24 mars 2009

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TUNISNEWS

8 ème année, N° 3227 du 24.03.2009

 archives : www.tunisnews.net  


AISPP: Sofiane Mossaabi annonce qu’il commence une grève de la faim à la prison de Borj El Amri AFP: Crash ATR tunisien: Tuninter surprise et mécontente, évoque des pressions Reuters: Italy convicts crash pilot who paused to pray Business News: Tunisie – Affaire du crash de Tuninter : une justice deux poids, deux mesures African Manager: Tunisie : L’Italie oublie la responsabilité de son constructeur et condamne le héros ! TGCOM: Terrorismo,espulsi due nordafricani Governo Italiano: « L’ITALIA TRA GLI OBIETTIVI DEL JIHADISMO: IL RISCHIO RESTA MEDIO-ALTO » Le Soir: Opposant au long cours, le docteur Mustapha Ben Jaafar prescrit une dose de démocratie à son pays, la Tunisie. Le Temps: Remous au FDTL? Le Dr. Mustapha Ben Jaâfar réagit aux accusations de Jalel – Un coup de tonnerre dans un ciel serein Le Temps: Les avocats et la télévision – Le débat continue AFP: Rabat hausse le ton contre des « atteintes » à la religion et à la morale ATS: Hausse de 12% des demandes d’asile dans le monde, selon le HCR AFP: Paris débloque 10 millions EUR pour les victimes de ses essais nucléaires AFP: Turquie/Otan: un dirigeant du parti au pouvoir opposé à la candidature de Rasmussen Reuters: Ex-Turkish army chief may testify in coup plot-reports New York Review Of Books: US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites


Liste actualisée des signataires de l’initiative du Droit de Retour : http://www.manfiyoun.net/fr/listfr.html Celles et Ceux qui veulent signer cet appel sont invités à envoyer leur: Nom, Pays de résidence et Année de sortie de la Tunisie sur le mél de l’initiative : manfiyoun@gmail.com


Liberté pour tous les prisonniers politiques Liberté pour le Docteur Sadok Chourou Association Internationale de Soutien aux Prisonniers Politiques 43 rue Eldjazira, Tunis e-mail : aispptunisie@yahoo.fr Tunis, le 23 mars 2009

Sofiane Mossaabi annonce qu’il commence une grève de la faim à la prison de Borj El Amri

L’état de santé de Sofiane Mossaabi, un jeune prisonnier actuellement incarcéré à la prison de Borj El Amri, se dégrade après qu’il ait contracté de l’asthme. En dépit des démarches de sa famille auprès de l’administration de la prison pour que leur fils soit dans une cellule conforme aux standards minima et dotée d’aération et d’hygiène, au vu de sa santé dégradée, ce qu’a attesté le médecin de la prison lui-même, l’administration de la prison n’a pas répondu aux demande et s’est obstinée à le laisser dans un cachot exigu et froid avec des fumeurs. Son état a empiré, avec des crises d’étouffement chroniques. Face à la négligence de l’administration, il a dû commencer une grève de la faim le 16 mars 2009, jusqu’à satisfaction de ses revendications d’amélioration de ses conditions d’incarcération. Sofiane Mossaabi a été arrêté en 2006 et condamné en vertu de la loi du 10 décembre 2003, « antiterroriste », à trois ans d’emprisonnement, peine qui doit s’achever le 23 septembre 2009. […] Pour l’association La commission de suivi de la situation dans les prisons (traduction d’extraits ni revue ni corrigée par les auteurs de la version en arabe, LT)

Crash ATR tunisien: Tuninter surprise et mécontente, évoque des pressions

 

AFP, le 24 mars 2009 à 15h29 TUNIS, 24 mars 2009 (AFP) – La compagnie Tuninter s’est dit mécontente de la condamnation surprise à dix ans de prison du pilote et copilote de son ATR, qui s’était abîmé en août 2005 au large de la Sicile, suspectant des « pressions ». « Tuninter exprime son étonnement et son vif mécontentement suite à la décision surprise du tribunal de Palerme », indique-t-elle dans un communiqué remis mardi à l’AFP. Outre le pilote et le copilote, ce tribunal a infligé neuf ans de prison à Moncef Zouari et Zouheir Chetouane, directeur général et directeur technique de la compagnie, ainsi que huit ans à deux responsables de la manutention et à un mécanicien. Selon l’enquête italienne, une erreur d’installation d’une jauge de carburant sur l’ATR-72 de Tuninter est à l’origine de l’accident, qui a fait 16 morts et 23 blessés. « Les peines prononcées sont nettement plus lourdes que celles décidées en Italie dans des accidents d’avion plus graves », estime Tuninter qui déplore « une tournure médiatico-politique », suspectant des « pressions » pour « occulter la part de responsabilité qu’assument d’autres parties, dont le constructeur » de l’avion. L’ATR-72 avait été livré en 1992 par le constructeur européen d’avions de transport régional (EADS/Ale nia Aeronautica), basé à Toulouse (France). Tuninter juge « paradoxal » que le pilote ait condamné à la prison alors qu’il avait été « reconnu comme un héros » par la presse et l’association des pilotes pour avoir réussi l’amerissage et sauvé la vie à deux tiers des passagers. Elle rappelle enfin que 22 millions d’euros d’indemnisation avaient été versées « en un temps record » aux survivants et à leur famille par les assureurs et le constructeur. Les avocats de Tuninter dont le personnel est jugé par contumace, vont interjter appel du jugement prononcé. Avant le crash, l’équipage croyait avoir 3.000 litres de kérosène dans ses réservoirs au moment où l’avion se ravitaillait à Bari, dans le sud de l’Italie et n’avait alors demandé que 240 litres supplémentaires de carburant pour son retour à Djerba (sud de la Tunisie). Faute d’essence, ses deux moteurs se sont arrêtés en même temps, empêchant l’avion d’atteindre l’aéroport de Palerme pour un atterrissage, le forçant à un amerrissage.


  Italy convicts crash pilot who paused to pray

Tue Mar 24, 2009 9:37am EDT PALERMO (Reuters) – A Tunisian pilot who paused to pray instead of taking emergency measures before crash-landing his plane, killing 16 people, has been sentenced to 10 years in jail by an Italian court along with his co-pilot. The 2005 crash at sea off Sicily left survivors swimming for their lives, some clinging to a piece of the fuselage that remained floating after the ATR turbo-prop aircraft splintered upon impact. A fuel-gauge malfunction was partly to blame but prosecutors also said the pilot succumbed to panic, praying out loud instead of following emergency procedures and then opting to crash-land the plane instead trying to reach a nearby airport. Another five employees of Tuninter, a subsidiary of Tunisair, were sentenced to between eight and nine years in jail by the court, in a verdict handed down on Monday. The seven accused, who were not in court, will not spend time in jail until the appeals process has been exhausted.

A la Une

Tunisie – Affaire du crash de Tuninter : une justice deux poids, deux mesures

25/03/2009  Le tribunal italien de Palerme a prononcé lundi 23 mars 2009 son verdict dans l’affaire du crash de l’ATR de la compagnie aérienne tunisienne Tuninter. Le verdict de la justice italienne a été très sévère et représente une véritable première ! Jamais, par le passé, les responsables administratifs d’une compagnie aérienne n’ont été condamnés à des peines de prison ferme. En prononçant des condamnations allant jusqu’à dix ans de prison, la justice italienne inflige aux responsables tunisiens des peines comme s’ils étaient de véritables chauffards éméchés sur la route. Et encore, on s’interroge si les ivrognes italiens du volant écopent de peines aussi lourdes ! C’est un sentiment d’injustice profond qu’on ressent après le prononcé du verdict du tribunal de Palerme relatif à l’affaire du crash de l’ATR 72 de Tuninter. Suite à une erreur de jauge de carburant, l’avion s’est abîmé au large de la Sicile en août 2005 et le crash a engendré 16 morts et 23 blessés. Dans cette affaire, le constructeur italo-français ATR a reconnu ses parts de responsabilité et les Tunisiens aussi. En toute logique, et si l’on suit les dizaines (voire centaines) de crashes similaires, l’affaire aurait dû se solder par une indemnisation des victimes. Seulement voilà, le procureur italien ne voyait pas les choses ainsi. Considérant les responsables de Tuninter comme des criminels, il a requis des peines de 8 à 12 ans de prison. Et le tribunal, en première instance, l’a suivi. En attendant l’appel que les avocats vont déjà engager, si ce n’est déjà fait. C’est tout simplement scandaleux, notamment pour une entreprise nationale et son dirigeant qui représente l’Etat tunisien. Ainsi, le pilote et le copilote ont été condamnés, en première instance, à 10 ans de prison. Une condamnation fortement étrange puisque ce pilote et ce copilote ont été considérés comme des héros, au lendemain du crash, après avoir réussi à sauver des vies humaines, malgré la violence de l’accident. Le directeur général de Tuninter et le directeur technique ont été condamnés pour leur part à 9 ans de prison chacun. Une véritable première ! Deux responsables techniques se sont vus infliger huit ans de prison, tandis que deux techniciens ont été acquittés. Des peines sans commune mesure avec les jugements prononcés dans ce genre d’affaires par les tribunaux internationaux, qu’ils soient européens, américains ou africains. On parle, en effet, de prison ferme et non de prison avec sursis. Exemple, parmi tant d’autres, celui de l’accident de passerelle du Queen Mary II qui a fait, en 2003, 16 morts et 29 blessés en France. Le parquet a requis jusqu’à trois ans de prison avec sursis contre des salariés de l’entreprise (mais non son directeur). Le tribunal ne l’a pas suivi et a relaxé ces salariés, se basant sur une loi du 10 juillet 2002, dite loi Fauchon, qui protège les personnes physiques en cas de fautes non-intentionnelles. En 1992, dans le crash de l’airbus d’Air Inter, aucune personne physique n’a été condamnée à de la prison ferme (ni en sursis) bien que les juges aient reconnu l’entière responsabilité civile des compagnies Airbus et Air France dans cette catastrophe qui a fait 87 morts. Le cas n’est pas valable uniquement en France puisqu’en Italie aussi les jugements sont similaires dans ce type d’affaires. Les précédents crashes aériens survenus en Italie n’ont pas vu les dirigeants et techniciens de compagnies italiennes condamnés à des peines de prison ferme. Exemple de Linat, un crash à Milan suite à une erreur d’aiguillage il y a 8 ans, avec 118 morts, mais des peines nettement inférieures. Une chose est certaine, jamais dans l’histoire de la navigation aérienne, on n’a condamné le dirigeant d’une compagnie à une peine de prison suite à un crash, quand bien même sa responsabilité serait engagée (ce qui n’est pas le cas pour les dirigeants de Tuninter). Pourquoi donc la justice italienne se montre-t-elle sévère lorsqu’il s’agit d’une compagnie tunisienne ? Pourquoi n’a-t-elle prononcé aucune peine contre les dirigeants du constructeur italo-français ATR, alors que des experts (italiens) internationalement reconnus, ont démontré que l’accident est largement imputable aux insuffisances techniques de l’appareil. L’autre interrogation est le fait même de la saisine de l’affaire par cette justice italienne. Il a été démontré que le crash est survenu dans les eaux internationales. Théoriquement, et conformément aux lois internationales, la justice italienne n’aurait pas dû être saisie de cette affaire. Mais il aurait fallu que le ministère tunisien du Transport réagisse dès 2005 pour que l’affaire soit traitée devant les tribunaux tunisiens et non devant les tribunaux italiens. Une source officielle au sein de la compagnie n’a d’ailleurs pas manqué de soulever la même question, rappelant que c’est une expertise internationale en bonne et due forme qui a démontré que l’amerrissage a eu lieu en zone internationale. La même source précise que les victimes ont été indemnisées par son assureur et celui du constructeur aérien ATR et ce en moins d’un an, ce qui est considéré comme un record. Le montant de l’indemnisation est de 22 millions de dinars. Notre source, enfin, ne manque pas de relever la médiatisation de l’affaire dans le sens d’occulter la responsabilité de certaines parties et de monter en épingle d’autres. Ainsi, il n’y a pas vraiment eu d’articles dénonçant la responsabilité d’ATR, alors que les Tunisiens ont eu droit à toutes les couleuvres dans la presse italienne (et française). Aucun média italien ne s’est par ailleurs interrogé pourquoi condamne-t-on le dirigeant d’une compagnie aérienne à une peine de prison ferme. En parallèle, reconnaissons-le, la compagnie tunisienne a tardé à réagir et aurait dû, à notre sens, communiquer par voie de presse et dans les médias italiens aussitôt le jugement prononcé, d’autant plus que la date du verdict était connue depuis longtemps.C’est ce qu’on appelle une communication de crise qui a fait aujourd’hui défaut chez la compagnie tunisienne. Nizar Bahloul  
(Source: Business News le 25 mars 2009)

