Sunday, February 8, 2009

Meet Binyam Mohamed

Tomorrow, the ACLU is bringing a case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco - Mohamed vs. Jeppesen Dataplan.  They charge that Jeppesen, a subsidiary of the Boeing Corp., "knowingly provided logistical services that aid the CIA's 'extraordinary rendition' program."  This is the current Dept. of Justice's first opportunity to show whether it will repudiate or cover up the torture regime created by former President George W. Bush.

The Bush administration in 2007 filed for dismissal based on "state secrets", despite of all the information already in the public domain.  In similar cases, the U.S. government has chosen to release detainees rather than give them any kind of hearing. The only reasonable conclusion is that the administration wanted to hide their criminal acts of torture more than they wanted to bring suspected terrorists to justice.  In this case, despite a request from the UK for Mr. Mohamed's release in 2006, he still remains at Guantánamo Bay. [edited for factual error]

Following up on a campaign promise, President Obama signed a series of executive orders in his first week in office that, in no uncertain terms, ordered the close of Guantánamo Bay and all the CIA "Black Sites" around the globe.  Another order specified the use of the Army Field Manual as the guidelines for interrogation for all agencies.  I took that as a sign that the U.S. torture regime had ended, and that I could once again fly my country's flag.

However, last week, the BBC reported that UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband "disputed claims...that the US threatened to stop sharing intelligence with the UK over an alleged torture case."  (This is in regards to a UK court case alleging Mohamed, a British citizen, was tortured.) And in response to Mr. Miliband's position, 

In a statement, the White House said it "thanked the UK government for its continued commitment to protect sensitive national security information".

It added that this would "preserve the long-standing intelligence sharing relationship that enables both countries to protect their citizens".

That statement, from Obama's White House, made me question his commitment to erasing the stain of torture.  Those worries were enhanced by Attorney General Holder's confirmation hearings. 

However, the Sunday Telegraph reported yesterday that David Davis alleges "the information being held back is [protecting] the British government, where at least two cabinet ministers have denied any complicity whatsoever.  It is very clear who stands to be embarrassed by this and who is being protected by this secrecy.  It is not the Americans, it is Labour ministers."  I read that as distancing the current U.S. government from the travesty of justice evidenced by preventing Mr. Mohamed from presenting evidence of his torture in a court of law;  the current UK government has just as much motivation to hide that evidence as the former Bush administration did.

I'm extremely interested in finding out if Mr. Holder's DOJ will plead "state secrets" tomorrow.

UPDATE: (10:47am)

Via Susan Duclos,  I see that the CIA is working their propaganda machine again, this time avoiding breaking U.S. law by dumping the article in the UK Telegraph

They believe that a British-born Pakistani extremist entering the US under the visa waiver programme is the most likely source of another terrorist spectacular on American soil.

Intelligence briefings for Mr Obama have detailed a dramatic escalation in American espionage in Britain, where the CIA has recruited record numbers of informants in the Pakistani community to monitor the 2,000 terrorist suspects identified by MI5, the British security service.

I'm not a spy, the report may very well be factually true.  But why is this reported today?

For the record, Binyam Mohamed was born in Ethiopia.

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