“Globalizing Torture” – More Than 50 Countries Helped the CIA Outsource Torture

6 Feb

By Spencer Ackerman

February 06, 2013 “Wired” – – In the years after 9/11, the CIA ran a worldwide program to hold and interrogate suspected members of al-Qaida, sometimes brutally. It wasn’t alone: The agency had literally dozens of partners that helped in ways large and small. Only it’s never been clear just how many nations enabled CIA capture and torture; cooperated with it; or carried it out on behalf of the U.S. — until now.
A new report from the Open Society Foundation details the CIA’s effort to outsource torture since 9/11 in excruciating detail. Known as “extraordinary rendition,” the practice concerns taking detainees to and from U.S. custody without a legal process — think of it like an off-the-books extradition — and often entailed handing detainees over to countries that practiced torture. The Open Society Foundation found that 136 people went through the post-9/11 extraordinary rendition, and 54 countries were complicit in it.

Some were official U.S. adversaries, like Iran and Syria, brought together with the CIA by the shared interest of combating terrorism. “By engaging in torture and other abuses associated with secret detention and extraordinary rendition,” writes chief Open Society Foundation investigator Amrit Singh in a report released early Tuesday, “the U.S. government violated domestic and international law, thereby diminishing its moral standing and eroding support for its counterterrorism efforts worldwide as these abuses came to light.”

Iran didn’t do any torturing on behalf of the CIA. Instead, it quietly transferred at least 15 of its own detainees to Afghan custody in March 2002. Six of those found their way into the CIA’s secret prisons. “Because the hand-over happened soon after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan,” Singh writes, “Iran was aware that the United States would have effective control over any detainees handed over to Afghan authorities.” At least one of those detainees, Tawfik al-Bihani, ended up at Guantanamo Bay, where his official file makes no mention of his time with the CIA.

Iran’s proxy Syria did torture on behalf of the United States. The most famous case involves Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen snatched in 2002 by the U.S. at John F. Kennedy International Airport before the CIA sent him to Syria under the mistaken impression he was a terrorist. In Syrian custody, Arar was “imprisoned for more than ten months in a tiny grave-like cell, beaten with cables, and threatened with electric shocks by the Syrian government,” Singh writes.

But it wasn’t just Arar. At least seven others were rendered to Syria. Among their destinations: a prison in west Damascus called the Palestine Branch, which features an area called “the Grave,” comprised of “individual cells that were roughly the size of coffins.” Syrian intelligence reportedly uses something called a “German Chair” to “stretch the spine.” These days the Obama administration prefers to call for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, the murderer of over 60,000 Syrians, to step down.

Many, many other countries were complicit in the renditions. For a month, Zimbabwe hosted five CIA detainees seized from Malawi in June 2003 before they were released in Sudan. Turkey, a NATO ally, allowed a plane operated by Richmor Aviation, which has been linked to CIA renditions, to refuel in Adana in 2002 and gave an Iraqi terrorist suspect to the CIA in 2006. Lots of countries played host to CIA rendition flights, including Sri Lanka, Thailand, Afghanistan, Belgium and Azerbaijan. Italy let the plane carrying Arar refuel. Under Muammar Gadhafi, Libya was an eager participant in the CIA’s rendition scheme — and the Open Society Foundation sifted through documents found after Gadhafi fell to discover that Hong Kong helped shuttle a detainee named Abu Munthir to the Libyan regime.

The full 54 countries that aided in post-9/11 renditions: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, Yemen, and Zimbabwe. The Open Society Foundation doesn’t rule out additional ones being involved that it has yet to discover.

Singh and the Open Society Foundation don’t presume that the CIA is out of the extraordinary renditions game under Obama. Danger Room pal Jeremy Scahill recently toured a prison in Somalia that the CIA uses. While Obama issued an executive order in 2009 to get the CIA out of the detentions business, the order “did not apply to facilities used for short term, transitory detention.” The Obama administration says it won’t transfer detainees to countries without a pledge from a host government not to torture them — but Syria’s Assad made exactly that pledge to the U.S. before torturing Maher Arar.