Tunisie : L’Italie oublie la responsabilité de son constructeur et condamne le héros !

Un tribunal italien vient de condamner, en autosaisine et par contumace, presque toute la compagnie de transport aérien Tuninter, filiale de Tunisair, à de lourdes peines de prison, suite à l’accident, il y a quelques années d’un de ses vols sur l’Italie. Dans un communiqué que nous avons reçu de Tuninter, «la compagnie [Tuninter] exprime son étonnement et son vif mécontentement suite à la surprenante décision du tribunal de Palerme. Cette décision suscite les observations suivantes: 1. Le tribunal italien s’est autosaisi de l’affaire alors que les expertises internationales avaient démontré que l’amerrissage avait eu lieu dans les eaux internationales. 2. Une indemnisation d’un montant total de 22 millions d’euros a été accordée aux survivants et aux familles des victimes, et ce dans un délai record (moins d’un an). Cette indemnisation a été versée par les assureurs de la compagnie Tuninter et du constructeur de l’appareil (ATR). 3. Les peines prononcées sont nettement plus lourdes que celles décidées en Italie dans des accidents d’avions plus graves. 4. Il est paradoxal de constater que le commandant de l’appareil, qui avait été reconnu comme un héros ‘par la presse, par l’Association des pilotes et par l’opinion publique en Italie, a été condamné à une peine de prison alors qu’il avait réussi un extraordinaire amerrissage parvenant à sauver la vie des deux tiers des passagers. 5. Il a été démontré par des experts italiens internationalement reconnus que l’accident est largement imputable aux insuffisances techniques de l’appareil. De ce fait, les tentatives visant à impliquer les dirigeants ou les responsables techniques de la compagnie Tuninter ne sont guère justifiables. 6. Il y a lieu de déplorer la tournure mediatico-politique prise par cette affaire et les pressions qui semblent être exercées par certaines parties cherchant à occulter la part de responsabilité qu’assument indéniablement d’autres parties dont notamment le constructeur italo-français de l’appareil. 7. La compagnie Tuninter a chargé ses avocats d’interjeter appel suite au jugement prononcé par le tribunal de Palerme ». Rappelons par ailleurs que le tribunal de Palerme qui a acquitté deux accusés, a  prononcé  des peines totalisant 62 ans à l’encontre des neuf accusés,  tous des Tunisiens, comprenant le  pilote et le copilote de l’appareil  et de hauts gradés de Tuninter,  tous accusés de multiples homicides involontaires et  d’avoir provoqué  une catastrophe.  »Il s’agissait d’une sentence sans précédent, mais nous avons toujours maintenu qu’il s’agissait d’un incident sans précédent, » a observé Niky Persico, un avocat de l’une des victimes.  »Jamais dans l’histoire des  catastrophes aériennes, il n’y a eu un tel enchaînement d’événements  », a ajouté l’avocat. Le pilote Chafik Gharbi et le  copilote Ali Kebaier ont été condamnés  chacun à 10 ans d’emprisonnement. Le directeur général de Tuninter Moncef Zouari et le directeur technique   Zoueir Chetouane ont été condamnés à neuf ans d’emprisonnement, tandis que des peines de huit ans d’emprisonnement ont été prononcées contre le  responsable de l’entretien, Zouehir Siala, le mécanicien en chef  Chaed Nebil et le chef d’équipage Bel Haj Rhouma. Deux membres de l’équipe de maintenance de la compagnie aérienne ont été acquittés. De tels procès sont toujours difficiles. Nous avons fait notre travail, mais dans ce cas , l’atmosphère qui règne au tribunal peut jouer un grand rôle », a observé l’avocat. L’ATR-72 de Tuninter assurait  un vol en provenance du sud de la ville italienne de Bari en direction de l’île tunisienne de Djerba lorsque les deux moteurs se sont arrêtés  alors que l’appareil s’approchait de la Sicile, le 6 août 2005.
 
(Source: « African Manager  » le 24 mars 2009)


 

Terrorismo,espulsi due nordafricani

Collegati ad Al Qaeda, via dall’Italia

Due presunti terroristi, un marocchino e un tunisino, sono stati espulsi dall’Italia e rimpatriati nei Paesi d’origine. Il provvedimento è stato disposto dal ministro dell’Interno, Roberto Maroni, per motivi di sicurezza dello Stato di prevenzione del terrorismo. I due stranieri, indagati per associazione con finalità di terrorismo internazionale, avrebbero avuto contatti con esponenti di Al Qaeda e sarebbero stati disposti al martirio. I due presunti terroristi espulsi dall’Italia su provvedimento del ministro dell’Interno sono Mohammed Essadek, marocchino di 39 anni e Sghaier Miri, tunisino di 34 anni. Essadek viveva a Gaiarine, in provincia di Treviso. Il tunisino Miri era invece domiciliato a Manzano, in provincia di Udine, dove ricopriva il ruolo di leader della comunità musulmana di ispirazione salafita presente nel Nord-Est. Dalle indagini, attraverso intercettazioni e pedinamenti, è emerso che entrambi svolgevano attività di proselitismo e spesso parlavano degli effetti che potrebbero essere generati dall’esplosione di un ordigno nel nostro Paese. I due nordafricani espulsi dall’Italia, sospettati di associazione per delinquere con finalità di terrorismo internazionale, sono indagati dalla procura di Trieste. Il ministro Maroni aveva firmato il provvedimento di espulsione per i due già lo scorso 20 febbraio, ma le autorità del Marocco e della Tunisia soltanto nei giorni scorsi hanno emesso i documenti di viaggio. Sabato è poi stata acquisita dai giudici di pace di Udine e Treviso la convalida dei provvedimenti di rimpatrio, ed è infine arrivato il nulla osta della procura della Repubblica di Trieste. Essadek è stato rimpatriato dall’aeroporto di Bologna con un volo della Royal Air Maroc; Miri è partito nella serata di ieri dall’aeroporto di Fiumicino con un volo dell’Alitalia per Tunisi.
 
