Thursday, March 03, 2005

Questionable Justice

Abu Ali Fam, originally uploaded by Wazdat!.

"Extraordinary Rendition"

I have only one problem with the arrest of Abu Ali on charges of conspiring to assassinate the President, or set up a terrorist cell in the United States. Can we trust the evidence? If true then he is guilty of a serious crime indeed. Okay, full diclosure. I HATE TERRORISTS! I don't care who or what they are fighting for, they are immoral. The ultimate act of injustice to me is to kill an innocent person simply because of what that person symbolizes. Terror cells are small dictatorships that have many victims. People say to me, "'But the Catholics of Ireland were oppressed!" I say: "Then let them claim the right of accusers, and not become that which they despised!" So they tell me: "The Palestinians are 'freedom fighters'!" I tell them: "No! Robin Hood was a 'freedom fighter', the Maquis and the Resistantes were 'freedom fighters'! They were armed men fighting an even better armed foe, who had the upper hand, not killers of innocent civilians, like these 'suicide bombers'!" Though I am generally against the death penalty, I have made and would make an exception in the case of Timothy McVeigh and Osama bin-Laden. And I DO NOT FORGET HOW 3000 INNOCENT CIVILIANS DIED ON SEPTEMBER 11!

Alas, I fear that in the case of Abu Ali, the shoe is on the other foot.

What people have to understand here, is that in the case of "extraordinary rendition", we can't dodge the issue by saying that we freed the Iraqis from Saddam look how bad those people are anymore. That's OUR AMERICAN FLAG flying over Abu Ghraib now! OUR AMERICAN FLAG has flown over Guantanamo Bay for a century now. Those are OUR PRISONERS we are handing over for "extraordinary rendition". OUR AMERICAN FLAG, OUR AMERICAN PRISONS OUR PRISONERS. OUR AMERICAN VALUES, not Saddam's are in question here! OUR PRIDE, AND GOOD NAME, are also at stake. So it's not Saddam's, but OUR AMERICAN CONSCIENCE, and OUR AMERICAN JUSTICE we need to worry about!!!

Ahmed Omar Abu Ali was born not in Jordan, like his parents, but in Houston Texas in 1981. He is an American citizen whose family now lives in Falls Church VA. He probably speaks English without anything more than a Tidewater accent. He went to an Islamic highschool. He was a valedictorian. He was thought of by his peers as a wise young man, rather mature for his age. He was involved in the northern Virginia’s Muslim community.

Now the governments case is not without merit. There seems to be the matter of a conspiracy to train and export terrorists throughout the Middle East from the Falls Church area. According to the Washington Post:

“Kwon, 27, of Fairfax County, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, transfer of a firearm for use in a crime of violence, and discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. Hasan, 27, also of Fairfax County, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and discharging a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.

Both Kwon and Hasan could have faced up to life in prison under federal law, though prosecutors had said that sentencing guidelines would limit their terms to less than 20 years.

Surratt, of Suitland, a former U.S. Marine Corps instructor, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and illegal transportation of a firearm in interstate commerce.

He had been facing up to 15 years in prison.”

The training was said to have taken place on a private estate and involved the use of paintball weapons, but there were also Report on real weapons involved according to the Post:

“Yesterday's arrests resulted from a federal probe in which agents armed with search warrants have raided the homes of about a dozen people in the Washington suburbs and have seized rifles and other weapons, scopes, ammunition, terrorist literature and other documents, court filings say.”

And it gets worse:

“In September, the charges were upgraded against seven of the men, and two now face allegations that they conspired to provide material support to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda organization and to his Taliban protectors in Afghanistan. A third is accused of supplying services to the Taliban.

All seven men charged in the upgraded indictment have pleaded not guilty. Six of them are scheduled to go on trial in February, with the seventh facing trial in March.”

In the course of the investigation Abu Ali’s name came up as someone who allegedly trained in the estate, and attended anti-western lectures.

And he is charged with conspiring to assassinate the President.

The long shadow of John F. Kennedy's limo at Dealy Plaza reaches me, even if I don't like this President. Nobody assassinates our President! Ever!

I have no problem with arresting and punishing terrorists with stiff, heavy sentences. In the way this administration administers justice however, there I do have and enormous problem.

