Sunday, May 30, 2004

Echoes of Lives Lost

Far From Iraq, Echoes of Lives Lost in Combat:
"THESE are the things they left behind. A University of Michigan sweatshirt that still smells of her. His stuffed bunny from childhood, the one with a single button eye. A peso from the Dominican Republic. A Harley-Davidson. Some dog tags. A void.

Hundreds of voids, in fact. They honeycomb a map of the United States, from the jazzy avenues of Upper Manhattan to the hushed stretches of Tallahassee, from the other side of the country to the house down the street. As of last week, the official count of American soldiers who have died in the war in Iraq had topped 800.

War always equals loss of life; this equation holds no surprise. We know that in wartime, many soldiers will return to the embrace of their families, and some will return in coffins adorned with flags. That snapped salutes will greet the dead. That government officials will once again utter the phrase 'ultimate sacrifice.'' That instead of a familiar embrace, the families of the dead will receive a flag folded like a red-white-and-blue handkerchief."
Scant Evidence Cited in Long Detention of Iraqis:
"Hundreds of Iraqi prisoners were held in Abu Ghraib prison for prolonged periods despite a lack of evidence that they posed a security threat to American forces, according to an Army report completed last fall.

The unpublished report, by Maj. Gen. Donald J. Ryder, reflects what other senior Army officers have described as a deep concern among some American officers and officials in Iraq over the refusal of top American commanders in Baghdad to authorize the release of so-called security prisoners. Some of those prisoners were held for interrogation at Abu Ghraib in the cellblock that became the site of the worst abuses at the prison."

General Ryder, the Army's provost marshal, reported that some Iraqis had been held for several months for nothing more than expressing "displeasure or ill will" toward the American occupying forces. The Nov. 5 report said the process for deciding which arrested Iraqis posed security risks justifying imprisonment, and for deciding when to release them, violated the Pentagon's own policies. It also said the conditions in which they were held sometimes violated the Geneva Conventions.

General Ryder's report to Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the top American commander in Iraq,, was obtained by The New York Times. It was based on a review of prisons in Iraq last summer and fall and made no mention of abuses at Abu Ghraib. But it warned that the continuing influx of prisoners being arrested as the American-led occupation forces fought a persistent insurrection would strain the system set up to review each case every six months, as required by international law.

"A more disciplined system would reduce the security internee population and inherent challenge of holding Iraqis that feel they have been unjustly detained," he wrote.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Survey Finds U.S. Agencies Engaged in 'Data Mining':
"A survey of federal agencies has found more than 120 programs that collect and analyze large amounts of personal data on individuals to predict their behavior.

The survey, to be issued Thursday by the General Accounting Office, an investigative arm of Congress, found that the practice, known as data mining, was ubiquitous."

In canvassing federal agencies, the accounting office found that 52 were systematically sifting through computer databases. These agencies reported 199 data mining projects, of which 68 were planned and 131 were in operation. At least 122 of the 199 projects used identifying information like names, e-mail addresses, Social Security numbers and driver's license numbers.

The survey provides the first authoritative estimate of the extent of data mining by the government. It excludes most classified projects, so the actual numbers are likely to be much higher.

The Defense Department made greatest use of the technique, with 47 data mining projects to track everything from the academic performance of Navy midshipmen to the whereabouts of ship parts and suspected terrorists.…

Of the 199 data mining projects, 54 use information from the private sector, like credit reports and records of credit card transactions. Seventy-seven projects use data obtained from other federal agencies, like student loan records, bank account numbers and taxpayer identification numbers.

In its catalog of data mining, the accounting office listed these projects:

¶The Internal Revenue Service mines financial data to predict which individual tax returns have the greatest potential for fraud and which corporations are most likely to make improper use of tax shelters.

¶The Defense Intelligence Agency mines data from the intelligence community and searches the Internet to identify people, including United States citizens, who are most likely to have connections to foreign terrorist activities.

¶The Department of Homeland Security seeks clues to possible terrorist activity by looking for patterns in myriad records of crimes, arrests and unusual behavior, traffic tickets and incidents involving the possession of firearms.

James X. Dempsey, executive director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a civil liberties group, said: "In many cases, the private sector is subject to stricter standards than the government. The Fair Credit Reporting Act, for example, imposes limits on commercial uses of personal financial and other data, but there are virtually no limits on government uses."

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Globalist: An Israeli's Easy Smile Masks Unyielding View:
"Benyamin Elon, Israel's minister of tourism, has a sense of humor. In March last year, when the Iraq war began, he reckons that he was the only tourism minister in the world who knew 'each of his tourists individually.'

What is less funny about Elon is his vision of Israel's future and that of the Palestinians. The West Bank - or, as he prefers to call it, Judea and Samaria - should be annexed. Not one Jewish settlement should be abandoned, for to do so would be to hand the Palestinians, and the 'the pan-Islamic enemy,' a victory. Palestinians in the West Bank should adapt to Israeli rule or move out. A Palestinian state already exists: it is called Jordan. So there is no need for another."

"I am in favor of a two-state solution," Elon said in an interview, referring to Israel and Jordan. He dismissed the Bush administration's support of a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank as a "three-state solution that would create a monster.…"

The resolution of any conflict requires first seeing, and then to some degree accepting, the enemy. The collapsed Oslo peace process briefly broke through the Israeli-Palestinian hatred that makes "the other" invisible. Its failure, in turn, has created open season for those whose inclination is to deny the enemy's existence.

As a result, a moderate center on both sides finds itself hostage to Palestinians who would eradicate the state of Israel and Jews who believe that Israel's borders must stretch from Jordan to the Mediterranean because so is it written in the Bible.

"The absence of any move toward a negotiated peace has allowed extremists on both sides to prosper," said Michael Tarazi, a legal adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organization. "Extremists rule the street on the Palestinian side, and in Israel they rule the government."

Certainly, the sway of Elon and people like him has been evident of late. He is from the far-right National Union party, which holds a mere handful of seats in the 120-member Israeli Knesset, or Parliament. But the party is influential in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's governing coalition and was forthright in campaigning successfully this month to stop Sharon's party, the Likud, from approving a plan backed by President George W. Bush for an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

"My prime minister made a mistake," Elon said, referring to the Gaza plan. "The grassroots will not give our enemy the image of destroying Jewish settlements, because we know that uprooting 7,500 Jews will not save us from one million ticking bombs."

The Likud vote went resoundingly against the proposed withdrawal. But it also crystallized the notion among Israelis that the country has been hijacked by a small minority. Perhaps 1 percent of the country's citizens torpedoed a plan strongly supported by a majority. How this will affect the longterm survival of Sharon's right-wing coalition remains to be seen.

Of course, Palestinians are in any event generally unimpressed with the Gaza proposal. Put bluntly, they see Sharon's proposal as ceding Gaza in order to take as much as possible of the West Bank. "Gaza does not convince us of anything," said Tarazi. "Sharon's aim is still to put on some kind of Indian reservation."

The two sides talk past each other and people die. They construct their own versions of history and reality in order to avoid the terrible conclusion that the only possible reality of the region is a shared one.
Interrogations in Iraq Seen as Yielding Little Data on Rebels:
"The questioning of hundreds of Iraqi prisoners last fall in the newly established interrogation center at Abu Ghraib prison yielded very little valuable intelligence, according to civilian and military officials.

The interrogation center was set up in September to obtain better information about an insurgency in Iraq that was killing American soldiers almost every day by last fall. The insurgency was better organized and more vigorous than the United States had expected, prompting concern among generals and Pentagon officials who were unhappy with the flow of intelligence to combat units and to higher headquarters.