(Source: TGCOM le 22 mars 2009)

« L’ITALIA TRA GLI OBIETTIVI DEL JIHADISMO: IL RISCHIO RESTA MEDIO-ALTO »

 
Da « IL MESSAGGERO » di lunedì 23 marzo 2009 IL DOSSIER « L’Italia tra gli obiettivi del Jihadismo: il rischio resta medio-alto » di ANTONIO DE FLORIO ROMA -Minacce concrete di attentati nel nostro paese non ce ne sono, comunque l`Italia «può essere incluso tra gli obiettivi dei jihadismo globale» con un «indice di rischio medio-alto». E quanto scrivono i nostri esperti di antiterrorismo che due settimane fa hanno inviato la Relazione sulla politica dell`informazione e sicurezza in Parlamento. Ed è in questo contesto che si muovono singoli elementi o cellule – come il marocchino e il tunisino -espulsi ieri con un provvedimento del ministro dell`Interno Roberto Maroni «organici a reti jihadiste» che svolgono attività di proselitismo, di reclutamento e appoggio lo- gistico ai veterani di ritorno o in partenza per le zone di guerra. Lo scorso anno gli immigrati espulsi sospettati di essere coIlegati al terrorismo islamico erano stati una dozzina e tra questi alcuni imam. Il dossier redatto dalla nostra intelligente parla di una realtà-fondamentalista-che gli stessi 007 definiscono «fluida e puntiforme». In Italia, scrivo-. no gli analisti, «il panorama integralista» risulta composto da «ristretti circuiti estremisti, spesso raccolti attorno a referenti carismatici, personaggi cioè con pregressí trascorsi di militanza, rivelatisi in grado di radicalizzare giovani conquistati alla « causa ».» Un fenomeno, scrivono gli eperti di antiterrorismo, «in crescita» nelle carceri, dove le fonti hanno rilevato una «insidiosa opera di indottrinamen- to e reclutamento». Le zone dove questo tipo di radicalismo trova maggior presa sono la Lombardia. «in ragione sia della presenza di elementi già noti per l`appartenenza ad ambienti integralisti, sia per l`ingresso in campo di nuove leve», e I`Itinterland napoletano, dove si muovono soggetti dediti soprattutto alla falsificazione di documenti e, più in generale. ad attività di supporto logistico e finanziario. La mappa delle regioni a rischio si completa con Piemonte, Veneto. Toscana ed Emilia Romagna. L`attenzione degli 007 si è poi concentrata sull`eventuale presenza nel nostro paese di gruppi collegati alla formazione algerina legata al movimento qaedista, Al Qaeda nel Maghreb Islamico » (Agmi), una delle formazioni più attive in nord Africa, responsabile di diverse azioni. Dalle informa- zioni raccolte, al momento non risultano presenti`in Italia «gruppi organici» ad Agmi, che però, concludono gli 007, «resta un potenziale elemento d`attrazione specie per soggetti e ambienti già vicini al Gruppo salafita per la predicazione e il combattimento». Lo stesso a cui, secondo le indagini della procura di Trieste, era legato uno dei due presunti terroristi espulsi l`altra sera. Il Viminale ha anche proceduto alla revoca del permesso di soggiorno della moglie di Sghaier Miri. il cittadino tunisino espulso dall`Italia per presunte attività legate al terrorisino internazionale. La revoca è stata notificata alla donna contestualmente all` esecuzione del provvedimento di espulsione del, marito, avvenuta l`altra notte a San Giovanni al Natisone (Udine), dove i due risiedono. La donna dovrà ora lasciare il territorio nazionale entro il termine di cinque giorni.
 
(Source: Le site « governo italiano » le 23 mars 2009)

 

L’acteur

Mustapha Ben Jaafar

Opposant au long cours, le docteur Mustapha Ben Jaafar prescrit une dose de démocratie à son pays, la Tunisie.

Comment peut-on être un opposant tunisien ? Comment, en tout cas, ne pas céder au découragement ? Dame ! depuis sa naissance, en 1956, voilà un petit pays maghrébin qui n’a connu que… deux présidents. Habib Bourguiba, jusqu’en 1987. Et Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali depuis lors. Deux despotes, plus (le premier) ou moins (l’autre) éclairés. Des hommes, dans l’opposition, se dressent contre ce concept inique de présidence à vie. Mustapha Ben Jaafar est l’un d’eux.

Justement, il y aura des élections présidentielles en Tunisie à l’automne. Enfin, des élections… « Si l’on regarde dans le rétroviseur, on aperçoit que les scrutins sont une mascarade, que les dés sont pipés et que les jeux sont faits », nous dit BenJaafar lors de son passage en nos murs la semaine dernière. Déduction logique. Ben Ali a toujours eu beaucoup de succès aux « élections ». Entre 94 et 99 %. Qu’à cela ne tienne…

Le docteur Ben Jaafar, radiologue de son état, connaît bien l’état du patient Tunisie. Diagnostic ? « Mauvaise gouvernance, absence de transparence et corruption. » Que faire, docteur ? « Ces dérives pourraient être valablement traitées si la justice était indépendante et la presse libre. Mais ces deux points font cruellement défaut ! » Le cas est sérieux.

Ce Ben Jaafarest un vétéran de l’opposition. Normal vu son âge (« Je suis né en 1940 », dit-il, laissant calculer son interlocuteur). Et vu son penchant pour l’activisme sociopolitique. Il a commencé comme syndicaliste médical. Plus tard, il est entré à la Ligue tunisienne des droits de l’homme, la plus ancienne du monde arabe. Il en occupera la vice-présidence pendant six ans.

Les droits de l’homme, c’est bien – et c’est frustrant. La politique, c’est mieux – mais tout aussi frustrant, surtout en Tunisie. « Jusqu’à ce jour, ce régime a toujours été centré sur une stratégie : garantir la sécurité et “le pain”. De cela, il ne reste plus qu’un pan : l’obsession de sa propre sécurité. L’économie souffre. On voit de grosses disparités entre les régions, entre les individus. Et nous vivons dans un Etat qui verrouille l’espace public. »

Mais les choses bougent… « Le mouvement de protestation qui eut lieu dans le bassin minier de Gafsa l’an passé est le signe de l’échec du régime. Tout comme le mouvement migratoire, ces jeunes qui traversent la Méditerranée au péril de leur vie. Bref, il n’y a ni sécurité ni pain. » Et pour les libertés, on repassera.

À force de se mêler de politique, Mustapha Ben Jaafar a fini par fonder un parti politique. En 1994. Huit ans plus tard (tiens, pourquoi huit ans ?), le régime décide de le reconnaître. Un nom un peu long : le Forum démocratique pour le travail et les libertés. Dites FDTL. Ou plutôt le Forum, c’est plus simple. Mais pas plus aisé à populariser dans le contexte local. Militants harcelés, locaux indisponibles, journal peu ou pas distribué. La routine.

Alors donc cette élection présidentielle. « Nous avons une double ambition : rassembler l’opposition sur un mot d’ordre d’exigence d’élections démocratiques et montrer aux Tunisiens et à la communauté internationale qu’il existe une réelle alternative politique. Je suis candidat. Je rentre dans les critères injustes imposés par le régime pour concourir. J’appelle au rassemblement de l’opposition. L’idéal serait d’avoir un seul candidat. » Dont acte.

Rassembler l’opposition ? Les Tunisiens aimeraient peut-être bien. Mais ils connaissent leur opposition, déchirée par ses divisions idéologiques. Et par ses querelles de personnes. La grosse question qui fait la différence reste celle du traitement de la mouvance islamiste. « Nous disons qu’un dialogue est possible avec les islamistes qui respectent les règles démocratiques et les droits de la femme. On néglige trop souvent le fait que cette mouvance se compose de tendances qui vont depuis les vrais démocrates jusqu’aux jihadistes les plus radicaux. Il faut éviter les caricatures. » Mais qui entend ce discours ?

Cet homme tout en affable rondeur, qu’on croirait à tout moment sur le point de sortir son carnet d’ordonnances, n’en cultive pas moins la persévérance. Notamment à l’égard des Européens. « Nous rencontrons beaucoup de compréhension chez nos amis européens. Au Parlement européen, ils obtiennent bien quelques résolutions critiquant l’état des libertés en Tunisie. Mais là où le bât blesse, c’est qu’au Conseil des ministres ou à la Commission, ce sont les intérêts, l’argent et la sécurité, qui priment. Nous tapons obstinément sur le même clou depuis des années, espérant que les choses finiront par changer, que la complaisance européenne pour ce régime cessera. »

Persévérant, on vous le dit. Et même courageux.

Baudouin Loos

(Source: « Le Soir » (Quotidien – Belgique » le 23 mars 2009)

 


 

 Remous au FDTL? Le Dr. Mustapha Ben Jaâfar réagit aux accusations de Jalel Un coup de tonnerre dans un ciel serein

 
Le bureau politique du Forum Démocratique pour le Travail et les Libertés (FDTL) s’est réuni dimanche 22 mars sous la présidence du secrétaire général du parti, le docteur Mustapha Ben Jaâfar. Une réunion consacrée aux agissements de Jalel Lahbib, membre du bureau politique et rédacteur en chef de « Mouatinoun », l’organe de presse du parti », a souligné le secrétaire général. En effet, M. Lahbib a publié le 18 mars un communiqué dans lequel il « condamne l’attitude de M. Mustapha Ben Jaâfar qui a tenu une conférence de presse à Genève et a eu des rencontres avec des parties du Parlement Européen et de l’Internationale Socialiste, sans consulter ni informer le bureau politique, ce qui constitue un déni flagrant de la pratique démocratique au sein du parti ». Dans le communiqué, l’auteur exprime « son étonnement face à l’acharnement éhonté et persistant, de certaines figures de la scène dont il sou-entends le Dr Ben Jaâfar à quémander des soutiens extérieurs et des directives étrangères qui ont fait de certaines figures de notre opposition des simples exécutants de projets dictés en fonction d’agendas extérieurs ». Conférence Le Dr Ben Jaâfar réagit en ces termes, « Nous sommes surpris par le communiqué de M. Jalel Lahbib qui n’a, à aucun moment, exprimé des critiques ou des réserves concernant les positions et les démarches du parti. Nous considérons que sa réaction est un coup de tonnerre dans un ciel serein. Ce qui porte à croire qu’il n’agit pas de sa propre volonté. Pour nous, les termes du communiqué sont irrecevables parce qu’ils mettent en cause une règle élémentaire du fonctionnement de tout parti affiliée à une organisation internationale comme l’Internationale Socialiste (IS) et qui est appelé à développer et à consolider ses relations avec tous les partis affiliés à cette organisation (le RCD est membre de l’IS) ». A noter que M. Lahbib a tenu hier une conférence de presse. Rappelons à cet effet que le bureau politique du FDTL a considéré qu’il s’est mis lui-même définitivement en dehors du parti.
Néjib SASSI (Source : « Le Temps » (Quotidien – Tunis), le 24 mars 2009)

 
 


 

