America On Trial  

 Cruel and Unusual Punishment at
 Abu Ghraib and other US-run prisons



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In the un-humbled opinion of one, Poetic Justice...

"Worse than Abu Ghraib"

May, 2006

Rep. John Murtha told reporters that a bomb rocked a military convoy on Nov. 19, 2005 in Haditha, Iraq, killing a Marine. Marines then shot and killed five unarmed civilians in a taxi near the scene and went into two homes and shot 19 other people. Murtha said high-level reports he received indicated that no one fired upon the Marines or that there was any military action against the U.S. forces after the initial explosion.

"I will not excuse murder, and this is what happened," Murtha said. "This investigation should have been over two or three weeks afterward and it should have been made public and people should have been held responsible for it."

"This is the kind of war you have to win the hearts and minds of the people," he said. "And we're set back every time something like this happens. This is worse than Abu Ghraib."

Marine's Iraq Killing Spree and
Cover-up Exposed by Time Magazine

Excerpts from Time Magazine
May 28, 2006

The outfit known as Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, wasn't new to Iraq last year when it moved into Haditha, a Euphrates River farming town about 150 miles northwest of Baghdad. . .

But one morning last November, [Saturday, Nov. 19, 2005] some members of Kilo Company apparently didn't attempt to distinguish between enemies and innocents. Instead, they seem to have gone on the worst rampage by U.S. service members in the Iraq war, killing as many as 24 civilians in cold blood. The details of what happened in Haditha were first disclosed in March by TIME's Tim McGirk and Aparisim Ghosh, and their reporting prompted the military to launch an inquiry into the civilian deaths. . .

Almost as damaging as the alleged massacre may be evidence that the unit's members and their superiors conspired to cover it up. . . Three Marine officers, including the company commander and battalion commander, have been relieved of duty in part for actions related to the deaths in Haditha. A lawmaker who has been briefed on the matter says the investigations may implicate other senior officers.

In hindsight, it seems remarkable that the Marines were able to conceal such a horrific event for so long. . .

The day after the killings, an Iraqi journalism student videotaped the scene at a local morgue and the homes where the shootings had occurred. "You could tell they were enraged," the student, Taher Thabet, said last week. "They not only killed people, they smashed furniture, tore down wall hangings, and when they took prisoners, they treated them very roughly. This was not a precise military operation." A delegation of angry village elders complained to senior Marines in Haditha about the killings but were rebuffed with the excuse that the raid had been a mistake.

TIME learned about the Haditha action in January, when it obtained a copy of Thabet's videotape from an Iraqi human-rights group. But a Marine spokesman brushed off any inquiries. "To be honest," Marine Captain Jeff Pool e-mailed McGirk, "I cannot believe you're buying any of this. This falls into the same category of AQI (al-Qaeda in Iraq) propaganda."

In late January, TIME gave a copy of the videotape to Colonel Barry Johnson, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad. After reviewing it, he recommended a formal investigation. The ensuing probe, conducted by a colonel, concluded that Marines, not a bomb, killed the civilians but that the deaths were the result of "collateral damage," not deliberate homicide. Nevertheless, after reviewing the initial probe, senior military officials launched a criminal investigation.

America's Secret Prisons

the Salt Pit

Senator Byrd:
"No President Is Above the Law"

December 30, 2005

"Through news reports, we have been shocked to learn of the CIA's practice of rendition, and the so-called 'black site" -- secret locations in foreign countries where abuse and interrogation have been exported to escape the reach of U.S. laws protecting against human rights abuses."

Black Sites

Rights group alleges torture in Afghanistan

By David Morgan,
December 19, 2005

-- A human rights group said yesterday that the United States operated a secret prison for terrorism suspects as recently as last year in Afghanistan, where detainees were subjected to torture and other mistreatment.

The Bush administration has faced international criticism over detainees after a Nov. 2 article in The Washington Post said that the CIA held dozens of terrorism suspects in secret prisons called ''black sites" in countries around the world, including Eastern Europe.

Human Rights Watch said eight detainees being held in the US military facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have told their attorneys that they were arrested separately in countries in Asia and the Middle East and flown to Afghanistan at various times between 2002 and 2004.

Extraordinary Rendition

EU to query US 'secret prisons'
BBC News

November 22, 2005

The European Union is to formally ask the US to clarify reports that it ran secret CIA prisons in eastern Europe. The US has refused to confirm or deny the reports, which surfaced in the US earlier this month. . .