But civilian and military intelligence officials, as well as top commanders with access to intelligence reports, now say they learned little about the insurgency from questioning inmates at the prison. Most of the prisoners held in the special cellblock that became the setting for the worst abuses at Abu Ghraib apparently were not linked to the insurgency, they said."

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Investigation: Abuse of Captives More Widespread, Says Army Survey:
"An Army summary of deaths and mistreatment involving prisoners in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan shows a widespread pattern of abuse involving more military units than previously known.

The cases from Iraq date back to April 15, 2003, a few days after Saddam Hussein's statue was toppled in a Baghdad square, and they extend up to last month, when a prisoner detained by Navy commandos died in a suspected case of homicide blamed on 'blunt force trauma to the torso and positional asphyxia.'"

Among previously unknown incidents are the abuse of detainees by Army interrogators from a National Guard unit attached to the Third Infantry Division, who are described in a document obtained by The New York Times as having "forced into asphyxiation numerous detainees in an attempt to obtain information" during a 10-week period last spring.

The document, dated May 5, is a synopsis prepared by the Criminal Investigation Command at the request of Army officials grappling with intense scrutiny prompted by the circulation the preceding week of photographs of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. It lists the status of investigations into three dozen cases, including the continuing investigation into the notorious abuses at Abu Ghraib.

In one of the oldest cases, involving the death of a prisoner in Afghanistan in December 2002, enlisted personnel from an active-duty military intelligence unit at Fort Bragg, N.C., and an Army Reserve military-police unit from Ohio are believed to have been "involved at various times in assaulting and mistreating the detainee."

The Army summary is consistent with recent public statements by senior military officials, who have said the Army is actively investigating nine suspected homicides of prisoners held by Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan in late 2002.

But the details paint a broad picture of misconduct, and show that in many cases among the 37 prisoners who have died in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army did not conduct autopsies and says it cannot determine the causes of the deaths.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Anti-Terror Database Got Show at White House (
"One day in January 2003, an entrepreneur from Florida named Hank Asher walked into the Roosevelt Room of the White House to demonstrate a counterterrorism tool he invented after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Soon to be called Matrix, it was a computer program capable of examining records of billions of people in seconds.

Accompanied by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the state's top police official, Asher showed his creation to Vice President Cheney, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and Tom Ridge, who was about to be sworn in as secretary of the new Department of Homeland Security, according to people at the meeting.

The demonstration startled everyone in the room who had not seen it before. Almost as quickly as questions could be asked, the system generated long reports on a projection screen: names, addresses, driver license photos, links to associates, even ethnicity. At one point, an Asher associate recalled, Ridge turned toward Cheney and nudged him with an elbow, apparently to underscore his amazement at the power of what they were seeing. A few months later, Ridge approved an $8 million 'cooperative agreement' from his department to help states link to the computer system.… "

One document, reported by the Associated Press yesterday, showed that Asher and his colleagues had created a list of 120,000 individuals with personal attributes that gave them a "high terrorist factor" score deemed worthy of extra attention from authorities.

"When the Department deeply involves itself in a program as fraught with significant privacy problems as the Matrix, your office must investigate," Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU's technology and liberty program, and a colleague wrote in a letter to Kelly.

Kelly said in an interview that she would be "happy to review the documents and the scope of the relationship."

"We try to be supportive of state and local homeland security efforts," she said, "but only with appropriate safeguards."

A continuing debate over the proper balance between privacy and security intensified when details of the Matrix system became public last summer. Matrix organizers, including intelligence officials in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said the system greatly enhanced the speed of investigations by combining government data with 20 billion commercial records about people.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Afghan Deaths Linked to Unit at Iraq Prison:
"A military intelligence unit that oversaw interrogations at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq was also in charge of questioning at a detention center in Afghanistan where two prisoners died in December 2002 in incidents that are being investigated as homicides.

For both of the Afghan prisoners, who died in a center known as the Bagram Collection Point, the cause of death listed on certificates signed by American pathologists included blunt force injuries to their legs. Interrogations at the center were supervised by Company A, 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, which moved on early in 2003 to Iraq, where some of its members were assigned to the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center at Abu Ghraib. Its service in Afghanistan was known, but its work at Bagram at the time of the deaths has now emerged in interviews with former prisoners, military officials and from documents."

Sunday, May 23, 2004

U.S. Disputed Protected Status of Iraq Inmates:
"Presented last fall with a detailed catalog of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, the American military responded on Dec. 24 with a confidential letter to a Red Cross official asserting that many Iraqi prisoners were not entitled to the full protections of the Geneva Conventions.

The letter, drafted by military lawyers and signed by Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, emphasized the 'military necessity' of isolating some inmates at the prison for interrogation because of their 'significant intelligence value,' and said prisoners held as security risks could legally be treated differently from prisoners of war or ordinary criminals.

But the military insisted that there were 'clear procedures governing interrogation to ensure approaches do not amount to inhumane treatment.…'"

Until now, the only known element of the letter had been a provision described by a senior Army officer as having asserted that the Red Cross should not seek in the future to conduct no-notice inspections in the cellblock where the worst abuses took place.

The International Committee of the Red Cross had reported in November that its staff, in a series of visits to Abu Ghraib in October, had "documented and witnessed" ill treatment that "included deliberate physical violence" as well as verbal abuse, forced nudity and prolonged handcuffing in uncomfortable positions.

In Congressional testimony last week, Lt. Gen. Lance Smith, the deputy commander of American forces in the Middle East, asserted that the Dec. 24 response demonstrated that the military had fully addressed the Red Cross complaints.

But the three-page response did not address many of the specific concerns cited by the Red Cross, whose main recommendations included improving the treatment of prisoners held for interrogation.

Instead, much of the military's reply is devoted to presenting a legal justification for the treatment of a broad category of Iraqi prisoners, including hundreds identified by the United States as "security detainees" in a cellblock at Abu Ghraib and in another facility known as Camp Cropper on the outskirts of the Baghdad airport, where the Red Cross had also found abuses.
Demand Grows to Require Paper Trails for Electronic Votes:
"A coalition of computer scientists, voter groups and state officials, led by California's secretary of state, Kevin Shelley, is trying to force the makers of electronic voting machines to equip those machines with voter-verifiable paper trails.

Following the problems of the 2000 election in Florida, a number of states and hundreds of counties rushed to dump their punch card ballot systems and to buy the electronic touch screens. Election Data Services, a consulting firm that specializes in election administration, estimates that this November 50 million Americans - about 29 percent of the electorate - may be voting on touch screens, up from 12 percent in 2000.

But in the last year election analysts have documented so many malfunctions, including the disappearance of names from the ballot, and computer experts have shown that the machines are so vulnerable to hackers, that critics have organized to counter the rush toward touch screens with a move to require paper trails."

Paper trails - ballot receipts - would let voters verify that they had cast their votes as they intended and let election officials conduct recounts in close races.

Not everyone agrees that paper trails are necessary, or even advisable. Numerous local election officials - the ones who actually conduct elections - argue that paper trails could create worse problems than the perceived ones that they are intended to cure. They warn of paper jams, voter confusion and delays in the voting booth while voters read their receipts.

There are no national standards to help resolve the disputes. The federal commission that Congress created after 2000 to guide states is behind schedule, and the research body that was supposed to set standards for November 2004 has not even been appointed. So states, prompted by voter organizations, are taking matters into their own hands.