Les avocats et la télévision Le débat continue

La polémique entre les avocats et la chaîne de télévision Tunisie 7 d’une part et celle au sein même de la profession concernant les rapports de l’avocat avec les médias et sa participation aux émissions télévisées et à sa collaboration dans les journaux, d’autre part, continue de plus belle. Une polémique soulevée par l’émission « Al Hak Mâak » diffusée le 12 mars dernier et qui a traité du cas d’un avocat soupçonné d’avoir gardé les fonds de dommages et intérêts revenant à sa cliente. La réaction des avocats, du Conseil de l’Ordre et du Bâtonnier en particulier a été très vive. Ils ont jugé que l’émission en question a porté atteinte à l’avocatie. Mais de son côté, l’animateur de l’émission Moez Ben Gharbia (voir Le Temps du 20 mars) a rejeté cette accusation affirmant que cette émission pratique l’investigation, une forme moderne du journalisme. Pour en savoir plus nous avons invité deux avocats qui ont assumé des responsabilités au sein des structures de l’avocatie et qui ont été confrontés à des affaires semblables. Me Brahim Bouderbala ex-président de la section de Tunis du Conseil de l’Ordre et Me Mohamed Jemour ex-secrétaire général du Conseil de l’Ordre. Interviews.  *** Me Brahim Bouderbala

«  Le principe de la présomption d’innocence a été totalement bafoué »

 Le Temps : Quels sont les préjudices subis par la profession puisque les animateurs de l’émission, selon certains observateurs, ont fait ce qu’on appelle un travail d’investigation. Ils ont cherché à donner la parole à toutes les parties mais l’avocat s’est dérobé ?
Me Brahim Bouderbala : Cette émission a violé le code de la presse. Elle a contrevenu à la loi réglementant la profession d’avocat. Elle a ignoré qu’il y a une justice dans notre pays et que toutes les voies de droit n’ont pas été épuisées, les fait reprochés à l’avocat mis en cause au cours de l’émission n’ayant fait l’objet d’aucune procédure judiciaire. Il s’agit d’une affaire dans laquelle un avocat est accusé d’avoir commis une très grave infraction à la déontologie  ainsi que d’un abus de confiance. Il faut rappeler que le principe de base en matière disciplinaire ou en droit pénal est celui de la présomption d’innocence de toute personne poursuivie. Il ne revient donc pas à des animateurs d’émissions de télé-réalité de se transformer en magistrats instructeurs ou de s’ériger en conseil de l’Ordre des avocats, se permettant d’instruire ou de juger une éventuelle infraction à la déontologie ou un abus de confiance sur la base de la plainte d’un justiciable quelle que soit la gravité ou la vraisemblance ou l’invraisemblance des faits allégués.
• Mais où s’arrête l’investigation journalistique ?
A mon avis, toute investigation journalistique se doit de respecter scrupuleusement le principe de la garantie élémentaire des droits du citoyen quels que soient les faits qui peuvent lui être reprochés. Malheureusement, lors de l’émission télévisée en cause, le principe élémentaire de la présomption d’innocence a été totalement bafoué. Le droit à être jugé équitablement a été ignoré. Pire, la famille de l’avocat mis en cause et qui n’avait rien à voir avec cette affaire a été montrée du doigt dans une mise en scène qui lui a porté un préjudice certain.
• Le bâtonnier a appelé le président de la section de Tunis de traduire les avocats qui ont participé aux émissions télévisées devant le Conseil de discipline. Qu’en pensez-vous ?
Il est du droit du bâtonnier d’ouvrir un dossier disciplinaire pour toute infraction commise par un avocat. Le Conseil de l’ordre des avocats a parfaitement le droit de procéder à une enquête contre tout avocat qui commet un manquement à ses devoirs ou à ses obligations ; d’ailleurs, le président de section compétent pour déclencher les enquêtes est lui-même membre es-qualité du conseil de l’ordre. Et, de ce fait, il a une obligation de solidarité avec les décisions du conseil de l’ordre, organe hiérarchiquement supérieur aux sections régionales. Je pense qu’il n’y a aucun inconvénient à ce que des avocats participent à des émissions à la radio ou à la télévision afin de donner leur point de vue sur des questions juridiques ou sur des faits d’actualité sans, toutefois, que cela ne se transforme en moyen de se faire de la publicité, ce qui est strictement interdit par la loi ou un moyen de faire pression sur la justice en évoquant leurs propres affaires. En revanche, il est inacceptable que des avocats participent à ce genre d’émission du genre télé-réalité où ils prennent parti et où ils s’instituent membres d’une juridiction télévisuelle qui n’a aucune légitimité pour instruire ce type d’affaire.
• Certains disent que la réaction des avocats est exagérée étant donné que la participation des avocats aux émissions télévisées ne date pas d’aujourd’hui. Mais, quand l’émission du 12 mars a traité du cas d’un avocat, c’est le tollé. Qu’en dites-vous ?
Cette émission a, effectivement, provoqué un tollé de la part du corps des avocats pour des raisons très simples, l’exercice de la profession d’avocat est basée sur une relation de confiance entre le client et l’avocat. Des centaines de milliers de dossiers sont, chaque année, confiés aux six mille avocats que compte la Tunisie de Bizerte à Tataouine. Il est, bien sûr indéniable que certains avocats commettent parfois des infractions. Celles-ci sont examinées par les instances ordinales et aboutissent à des sanctions qui vont du blâme jusqu’à la radiation définitive. Mais, cela ne doit pas jeter le discrédit sur l’ensemble de la profession dont, malheureusement, une image caricaturale a été présentée lors de cette émission. Quant au refus de l’avocat mis en cause de répondre à cette mascarade, il est tout à fait légitime et il ne doit pas être interprété comme une preuve certaine et définitive de culpabilité justifiant une condamnation sans appel. Interview réalisée par Néjib SASSI  *** Me Mohamed Jemour ex-secrétaire général du Conseil de l’ordre des avocats

« Faute de règles normatives l’affaire pourrait être utilisée à des fins électorales »

 Le Temps : La réaction des avocats et du Conseil de l’ordre suite à l’émission d' »El hak Maâk » n’est elle pas un peu exagérée ?

Me Mohamed Jemour : Non l’émission a porté atteinte à la profession et aux avocats. En ce sens qu’elle a condamné un avocat soupçonné d’avoir gardé les fonds revenant à sa cliente avant que la procédure disciplinaire soit achevée et avant même son audition par le juge d’instruction. Cette émission a enfreint au principe de la présomption d’innocence dont bénéficie tout citoyen et puis je considère que l’émission a fait de la traque à un avocat, à sa famille et à son clerc. La responsabilité est donc personnelle car nous sommes encore au stade de la procédure et de l’investigation. Au jour de l’émission le président de la section de Tunis du conseil de l’ordre n’a pas encore déféré l’avocat devant le conseil de discipline. Même s’il l’avait fait c’est le conseil de l’ordre siégeant en conseil de discipline qui décide de la responsabilité de l’avocat.
 • Mais dans l’émission l’avocat a bénéficié de la défense de ses confrères présents ?
Je reproche aux confrères présents de n’avoir pas mis en exergue ces principes élémentaires. Le code de la presse interdit de publier tout acte relatif aux procédures pénales avant sa lecture dans une audience publique. L’émission aurait dû traiter d’une manière générale la question de détournement de fonds revenant aux clients par leurs avocats et des sanctions disciplinaires pénales et administratives qui en découlent. Les structures de la profession pourraient participer à ces débats pour parler de la jurisprudence du conseil de l’ordre en cette matière. On ne peut pas parler d’un dossier pour lequel on n’a pas encore tranché. Le motif invoqué par les autorités concernant la saisie d’un numéro « d’Attariq El Jedid » organe de presse du Mouvement Ettajdid rentre dans cet ordre. A savoir que l’interrogatoire de l’un des inculpés dans l’affaire du bassin minier n’a pas encore été lu en une audience publique. En plus le conseil de l’ordre a puni sévèrement en les radiant définitivement du tableau les avocats ayant commis des détournements de fonds. Une fois leurs culpabilités ont été établies. Dans l’affaire de l’émission, la culpabilité de l’avocat n’a pas encore été établie.
• Mais quelles sont les actions à entreprendre afin que ce genre d’affaire ne se reproduise plus ?
Le Conseil de l’ordre doit se pencher sur la question du rapport des avocats avec les médias. Il a un pouvoir réglementaire il doit par conséquent établir des règles qui s’appliquent à tous les confrères d’une manière égalitaire. Tant que le conseil de l’ordre n’a pas fait ce travail dans le cadre d’un règlement intérieur il y aura toujours des problèmes, des glissements et des comportements fautifs qui donneront lieu à des traitements différents selon la tête du client. Il est impérieux que le Conseil de l’ordre mette de l’ordre dans cette question que nous traînons depuis longtemps. Je doute que faute de règles normatives que le dossier qui a soulevé cette tempête ne soit utilisé à des fins électorales par les uns et par les autres.
• Que conseillez-vous aux avocats qui ont des rapports avec les médias ?
Chaque confrère qui a une relation actuelle avec les médias doit être loyal et informer le conseil de l’ordre de son statut. S’il est rémunéré ou non en contrepartie de sa participation dans les médias.
• Mais s’il refuse ?
Les structures de la profession ont le droit de demander aux institutions de télévision ou de la presse écrite la nature de leurs relations avec les avocats et j’espère que ces institutions collaboreront loyalement pour le respect de la loi. Faute d’une collaboration loyale des parties concernées la situation va empirer et il y aura une tension entre les médias d’une part, les avocats et leurs structures représentatives d’autre part et la question ne peut être tranchée par des prises de position hâtives et irréfléchies.
Interview réalisée par Néjib SASSI (Source : « Le Temps » (Quotidien – Tunis), le 24 mars 2009)


