Compliments of Shobak:
8 Rights Articles
1. NYT reveals CIA secret flight network kidnaps detainees
2. Judge blasts prosecutors for shackling
3. Judge orders Abu Ghraib photos released
4. AMNESTY says "US Leads Global Attack on Human Rights"
5. FBI Records Cite Quran Abuse Allegations
6. British soldiers face war crimes charges
7. Top Israeli news anchor attacks occupation
8. Uzbekistan crackdown tolerated for oil
[Thx to Zeeshan H]
CIA Expanding Terror Battle under Guise of Charter Flights
By Scott Shane, Stephen Grey and Margot Williams
The New York Times
Tuesday 31 May 2005
Smithfield, NC - The airplanes of Aero Contractors Ltd. take off from Johnston County Airport here, then disappear over the scrub pines and fields of tobacco and sweet potatoes. Nothing about the sleepy Southern setting hints of foreign intrigue. Nothing gives away the fact that Aero's pilots are the discreet bus drivers of the battle against terrorism, routinely sent on secret missions to Baghdad, Cairo, Tashkent and Kabul.
When the Central Intelligence Agency wants to grab a suspected member of Al Qaeda overseas and deliver him to interrogators in another country, an Aero Contractors plane often does the job. If agency experts need to fly overseas in a hurry after the capture of a prized prisoner, a plane will depart Johnston County and stop at Dulles Airport outside Washington to pick up the C.I.A. team on the way.
Aero Contractors' planes dropped C.I.A. paramilitary officers into Afghanistan in 2001; carried an American team to Karachi, Pakistan, right after the United States Consulate there was bombed in 2002; and flew from Libya to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the day before an American-held prisoner said he was questioned by Libyan intelligence agents last year, according to flight data and other records.
While posing as a private charter outfit - "aircraft rental with pilot" is the listing in Dun and Bradstreet - Aero Contractors is in fact a major domestic hub of the Central Intelligence Agency's secret air service. The company was founded in 1979 by a legendary C.I.A. officer and chief pilot for Air America, the agency's Vietnam-era air company, and it appears to be controlled by the agency, according to former employees.
Behind a surprisingly thin cover of rural hideaways, front companies and shell corporations that share officers who appear to exist only on paper, the C.I.A. has rapidly expanded its air operations since 2001 as it has pursued and questioned terrorism suspects around the world.
An analysis of thousands of flight records, aircraft registrations and corporate documents, as well as interviews with former C.I.A. officers and pilots, show that the agency owns at least 26 planes, 10 of them purchased since 2001. The agency has concealed its ownership behind a web of seven shell corporations that appear to have no employees and no function apart from owning the aircraft.
The planes, regularly supplemented by private charters, are operated by real companies controlled by or tied to the agency, including Aero Contractors and two Florida companies, Pegasus Technologies and Tepper Aviation.
The civilian planes can go places American military craft would not be welcome. They sometimes allow the agency to circumvent reporting requirements most countries impose on flights operated by other governments. But the cover can fail, as when two Austrian fighter jets were scrambled on Jan. 21, 2003, to intercept a C.I.A. Hercules transport plane, equipped with military communications, on its way from Germany to Azerbaijan.
"When the C.I.A. is given a task, it's usually because national policy makers don't want 'U.S. government' written all over it," said Jim Glerum, a retired C.I.A. officer who spent 18 years with the agency's Air America but says he has no knowledge of current operations. "If you're flying an executive jet into somewhere where there are plenty of executive jets, you can look like any other company."
Some of the C.I.A. planes have been used for carrying out renditions, the legal term for the agency's practice of seizing terrorism suspects in one foreign country and delivering them to be detained in another, including countries that routinely engage in torture. The resulting controversy has breached the secrecy of the agency's flights in the last two years, as plane-spotting hobbyists, activists and journalists in a dozen countries have tracked the mysterious planes' movements.
Inquiries from Abroad
The authorities in Italy and Sweden have opened investigations into the C.I.A.'s alleged role in the seizure of suspects in those countries who were then flown to Egypt for interrogation. According to Dr. Georg Nolte, a law professor at the University of Munich, under international law, nations are obligated to investigate any substantiated human rights violations committed on their territory or using their airspace.
Dr. Nolte examined the case of Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen who American officials have confirmed was pulled from a bus on the Serbia-Macedonia border on Dec. 31, 2003, and held for three weeks. Then he was drugged and beaten, by his account, before being flown to Afghanistan.
The episode illustrates the circumstantial nature of the evidence on C.I.A. flights, which often coincide with the arrest and transporting of Al Qaeda suspects. No public record states how Mr. Masri was taken to Afghanistan. But flight data shows a Boeing Business Jet operated by Aero Contractors and owned by Premier Executive Transport Services, one of the C.I.A.-linked shell companies, flew from Skopje, Macedonia, to Baghdad and on to Kabul on Jan. 24, 2004, the day after Mr. Masri's passport was marked with a Macedonian exit stamp.
Mr. Masri was later released by order of Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser at the time, after his arrest was shown to be a case of mistaken identity.