Nevada, which is using touch screens in all its voting precincts this November, has become the first state to require the manufacturer to attach printers in time for Election Day.
Iraq: 'Time is running out for us':
"The former Minister of Human Rights, Abd al-Bassit Turki, discusses the escalation of violence and the impending failure of Project Democracy.

SPIEGEL: Islamist extremists have brutally beheaded a young American. Is the Iraqi resistance against the United States escalating into a bloody frenzy?

Turki: That is to be feared, even though the killers are members of a small group who have severely damaged their country and their religion. Anyone who possesses even a shred of humanity strictly rejects such horrible acts of violence. At the same time, however, we are discovering that ever since the torture practices in prisons became public, hatred for the Americans and the British is on the rise and is capable of expressing itself in terrible ways.…"

SPIEGEL: The Americans intend to take decisive action against those who are responsible within their own ranks. Will punishing the perpetrators be enough to appease Iraqi rage?

Turki: If this does not occur, the protests will become a popular revolt that no army in the world will be able to quell, no matter how powerful it is. The Americans have never listened to good advice and, as a result, bear full responsibility for the current situation, including the consequences of the torture scandals.

SPIEGEL: You resigned to protest the abuse.

Turki: I also resigned because the Americans have indiscriminately attacked Iraqi cities with helicopters and aircraft, because they have behaved inhumanly during house searches, because they have stolen and taken away the dignity of human beings. It became clear to me that the Americans were not interested in resolving problems peacefully. Instead, they were truly obsessed with using military force to deal with all kinds of difficulties.

SPIEGEL: You reported the abuses in Abu Ghraib prison to US civilian administrator Paul Bremer early on.

Turki: That's true. In December of last year. And he did intervene and achieve better treatment of female prisoners. Aside from that, the military didn't pay attention to Bremer and just kept on doing what it was doing. I am almost certain that US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld must have been fully informed about everything four months before the torture practices were made public. These photos have injured us so deeply that it no longer matters whether he resigns.
In 5th Day of Gaza Raid, a Girl, 3, Is Shot Dead:
"As one of Israel's most powerful incursions into the Gaza Strip entered a fifth day, Palestinian officials said a 3-year-old girl was shot dead in the Rafah refugee camp on Saturday as thousands more people remained holed up in their homes, saying they were short of water, food and even battery power for their cellphones.

Israeli forces slowed their offensive on Friday, thinning out some troops but redeploying and rotating others so that two areas of the vast Rafah refugee camp on the border with Egypt remained difficult to enter or leave, witnesses said, with tanks deployed around parts of the Brazil and Tel Sultan neighborhoods.

An Israeli general said the apparent pause was designed to 're-energize' the troops, who went into Rafah after the killing of Israeli soldiers in Gaza last week.…"

Israel says the strike in Gaza is designed to close off arms smuggling routes through tunnels from Egypt and to strike a blow at armed Palestinian militants in the area - a focus of fierce resistance to Israeli occupation. But the attack seemed to lose some momentum on Wednesday when, according to the Israeli Army, tanks fired four rounds to deter civilian protesters and killed eight of them. The killings provoked a huge international outcry.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said troops in Rafah located a smugglers' tunnel in the camp on Saturday - the first confirmed discovery since the incursion began. The tunnel was said to be 25 feet deep and contained explosives. The spokeswoman said it was the 12th tunnel discovered this year out of more than 90 located since the latest Palestinian uprising began in 2000.

In the latest fatality, Palestinian health workers and witnesses said, Rawan Abu Zeid, 3, was killed when she was hit in the head and neck by two bullets when she left her home in the Brazil area of Rafah to go to a nearby shop with some older children to buy candy.

The Israeli Army said it was checking the report. Over 40 Palestinians have died since the incursion began. According to Reuters, reporters on a tour of the area on Saturday with Peter Hansen, chief of the United Nations agency for refugees in the region, heard gunshots before the girl was killed. Mr. Hansen was quoted as saying: "We have now confirmation from the hospital that a girl was shot and killed in one of the two gun bursts we heard."

"There are 25,000 people under closure," said Sahid Zughrub, the mayor of Rafah, speaking of people in the Tel Sultan area. "They need medicine, clean water. Yesterday the Israelis allowed us to get some food and water in but it was not enough." Others said Israeli soldiers had permitted some stores to open briefly but they soon ran out of goods to sell.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Dogs and Other Harsh Tactics Linked to Military Intelligence:
"The use of dogs to intimidate prisoners during interrogation at Abu Ghraib in Iraq was approved by military intelligence officers at the prison, and was one of several aggressive tactics they adopted even without approval from senior military commanders, according to interviews gathered by Army investigators.

Intelligence officers also demanded strict limits on Red Cross access to prisoners as early as last October, delaying for a day what the military had previously described as an unannounced visit to the cellblock where the worst abuses occurred, according to a document from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The role of intelligence officers in the abuse scandal is still under investigation, and the newly disclosed documents provide further details of their involvement in abuses that so far have resulted in formal charges against the prison guards, but not the interrogators."

Other Army documents first obtained by The Denver Post provided new evidence that harsh treatment extended beyond Abu Ghraib to more American-run detention centers in Iraq, revealing details about three previously unreported incidents in which Iraqi prisoners died after questioning by American interrogators.

At the Pentagon on Friday, the Army revised an earlier estimate to say that it is now actively investigating the deaths of nine prisoners in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002, and that eight had already been determined by medical examiners to be possible homicides, involving acts committed before or during an interrogation.

In previous statements, it was not clear that so many prisoners died in interrogation, rather than being shot during riots or escape attempts. At Abu Ghraib, military intelligence units were responsible for interrogations, and military police units for guarding the prisoners and preparing them for interrogation.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Geneva Conventions: Justice Memos Explained How to Skip Prisoner Rights:
"A series of Justice Department memorandums written in late 2001 and the first few months of 2002 were crucial in building a legal framework for United States officials to avoid complying with international laws and treaties on handling prisoners, lawyers and former officials say."

The confidential memorandums, several of which were written or co-written by John C. Yoo, a University of California law professor who was serving in the department, provided arguments to keep United States officials from being charged with war crimes for the way prisoners were detained and interrogated. They were endorsed by top lawyers in the White House, the Pentagon and the vice president's office but drew dissents from the State Department.

The memorandums provide legal arguments to support administration officials' assertions that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to detainees from the Afghanistan war. They also suggested how officials could inoculate themselves from liability by claiming that abused prisoners were in some other nation's custody.…

One of the memorandums written by Mr. Yoo along with Robert J. Delahunty, another Justice Department lawyer, was prepared on Jan. 9, 2002, four months after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. The 42-page memorandum, entitled, "Application of treaties and laws to Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees," provided several legal arguments for avoiding the jurisdiction of the Geneva Conventions.

A lawyer and a former government official who saw the memorandum said it anticipated the possibility that United States officials could be charged with war crimes, defined as grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. The document said a way to avoid that is to declare that the conventions do not apply.

The memorandum, addressed to William J. Haynes, the Pentagon's general counsel, said that President Bush could argue that the Taliban government in Afghanistan was a "failed state" and therefore its soldiers were not entitled to protections accorded in the conventions. If Mr. Bush did not want to do that, the memorandum gave other grounds, like asserting that the Taliban was a terrorist group. It also noted that the president could just say that he was suspending the Geneva Conventions for a particular conflict.

Prof. Detlev Vagts, an authority on international law and treaties at Harvard Law School, said the arguments in the memorandums as described to him "sound like an effort to find loopholes that could be used to avoid responsibility."
Letter From the Middle East: Children Fill Ledger of Death, No Matter How, or How Many:
"Set in fields of white, pink and red carnations, the giant cooler here, which usually holds vegetables or flowers for sale to an Israeli company, has been turned over to the dead.