Rabat hausse le ton contre des « atteintes » à la religion et à la morale

AFP, le 24 mars 2009 à 10h44 Par Hervé GUILBAUD RABAT, 24 mars 2009 (AFP) – Les autorités marocaines ont, par une série de décisions récentes, sérieusement haussé le ton contre ce qu’elles estiment être des « atteintes » à l’ordre moral et religieux du royaume, avec en particulier une offensive contre tout prosélytisme chiite. « L’enjeu, c’est l’image de l’Etat », explique dans un entretien à l’AFP Mohamed Darif, un expert des mouvements islamistes au Maroc. « Les autorités cherchent à prouver qu’elles sont toujours les garantes des valeurs religieuses et des valeurs morales » du pays. Dernière mesure en date, la fermeture samedi de l’école irakienne de Bagdad, dont, selon un communiqué du ministère de l’Education nationale, « le système pédagogique (…) est contraire aux dispositions de l’enseignement privé » du Maroc. « Cette décision, est-il précisé, fait suite à une plainte déposée par un ressortissant irakien (…) contre la directrice » de cette école, accusée d’avoir renvoyé trois enfants « pour motif confessionnel » et de propager « un rite religieux déterminé ». En clair, l’islam chiite. Selon le quotidien (indépendant) en langue arabe Al Jarida Al Aoula, des dizaines de personnes soupçonnées de sympathie avec le chiisme ont été interpellées depuis vendredi à Tanger (nord), Essaouira (sud) et Ouazzane (120 km au nord de Rabat). Ce n’est pas la première fois que l’activisme chiite est visé, dans un pays dont la quasi-totalité de la population observe le rite malékite, l’école sunnite modérée de l’islam. Dans une récente interview à l’AFP, le ministre des Affaires étrangères Taeïb Fassi Fihri avait fustigé l’activisme d’associations marocaines œuvrant à développer le chiisme avec l’appui de Téhéran. « Le Maroc ne peut pas accepter qu’on mène des actions de ce genre, directement ou indirectement, ou via de soi-disant ONG », avait-il estimé, critiquant une « atteinte aux fondamentaux » du royaume chérifien et au « ciment » du malékisme. Mais le tour de vis des autorités marocaines ne touche pas qu’à la religion. Samedi, le ministère de l’Intérieur a exprimé sa « détermination à faire face, avec fermeté et dans le cadre des lois en vigueur, à tous les agissements, écrits et livres visant à porter atteinte aux valeurs religieuses et morales de la société marocaine ». Selon une source proche du gouvernement, le texte vise la multiplication d’articles de presse prônant une plus grande tolérance à l’égard de l’homosexualité, que les autorités jugent contraire aux valeurs de la société marocaine et de la religion musulmane. Les islamistes, notamment ceux du Parti Justice et Développement (PJD), ont d’ailleurs appelé l’Etat à agir avec fermeté. Selon la presse, une vingtaine d’homosexuels marocains auraient récemment été interpellés dans la région de Meknès (centre). Autre exemple de « recadrage », le refus des autorités d’accorder une autorisation à l’organisation féministe française « Ni putes ni soumises » (NPNS) pour ouvrir une antenne au Maroc. « En conformité avec la loi, les autorités (marocaines) ne donneront pas suite à la création d’un tel bureau si la demande venait à être faite », ce qui n’est pas le cas, avait indiqué le inistère de l’Intérieur dans un communiqué, le 21 février. Pendant encore quelques semaines, les « valeurs morales » pourraient être observées de près. Une militante des droits de la femme, Fouzia Assouli, en est convaincue: des élections locales ont lieu en juin au Maroc, relève-t-elle, et le gouvernement ne veut pas donner aux islamistes de motifs de mobilisation. AFP


 

Hausse de 12% des demandes d’asile dans le monde, selon le HCR

 

 
ATS, le 24 mars 2009 à 11h30 Genève (ats) Le nombre des demandeurs d’asile dans les pays industrialisés a augmenté l’an dernier pour la deuxième année consécutive, a affirmé mardi le HCR. La hausse a atteint 12% d’une année sur l’autre. Le Haut Commissariat de l’ONU pour les réfugiés (HCR) attribue cette augmentation à la persistance de conflits armés. La hausse est due notamment à un nombre plus important de demandes d’asiles déposées par des citoyens afghans, somaliens ou originaires d’autres pays en proie à des conflits ou à des troubles, comme l’Irak et le Sri Lanka. Quelque 383000 demandes d’asile ont été déposées l’an dernier dans 51 pays industrialisés. Il s’agit d’une augmentation de 12% par rapport à 2007. C’est la seconde hausse consécutive annuelle du nombre de demandeurs d’asile: l’année 2006 avait enregistré le plus faible nombre de demandes d’asile depuis 20 ans (307000). Irakiens en tête Les Irakiens (40500 demandes) sont à nouveau arrivés en tête des demandeurs d’asile dans les pays industrialisés. Toutefois, le nombre des demandeurs d’asile irakiens a baissé de 10% en 2008. Les Somaliens (21800) occupent le deuxième rang, avec une hausse annuelle de 71%, devant les Russes (20500), les Afghans (18500, en hausse de 85%) et les Chinois (17400). Les demandes en provenance du Zimbabwe ont augmenté de 82%, celles du Nigéria de 71% et celles du Sri Lanka de 24%. En 2008, les Etats-Unis sont restés le principal pays de destination des demandeurs d’asile (49000 demandes), soit 13% de l’ensemble des demandes dans les pays industrialisés. Suivent le Canada (36900), la France (35200), l’Italie (31200) et le Royaume- Uni (30500). Avec 16.606 demandes déposées l’an dernier, la Suisse a connu une hausse de 53,1% par rapport à 2007, avec en tête de liste des Erythréens, Somaliens et Irakiens, selon l’Office fédéral des migrations (ODM). (Source : www.rsr.ch (Suisse), le 24 mars 2009)


Paris débloque 10 millions EUR pour les victimes de ses essais nucléaires

 

 
AFP, le 24 mars 2009 à 14h03 PARIS, 24 mars 2009 (AFP) – La France a annoncé mardi l’octroi, un demi-siècle après ses premiers essais nucléaires dans le Sahara, d’une première enveloppe d’indemnisation de 10 millions d’euros aux centaines de victimes civiles et militaires, dont le préjudice a longtemps été nié. « Treize ans après la fin des essais dans le Pacifique et la ratification par la France du traité d’interdiction des essais, il était temps que notre pays soit en paix avec lui même », a déclaré le ministre de la Défense Hervé Morin, présentant lors d’une conférence de presse un projet de loi d’indemnisation. L’indemnisation pourrait concerner « quelques centaines de personnes » sur les 150.000 travailleurs civils et militaires qui y avaient participé de 1960 à 1996 dans le Sahara puis en Polynésie, a-t-il indiqué. Il s’agira d’anciens militaires ou d’anciens employés civils comme ceux du Commissariat à l’énergie atomique (CEA), mais aussi d’Algériens ou de Polynésiens qui vivaient à proximité des zones d’essai, a-t-on indiqué au ministère de la Défense. Pour toutes les victimes, qui relevaient jusqu’à présent de régimes divers, les décrets d’application fixeront une liste de 18 maladies (leucémie, cancers du sein, de la thyroïde…). La liste sera calquée sur celle établie par un organisme de l’ONU, le Comité scientifique des Nations Unies pour l’étude des effets des rayonnements ionisants (UNSCAER). Elle pourra toutefois être étendue au gré de l’évolution des connaissances médicales. Le ministère de la Défense reconnaît plusieurs incidents dont quatre lors d’essais conduits dans des galeries au Sahara qui n’ont pas été totalement confinées, en particulier le 1er mai 1962 lorsque des retombées radioactives importantes avaient été relevées dans une bande de plus de 150 km. En Polynésie, selon la même source, sur les 41 essais aériens, une dizaines de retombées radioactives ont été notées sur les atolls environnants dont six ont eu un impact radiologique.


Turquie/Otan: un dirigeant du parti au pouvoir opposé à la candidature de Rasmussen

AFP, le 24 mars 2009 à 16h09 ANKARA, 24 mars 2009 (AFP) – Un dirigeant du parti au pouvoir en Turquie, pays membre de l’Otan, a exprimé mardi son hostilité à une désignation du Premier ministre danois Anders Fogh Rasmussen à la tête de l’Otan en raison notamment du contentieux sur les caricatures de Mahomet. « Il est pas très acceptable pour nous d’avoir à la tête de l’Otan une personne qui manque crûment de respect pour nos croyances religieuses et nos valeurs sacrées », a déclaré Suat Kiniklioglu, vice-président du Parti de la justice et du développement (AKP, issu de la mouvance islamiste) à l’agence de presse Anatolie. M. Rasmussen est « un personnage problématique » pour la Turquie, a affirmé M. Kiniklioglu, qui est député et chargé des affaires étrangères au sein de sa formation. M. Kiniklioglu a notamment cité l’affaire des caricatures du prophète Mahomet dont la publication par un journal danois avait suscité un tollé dans le monde musulman. M. Rasmussen avait défendu ces dessins satiriques au nom de la liberté d’expression. En outre, a ajouté le responsable politique turc, M. Rasmussen s’est illustré par son opposition à une adhésion de la Turquie à l’Union européenne et son refus d’interdire à une chaîne de télévision pro-kurde d’émettre depuis son pays. La Turquie ainsi que les Etats-Unis demandent de longue date à Copenhague d’interdire Roj TV, instrumentalisé selon Ankara par les séparatistes du Parti des travailleurs du Kurdistan (PKK, interdit). Le Premier ministre danois semble pourtant avoir toutes les chances d’être le prochain secrétaire général de l’Otan, les Etats-Unis ayant décidé de soutenir sa candidature, selon les déclarations samedi d’un diplomate de l’Otan à l’AFP. Le gouvernement turc du Premier ministre Recep Tayyip Erdogan n’a pas encore fait connaître sa position officielle au sujet de la succession au poste de secrétaire général de l’Otan pour remplacer le Néerlandais Jaap de Hoop Scheffer en juillet prochain.