The Washington Post newspaper first reported on 2 November that the CIA had been using Soviet-era camps in eastern Europe to detain and interrogate terror suspects. It did not name the countries, but a day later Human Rights Watch said it had evidence indicating the CIA transported terror suspects captured in Afghanistan to Poland and Romania.

Poland and Romania have denied the allegations. Last week, the Swedish government began an investigation to establish whether CIA prisoner flights had used Swedish airports.

Spain is investigating similar claims about secret flights from Majorca while Iceland says it has asked the US for an explanation and is still awaiting a satisfactory answer.

The CIA's controversial "extraordinary rendition" programme involves removing suspects without court approval to third party countries for interrogation.

"The United States does not transport, and has not transported, detainees from one country to another for the purpose of interrogation using torture."
-- Condoleezza Rice

"Does anyone believe Condoleezza Rice?"
-- headline in German publication, Der Spiegel

CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons
By Dana Priest

Washington Post
November 2, 2005

Debate Is Growing Within Agency About Legality and Morality of Overseas System Set Up After 9/11

The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement.

The secret facility is part of a covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, according to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents.

The existence and locations of the facilities -- referred to as "black sites" in classified White House, CIA, Justice Department and congressional documents -- are known to only a handful of officials in the United States and, usually, only to the president and a few top intelligence officers in each host country.

. . .

Some detainees apprehended by the CIA and transferred to foreign intelligence agencies have alleged after their release that they were tortured, although it is unclear whether CIA personnel played a role in the alleged abuse. Given the secrecy surrounding CIA detentions, such accusations have heightened concerns among foreign governments and human rights groups about CIA detention and interrogation practices.

More than 100 suspected terrorists have been sent by the CIA into the covert system, according to current and former U.S. intelligence officials and foreign sources. This figure, a rough estimate based on information from sources who said their knowledge of the numbers was incomplete, does not include prisoners picked up in Iraq.

. . .

Then came grisly reports, in the winter of 2001, that prisoners kept by allied Afghan generals in cargo containers had died of asphyxiation. The CIA asked Congress for, and was quickly granted, tens of millions of dollars to establish a larger, long-term system in Afghanistan, parts of which would be used for CIA prisoners.

The largest CIA prison in Afghanistan was code-named the Salt Pit. It was also the CIA's substation and was first housed in an old brick factory outside Kabul. In November 2002, an inexperienced CIA case officer allegedly ordered guards to strip naked an uncooperative young detainee, chain him to the concrete floor and leave him there overnight without blankets. He froze to death, according to four U.S. government officials. The CIA officer has not been charged in the death.

Murderous Maniacs?

Widespread Systematic Torture Reported

October, 2005

Human Rights Watch issued a shocking report in late September. The Associated Press said the report is "based on interviews with a captain and two sergeants who served in the Army's elite 82nd Airborne Division" and were stationed at a military base called Mercury near Fallujah in Iraq.

According to the soldiers, prisoner abuse took place almost daily and often came under orders. Anything short of causing an inmate's death was allowed, they said. Detainees were allegedly deprived of sleep, food and water, subjected to extreme heat and cold, stacked in human pyramids, beaten with bats, kicked in the face, and had chemicals put on exposed skin.

The residents of Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, nicknamed soldiers at the nearby base "the Murderous Maniacs." New York-based Human Rights Watch said many of the soldiers at Mercury considered the name "a badge of honor."

"These soldiers' firsthand accounts provide further evidence contradicting claims that abuse of detainees by U.S. forces was isolated or spontaneous," the report said. "The accounts here suggest that the mistreatment of prisoners by the U.S. military is even more widespread than has been acknowledged to date, including among troops belonging to some of the best trained, most decorated, and highly respected units in the U.S. Army."

The Army says it has now opened an investigation into the charges, making it one of some 400 investigations into prisoner abuse allegations since the Abu Ghraib scandal first broke. So far, about 250 soldiers have been court-martialed or have faced non-judicial punishment for prisoner abuse.

Lynndie England
Lynndie England

"I heard attacks were made on coalition forces because of the photos.
I apologize to coalition forces and their families that lost their life
or were injured because of the photos."

-- Army Pfc. England

Lynndie England is no longer laughing. Well, at least she wasn't on September 28, 2005 when she was escorted out of a courthouse with her arms and legs in shackles. The U.S. soldier who's depraved antics made her the poster child for detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison, had herself just been sentenced to three years behind bars.

England had no words for the press but had earlier made remarks blaming Pvt. Charles Graner Jr. for her actions. She explained she was only trying to please her boyfriend when she took part in the crimes at Iraq's notorious prison.

"I was used by Private Graner," she said. "I didn’t realize it at the time."