It was to this cooler that, inevitably, the Palestinian doctor came Wednesday morning, when, just as inevitably, the latest Israeli Army raid touched off a parallel struggle to define reality. Were there, in fact, children among the dead, as the Palestinians claimed? How many? Did they die from Israeli sniper fire or from militants' explosives?

The doctor, Ahmed Abu Nikera, had had enough of these questions. In the dank, shadowy room, he yanked and pulled to open the bloodstained white cloth wrapping one of the bodies as tightly as a mummy.

'This is a child,' he said, after he revealed the pale gray face of Ibrahim al Qun, 14. 'This is the exit wound.' He pointed at the ragged, softball-sized black hole where the boy's left eye had been. A sniper's bullet entered at the back of the boy's head, he said.…"

Along with the chaos of gunshots, tank shells, planted bombs and armored bulldozers that accompanies life here, there is a dense fog of war. There is also a war of fog, of often fuzzily presented but always sharply conflicting versions of reality.

Like so many characteristics of this conflict, the tension over competing truths is shared across the desert, in Iraq. There, American soldiers and insurgents are not only fighting very different kinds of battles, but also describing very different ones. In the end, it seems that the contest of descriptions matters more, at least to the leaders and to the analysts who guide them.

Whether the casualties on any given day are on one side or the other or both, there is also, in a dark space somewhere, a reality. There is a dead child; there is an exit wound.

How many dead children is too many is a question often asked by Palestinians and Israelis, but it shows no hint of being resolved.
Afghan Policies on Questioning Prisoners Taken to Iraq:
"The interrogation center at Abu Ghraib prison was run by a military intelligence unit that had served in Afghanistan and that had taken to Iraq the aggressive rules and procedures it had developed for the Afghan conflict, according to documents and testimony."

Some members of the unit, part of the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, from Fort Bragg, N.C., have already been quietly punished in connection with the abuse of an Iraqi woman at the prison, according to documents recently released by the Army.

In August 2003, the officer in charge of the unit, Capt. Carolyn A. Wood, an experienced Army interrogator, posted her own list of "interrogation rules of engagement," which were inconsistent with those later issued for Iraq by the top American commander, Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, according to Congressional officials.

The Abu Ghraib prison's questioning area, the existence of which was classified information, was formally called the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center.

It was not in the cellblock where the severe abuses that have come to light in recent weeks occurred.

Interrogations took place in buildings outside the cellblock, and military police were not present.

To date, the only people charged with crimes in the abuse have been members of the 372nd Military Police Company, who served as guards in the cellblock.

But lawyers representing some of the accused say some photographs of the abuses also show unidentified military intelligence officers and contractors assigned to the interrogation center.

Some of the accused have said they were told or encouraged to harshly treat prisoners by military intelligence officers, as part of a broader effort to soften the detainees up for interrogation.

"Only one with Pollyannaish myopia could conclude that the M.I. community is not deeply involved in the abuse," said Gary Myers, a lawyer whose client, Staff Sgt. Ivan L. Frederick II, is facing a court-martial in the case.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Public Agenda: Snapshots in Time -- The Public in the Civil Rights Era:
"One of the most sweeping changes of the past 50 years has been in race relations. But while the victories of the civil rights movement may seem inevitable now, they certainly didn't seem so at the time. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling and the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, Public Agenda looks back at what the public believed as history was being made."
The New York Times > International > Middle East > Top Arafat Aide Convicted by Israelis on Murder Charges:
"Mr. Barghouti was accused of planning assaults that killed a total of 26 people, but the court acquitted him of charges relating to 21 slayings, saying there was 'no evidence the defendant knew of the intention to carry them out.'

He was also found guilty on one count of attempted murder relating to a failed car bomb attack. He is to be sentenced on June 6. The prosecution demanded that Mr. Barghouti, 44, be sentenced to life imprisonment for each of the five killings.

He remained defiant as the court in Tel Aviv prepared to announce its verdict. As he was led across an enclosed yard near the courtroom he raised his manacled hands aloft in a V-for-victory sign. And, once in the courtroom, Mr. Barghouti, bearded and wearing a brown prison uniform, again raised his hands, shouting in Arabic: 'This is a court of occupation that I do not accept!' according to Reuters. "

But Mr. Barghouti insisted that "in principle I am against killing innocents on either side."

The convictions came on the third day of a major Israeli incursion into the Gaza Strip that has claimed around 40 lives among Palestinians. No Israeli losses have been reported.

"In four years just one suicide bomber has come from there, so what is Israel doing in Gaza?" Mr. Barghouti asked in court today. Then, referring to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel, he said, "If Sharon leaves Gaza, the entire situation will change."

Israel says the incursion, backed by tanks and helicopter gunships, is designed to sever clandestine routes for weapons smuggled into Gaza from Egypt through tunnels.

Despite an incident on Wednesday that drew international protests when Palestinian civilians were killed by tank fire, Israeli troops penetrated farther into the Rafah refugee camp today. Seven more Palestinians were reported killed and several buildings were demolished.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The New York Times > Washington > Abu Ghraib: Officer Says Army Tried to Curb Red Cross Visits to Prison in Iraq:
"The Red Cross report in November was the earliest formal evidence known to have been presented to the military's headquarters in Baghdad before January, when photographs of the abuses came to the attention of criminal investigators and prompted a broad investigation. But the senior Army officer said the military did not start any criminal investigation before it replied to the Red Cross on Dec. 24.

The Red Cross report was made after its inspectors witnessed or heard about such practices as holding Iraqi prisoners naked in dark concrete cells for several days at a time and forcing them to wear women's underwear on their heads while being paraded and photographed.…"

Until now, the Army had described its response on Dec. 24 as evidence that the military was prompt in addressing Red Cross complaints, but it has declined to release the contents of the Army document, citing the tradition of confidentiality in dealing with the international agency.

An Army spokesman declined Tuesday to characterize the letter or to discuss what it said about the Red Cross's access to the cellblock.

In an interview, however, Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade, whose soldiers guarded the prisoners, said that despite the serious allegations in the Red Cross report, senior officers in Baghdad had treated it in "a light-hearted manner."

She said that she signed the Army's response on Dec. 24, but that it had been drafted primarily by Army lawyers who reported to Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the top American commander in Iraq.

General Karpinski said she did not see the Red Cross complaint until late November, and questioned how the staff judge advocate for General Sanchez, and his team of lawyers, had dealt with the matter. "It was an unusual routing because they had possession of it before I knew the letter existed," she said of the Red Cross complaint.

"If I had been informed, and I had been drawn into this in any way, I would have said, `Hold on a second, because not in my facility you don't,' " General Karpinski said of the abuses detailed in the report by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which she said she did not see until at least two weeks after it was submitted. "We followed the rules, and we gave unrestricted access to the I.C.R.C., and it validated our operations, actually.…"

For several months in Iraq, Red Cross inspectors had exercised the right to drop in on Army-run prisons without notifying prison officials in advance.

The senior Army officer questioned the rationale for the Army's assertion in November that Red Cross visits should be scheduled.

"I know what they were communicating in that letter: They wanted the I.C.R.C. to schedule visits for those particular cellblocks, because it could interrupt any of the military intelligence," said the officer. "The position that they were taking was that the I.C.R.C. could not have unrestricted access to those particular cellblocks."

Other top Army officers in Washington have said the behavior described by the Red Cross in October had warranted a criminal investigation.