Ex-Turkish army chief may testify in coup plot-reports

Reuters,24 March 2009 13:55:46 GMT   ISTANBUL, March 24 (Reuters) – A former commander of Turkey’s armed forces may be asked to testify in the investigation of an alleged plot to topple Turkey’s Islamist-rooted government, Turkish media said on Tuesday. Retired General Hilmi Ozkok would be the highest-ranking officer to testify in the widening probe into the so-called Ergenekon network, a right-wing group accused of using violence that prosecutors say was aimed at destabilising Turkey, a member of NATO and a candidate for European Union membership. The military has denied any links to Ergenekon. Ozkok and his successor, retired General Yasar Buyukanit, both told Milliyet newspaper last week they were prepared to testify in the Ergenekon case if asked to by prosecutors. « The Ergenekon prosecutor, Zekeriya Oz, has said that Ozkok’s statement may be taken in connection with the Ergenekon case, » Hurriyet newspaper reported on its Web site, without saying how it got the information. Similar reports were carried by broadcasters NTV and CNN Turk. No one was immediately available at the Istanbul prosecutor’s office to comment on the reports. The investigation has rattled financial markets and increased tensions between the government and secularists. More than 140 people, including retired senior officers, face charges they were part of a conspiracy aimed at overthrowing Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted government after it took power in 2002. Turkey’s military has overthrown three elected governments in the predominantly Muslim country in outright coups and pressured the first Islamist-led government to step down in 1997. The army has denied any links to Ergenekon. Ozkok served as chief of the General Staff from 2002 to 2006. An indictment filed by prosecutors earlier this month includes evidence from diaries allegedly belonging to Ozkok’s naval commander that outline a plot to overthrow Erdogan’s government, according to Turkish newspapers. Ozkok was the lone general to have opposed the coup plot, according to transcripts of the diaries published in the Turkish press. The former naval commander denies the diaries belonged to him. REUTERS
 
 

DOCUMENT EXCEPTIONNEL 

LE RAPPORT SECRET DU CICR (COMITE INTERNATIONAL DE LA CROIX ROUGE) SUR LA TORTURE PRATIQUEE PAR LES ETATS UNIS SUR 14 PRISONNIERS MUSULMANS A GUANTANAMO

US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites

The April 9, 2009, issue of The New York Review offers first view of American torture inside secret

prisons. The United States tortured prisoners, according to a secret report on “The Black Sites” by the

International Committee of the Red Cross [ICRC], excerpted in great detail in the new issue of The New York Review of Books. The report, whose findings are made public here for the first time, details in specific and explicit terms the various methods and “enhanced techniques” the CIA used to interrogate prisoners in a secret “global internment system” set up at the direction of President George W. Bush less than a week after the attacks of September 11, 2001. The report is summarized and analyzed in a lengthy and definitive article, “US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites,” by Mark Danner, a longtime contributor to The New York Review and author of Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib and the War on Terror.

 

This “alternative set of procedures,” as President Bush characterized them in a White House speech, including extended “sleep deprivation,” prolonged forced nudity, bombarding detainees

with noise and light, repeated immersion in cold water, prolonged

standing, sometimes for many days, beatings of various kinds, and

“waterboarding”—or, as the report’s authors phrase it, “suffocation

by water.” These interrogations are described in chilling first-person

accounts gathered confidentially by ICRC investigators and made

public here for the first time.

 

According to the authors of the ICRC report, “in many cases, the

ill-treatment to which they were subjected while held in the CIA

program…constituted torture.” The ICRC, which is the appointed

legal guardian of the Geneva Conventions and the body appointed

to supervise the treatment of prisoners of war, speaks in this matter with the force of law. The report

continues: “In addition, many other elements of the illtreatment, either singly or in combination,

constituted cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” Both torture and “cruel, inhuman and degrading

treatment” are forbidden by many treaties to which the United States is signatory, including the

Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions.

The accounts of the detainees themselves, including the most prominent captured in the War on Terror, describe their detention from the time they were secretly brought to “the black sites”—secret prisons around the world, including in Thailand, Afghanistan, and Poland, through the interrogations using “waterboarding.” beatings, and other techniques. Fourteen “high-value detainees” were interviewed over many days for the report, including Abu Zubaydah, Khalid Shaik Mohammed, and Walid bin Attash. The fourteen remain imprisoned in Guantánamo.

These personal accounts are excerpted in great and disturbing detail in “US Torture: Voices from the

Black Sites.” They describe daily life in the secret prisons for the first time in a publicly available

account. Danner, who has covered the torture story in The New York Review since 2004, reporting

extensively on Abu Ghraib and the Iraq War, analyzes the current debate over torture, the harm it has

done and continues to do to the country, and the possibility of meaningful Congressional investigations, bipartisan “truth commissions,” and perhaps prosecution of those who have tortured.

US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites

By Mark Danner

ICRC Report on the Treatment of Fourteen « High Value Detainees » in CIA Custody

by the International Committee of the Red Cross

43 pp., February 2007

We need to get to the bottom of what happened—and why—so we make sure it never happens again.[1]

—Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee

1.

We think time and elections will cleanse our fallen world but they will not. Since November, George W. Bush and his administration have seemed to be rushing away from us at accelerating speed, a dark comet hurtling toward the ends of the universe. The phrase « War on Terror »—the signal slogan of that administration, so cherished by the man who took pride in proclaiming that he was « a wartime president »—has acquired in its pronouncement a permanent pair of quotation marks, suggesting something questionable, something mildly embarrassing: something past. And yet the decisions that that president made, especially the monumental decisions taken after the attacks of September 11, 2001—decisions about rendition, surveillance, interrogation—lie strewn about us still, unclaimed and unburied, like corpses freshly dead.

How should we begin to talk about this? Perhaps with a story. Stories come to us newborn, announcing their intent: Once upon a time… In the beginning… From such signs we learn how to listen to what will come. Consider:

I woke up, naked, strapped to a bed, in a very white room. The room measured approximately 4m x 4m [13 feet by 13 feet]. The room had three solid walls, with the fourth wall consisting of metal bars separating it from a larger room. I am not sure how long I remained in the bed….

A man, unnamed, naked, strapped to a bed, and for the rest, the elemental facts of space and of time, nothing but whiteness.

The storyteller is very much a man of our time. Early on in the « War on Terror, » in the spring of 2002, he entered the dark realm of « the disappeared »—and only four and a half years later, when he and thirteen other « high-value detainees » arrived at Guantánamo and told their stories in interviews with representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (reported in the confidential document listed above) did he emerge partly into the light. Indeed, he is a famous man, though his fame has followed a certain path, peculiar to our modern age: jihadist, outlaw, terrorist, « disappeared. » An international celebrity whose name, one of them anyway, is instantly recognizable. How many people have their lives described by the president of the United States in a nationally televised speech?

Within months of September the 11th, 2001, we captured a man known as Abu Zubaydah. We believe that Zubaydah was a senior terrorist leader and a trusted associate of Osama bin Laden…. Zubaydah was severely wounded during the firefight that brought him into custody—and he survived only because of the medical care arranged by the CIA.[2]

A dramatic story: big news. Wounded in a firefight in Faisalabad, Pakistan, shot in the stomach, groin, and thigh after jumping from a roof in a desperate attempt to escape. Massive bleeding. Rushed to a military hospital in Lahore. A trauma surgeon at Johns Hopkins awakened by a late-night telephone call from the director of central intelligence and flown in great secrecy to the other side of the world. The wounded man barely escapes death, slowly stabilizes, is shipped secretly to a military base in Thailand. Thence to another base in Afghanistan. Or was it Afghanistan?

We don’t know, not definitively. For from the moment of his dramatic capture, on March 28, 2002, the man known as Abu Zubaydah slipped from one clandestine world, that of al-Qaeda officials gone to ground in the days after September 11, into another, a « hidden global internment network » intended for secret detention and interrogation and set up by the Central Intelligence Agency under authority granted directly by President George W. Bush in a « memorandum of understanding » signed on September 17, 2001.

This secret system included prisons on military bases around the world, from Thailand and Afghanistan to Morocco, Poland, and Romania— »at various times, » reportedly, « sites in eight countries »—into which, at one time or another, more than one hundred prisoners…disappeared.[3] The secret internment network of « black sites » had its own air force and its own distinctive « transfer procedures, » which were, according to the writers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) report, « fairly standardised in most cases »:

The detainee would be photographed, both clothed and naked prior to and again after transfer. A body cavity check (rectal examination) would be carried out and some detainees alleged that a suppository (the type and the effect of such suppositories was unknown by the detainees), was also administered at that moment.

The detainee would be made to wear a diaper and dressed in a tracksuit. Earphones would be placed over his ears, through which music would sometimes be played. He would be blindfolded with at least a cloth tied around the head and black goggles. In addition, some detainees alleged that cotton wool was also taped over their eyes prior to the blindfold and goggles being applied….

The detainee would be shackled by [the] hands and feet and transported to the airport by road and loaded onto a plane. He would usually be transported in a reclined sitting position with his hands shackled in front. The journey times…ranged from one hour to over twenty-four to thirty hours. The detainee was not allowed to go to the toilet and if necessary was obliged to urinate and defecate into the diaper.

One works the imagination trying to picture what it was like in this otherworldly place: blackness in place of vision. Silence—or « sometimes » loud music—in place of sounds of life. Shackles, together sometimes with gloves, in place of the chance to reach, touch, feel. One senses metal on wrist and ankle, cotton against eyes, cloth across face, shit and piss against skin. On « some occasions detainees were transported lying flat on the floor of the plane…with their hands cuffed behind their backs, » causing them « severe pain and discomfort, » as they were moved from one unknown location to another.

For his part, Abu Zubaydah—thirty-one years old, born Zein al-Abedeen Mohammad Hassan, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, though coming of Palestinian stock, from the Gaza Strip—

alleged that during one transfer operation the blindfold was tied very tightly resulting in wounds to his nose and ears. He does not know how long the transfer took but, prior to the transfer, he reported being told by his detaining authorities that he would be going on a journey that would last twenty-four to thirty hours.

A long trip then: perhaps to Guantánamo? Or Morocco? Then back, apparently, to Thailand. Or was it Afghanistan? He thinks the latter but can’t be sure….

2.

All classified, compartmentalized, deeply, deeply secret. And yet what is « secret » exactly? In our recent politics, « secret » has become an oddly complex word. From whom was « the secret bombing of Cambodia » secret? Not from the Cambodians, surely. From whom was the existence of these « secret overseas facilities » secret? Not from the terrorists, surely. From Americans, presumably. On the other hand, as early as 2002, anyone interested could read on the front page of one of the country’s leading newspapers:

US Decries Abuse but Defends Interrogations: « Stress and Duress » Tactics Used on Terrorism Suspects Held in Secret Overseas Facilities

Deep inside the forbidden zone at the US-occupied Bagram air base in Afghanistan, around the corner from the detention center and beyond the segregated clandestine military units, sits a cluster of metal shipping containers protected by a triple layer of concertina wire. The containers hold the most valuable prizes in the war on terrorism—captured al Qaeda operatives and Taliban commanders….