"He was very charming, funny and at the time it looked to me like he was interested in the same things I was. ... He made me feel good about myself," England said. "I trusted him and I loved him. ... Now I know it was just an act to lure me in."

Lynndie England

Lynndie England’s case was the last of the courts-martial of the "few bad apples" -- the nine low-level soldiers who were blamed for the entire Abu Ghraib prison scandal.


US Naval Base in Guantanamo, Cuba
Camp X-Ray

June, 2005

Some 540 men are being held at Guantanamo Bay on suspicion of links to Afghanistan's ousted Taliban government or the "Al Qaeda terror network." Some have been jailed for more than three years without charge.

Amnesty International urged the U.S. to shut down the prison, calling it "the gulag of our time." White House spokesman Scott McClellan said that the human rights group's complaints were "unsupported by the facts" and that allegations of mistreatment were being investigated.

In its annual report, Amnesty accused the United States of failing to live up to its responsibility to set the standard for human rights protections. Rather, the group said the United States has been the biggest disappointment "after evidence came to light that the U.S. administration had sanctioned interrogation techniques that violated the U.N. Convention against Torture."

Bush is among a dozen former or current U.S. officials -- including Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, and George Tenet -- who should be probed by foreign governments because Washington has failed to conduct "a genuinely independent and comprehensive investigation" of torture allegations against U.S. troops, commanders, and their civilian overseers, Schulz said.

Torture and other grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions amount to crimes against humanity and therefore all states have a responsibility to investigate and prosecute people responsible for them, Amnesty said in its 308-page report.

William Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International USA, in a statement launching Amnesty's annual report:

"If the U.S. government continues to shirk its responsibility, Amnesty International calls on foreign governments to uphold their obligations under international law by investigating all senior U.S. officials involved in the torture scandal."

"If the United States permits the architects of torture policy to get off scot-free, then other nations should step into the breach."

"If those investigations support prosecution, the governments should arrest any official who enters their territory and begin legal proceedings against them. The apparent high-level architects of torture should think twice before planning their next vacation to places like Acapulco or the French Riviera because they may find themselves under arrest as Augusto Pinochet famously did in London in 1998."

George W. Bush responds:

"It is an absurd report. It just is."

". . . The United States is a country that promotes freedom around the world. When there's accusations made about certain actions by our people, they're fully investigated in a transparent way."

"It's just an absurd allegation. In terms of, you know, the detainees, we've had thousands of people detained. We've investigated every single complaint against the detainees."

"It seemed like to me they based some of their decisions on the word of and the allegations by people that were held in detention, people who hate America, people that have been trained in some instances to disassemble . . . that means not tell the truth."

"Absolutely irresponsible."
-- General Richard Myers about Amnesty International's report

"We regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst."
-- Newsweek Editor, Mark Whitaker

U.S. Reputation in the Toilet

In mid-May, 2005, Newsweek Magazine apologized to readers and acknowledged errors in using a single anonymous source for a story about how U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay desecrated the Quran. Critics claimed Newsweek's tiny "Periscope" item spawned protests in Afghanistan that left 15 dead and scores injured.

Newsweek Washington Bureau Chief Daniel Klaidman said the magazine believes it erred in reporting the allegation that a prison guard tried to flush the Quran down a toilet.

Pentagon and White House officials initially insisted Newsweek's response wasn't good enough.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the magazine's story was "demonstrably false" and "irresponsible," and "had significant consequences that reverberated throughout Muslim communities around the world."

The Defense Department argues that the detention prevents these enemy combatants from fighting against the United States.

Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said the charges of deliberate Quran desecration by U.S. military personnel were "fantastic" and "not credible on their face" because U.S. commanders were careful not to inflame passions among the detainees.

"Commanders knew it was a very sensitive issue and they didn't need the trouble," he said.

White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, was up in arms. "While Newsweek now acknowledges that they got the facts wrong, they refuse to retract the story. I think there's a certain journalistic standard that should be met. In this instance it was not." McClellan further stated, "the report has had serious consequences. People have lost their lives. The image of the United States abroad has been damaged."

McClellan said, the White House wants Newsweek "to help repair the damage" by explaining "what happened and why they got it wrong, particularly to people in the region." Newsweek "can also talk about policies and practices of the United States military," which "goes out of its way to treat the holy Quran with great care and respect," he said.

"The Quran is handled with great care and there are very strict guidelines when it comes to that. There are some who are opposed to the United States who have used this report to mischaracterize our views and the values that we want to uphold in the United States and so I think now it is one of their responsibilities to help repair some of the damage that was done," McClellan added.