"I do not know if she in fact started an investigation into those, because they are serious," Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander, the head of Army intelligence, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 11. "As soon as we hear about one of those allegations, an investigation should begin right away and we shouldn't wait for it."

General Alexander told senators that the abuses Red Cross inspectors witnessed "sounded the same as some of the abuses that we're seeing" in photographs taken by military guards that are now circulating worldwide.…

The disclosures about the Army's response to the Red Cross complaints came as new details emerged about the death of an Iraqi prisoner in C.I.A. custody last fall.

Central Intelligence Agency officers who brought a hooded man to Abu Ghraib ordered military guards at the prison not to remove the empty sandbag that covered his head, according to the sworn testimony of a military guard. Only after the prisoner slumped over dead during questioning was the hood removed, revealing that the man had severe facial injuries.

The incident was described in testimony at a closed hearing early last month in the case of Sgt. Javal S. Davis, one of the accused prison guards. The statements were made by two members of Sergeant Davis's unit, Specialists Bruce Brown and Jason A. Kenner. Their testimony appears to provide fresh clues to the mysterious death of a man identified by the American authorities only by his last name, Jamadi.

Mr. Jamadi is believed to be the man whose body was packed in ice and photographed at Abu Ghraib. The picture, among a group that depicted degrading treatment of detainees, has circulated widely on computer networks as one of most graphic images in the prisoner abuse scandal.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The New York Times > Washington > Interrogations: M.P.'s Received Orders to Strip:
"The American officer who was in charge of interrogations at the Abu Ghraib prison has told a senior Army investigator that intelligence officers sometimes instructed the military police to force Iraqi detainees to strip naked and to shackle them before questioning them. But he said those measures were not imposed 'unless there is some good reason.'

The officer, Col. Thomas M. Pappas, commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, also told the investigator, Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, that his unit had 'no formal system in place' to monitor instructions they had given to military guards, who worked closely with interrogators to prepare detainees for interviews. Colonel Pappas said he 'should have asked more questions, admittedly' about abuses committed or encouraged by his subordinates.

The statements by Colonel Pappas, contained in the transcript of a Feb. 11 interview that is part of General Taguba's 6,000-page classified report, offer the highest-level confirmation so far that military intelligence soldiers directed military guards in preparing for interrogations. They also provide the first insights by the senior intelligence officer at the prison into the relationship between his troops and the military police. Portions of Colonel Pappas's sworn statements were read to The New York Times by a government official who had read the transcript.…"

The interrogation techniques Colonel Pappas described were used on detainees protected by the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit inhumane treatment of prisoners. Military officials said on Monday that the United States had months ago quietly abandoned an early plan to designate as unlawful combatants some of the prisoners captured by American forces in Iraq. No prisoners in Iraq were classified as unlawful combatants.

That means that even foreign fighters and suspected Al Qaeda members captured in Iraq, along with Iraqis captured as prisoners of war and insurgents, have remained protected by the Geneva Conventions.

Monday, May 17, 2004

The New York Times > International > Europe > A Fake Macedonia Terror Tale That Led to Deaths:
"Roughly two months after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, a group of high-level officials met here in Macedonia's Interior Ministry to determine how their country could take part in the United States-led campaign against terror.

Instead of offering troops to support American soldiers fighting in Afghanistan, as other countries in the region had done, senior officials and police commanders conceived a plan to 'expose' a terrorist plot against Western interests in Skopje, police investigators here say."

The plan, they say, involved luring foreign migrants into the country, executing them in a staged gun battle, and then claiming they were a unit backed by Al Qaeda intent on attacking Western embassies.

On March 2, 2002, this plan came to fruition when Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski announced that seven "mujahedeen" had been killed earlier that day in a shootout with the police near Skopje. Photos were released to Western diplomats showing bodies of the dead men with bags of uniforms and semiautomatic weapons at their side.

At the time, diplomats in Skopje questioned the government's story, but it was not until the nationalist-led government lost elections in September 2002 and a new center-left administration came to power that the police began to investigate the shooting in earnest. The full extent of the state's involvement in the incident has only emerged in the last two weeks.

On May 4, state prosecutors charged three senior police commanders with the killings, with two other police officers and a businessman. Mr. Boskovski, who was voted out of office with his colleagues in September 2002, is wanted for questioning in connection with the attack, but the police say he has fled the country and is believed to be in Croatia.

The current government has also raised the question of whether the man who was prime minister at the time, Ljubco Georgievski, knew about the plan.
The New York Times > International > Middle East > Prisoners: Some Iraqis Held Outside Control of Top General:
"About 100 high-ranking Iraqi prisoners held for months at a time in spartan conditions on the outskirts of Baghdad International Airport are being detained under a special chain of command, under conditions not subject to approval by the top American commander in Iraq, according to military officials."

The unusual lines of authority in the detainees' handling are part of a tangled network of authority over prisoners in Iraq, in which the military police, military intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, various military commanders and the Pentagon itself have all played a role. Congressional investigators who are looking into the scandal over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners say those arrangements have made it difficult to determine where the final authority lies.

At least as of February, many of the 100 or so prisoners categorized by American officials as "high value detainees" because of the special intelligence they are believed to possess, had been held since June 2003 for nearly 23 hours a day in strict solitary confinement in small concrete cells without sunlight, according to a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

While not tantamount to the sexual humiliation and other abuses inflicted on Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison, the conditions have been described by the Red Cross as a violation of the Geneva Conventions, the international treaty that the Bush administration has said it regards as "fully applicable" to all prisoners held by the United States in Iraq.

Under arrangements in effect since October, military officials said at a Pentagon briefing on Friday, explicit authorization from the American commander, Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, has been required in each of about 25 cases in which prisoners have been subjected to isolation for longer than 30 days. But on Sunday, a senior military officer said that statement did not apply to the prisoners being held at the airport, because "we were not the authority" for the high-value detainees.

The officer referred questions about the high-value Iraqi prisoners to the United States Central Command, in Tampa, Fla., where a spokesman said he could not answer them on Sunday.

Defense Department officials said the principal responsibility for the high-value prisoners and their treatment belonged to the Iraq Survey Group, which is headed by Maj. Gen. Keith Dayton of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

The 1,400-person Iraq Survey Group was formed last June, principally to take charge of the hunt for Iraq's illicit weapons, although its mandate has also included gathering information about Iraqi war crimes. The survey group falls under the overall authority of the Central Intelligence Agency, under George J. Tenet, for matters related to the illicit weapons hunt. But on other matters it reports to the Central Command, under Gen. John P. Abizaid.

The so-called high-value Iraqi detainees said by military officials to be held at Camp Cropper on the airport's outskirts do not include Saddam Hussein, who was not captured until December and is being held by the Federal Bureau of Investigation elsewhere in Iraq, American government officials have said. These officials say Mr. Hussein has also been held in isolation.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

The Supreme Struggle:
"…the day the Supreme Court handed down Brown v. Board of Education, the N.A.A.C.P. held a news conference to unveil an ambitious new agenda. With segregated schools now unconstitutional, the intention was to move on directly to housing segregation and employment discrimination. Thurgood Marshall, the N.A.A.C.P.'s lead lawyer, admitted there was still work to be done implementing Brown, but he was sure it wouldn't take long. School segregation would be eliminated nationwide, he told reporters, within five years"
It hasn't worked out that way. This year marks Brown's 50th anniversary, but the commemorations that have already begun are bittersweet. Brown remains the most important legal decision of the 20th century, perhaps of all time. It rebuked centuries of government-sanctioned black inferiority, and it began to give real force to the post-Civil War amendments to the Constitution, passed to lift up the freed slaves. Most concretely, Brown overturned Plessy v. Ferguson, the court's infamous 1896 ruling endorsing separate but equal accommodations for the races.