« If you don’t violate someone’s human rights some of the time, you probably aren’t doing your job, » said one official who has supervised the capture and transfer of accused terrorists. « I don’t think we want to be promoting a view of zero tolerance on this. That was the whole problem for a long time with the CIA…. »

This lengthy article, by Dana Priest and Barton Gellman, appeared in The Washington Post on December 26, 2002, only months after the capture of Abu Zubaydah. A similarly lengthy report followed a few months later on the front page of The New York Times (« Interrogations: Questioning Terror Suspects in a Dark and Surreal World »). The blithe, aggressive tone of the officials quoted— »We don’t kick the [expletive] out of them. We send them to other countries so they can kick the [expletive] out of them »—bespeaks a very different political temper, one in which a prominent writer in a national newsmagazine could headline his weekly column « Time to Think About Torture, » noting in his subtitle that in this « new world…survival might well require old techniques that seemed out of the question. »[4]

So there are secrets and secrets. And when, on a bright sunny day two years ago, just before the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the President of the United States strode into the East Room of the White House and informed the high officials, dignitaries, and specially invited September 11 survivor families gathered in rows before him that the United States government had created a dark and secret universe to hold and interrogate captured terrorists—or, in the President’s words, « an environment where they can be held secretly [and] questioned by experts »—he was not telling a secret but instead converting a known and well-reported fact into an officially confirmed truth:

In addition to the terrorists held at Guantánamo, a small number of suspected terrorist leaders and operatives captured during the war have been held and questioned outside the United States, in a separate program operated by the Central Intelligence Agency…. Many specifics of this program, including where these detainees have been held and the details of their confinement, cannot be divulged….

We knew that Abu Zubaydah had more information that could save innocent lives, but he stopped talking…. And so the CIA used an alternative set of procedures. These procedures were designed to be safe, to comply with our laws, our Constitution, and our treaty obligations. The Department of Justice reviewed the authorized methods extensively and determined them to be lawful. I cannot describe the specific methods used—I think you understand why….

I was watching the live broadcast that day and I remember the uncanny feeling that came over me as, having heard the President explain the virtues of this « alternative set of procedures, » I watched him stare straight into the camera and with fierce concentration and exaggerated emphasis intone once more: « The United States does not torture. It’s against our laws, and it’s against our values. I have not authorized it—and I will not authorize it. » He had convinced himself, I thought, of the truth of what he said.

This speech, though not much noticed at the time, will stand, I believe, as George W. Bush’s most important: perhaps the only « historic » speech he ever gave. In telling his version of Abu Zubaydah’s story, and versions of the stories of Khaled Shaik Mohammed and others, the President took hold of many things that were already known but not acknowledged and, by means of the alchemical power of the leader’s voice, transformed them into acknowledged facts. He also, in his fervent defense of his government’s « alternative set of procedures » and his equally fervent denials that they constituted « torture, » set out before the country and the world the dark moral epic of the Bush administration, in the coils of whose contradictions we find ourselves entangled still. Later that month, Congress, facing the midterm elections, duly passed the President’s Military Commissions Act of 2006, which, among other things, sought to shelter from prosecution those who had applied the « alternative set of procedures » and had done so, said the President, « in a thorough and professional way. »

At the same time, perhaps unwittingly, President Bush made it possible that day for those on whom the « alternative set of procedures » were performed eventually to speak. Even as the President set out before the country his version of what had happened to Abu Zubaydah and the others and argued for its necessity, he announced that he would bring him and thirteen of his fellow « high-value detainees » out of the dark world of the disappeared and into the light. Or, rather, into the twilight: the fourteen would be transferred to Guantánamo, the main acknowledged offshore prison, where— »as soon as Congress acts to authorize the military commissions I have proposed »—they « can face justice. » In the meantime, though, the fourteen would be « held in a high-security facility at Guantánamo » and the International Committee of the Red Cross would be « advised of their detention, and will have the opportunity to meet with them. »

A few weeks later, from October 6 to 11 and then from December 4 to 14, 2006, officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross—among whose official and legally recognized duties is to monitor compliance with the Geneva Conventions and to supervise treatment of prisoners of war—traveled to Guantánamo and began interviewing « each of these persons in private » in order to produce a report that would « provide a description of the treatment and material conditions of detention of the fourteen during the period they were held in the CIA detention program, » periods ranging « from 16 months to almost four and a half years. »

As the ICRC interviewers informed the detainees, their report was not intended to be released to the public but, « to the extent that each detainee agreed for it to be transmitted to the authorities, » to be given in strictest secrecy to officials of the government agency that had been in charge of holding them—in this case the Central Intelligence Agency, to whose acting general counsel, John Rizzo, the report was sent on February 14, 2007. Indeed, though almost all of the information in the report has names attached, and though annexes contain extended narratives drawn from interviews with three of the detainees, whose names are used, we do find a number of times in the document variations of this formula: « One of the detainees who did not wish his name to be transmitted to the authorities alleged… »—suggesting that at least one and perhaps more than one of the fourteen, who are, after all, still « held in a high-security facility at Guantánamo, » worried about repercussions that might come from what he had said.

In virtually all such cases, the allegations made are echoed by other, named detainees; indeed, since the detainees were kept « in continuous solitary confinement and incommunicado detention » throughout their time in « the black sites, » and were kept strictly separated as well when they reached Guantánamo, the striking similarity in their stories, even down to small details, would seem to make fabrication extremely unlikely, if not impossible. « The ICRC wishes to underscore, » as the writers tell us in the introduction, « that the consistency of the detailed allegations provided separately by each of the fourteen adds particular weight to the information provided below. »

The result is a document—labeled « confidential » and clearly intended only for the eyes of those senior American officials to whom the CIA’s Mr. Rizzo would show it—that tells a certain kind of story, a narrative of what happened at « the black sites » and a detailed description, by those on whom they were practiced, of what the President of the United States described to Americans as an « alternative set of procedures. » It is a document for its time, literally « impossible to put down, » from its opening page—

Contents Introduction 1. Main Elements of the CIA Detention Program 1.1 Arrest and Transfer 1.2 Continuous Solitary Confinement and Incommunicado Detention 1.3 Other Methods of Ill-treatment 1.3.1 Suffocation by water 1.3.2 Prolonged Stress Standing 1.3.3 Beatings by use of a collar 1.3.4 Beating and kicking 1.3.5 Confinement in a box 1.3.6 Prolonged nudity 1.3.7 Sleep deprivation and use of loud music 1.3.8 Exposure to cold temperature/cold water 1.3.9 Prolonged use of handcuffs and shackles 1.3.10 Threats 1.3.11 Forced shaving 1.3.12 Deprivation/restricted provision of solid food 1.4 Further elements of the detention regime….

—to its stark and unmistakable conclusion:

The allegations of ill-treatment of the detainees indicate that, in many cases, the ill-treatment to which they were subjected while held in the CIA program, either singly or in combination, constituted torture. In addition, many other elements of the ill-treatment, either singly or in combination, constituted cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Such unflinching clarity, from the body legally charged with overseeing compliance with the Geneva Conventions—in which the terms « torture » and « cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment » are accorded a strictly defined legal meaning—couldn’t be more significant, or indeed more welcome after years in which the President of the United States relied on the power of his office either to redefine or to obfuscate what are relatively simple words. « This debate is occurring, » as President Bush told reporters in the Rose Garden the week after he delivered his East Room speech,

because of the Supreme Court’s ruling that said that we must conduct ourselves under the Common Article III of the Geneva Convention. And that Common Article III says that, you know, there will be no outrages upon human dignity. It’s like—it’s very vague. What does that mean, « outrages upon human dignity »?[5]

In allowing Abu Zubaydah and the other thirteen « high-value detainees » to tell their own stories, this report manages to answer, with great power and authority, the President’s question.

3.

We return to a man, Abu Zubaydah, a Palestinian who, in his thirty-one years, has lived a life shaped by conflicts on the edge of the American consciousness: the Gaza Strip, where his parents were born; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he apparently first saw the light of day; Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, where he took part in the jihad against the Russians, perhaps with the help, directly or indirectly, of American dollars; then, post-Soviet Afghanistan, where he ran al-Qaeda logistics and recruitment, directing aspiring jihadists to the various training camps, placing them in cells after they’d been trained. The man has been captured now: traced to a safe house in Faisalabad, gravely wounded by three shots from an AK-47. He is rushed to the Faisalabad hospital, then to the military hospital at Lahore. When he opens his eyes he finds at his bedside an American, John Kiriakou of the CIA:

I asked him in Arabic what his name was. And he shook his head. And I asked him again in Arabic. And then he answered me in English. And he said that he would not speak to me in God’s language. And then I said, « That’s okay. We know who you are. »

And then he asked me to smother him with a pillow. And I said, « No, no. We have plans for you. »[6]

Kiriakou and the « small group of CIA and FBI people who just kept 24/7 eyes on him » knew that in Abu Zubaydah they had « the biggest fish that we had caught. We knew he was full of information…and we wanted to get it. » According to Kiriakou, on a table in the house where they found him « Abu Zubaydah and two other men were building a bomb. The soldering [iron] was still hot. And they had plans for a school on the table…. » The plans, Kiriakou told ABC News correspondent Brian Ross, were for the British school in Lahore. Their prisoner, they knew, was « very current. On top of the current threat information. »

With the help of the American trauma surgeon, Abu Zubaydah’s captors nursed him back to health. He was moved at least twice, first, reportedly, to Thailand; then, he believes, to Afghanistan, probably Bagram. In a safe house in Thailand the interrogation began:

I woke up, naked, strapped to a bed, in a very white room. The room measured approximately [13 feet by 13 feet]. The room had three solid walls, with the fourth wall consisting of metal bars separating it from a larger room. I am not sure how long I remained in the bed. After some time, I think it was several days, but can’t remember exactly, I was transferred to a chair where I was kept, shackled by [the] hands and feet for what I think was the next 2 to 3 weeks. During this time I developed blisters on the underside of my legs due to the constant sitting. I was only allowed to get up from the chair to go [to] the toilet, which consisted of a bucket. Water for cleaning myself was provided in a plastic bottle.