A C.I.A. spokeswoman declined to comment for this article. Representatives of Aero Contractors, Tepper Aviation and Pegasus Technologies, which operate the agency planes, said they could not discuss their clients' identities. "We've been doing business with the government for a long time, and one of the reasons is, we don't talk about it," said Robert W. Blowers, Aero's assistant manager.
A Varied Fleet
But records filed with the Federal Aviation Administration provide a detailed, if incomplete, portrait of the agency's aviation wing.
The fleet includes a World War II-era DC-3 and a sleek Gulfstream V executive jet, as well as workhorse Hercules transport planes and Spanish-built aircraft that can drop into tight airstrips. The flagship is the Boeing Business Jet, based on the 737 model, which Aero flies from Kinston, N.C., because the runway at Johnston County is too short for it.
Most of the shell companies that are the planes' nominal owners hold permits to land at American military bases worldwide, a clue to their global mission. Flight records show that at least 11 of the aircraft have landed at Camp Peary, the Virginia base where the C.I.A. operates its training facility, known as "the Farm." Several planes have also made regular trips to Guantánamo.
But the facility that turns up most often in records of the 26 planes is little Johnston County Airport, which mainly serves private pilots and a few local corporations. At one end of the 5,500-foot runway are the modest airport offices, a flight school and fuel tanks. At the other end are the hangars and offices of Aero Contractors, down a tree-lined driveway named for Charlie Day, an airplane mechanic who earned a reputation as an engine magician working on secret operations in Laos during the Vietnam War.
"To tell you the truth, I don't know what they do," said Ray Blackmon, the airport manager, noting that Aero has its own mechanics and fuel tanks, keeping nosey outsiders away. But he called the Aero workers "good neighbors," always ready to lend a tool.
Son of Air America
Aero appears to be the direct descendant of Air America, a C.I.A.-operated air "proprietary," as agency-controlled companies are called.
Just three years after the big Asian air company was closed in 1976, one of its chief pilots, Jim Rhyne, was asked to open a new air company, according to a former Aero Contractors employee whose account is supported by corporate records.
"Jim is one of the great untold stories of heroic work for the U.S. government," said Bill Leary, a professor emeritus of history at the University of Georgia who has written about the C.I.A.'s air operations. Mr. Rhyne had a prosthetic leg - he had lost one leg to enemy antiaircraft fire in Laos - that was blamed for his death in a 2001 crash while testing a friend's new plane at Johnston County Airport.
Mr. Rhyne had chosen the rural airfield in part because it was handy to Fort Bragg and many Special Forces veterans, and in part because it had no tower from which Aero's operations could be spied on, a former pilot said.
"Sometimes a plane would go in the hangar with one tail number and come out in the middle of the night with another," said the former pilot. He asked not to be identified because when he was hired, after responding to a newspaper advertisement seeking pilots for the C.I.A., he signed a secrecy agreement.
While flying for Aero in the 1980's and 1990's, the pilot said, he ferried King Hussein, Jordan's late ruler, around the United States; kept American-backed rebels like Jonas Savimbi of Angola supplied with guns and food; hopped across the jungles of Colombia to fight the drug trade; and retrieved shoulder-fired Stinger missiles and other weapons from former Soviet republics in Central Asia.
Ferrying Terrorism Suspects
Aero's planes were sent to Fort Bragg to pick up Special Forces operatives for practice runs in the Uwharrie National Forest in North Carolina, dropping supplies or attempting emergency "exfiltrations" of agents, often at night, the former pilot said. He described flying with $50,000 in cash strapped to his legs to buy fuel and working under pseudonyms that changed from job to job.
He does not recall anyone using the word "rendition." "We used to call them 'snatches,' " he said, recalling half a dozen cases. Sometimes the goal was to take a suspect from one country to another. At other times, the C.I.A. team rescued allies, including five men believed to have been marked by Muammar el-Qaddafi, the Libyan leader, for assassination.
Since 2001, the battle against terrorism has refocused and expanded the C.I.A.'s air operations. Aero's staff grew to 79 from 48 from 2001 to 2004, according to Dun and Bradstreet.
Despite the difficulty of determining the purpose of any single flight or who was aboard, the pattern of flights that coincide with known events is striking.
When Saddam Hussein was captured in Iraq the evening of Dec. 13, 2003, a Gulfstream V executive jet was already en route from Dulles Airport in Washington. It was joined in Baghdad the next day by the Boeing Business Jet, also flying from Washington.
Flights on this route were highly unusual, aviation records show. These were the first C.I.A. planes to file flight plans from Washington to Baghdad since the beginning of the war.
Flight logs show a C.I.A. plane left Dulles within 48 hours of the capture of several Al Qaeda leaders, flying to airports near the place of arrest. They included Abu Zubaida, a close aide to Osama bin Laden, captured on March 28, 2002; Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who helped plan 9/11 from Hamburg, Germany, on Sept. 10, 2002; Abd al-Rahim al-Nashri, the Qaeda operational chief in the Persian Gulf region, on Nov. 8, 2002; and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the architect of 9/11, on March 1, 2003.
