Wednesday, October 8, 2008

AP Exclusive: Documents Say Detainee Near Insanity

My note: Welcome to another chapter in the gothic horror story, George Bush's America.

AP Exclusive: Documents Say Detainee Near Insanity
By PAMELA HESS, Associated Press Writer

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

(10-08) 03:52 PDT WASHINGTON, (AP) - A U.S. military officer warned Pentagon officials that an American detainee was being driven nearly insane by months of punishing isolation and sensory deprivation in a U.S. military brig, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

While the treatment of prisoners at detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in Afghanistan and Iraq have long been the subject of human rights complaints and court scrutiny, the documents shed new light on how two American citizens and a legal U.S. resident were treated in military jails inside the United States.

The Bush administration ordered the men to be held in military jails as "enemy combatants" for years of interrogations without criminal charges, which would not have been allowed in civilian jails.

The men were interrogated by the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency, repeatedly denied access to attorneys and mail from home and contact with anyone other than guards and their interrogators. They were deprived of natural light for months and for years were forbidden even minor distractions such as a soccer ball or a dictionary.

"I will continue to do what I can to help this individual maintain his sanity, but in my opinion we're working with borrowed time," an unidentified Navy brig official wrote of prisoner Yaser Esam Hamdi in 2002. "I would like to have some form of an incentive program in place to reward him for his continued good behavior, but more so, to keep him from whacking out on me."

Yale Law School's Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic received the documents through a Freedom of Information Act request filed by two attorneys Jonathan Freiman and Tahlia Townsend, representing another detainee, Jose Padilla. The Lowenstein group and the American Civil Liberties Union said the papers were evidence that the Bush administration violated the 5th Amendment's protections against cruel treatment. The U.S. military was ordered to treat the American prisoners the same way prisoners at Guantanamo were treated, according to the documents.

However, the Guantanamo jail was created by the Bush administration specifically to avoid allowing detainees any constitutional rights. Administration lawyers contended the Constitution did not apply outside the country.

"These documents are the first clear confirmation of what we've suspected all along, that the brig was run as a prison beyond the law. There was an effort to create a Gitmo inside the United States," Jonathan Hafetz of the ACLU's National Security Project in New York said, using the slang word for the U.S. naval facility in Cuba.

The 91 pages of e-mails and documents produced by U.S. Fleet Forces Command, which runs the military brigs in Norfolk, Va., and Charleston, S.C., detail daily decisions made about the treatment of Hamdi and Padilla, then both American citizens, and Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a legal resident. All were designated as by the White House as "illegal enemy combatants."

The paperwork show uniformed officials at the military brigs growing increasingly uncomfortable and then alarmed that they were being directed to handle their prisoners under the rules that governed Guantanamo.

The authors and recipients of the e-mails are censored from the documents. They appear to be going to either military or Pentagon legal counsel and policy offices.

The documents show that some officials at the Charleston brig were deeply skeptical about the mandate that Guantanamo rules should apply in the United States, a decision made by the defense secretary's office, according to the documents.

"You have every right to question the 'lash-up' between GTMO and Charleston — it was the first thing I ask (sic) about a year ago when I checked on board," wrote one official to another in 2006. "In a nutshell, they gave the Charleston detainee mission to (Joint Forces Command) who promptly gave it to (Fleet Forces Command) with a 'lots of luck' and nothing else."

An officer was still raising alarms about Hamdi's mental state after 14 months of jail with no contact with lawyers, his family or even other prisoners.

"I told him the last thing that I wanted to have happen was to send him anywhere from here as a 'basket case,' of use to no one, to include himself," the officer wrote in an e-mail to undisclosed government officials in June 2003. "I fear the rubber band is nearing its breaking point here and not totally confident I can keep his head in the game much longer."

The frustrated officer wrote that he had "to have the ability to exercise some discretion when I believe it best for the health and welfare of those assigned to my facility ... Know ... we are to remain consistent with the procedures that were/are in place at Camp X-Ray" a reference to the Guantanamo jail. He pointed out that imposing those conditions in the brig had a far harsher effect on his prisoners because they had no contact with any other detainees, which was allowed at Guantanamo.

Scores of pages of once-secret legal opinions regarding detainee rights and treatment have been released under the Freedom of Information Act. At least two apparently crucial memos about enemy combatant treatment inside the U.S. have yet to be made public.