Much of this is likely to be contained in the Senate intelligence committee’s recent report into CIA torture. It’s unclear when, if ever, that report will be declassified. But the Open Society Foundation’s study into renditions comes right as Obama aide John Brennan — already under pressure to clarify his role, if any, in post-9/11 torture — is about to testify to the panel ahead of becoming CIA director. It remains to be seen if the Senate committee will ask Brennan to clarify if the CIA still practices extraordinary rendition, along with its old friends.

Wired.com © 2013 Condé Nast.

Image embedded in this article by ICH, did not appear in the original item.


Cameron’s Attack on George Galloway Reflects the West’s Self-delusions

5 Feb

By Glenn Greenwald

February 01, 2013 “The Guardian” —  On Wednesday afternoon in the British Parliament, near the end of question time for British Prime Minister David Cameron, a short though incredibly revealing exchange occurred between Cameron and Respect Party MP George Galloway. Whatever one’s preexisting views might be of either of these two polarizing figures is entirely irrelevant to the points and facts raised here about this incident.

Galloway stood to ask Cameron about a seeming contradiction in the policy of the British government (one shared by the US government). He wanted to know why it is that the British government is so intent on fighting and bombing Islamic extremists in Mali, while simultaneously arming and funding equally brutal Islamic extremists in Syria (indeed, although it was once taboo to mention, it is now widely reported in the most establishment venues such as the New York Times that while many ordinary Syrians are fighting against the savagery and tyranny of Assad, Islamic extremists, including ones loyal to al-Qaida, are playing a major role in the war against the regime). The same question could have been posed regarding Libya, where Nato-supported rebel factions were filled with fighters with all sorts of links to al-Qaida.

There certainly are reasonable answers to Galloway’s point, but whatever one’s views might be on those points, there’s no denying it’s a reasonable question. It is simply the case that the British government, along with its Nato allies including the US, were – in both the wars in Syria and Libya – on the same side as, and even arming and funding, the very extremists, “jihaidists”, and even al-Qaida-supporting fighters they claim pose the greatest menace to world peace.

In lieu of addressing the substance of the question, Cameron unleashed a 10-second snide attack on Galloway himself. “Some things come and go,” proclaimed the Prime Minister, “but there is one thing that is certain: wherever there is a brutal Arab dictator in the world, he will have the support of [Galloway].” Here is the one-minute video of this exchange:

As usual, anyone who questions the militarism of western governments is instantly smeared as a sympathizer or even supporter of tyrants. Thus, those who opposed the aggressive attack on Iraq were pro-Saddam; those who now oppose bombing Iran love the mullahs; those who oppose Nato intervention in Syria or Libya harbor affection for Assad and Ghadaffi – just as those who opposed the Vietnam War fifty years ago or Reagan’s brutal covert wars in Latin America thirty years ago were Communist sympathizers, etc. etc. Cameron’s outburst was just the standard smear tactic used for decades by western leaders to try to discredit anyone who opposes their wars.

The more important point here is that of all the people on the planet, there is nobody with less authority to accuse others of supporting “brutal Arab dictators in the world” than David Cameron and his Nato allies, including those in the Obama administration. Supporting “brutal Arab dictators in the world” is a perfect summary of the west’s approach to the Arab world for the last five decades, and it continues to be.

In January of last year, Cameron visited the region’s most repressive dictators, the close British allies inSaudi Arabia. In Riyadh, he met King Abdullah and Crown Prince Nayef in order, he said, to “broaden and deepen” the UK-Saudi relationship. That “relationship” was already quite broad and deep, as “Saudi Arabia is the UK’s largest trading partner in the Middle East with annual trade worth £15bn a year.”

Moreover, “a Saudi official told the BBC the leaders would discuss sales of the latest technology and weaponry, and making Britain a major part of a massive Saudi military expansion.” Indeed, as the Guardian noted in 2012, “during the third quarter of last year Britain exported arms valued at more than £1m to Saudi Arabia, including components for military combat vehicles and turrets.” In June, Cameron again visited Saudi Arabia as well as the UAE, and the Huffington Post UK reported at the time: “Cameron has been open about his desire to sell arms to the Saudis, the UAE and Oman.”