''I don't know that there will be another moment like Brown,'' says Theodore Shaw, associate director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. ''For African-Americans, it divides American history into a B.C. and an A.D.''

But millions of black students are celebrating Brown's anniversary in schools almost as segregated as when it was decided. It is now true, as the court held, that ''separate but equal facilities are inherently unequal.'' But 70 percent of black students attend schools in which racial minorities are a majority, and fully a third are in schools 90 to 100 percent minority. The fierce resistance that school desegregation has met in the political realm, and more recently in the courts, has many civil rights advocates and scholars lamenting what one legal academic calls Brown's ''hollow hope.'' But others are going back to the Brown decision, this year more than ever, looking for new ways to press for school integration. ''If you really believe in Brown, you can't celebrate it right now,'' says Gary Orfield, director of the Harvard Project on School Desegregation. ''But the potential is there.''
The New York Times > International > Q&A: Who runs the prison system in Iraq?:
"Who is in charge of interrogating prisoners?

Interrogations are run by military intelligence units in cooperation with Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) personnel. In Abu Ghraib, there were also 27 civilian interrogators who were contractors working for military intelligence, Air Force Lieutenant General Lance L. Smith, the deputy Central Command (known as CENTCOM) commander, said at the May 7 Senate hearing. According to the Taguba report, MPs were also involved in 'setting the conditions for successful interrogations' in accordance with a recommendation made by General Miller after he visited Iraq in September 2003.

How many prisons are there in Iraq?

The system is made up of 16 prisons and incarceration centers, four of which hold prisoners accused of being part of the anti-occupation insurgency, according to The Washington Post. But there are dozens of other holding cells on U.S. bases, many once used by former president Saddam Hussein's government, where Iraqis spend their first days in captivity. These are under the command of the local military commanders. About half of all detainees are at Abu Ghraib. Other main prisons are located at the southern port city of Umm Qasr and at Baghdad International Airport, where 'high-value' detainees are held. "

How many Iraqi prisoners are being held by U.S. forces?

Rumsfeld said in his congressional testimony May 7 that there are 11,150 detainees. Prior to that date, the Defense Department had not revealed an exact number. A March 2, 2004, New York Times article had said that "more than 10,000 men and boys" were in custody, ranging in age from 11 to 75. The story cited a detainee database maintained by the U.S. military. Human Rights Watch said in February that there were between 9,000 and 12,800 detainees. Women have also been detained. However, Bremer said April 23 that "less than 10 women" remained in custody.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Poynter Online - Links to the News
OJR article: Scholars Discover Weblogs Pass Test as Mode of Communication:
"Scholars Discover Weblogs Pass Test as Mode of Communication

'Blogologists' assemble at our virtual roundtable to discuss how blogs are changing academia, politics and traditional journalism. They see them as being important, but school is still out on whether they are journalism."

Thursday, May 13, 2004

The New York Times > Washington > Prison Policies: General Took Guantanamo Rules to Iraq for Handling of Prisoners:
"At the Senate hearing on Tuesday, the deputy commander of American forces in the Middle East, Lt. Gen. Lance Smith, said General Miller, now the chief of interrogations and detentions in Iraq, had made it clear to the officers he briefed on his 10-day visit to Iraq that some of the procedures developed in Cuba could not be applied there.

But despite the vast differences between the settings, two officials who worked with General Miller in Cuba suggested that he offered very similar solutions to some problems he found in Iraq.

Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, in his report on Iraqi prison abuses, said General Miller's recommendation of a guard force that 'sets the conditions for the successful interrogation and exploitation of internees/detainees' violated Army doctrine; the report hinted that it might also have contributed to the abuses.

The Taguba report also highlighted General Miller's recommendation that commanders in Iraq form and train a prison guard force 'subordinate to the Joint Interrogation Debriefing Center (J.I.D.C.) Commander' that 'sets the conditions for the successful interrogation and exploitation of internees/detainees.' "

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

The New York Times > Health > Health Care Policy > The Consumer: How Patients Can Use the New Access to Their Medical Records:
"Since last April, federal law has required that doctors, clinics and hospitals provide patients with access to their records on demand. As it turns out, many people want to see them, and if you know what you are looking for, medical records can be easy to decipher. Reading them can also be a good way to become more involved in your own medical care.

Doctors once suspected that patients who wanted to see their own charts were distrustful or, worse, planning to sue, said George J. Annas, chairman of the health law, bioethics and human rights department at Boston University School of Public Health. And some doctors argued that patients lacked the expertise to understand their own charts.

'They'd say, you can't possibly understand because it's written in medical language,' Mr. Annas said. 'You won't know that S.O.B. stands for shortness of breath.'

But in this era of consumer medicine and increasing safeguards on personal privacy, Mr. Annas said, 'it is considered a basic privacy principle that if anybody has personal information about you, you should have access to that information, too.'"

The new federal rules, part of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or Hipaa, give patients the right to inspect and copy all their records. Parents are also entitled to their children's medical records.

An exception is made for notes from psychotherapy, which are thought to be especially sensitive or likely to be misinterpreted as critical of the patient. With a doctor's permission, patients can view therapy records in the doctor's presence.

Access to medical records will soon be very easy for anyone with a personal computer, as hospitals and clinics switch to electronic record-keeping. But even with paper records, obtaining access is easy. Patients need merely telephone their doctor's office or a hospital's records office and ask, said Carol Ann Quinsey, a professional practice manager for the American Health Information Management Association, a professional organization.

Typically, the office manager or the records administrator will schedule an appointment for the patient to come in and examine the records. Once there, the patient may be asked to sign a form authorizing the release of the records.

Or the patient can send a written request to have the records photocopied and sent by mail. The doctor's office or hospital may charge a fee for photocopying and postage.

Ideally, when looking through the file, the patient should be able to ask a doctor or other informed medical professional questions about anything that seems confusing or hard to understand.…What pieces of the record are most interesting and important?

The ones that a patient might need to provide to future physicians, said Dr. Jinnet B. Fowles, vice president of research for the Park Nicollet Institute, a health research center in Minneapolis. Those might include the dates of immunizations and regular screenings like mammograms, P.S.A. tests and cholesterol checks; the dates of any surgeries and the hospitals where they were performed; a record of all allergies; accounts of any serious medical illnesses; and descriptions of current medical problems and medications.

Dr. Fowles found that reviewing her own records gave her a starkly realistic view of how her weight had increased over the years and how her blood pressure and blood sugar numbers had "moved in the wrong direction." The revelation inspired her to lose 30 pounds.

Patients may want to photocopy the pertinent pages and save them in a file, said Ms. Quinsey of the information management association. Or they may want to transfer the key details to a health history record form. (Her group offers such a form on its Web site at /index.asp.) Some patients may want to carry a partial record of their medical profile with them at all times.

"I'm allergic to penicillin, sulfa and tetracycline," Ms. Quinsey said. "All those drugs are essentially deadly to me, so I keep that information on a piece of paper that stays in my billfold."

People who suffer from chronic conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure are advised to keep that information with them also, Ms. Quinsey said.

It is important to check for inaccuracies: misfiled pages from another patient's chart, for example, or incorrect notations about allergies or medications.
The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Just Trust Us:
"…Mr. Bush, despite all his talk of good and evil, doesn't believe in that system. From the day his administration took office, its slogan has been 'just trust us.' No administration since Nixon has been so insistent that it has the right to operate without oversight or accountability, and no administration since Nixon has shown itself to be so little deserving of that trust. Out of a misplaced sense of patriotism, Congress has deferred to the administration's demands. Sooner or later, a moral catastrophe was inevitable.

