defended the conclusion that the suspect's confessions were enough to deny the writ and bring the suspect to trial is not the same thing as saying that those techniques are appropriate or legal. They merely defended the Government's right to bring the witness to trial. This is not the same thing as defending torture.

It is going to be critical for us to get the whole story on these matters. Bomb throwers like Greenwald and Worthington are trying to paint a picture of Obama administration decisions on torture and Bush-era national security abuses based the litigation decisions of the US government. This is wrong. There are plenty of litigation decisions that have more to do with pressing the general interests of the government forward and nothing to do with supporting torture. Now that Greenwald et al. no longer have the Bush adminstration's actual support for torture to use as a vehicle to obtain readers, they are attempting to create the false impression that the litigation decisions in individual cases somehow represent the Obama adminstration endorsing torture. Nothing could be farther from the truth. These decisions are to advance the legal case of the US in individual cases. The facts are this: the Administration has stopped the use of torture and "enhanced interrogation techniques." To argue it is otherwise is just plain lying.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:49 PM on October 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


"i see words but they don't seem to mean anything" is exactly the fucking point. (includes 5 hits at the shift key, your coolness)
posted by kitchenrat at 3:53 PM on October 1, 2009


drjimmy11: WWII was too late for America (the continent) to change its mid re. the USA.

One of my favorite examples regarding moral standing and land of the free, which I have used before: Mexico had it's first BLACK president in 1829, he abolished slavery ASAP, it took the US 35 years to do the same, then 130 years to get a black president.

Guerrero is the one that invited Americans to settle Texas as long as they respected Mexican laws including no slaves at all. You see how well that worked out for Mexico (and Texas).

Before WWII the USA has a long history if intervening in Latin America, betraying its allies, squashing democracy and progress wherever it showed its head; kidnapping, killing and torturing foreign nationals, or funding and training those who do. After WWII it only got worse, what with the USA equating any attempt at self determinism and social justice in Latin America to THE CREEPING SPECTER OF COMMUNISM.

For the rest of the world, it is not like the USA suddenly became evil under Bush, it just became more sloppy.
posted by dirty lies at 4:15 PM on October 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


You don't think d), in conjunction with e), had any kind of objective moral high ground?

I don't know....let's ask the Poles.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:35 PM on October 1, 2009


"Trust me, I say this as a Brit, some places will never forgive & forget.
And they shouldn't."

But those Germans, yeah, they're swell. Easy folks to forgive, what with Oktoberfest coming up.
(DON'T MENTION THE WAR, I might've let it slip but I think I got away with it)
Of course, the U.K. had nothing to do with Iraq and has never perpetrated any injustice.

The U.S. doesn't have moral standing?
So...it shouldn't try?
Sort of unclear on this "No, you never had it and you can never get it back ever" deal.

The problem is not what's in anyone's heart or even the country's moral standing but the power relationship between the U.S. and the rest of the world.
For a long time the U.S. has been dominant in many ways, particularly militarily and economically. That's a bit of a catch-22.
One can't argue the U.S. should do something about genocide or people starving or chaos in some part of the world but then say every military intervention the U.S. engages in is imperialism.
On the other hand, if responsibilities were shared, if economic power as well as military power was spread more broadly and was a world community responsibility - what 'moral' is to a country would take on a different meaning.
Perhaps 'not holding up your end' if the vote is to, say, go help in Darfur or whatnot.

Trust me, I say this as an American, I don't want the responsibility or the burden of having to police the rest of the world. If the U.S. were in a position such that accountability was the reality and it couldn't act unilaterally - even though that would mean less dominance for my particular country - it would mean my leaders would be less likely to put folks in harms way.
Or get away with torturing them.
The idea of Bush being held accountable by, say, Spain, or other countries is almost laughable. As is sanctions, et.al.
And yet those egregious crimes - perhaps - could have been avoided if repercussions from the international community were a more realistic concern than living up to some moral standard.

