Wednesday, March 17, 2010

America's Secret Prisons

By Stephen Lendman
16 March, 2010

On January 28 in, Anand Gopal headlined, "Night
Raids, Hidden Detention Centers, the 'Black Jail,' and the Dogs of
War in Afghanistan," recounting unreported US media stories about
killings, abductions, detentions, interrogations, and torture in "a
series of prisons on US military bases around the country." Bagram
prison, for example, is "a facility with a notorious reputation for
abusive behavior," including brutalizing torture and cold-blooded murder.

Even worse is the "Black Jail," a facility consisting of individual
windowless concrete cells with bright 24-hour lighting, described by
one former detainee as "the most dangerous and fearful place" in
which prisoners endure appalling treatment.

The pattern is predictable. US/NATO convoys are attacked or reports
of Taliban forces are received. Americans respond accordingly,
rounding up suspects, mostly innocent civilians, and detaining them
for interrogations, torture, abuse and degrading treatment - not just
in Afghanistan but in secret black sites globally, according to a
January 26 UN Human Rights Council (HRC) report detailing practices
engaged in by various countries including America, by far the world's
worst offender in its war on terror - one waged against humanity for
unchallengeable power and total global dominance.

Besides Guantanamo, Afghanistan and Iraq, HRC said the CIA runs
scores of offshore secret prisons in over 66 countries worldwide for
dissidents and alleged terrorists - in Egypt, Algeria, Jordan,
Morocco, Syria, Libya, Tunisia, India, Pakistan, Russia, Uzbekistan,
Sudan, Zimbabwe, Ethopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Poland, Romania, Bosnia,
Kosovo, Thailand, Diego Garcia, and elsewhere.

Post-9/11, "the United States embarked on a process of reducing and
removing various human rights and other protection mechanisms"
through numerous laws and administrative acts including:

-- the September 18, 2001 joint House-Senate Authorization for Use of
Military Force (AUMF) for "the use of United States Armed Forces
against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the
United States";

-- the October 2001 USA Patriot Act (just renewed) that shredded
civil liberty protections, including due process, freedom of
association, and the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures;

-- the October 2002 House-Senate "Joint Resolution to Authorize the
Use of the United States Armed Forces Against Iraq," even though the
country (and Afghanistan) posed no threat to America, had no ability
or intention to strike, or did so on 9/11 or any other time;

-- the November 2001 Military Order Number 1 authorizing the
president to capture, kidnap or otherwise arrest non-citizens (and
later citizens) anywhere in the world for any reason and hold them
indefinitely without charge, evidence, or due process and judicial
fairness protections in a civil court;

-- numerous presidential Executive Orders, memorandums, findings,
National and Homeland Security Presidential Directives, and other
documents authorizing the abduction, detention, torture, and killing
of alleged terrorists;

-- National Presidential Directive 51 granting the president
dictatorial power to declare a national emergency, followed by
martial law without congressional approval;

-- the February 2002, a presidential memorandum declaring Geneva's
Common Article 3 (prohibiting torture and other lawless acts) and
Third Geneva, pertaining to prisoners of war, null and void for
"al-Qaeda or Taliban detainees;"

-- the November 2002 Homeland Security Act creating a national Gestapo;

-- the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act denying detainees habeas rights
and authorizing the use cruel, abusive, inhumane or degrading
treatment in the interests of national security;

-- the 2006 Military Commissions Act, known as "the torture
authorization act," granted the executive sweeping unconstitutional
powers to detain, interrogate and prosecute alleged terror suspects
and collaborators (including US citizens), imprison them indefinitely
in military prisons without proof of guilt, and deny them habeas and
judicial fairness protections; and

-- various other actions subverting the letter and spirit of
international and US laws to pursue a global war on terror, including
worldwide detention centers, claiming human rights laws there don't apply.

"One of the consequences of this policy was that many detainees were
kept secretly and without access to the protection accorded to those
in custody" under international and US laws.

Secret Detention Under International Law

For purposes of HRC's report, they occur when governments authorize,
consent, support or acquiesce to depriving persons of their liberty;
where they're denied contact with the outside world, including legal
counsel; or when states neither confirm or deny knowledge or
involvement in detaining alleged terrorists or suspected collaborators.

The practice is abhorrent and irreconcilable with international human
rights and humanitarian law. Under no circumstances is it justified,
yet America is a serial offender.

