Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Torture Evidence Withheld from Obama: Who's in Charge?

In this great diary, Valtin exposes a situation where the Pentagon has blacked-out an entire two pages of material showing evidence of torture in the case of Binyam Mohamed. We're talking "medieval-type" torture. Without even knowing if the guy was really guilty. He's a citizen of Ethiopia. Why are they hiding this from their own Commander in Chief? What will his reaction be?

In a shocking revelation just posted at UK Guardian, Binyam Mohamed's attorney Clive Stafford Smith, who is also director of the legal charity Reprieve, reports that "substantial parts" of a memo, attached to a letter to Barack Obama, documenting evidence of Mohamed's torture at the hands of CIA agents and their extraordinary rendition proxies, were blanked out so the president could not read them. Who did that?

US defence officials are preventing Barack Obama from seeing evidence that a former British resident held in Guantánamo Bay has been tortured, the prisoner's lawyer said last night, as campaigners and the Foreign Office prepared for the man's release in as little as a week....

Stafford Smith tells Obama he should be aware of the "bizarre reality" of the situation. "You, as commander in chief, are being denied access to material that would help prove that crimes have been committed by US personnel. This decision is being made by the very people who you command."

Valtin quotes Smith's letter to Obama:

Dear President Obama:

I am writing with great urgency concerning the rendition and torture of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner represented by our charity. His name is Binyam Mohamed, and he is a British resident.

You will doubtless have been informed about Mr. Mohamed's torture -- he was abused in truly medieval ways over a period of more than two years in Pakistan (at the behest of the US), then again in Morocco (where he had been rendered by the CIA), and then in the Dark Prison in Kabul.

There has been a firestorm in the media of our closest ally, the United Kingdom because, according to two British judges, the Bush Administration "threatened" to withdraw national security cooperation with the UK if the judges ordered the release of materials concerning the torture of Mr. Mohamed in US custody.

The British judges bowed to this 'threat'-- but suggested at the end of their judgment that your administration might reconsider the position taken by your predecessors....

Since we, at Reprieve, are US lawyers with appropriate security clearances, we have access to this classified material. We have therefore assembled a memorandum that collates the evidence of torture in question. It is attached.

... for now, to deal with the British judges' request, we are submitting this information to you with no reference to any agent's name, or even the location of the abuse. Thus, as the British judges suggested, there is nothing in the memo that divulges material that should be considered classified.

We are submitting this letter and attachment to the Privilege Review Team established by the Department of Defense to deal with these issues....

If the DOD is unwilling to forward this material to you, then we will send you only what we are allowed to send you -- which will be a copy of this letter and a redacted version of the memo illustrating the extent to which it has been censored.

And here's a copy of the letter, all blacked-out except for the header. What does this mean? Who's censoring the President? Why?

And if this doesn't get you angry, how about this description of how Mohammad was tortured from Scott Horton at Harper's:

Binyam Mohamed is a 30-year-old Ethiopian who was granted political asylum in Britain in 1994. In 2002, he was seized by Pakistani authorities and turned over to American intelligence officials in connection with the Bush Administration’s extraordinary renditions program. He was shuttled between CIA-operated facilities in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Morocco. During this period of American-sponsored detention, according to court papers, Binyam Mohamed was "routinely beaten, suffering broken bones and, on occasion, loss of consciousness. His clothes were cut off with a scalpel and the same scalpel was then used to make incisions on his body, including his penis. A hot stinging liquid was then poured into open wounds on his penis where he had been cut. He was frequently threatened with rape, electrocution, and death." He is now reported to be close to death in a prison cell in Guantánamo.

Note that Mohamed was not even convicted yet! What purpose does a presumption of guilt, followed by torture, without due process, serve? It serves the salacious thirst for revenge on the part of the lowest level of unthinking dehumanized bestiality. Is that why we elected Barack Obama? Or was his campaign, and indeed his first days and weeks in office, marked by fulfilment of his campaign promise to reverse the dehumanizing process started by the Republican Bush-Cheney administration by closing Guantanamo Bay and stopping torture? That certainly was right up there with Job One.

So what does it mean that some operatives at the Pentagon are censoring Obama's mail? To protect him politically? Or to keep him in the lap of Cheney's evil web of criminal atrocities, by putting blinders on him?

Are we going to let atrocities committed in the name of the United States continue? Or go unpunished? What the hell is the difference between this atrocity and anyone else's atrocity? Hypocrisy. We claim to be better. And so we are far worse. Obama was elected to get rid of this kind of hypocrisy and cruelty in the name of fear and security. Is someone trying to prevent him to do just that? And if so, can't the Commander-in-Chief fire these low-life torture-mongering fear-groveling go-to Cheney-lovin' guys?

President Obama, it's time to take America back. Insubordination to the president elected by the people, for the people, is insubordination to democracy itself. No, torture is never justified by any ends. It defines the very principles by which one lives and organizes society. Its presence means no democracy, no respect for human rights exists. Its absence is the beginning of hope and change. Remember? The majority voted for hope and change, not coverups for torture and other abuses - but transparency.

Transparency begins with the President and what information he receives. This is no small matter. Our very future and moral standing depend on this point.

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