Relationships are reciprocal, even diplomatic ones. Obama does seem to be working towards rectifying the crimes of the Bush administration, but he and the U.S. shouldn't have the luxury of acting from largess.
Now a lot of us sure as hell want to fix this. And that is great. But as jamstigator intimated, it's not being done with great speed.
Justice must be compelling. And the U.S. is so powerful that nothing can really compel it but itself.
Resentment for this state of affairs I can understand. But the rest of this is mote/beam and doesn't recognize the genuine work being done to fix it.
I mean - "it was revealed that the U.S. government tortured an innocent man," really. Who revealed that? ACLU. Oh.
Who ordered him released? Oh, a U.S. district court judge.
Who just released three other prisoners that this same guy just blogged about? The U.S. Ah. Ok.
Say, where is one of those attorneys representing the 230 remaining prisoners at Gitmo from? The U.S. (Chicago in fact)

These are always struggles with power to prevent this sort of thing. Folks try. The Germans struggled with guilt for a long time. We're lucky in that we have at least some chance to rectify some errors and maybe prosecute war criminals.
It's not just the U.S., it's anyone. I think Len Goodman was right - No government should be trusted with the kind of power that allows them to just bury their mistakes.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:36 PM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


First, doing so gives an impression that the government is "supporting" Bush positions. Poppycock. When the United States goes into court, it goes into court to win, just like every other litigant. This continual expectation that suddenly, prosecutors are going to just start releasing everyone is totally unrealistic. Prosecutors are hugely reluctant to cease prosecutions, and there are usually important interests which are not directly obvious to the non-legal observer that are being upheld.

Just because innocent people are in prison doesn't mean they should be let go! There are abstract theorems at stake!

Won't somebody think of the theories!?
posted by delmoi at 4:45 PM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


delmoi: Considering Scalia has already said that "mere innocence" is no reaon not to carry out a death penalty, this doesn't seem so outrageous.
posted by phliar at 6:21 PM on October 1, 2009


Just because innocent people are in prison doesn't mean they should be let go! There are abstract theorems at stake!Won't somebody think of the theories!

Without looking at anything, type the full name of the accused into a comment.

Didn't think so. Guess what. You have exactly zero knowledge of whether this guy is guilty. Neither do I and neither does the author of this piece. Just because he writes in impassioned tones does not make it true. You and I have exactly zero grasp of the facts of this man's guilt or innocence. 10 paragraphs on some nutjob webiste doesn't tell you anything.

Indeed, the judge doesn't even claim to know. Kotellar-Kennedy merely ruled that the government is not entitiled to hold him. She made no call on his guilt or innocence. Your assumption that he is innocent is based on third-hand knowledge based on a 10 paragraph story. You do not know that. I do not know that. The difference between you and I is that I will not substitute my judgment for the actors in the process because I'm aware of my ignorance.

Here's my point--we can't have mob justice decided by inflammatory articles like this--we have a process. There's a reason we try people in courts instead of the newspaper. You argue that somehow, 'theorems' should not trump your perecption of the truth based on one article on a biased webisite.

Yet it is those very 'theorems' you are dismissing that led to the ordering of release of this of this man which you celebrate. Courts have to use these 'theorems' as you call them to deal with these very issues. They aren't easy questions and there aren't easy answers like the writer of this piece would like you to believe.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:29 PM on October 1, 2009


Without looking at anything, type the full name of the accused into a comment.

I was going to type "Al-Faoud" which is close. The actual name is Fouad al-Rabiah, although I don't see your point.

Didn't think so. Guess what. You have exactly zero knowledge of whether this guy is guilty. Neither do I and neither does the author of this piece. Just because he writes in impassioned tones does not make it true. You and I have exactly zero grasp of the facts of this man's guilt or innocence. 10 paragraphs on some nutjob webiste doesn't tell you anything.

Actually I didn't read the FPP.

Although I did read Andrew Sullivan's blog post about the story earlier today. Sullivan can be hyperbolic, and whether he's a "nutjob" or not he's certainly a part of the "Media Establishment", he works for a legitimate news source and generally would get into trouble for posting completely false information.