A jet also arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, from Dulles on May 31, 2003, after the killing in Saudi Arabia of Yusuf Bin-Salih al-Ayiri, a propagandist and former close associate of Mr. bin Laden, and the capture of Mr. Ayiri's deputy, Abdullah al-Shabrani.
Flight records sometimes lend support to otherwise unsubstantiated reports. Omar Deghayes, a Libyan-born prisoner in the American detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has said through his lawyer that four Libyan intelligence service officers appeared in September in an interrogation cell.
Aviation records cannot corroborate his claim that the men questioned him and threatened his life. But they do show that a Gulfstream V registered to one of the C.I.A. shell companies flew from Tripoli, Libya, to Guantánamo on Sept. 8, the day before Mr. Deghayes reported first meeting the Libyan agents. The plane stopped in Jamaica and at Dulles before returning to the Johnston County Airport, flight records show.
The same Gulfstream has been linked - through witness accounts, government inquiries and news reports - to prisoner renditions from Sweden, Pakistan, Indonesia and Gambia.
Most recently, flight records show the Boeing Business Jet traveling from Sudan to Baltimore-Washington International Airport on April 17, and returning to Sudan on April 22. The trip coincides with a visit of the Sudanese intelligence chief to Washington that was reported April 30 by The Los Angeles Times.
As the C.I.A. tries to veil such air operations, aviation regulations pose a major obstacle. Planes must have visible tail numbers, and their ownership can be easily checked by entering the number into the Federal Aviation Administration's online registry.
So, rather than purchase aircraft outright, the C.I.A. uses shell companies whose names appear unremarkable in casual checks of F.A.A. registrations.
On closer examination, however, it becomes clear that those companies appear to have no premises, only post office boxes or addresses in care of lawyers' offices. Their officers and directors, listed in state corporate databases, seem to have been invented. A search of public records for ordinary identifying information about the officers - addresses, phone numbers, house purchases, and so on - comes up with only post office boxes in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.
But whoever created the companies used some of the same post office box addresses and the same apparently fictitious officers for two or more of the companies. One of those seeming ghost executives, Philip P. Quincannon, for instance, is listed as an officer of Premier Executive Transport Services and Crowell Aviation Technologies, both listed to the same Massachusetts address, as well as Stevens Express Leasing in Tennessee.
No one by that name can be found in any public record other than post office boxes in Washington and Dunn Loring, Va. Those listings for Mr. Quincannon, in commercial databases, include an anomaly: His Social Security number was issued in Washington between 1993 and 1995, but his birth year is listed as 1949.
Mr. Glerum, the C.I.A. and Air America veteran, said the use of one such name on more than one company was "bad tradecraft: you shouldn't allow an element of one entity to lead to others."
He said one method used in setting up past C.I.A. proprietaries was to ask real people to volunteer to serve as officers or directors. "It was very, very easy to find patriotic Americans who were willing to help," he said.
Such an approach may have been used with Aero Contractors. William J. Rogers, 84, of Maine, said he was asked to serve on the Aero board in the 1980's because he was a former Navy pilot and past national commander of the American Legion. He knew the company did government work, but not much more, he said. "We used to meet once or twice a year," he said.
Aero's president, according to corporate records, is Norman Richardson, a North Carolina businessman who once ran a truck stop restaurant called Stormin' Norman's. Asked about his role with Aero, Mr. Richardson said only: "Most of the work we do is for the government. It's on the basis that we can't say anything about it."
Secrecy Is Difficult
Aero's much-larger ancestor, Air America, was closed down in 1976 just as the United States Senate's Church Committee issued a mixed report on the value of the C.I.A.'s use of proprietary companies. The committee questioned whether the nation would ever again be involved in covert wars. One comment appears prescient.
When one C.I.A. official told the committee that a new air proprietary should be created only if "we have a chance at keeping it secret that it is C.I.A.," Lawrence R. Houston, then agency's general counsel, objected.
In the aviation industry, said Mr. Houston, who died in 1995, "everybody knows what everybody is doing, and something new coming along is immediately the focus of a thousand eyes and prying questions."
He concluded: "I don't think you can do a real cover operation."
Ford Fessenden contributed reporting for this article.
Judge blasts prosecutors for shackling
BY PATRICIA HURTADO
May 24, 2005, 8:27 PM EDT
A federal judge presiding over the case of a San Diego student charged
with lying to a federal grand jury probing the Sept. 11 hijackers
railed at prosecutors Tuesday and threatened to throw out the case
after learning the defendant was shackled during his grand jury
At a pre-trial hearing U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin blasted
prosecutors for shackling Osama Awadallah, a Jordanian, in 2001 while
he was a material witness during the probe of the terror attacks.
Scheindlin also said she may grant a defense motion to toss out the
case after Awadallah's lawyers, Jesse Berman and Liz Fink, cited a
Supreme Court ruling Monday that declared "visibly shackling
undermines the presumption of innocence."
She scheduled a hearing into the matter for Memorial Day. The trial is
to begin Tuesday.
