On Re-presenting the ‘Terrorist’

In a series of interviews by the Talking Dog, lawyers for Bagram and Guantanamo detainees have been discussing why they do what they do; namely, represent clients who the government has and continues to maintain are ‘terrorists.’ In the most recent of  these interviews, Ellen Lubell, co-counsel for Abdul Aziz Naji, tells us what’s at stake for her in detainee representation and why such work must continue to be done.

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The Ever-changing Narrative of Guantanamo: Guantanamo Suicides now Guantanamo murders?

According to a joint investigation for Harper’s Magazine and NBC, the infamous Guantanamo suicides – or so we were told at the time-  of three detainees in June 2006, were in actuality probably murders. The new investigation reveals that  the deaths of 37 year old Yemeni, Salah Ahmed al-Salami and two Saudis, Talal al-Zahrani, 22, and Mani Shaman al-Utaybi, 30, most probably resulted from suffocation under conditions of harsh interrogation and torture.  At the time of the event in question, the camp’s commander interpreted the deaths of these men as “an act of asymmetrical warfare”, rather than desperation.

Based on the six-month investigation, here are some of the findings that compelled Harper’s and NBC to claim that – contra to the widely accepted narrative of suicide –  the evidence now points towards murder:

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Ten days into the New Year: Not-so-Happy Updates from Gitmo and Bagram

self-deceptionThe Obama administration and Judiciary have been providing a pretty grim preview of 2010 in relation to Guantanamo Bay and Bagram policies.  Here’s a three-part update on some of the devastating ‘developments’ that have taken place in recent days:

1) In the final days of 2009, a federal appeals court in New York ruled that U.S. government agencies may refuse to confirm or deny the existence of records when faced with a Freedom of Information Act request that might disclose sensitive intelligence activities, sources, or methods.

The ruling came on the heels of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request submitted in 2006 by 23 lawyers representing detainees at Guantánamo Bay. In the aforementioned case, lawyers were seeking access to records from the National Security Agency (NSA) and Justice Department that were obtained or related to “ongoing or completed warrantless electronic surveillance or physical searches regarding, referencing, or concerning”any of the 23 lawyers.  

During the ruling, one of the three presiding appeals court judges, Jose Cabranes, uses logic that strikes the ear as painfully predictable in stating that “as long as the disclosure of such data puts national security at risk, intelligence agencies can withhold secret information.” Cabranes further writes, ” The fact that the public is aware of the program’s existence does not mean that the public is entitled to have information regarding the operation of the program, its targets, the information it has yielded, or other highly sensitive national security information that the government has continued to classify.”

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