As arbitrary arrests, they deny personal liberty and security. Among
other international law provisions, they violate Article 1 of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) stating:

"Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one
shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention," and other
provisions affirming fundamental international law rights.

The UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights Working Group on
Arbitrary Detention calls secret ones arbitrary and illegal by
denying detainees information on charges against them, a prompt
hearing before a judge, and right to a fair trial according to
established international law principles.

Secret detentions take many forms, including black sites for "High
Value Detainees (HVD)," where they're physically and psychologically
tortured for extended periods to extract confessions that are
inadmissible in courts, according to international law.

The UN's study showed detainees held incommunicado often aren't
charged with a crime, informed of charges, provided counsel, allowed
time to prepare a proper defense, or tried by impartial tribunals to
establish their guilt or innocence.

Under the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons
from Enforced Disappearance, the practice places individuals outside
legal protections, and is conducive to coercing confessions under
torture and other abusive treatment.

The Rome Statute's Article 7 calls "enforced disappearance of person"
a crime against humanity if it's committed as part of a widespread or
systematic attack directed against a civilian population." In all
respects, it's abhorrent, illegal, and unjustifiable.

Geneva, applying to all conflicts, allows war prisoner and civilian
detentions - the former to be released when hostilities end; the
latter held under very strict conditions, namely:

-- if it's "necessary for imperative reasons of security," and

-- for penal prosecutions for individuals charged with a crime.

America's "unlawful enemy combatant" designation has no legitimacy in
international law under any conditions or circumstances.

Geneva mandates detainees be registered and held in officially
recognized facilities. Incommunicado detentions are strictly prohibited.

America's Secret Gulag

HRC called a country complicit in secret detentions under these conditions:

-- when one nation asks another to do it;

-- when a country won't identify persons on airplanes passing through
their airports or airspace after information about CIA detentions are
known; and

-- when a nation "knowingly (takes) advantage of the situation by
sending questions to the State which detains the person or by
soliciting or receiving information from persons" held secretly; this
applies to at least the following states:

-- Britain;

-- Germany;

-- Canada;

-- Australia;

-- Italy;

-- Kenya; and

-- Macedonia.

In June 2007, in a report for the Council of Europe, Swiss politician
and former state prosecutor, Dick Marty, said he had:

"enough evidence to state that secret detention facilities run by the
CIA did exist in Europe from 2003 to 2005, in particular in Poland
and Romania. (He noted that) the majority of detainees brought to
Romania were extracted 'out of theater(s) of conflict.' This phrase
pertains to transfers from Afghanistan and Iraq.

In August 2009, The New York Times also reported that former US
intelligence officials oversaw the construction of three small CIA
facilities, each for about a half dozen detainees, one being "a
renovated building on a busy street in Bucharest, Romania."

In Poland from 2003 - 2005, eight High Value Detainees (HVDs) were
allegedly held in Stare Kiejkuty village, including Khalid Sheik
Mohammed, the alleged 9/11 mastermind based on his torture-extracted
confession, rendering it void and inadmissible according to law.
Besides the UN Convention Against Torture, the Supreme Court ruled
Brown v. Mississippi (February 1936):

"The rack and torture chamber may not be substituted for the witness
stand," and an earlier Court (in Fisher v. State - November 1926)
called coerced confessions "the chief iniquity, the crowning infamy
(and) the curse of all countries."

Yet Mohammed's will be used against him in a planned kangaroo
proceeding. So will those extracted from his four alleged
co-conspirators, denying them any measure of justice, even though, in
all likelihood, they're innocent.

Marty reported information from civil aviation records on
CIA-operated planes landing at Szymany airport in northeastern Poland
and the Mihail Kogalniceanu military airfield in Romania from 2003 -
2005. He also explained how they were disguised using fake flight plans.

HRC's report revealed further evidence about front company flights
from Bangkok, Thailand to Szymany on December 5, 2002 ("disguised
under multiple layers of secrecy" to avoid US "fingerprints") and
others from December 3 - 6, 2002.

Other data "demonstrate(d) that a Boeing 737 aircraft flew to Romania
in September 2003" from Dulles Airport, Washington DC on September 20, 2003.

Romania supplied information about secret CIA detention centers and
flights to and from the nation's territory, but wouldn't confirm or
deny if prisoners left planes on its soil.

However, Lithuanian officials gave the CIA a building for as many as
eight alleged terrorists where they were held for over a year until
late 2005, after which they were moved because of public disclosure.
In November 2009, it was learned that the facility was built inside
an exclusive riding academy in Antaviliai, and that Lithuania
cooperated with CIA detentions in 2004. Two Afghanistan to Vilnius
flights were identified - on September 20, 2004 and on July 28, 2005.