Hamdi was captured in Afghanistan in 2001, shipped to Guantanamo and then moved to the U.S. after his citizenship was discovered. He was held and interrogated for three years without charges. The Supreme Court in 2004 rejected the government's attempt to hold him indefinitely without charge. He was released to Saudi Arabia on the condition he give up his U.S. citizenship.

Al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar, was a legal resident studying for a master's degree in Illinois when he was arrested in December 2001 by the FBI as a material witness to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He was charged with credit card fraud in 2002. A month before his trial in 2003, President Bush declared him an enemy combatant and al-Marri was transferred to the consolidated naval brig in Charleston. There he was held in isolation for 16 months, denied shoes and socks for two years, and was not allowed any contact with his family for five years. He remains in the military brig but is appealing his detention to the Supreme Court.

Padilla was arrested in 2002 under suspicion he was collaborating with al-Qaida to build a radioactive or "dirty" bomb. He was held as an enemy combatant for more than three years. He was held totally incommunicado for 21 months. His mother was only allowed to see Padilla after she agreed not to alert the media to the visit, according to the documents.

The government dropped the dirty bomb charges and Padilla's case was moved to civilian court where in 2007 he was convicted of supporting terrorism in Kosovo, Bosnia and Chechnya.

New Video Documents McCain’s Volatile Temper

Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Films just released a four minute snapshot of people who know him – including countless Republicans – saying McCain’s temper and short fuse is of genuine concern to them should he be elected. John Hinz, the former executive director of the Arizona Republican Party, bluntly states, “Do I trust him with the (nuclear) button? No.”

Anyone affected by or who is familiar with PTSD recognize all of the symptoms of someone suffering from it: Short fuse, easily angered, physical confrontation. It's understandable because he was a POW for several years. But being understanding of his deep-rooted and apparently untreated emotional problem does not mean this man is fit to be president.

Greenwald encourages people viewing the video to email the link on to others.

The Debates: Obama-Biden 3, McCain-Palin 0

You know a campaign realizes it’s in serious trouble and falling behind rapidly when its candidate fares so poorly in a debate that senior aides blame the moderator.

Acknowledging that the night failed to shift public focus on the economy or inflict serious damage on Obama, one of McCain’s key economic advisers, Douglas “John Invented The Blackberry” Holtz-Eakin, accused Tom Brokaw of “hijacking” the debate. This bit of rhetorical huffing was greeted with deserved guffaws of disbelief by the press corps gathered in the spin room: The McCain campaign pushed hard for the town hall format – early on, McCain wanted to do 10 of them with Obama – it wanted Brokaw, NBC’s liaison to the McCain campaign, as moderator and the tight rules Brokaw followed were agreed to by both campaigns months ago.

The town hall format is supposed to be McCain forte. But he was clearly uncomfortable, jumping up from his high chair to march menacingly towards the audience when it was his turn, and his words rambled everywhere in search of an answer.

As his discomfort became palpable, at one point McCain referred dismissively to Obama as "that one" with a flip of his hand – a snide reference close enough to “that darky boy” to make some women sitting in the audience behind McCain visibly wince. Watching at home, I almost did a spit take when he said it. McCain might as well have said, “Ol’ Black Joe over there …”

Well, Obama already has more than 90% of the African-American vote so I assume McCain figured that offending another five percent of that particular voting bloc won’t make much difference.

Never has the age gap between the two men been as obvious. For example, when McCain was asked how the economic crisis would affect the three top priorities of his administration, he seemed unable to remember what they were and jotted a note before answering.

McCain was left so nonplussed by the experience that he refused to shake Obama’s hand at the end of the debate, exiting the Crewe Center so quickly I thought his Grampers needed changing. Meanwhile, Barack and Michelle hung around shaking hands, taking photos and chatting with the audience for more than 20 minutes.

A National Thumbs-Down On McCain

The post-debate snap polls, which provide important insight into how each candidate fared, say that that Obama scored a clear victory in the second debate.