Just trust us, John Ashcroft said, as he demanded that Congress pass the Patriot Act, no questions asked. After two and a half years, during which he arrested and secretly detained more than a thousand people, Mr. Ashcroft has yet to convict any actual terrorists. (Look at the actual trials of what Dahlia Lithwick of Slate calls 'disaffected bozos who watch cheesy training videos,' and you'll see what I mean.)

Just trust us, George Bush said, as he insisted that Iraq, which hadn't attacked us and posed no obvious threat, was the place to go in the war on terror. When we got there, we found no weapons of mass destruction and no new evidence of links to Al Qaeda."

Monday, May 10, 2004

The New York Times > International > AP: Saddam's Officials Got Special Abuse:
"U.S. military personnel singled out senior officials of Saddam Hussein's regime for special abuse in coalition prison, including solitary confinement for months on end, The Associated Press has learned.

The Iraqi officials were identified only as ``high-value detainees'' in a confidential report by the International Committee of the Red Cross."

The report did not specify who the detainees were, but an official who has discussed the document with ICRC officials told The Associated Press that they include many from the Pentagon's 55 most-wanted suspects in a ``deck of cards'' the U.S. military released during the war that ousted Saddam last year.

``Since June 2003 over a hundred 'high-value detainees' have been held for nearly 23 hours a day in strict solitary confinement in small concrete cells devoid of daylight,'' said the report, which was given to coalition forces in February.

``Their continued internment several months after their arrest in strict solitary confinement constituted a serious violation of the third and fourth Geneva Conventions,'' said the 24-page report, confirmed by the ICRC as authentic after it was published by The Wall Street Journal Monday.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Amnesty International - news.amnesty - USA: Pattern of brutality and cruelty -- war crimes at Abu Ghraib:
"In an open letter to US President George W. Bush today, Amnesty International said that abuses allegedly committed by US agents in the Abu Ghraib facility in Baghdad were war crimes and called on the administration to fully investigate them to ensure that there is no impunity for anyone found responsible regardless of position or rank.

Amnesty International said that it has documented a pattern of abuse by US agents against detainees, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, stretching back over the past two years.

Despite claims this week by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld to be 'stunned' by abuses in Abu Ghraib, and that these were an 'exception' and 'not a pattern or practice', Amnesty International has presented consistent allegations of brutality and cruelty by US agents against detainees at the highest levels of the US Government, including the White House, the Department of Defense, and the State Department for the past two years."

Last July, the organization raised allegations of torture and ill-treatment of Iraqi detainees by US and Coalition forces in a memorandum to the US Government and Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq. The allegations included beatings, electric shocks, sleep deprivation, hooding, and prolonged forced standing and kneeling. It received no response nor any indication from the administration or the CPA that an investigation took place.

Despite repeated requests, Amnesty International has been denied access to all US detention facilities.

"If the administration has nothing to hide, it should immediately end incommunicado detention and grant access to independent human rights monitors, including Amnesty International and the United Nations, to all detention facilities," said Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

"The US administration has shown a consistent disregard for the Geneva Conventions and basic principles of law, human rights and decency. This has created a climate in which US soldiers feel they can dehumanize and degrade prisoners with impunity.

"What we now see in Iraq is the logical consequence of the relentless pursuit of the 'war on terror' regardless of the costs to human rights and the rules of war."
The New York Times > Week in Review > All News Is Local, Too:
"…yet more photographs were coming to light.

The new images, published in The Washington Post on Thursday, were more graphic than the first set, and as Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld fielded tough questions on Friday about the scenes, it was made clear that worse was yet to come."

“Be on notice,” Mr. Rumsfeld told a Senate committee. “There are a lot more photographs and videos that exist. If these are released to the public, obviously it’s going to make matters worse.”

It would also be the latest in a string of disturbing images from Iraq that Americans, unlike much of the rest of the world, are not accustomed to seeing.

Marvin Kalb, a senior fellow at the Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard, said in an e-mail message, “The American people from the beginning have been getting a sanitized vision of the Iraq war, and for those who depend on images for most of their impressions of the war, therefore a somewhat distorted vision.”

A recent poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland appears to support that view. Asked to estimate the number of Iraqi civilians killed in the war in March and April of last year, 41 percent of respondents guessed below 500. Nearly 75 percent said 2,000 or below. No official toll exists, but even the lowest estimates put the number of Iraqi civilian deaths in the month after “major combat” began at more than 3,000. Last June, The Associated Press guessed that 3,240 Iraqi civilians died in March and April of last year. Iraq Body Count, an independent group tracking reports of civilian casualties, puts the number at more than 7,000.

Some say the American press has contributed to this hazy picture.

“To cover war without noticing death is like covering a sporting event without noticing the ball,” said Jim Naureckas, an editor at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, a left-leaning group.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Chicago Tribune | Arafat Fortifies Compound Fearing Attack:
"Fearing Israel will seize him, Yasser Arafat fortified his West Bank headquarters with hundreds of concrete-filled barrels and wrecked cars Thursday, saying he's determined to go down fighting.

Israel, which has repeatedly threatened the Palestinian leader, said it has no immediate plan to go after Arafat. One senior Israeli official said Arafat and his aides are being "hysterical" -- although Prime Minister Ariel Sharon warned only last month he is no longer bound by a promise to the United States not to harm Arafat.

Palestinian officials said the obstacles in the courtyard are meant to slow tanks and prevent helicopters from landing nearby, but he acknowledged that heaps of scrap metal would not hold back the Middle East's mightiest army for long.…

Addressing a rally in the Gaza Strip by phone Thursday, Arafat said the Palestinians are ready to meet their obligations under the U.S.-backed 'road map' peace plan and hope to resume negotiations with Israel. However, the plan has been stuck since its launch last year, and neither side has kept its promises.

The Palestinians are to dismantle violent groups, and Israel is to freeze settlement construction and remove West Bank outposts. Instead, Israel's Housing Ministry has funneled nearly $6.5 million to outposts and illegal construction in the past three years, a government watchdog reported Wednesday. ",1,5936715.story?coll=chi-news-hed

Sunday, May 02, 2004

"Last June, Janis Karpinski, an Army reserve brigadier general, was named commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade and put in charge of military prisons in Iraq. General Karpinski, the only female commander in the war zone, was an experienced operations and intelligence officer who had served with the Special Forces and in the 1991 Gulf War, but she had never run a prison system. Now she was in charge of three large jails, eight battalions, and thirty-four hundred Army reservists, most of whom, like her, had no training in handling prisoners."

General Karpinski, who had wanted to be a soldier since she was five, is a business consultant in civilian life, and was enthusiastic about her new job. In an interview last December with the St. Petersburg Times, she said that, for many of the Iraqi inmates at Abu Ghraib, “living conditions now are better in prison than at home. At one point we were concerned that they wouldn’t want to leave.”

A month later, General Karpinski was formally admonished and quietly suspended, and a major investigation into the Army’s prison system, authorized by Lieutenant General Ricardo S. Sanchez, the senior commander in Iraq, was under way. A fifty-three-page report, obtained by The New Yorker, written by Major General Antonio M. Taguba and not meant for public release, was completed in late February. Its conclusions about the institutional failures of the Army prison system were devastating. Specifically, Taguba found that between October and December of 2003 there were numerous instances of “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” at Abu Ghraib. This systematic and illegal abuse of detainees, Taguba reported, was perpetrated by soldiers of the 372nd Military Police Company, and also by members of the American intelligence community. (The 372nd was attached to the 320th M.P. Battalion, which reported to Karpinski’s brigade headquarters.) Taguba’s report listed some of the wrongdoing:

Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.