That's beside the point because I was making a general comment, that innocent people should not be kept in prison to prove points. It seems unnecessary to me because dropping the charges or settling a case would leave the point unchallenged, and it could be brought up again the next time a similar case comes up. (That's why I said "innocent people", plural. )

But even if that's not the case, innocent people should not be held in prison to prove points, and I don't care what you say. The vary idea is morally depraved. Only a sociopath, detached from humanity could think it was a good idea.
posted by delmoi at 7:10 PM on October 1, 2009


(oh, and also I had meant to say "people who may be innocent shouldn't be held in prison without a trial, which is obviously a superset of those people who actually would be found not guilty in an actual trial)
posted by delmoi at 7:12 PM on October 1, 2009


people who may be innocent shouldn't be held in prison without a trial,

Really? Because we keep people on remand all the time awaiting a trial which can be delayed time after time by the prosecution until the judge gets sick of it.

I think you may want to expand that to "people who may be innocent shouldn't be held in prison without charge or access to habeas corpus".
posted by Talez at 7:35 PM on October 1, 2009


Ironmouth, you quoted a lot, but you missed the most important ones, I think. These are from the judge:

The record contains evidence that al-Rabiah’s interrogators became increasingly frustrated because his confessions contained numerous inconsistencies or implausibilities. As a result, al-Rabiah’s interrogators began using abusive techniques that violated the Army Field Manual and the 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. The first of these techniques included threats of rendition to places where al-Rabiah would either be tortured and/or would never be found.

and:

The Court agrees with the assessment of al-Rabiah’s interrogators, as well as al-Rabiah’s counsel in this case, that al-Rabiah’s confessions are not credible. Even beyond the countless inconsistencies associated with his confessions that interrogators identified throughout his years of detention, the confessions are also entirely incredible. The evidence in the record reflects that, in 2001, al-Rabiah was a 43 year old who was overweight, suffered from health problems, and had no known history of terrorist activities or links to terrorist activities. He had no military experience except for two weeks of compulsory basic training in Kuwait, after which he received a medical exemption. He had never traveled to Afghanistan prior to 2001. Given these facts, it defied logic that in October 2001, after completing a two-week leave form at Kuwait Airlines where he had worked for twenty years, al-Rabiah traveled to Tora Bora and began telling senior al-Qaeda leaders how they should organize their supplies in a six square mile mountain complex that he had never previously seen and that was occupied by people whom he had never met, while at the same time acting as a supply logistician and mediator of disputes that arose among various fighting factions.
posted by shetterly at 7:52 PM on October 1, 2009


I have been totally opposed to Bush torture policies from day one. What I'm saying is that the writer of this piece is wrong in arguing that by deciding to continue with fighting the Habeus motion, Holder and Obama are "doing the exact same thing as Bush."

Obama stopped torture as official US policy. He is explicitly against it. He has spoken out against the US' use of it from the podium of the UN, yet there are writers, like this fool, who somehow accuse him of being pro-torture because he is fighting a habeus petition for a person who has raised allegations of torture. These writers, who, by their very admission, do not know all of the facts (neither do we), are looking for someone else to bash on torture--so they attack the very man who acknowledged our use of it and braved political opprobrium to call it wrong and torture.

This, to me, seems wrong on many levels. First, the litigation positions of the government are not policy--they are the positions of the government in a contested case. It is a false equivalence. But reporters love to say it is so because they have actual documents to look over.

The danger here is justice by being tried in the paper. Do you want the litigation and prosecution decisions of the government to be made by reporters who aren't putting in the thousands of hours of work a real court case takes? Because that's what these prosecutors do. I'm not saying this guy is innocent or guilty, I do not know. But Andrew Sullivan somehow thinks he does, after being exposed to a thousandth of the actual facts of the case.