Evidence and convictions obtained through torture are not just the “fruit of a poisonous tree”. This is so because torture is immoral, and the evidence obtained is really useless, due to the fact that most people would say anything to avoid torture. It is mainly used as a tool of terror.

Ahmed Abu Ali was arrested in Saudi Arabia in connection to a bombing. He was held for two years without being charged however.
Now the government claims that there is no evidence that Ali was tortured, yet his lawyers claim they saw evidence of whipping. It is possible that in the two years he was detained he could’ve been tortured by a number of methods that leave no mark on the body.

Saudi Arabia is not the best known champion of human rights:

From the Amnesty International Report on Saudi Arabia:

"Torture and ill-treatment

Torture in detention
Because of the strict secrecy surrounding arrests and incommunicado detention, it was not possible to assess the scale of torture used against those arrested in connection with or following the violent incidents which took place. However, allegations of torture and ill-treatment of those detained in the name of security and “fighting terrorism”, as well as of prisoners arrested in previous years, were reported.

• Muhammad Rajkhan was said to have suffered damage to his eardrum and loss of weight reportedly as a result of torture and ill-treatment after his arrest in February (see above).
• Five UK nationals and one Canadian national who were released from prison in August following a royal pardon provided detailed accounts of their treatment in prisons in Riyadh. They claimed that they repeatedly suffered various forms of torture during interrogation in order to force them to confess to police accusations against them. These included beatings all over the body and on the soles of the feet, sleep deprivation, and shackling and handcuffing for long periods.
Flogging and amputation
Flogging and amputation continued to be imposed by courts as judicial corporal punishment. Among those sentenced to flogging during the year was a woman schoolteacher who received 120 lashes in addition to three and a half months in prison. She was reportedly convicted of planting drugs in the briefcase of her fiancé and reporting him to the police in order to have him imprisoned and facilitate her separation from him. According to one press report she was forcibly engaged to him by her family who refused her request to go back on the marriage.

At least one person, Ghazi Muhammad Mohsen Abdul-Ghani, a Bangladeshi national, had his right hand amputated in March in Mecca. He was convicted of theft."

Also Bush’s policy of “rendition”, the outsourcing of detention in countries known to have tortured prisoners is also highly questionable.

The CIA has been given broad authority ever since 9/11 to transfer suspected terrorists to foreign countries for interrogation without case by case approval from the White House, the State or Justice Departments.

Officials will tell you that the policy is aimed only at people suspected of knowing about terrorist operations, and that the CIA goes through great lengths to ensure that they are treated humanely in the host countries. But therein lies the disingenuousness of the CIA stance.

A New York Times article, gives the impression that the ability of the CIA to ensure the welfare of it’s erstwhile charges is limited”

“In Congressional testimony last month, the director of central intelligence, Porter J. Goss, acknowledged that the United States had only a limited capacity to enforce promises that detainees would be treated humanely. ‘We have a responsibility of trying to ensure that they are properly treated, and we try and do the best we can to guarantee that,’ Mr. Goss said of the prisoners that the United States had transferred to the custody of other countries. ‘But of course once they're out of our control, there's only so much we can do. But we do have an accountability program for those situations.’”

According to the article, anecdotal evidence of the ineffectiveness of CIA policing is not only rife, but a strange pattern emerges:
“Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian, who was detained at Kennedy Airport two weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks and transported to Syria, where he said he was subjected to beatings. A year later he was released without being charged with any crime.

Khaled el-Masri, a Lebanese-born German who was pulled from a bus on the Serbia-Macedonia border in December 2003 and flown to Afghanistan, where he said he was beaten and drugged. He was released five months later without being charged with a crime.

Mamdouh Habib, an Egyptian-born Australian who was arrested in Pakistan several weeks after the 2001 attacks. He was moved to Egypt, Afghanistan and finally Guantánamo. During his detention, Mr. Habib said he was beaten, humiliated and subjected to electric shocks. He was released after 40 months without being charged.”

The program, from it’s inception during the Clinton Administration was never very effective in it’s safeguards according to another article in the Sydney Morning Herald:

“Sending terrorist suspects overseas for interrogation began during the Clinton presidency, but required White House approval before anyone could be subject to so-called rendition.

