By Patrick Martin
7 August 2007
A confidential report by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) suggests that Bush administration officials may have committed war crimes in the operation of CIA "secret prisons" overseas, according to a lengthy analysis published on the web site of the New Yorker magazine Sunday.
The Red Cross report concluded that the methods used in the CIA interrogation of alleged 9/11 terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other Al Qaeda prisoners were "tantamount to torture" and that Bush administration officials had likely committed "grave breaches" of the Geneva Conventions.
The article by Jane Mayer, entitled "The Black Sites," is the product of a series of interviews with former CIA officers involved in operating the agency's secret prisons overseas, agents who directly participated in torture sessions and apparently concluded that the methods they were employing were either immoral or counterproductive, or both.
The New Yorker has become one of the principal conduits for dissent within the military/intelligence apparatus directed against the policies of the Bush White House. Mayer's colleague, Seymour Hersh, wrote the first extensive report on the abuse of prisoners at the US military prison at Abu Ghraib, near Baghdad, as well as a series of exposÃ©s about US preparations for a military strike against Iran.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured by Pakistani authorities in early 2003, just before the US invasion of Iraq, and held at secret CIA locations for nearly four years before his transfer to GuantÃ¡namo Bay. Last March, the Pentagon made public his "confession" to carrying out or planning no less than 31 separate terrorist atrocities, a statement widely hailed in official circles as proof that torture—or, in Washington-speak, "enhanced interrogation techniques"—was an effective and legitimate practice in the "war on terror."
At the time, the World Socialist Web Site noted the dubious character of Mohammed's self-incriminating statements, in which he claimed responsibility for an improbable number of spectacular plots, including purported plans to destroy the Sears Tower, the Empire State Building and London's Big Ben, and to assassinate former US President Jimmy Carter and Pope John Paul II. (See: "")
No politically literate observer doubted that Mohammed had been severely tortured, and many said so, among them journalist Nat Hentoff ("True Confessions: The Amazing Tale of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed"), who compared the 26-page "confession" to the self-indictments by prisoners in the Stalinist purge trials of the 1930s. Mayer's article confirms, in fact, that the CIA actually employed torture techniques first developed by the Soviet KGB and copied by US intelligence agencies during the Cold War.") and Professor Anthony D'Amato of Northwestern University School of Law ("
The International Committee of the Red Cross was given access to Mohammed late last year, after his transfer to GuantÃ¡namo Bay. The policy of the ICRC is to discuss its findings only with the government holding prisoners in custody, not with the press, in order to insure its continued access to prisoners. But, according to Mayer, the ICRC report on the 15 detainees held in the CIA's secret prisons was circulated through the very highest levels of the White House, State Department and National Security Council, and to some congressmen on the House and Senate committees that oversee the intelligence agencies.
Mayer cited "congressional and other Washington sources familiar with the report," writing that "one of the sources said that the Red Cross described the agency's detention and interrogation methods as tantamount to torture, and declared that American officials responsible for the abusive treatment could have committed serious crimes. The source said the report warned that these officials may have committed 'grave breaches' of the Geneva Conventions, and may have violated the US Torture Act." Mayer adds, "The conclusions of the Red Cross, which is known for its credibility and caution, could have potentially devastating legal ramifications."
In other words, those US government officials who authorized and carried out the torture of CIA prisoners could face war crimes charges before either an American or international tribunal, as could those who subsequently became aware of what was taking place in the secret prisons and covered it up.
According to Mayer's article, the CIA use of torture was not a "rogue" operation, but a massive bureaucratic enterprise involving systematic research and development to find the "best" methods for breaking down prisoners. CIA officials reviewed the techniques employed by the Phoenix Program during the Vietnam War as a model for the "war on terror." The Phoenix Program involved the systematic assassination of an estimated 20,000 cadres, supporters and sympathizers of the National Liberation Front, as well as the widespread torture of prisoners.
The agency also sought interrogation advice from the secret police of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, all of which practice barbaric methods of torture against political prisoners. And one former military interrogator described the techniques of exerting total control over a prisoner's environment as "the KGB model," developed during the purges against political dissidents in the former Soviet Union, and subsequently mimicked by the CIA.
Among the techniques used on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were prolonged sensory deprivation, continuous shackling while naked, use of a dog leash and female interrogators, forcible slamming into the walls of his cell, suspension from the ceiling of the interrogation room by his arms, and the now-notorious practice of waterboarding, the simulated drowning technique employed as torture since medieval times (when it became known as the "Chinese water torture.")
One interrogation expert told Mayer, referring to the victims of the torture sessions: "People were utterly dehumanized. People fell apart. It was the intentional and systematic infliction of great suffering masquerading as a legal process. It is just chilling."