Assistant Manhattan U.S. Attorney Karl Metzner told Scheindlin that
the Supreme Court decision in Deck v. Missouri was not relevant
because that case pertained to a defendant in the penalty phase of a
capital murder case.
Metzner argued Awadallah was not shackled, but had one hand cuffed to
his chair as he testified in an effort to keep him from fleeing. He
said prosecutors also told grand jurors not to draw any inference from
the handcuffing and that they were reminded he was a witness and not a
But Scheindlin angrily interrupted him, saying: "He was clearly so
dangerous that he needed to be shackled! Mr. Metzner, there's no way
around that inference! He wouldn't have to be shackled unless you
thought he was dangerous! He wouldn't have needed two guards! Do you
routinely shackle your witnesses before the grand jury?"
Wednesday's comments were not Scheindlin's first challenge to the
government's case against Awadallah. In April, 2002, Scheindlin
dismissed all charges against Awadallah, ruling that the government
had improperly used the Material Witness Statute to jail witnesses
during the terror investigation.
She also criticized the government's handling of the case.
Her ruling was hailed by civil libertarians. However, in November
2003, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Scheindlin and
reinstated the charges. The court ruled that the Material Witness
Statute was valid and noted that there was evidence that at least one
of the Sept. 11 hijackers had Awadallah's home telephone number and
lived near him in San Diego.
Prosecutors contend Awadallah's phone number was found in the car
abandoned by Nawaf Alhazmi at Dulles Airport on Sept. 11. He was later
indicted on two counts of perjury for lying to the grand jury about
knowing a second hijacker, Khalid Al-Midhar. Alhazmi and Al-Midhar
were aboard Flight 77, which slammed into the Pentagon.
Copyright © 2005, Newsday, Inc.
Judge: Public Has Right to See Abuse Photos
By LARRY NEUMEISTER
The Associated Press
Thursday, May 26, 2005; 7:57 PM
NEW YORK -- A federal judge has told the government it
will have to release additional pictures of detainee
abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, civil rights
Judge Alvin Hellerstein, finding the public has a
right to see the pictures, told the government
Thursday he will sign an order requiring it to release
them to the American Civil Liberties Union, the
The judge made the decision after he and government
attorneys privately viewed a sampling of nine pictures
resulting from an Army probe into abuse and torture at
the prison. The pictures were given to the Army by a
military policeman assigned there.
ACLU lawyer Megan Lewis told the judge she believes
the government has pictures of abuse beyond the Abu
Ghraib images that sparked outrage around the world
after they were leaked to the media last year.
Some of the thousands of pages of documents the
government has released to the ACLU seem to refer to
such images, and the government has not denied that
additional photos exist, she said.
The judge decided some pictures from Abu Graib could
be released to comply with the Freedom of Information
Act while others must be redacted or were not relevant
to the ACLU's request, Lewis said.
She said the judge's findings likely would clear the
way for the release of other pictures of detainees
taken around the world by U.S. authorities.
"I do think they could be extremely upsetting and
depict conduct that would outrage the American public
and be truly horrifying," she said outside court.
The judge ordered the transcript of comments made
during his viewing of the pictures sealed. He did not
disclose his findings in court, but said his order
"will lead to production (of the pictures) or further
"Further proceedings" presumably referred to possible
appeals by government lawyers, who declined to comment
as they left the hearing. A message left with a
government spokeswoman was not immediately returned.
Before viewing the pictures, the judge said in court
that he thought "photographs present a different level
of detail and are the best evidence the public can
have of what occurred."
Government lawyer Sean Lane argued that releasing
pictures, even if faces and other features are
obscured, would violate Geneva Convention rules on
prisoner treatment by subjecting detainees to
additional humiliation or embarrassment. He said the
emotional wounds would be reopened because detainees
could identify themselves and because the public would
learn their identities.
The judge, however, said, "I don't believe with
suitable redaction there is an unwarranted invasion of
privacy." He also said he didn't think it was likely
that detainees in redacted photos would be able to be
The judge's decision stems from a lawsuit the ACLU
filed in October 2003 seeking information on treatment
of detainees in U.S. custody and the transfer of
prisoners to countries known to use torture. The ACLU
contends that prisoner abuse is systemic.
So far, 36,000 pages of documents and the reports of
130 investigations, mostly from the FBI and Army, have
been turned over to the ACLU. The group is seeking
documents from the CIA and the Defense Department as well.
US Leads Global Attack on Human Rights - Amnesty
By Jeremy Lovell
Wednesday 25 May 2005
London - Four years after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, human rights are in retreat worldwide and the United States bears most responsibility, rights watchdog Amnesty International said on Wednesday.
From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe the picture is bleak. Governments are increasingly rolling back the rule of law, taking their cue from the U.S.-led war on terror, it said.
"The USA as the unrivalled political, military and economic hyper-power sets the tone for governmental behaviour worldwide," Secretary General Irene Khan said in the foreword to Amnesty International's 2005 annual report.
"When the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants a licence to others to commit abuse with impunity," she said.
