Archive for August, 2009

Cheney Says He May Not Cooperate With Torture Probe if Asked

August 31, 2009

By Jason Leopold
The Public Record, Aug 30th, 2009

vice president dick cheney named in court suit by cia valarie plame 2007 News White House com

Dick Cheney, in a defiant half-hour interview Sunday on Fox New, launched into a blistering attack on the Obama administration, saying the decision by Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a federal prosecutor to conduct a “preliminary review” of about a dozen cases of torture “offends the hell out of me.”

Cheney added he may not cooperate with the investigation if asked to do so by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham, a statement that underscored the former vice president’s deep disdain for the Obama administration and its overhaul of certain Bush era policies related to national security.

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Investigate Top Officials, not Just CIA Interrogators

August 31, 2009

Doug Bandow, The Huffington Post, Aug 24, 2009

Buzz up!

Attorney General Eric Holder is appointing a special prosecutor to review CIA interrogations of terrorist suspects. However, the investigation shouldn’t stop at the agency. No one should be above the law, especially top policymakers.

Investigating Bush administration policies and officials is bound to be controversial. President George W. Bush and his aides undoubtedly did what they thought was right. However, much of it was wrong. The Iraq war was foolish and unnecessary.

And there was no need to sacrifice the Constitution and civil liberties to protect the American people from terrorism. As Barack Obama observed in his inaugural address: “we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.”

Those ideals require an impartial investigation of any Bush administration officials who may have violated the law.

At issue are not policy disagreements, no matter how great. Liberal democracy requires that political conflict remain bounded. Arrest and prison are appropriate only when those in authority break the basic rules of the game.

Already under investigation as possible obstruction of justice is the destruction of the CIA interrogation session tapes. To this Holder has added the torture of prisoners.

The arguments against torture are obvious. First, many, if not most, interrogators believe other techniques are more effective and doubt torture yields accurate information. FBI Director Robert Mueller said that he didn’t “believe it to be the case” that any terrorist attacks had been thwarted by the Bush administration’s use of torture.

Torture has stained America’s reputation, undercutting Washington’s moral claims and discouraging cooperation by allied governments. Perhaps most important, torture undermines what it is to be America. Argued Charles Fried of Harvard Law School, President Ronald Reagan’s Solicitor General: “we cannot authorize indecency without jeopardizing our survival as a decent society.”

The Bush administration claimed that it did not torture, but the evidence is otherwise. Retired Lt. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba and Reagan White House attorney Robert Turner both spoke of “war crimes.” Susan Crawford, a retired (Republican) judge sent to Guantanamo Bay by the Defense Department, concluded that torture had occurred. As head of President Bush’s Office of Legal Counsel Jack Goldsmith revoked two legal opinions which had authorized torture.

Policymakers bear the principal responsibility. The issue was debated at the upper reaches of the White House. The Senate Armed Services Committee concluded that “senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees.”

An investigation also is needed into Bush administration violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The administration made a number of extravagant claims to justify ignoring FISA. First, the president had quasi-monarchical powers, at least in war-time. Second, the Authorization for Use of Military Force repealed every law thought by the president to impede his war powers. Third, as military commander-in-chief the president has authority to ignore an express congressional enactment.

Being commander-in-chief naturally gives the president extensive discretion when it comes to operational issues. However, the Constitution tasks Congress to create the broad legal and administrative frameworks within which military and intelligence operations occur.

Indeed, the Constitution gives Congress almost all war powers other than operational command. The legislature raises the military, declares war, and is to “To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations,” “make rules concerning captures on land and water,” “make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces,” and “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers.”

In the war-related surveillance area, constitutional authority appears to be concurrent. If Congress does not legislate, the president may act. However, if Congress chooses to require warrants before the executive is allowed to spy on Americans, the president has responsibility to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

If President Bush and those around him thought the Congressionally-prescribed procedures to be inadequate, they should have requested additional legal authority from Congress. The legislature consistently gave the president whatever he wanted when it came to fighting terrorism; even the Democratic Congress elected in 2006 acquiesced to administration pressure in amending FISA.