Pentagon Admits Abuse

The focus on Newsweek Magazine's mistakes quickly faded when, in late May, the Pentagon admitted to several charges of prisoner abuse.

U.S. military officials acknowledged that a copy of the Quran was splashed with urine at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

Among other newly disclosed incidents cited in the Pentagon report on the mishandling of the sacred text at the prison were reports that a detainee's Quran was deliberately kicked and another's was stepped on.

In another confirmed incident cited in the report, water balloons thrown by prison guards caused an unspecified number of Qurans to get wet, and in a confirmed but ambiguous case, a two-word obscenity was written in English on the inside cover of a Quran.

A written statement released with the new details says the investigation "revealed a consistent, documented policy of dis-respectful handling of the Quran dating back almost two and a half years."

ACLU officials said the newly declassified documents provide evidence that U.S. authorities at Guantanamo Bay were mistreating symbols of the detainees' religious beliefs as a tactic to force them to talk.

"The United States government continues to turn a blind eye to mounting evidence of widespread abuse of detainees held in its custody," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "If we are to truly repair America's standing in the world, the Bush administration must hold accountable high-ranking officials who allow the continuing abuse and torture of detainees."

White House Hypocrisy

Rep. Pete Stark charged the White House with hypocrisy, saying, "The administration is chastising Newsweek for a story that contained a fact that turned out to be false. This is the same administration that lied to the Congress, the United Nations and the American people by fabricating reasons to send us to war."

Stark also said in an interview: "For the administration to be holier-than-thou about this is somewhere between obscene and funny. There are publications that often expose weaknesses in administration positions and they don't like that. They play tough."

McClellan rejected such criticism, saying in an interview, "We've taken steps to make sure we improve our intelligence gathering. This should not be used as a distraction from what occurred here. It gave an impression of our military that is wrong."

"People need to be careful what they say, just as people need to be careful what they do."
-- Donald Rumsfeld about Newsweek

Sabrina Harman  Easy Time

U.S. Army Spc. Sabrina Harman was found guilty May 16, 2005 on six of seven charges she faced for the mistreatment on prisoners at the Abu Gharib prison. Harman was only sentenced to six months in prison.

The Last Laugh
Charles Graner Jr.

Army Reserve Spc. Charles Graner Jr.
sentenced to 10 years in military prison for
his role in abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib

January, 2005

Spc. Charles Graner's defense attorney, Guy Womack, argued that the images in the infamous Abu Ghraib photographs weren't as bad as they looked, saying cheerleaders make human pyramids in their dance routines and that parents sometimes put leashes on their children while shopping in malls.

Prosecuting attorney Capt. Chris Graveline said, "What we have here is plain abuse, no doubt about it. There is no justification."

Graveline accused Graner of being a ringleader in the physical abuse and sexual humiliation of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. One of Graner's victims, a Syrian prisoner, testified that Graner was the top torturer in the prison.

Graner disagreed.

"We were called to violate the Geneva Convention. We were asked to do certain things I wasn't trained to do," Graner said during two-and-a-half hours on the witness stand, where he swore he was only obeying orders and following the lead of his superiors.

"A lot of the weird stuff came from civilian contractors," he said, adding that "crazy stuff" was also ordered by military intelligence soldiers.

Charles Graner, from Uniontown, Pennsylvania, was the first to face trial of the seven military guards charged in connection with the abuses at Abu Ghraib.

Three of those guards - all from the 372nd Military Police Company - have pleaded guilty without going to trial: Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick II, 37, of Buckingham, Virginia; Spc. Jeremy Sivits, 24, of Fort Ashby, West Virginia; and Spc. Megan Ambuhl, 29, of Centreville, Virginia.

After jurors found Graner guilty of 10 charges -- including aggravated assault, maltreatment and conspiracy -- he turned to his attorney and said: "That's what makes the world go around," and laughed slightly.

Graner, 36, is now headed for prison himself. He will serve out his sentence as a private with no salary and be dishonorably discharged upon release.

After the Guilty verdict was handed down, reporters asked Graner how he expected to be treated in prison. With no hint of humor in his voice, Graner flatly replied, "With respect."

Charles Graner Jr.

Witness says CIA and SEALs
beat prisoners during interrogation

A former Navy SEAL says he saw fellow SEALs and CIA officials kick, choke and eye-gouge detainees at a U.S. military base in Iraq. The Navy SEAL, who was not identified, was the government's main witness at an "Article 32" hearing on January 19, 2005.