London-based Amnesty cited the pictures last year of abuse of detainees at Iraq's U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison, which it said were never adequately investigated, and the detention without trial of "enemy combatants" at the U.S. naval base in Cuba.
"The detention facility at Guantanamo Bay has become the gulag of our times, entrenching the practice of arbitrary and indefinite detention in violation of international law," Khan said.
She also noted Washington's attempts to circumvent its own ban on the use of torture.
"The U.S. government has gone to great lengths to restrict the application of the Geneva Convention and to 're-define' torture," she said, citing the secret detention of suspects and the practice of handing some over to countries where torture was not outlawed.
U.S. President George W. Bush often said his country was founded on and dedicated to the cause of human dignity -- but there was a gulf between rhetoric and reality, Amnesty found.
"During his first term in office, the USA proved to be far from the global human rights champion it proclaimed itself to be," the report said, citing Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.
But the United States was by no means the sole or even the worst offender as murder, mayhem and abuse of women and children spread to the four corners of the globe, Amnesty said.
"The human rights abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan were far from being the only negative repercussions of the response to the terrible events of Sept. 11, 2001.
"Since that day, the framework of international human rights standards has been attacked and undermined by both governments and armed groups," Amnesty said.
The increasingly blurred distinction between the war on terror and the war on drugs prompted governments across Latin America to use troops to tackle crimes traditionally handled by police, the report said.
In Asia too, the war on terror was blamed for increasing state repression, adding to the woes of societies already worn down by poverty, discrimination against minorities, a string of low-intensity conflicts and politicisation of aid, it added.
Africa too remained riven by regional wars and political repression, and the abject failure of the international community to take concerted action to end the slaughter in Sudan's vast Darfur region was a cause of shame.
Khan also condemned the United Nations Commission on Human Rights for failing to stand up for those supposedly in its care.
"The U.N. Commission of Human Rights has become a forum for horse-trading on human rights," she said. "Last year the Commission dropped Iraq from scrutiny, could not agree on action on Chechnya, Nepal or Zimbabwe and was silent on Guantanamo Bay."
FBI Records Cite Quran Abuse Allegations
By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer 8 minutes ago
Terror suspects at the Guantanamo Bay prison told U.S. interrogators
as early as April 2002, just three months after the first detainees
arrived, that military guards abused them and desecrated the Quran,
declassified FBI records say.
"Their behavior is bad," one detainee is quoted as saying of his
guards during an interrogation by an FBI special agent on July 22,
2002. "About five months ago the guards beat the detainees. They
flushed a Quran in the toilet."
Lawrence Di Rita, chief spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald H.
Rumsfeld, said Wednesday that U.S. military officials at Guantanamo
Bay had recently found a separate record of the same allegation by the
same detainee, and he was re-interviewed on May 14. "He did not
corroborate his own allegation," Di Rita said.
Asked why he felt certain that this detainee did not affirm his
allegation out of fear of retaliation, Di Rita said, "It's a judgment
call, and I trust the judgment of the commanders more than I trust the
judgment of al-Qaida."
The statements about guards disrespecting the Quran echo public
allegations made many months later by some detainees and their lawyers
after the prisoners' release from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The
once-secret FBI documents show a consistency to the allegations and
are the first indication that Justice and Defense department officials
were aware in early 2002 that detainees were accusing their guards of
mistreating the Quran.
One told an interrogator in March 2003 that guards had repeatedly
mishandled the Quran. This detainee asked why the United States, as a
supporter of freedom of religion, was using the Muslim holy book as a
Still another said in October 2002 that he and other detainees had
been "beaten, spit upon and treated worse than a dog."
Separately on Wednesday, Amnesty International urged the United States
to shut down the prison, calling it "the gulag of our time." White
House spokesman Scott McClellan said that the human rights group's
complaints were "unsupported by the facts" and that allegations of
mistreatment were being investigated.
In its annual report, Amnesty accused the United States of failing to
live up to its responsibility to set the standard for human rights
protections. Rather, the group said the United States has been the
biggest disappointment "after evidence came to light that the U.S.
administration had sanctioned interrogation techniques that violated
the U.N. Convention against Torture."
Some 540 men are being held at Guantanamo Bay on suspicion of links to
Afghanistan's ousted Taliban government or the al-Qaida terror
network. Some have been jailed for more than three years without
charge. The Defense Department argues that the detention prevents
these enemy combatants from fighting against the United States.
Di Rita said the charges of deliberate Quran desecration by U.S.
military personnel were "fantastic" and "not credible on their face"
because U.S. commanders were careful not to inflame passions among the
"Commanders knew it was a very sensitive issue and they didn't need
the trouble," the spokesman said.
Di Rita also said that the terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay had
been trained to make such false claims.
Indeed, the FBI records cite at least one instance in which a detainee
is said to have falsely claimed that a guard had dropped a Quran. "In
actuality the detainee dropped the Quran and then blamed the guard.
Many other detainees reacted to this claim," the FBI document said,
and that sparked an uprising "on or about 19-20 July 2002."
