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Bush Admin Seeks Silence on Secret CIA Prisons

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  • Dan Clore
    News & Views for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/110406C.shtml US Seeks Silence on CIA Prisons By
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 4, 2006
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      US Seeks Silence on CIA Prisons
      By Carol D. Leonnig and Eric Rich
      The Washington Post
      Saturday 04 November 2006

      Court is asked to bar detainees from talking about

      The Bush administration has told a federal judge that
      terrorism suspects held in secret CIA prisons should not be
      allowed to reveal details of the "alternative interrogation
      methods" that their captors used to get them to talk.

      The government says in new court filings that those
      interrogation methods are now among the nation's most
      sensitive national security secrets and that their release
      -- even to the detainees' own attorneys -- "could reasonably
      be expected to cause extremely grave damage." Terrorists
      could use the information to train in counter-interrogation
      techniques and foil government efforts to elicit information
      about their methods and plots, according to government
      documents submitted to US District Judge Reggie B. Walton on
      Oct. 26.

      The battle over legal rights for terrorism suspects detained
      for years in CIA prisons centers on Majid Khan, a
      26-year-old former Catonsville resident who was one of 14
      high-value detainees transferred in September from the
      "black" sites to the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay,
      Cuba. A lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights,
      which represents many detainees at Guantanamo, is seeking
      emergency access to him.

      The government, in trying to block lawyers' access to the 14
      detainees, effectively asserts that the detainees'
      experiences are a secret that should never be shared with
      the public.

      Because Khan "was detained by CIA in this program, he may
      have come into possession of information, including
      locations of detention, conditions of detention, and
      alternative interrogation techniques that is classified at
      the TOP SECRET//SCI level," an affidavit from CIA
      Information Review Officer Marilyn A. Dorn states, using the
      acronym for "sensitive compartmented information."

      Gitanjali Gutierrez, an attorney for Khan's family,
      responded in a court document yesterday that there is no
      evidence that Khan had top-secret information. "Rather," she
      said, "the executive is attempting to misuse its
      classification authority . . . to conceal illegal or
      embarrassing executive conduct."

      Joseph Margulies, a Northwestern University law professor
      who has represented several detainees at Guantanamo, said
      the prisoners "can't even say what our government did to
      these guys to elicit the statements that are the basis for
      them being held. Kafka-esque doesn't do it justice. This is
      'Alice in Wonderland.'"

      Kathleen Blomquist, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said
      yesterday that details of the CIA program must be protected
      from disclosure. She said the lawyer's proposal for talking
      with Khan "is inadequate to protect unique and potentially
      highly classified information that is vital to our country's
      ability to fight terrorism."

      Government lawyers also argue in court papers that detainees
      such as Khan previously held in CIA sites have no automatic
      right to speak to lawyers because the new Military
      Commissions Act, signed by President Bush last month,
      stripped them of access to US courts. That law established
      separate military trials for terrorism suspects.

      The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
      is considering whether Guantanamo detainees have the right
      to challenge their imprisonment in US courts. The government
      urged Walton to defer any decision on access to lawyers
      until the higher court rules.

      The government filing expresses concern that detainee
      attorneys will provide their clients with information about
      the outside world and relay information about detainees to
      others. In an affidavit, Guantanamo's staff judge advocate,
      Cmdr. Patrick M. McCarthy, said that in one case a
      detainee's attorney took questions from a BBC reporter with
      him into a meeting with a detainee at the camp. Such
      indirect interviews are "inconsistent with the purpose of
      counsel access" at the prison, McCarthy wrote.

      Dorn said in the court papers that for lawyers to speak to
      former CIA detainees under the security protocol used for
      other Guantanamo detainees "poses an unacceptable risk of
      disclosure." But detainee attorneys said they have followed
      the protocol to the letter, and none has been accused of
      releasing information without government clearance.

      Captives who have spent time in the secret prisons, and
      their advocates, have said the detainees were sometimes
      treated harshly with techniques that included
      "waterboarding," which simulates drowning. Bush has declared
      that the administration will not tolerate the use of torture
      but has pressed to retain the use of unspecified
      "alternative" interrogation methods.

      The government argues that once rules are set for the new
      military commissions, the high-value detainees will have
      military lawyers and "unprecedented" rights to challenge
      charges against them in that venue.

      US officials say Khan, a Pakistani national who lived in the
      United States for seven years, took orders from Khalid Sheik
      Mohammed, the man accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11,
      2001, attacks. Mohammed allegedly asked Khan to research
      poisoning US reservoirs and considered him for an operation
      to assassinate the Pakistani president.

      In a separate court document filed last night, Khan's
      attorneys offered declarations from Khaled al-Masri, a
      released detainee who said he was held with Khan in a dingy
      CIA prison called "the salt pit" in Afghanistan. There,
      prisoners slept on the floor, wore diapers and were given
      tainted water that made them vomit, Masri said. American
      interrogators treated him roughly, he said, and told him he
      "was in a land where there were no laws."

      Khan's family did not learn of his whereabouts until Bush
      announced his transfer in September, more than three years
      after he was seized in Pakistan.

      The family said Khan was staying with a brother in Karachi,
      Pakistan, in March 2003 when men, who were not in uniform,
      burst into the apartment late one night and put hoods over
      the heads of Khan, his brother Mohammad and his brother's
      wife. The couple's 1-month-old son was also seized.

      Another brother, Mahmood Khan, who has lived in the United
      States since 1989, said in an interview this week that the
      four were hustled into police vehicles and taken to an
      undisclosed location, where they were separated and held in
      windowless rooms. His sister-in-law and her baby remained
      together, he said.

      According to Mahmood, Mohammad said they were questioned
      repeatedly by men who identified themselves as members of
      Pakistan's intelligence service and others who identified
      themselves as US officials. Mohammad's wife was released
      after seven days, and he was released after three months,
      without charge. He was left on a street corner without
      explanation, Mahmood said.

      Periodically, he said, people who identified themselves as
      Pakistani officials contacted Mohammad and assured him that
      his brother would soon be released and that they ought not
      contact a lawyer or speak with the news media.

      "We had no way of knowing who had him or where he was,"
      Mahmood Khan said this week at the family home outside
      Baltimore. He said they complied with the requests because
      they believed anything else could delay his brother's release.

      In Maryland, Khan's family was under constant FBI
      surveillance from the moment of his arrest, his brother
      said. The FBI raided their house the day after the arrest,
      removing computer equipment, papers and videos. Each family
      member was questioned extensively and shown photographs of
      terrorism suspects that Mahmood Khan said none of them
      recognized. For much of the next year, he said, they were
      followed everywhere.

      "Pretty much we were scared," he said. "We live in this
      country. We have everything here."

      Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

      Dan Clore

      Now available: _The Unspeakable and Others_
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