British waterboarding torture scandal

From the New Statesman in Britain:

Police accused of “waterboarding” suspects

Published 10 June 2009

Six Metropolitan Police officers suspended after allegedly torturing suspects in a drugs raid

Six Metropolitan Police officers have been accused of using “waterboarding”-the controversial torture technique-against four suspects in a drugs raid in north London last November.

The officers concerned have all been suspended and an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission(IPPC) has been launched.

Police were said to have repeatedly pushed the heads of four suspects into buckets of water in an attempt to obtain information on the hidden drugs.

The technique, euphemistically described by the CIA as “enhanced interrogation”, has been widely used on Guantanamo Bay detainees but was outlawed in January by President Obama.

Through forced suffocation and inhalation of water, the practice can lead to permanent mental and physical damage or, if uninterrupted, death.

The torture allegations emerged from a corruption investigation into Enfield police accused of fabricating evidence and stealing suspects’ property.

It would be far too easy to blame just those few police individuals as “rotten apples”. The George W. Bush administration in the USA, the big brothers of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in Britain, made waterboarding and other torture crimes government policy. The scandal now in London should be seen in this context.

The claims come as Scotland Yard continues to investigate allegations that MI5 colluded with US agents in the torture of former Guanatanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed.

See also here.

David Miliband says policy at heart of MI5 torture collusion row will not be made public: here.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating two cases involving the way Metropolitan Police Officers have dealt with reports of rape: here.

CCTV shows police aggression against man who died of heart failure in police station: here.

The [British] government has told a Palestinian man he was free to return home, having kept him detained in Britain for eight years as a terror suspect without ever laying charges: here.

Britain: A senior police officer tonight said his force was concerned by complaints that children were injured by CS spray during an arrest: here.

A central feature of the assault on democratic rights in Britain, carried out by the Labour government in the name of the “war on terror,” is its effort to criminalise political activity: here.

Keith Ewing’s latest offering is an insightful analysis of the continuing erosion of civil liberties under the new Labour project: here.

While the Obama administration continues its efforts to suppress documentation of the Bush administration’s extensive torture regime, a number of Freedom of Information Act lawsuits threaten to bring more evidence of torture to light: here.

Canada’s Federal Court has ruled that the Canadian government has repeatedly violated Abousifian Abdelrazik’s constitutionally-guaranteed right to return to Canada and ordered the Canadian government to repatriate him within 30 days: here.

Waterboarding in the Netherlands: here.

14 thoughts on “British waterboarding torture scandal

  1. U.S. practices at Abu Ghraib barred in ’80s

    Interrogators now taught psychological methods

    By Mark Matthews [Baltimore] Sun National Staff

    May 11, 2004

    WASHINGTON – The abuse of prisoners in Iraq shows a pattern of harsh, coercive U.S. interrogation practices that were supposed to have ended with the Cold War.

    From the 1960s into the 1980s, the United States trained its interrogators – or taught its Cold War allies – to exploit dread, nakedness, solitary confinement, sensory deprivation and other coercive measures to break a prisoner’s will.

    None of these practices is now officially sanctioned by the Army, and training at the U.S. Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., gives prominent attention to the practices allowed or forbidden by the Geneva Conventions.

    But the investigation of conditions at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, reports by human rights groups, and accounts by soldiers and prisoners reveal striking similarities to the discredited practices of past decades.

    Pictures and published accounts from soldiers and prisoners show naked detainees in vulnerable or humiliating sexual postures, being kept hooded and threatened with electrocution or attack by dogs.

    The International Committee of the Red Cross has said that it repeatedly warned U.S. officials about degrading and inhumane treatment used against detainees that in some cases was “tantamount to torture.”

    Amnesty International says that as early as July, it informed U.S. officials about allegations of ill-treatment by the military that included beatings, electric shock, sleep deprivation, hooding, and prolonged forced standing and kneeling.

    Not limited to Iraq

    Such treatment was not limited to Iraq, Amnesty International said in a statement last week. The group reported that numerous people held at the U.S. bases in Bagram and Kandahar, Afghanistan, say they were subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

    Forms of torture were taught by the Central Intelligence Agency to U.S. allies as late as the 1980s, according to documents obtained by The Sun in 1997 under the Freedom of Information Act.

