— 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.
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.
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.
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."
|[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.”