If you've ever worked on a case in court and then read the writeup of a journalist, you'd understand. This redacted 65-page opinion skims the surface of all of the facts on this situation--it must, by design. How then is a blog post or short article supposed to get at the truth? It cannot. That is why these decisions are not yours nor mine, but the decisions of the justice system. And when people try to continue their argument against the last administration by attacking this administration's attempt to pick up the pieces, they are deliberately not telling the whole truth. Leave the arguments of policy to the journalists and leave the justice system to work on these individual cases one by one.

These writers have made a name for themselves rightly ripping on Bush. But now that someone who has stopped torture is in the White House, they are left with no target. So they try and manufacture a boogeyman because they have nothing left to write about. That is wrong and unfair to someone who stopped torture.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:37 AM on October 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here's a letter Andrew Sullivan received.
As a trial attorney with the Department of Justice, I am familiar with the al-Rabiah case (however, to be clear, I am not a trial attorney who worked on the case). My opinions stated GITMOmarkwilsongetty herein, of course, are not the opinions of the Department. I write for myself and myself alone.

I had a long conversation regarding the al-Rabiah case with colleagues when the decision came down. Our expertise and experiences are varied, but we all work on matters ranging from criminal matters to civil habeas cases. We are litigators, and we know what makes a case, and when a case is weak.

The conclusion drawn by each of my colleagues – some of whom are liberal Democrats, some of whom are conservative, law-and-order Republicans – is, to a person, that the detention and interrogation programs the United States implemented in the months and years following 9/11 is not only a complete abrogation and violation of international law and, in many cases, federal law – it is also fundamentally immoral. We also agree that the al-Rabiah case is by far the most egregious yet to come to light. To repeat: yet to come to light. I can only guess that there are other, far worse cases.

That said, I am surprised you did not highlight what me and my colleagues agreed was the single most horrifying passage from the Court’s decision. It was the Court’s quotation of something an interrogator said to al-Rabiah during his interrogation. The interrogator told al-Rabiah:

“There is nothing against you. But there is no innocent person here. So, you should confess to something so you can be charged and sentenced and serve your sentence and then go back to your family and country, because you will not leave this place innocent.”
Court Memorandum and Order, p. 41 (emphasis mine).

This was an agent of the United States saying this.

This was not a statement pulled from the transcripts of the Nuremburg trials, nor archival evidence taken from reports smuggled out of one of Stalin’s gulags. This was a statement made by an agent of this government less than 7 years ago to a detainee. The enormity of that is nearly incomprehensible.

But even worse – far worse – is the fact that the government would nevertheless still seek to convict based on the resulting confession.

To those of us who read that passage and who vowed and make it our vocation to serve and protect the Constitution of the United States, that fact is a gut-punch. For me and my colleagues, it literally took our breath away. It makes one wonder how far down into the abyss we have allowed ourselves to drop. And whether there is the political will to find our way out.
But of course this is just a bunch of nonsense on crackpot websites, we don't really know anything about the case, no one who's a real lawyer would have a problem with this, etc.
posted by delmoi at 10:57 AM on October 2, 2009


“What I'm saying is that the writer of this piece is wrong in arguing that by deciding to continue with fighting the Habeus motion, Holder and Obama are "doing the exact same thing as Bush…& That is wrong and unfair to someone who stopped torture.."
I have to agree.
“Here's my point--we can't have mob justice decided by inflammatory articles like this--we have a process. “
While I agree this shouldn’t be tried in the paper and there’s a lot of cranks out there just angry and enjoying being self-righteous, part of the problem … and looking at it no one seems to be making this argument… part of the problem is where Obama is doing ‘the same thing as Bush’ is, in a sense, participating in the process.
I’ve read enough of your comments to somewhat anticipate the line of your reasoning in response there. But while we absolutely can’t abandon the process, I think we have to recognize that guilt or innocence isn’t the point.
This guy was, in evidence, tortured. Part of the process is that if someone’s rights are violated by the government, the case against them is invalidated.
I’m not saying that’s not, politically, a conundrum for the Obama administration.
And I’m not saying we can just cut the guy loose. But we should.
As it is now – details aside – we seem to be fighting a holding action. Delaying letting this guy loose although even if we had a case against him that’s screwed because Bushco decided to beat on him until he confessed.
What’s really worse – if he IS guilty. If he is some evil mastermind (doesn’t look like it, but yeah, none of us know for certain) then what now? We can’t try him legitimately. Or if we do try to put him on trial, what’s the argument? Yeah, he was tortured but we don’t do that…uh…anymore?
You could take the fruit of the poisoned tree thing, but again – how much evidence was gleaned under torture?
It’s exactly because it’s a process, and a contiguous one, that we need to live by our own rules and see justice done in this case.

