A federal appeals court has rejected a bid by hunger-striking Guantánamo Bay prisoners to stop the government from subjecting them to force-feeding. Human rights groups say the practice amounts to torture, but the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals said any injunction against force-feeding could lead to a prisoner’s death. In a defeat for the White House, the judges also ruled federal courts can oversee complaints about prison conditions for Guantánamo prisoners. The decision could lead to new challenges from Guantánamo’s 155 remaining inmates.

A Washington Post investigation has revealed a woman recently promoted to head a top CIA division played a key role in the agency’s discredited detention and interrogation program after 9/11 and signed off on a decision to destroy videotapes of torture. The woman, who was not named because she is undercover, served as chief of staff to Jose Rodriguez, the CIA’s former head of clandestine operations. In 2005, she and Rodriguez signed an order to destroy tapes of interrogations at a secret prison in Thailand where two prisoners had been waterboarded. According to the Los Angeles Times, she also ran a “black site” prison overseas. The official is mentioned in a Senate Intelligence Committee report that accuses top officers of misleading Congress about the effectiveness of the interrogations. She became acting head of clandestine services at the end of last month. One of the first decisions faced by new CIA Director John Brennan is whether to keep her in the post.

As the judge just said in court, today’s sentence should be a reminder to every individual who works for the government, who comes into the possession of closely held sensitive information regarding the national defense or the identity of a covert agent, that it is critical that that information remain secure and not spill out into the public domain or be shared with others who don’t have authorized access to it.

Prosecutor Neil MacBride says John Kirakou’s prison sentence, for blowing the whistle on torture carried out by the CIA, should be a warning to other whistleblowers.

…Please, Mr. President, do not allow your legacy to be one where only the whistleblower goes to prison.

Supporters of Ex-CIA Officer and Torture Whistleblower John Kiriakou in a letter to President Obama. Kiriakou blew the whistle on the CIA’s Bush-era torture program and was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison today.

Kiriakou admitted to a single count of revealing the identity of a covert officer under a plea deal that saw prosecutors drop charges brought under the Espionage Act. Kiriakou was the first CIA official to publicly confirm and detail the Bush administration’s torture program, describing the waterboarding of al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah in a 2007 interview with ABC News. He also is the first CIA official to be jailed for any reason relating to the torture, even those who carried it out.

Has torture become acceptable?

A new Hollywood film suggests that harsh CIA interrogation techniques led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The brutality of the US’s ‘war on terror’ was highlighted once again this week with the condemnation of the CIA’s use of torture both by members of the US Senate Intelligence Committee and the European Court of Human Rights.

On Thursday, the Intelligence Committee voted to approve its own 6,000 page report on the agency’s detention and interrogation programme.

The report will remain classified, but in a statement the committee said: “The creation of long-term, clandestine ‘black sites’ and the use of so-called ‘enhanced-interrogation techniques’ were terrible mistakes.”

Just a few hours earlier, the European Court of Human Rights delivered its blistering judgement of the conduct of US policy.

It found that the CIA was running a systematic programme of torture and enforced disappearance highlighted by the case of German citizen, Khaled al-Masri.

But is redemption about to be delivered from Hollywood?

The soon-to-be-released film Zero Dark Thirty, which Oscar-winning director, Kathryn Bigelow, claims is a journlistic and “almost documentary” account of the CIA’s hunt for Osama bin Laden, depicts torture as being key to locating bin Laden - a contention that has repeatedly been shown to be false.

But with the film already heavily tipped for next year’s Oscars, is the truth of the operation about to be lost in the popular imagination? Has torture become acceptable?

Joining Inside Story Americas to discuss this are guests: Glenn Greenwald, a columnist for The Guardian; Darryl Li, an international human rights lawyer; and Jesselyn Radack, from the Government Accountability Project.

A German victim of CIA rendition and torture has won a landmark victory in European court. Khaled El-Masri was seized in Macedonia in 2003 as part of the CIA’s secret extraordinary rendition program. He was beaten, sodomized and held in a secret prison in Afghanistan for months before being abandoned by the CIA on a hillside in Albania. On Thursday, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Macedonia’s transfer of Masri into CIA custody and ruled his treatment in U.S. custody “amounted to torture.”