The Obama administration has been nervous about prosecuting Bush officials, lest it be accused of conducting a partisan witch hunt. But President Obama has a legal obligation to uphold the law, and that includes holding accountable government officials who broke the law.

At the very least executive law-breaking requires investigation. The people should know what was done in their name. Moreover, policies and procedures should be adopted to make it harder for future officials to follow suit. It is hard to develop safeguards that will work in the presence of a determined executive and pusillanimous legislature, but the effort must be made.

Finally, prosecution must be considered. If high government officials can violate the law simply by claiming to believe that their actions are legal, then the law is meaningless. The U.S. government has prosecuted foreign officials and soldiers for war crimes, including torture. It must hold its own citizens to the same standard. To survive a democratic republic requires public accountability.

In his opening address at Nuremberg Robert Jackson said that the law must “not stop with the punishment of petty crimes by little people. It must also reach men who possess themselves of great power.” So, too, must it do so in America today.

US Army Chief: We’ll Always Stand by Israel’s Side

August 31, 2009

Senior American officials attend farewell party for Israel’s military attaché Major-General Benny Gantz, who will assume IDF deputy chief post in October

By Yitzhak Benhorin,  August 28, 2009, Israel News, Aug 27, 2009


Washington — The US will always stand by Israel’s side, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said overnight Thursday during a farewell party for Israel’s military attaché in Washington Major-General Benny Gantz, who will be retuning to Israel following his appointment as IDF deputy chief of staff.

The event, which was held at the home of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, was attended by a number of senior American officials, including Dan Shapiro, who heads the Middle East desk at the National Security Council, and Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy.

The military attachés of Egypt and Morocco were also on hand.

Mullen said the attendance of top US military officials was a sign of the strong ties between the US and Israel.

Gantz, who is scheduled to return to Israel on Thursday, will be briefed on the responsibilities of his new position by outgoing Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Dan Harel on Sunday.

Gantz will officially assume the post of deputy IDF chief on October 1. He will be replaced in Washington by outgoing IDF Central Command chief Maj. Gen. Gadi Shamni.

Strong reactions in India over a book on Jinnah

August 31, 2009
Al Jazeerah, Aug 31, 2009

Interview: Jaswant Singh

Singh’s book has provoked a storm of reaction in his own country [EPA]

Jaswant Singh, a former leader with India’s main opposition party, has sparked controversy in his own country with a book on Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) expelled Singh over his book Jinnah: India-Partition Independence, which offered a sympathetic portrayal of Jinnah by an Indian writer.

The local government in Gujarat, a state controlled by the BJP, even moved to ban the book, saying it ran counter to public and national interests.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Singh, a former finance and foreign minister, gave his thoughts on the controversy sparked by his book, as well as on his former political party.

Al Jazeera: When you say that perhaps we need controversy to educate people, that seems to imply that there is some problem for India and Pakistan confronting that history.

Jaswant Singh: We have been manufacturing history, inventing history.

For example, India has demonised Mohammad Ali Jinnah just as Pakistan has demonised Mahatma Gandhi, or [Jawaharlal] Nehru or [Sardar Vallabhbhai] Patel.

They were all Indian. All of them were great Indians. Gandhi and Jinnah were really contemporaries … and Gandhi himself called Jinnah a great Indian.

In terms of the book that you have written, what is more important – that discussion takes place in India about that history or that Jinnah is viewed differently?

The book has sparked controversy in India over its portrayal of Mohammed Ali Jinnah

Once the full book is read, [and] the narrative is grasped, then you understand the enormity of the tragedy and the fruitlessness of the partition, certainly to me.This is not to question the reality of Pakistan, of Bangladesh, but we have to find an answer to the problems of that period.

We created a partition to end peace. There is no peace in Pakistan (inside it), there is no peace in India and there is no peace in Bangladesh. There is no peace between the countries.

You say in the book that “Pakistan is doubtless Muslim but theocentrically it’s not a theocratic state”. I mean, that’s quite a loaded statement to make.