The torture was so severe and systematic that it had a profound psychological effect on some of the torturers themselves, according to Mayer, who interviewed one of those who interrogated Mohammed. This interrogator described a fellow torturer who now "has horrible nightmares ... It really haunts him. You are inflicting something really evil and horrible on somebody."
CIA officials repeatedly voiced concerns that the orders they were receiving from the White House, and particularly from Vice President Dick Cheney, might leave them vulnerable to criminal prosecution, particularly since they were instructed to keep prisoners like Mohammed alive and thereby preserve them as witnesses to their own abuse. As one official told Mayer, in a particularly chilling passage, "It would have been better if we had executed them."
A former CIA official told Mayer that many agents had taken out liability insurance to help cover the anticipated legal bills when they face prosecution for prisoner abuse. There is a "high level of anxiety about political retribution," he said, and "several guys expect to be thrown under the bus," serving as fall guys for the decision-makers at the highest levels, including Bush, Cheney, former CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who, as White House counsel, supervised the process of giving a legal stamp of approval to torture.
Several leading congressional Democrats are well aware of the ICRC report, which was circulated to leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence committees, chaired by Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Congressman Sylvestre Reyes of Texas. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were likely "in the loop" as well.
This fact underscores the complicity of the congressional Democratic leadership, who only two days ago pushed through legislation that greatly expanded the domestic spying powers of an administration which they knew had been branded by the International Committee of the Red Cross as a serial perpetrator of war crimes.
Despite the sensational character of Mayer's revelations, there has been relatively little comment on the subject in the American media. The Washington Post, in an article Sunday previewing the New Yorker account, confirmed the existence of the Red Cross report and its circulation at the highest levels in the US capital.
It cited "sources familiar with the document" as confirming that the detainees interviewed by the ICRC gave similar accounts of their torture even though they were held in isolation from each other and could not coordinate their stories. This reinforces the credibility of their testimony—as does the exporting of these methods from the CIA secret prisons and the GuantÃ¡namo Bay concentration camp to the US military prison in Abu Ghraib, Iraq, where digital photographs made public in 2004 caused worldwide revulsion at US torture methods.
The following should appear at the end of every post:
According to the IRS, "Know the law: Avoid political campaign intervention":
Tax-exempt section 501(c)(3) organizations like churches, universities, and hospitals must follow the law regarding political campaigns. Unfortunately, some don't know the law.
Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are prohibited from participating in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. The prohibition applies to campaigns at the federal, state and local level.
Violation of this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes. Section 501(c)(3) private foundations are subject to additional restrictions.
Political Campaign Intervention
Political campaign intervention includes any activities that favor or oppose one or more candidates for public office. The prohibition extends beyond candidate endorsements.
Contributions to political campaign funds, public statements of support or opposition (verbal or written) made by or on behalf of an organization, and the distribution of materials prepared by others that support or oppose any candidate for public office all violate the prohibition on political campaign intervention.
Factors in determining whether a communication results in political campaign intervention include the following:
- Whether the statement identifies one or more candidates for a given public office
- Whether the statement expresses approval or disapproval of one or more candidates' positions and/or actions
- Whether the statement is delivered close in time to the election
- Whether the statement makes reference to voting or an election
- Whether the issue addressed distinguishes candidates for a given office
Many religious organizations believe, as we do, that the above constitutes a violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
That said, we make the following absolutely clear here:
- The Real Liberal Christian Church and Christian Commons Project not only do not endorse any candidate for any secular office, we say that Christianity forbids voting in such elections.
- Furthermore, when we discuss any public-office holder's position, policy, action or inaction, we definitely are not encouraging anyone to vote for that office holder's position.
- We are not trying to influence secular elections but rather want people to come out from that entire fallen system.
- When we analyze or discuss what is termed "public policy," we do it entirely from a theological standpoint with an eye to educating professing Christians and those to whom we are openly always proselytizing to convert to authentic Christianity.
- It is impossible for us to fully evangelize and proselytize without directly discussing the pros and cons of public policy and the positions of secular-office holders, hence the unconstitutionality of the IRS code on the matter.
- We are not rich and wouldn't be looking for a fight regardless. What we cannot do is compromise our faith (which seeks to harm nobody, quite the contrary).
- We render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. We render unto God what is God's.
- When Caesar says to us that unless we shut up about the unrighteousness of Caesar's policies and practices, we will lose the ability of people who donate to us to declare their donations as deductions on their federal and state income-tax returns, we say to Caesar that we cannot shut up while exercising our religion in a very reasonable way.
- We consider the IRS code on this matter as deliberate economic duress (a form of coercion) and a direct attempt by the federal government to censor dissenting, free political and religious speech.
- It's not freedom of religion if they tax it.
And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. (Matthew 17:24-26)