The ruling marked the first time a court of law has determined the CIA treatment of terror suspects constituted torture and the first time a European state has been held liable for being complicit. Masri

A previous effort by El-Masri to sue Bush administration officials for his capture and torture was dismissed by the Supreme Court in 2007. He has since brought a case against the CIA before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union said: “Today’s ruling makes it harder for the United States to continue burying its head in the sand and ignoring domestic and global calls for full accountability for torture. [And] this remarkable decision will no doubt put greater pressure on European nations to fully account for their complicity.”

A military judge presiding over the death penalty trial of five prisoners accused of orchestrating the 9/11 attacks has approved the government’s request to keep testimony about their torture secret. Before being transferred to Guantánamo in 2006, the five prisoners, including alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, were held in secret CIA prisons and reportedly tortured during interrogations. In a ruling released Wednesday, Army Colonel James Pohl banned the disclosure of information about where the prisoners were held before Guantánamo and the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” they may have endured. The American Civil Liberties Union had challenged the government’s request for secrecy, saying the public has a right to hear the testimony. The ACLU now says it will seek further review.

A retired CIA agent who publicly confirmed the torture of al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah has pleaded guilty to leaking classified information. John Kiriakou, who served from 1990 to 2004, is best known for a 2007 ABC News interview detailing how Zubaydah was waterboarded in CIA custody. Under a plea deal, Kiriakou has admitted to a single count of revealing the identity of a covert officer, which carries a potential sentence of up to 30 months. Kiriakou’s conviction marks the latest milestone in the Obama administration’s crackdown on government whistleblowers.

The Justice Department has announced it will not prosecute anyone involved in the killing and torturing of prisoners in CIA custody after a three-year investigation. The Justice Department had been probing the deaths of two men: one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Gul Rahman died in 2002 while being held at a secret CIA facility known as the “Salt Pit” in Afghanistan. He had been shackled to a concrete wall in near-freezing temperatures. Manadel al-Jamadi died in 2003 while in CIA custody at Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison. His corpse was photographed packed in ice and wrapped in plastic. In a statement, Holder said no charges would be brought against U.S. operatives “because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.” Denouncing the decision, the Center for Constitutional Rights said: “Today’s announcement belies U.S. claims that it can be trusted to hold accountable Americans who have perpetrated torture and other human rights abuses.”

A newly published court filing details the harsh treatment faced by alleged U.S. Army whistleblower Bradley Manning while he was imprisoned at the U.S. Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, for about nine months in 2010 and 2011. Manning is accused of leaking a trove of documents to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, but his defense team argued in a motion late last month that all charges should be dismissed due to Manning’s “unlawful pretrial punishment.” According to the filing, Manning was kept in a six-by-eight-foot cell for 23 to 24 hours a day and banned from lying down or even leaning against the wall when he was not sleeping. The filing says Manning was woken up at 5 a.m. and forced to remain awake until 10 p.m. Lawyers accuse the officers at Quantico of using Manning’s mental health as an excuse to keep him in “the functional equivalent of solitary confinement,” despite multiple objections by psychiatrists. Guards reportedly checked on Manning every five minutes and woke him up at night if they could not see him clearly. He was required to eat all his meals alone with only a spoon, made to sleep with a tear-proof security blanket that irritated his skin, and forced to request toilet paper every time he wanted to use the bathroom. In addition, the complaint alleges Manning was not allowed to have any personal items or to exercise in his cell. If Manning’s treatment is found by a judge to have been illegal, he could theoretically receive credit on the amount of time served in custody or even see his charges dismissed outright.

A military judge has rejected a bid by attorneys for the alleged U.S. Army whistleblower Bradley Manning to cite evidence showing the leak for which he is accused caused no damage to the United States. Manning’s attorneys had sought to present “damage assessment” reports that evaluated the impact of the publication of government diplomatic cables that Manning allegedly provided to WikiLeaks. Internal government reviews have found the leak caused minimal damage, contradicting prosecutors’ contention that Manning harmed national security and aided U.S. foes. But on Thursday, the judge overseeing Manning’s military trial rejected the effort, saying the impact of the leak is irrelevant to Manning’s case. The judge also rejected a defense request to present testimony from United Nations rapporteur Juan Mendez, who has said the U.S. government’s treatment of Manning may amount to torture.