Not at all. “Theocentricism”, where society is centred on Islam – this is in line whether Pakistan, India or Bangladesh, where faith is of paramount importance.

Pakistan is not theocratic in the sense it is not the Mullah that is governing Pakistan … but Pakistan society is governed by Islam. That is the difference. It is a very vital and important difference that has to be understood by the West about Islam.

Should Pakistan be governed in a secular fashion though?

Pakistan should be governed as they determine for themselves … I can wish that it would be better that they were governed as Jinnah had dreamt that they ought to be governed, but it’s for Pakistan to decide.

You say in the book that the modern mind just cannot comprehend Islam precisely because it is a totality. It makes it very difficult for Pakistan to govern in anything that might resemble a secular fashion.

The Western mind cannot grasp the enormity and subtlety of Islam.

India has more Muslims living in it as citizens of India today than Pakistan has. We have lived with Islam for centuries. Islam has been absorbed by the ethos of India.

I think India understands Islam much better than the West does. You see it as an adversary. We see it as part of the Indian vividity. The real renaissance of Islam would have taken place in undivided India if there had not been a partition.

I’m asking you a very personal and direct question because you’ve been such an integral part of the BJP. Do you take any responsibility for the state of affairs? Do you think that the BJP, not just for the country but for the good of itself, needs to reform?

Of course I take responsibility for everything that the party has done up till the moment of my exit. Until the day, I am a member of the party [and] I am responsible for everything the party has had to do or done.

As it is, the political parties that exist in the country are really functioning like private limited companies or family concerns … congress of course is purely and unashamedly a family concern and they don’t make any bones about it, but the same problems seem to have afflicted my former political party. It has become sycophantic, full of time-servers.

These are not the ideals with which we began. The purpose of the party was the service of the nation.

Obama’s AfPak war intensifies on both sides of border

August 30, 2009

By James Cogan, wsws.org, August 29, 2009

As low voter turnout in Afghanistan’s presidential election last week provided further evidence of broad hostility to the US-led occupation, the armed insurgency has continued to escalate. The number of US and NATO troops killed in the country during 2009 reached 301 yesterday—already the highest annual toll of the eight-year occupation.

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Revealed: Docs Describe in Extraordinary Detail Process of ‘Rendition,’ Torture

August 29, 2009

By Jason Leopold, The Public Record, Aug 25th, 2009

outlawed_rendition_torture_and_disappearance_detailAmong the treasure trove of documents released Monday related to the CIA’s detention and torture program is a 20-page background paper that for the first time describes in extraordinary detail the process of “rendition” and the torture prisoners are then subjected to when they are flown to “black site” prisons.

The document was turned over to the ACLU in response to the civil liberties group’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the government late Monday evening along with numerous others, including previously undisclosed Justice Department legal opinions.

The background paper clearly illustrates that the torture of detainees was systematic and micromanaged by the top officials at the CIA, the Justice Department, medical professionals, and likely the White House. Previously, the CIA has refused to disclose any details of its rendition program citing state secrets.

That the torture was overseen by medical professionals is a violation of international laws and treaties, and additionally, a breach of  numerous professional ethical codes, including the United Nations Principles of Medical Ethics and the Declaration of Toyko.

The background paper says the use of torture at the CIA’s “black site” prisons “is essential to the creation of an interrogation environment conducive to intelligence collection.”

High-value detainees “are well-trained, often battle-hardened terrorist operatives, and highly committed to jihad. They are intelligent and resourceful leaders and able to resist standard interrogation approaches.”

The background paper reads as an instructional manual for interrogators on how and when to implement the “combined use of interrogation techniques” after a terror suspect is captured and “renditioned” to a “black site” prison in another country.

“However, there is no template or script that states with certainty when and how these techniques will be used in combination during interrogation,” the background paper states. “The interrogators’ objective is to transition the HVD to a point where he is participating in a predictable, reliable, and sustainable manner. Interrogation techniques may still be applied as required, but become less frequent.

“This transition period lasts from several days to several weeks based on the HVDs response and actions. The entire interrogation process outlined above, including transition may last for thirty days.”