In November – just two months before yesterday’s attack on Galloway – Cameron again traveled around to several tyrannical Gulf states – including his close ally Saudi Arabia as well as the United Arab Emirates – in order to sell British fighter jets and other military hardware to those regimes. As Amnesty International UK’s head of policy and government affairs Allan Hogarth said: “Saudi Arabia has been the recipient of record-breaking arms deals involving the UK.” Indeed, as the Guardian noted during this trip: “In 2009 the Saudi air force used UK-supplied Tornado fighter-bombers in attacks in Yemen which killed hundreds – possibly thousands – of civilians.”

cameron bahrainThen there was that charming incident in May, 2011, when – at the height of the violent crackdown by the Bahraini regime on democratic protesters – Cameron welcomed Bahrain’s Crown Prince to 10 Downing Street and posed for photographers shaking hands with the tyrant. Former Labour foreign minister Denis MacShane protested that Cameron should not be “rolling out the red carpet for Bahrain’s torturer-in-chief”.


In August, Cameron met with Bahrain’s King in London. While the Prime Minister’s office claimed he pressed the King to implement greater political reforms, the Guardian noted that the King was “given red carpet treatment in Downing Street”.
cameron bahrain

Just last year, it was reported that – despite a temporary suspension of licenses – “Britain has continued to sell arms to Bahrain despite continuing political unrest in the Gulf state”. Indeed, “several licences were granted for arms exports, including in February and March 2011, and during the height of the violence.” Specifically:

    “According to the figures the government approved the sale of military equipment valued at more than £1m in the months following the violent crackdown on demonstrators a year ago. They included licences for gun silencers, weapons sights, rifles, artillery and components for military training aircraft.

“Also cleared for export to Bahrain between July and September last year were naval guns and components for detecting and jamming improvised explosive devices.”

As Maryam Al-Khawaja of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights said: “The US, UK and France attack Russia for providing weapons to Syria, but that’s exactly what they are doing for the Bahrain government; Russia is criticised for a naval base in Syria, but the US has one here.” Of course, Bahrain wasn’t the only close UK ally to violently attack democratic protesters in the kingdom. “During last year’s uprising, Saudi Arabia sent forces to Bahrain in British military trucks.”

Then there’s Britain’s long-standing support for the Mubarak dictatorship, and Cameron’s personal support for Mubarak as the protest movement unfolded. In January, 2011, as tens of thousands of Egyptians assembled to demand an end to their dictatorship, he sat for an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, who asked him whether Mubarak should resign. Cameron said: “What we support is evolution, reform, not revolution.” As Egyptian police were killing protesters, this exchange then occurred:

    “ZAKARIA: Is Mubarak a friend of Britain?

“CAMERON: He is a friend of Britain. Britain has good relations with Egypt.”

The following month, as Mubarak’s crackdown intensified, “the British government refuse[d] to say whether it would follow the example of Germany and France and suspend exports of arms and riot control equipment to Egypt.” In 2009, Britain sold £16.4m worth of arms to the regime in Egypt.

In 2010, the UK granted licenses for the sale of arms to Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, the UAE and Yemen. In July of that year, shortly after Cameron assumed office, “the Scrutiny of Arms Exports report by the Parliamentary Committee on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) show[ed] that there are still 600 existing arms exports licences in place for the sale of goods including assault weapons, ammunition, and surveillence equipment, to Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen.” In 2011, Der Spiegel reported:

    “Britain exported over €100 million ($142 million) in weapons to Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi in the last two years alone. Included in those shipments are sniper rifles that may currently be in use against the Libyan opposition. Furthermore, Gadhafi’s terror police are British-trained.”

So who exactly is it that is guilty of supporting every “brutal Arab dictator in the world”? At the top of any honest list, one would find David Cameron, along with the leaders of most leading Nato countries, beginning with the US (see here and here). Indeed, as Der Spiegel noted in April 2011 about yet another of Cameron’s trips to visit Arab tyrants: “Cameron flew on to Kuwait, where he got down to the real purpose of his trip: selling weapons to Arab autocrats.”