Rendered, Tortured & Discarded: A Shocking Story of an Innocent Man’s Ordeal in U.S. Prisons Abroad

  • [TW: Torture, Sexual Assault, Assault, Imprisonment]
  • JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And the original reason why the U.S. government took [Suleiman Abdallah] and jailed him?
  • CLARA GUTTERIDGE: Right. Well, this is obviously—is very difficult to piece together, because the U.S. government won’t talk about why this happened. But it seems as though—so, in Somalia, between 2002 and 2005, there was this system of—essentially, the CIA would pay warlords money for so-called terror suspects. The same thing happened in Pakistan. Eighty-five percent of the people in Guantánamo Bay, in fact, were sold for a bounty in Pakistan rather than being picked up off any battlefield. And in Somalia, this was going on, as well, although it was much quieter, there was less attention. And we think that Suleiman may have originally been sold as—passed off, if you like, as a notorious terror suspect called Fazul, who was ultimately, you know, killed only last year. Of course, he wasn’t Fazul. He was a nobody from Tanzania. One thing we have noticed is that it tends to be kind of what tended to be the more kind of light-skinned, foreign-looking people that were sold, you know, maybe because, you know, as in Pakistan, it was more Arab-looking people, so people that could be passed off as something—something suspicious.
  • JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I summarized in the introduction some of what he went through, but could you describe for us what you learned was some of the torture and the treatment that he underwent, the abuses that he underwent?
  • CLARA GUTTERIDGE: Right. Well, I mean, the worst of the torture, we’re not authorized to talk about, because it’s too painful for him to talk about, and he doesn’t want it to be made public. What I can say is that he was subject to some of the worst torture that I have ever encountered in, you know, interviewing over a hundred U.S. torture victims. He was routinely beaten. He was sexually assaulted. He was locked in a cage. He was locked in a kind of—in a coffin-shaped box. He was subjected to extreme temperatures of hot and cold. He was threatened that, you know, he would never be released again. You know, the list really is endless. It took—it took, you know, two intensive days of debriefing for the medical experts to document what he went through. So, obviously, I can’t really summarize it all in such a short space of time.
  • JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And who did he say inflicted this torture on him?
  • CLARA GUTTERIDGE: You know, U.S.—generally speaking, it was a series of different people, but mainly U.S. personnel, so DOD and other—probably the CIA, although we—of course, we can’t be certain.
  • JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And could you tell us about the overall role of the United States forces, CIA and Special Forces in Africa, where he was originally abducted?
  • CLARA GUTTERIDGE: Right. So, when Suleiman was abducted in 2003, that was in the middle of this—there was this arrangement between the CIA and Somali warlords, who were then in control of most of Somalia, called—euphemistically called the Alliance of Peace and Counter-Terrorism. And what that really was was an arrangement whereby the warlords—you know, there was no—there was no law. These people were just, you know, in de facto control. The warlords would go around and would pick people up and would sell them for, you know, large amounts of money to the CIA. And at that time, people were routinely, you know, rendered off into—rendered into different parts of the world to be held in different U.S. prisons.
  • Now, you know, like everywhere else, the U.S.—you know, since, say, let’s say 2007, the U.S. has increasingly been seeking to get out of the detention game. It’s no longer running, you know, masses of prisons all around the world where detainees are held. But what’s happening now in East Africa is that the war on terror is very much alive and kicking, although it’s more decentralized and outsourced than it used to be, which means that the role of partner states, of local, regional states, is much more important. They’re receiving, you know, masses of money, masses of aid, to conduct counterterrorism. And what we’re increasingly seeing is that it is these states that are doing the jailing, either on behalf of the United States or perhaps in some kind of, you know, joint detention operation. And for those of us kind of working on rule of law issues and trying to ensure that these prisoners get—you know, get the rights that they deserve, it is even more difficult than working with prisons that are, you know, on the face of it, obviously run by the United States.

A new exposé by human rights investigator Clara Gutteridge for The Nation magazine looks at secret U.S. operations in Africa and how the United States rendered, tortured and discarded one innocent man from Tanzania. Suleiman Abdallah was captured in Mogadishu in 2003 by a Somali warlord and handed over to U.S. officials, who had him rendered to Afghanistan for five years of detention and torture. Imprisoned in three different U.S. facilities, Abdallah said he was subjected to severe beatings, prolonged solitary confinement, forced nakedness and humiliation. He said he was also sexually assaulted, locked naked in a coffin, and forced to lie on a wet mat, naked and handcuffed. Abdallah was finally released in July 2008 from Bagram Air Force Base — with a piece of paper confirming his innocence. However, he has received neither reparations nor apologies for his ordeal. “The worst of the torture, we’re not authorized to talk about, because it’s too painful for him,” Gutteridge says. “What I can say is that he was subject to some of the worst torture that I have ever encountered in interviewing over a hundred U.S. torture victims.”