    The CIA’s Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual – 1983, which intelligence sources said at the time was an updated version of the Vietnam-era KUBARK manual, taught such methods as stripping suspects naked, keeping them blindfolded, in solitary confinement and depriving them of sensory input.

    “The more complete the deprivation, the more rapidly and deeply the subject is affected,” the 1983 manual stated. Some of the techniques resembled closely the methods used by a U.S.-trained military unit in Honduras, Battalion 316.

    Between 1984 and 1985, after congressional committees began questioning training techniques being used by the CIA in Latin America, the manual was substantially revised, with warnings that certain interrogation methods were forbidden.

    The early KUBARK manual mentioned electric shock, noting that approval from headquarters is required if the interrogation is to include bodily harm or “if medical, chemical or electrical methods or materials are to be used to induce acquiescence.”

    For years, U.S. interrogation experts have cast doubt on the effectiveness of torture as an aid to gaining information, aside from its illegality. They say tortured prisoners are likely to say anything to end their suffering, and are thus unreliable.

    Despite widespread condemnation of the practice, the State Department reported last year allegations that some nations allied with the United States in the war on terror, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, still practice torture.

    Current training of U.S. interrogators instead employs a variety of sophisticated psychological methods to break down a prisoner’s resistance.

    Properly used, interrogation can produce information that can save American lives without resorting to illegal techniques, says Kerry Hamm, an Army interrogator from 1987 to 1998.

    “There are things that are permissible that are not pleasant or comfortable,” he said. “Even hard-core guys who are trained to resist can fold or break when everything is used properly.”

    He attributed the abuses in Iraq to “a lack of experience and a lack of accountability.”,0,2828198.story


  2. Some U.S. prison contractors may avoid charges

    Interior Department hired Abu Ghraib interrogators; Loophole tangles prosecution; Army chain of command blurred in civilian abuses

    By Scott Shane [Baltimore] Sun National Staff

    May 24, 2004

    The U.S. civilian interrogators questioning prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq work not under a military contract but on one from the Department of the Interior, a bureaucratic twist that could complicate any effort to hold them criminally responsible for abuse of detainees or other offenses.

    The unexpected role of the Department of the Interior, usually associated not with wartime intelligence-gathering but with national parks, grew out of a government plan to cut costs. But in practice, it may have increased costs and reduced scrutiny, said Peter W. Singer of the Brookings Institution.

    “You’re placing a military interrogation task under Smokey the Bear,” Singer said. “You can’t have good oversight.”

    What’s more, legal experts say, contractors for nonmilitary agencies such as the Department of the Interior may be able to escape prosecution for crimes they commit overseas because of an apparent loophole in the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act. The law, passed in 2000, applies only to contractors with the Department of Defense – a flaw some members of Congress want to remedy.

    Michael J. Nardotti Jr., a Washington lawyer who served as judge advocate general of the Army from 1993 to 1997, said the law is untested and that it is uncertain whether a court would stretch the law to cover an Interior Department contractor working on Army assignments.

    What is certain, Nardotti said, is that a contractor charged with a crime would use the issue to challenge the prosecution.

    The Iraq war and its aftermath have focused attention on the extraordinary expansion of the work performed by federal contractors, often in sensitive security and intelligence roles. U.S. security contractors in Iraq, who do everything from guarding U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer III to advising Iraqi police, number more than 20,000, making them the second-largest security force after the U.S. military.

    Many military officers and outside experts say that using contractors as interrogators is a bad idea no matter what agency hires them, because they are not subject to military discipline and control.

    Questions of command

    “I would never have tolerated civilian contractors working as interrogators,” says Army Col. Charles Brule, a Rhode Island reservist who worked at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2002. “Who do they answer to? What’s the chain of command?”

    Congress has also expressed concern about contract interrogators. A defense spending bill passed Thursday by the House would require the Pentagon to disclose in greater detail the work of contractors in Iraq, and Senate Democrats have said they might propose legislation banning contractors from interrogating prisoners.

    Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, a Hawaii Democrat, pressed top Army officials on the issue at a hearing last week. “The contractors seem to be outside of the line of command,” he said. “And as a result, some things they do are not known by us.”

    Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller replied that “no civilian contractors had a supervisory position. It’s the military … who sets the priorities and ensures that we meet our standards.”

    But in the case of the contract interrogators at Abu Ghraib, the chain of command is especially blurry, because it ends with an obscure Department of the Interior office 70 miles southeast of Tucson, Ariz.

    The interrogators work for CACI International, a global government contractor based in Arlington, Va., with more than $1 billion a year in revenue. And CACI’s contract is with the Interior Department’s National Business Center, which for the past four years has run the contracting office at Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Ariz., said Interior Department spokesman Frank Quimby.

    Quimby said the arrangement was a result of federal efforts in the 1990s to “streamline and reduce duplication,” by having agencies with particular skill at administrative functions such as payroll or contracting handle those jobs for other agencies.

    Thus, with efficiency in mind, the Fort Huachuca Contract Administration Office was gradually transferred from the Army to the Department of the Interior between 1998 and 2001.

    “Now the Army comes to that office when it needs services,” Quimby said.

    In 2001, the Interior Department contracting office awarded a “blanket purchase agreement” to a company called Premier Technology Group for services to be provided to the Army. Last year, CACI International acquired Premier Technology.

    The blanket purchase agreement allows the Department of the Interior to purchase services from CACI International without going through a new round of competitive bidding for each new job. Since 2001, the department has approved 81 “delivery orders” under the Premier Technology-CACI contract, including 11 for services in Iraq.

    Most of the services relate to information technology, but at least two involve the provision of interrogators, Quimby said – one for $19.9 million covering “interrogation support” and another for $21.8 million labeled “human intelligence support.”

    Under those contracts, Army officials have said that CACI has provided 27 interrogators to work in detention centers in Iraq. Several work at Abu Ghraib, and one – a 34-year-old Navy veteran named Steven Stefanowicz – is sharply criticized in an Army investigative report on the prisoner abuse.

    Stefanowicz instructed military police officers to “facilitate interrogations” in such a way that “he clearly knew his instructions equated to physical abuse,” says the report by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba. It also declares that Stefanowicz “made a false statement to the investigation team regarding the locations of his interrogations, the activities during his interrogations, and his knowledge of abuses.”

    Henry E. Hockeimer Jr., an attorney representing Stefanowicz, said his client denies doing anything wrong at Abu Ghraib. “Anything he did there was both appropriate and authorized, and he did not do anything wrong, nor is he aware of any wrongdoing by any other CACI employee,” Hockeimer said.

    CACI International did not respond to a request for comment, but company officials say they have seen no evidence of wrongdoing by employees.

    Taguba’s report recommends that Stefanowicz be fired, reprimanded and stripped of his security clearance. The report does not suggest criminal charges.

    Apparent loophole

    Technically, Stefanowicz and other CACI workers are not Defense Department contractors – and thus do not appear to be covered by the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act. Two congressmen submitted legislation last week designed to plug such loopholes in the law.

    “Pentagon contractors working in Iraq are operating in a legal fog, where they are not accountable to Iraqi laws, U.S. laws or military laws governing our troops,” Rep. David E. Price, a North Carolina Democrat, said in a statement about the amendment he proposed along with Rep. Christopher Shays, a Connecticut Republican.

    Their bill would extend the law to contractors with any federal agency, as long as they are “supporting the mission of the Department of Defense.” But even if it passes, the amendment would not apply to crimes committed before it takes effect.

    Singer, of the Brookings Institution, said the Interior Department’s role began with an attempt to be frugal. But by involving two Cabinet departments and having a contractor provide services for years without new bidding, the government has almost certainly increased costs, he said.

    “There is no competition and no oversight,” Singer said. “The free market can be a wonderful mechanism. But not if you do everything possible to ensure that it won’t work.”

    Quimby, the Interior Department spokesman, sounded frustrated that his agency has been dragged into the prison scandal.

    “The Army set the requirements for the contract,” he said. “The Army pays for the contract. The Army benefits from the contract.

    “But when there’s a media inquiry,” Quimby said, “it’s an Interior Department contract.”,0,1173658.story


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