Cameron’s so-called “slapdown” of Galloway was predictably celebrated in many precincts. The reality, though, is that it was quite cowardly: he refused to answer Galloway’s question, then smeared him knowing that he could not reply, then simply moved on to the next questioner. Galloway was able to respond afterward only by posting an open letter on his website, noting the multiple Arab dictators steadfastly supported not by Galloway but by his accuser, David Cameron.

The more important point here is that this so perfectly reflects the central propagandistic self-delusion amazingly sustained throughout the west. The very same western countries that snuggle up to and prop up the planet’s worst dictators are the same ones who strut around depicting themselves as crusaders for democracy and freedom, all while smearing anyone who objects to their conduct as lovers of tyranny. That’s how David Cameron can literally embrace and strengthen the autocrats of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Yemen and so many others, while accusing others with a straight face of lending support “wherever there is a brutal Arab dictator in the world”.

In the most minimally rational universe, Cameron’s act of extreme projection would provoke a sustained fit of mocking laughter. In the propaganda-suffused western world, it all seems perfectly cogent and even inspiring.
The Hillary Clinton version

The outgoing US Secretary of State on Wednesday unleashed this bizarre description of the Egyptian people: “It’s hard going from decades under one-party or one-man rule, as somebody said, waking up from a political coma and understanding democracy.” As As’ad AbuKhalil astutely replied: “The US and not the Egyptian people were in denial about the true nature of the Sadat-Mubarak regime. No, in fact they were not in denial: they knew full well what they were doing against the Egyptian people.”

Indeed, it was Hillary Clinton – not the Egyptian people – who proclaimed in 2009: “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family. So I hope to see him often here in Egypt and in the United States.” (As a related bonus, see this all-time great Hillary Clinton quote about the US role in the world.) In sum, any list of those lending support “wherever there is a brutal Arab dictator in the world” must begin with the leaders of the US and the UK in order to have any minimal credibility.

© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited


Americans Are Living in an Orwellian State

5 Feb

No Place To Hide
Americans Are Living in an Orwellian State.

By Brian De Palma

February 03, 2013 “RT” –  Film director Brian de Palma has become an expert in voicing people’s frustration with the shortcomings of the US government. RT caught up with the celebrated Hollywood filmmaker and screenwriter to ask him political and apolitical questions.

­Known best for his suspense and crime thriller movies, such as Scarface, The Untouchables, and Mission: Impossible, de Palma has also made a number of films that challenge the political establishment such as Casualties of War.

In his 2007 picture, Redacted, de Palma tells a story of a US soldier in the Iraq War trying to shoot an amateur documentary. Through the eyes of this soldier de Palma exposes what he considers to be the hypocrisy inherent in the US war machine.

RT: Oliver Stone, who wrote the script to one of your best-known films ‘Scarface,’ said in an interview with RT that Americans are living in an Orwellian state. It might not be oppressive on the surface, but there is no place to hide, eventually some part of you is going to end up in a database somewhere. According to historian Peter Kuznick, the US government intercepts over 1.7 billion messages a day. Are you aware of this?

BDP: Well, I can understand Oliver’s paranoia because Oliver, like myself, has very strong views about what our American foreign policy now is. Needless to say, I probably have been followed around since the 1960s, because I made very political anti-war pictures at that time. I sort of accept it. My last political picture ‘Redacted’ was not received well in my country, because I was criticizing our foreign policy and what the hell we are doing in Iraq. All these terrible things happen when we put these young boys in these worlds where they don’t understand what they are fighting for or why they are there. So I understand why Oliver thinks we are being followed all the time, we probably are!
RT: Your drama ‘Redacted,’ which deals with the war in Iraq, provoked political debate in America with claims it portrays the US soldiers in a negative light. Are you sensitive to such critiques? Even your film’s title makes it clear that the truth about the war in Iraq has been edited and hidden from the American public.