In an April 6, 2002, FBI interrogation, one of the detainees said
guards had been "pushing them around and throwing their waste bucket
at them in the cell, sometimes with waste still in the bucket, and
kicking the Quran."
Another detainee stated that he had been beaten unconscious at
Guantanamo Bay in the spring of 2002, a period in which U.S.
interrogators were pressing hard for intelligence information they
believed some of the detainees held on the planning, structure and
tactics of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network.
The newly released FBI records do not indicate whether the allegations
were investigated or substantiated.
In response to a recent Newsweek story, later retracted, that U.S.
officials had confirmed allegations of Quran desecration at Guantanamo
Bay, Pentagon officials have said repeatedly that they have turned up
no credible, substantiated claims that U.S. military guards had
deliberately treated the Muslim holy book with disrespect.
Di Rita said the Pentagon had not seen the new FBI documents until
they were made public Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The ACLU said it received them in response to a federal court order
that directed the FBI and other agencies to comply with the
organization's request under the Freedom of Information Act.
In many of the interrogations described in the FBI documents, military
officers were present. Some were with the Air Force Office of Special
Investigations; others were Navy and Army investigations personnel.
Large portions of the interrogation summaries were blacked out by FBI
censors before being released to the ACLU.
The U.S. Southern Command, which is responsible for the Guantanamo Bay
detention center, responded to the Newsweek story by beginning a
review of written logs searching for corroborated incidents of Quran
mishandling. As of Wednesday, officials had not reported finding any.
In January 2003, the military issued a three-page written guideline
for handling a detainee's Quran, including a stipulation that it
should be handled "as if it were a fragile piece of delicate art," and
that it not be placed in "offensive areas such as the floor, near the
toilet or sink, near the feet or dirty/wet areas."
ACLU officials said the newly declassified documents provide new
evidence that U.S. authorities at Guantanamo Bay were mistreating
symbols of the detainees' religious beliefs as a tactic to force them
"The United States government continues to turn a blind eye to
mounting evidence of widespread abuse of detainees held in its
custody," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "If we are
to truly repair America's standing in the world, the Bush
administration must hold accountable high-ranking officials who allow
the continuing abuse and torture of detainees."
British soldiers face war crimes charges
Father tells of grief that followed death of Iraqi
while in custody
Rory Carroll in Basra
Monday May 30, 2005
After Baha Mousa died, his mother broke down every
time she entered his room. So the family moved all his
belongings out of sight and turned it into a sitting
room reserved for special occasions.
Yesterday, beneath a whirring fan his father,
brothers, cousins and two young sons gathered there to
hear the reports from London that up to 11 British
soldiers could be prosecuted under international war
crimes legislation for his death.
It would be the first time British forces were charged
under the International Criminal Court Act, a legal
landmark with potentially far-reaching ramifications
for future military engagements.
"If this brings justice, it's a good thing," said his
father, Daoud, 59. "They hurt him so much, they
ignored his cries.
"My wife cries all the time. The trip to Baha's grave
in Najaf is long and perilous but she insists on going
every few weeks. "She can't stop thinking about him."
Mr Mousa dabbed his eyes with a handkerchief and the
other hand gripped a mobile phone so tightly the
knuckles gleamed. "Baha did everything for us. I think
we'll never get over it."
Members of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment allegedly
beat Baha Mousa, 26, a hotel receptionist in the
southern Iraqi city of Basra, to death in September
Four days after he was seized with six colleagues in a
raid on the hotel, his father identified his battered
corpse at the British military morgue.
At least four QLR soldiers face charges of murder and
abuse and yesterday it was reported that they and
another seven soldiers and officers could face wider
war crimes charges under legislation enacted in 2001
after the establishment of the International Criminal
The Army Prosecuting Authority has apparently yet to
finalise its decision on who will be prosecuted, and
on what charges, but the revelation that war crimes
may be included in the charge sheet was welcomed by
the victim's father.
The nuances of international law and legal precedent
held little interest for Mr Mousa, but he hoped the
development would bring justice and compensation a
"The punishment for the killers is for British law to
decide. But if it was here in Iraq, and it was my
choice, I would say execute them."
A police colonel built like a wrestler, he spoke
softly as tears rolled down his cheeks.
On the sofa beside him, his two orphaned grandsons,
Hussein, 7, and Hassan, 5, fidgeted and smiled, aware
they were the focus of the assembled adults but unsure
Hussein is the image of his father. He has had trouble
settling into school and is hyperactive. Hassan
resembles his mother.
She succumbed to cancer six months before their father
died. After that Baha would sleep between the boys.
On monthly visits to his grave, they expect to see him
and they return home to Basra disappointed and
puzzled, said relatives.
"When they see British patrols in the streets they
point and say 'Those men killed my father'," said Mr
Mousa. "But they don't really understand."
The occupation was six months old in September 2003
and the British-controlled port city was febrile, with
sporadic attacks on British forces, when the soldiers
raided the Ibn Al Haitham hotel.
They found five assault rifles and two pistols used
for hotel security. Unable to locate their quarry, one
of the hotel's owners, they took Baha and six
colleagues to the British military base.