The Dec. 30, 2004 document was prepared by the CIA for Dan Levin in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. The background paper includes an unsigned note on the fax cover sheet that says, “Dan, A generic description of the process. Thank you.”

“The background paper is a profoundly disturbing document that illustrates, as well as anything could, how far the CIA strayed from the law and from values that are integral to our democracy,” said Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU National Security Project. “That the barbaric methods outlined in the paper were approved by the country’s senior-most officials is particularly appalling.”

“The purpose of interrogation is to persuade High-Value Detainees (HVD) to provide threat information and terrorist intelligence in a timely manner, to allow the US Government to identify and disrupt terrorist plots and to collect critical intelligence on al-Qa’ida,” the background paper says. “In support of information previously sent to the Department of Justice, this paper provides additional background on how interrogation techniques are used, in combination and separately, to achieve interrogation objectives.”

The background paper then describes what happens after a terror suspect is captured and turned over to the CIA. The background paper describes this as “rendition.”

“The HVD is flown to a Black Site…A medical examination is conducted prior to the flight,” according to the background paper. “During the flight, the detainee is securely shackled and is deprived of sight and sound through the use of blindfolds, earmuffs, and hoods. There is no interaction with the HVD during this rendition movement except for periodic, discreet assessments by the on-board medical officer. Upon arrival at the destination airfield, the HVD is moved to the Black Site under the same conditions and using appropriate security procedures.”

The so-called “Reception at Black Site” that follows involves a medical assessment and “administrative procedures.” Detainees’ head and faces are then shaved and they are photographed while nude to “document the physical conduction of the HVD.”

“The medical officer also determines if there any contraindications to the use of interrogation techniques.”

Contraindications is defined as a pre-existing condition or other factors that would increase the risk of either using a specific drug, carrying out a medical procedure, or engaging in a particular activity.

Detainees are then interviewed by psychologists who prepare a report about the detainees’ mental state and if there are any “contraindications to the use of interrogation techniques.”

At this point, interrogators begin to question a detainee–”in a relatively benign environment”– to gain an understanding of the prisoner’s “resistance posture” and if he would be willing to cooperate in providing CIA interrogators with immediate information about terrorist plots against the United States.

“The standard on participation is set very high during the Initial Interview,” the background report says. “The HVD would have to willingly provide information on actionable threats and location information on High-Value Targets at large—not lower level information—for interrogators to continue with the neutral approach.”

The interrogation process, according to the background paper, is broken down into three categories: conditioning techniques, corrective techniques and coercive techniques.

The background report the describes the detention conditions detainees are subjected to and states that while that is not considered an interrogation techniques the conditions of their confinement will have an impact when they are interrogated.

The next phase is referred to as “conditioning techniques” where a detainee is reduced to a “baseline, dependent state” as a result of a combination of tactics that leaves the detainee feeling he has no control over basic human needs. The “baseline state” is crucial, according to the background report, because it is supposed to make the detainee feel that his welfare is more important than the “information he is protecting.”

The combination of interrogation techniques, approved in Justice Department legal memoranda, to reduce a detainee to a dependent state includes nudity, sleep deprivation, and dietary manipulation.

The paper notes that merely introducing these techniques alone won’t bring immediate results. Rather, it’s the repeated use of these techniques and using their combined use “which achieves interrogation objectives.”

Clinical descriptions of how to effectively administer these methods is then described. The background says that high-value detainees remain nude for an indefinite period of time. Detainees then are deprived of sleep and are placed in the “vertical shackling position to begin sleep deprivation.”

“Other shackling procedures may be used during interrogations,” the report says. “The detainee is diapered for sanitary purposes, although the diaper is not used at all times.”

Dietary manipulation then follows whereby a detainee is fed Ensure Plus “or other food at regular intervals.” Detainees receive a “target” of 1,500 calories a day based on guidelines from the CIA’s Office of Medical Services.

A high-value detainee who, presumably is uncooperative, then goes through the “corrective techniques” phase, which involves the “insult slap,” “abdominal slap,” “facial hold,” and “attention grasp.” The report says these methods are not administered simultaneously during an interrogation, rather they are interchangeable.

