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The CIA’s Memory Prison

orange jumpsuit hoodedThe memory hole is deep at Guantánamo Bay.

Its gaping maw has swallowed international law, the lives of hundreds of detainees and the moral consequences of torture.

And now it has quite literally swallowed the memories of five men currently engaged in a prolonged pre-trial process at the infamous prison. They are the defendants charged with the criminal conspiracy leading to the attacks of 9/11, including the alleged “mastermind” behind the attack, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

But the mind of this master terrorist is not his own.

That’s according to a ruling by Army colonel and military commission judge James Pohl, who issued a “protective order” in January of 2013 that, in effect, classified the memories of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other four defendants—Walid Bin Attash and Ramzi bin al Shibh of Yemen, Ammar al Baluchi of Pakistan, and Mustafa al Hawsawi of Saudi Arabia.

Their names remain opaque to most Americans, as do the legal proceedings based on their torturous experiences during “enhanced interrogation” at various “black sites.” Now, defense attorneys for the five men would like to file suit under the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which the United States signed in 1988 and ratified in 1994.

They cannot.

All legal claims of torture at the hands of the CIA during “extraordinary rendition” fall under the restrictive blanket of secrecy issued by Col. Pohl, who claims he is only empowered to classify material, not vice-versa.

This means the defendants’ personal stories, recollections and experiences cannot be told in any open court, recounted to journalists or human rights groups, nor can they be heard by international bodies like the United Nations.

In response to recent defense challenges to Pohl’s protective order, the prosecution countered with a rationale for secrecy drawn, it seems, from the pages of George Orwell or Philip K. Dick. According to Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald, one government prosecutor argued that “… the United States government has absolute control of U.S. captive’s CIA memories because where they were held and what was done to them is classified as ‘sources and methods’ used by the CIA in the now defunct Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program.”

Essentially, the memories of their treatment by the CIA have become the proprietary possession of the CIA. It is the ultimate application of “national security” as a legal fig leaf. And it illustrates the reality that “national security” classification often does more to protect people in the national security business than it does to protect the security of the nation.

Yet, it doesn’t always help in a criminal prosecution—which is why Mohammed al Qahtani remains in perpetual limbo in Gitmo’s memory hole. One of the men accused of being “The 20th Hijacker,” the case against al Qahtani was finally dropped in January of 2009 by retired judge Susan Crawford, the military commission’s Convening Authority. Why? Because Judge Crawford determined that his handling by the military was, in fact, torture.

There it is—torture.

And there al Qahtani sits—out of sight and out of mind in Gitmo. [cont’d.]

CommunityMy FDL

The CIA’s Memory Prison

orange jumpsuit hoodedThe memory hole is deep at Guantánamo Bay.

Its gaping maw has swallowed international law, the lives of hundreds of detainees and the moral consequences of torture.

And now it has quite literally swallowed the memories of five men currently engaged in a prolonged pre-trial process at the infamous prison. They are the defendants charged with the criminal conspiracy leading to the attacks of 9/11, including the alleged “mastermind” behind the attack, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

But the mind of this master terrorist is not his own.

That’s according to a ruling by Army colonel and military commission judge James Pohl, who issued a “protective order” in January of 2013 that, in effect, classified the memories of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other four defendants—Walid Bin Attash and Ramzi bin al Shibh of Yemen, Ammar al Baluchi of Pakistan, and Mustafa al Hawsawi of Saudi Arabia.

Their names remain opaque to most Americans, as do the legal proceedings based on their torturous experiences during “enhanced interrogation” at various “black sites.” Now, defense attorneys for the five men would like to file suit under the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which the United States signed in 1988 and ratified in 1994.

They cannot.

All legal claims of torture at the hands of the CIA during “extraordinary rendition” fall under the restrictive blanket of secrecy issued by Col. Pohl, who claims he is only empowered to classify material, not vice-versa.

This means the defendants’ personal stories, recollections and experiences cannot be told in any open court, recounted to journalists or human rights groups, nor can they be heard by international bodies like the United Nations.

In response to recent defense challenges to Pohl’s protective order, the prosecution countered with a rationale for secrecy drawn, it seems, from the pages of George Orwell or Philip K. Dick. According to Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald, one government prosecutor argued that “… the United States government has absolute control of U.S. captive’s CIA memories because where they were held and what was done to them is classified as ‘sources and methods’ used by the CIA in the now defunct Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program.”

Essentially, the memories of their treatment by the CIA have become the proprietary possession of the CIA. It is the ultimate application of “national security” as a legal fig leaf. And it illustrates the reality that “national security” classification often does more to protect people in the national security business than it does to protect the security of the nation.

Yet, it doesn’t always help in a criminal prosecution—which is why Mohammed al Qahtani remains in perpetual limbo in Gitmo’s memory hole. One of the men accused of being “The 20th Hijacker,” the case against al Qahtani was finally dropped in January of 2009 by retired judge Susan Crawford, the military commission’s Convening Authority. Why? Because Judge Crawford determined that his handling by the military was, in fact, torture.

There it is—torture.

And there al Qahtani sits—out of sight and out of mind in Gitmo.

(more…)

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