U.S. Suppresses Torture Testimony at Terror Trials
Hey, this is going to come as a big shock, but it turns out that some Guantanamo Bay prisoners on trial for plotting Sept. 11 are actually claiming they’ve been tortured in prison.
What, you already knew that? Well, yeah, just about everyone else in the world did, too. Still, the U.S. government, when broadcasting the military commission trials on a video monitor to the select group of people the government has allowed to see them, have apparently been cutting off the audio feed whenever a detainee testifies that he was abused by CIA agents in custody.
Today, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a legal brief before the military commission asking the court to require the complete trial to be broadcast. It also wants the government to release transcripts of past proceedings in which the audio was turned off.
Under the law, even the military commissions are supposed to be open to the public – though so far, the government has been able to pick and choose who in the public gets to see them.
“A system that suppresses defendants’ descriptions of abuse does not serve national security purposes; it only shields the government from embarrassment or criminal prosecution. That is not justice,” said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU, in a statement released today.
As the ACLU points out in its brief, the U.S. government has already admitted that it waterboarded at least three of the 14 “high-value” detainees held at Guantanamo. Meanwhile, a widely-cited report from the International Committee of the Red Cross describes one of the defendants crammed into a tiny box, slammed against the walls, and waterboarded ten times in single week. Other ICRC reports quote the infamous Khalid Sheikh Mohammed saying he’d been kept naked for more than a month. Other detainees have said they were shackled to the ceiling and forced to stand for as long as eight hours.
Of course, we don’t know if any of this is true. KSM has also taken credit for some 37 different terrorist attacks on targets around the world, some apparently dating back to before he was born. Donald Rumsfeld himself has ridiculed the allegations of torture, saying the prisoners were just saying what they were trained by al Qaeda to say if they were captured. (Al Qaeda members are supposedly trained according to what’s known as the Manchester Document, which was found by British police in the home of an Al Qaeda member and has been translated and published online at http://www.usdoj.gov/ag/manualpart1_1.pdf)
As the ACLU argues in its brief, “the government will be hard-pressed to assert a compelling interest in the suppression of allegations that it has insisted, on numerous occasions, are lies and propaganda.”
In adopting the Military Commissions Act, Congress explicitly said that the government must provide public access to the proceedings. The proceedings are only supposed to be closed when necessary to protect specific information which, if released, could endanger national security or the physical safety of individuals.
Oh, and then there’s that constitutional thing—the First Amendment. That “protects the public and the press from abridgment of their rights of access to information about the operation of their government,” according to the US Supreme Court, in the landmark case, Richmond Newspapers v. Virginia — which confirmed the right of the public and press to attend criminal trials.