The hearing, the military equivalent of a civilian grand jury, was for a Navy SEAL lieutenant who is accused of assault, maltreatment and conduct unbecoming an officer for his handling of detainees at Camp Jenny Pozzi, the SEAL base at Baghdad International Airport.

Sergeant Gets Six Months in
Iraqi drowning case

On January 15, 2005, Army platoon sergeant 1st Class Tracy Perkins was sentenced to six months in military prison for ordering his soldiers to push two Iraqis into the Tigris River in January 2004. Prosecutors said Zaidoun Hassoun, 19, drowned and his cousin, Marwan Hassoun, climbed out the river.

Perkins was convicted on two counts of aggravated assault, assault consummated by battery and obstruction of justice, but was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter.

Although Perkins admitted he ordered his soldiers to throw the men into the river, he said he just wanted to teach a "hard lesson" about threatening U.S. troops.

"Basically the enemy would test your resolve. ... I didn't want them to think we were soft or weak," said Perkins.

Despite the conviction, Lt. Col. Nathan Sassaman told reporters, "I will always consider him a war hero. ... No one can ever take away his outstanding service over there."

Lance Corporal Mark Cooley
Lance Corporal Mark Cooley with
his fist raised above an Iraqi detainee

Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair described his disgust at photos showing abuse of Iraqi civilians, as news of the courts martial of soldiers accused of carrying out the abuse stunned and shamed the nation in January of 2005.

Red Cross: Abuse At Guantanamo

November 30, 2004

GENEVA (AP) The International Committee of the Red Cross said U.S. officials have failed to address concerns about significant problems in the treatment of terror suspects detained at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

But the neutral agency, which is the only independent monitor allowed to visit the facility, refused "to publicly confirm or deny" a New York Times report that the ICRC determined the U.S. military used psychological and physical coercion "tantamount to torture" at the prison. The allegation was contained in an ICRC report to U.S. officials after visits to Guantanamo, the Times said.

A Pentagon spokesman in Washington confirmed Monday that Red Cross officials have "made their view known" that the indefinite detention of terror suspects at Guantanamo amounts to torture. But the Bush administration on Tuesday rejected the ICRC accusations that detainees were in any way abused.

US Army generals told of prisoner abuse before Abu Ghraib photos

December 30, 2004

WASHINGTON (AFP) - One month before the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, US Army generals were reportedly told that elite military units and CIA agents were abusing detainees and "making gratuitous enemies" in Iraq.

According to the "Herrington report," a confidential report by a retired colonel sent to the generals in December 2003, said Task Force 121 -- a joint Special Operacions and CIA mission in Iraq -- had been abusing detainees throughout Iraq, holding them at a secret interrogation facility to hide their activities.

"Detainees captured by TF 121 have shown injuries that caused examining medical personnel to note that 'detainee shows signs of having been beaten,'" Stuart Herrington said in his 13-page report recently obtained by the Washington Post.

"It seems clear that TF 121 needs to be reined in with respect to its treatment of detainees," he concluded.

The Church report

The Herrington report was cited in an as yet unreleased investigation by Vice Admiral Albert Church, the Navy's inspector general who has been examining detainee operations across the military, he said. The Church report, a draft of which is under review at the Pentagon, will probably not be made public for several weeks, DiRita said on late November, 2004.

court martial of public opinion

As of October 2004, the Pentagon says 45 soldiers
have been "referred" for court martial and 12 officers
have been "served letters of reprimand, in effect
ending their careers."

Pfc. Lynndie R. England gave birth October 10, 2004.
Spc. Charles Graner, is repoted to be the father.

Taguba Report Revealed

The Center for Public Integrity, a Washington, D.C.-based government watchdog group has published the entire classified Army report about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

Previously only the executive summary of the "Taguba Report" -- so called because it was carried out by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba -- was publicly available.


Rumsfeld was warned
By Demetri Sevastopulo
Financial Times
Published: October 13, 2004

Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary, was told in 2002 that prisoners at Guantánamo Bay were being abused but did nothing about it, according to a new book by the investigative journalist who first reported the Abu Ghraib scandal.

Seymour Hersh, a New Yorker magazine reporter, claims that a senior CIA official told White House officials in 2002 prisoners were being abused at Guantánamo. He says the CIA officer's report was brought to the attention of Condoleezza Rice, White House national security adviser, and Mr Rumsfeld.

In Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib, published today, Mr. Hersh outlines the allegations of abuse, which, he says, include forcing 80-year old prisoners to sit in their own excrement.

.... Earlier this year, Mr. Hersh wrote that senior Pentagon officials were instrumental in exporting a clandestine interrogation programme, code-named COPPER GREEN, from Afghanistan to Iraq.

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