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Podcast: Jason Leopold on Guantanamo & Prying Loose Documents from ‘Most Transparent Administration Ever™’

A military memo shows that that personnel at Guantanamo recognized that force-feeding Guantanamo prisoners on hunger strike violated medical ethics and international law.

Jason Leopold, a VICE News journalist, reported on the document, which he obtained, and explained it could be important in the case of a Navy nurse, who refused to force-feed at least one prisoner and now faces possible discharge.

His lawyers told Leopold, “It is highly significant that the Department of Defense explicitly acknowledges that force-feeding at Guantanamo is contrary to medical ethics.” And, “This is the first disclosure we have seen admitting that.”

Leopold joins the “Unauthorized Disclosure” weekly podcast to talk about this latest scoop. He highlights secrecy at Guantanamo Bay as well as his effort to get the uncensored executive summary of the Senate report on CIA torture released. He describes how the full torture report may never be seen by the public if some officials in government have their way. Plus, as an expert on navigating the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process to get documents he needs for reporting, he addresses some of the complexities he deals with daily.

During the discussion portion of the show, the FBI listing the brother of a US citizen challenging the No Fly List as a “most wanted terrorist,” former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling being convicted and a vile sex crime ring with influential people who are working to cover up what happened, like Alan Dershowitz. He has a history of attacking sex abuse victims.

The podcast is available on iTunes for download. For a link (and also to download the episode), go here. Click on “go here” and a page will load with the audio file of the podcast. The file will automatically start playing so you can listen to the episode.

Also, below is a player for listening to the podcast. You can listen to the podcast this way or you can go to iTunes and find the podcast listed there.

{!hitembed ID=”hitembed_1″ width=”500″ height=”360″ align=”none” !}

*Below is a partial transcript

KEVIN GOSZTOLA: Let’s talk about this story that you’ve done on this military legal document that shows they really do understand that it’s unethical to force-feed Guantanamo prisoners.

JASON LEOPOLD: Yeah, this is a pretty amazing document. I actually just obtained this about a week ago.

So, at the height of the hunger strike at Guantanamo in 2013, if you guys remember, there were upwards of a 100 detainees on hunger strike and dozens of them were being force-fed. The attorneys who represented detainees and human rights groups and medical ethical organizations they were condemning the force-feeding protocols, the procedure. The spokespeople at Guantanamo, various medical officials, they would consistently say that this was safe. Any suggestion that this was a violation of international law or ethics was just completely unfounded. And they even went into court when the attorneys had sued to challenge not only the legality of force-feeding but to try to change the protocols around—The government went into court and said basically this is untrue.

First of all, what I did is I filed a FOIA request, a Freedom of Information Act request, and I asked the military to basically give me everything they had on the legal guidelines that authorized forced-feeding. This is the first of what I hope to be many documents and what is amazing about this is that it actually—It’s a two-page document. It tells us that the deputy secretary of defense or assistant secretary of defense—his name is Matthew Waxman. He’s now a law professor at Columbia University—that back in 2005 when he was working in the Bush administration that he approved the memorandum for force-feedings.

In addition what this document also says is in the very last paragraph it acknowledges that force-feeding violates medical ethics and international law. It’s an explosive revelation because, one, you have a Navy nurse who is at risk of being booted out of the Navy because he objected to force-feeding prisoners at Guantanamo. So, here it shows that the military knew that the medical professionals it were asking to do this that they would be violating their medical ethics.

Then, in addition to that, the government went into court to basically say this is not a violation. It’s just part of the transparency that is really needed surrounding this and like I said I just hope this is one of many documents to come through.

GOSZTOLA: They’re still fighting the release of these videos of this prisoner, Abu Wa’el Dhiab, the former Guantanamo prisoner [who challenged force-feeding in a lawsuit against the United States]?

LEOPOLD: Yes, the government is still saying, no, you can’t have these videos. It will be a threat to national security. It’s just unbelievable the level of secrecy that exists; certainly within Guantanamo and basically the level of secrecy within the government. We’ve had these conversations before and discussed the fact that this administration, although it claims to be the most transparent—Its transparency is this administration is the enemy to transparency.

The hoops that I have to jump through to try to obtain these records is just…

RANIA KHALEK: Is it more difficult than during the previous administration? When you do FOIA requests?

LEOPOLD: It actually is because—If you go back to the Bush years, there were actually a lot of documents that were released. Certainly, the ACLU when it came down to records pertaining to the treatment of prisoners in the custody of the CIA or the military, they had to go to battle against the Bush administration. But many of those documents were actually released. I should also note John Ashcroft, the Attorney General, he made it very clear that the Bush administration would not be on the side of transparency.