• NBC gathered a group of undecided Pennsylvanians who gave Obama a 60%-40% edge in the debate.
• At CBS, its snap poll gave Obama a 39%-25% edge over McCain.
• Greenberg Quinlan Rosner had a focus group of undecideds leaning to Obama by a healthy margin of 42% to 24%.
• A CNN focus group of undecided voters in Ohio had the margin at an even wider spread: Obama 54% to McCain's 30%.
• In Washington State, SurveyUSA interviewed 741 debate watchers where 54% thought Obama was the "clear winner" compared with McCain's 29%.

Even Fox’s focus group had voters leaning towards Obama, mostly because of his firm statement that health care was a “right of every American.” McCain called it a responsibility, and went into a disjointed, rambling explanation of why that left people in the studio audience with confused looks on their faces as the camera followed McCain around.

Obama had a number of brilliant moments that connected with the audience – live and on television – but what might be looked back on as the moment he won the election came at the very end. The last question was “What don’t you know and how will you learn it?”

"Not Today!"

This morning, I phone my two McCain campaign contacts. One, who works in a swing state, did not answer her phone and the source at McCain headquarters gave me a sharp, “Not today” before hanging up.

But people on the Obama team are much more talkative.

“It was supposed to be McCain’s night,” I’m told, “and he never got out in front. Not in his style, not in his substance, not in his answers.

“He reminded me of my grandfather in his later years. My Granpa Joe was hanging out in his childhood a lot by then and although he’d answer a question, what he said was connected to what he was asked by only a loose thread.”

Lies, More Lies And Damned Lies

As the evening grew on, McCain ended up falling back on his old habit of lying.

On the economic crisis, McCain said that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were among "the real catalysts, really the match that lit this fire." But data from the Federal Reserve show that the majority of the subprime loans that triggered the crisis weren't issued by Fannie and Freddie, but by private lending institutions.

McCain said Obama and "his cronies and his friends in Washington that went out and made all these risky loans." He was referring to two former heads of Fannie Mae: Franklin Raines and Jim Johnson. The McCain campaign has referred to Raines as an Obama adviser which Raines has denied repeatedly, and everyone from Fox News to FactCheck agree. Johnson briefly headed Obama's vice-presidential vetting team before resigning when some loans he obtained became controversial.

McCain, moreover, has his own ties to the mortgage industry. His campaign manager, Rick Davis, is a co-owner of a lobbying firm that was on a $15,000-a-month retainer from Freddie Mac from 2005 through August.

McCain repeated a claim that Obama's tax plan would raise taxes on small businesses. But some time ago, the non-partisan project at the University of Pennsylvania concluded that the "statement is simply not true."

On Iraq, McCain repeated his assertion that last year's surge of 30,000 additional U.S. troops has been a success. But that goes well beyond what U.S. officials are saying. A nearly completed top-level intelligence report warns that ethnic and sectarian tensions remain unresolved and could explode in renewed bloodletting.

McCain also said he wouldn't withdraw U.S. forces until they achieved victory in Iraq. Army Gen. David Petraeus has said that he doesn't believe that the war is one in which victory can be declared.

McCain said that U.S. troops had to be withdrawn in humiliation from Somalia in 1993 after a peacekeeping operation to deliver humanitarian aid turned into a peacemaking operation. He failed to mention, however, that he sponsored a Senate resolution demanding an immediate U.S. withdrawal from Somalia after 29 U.S. troops were killed and 170 wounded in the battle that gave rise to the book and movie Blackhawk Down. The resolution failed.

On energy, McCain said drilling offshore for oil was necessary. Experts have said it will take a decade before oil could be pumped out.

Is Recovery Possible?

All that remains now is to see how the McCain camp tries to recover in the 26 or 27 days until the election. Given its hate-filled stump rhetoric the past four days, my guess is Palin and Friends will return to calling Obama a terrorist lover (Obama=bin Laden), a dark man with a dark past (hint hint), someone who can’t be trusted (he might steal your car or rape your daughter).

But how can the country be expected to trust McCain, a man who twice now came across as the old coot who lives at the far end of the alley and yells at people who walk past his house?

Political Spots We Should See – But Probably Won’t

Denver ad agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners teamed up with MJZ director Craig Gillespie for a series of "behind the scenes" spoofs aimed to question Republican campaign strategy with a smirk. For now the spots are primarily available on YouTube but let’s hopes that's just the beginning

Maverick Maverick Maverick

Clear It First With Karl

Gas Drilling

Gag Palin