In November 2009, the Lithuanian government confirmed that its State
Security Department (SSD) received requests to "equip
facilities....suitable for hold detainees," but it wouldn't admit
they were used for that purpose.

When late 2005 Washington Post and ABC News reports revealed Eastern
European detentions, prisoners were allegedly moved from Europe to
other undisclosed black sites, possibly in war zones or Africa.

Guantanamo has at least one black site, "unnamed and officially
unacknowledged" out of sight about a mile north of Camp Delta. "The
unacknowledged 'Camp No' is described as having no guard towers and
being surrounded with concertina wire, with one part of the compound
having 'the same appearance as the interrogation centers at other
prison camps.' " It's not known if the CIA or Joint Special
Operations Command runs it.

Other reports reveal American black sites at Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo
and Eagle Base in Tuzla, Bosnia. The Council of Europe's Human Rights
Commissioner, Alvaro Gil-Robles, told Le Monde he was "shocked" by
Camp Bondsteel's facility, "a smaller version of Guantanamo." In
December 2005, UN Kosovo Ombudsman, Marek Antoni Nowicki, said:

"There can be no doubt that for years there has been a prison in the
Bondsteel base with no external civilian or judicial oversight. (It)
looks like the pictures we have seen of Guantanamo Bay." A Tuzla
detainee said he was also held at a secret Diego Garcia facility.
He's now at a Syria black site.

Afghanistan hold hundreds of detainees in numerous facilities,
including three well-known ones at Bagram airbase (called "The
Hanger), and two others near Kabul - the "Dark Prison" (with no
lights, heating or decoration) and the "Salt Pit." Another is in the
Panjshir valley, north of Kabul, and three others are called Rissat,
Rissat 2, and "Prison Number Three."

In all US and black site facilities, former detainees (ones lucky to
be released) describe nightmarish treatment, including:

-- being hooded or blindfolded;

-- painfully shackled for extended periods;

-- exposed to extreme heat and cold;

-- kept naked;

-- waterboarded numerous times;

-- held in isolation or tiny cells with other prisoners where
sleeping must occur in shifts;

-- severe physical and psychological treatment creating permanent
trauma for many;

-- beatings;

-- continuous blaring noises or music;

-- 24-hour bright light or total darkness;

-- sleep deprivation for days;

-- painful stress positions for extended periods;

-- being sodomized;

-- denied food, too little, or inedible kinds;

-- painful force-feeding for hunger strikers;

-- denied medical care;

-- coerced to confess to offenses they never committed;

-- hung from steel bars in their cells or from metal hooks in
interrogation rooms for extended periods;

-- kept in tubs of ice water creating hypothermia;

-- threatened with or attacked by dogs;

-- given electro-shocks; and

-- other cruel, abusive and degrading treatment.

In Iraq, the same practices occurred, exposed at Abu Ghraib, but at
other facilities as well throughout the country, including at Forward
Operating Base Tiger in Al-Anbar Province, a base outside Mosul, a
temporary holding camp near Nasiriyah, a Tikrit Forward Operating
Base, and others.

In 2005, it was learned that America secretly captured, transferred
and detained alleged terrorists at its own sites, sending many to
secret ones in other states.

After the 2001 Afghan invasion, the CIA was involved straightaway in
US and foreign black site detentions and torture, yet in its January
13, 2006 report to the Committee Against Torture, the Bush
administration claimed:

"The United States does not transfer persons to countries where (it's
believed) it is 'more likely than not' that they will be tortured.
The United States obtains assurances, as appropriate, from a foreign
government to which a detainee is transferred that it will not
torture the individual being transferred."

Clear evidence shows otherwise - that prisoners were subjected to
cruel, inhumane, abusive and degrading treatment at US and foreign
sites, contrary to Bush administration assurances and later from the
equally culpable Obama administration.

After promising to respect human rights and close Guantanamo and
other detention facilities as expeditiously as possible, and refrain
from operating new ones, it's kept them open, endorsed preventive
detentions without charges, continues extraordinary renditions to
black sites, and embraces torture as official US policy like the Bush

America's torture prisons still flourish as secretly and abusively as
under George Bush despite promises of more humane practices, quickly
broken to pursue America's imperial agenda for unchallengeable power
and total global dominance.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on
Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to
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Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US
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