BDP: Unfortunately, in America you can never say anything negative about the American troops even though they are over in a country they shouldn’t be, doing things where a lot of innocents are getting killed. They are all valued warriors.

I think our foreign policy is incorrect, I don’t think we should have been in Iraq at all, I think we were lied to by our government. When you put young boys in situations when they don’t know why they are there, it’s even worse than Vietnam. Not only are you in a terrible environment, where everybody wants to kill you, and you walk around and suddenly the earth explodes, your best friend’s just lost his leg, you detest the people you’re supposed to be fighting for and you do crazy things. That’s what ‘Redacted’ is about, and that’s what ‘Casualties of War’ was about. These wars make no sense and crazy things happen.

RT: You’ve studied the phenomenon, or rather the pathology of violence for over four decades. Why is America so keen to get involved in conflicts wherever they happen, Afghanistan to Libya, shooting first and thinking later?

BDP: Many things that are repeated over and over again sort of create a special atmosphere. One is: ‘America is the greatest nation in the world!’ I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that! Do they say that in Russia? Do you say Russia is the greatest nation in the world?

RT: Not so often, no.

BDP: Why are we all over the world? Why do we have a military presence in countries all over the world? Why? Because we are the policemen of the world? Who decided this? Consequently we get ourselves into a lot of trouble. And there is also the economic thing.

RT: According to president Obama, an economic recovery has began. But America cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many can barely make it.

BDP: What do we sell? Planes, guns, rockets, missiles – to all these countries all over the world. That’s where our biggest interest is. It’s our biggest export. Defense.

RT: America spends as much money on militarysecurity intelligence as the rest of the world combined.

BDP: You’re dealing with a big economic reality. The idea that we would cut any money to the defense budget is unbelievable. Let’s get a few more planes, let’s buy a few more ships. For what? We’re going broke doing this. Eisenhower warned about the military-industrial complex: Watch out! It just grows and grows and grows. And nobody can seem to stop it!

RT: Barack Obama has been recently sworn in for his second term, but you don’t seem to be very happy with his achievements.

BDP: Oh no, Obama’s trying to change some of this, but our country is very split. We have liberals on either coast, and we have this very conservative center of the country. That’s why it is so difficult to get anything done in the Congress.

Why do we have guns? What about guns all over the place? We’re slaughtering children and people think – oh, maybe we need more police within the school rooms. It’s crazy! But guns are big business. They like to sell guns. We are probably the only country in the world, that has guns all over the place.

RT: Following the mass shooting at the elementary school in Connecticut in December, the Los Angeles police department has decided to deploy 600 armed police patrol at elementary and middle schools. Do you think increasing police patrols could help halt violence? Some say that the real purpose of a police buildup at schools is to make kids used to the constant presence of police and the growing atmosphere of fear.

BDP: There was an incident in China where somebody went to school and attacked all the children. Fortunately, he only had a knife. So he only managed to stab a few people and kill no one. When you have automatic weapons that can fire a hundred rounds in 10 seconds, it gets crazy. These are the kind of things that make no sense in America. Obviously, after this last terrible tragedy, they are trying to make some changes in the gun rules. So, I can buy an automatic weapon with a magazine that holds 200 bullets to go hunting? It’s absurd! These are the kind of things that drive me crazy. They make no sense whatsoever.

RT:‘Zero Dark Thirty,’ the controversial US drama focusing on the decade-long manhunt for Osama Bin Laden, has been slammed for excessive violence and depiction of torture. Do you find such criticism fair enough?

BDP: Absolutely not! Big surprise, we tortured a few people to find out where the terrorists were. Wow! I can’t believe it! America torturing people? What’s going on in Guantanamo Bay, these poor guys have been there forever? Is the war ever over? Maybe we should waterboard them a little bit. They’ve only been there for 10 years.

RT: Where does this glorification of murder and torture come from?

BDP: I think the use of torture in the Bigelow movie is very realistic. I don’t know why everybody is so surprised or upset. But the fact that you would say that Americans actually torture people was like… impossible. But of course they torture people!#

Information Clearing House (ICH)

Aside 4 Feb