The insult slap “is often the first physical technique used with an HVD once an interrogation begins.”

“As noted, the HVD may already be nude, in sleep deprivation and subject to dietary manipulation, even though the detainee will likely feel little effect from these techniques early in the interrogation,” the report says. “The insult slap is used sparingly but periodically throughout the interrogation process when the interrogator needs to immediately correct the detainee or provide a consequence to a detainee’s response or non-response.

“The interrogator will continually assess the effectiveness of the insult slap and continue to employ it so long as it has the desired effect on the detainee. Because of the physical dynamics of the various techniques, the insult slap can be used in combination with water dousing or kneeling stress positions. Other combinations are possible but may not be practical.”

The same methods are employed when an interrogator uses the abdominal slap, the attention grasp and the facial hold. The next phase involves what the report calls “coercive techniques,” some of which were first disclosed in Justice Department legal opinions released in April. Those methods include, walling, water dousing, stress positions.

Cramped confinement, according to the report and the CIA’s Office of Medical Services, calls for placing a detainee in a large box no more than eight hours at a time for “no more than 18 hours a day.” The report also said interrogators can use a small box no more than two hours at a time and no more than 18 hours per day.

Because of the “unique” aspects of “cramped confinement” it cannot be combined with other torture methods.

The process that follows next is a sort of checklist for interrogators, or as the report says it, “a day-to-day look” at the interrogation process.

Here’s what the report says:

A hooded high-value detainee is taken to the interrogation room and, under the direction of interrogators, is stripped, placed into shackles and positioned with his back to the “walling wall.” Interrogators approach the detainee, place the walling collar over his head and around his neck and stand in front of him.

The detainee’s hood is then removed and the interrogator explains to the prisoner that he will do “whatever it takes to get important information” from him. If the detainee begins to resist he is immediately slapped across his cheek. If that doesn’t work, the prisoner is then slapped on his stomach.

Once it became clear to interrogators that a detainee was “lying, withholding information, or using other resistance techniques,” the interrogator would repeatedly slam the prisoner head first into a wall. Then the detainee would be placed in the center of the interrogation room—nude– diapered, and shackled and deprived of sleep. White noise not exceeding 79 decibels would then be played to as a tool to keep the detainee awake.

“This first interrogation session may last from 30 minutes to several hours based on the interrogators’ assessment of the HVD’s resistance posture,” the background paper says.

Another torture session follows and the time lapse could be as short as one hour or as long as a day. Between the first and second sessions, medical and psychological personnel observing the torture must advise “there are no contraindications to another interrogation session.”

The second round of torture follows the exact same pattern as the first; the detainee is placed in front of the “walling wall” and asked a series of questions and depending on the answers is slammed into the wall, slapped on his face and stomach. Except during this session, a detainee who fails to respond in a satisfactory manner is doused with water for several minutes. Stress positions and wall standing are also integrated.

Sleep deprivation and dietary manipulation and white noise are repeated again if a detainee does not provide information his interrogators believe he has. The detainee is nude at all times.

And then the process is repeated for a third time with the methods and line of questioning becoming more intense. For example, slamming a detainee into a wall would be repeated multiple times. Or, if a detainee placed in a stress position and fails to remain in that position he would be slammed into the wall. The only way for a detainee to stop this brutal treatment, the background paper notes, is by “cooperating with interrogators.”

Interrogators can then decide, after the third round of torture ends, to put a detainee in either a large or small box if it will have “the appropriate effect.”

Sleep deprivation can then continue for five days straight, “or possibly beyond for the hardest resisters,” but it cannot exceed 180 consecutive hours.

“Sleep deprivation will end sooner if the medical or psychologist observer finds” it necessary,” the background paper notes. “On average, the actual use of interrogation techniques can vary upwards to fifteen days based on the resilience of the HVD.”

If interrogators need to exceed a 30-day pre-approved period, the interrogation team would need to submit a new interrogation plan to CIA headquarters in Langley.

Earlier this week, the Obama administration announced that it will continue to render suspected terrorists to other countries, but it will monitor each case to ensure the detainees are not tortured.