According to Kifah Taha, 46, a maintenance engineer
who was one of the six, beatings started immediately.
There was a competition to see which soldier could
kickbox a prisoner the furthest, he claimed.
Each prisoner was allegedly given a footballer's name
and beaten if he failed to remember it. Freezing water
was allegedly poured through hoods placed over their
Baha suffered the most and on the second night he was
taken to another room from which Mr Taha said he could
hear him moaning
"Blood. There's blood coming from my nose. I'm going
After punches and kicks, Mr Taha's kidneys failed and
he nearly died. He and the other five survivors were
eventually released without charge.
Backed by human rights advocacy groups, including the
UK-based Iraqi League, last year the six men launched
a high court challenge to the government's refusal to
order independent inquiries into the deaths.
Back at work yesterday, fixing the hotel's generator,
Mr Taha said he still had nightmares.
"When I see the British in the streets, my soul leaves
my body and I remember the day I was arrested."
Army prosecutors have been under pressure to act since
the high court ruled last December that the UK had
broken the Human Rights Act by failing to prevent Mr
Mousa's death or to prosecute his alleged assailants.
British officers have visited the family home in the
Kafa hat suburb of west Basra several times to
As a senior police officer, Baha's father works with
and respects most British soldiers. "They make a good
impression. We tackle terrorism together."
But he said he rejected as an insult the offer of
$8,000 compensation, contrasting it with the $10m
Libya agreed to pay for each victim of the Lockerbie
"Is an Arab life worth so much less? Are Arabs less
However, despite the delay in prosecuting the case,
Baha's father expressed confidence in British justice.
"I think everyone is under the law in your country. I
visited London and the people were friendly, they did
not like what had happened to my family."
Top Israeli news anchor attacks occupation
Chris McGreal in Jerusalem
Wednesday June 1, 2005
The revered anchor of Israel's Channel One news
programme for more than three decades has caused
controversy by making a personalised documentary in
which he concludes that Jewish settlements are
endangering the country and that the occupation of
Palestinian land is a crime.
"Since 1967, we have been brutal conquerors,
occupiers, suppressing another people," Haim Yavin,
who was a founder of Channel One and once its chief
editor, says in the programme.
Even before the five-part series opened last night,
settler leaders were calling for the 72-year-old,
known as "Mr Television", to be sacked, because they
said he was no longer objective.
The documentary would be sensitive in Israel at any
time, but particularly now in the weeks before the
government plans to remove thousands of Jewish
settlers from the Gaza Strip and a small part of the
Channel One turned down the documentary and it is
being shown on a rival channel that recently lost its
licence and is about to go off air.
The series is a the result of Yavin's visits during
more than two years to the West Bank and Gaza Strip,
carrying a small camera to film ordinary people - some
of the 400,000 Jewish settlers, Palestinian residents
and Israeli soldiers - in the territories.
"My intention was to get the personal feelings of the
settlers, of the Palestinians," Yavin told the
Guardian yesterday. "It has strengthened my former
opinion that we have to come to terms with the
Palestinians; they are not all terrorists.
"Some of my friends on the left hate the settlers. I
don't hate them, I appreciate them. I even like them,
but I say in the documentary that I think they are
wrong and they are endangering us."
The experience has left Yavin more pessimistic about
the prospects for peace. "I think the majority of
Palestinians and the majority of Israelis want peace
and they're willing to divide the country," he said.
"But there's such mistrust. Hamas terrorism did such
damage to both peoples that I don't think it can be
He not only questions the settlements and the
occupation, but the commitment of successive
governments, including Ariel Sharon's, to curbing
Israel's hunger for land and the expansion of its
"This merrymaking will never be stopped," he said. "I
regard this as a Greek tragedy. I don't see any
Settler leaders have reacted furiously to the series,
saying it will "divide Israeli society". The head of
the settler council, Benzi Lieberman, has called for
Yavin to be removed as Channel One's news anchor.
"Even if his opinions and the manner in which he
presents them may be considered legitimate, his
continued serving in the objective newscaster's
position constitutes a blow to media ethics and
professional integrity," he said.
Among those filmed by Mr Yavin is an Israeli soldier
in Hebron who wonders how his compatriots can remain
silent in the face of the "horrors" the army commits,
and the settlers who ask him why he's not shooting
Some settlers tell Yavin that the Palestinians must be
given a deadline to leave the occupied territories or
be forced out. "Otherwise we should just bomb and kill
them," says one woman.
· Jerusalem city council has issued orders to demolish
the homes of hundreds of Palestinians in an area that
Israeli settlers want to be turned into a Jewish
The council, which has initially ordered 88 buildings
to be razed, says it intends to make the Silwan area,
just outside the Old City walls, a national park.
Palestinian officials say that the real intent is to
clear the area for settlers.