That rule changed after September 11, according to a New York Times report at the weekend, when President George Bush signed a classified directive that gave the CIA power to operate without case-by-case approval.

Neither the Administration nor the CIA have publicly acknowledged that hundreds of terrorist suspects have been subjected to rendition, but it is widely accepted that the practice, which gathered speed after September 11, continues to this day.

On 60 Minutes, Michael Sheuer, a former CIA analyst who said he helped devise the rendition program during the Clinton presidency, said US authorities did ask officials in the countries to which suspects were taken not to torture them.

"But they don't have the same legal system we have; we know that going into it," Mr Sheuer said. "We ask them not to torture these people, but we aren't there to check on them."

Asked whether the CIA knew people were being tortured and whether this was acceptable, he said: "It's OK with me. Our role was to gather information. My job was to protect American lives."

Aside from torture, the first three stories have one other thing in common, each of these individuals was held in detention for an average of 19 months and then released without being charged.

Which brings us back to Abu Ali.

His family was forced to sue to have him either charged or set free.

Only after the lawsuit was he charged and brought back to the United States. The Saudi government was in no way interested in charging him for the crime he was arrested. Yet they kept him for nearly two years until now. Now they propose to rely on evidence obtained in a country with no regard for human rights. The courts are clear about illegally obtained evidence, it is unusable. Testimony obtained by any undue duress including torture is therefore unusable. Now do the math. Most people detained by the Saudis at the behest of the United States accuse them of torture. How many of them are wrong? Amnesty International is certain of the horrid record of the Saudis. The FOIA documents obtained by the ACLU also call into question the methods of interrogation and discipline at Guantanamo, and other prison camps. At it’s worst, any implication of torture points to a violation of civil and human rights. At the least it weakens any case the government might have against real terrorists, who could then walk out on a technicality. At it’s most frightening, it could take a possibly innocent man and turn him into a terrorist.

I will allow The Washington Post to conclude my statement for me:

“Moreover, even as Mr. Abu Ali's indictment solves one problem, it potentially creates another. Mr. Abu Ali has alleged that he was tortured by the Saudis; federal prosecutors denied this claim yesterday, but, according to Post staff writers Jerry Markon and Steve Coll, Saudi security officials confirmed the use of some physical and psychological pressure tactics. An examination of the indictment does not reveal what evidence, if any, was gleaned directly or indirectly from coerced statements. But the timing of the indictment, nearly two years after the arrest, suggests that U.S. authorities may be relying on evidence provided by the Saudis. This is not necessarily inappropriate. But the courts need to ensure that no evidence obtained by torture -- with or without the connivance of the U.S. government -- is used to convict people in U.S. courts.”


I just found something by Der Spiegel that puts the whole thing in perspective:

"American officials have offered pretzel logic to defend these practices. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has said that if the United States sends a prisoner abroad, then our nation's constitution no longer applies.

This is just the sort of thinking that led to the horrible abuses at prisons in Iraq, where the Army is now holding more Iraqi prisoners than ever: nearly 9,000. The military says it's doing a better job of screening these prisoners than in the days when a vast majority of Iraqi prisoners were, in fact, innocent of any wrongdoing. But there is still a shortage of translators to question prisoners, the jails are dangerously overcrowded, and there's never been a full and honest public accounting of the rules the American prison guards now follow.

Let's be clear about this: Any prisoner of the United States is protected by American values. That cannot be changed by sending him to another country and pretending not to notice that he's being tortured."

We can complain all we want about how terrible things were under Saddam and his atrocities. This time, all the injustice is occurring under our flag, and under American command and therefore - our responsibility. And though that is the worst of the aspects of the problem, only a little less so is the thought that American legal justice is one of it's victims as well.

The Washington Post - 11 Indicted In Alleged Va. Jihad Network

Findlaw - The Strange Case of Abu Ali

The New York Times - Rule Change Lets C.I.A. Freely Send Suspects Abroad to Jails

Der Spiegel - Torture by Proxy

A.C.L.U. Release FOIA Navy Documents on Mistreatment of Iraqi POWs

Amnesty International - Fear Of Torture - Abu Ali

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