How? I don’t know. But yeah, I’ll agree piling on the guys trying to untie the knot here in no way helps. It’d be nice if they came up with a solution, because my head is way up my rectum on this. Always preferred the Alexandrian/Gordian knot solution myself. But that doesn’t work well if there’s no bad guys in the room.

Kicking Bush in the ass might be fun ….well, no, no ‘might’ about that…. But those people are no longer a direct factor. So yeah, we’re all left with this mess that they left and anger directed into this maelstrom seems pretty counterproductive
posted by Smedleyman at 12:11 PM on October 2, 2009


But of course this is just a bunch of nonsense on crackpot websites, we don't really know anything about the case, no one who's a real lawyer would have a problem with this, etc.

Here are the facts--You do not know the facts. Accept that.

My argument is very simple. The fact that this person was in the situation they were in is because of George W. Bush. Not Barack Obama. The writer of the piece is dead wrong in asserting that Obama is endorsing torture because the Justice Department decided to continue to contest the Habeus motion in this case. Do you agree or disagree with this? Because that is what the idiot who wrote that piece said.

Note that the E-mail from the Justice staffer did not say what the writer of the linked piece said--that Obama was endorsing torture by contesting this hearing, which was set for a hearing before Obama was President.

I agree the torture is terrible. I have nothing against Kotellar-Kennedy's decision. I cannot say it is right or wrong, because I do not know the case (I said the same thing about the OJ verdict, btw). But I do have something against trying to blame Obama for picking up the pieces as best he can. That's just ignorant.

I do not understand why you cannot answer my criticism of the piece directly.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:42 PM on October 2, 2009


Ironmouth, maybe we can agree on this: The judge has ordered that al-Rabiah be freed because there's no evidence to suggest that al-Rabiah is guilty. Al-Rabiah is still in prison because the Justice Department wants to keep him there, based on contradictory confessions extracted under torture.

I remember when people talked about innocent until proven guilty. That should apply to everyone, not just US citizens.
posted by shetterly at 3:35 PM on October 2, 2009


Here are the facts--You do not know the facts. Accept that.

This is nonsense. No one can ever no everything, people must base their judgements, on the evidence available to them. It's true that I don't know all the facts, but neither will the judge, or any of the lawyers either. Only the detainee would truly knows if he's guilty or not, up to his confidence in his own memories. To demand certainty before judgment would be to condemn everyone to eternal inaction. Obviously that's not your intent

Instead, you've offered an axiomatic legal certainty to stand in for epistemological certainty, that those who have the legal right to make the decisions are the ones who can make those determinations. This would, of course, forbid anyone outside of the government (or ultimately a jury, for those cases not tried by military commission) from forming a judgment, which would be very convenient for those in power.

I believe it is the responsibility of citizens and voters to form opinions based on the information available to them, and to vote and advocate for things that further their values, if they feel the government is breaking with them. It's hard to imagine that this is a controversial view.

he writer of the piece is dead wrong in asserting that Obama is endorsing torture because the Justice Department decided to continue to contest the Habeus motion in this case. Do you agree or disagree with this?

What difference does it make? I haven't even read the article. I would say in general that a belief that torture should not be prosecuted is a tacit endorsement of it, just as people who advocate marijuana decriminalization generally think smoking pot is OK.

I do not understand why you cannot answer my criticism of the piece directly.

Like I said, I haven't read the piece and I don't particularly care what's in it. My problem is with the situation which I read about on Andrew Sullivan's blog.
posted by delmoi at 2:13 AM on October 3, 2009


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