Jennifer Turner, a researcher with the ACLU Human Rights Program, said that pledge doesn’t go far enough.

“Any transfer of detainees in U.S. custody to other countries must fully comply with domestic and international human rights law,” she said. “Examining the Bush administration rendition program and holding accountable those who broke the law will help to ensure that the same mistakes aren’t repeated by the Obama administration.”

Gen. McChrystal Seeks 20,000 More Troops for Afghanistan

August 29, 2009

Plan Will Test War-Weary Public, Over-Stretched Military

by Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com, August 28, 2009

According to a report in the Saturday edition of the Independent, top US commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal will request another 20,000 troops for the war effort in Afghanistan, on top of the escalation already provided by President Obama, when he issues his new “plan” for the nation.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal

Shortly after taking office President Obama approved the addition of another 17,000 to the war effort as part of an attempt to turn around the sagging war effort. He added another further 4,000 troops in March as part of his new “comprehensive strategy” at the time.

Needless to say, the strategy did not work, and the situation in Afghanistan has continued to worsen. Gen. McKiernan was ousted in May, and Gen. McChrystal was put in place to attempt yet another new strategy. The release of that strategy has been delayed, but has long been assumed to be another escalation, which the administration seems only too eager to oblige.

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Gaza: Fighting for the Right to Walk

August 29, 2009
Foreign Policy Journal, August 28, 2009
by Ramzy Baroud

gaza

Gaza’s troubles have somehow been relegated, if not completely dropped from the mainstream media’s radar, and subsequently from the world’s conscience and consciousness. Weaning the public from the sadness there conveys the false impression that things are improving and that people are starting to move on and rebuild their lives.

But nothing could be further from the truth. Since the conclusion of Israel’s war last year, the Palestinian Ministry of Health declared that 344 Gaza patients have reportedly been added to the swelling number of casualties.

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Death of a Myth: Israel’s Support of a Two-State Solution

August 29, 2009

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Page 7

Special Report

By Rachelle Marshall

ISRAEL’S actions from the beginning have directly contradicted the image it projects to the West. The founding of a country that was to be “a light among nations” required the forcible expulsion of most of its original inhabitants. The “Middle East’s only democracy” became the brutal oppressor of three million Palestinians. The nationhood that was to endow the Jewish people with “normality” gave them instead a garrison state in which military strength is the dominant value.

  • On the day of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s White House meeting with President Barack Obama, a Palestinian woman in the occupied city of Hebron stares at an Israeli soldier standing guard near a wall spraypainted by settlers with obscenities and the Star of David. Ultranationalist Israeli Knesset members were visiting the city to protest Netanyahu’s promotion of the easing of restrictions on Palestinians (AFP photo/Menahem Kahana).

The most enduring myth of all is that Israel would welcome peace with the Palestinians and the Arab nations if they agreed to recognize Israel’s legitimacy as a state. In 1955 then-Prime Minister Moshe Sharett recorded in his diary a statement by Israel Defense Minister Moshe Dayan that revealed Israel’s true policy: preserving the unity of an immigrant population by discouraging peace efforts and maintaining a sense of permanent beleaguerment.

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CIA detention programme: Criminal investigations long overdue

August 28, 2009

US Attorney General Eric Holder, June 2009

US Attorney General Eric Holder, June 2009

© APGraphicsBank

Amnesty Internaional, 27 August 2009

US Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement on Tuesday that he has ordered a “preliminary review” into some interrogations of some detainees in the secret detention programme operated by the CIA after the attacks of 11 September 2001, while a welcome first step, does not go far enough, Amnesty International said.

“The USA needs to ensure that every case of torture is submitted for prosecution, whether or not perpetrators claim to have been following orders, and those who authorized or ordered the commission of torture or other criminal abuse of detainees must also be brought to justice,” said Rob Freer, Amnesty International’s researcher on the USA. “The USA should also establish an independent commission of inquiry to investigate all aspects of the USA’s detention practices in what the previous administration called the ‘war on terror'”, he said.

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