There was stunning evidence to support the allegations, Taguba added—“detailed witness statements and the discovery of extremely graphic photographic evidence.” Photographs and videos taken by the soldiers as the abuses were happening were not included in his report, Taguba said, because of their “extremely sensitive nature.”

The photographs—several of which were broadcast on CBS’s “60 Minutes 2” last week—show leering G.I.s taunting naked Iraqi prisoners who are forced to assume humiliating poses. Six suspects—Staff Sergeant Ivan L. Frederick II, known as Chip, who was the senior enlisted man; Specialist Charles A. Graner; Sergeant Javal Davis; Specialist Megan Ambuhl; Specialist Sabrina Harman; and Private Jeremy Sivits—are now facing prosecution in Iraq, on charges that include conspiracy, dereliction of duty, cruelty toward prisoners, maltreatment, assault, and indecent acts. A seventh suspect, Private Lynndie England, was reassigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, after becoming pregnant.

The photographs tell it all. In one, Private England, a cigarette dangling from her mouth, is giving a jaunty thumbs-up sign and pointing at the genitals of a young Iraqi, who is naked except for a sandbag over his head, as he masturbates. Three other hooded and naked Iraqi prisoners are shown, hands reflexively crossed over their genitals. A fifth prisoner has his hands at his sides. In another, England stands arm in arm with Specialist Graner; both are grinning and giving the thumbs-up behind a cluster of perhaps seven naked Iraqis, knees bent, piled clumsily on top of each other in a pyramid. There is another photograph of a cluster of naked prisoners, again piled in a pyramid. Near them stands Graner, smiling, his arms crossed; a woman soldier stands in front of him, bending over, and she, too, is smiling. Then, there is another cluster of hooded bodies, with a female soldier standing in front, taking photographs. Yet another photograph shows a kneeling, naked, unhooded male prisoner, head momentarily turned away from the camera, posed to make it appear that he is performing oral sex on another male prisoner, who is naked and hooded.

Such dehumanization is unacceptable in any culture, but it is especially so in the Arab world. Homosexual acts are against Islamic law and it is humiliating for men to be naked in front of other men, Bernard Haykel, a professor of Middle Eastern studies at New York University, explained. “Being put on top of each other and forced to masturbate, being naked in front of each other—it’s all a form of torture,” Haykel said.

Two Iraqi faces that do appear in the photographs are those of dead men. There is the battered face of prisoner No. 153399, and the bloodied body of another prisoner, wrapped in cellophane and packed in ice. There is a photograph of an empty room, splattered with blood.

The 372nd’s abuse of prisoners seemed almost routine—a fact of Army life that the soldiers felt no need to hide. On April 9th, at an Article 32 hearing (the military equivalent of a grand jury) in the case against Sergeant Frederick, at Camp Victory, near Baghdad, one of the witnesses, Specialist Matthew Wisdom, an M.P., told the courtroom what happened when he and other soldiers delivered seven prisoners, hooded and bound, to the so-called “hard site” at Abu Ghraib—seven tiers of cells where the inmates who were considered the most dangerous were housed. The men had been accused of starting a riot in another section of the prison. Wisdom said:

SFC Snider grabbed my prisoner and threw him into a pile. . . . I do not think it was right to put them in a pile. I saw SSG Frederic, SGT Davis and CPL Graner walking around the pile hitting the prisoners. I remember SSG Frederick hitting one prisoner in the side of its [sic] ribcage. The prisoner was no danger to SSG Frederick. . . . I left after that.
The New York Times > International > Middle East > Officer Suggests Iraq Jail Abuse Was Encouraged:
"An Army Reserve general whose soldiers were photographed as they abused Iraqi prisoners said Saturday that she knew nothing about the abuse until weeks after it occurred and that she was 'sickened' by the pictures. She said the prison cellblock where the abuse occurred was under the tight control of Army military intelligence officers who may have encouraged the abuse.

The suggestion by Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski that the reservists acted at the behest of military intelligence officers appears largely supported in a still-classified Army report on prison conditions in Iraq that documented many of the worst abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison, west of Baghdad, including the sexual humiliation of prisoners.

The New Yorker magazine said in its new edition that the report by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba found that reservist military police at the prison were urged by Army military officers and C.I.A. agents to 'set physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogation of witnesses.'"

According to the New Yorker article, the Army report offered accounts of rampant and gruesome abuse from October to December of 2003 that included the sexual assault of an Iraqi detainee with a chemical light stick or broomstick.

While reports of abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American and British soldiers have come to light in the last several days, the report cited by The New Yorker indicates a far more wide-ranging and systematic pattern of cruelties than previously reported.

The New Yorker: Torture at Abu Ghraib

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Iraq: U.S. Prisoner Abuse Sparks Concerns Over War Crimes (Human Rights Watch, 30-4-2004):
"Investigation Should Probe Role of Superiors, Private Contractors"

Photographs in media accounts show U.S. military personnel in Baghdad subjecting Iraqi detainees to humiliating and degrading treatment—and perhaps committing war crimes. Defense counsel for one of the accused soldiers claims that the soldiers had been ordered to "soften up" the detainees for interrogation. Moreover, private contractors allegedly were among those overseeing the interrogation process.

"The brazenness with which these soldiers conducted themselves, snapping photographs and flashing the 'thumbs-up' sign as they abused prisoners, suggests they felt they had nothing to hide from their superiors," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "Their superiors should be closely scrutinized to see whether they created an atmosphere of impunity that fostered this abuse."

The photographs show U.S. soldiers smiling, posing and laughing while naked Iraqi prisoners were stacked in a pyramid or positioned committing simulated sex acts. The 1949 Geneva Conventions prohibit "outrages upon the personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment" against any detainee. Mistreatment that amounts to "torture or inhuman treatment" is a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions—or a war crime.

The record of the United States in addressing alleged mistreatment of detainees by its personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan causes serious concern. In Afghanistan, as Human Rights Watch has previously reported, the U.S. government has yet to provide information on its investigations into the officially declared "homicide" deaths more than two years ago of two detainees in U.S. custody at Bagram airbase. The United States has also not adequately responded to allegations of other abuses in U.S. detention in Afghanistan, including cases of beatings, severe sleep deprivation, and exposure of detainees to extreme cold.

In Iraq a U.S. army lieutenant colonel who admitted that in August he threatened to kill an Iraqi detainee, firing a shot next to the man's head during a violent interrogation, received a fine as a disciplinary measure, but was not subjected to a court martial. The U.S. army in January discharged three reservists for abusing detainees at a detention camp near Basra in southern Iraq.

"It's clear that the United States has not taken the issue of prisoner abuse seriously enough," said Roth. "These sordid photos from Iraq show that systematic changes in the treatment of prisoners are needed immediately. The investigations should be made public."

The alleged involvement of private contractors is another dimension of the problem that merits investigation. Human Rights Watch is concerned that these contractors operate in Iraq with virtual impunity—exempt by the terms of their engagement with the U.S. military from prosecution by Iraqi courts, outside the military chain of command and thus ineligible for court-martial, and not subject to prosecution by U.S. courts.
Amnesty International - Library - Iraq: Torture not isolated -- independent investigations vital:
"There is a real crisis of leadership in Iraq -- with double standards and double speak on human rights, Amnesty International said today."
con·cept: May 2004