The lie about liberty
Uzbekistan has shown former Soviet states that the
west tolerates the repression of peaceful protest in
return for oil
Nick Paton Walsh
Tuesday May 31, 2005
The Kyrgyz official stood in his office and surveyed
the angry crowds circling the presidential
administration below. "Akayev will not shoot his own
people," he said, accurately predicting the decision
by Askar Akayev, the former Kyrgyz president, to flee
the building and country on March 24 rather than shoot
the few thousand protesters who went on to loot his
palatial White House.
Yet the halo that has since adorned Mr Akayev,
generally the least brutal of central Asia's
dictators, has not stopped his continued exile in
Moscow, where he watches the wealth of his former
fiefdom being redistributed among the remnants of its
elite. One can only imagine his chagrin when, six
weeks later across the border in neighbouring
Uzbekistan, President Karimov gave the former Soviet
Union's remaining authoritarians a textbook lesson in
Stalinist repression: shoot them down and shut the
doors; and soon the world will forget.
The brutal massacre of hundreds of civilians in
Andijan is already beginning to fade from
international consciousness. Islam Karimov's regime
has efficiently prevented any transparent
investigation of the town's fate. Germany, France,
Nato, the EU, US and UN have all called for an
independent international investigation. Mr Karimov
has said Uzbekistan does not need to be "terrorised"
by such requests. A veteran of 14 years of brutality,
he appears to be sleeping well.
Jack Straw's insistence on an inquiry has not stopped
the EU from continuing its aid packages to Uzbekistan.
In truth, Europe has little leverage on a country with
bigger, less sensitive friends. On Wednesday, Mr
Karimov went to China, a nation practised in
suppressing both Muslims and protest. Beijing gave him
the requisite assurance that he did the right thing in
suppressing the "separatism, terrorism and extremism"
represented by the Andijan uprising, before striking a
deal to prospect for oil in the central Asian state.
In this visit, Mr Karimov has astutely reminded his
other ally, Washington, of its competitor in the
region. The White House, which took six days to
condemn a crackdown it initially said was in part
against "terrorists", has too much at stake to get
squeamish about Andijan. Washington appears to fear
the possibility of Islamic insurgency in the region
more than the consequences of the Karimov regime's
long-term suppression of a country of 26 million.
Uzbekistan - strengthened by $50.6m in US aid last
year, a fifth of which was for "security and law
enforcement" - remains the dominant, US-friendly
hardman neighbour of every other central Asian state,
a useful linchpin for a threadbare and volatile
While the Pentagon has said it will be "more cautious"
in its use of a vital military base in Khanabad, and
Condoleezza Rice has said the aid might be reviewed,
that appears to be just about it. It has instead
fallen to the US senator John McCain, after a visit to
Tashkent, to brand the events a "massacre" yesterday.
Mr Karimov is intent on keeping the media out - the
Guardian has been waiting a fortnight longer than
usual for a visa - as mass arrests ensure this
crackdown cannot snowball into a full-scale revolt.
Soon other former Soviet republics will have to decide
whether to take a leaf from Mr Karimov's freshly
penned textbook. The White House's "beacons of
liberty" rhetoric has fomented dreams of - and even
plans for - revolution in the oil giants of Azerbaijan
and Kazakhstan, both expecting elections by the end of
the year that the government will characteristically
try to fix.
The events in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan had sent
shivers through the body politic of both countries,
causing the Kazakh president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, to
ban protests during election time, to shut opposition
papers and to let his police beat youth protesters
wearing orange, the colour of Ukraine's revolution. In
a coup de grace for both irony and free speech in the
country, yesterday an opposition figure went on trial
for slander after he accused Mr Nazarbayev's daughter,
Dariga, of illegally creating a media monopoly,
allegations she denies.
On the other side of the Caspian, Azerbaijan's
president, Ilham Aliev - his father's dynastic
successor - regularly sends in riot troops to batter
protesters. Pro-democracy revolutions are a luxury
when geopolitical issues such as hydrocarbons are at
stake. Last Wednesday's opening of the
Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline - set to bring oil
from the Azerbaijani Caspian and eventually Kazakhstan
to European and American markets - helps spell out
Washington's key principles in the region.
Mr Aliev felt comfortable enough in his relationship
with Washington to ban a demonstration planned for the
previous Saturday - protesting for free parliamentary
elections this November - so as not to spoil the
atmosphere for Wednesday's ceremony. When the protest
went ahead all the same, he sent in the riot police,
who hit some demonstrators with truncheons and made
The Norwegian ambassador to Baku, Steinar Gil, whose
vociferous criticism of human-rights abuses, despite
his country's strategic investment in the BTC, is fast
turning him into an Azerbaijani Craig Murray, was a
lone voice among diplomats when he condemned the Aliev
regime's "crude violence". The US embassy said it
"regretted" that the right to assemble freely had been
After Andijan, in the former Soviet Union at least, a
state that shoots dead hundreds of peaceful protesters
can no longer expect to become an international
pariah. Its lesson will be apparent by the end of the
year. When the protesters gather in November in Baku
and in December in Almaty, Mr Aliev and Mr Nazarbayev
could only better their Uzbek counterpart's
performance by digging the mass graves before their
troops take aim.
· Nick Paton Walsh is the Guardian's Moscow