Whereas, this administration, you have various press secretaries over the years consistently saying we’re the most transparent in history and they’re going to great lengths to basically block the release of documents.

KHALEK: So what you’re saying is the Bush administration was more honest about its intentions?

LEOPOLD: Yes, they actually were a bit more honest. It’s funny that you say that because government attorneys in this administration have gone to court and lied to judges about records, whether they claim that certain records don’t exist and then later on we find out they exist or records were destroyed. There is this exemption within FOIA that is known as the b(5) exemption. And that’s basically the deliberative processing, any advice that is exchanging hands or the various agencies are talking to each other about whether it’s a policy or a law, that you can’t have it. We call it the exempt it because you can exemption. So, that has increase astronomically under this administration.

It’s not just these videos. It’s also Bush era photographs that [inaudible] prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq. Again, this administration is going to court and saying it can’t be released because terrorists are going to attack us. It’s so frustrating and it’s a lot of work to try to pry this stuff loose. And this was through a FOIA lawsuit. I actually had to sue the government to get this and this is something that should have been out a while ago.

GOSZTOLA: And the slogan at Guantanamo that they like to put out there is, “Safe, Humane, Legal, Transparent.” That’s their thing. So, talk to us specifically about another story you did this week about Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s book and how he is imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay and he’s not going to be able to read his own piece of work that he did.

LEOPOLD: I knew exactly what their answer was going to be and that’s sort of why I did the story. I’ve been to Guantanamo several times and have toured the facilities. I’ve seen empty cellblocks. They give you the sort of Potemkin village type tour. And you get to see the detainee library, and I actually included a photograph in that story that you’re referencing, which actually has a picture of the sign at the detainee library shows this little worm coming out of the book.

In the library, they won’t carry certain books that they claim are extremist in nature, would possibly have any discussions revolving around terrorism. So I called the folks over at Guantanamo and I asked are you going to be carrying Slahi’s book, Guantanamo Diary. And I already knew what the answer was; in fact, I could tell you that my story was written. I just had that empty slot for the quote.

I knew the answer was going to be, nope, we’re not going to carry it and here’s why and not only is he not going to be able to read his finished copy of his book but other detainees would not be allowed to read it either. What is interesting is the fact that he said the military personnel who are here could read it if they wanted to order it. So, basically, the spokesman said, no, Slahi will not be able to read his own book and as you know it entered the New York Times bestseller list.

You have a Guantanamo detainee who is a New York Times bestseller who can’t even see a copy of his own book at a detention facility that claims it is transparent.

CommunityThe Dissenter

Podcast: Jason Leopold on Guantanamo & Prying Loose Documents from ‘Most Transparent Administration Ever™’

A military memo shows that that personnel at Guantanamo recognized that force-feeding Guantanamo prisoners on hunger strike violated medical ethics and international law.

Jason Leopold, a VICE News journalist, reported on the document, which he obtained, and explained it could be important in the case of a Navy nurse, who refused to force-feed at least one prisoner and now faces possible discharge.

His lawyers told Leopold, “It is highly significant that the Department of Defense explicitly acknowledges that force-feeding at Guantanamo is contrary to medical ethics.” And, “This is the first disclosure we have seen admitting that.”

Leopold joins the “Unauthorized Disclosure” weekly podcast to talk about this latest scoop. He highlights secrecy at Guantanamo Bay as well as his effort to get the uncensored executive summary of the Senate report on CIA torture released. He describes how the full torture report may never be seen by the public if some officials in government have their way. Plus, as an expert on navigating the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process to get documents he needs for reporting, he addresses some of the complexities he deals with daily.

During the discussion portion of the show, the FBI listing the brother of a US citizen challenging the No Fly List as a “most wanted terrorist,” former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling being convicted and a vile sex crime ring with influential people who are working to cover up what happened, like Alan Dershowitz. He has a history of attacking sex abuse victims.

The podcast is available on iTunes for download. For a link (and also to download the episode), go here. Click on “go here” and a page will load with the audio file of the podcast. The file will automatically start playing so you can listen to the episode.

Also, below is a player for listening to the podcast. You can listen to the podcast this way or you can go to iTunes and find the podcast listed there.

{!hitembed ID=”hitembed_1″ width=”500″ height=”360″ align=”none” !} (more…)

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."