I was given no solid food during the first two or three weeks, while sitting on the chair. I was only given Ensure [a nutrient supplement] and water to drink. At first the Ensure made me vomit, but this became less with time.

The cell and room were air-conditioned and were very cold. Very loud, shouting type music was constantly playing. It kept repeating about every fifteen minutes twenty-four hours a day. Sometimes the music stopped and was replaced by a loud hissing or crackling noise.

The guards were American, but wore masks to conceal their faces. My interrogators did not wear masks.

During this first two to three week period I was questioned for about one to two hours each day. American interrogators would come to the room and speak to me through the bars of the cell. During the questioning the music was switched off, but was then put back on again afterwards. I could not sleep at all for the first two to three weeks. If I started to fall asleep one of the guards would come and spray water in my face.

A naked man chained in a small, very cold, very white room is for several days strapped to a bed, then for several weeks shackled to a chair, bathed unceasingly in white light, bombarded constantly with loud sound, deprived of food; and whenever, despite cold, light, noise, hunger, the hours and days force his eyelids down, cold water is sprayed in his face to force them up.

One can translate these procedures into terms of art: « Change of Scenery Down. » « Removal of Clothing. » « Use of Stress Positions. » « Dietary Manipulation. » « Environmental Manipulation. » « Sleep Adjustment. » « Isolation. » « Sleep Deprivation. » « Use of Noise to Induce Stress. » All these terms and many others can be found, for example, in documents associated with the debate about interrogation and « counter-resistance » carried on by Pentagon and Justice Department officials beginning in 2002. Here, however, we find a different standard: the Working Group says, for example, that « Sleep Deprivation » is « not to exceed 4 days in succession, » that « Dietary Manipulation » should include « no intended deprivation of food or water, » that « removal of clothing, » while « creating a feeling of helplessness and dependence, » must be « monitored to ensure the environmental conditions are such that this technique does not injure the detainee. »[7] Here we are in a different place.

But what place? Abu Zubaydah was not only the « biggest fish that we had caught » but the first big fish. According to Kiriakou, Zubaydah, as he recovered, had « wanted to talk about current events. He told us a couple of times that he had nothing personal against the United States…. He said that 9/11 was necessary. That although he didn’t think that there would be such a massive loss of life, his view was that 9/11 was supposed to be a wake-up call to the United States. »

In those initial weeks of healing, before the white room and the chair and the light, Zubaydah seems to have talked freely with his captors, and during this time, according to news reports, FBI agents began to question him using « standard interview techniques, » ensuring that he was bathed and his bandages changed, urging improved medical care, and trying to « convince him they knew details of his activities. » (They showed him, for example, a « box of blank audiotapes which they said contained recordings of his phone conversations, but were actually empty. ») According to this account, Abu Zubaydah, in the initial days before the white room, « began to provide intelligence insights into Al Qaeda. »[8]

Or did he? « How Good Is Abu Zubaydah’s Information? » asked a Newsweek « Web exclusive » on April 27, 2002, less than a month after his capture. The extreme secrecy and isolation in which Abu Zubaydah was being held, at a location unknown to him and to all but a tiny handful of government officials, did not prevent his « information » being leaked from that unknown place directly into the American press—in the cause, apparently, of a bureaucratic struggle between the FBI and the CIA. Even Americans who were not following closely the battling leaks from Zubaydah’s interrogation would have found their lives affected, whether they knew it or not, by what was happening in that faraway white room; for about the same time the Bush administration saw fit to issue two « domestic terrorism warnings, » derived from Abu Zubaydah’s « tips »—about « possible attacks on banks or financial institutions in the Northeastern United States » and possible « attacks on US supermarkets and shopping malls. » AsNewsweek learned from a « senior US official, » presumably from the FBI—whose « standard interview techniques » had produced that information and the « domestic terrorism warnings » based on it—the prisoner was « providing detailed information for the ‘fight against terrorism.' » At the same time, however, « US intelligence sources »—presumably CIA— »wonder whether he’s trying to mislead investigators or frighten the American public. »[9]

For his part, John Kiriakou, the CIA man, told ABC News that in those early weeks Zubaydah was « willing to talk about philosophy, [but] he was unwilling to give us any actionable intelligence. » The CIA officers had the « sweeping classified directive signed by Mr. Bush, » giving them authority to « capture, detain and interrogate terrorism suspects, » and Zubaydah was « a test case for an evolving new role,…in which the agency was to act as jailer and interrogator of terrorism suspects. » Eventually a team from the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center was « sent in from Langley » and the FBI interrogators were withdrawn.

We had these trained interrogators who were sent to his location to use the enhanced techniques as necessary to get him to open up, and to report some threat information…. These enhanced techniques included everything from what was called an attention shake, where you grab the person by their lapels and shake them, all the way up to the other end, which is waterboarding.

They began, apparently, by shackling him to the chair, and applying light, noise, and water to keep him awake. After two or three weeks of this Abu Zubaydah, still naked and shackled, was allowed to lie on the bare floor and to « sleep a little. » He was also given solid food—rice—for the first time. Eventually a doctor, a woman, came and examined him, and « asked why I was still naked. » The next day he was « provided with orange clothes to wear. » The following day, however, « guards came into my cell. They told me to stand up and raise my arms above my head. They then cut the clothes off of me so that I was again naked and put me back on the chair for several days. I tried to sleep on the chair, but was again kept awake by the guards spraying water in my face. »

What follows is a confusing period, in which harsh treatment alternated with more lenient. Zubaydah was mostly naked and cold, « sometimes with the air conditioning adjusted so that, one official said, Mr. Zubayah seemed to turn blue. »[10] Sometimes clothing would be brought, then removed the next day. « When my interrogators had the impression that I was cooperating and providing the information they required, the clothes were given back to me. When they felt I was being less cooperative the clothes were again removed and I was again put back on the chair. » At one point he was supplied with a mattress, at another he was « allowed some tissue paper to use when going to toilet on the bucket. » A month passed with no questioning. « My cell was still very cold and the loud music no longer played but there was a constant loud hissing or crackling noise, which played twenty-four hours a day. I tried to block out the noise by putting tissue in my ears. » Then, « about two and half or three months after I arrived in this place, the interrogation began again, but with more intensity than before. »

It is difficult to know whether these alterations in attitude and procedure were intended, meant to keep the detainee off-guard, or resulted from disputes about strategy among the interrogators, who were relying on a hastily assembled « alternative set of procedures » that had been improvised from various sources, including scientists and psychiatrists within the intelligence community, experts from other, « friendly » governments, and consultants who had worked with the US military and now « reverse-engineered » the resistance training taught to American elite forces to help them withstand interrogation after capture. The forerunners of some of the theories being applied in these interrogations, involving sensory deprivation, disorientation, guilt and shame, so-called « learned helplessness, » and the need to induce « the debility-dependence-dread state, » can be found in CIA documents dating back nearly a half-century, such as this from a notorious « counterintelligence interrogation » manual of the early 1960s:

The circumstances of detention are arranged to enhance within the subject his feelings of being cut off from the known and the reassuring, and of being plunged into the strange…. Control of the source’s environment permits the interrogator to determine his diet, sleep pattern and other fundamentals. Manipulating these into irregularities, so that the subject becomes disorientated, is very likely to create feelings of fear and helplessness.[11]

A later version of the same manual emphasizes the importance of guilt: « If the ‘questioner’ can intensify these guilt feelings, it will increase the subject’s anxiety and his urge to cooperate as a means of escape. » Isolation and sensory deprivation will « induce regression » and the « loss of those defenses most recently acquired by civilized man, » while the imposition of « stress positions » that in effect force the subject « to harm himself » will produce a guilt leading to an irresistible desire to cooperate with his interrogators.

4.

Two and a half months after Abu Zubaydah woke up strapped to a bed in the white room, the interrogation resumed « with more intensity than before »:

Two black wooden boxes were brought into the room outside my cell. One was tall, slightly higher than me and narrow. Measuring perhaps in area [3 1/2 by 2 1/2 feet by 6 1/2 feet high]. The other was shorter, perhaps only [3 1/2 feet] in height. I was taken out of my cell and one of the interrogators wrapped a towel around my neck, they then used it to swing me around and smash me repeatedly against the hard walls of the room. I was also repeatedly slapped in the face….

I was then put into the tall black box for what I think was about one and a half to two hours. The box was totally black on the inside as well as the outside…. They put a cloth or cover over the outside of the box to cut out the light and restrict my air supply. It was difficult to breathe. When I was let out of the box I saw that one of the walls of the room had been covered with plywood sheeting. From now on it was against this wall that I was then smashed with the towel around my neck. I think that the plywood was put there to provide some absorption of the impact of my body. The interrogators realized that smashing me against the hard wall would probably quickly result in physical injury.

One is reminded here that Abu Zubaydah was not alone with his interrogators, that everyone in that white room—guards, interrogators, doctor—was in fact linked directly, and almost constantly, to senior intelligence officials on the other side of the world. « It wasn’t up to individual interrogators to decide, ‘Well, I’m gonna slap him. Or I’m going to shake him. Or I’m gonna make him stay up for 48 hours, » said John Kiriakou.

Each one of these steps…had to have the approval of the Deputy Director for Operations. So before you laid a hand on him, you had to send in the cable saying, « He’s uncooperative. Request permission to do X. » And that permission would come…. The cable traffic back and forth was extremely specific. And the bottom line was these were very unusual authorities that the agency got after 9/11. No one wanted to mess them up. No one wanted to get in trouble by going overboard.… No one wanted to be the guy who accidentally did lasting damage to a prisoner.

Smashing against hard walls before Zubaydah enters the tall black coffin-like box; sudden appearance of plywood sheeting affixed to the wall for him to be smashed against when he emerges. Perhaps the deputy director of operations, pondering the matter in his Langley, Virginia, office, suggested the plywood?

Or perhaps it was someone higher up? Shortly after Abu Zubaydah was captured, according to ABC News, CIA officers « briefed high-level officials in the National Security Council’s Principals Committee, » including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Attorney General John Ashcroft, who « then signed off on the [interrogation] plan. » At the time, the spring and summer of 2002, the administration was devising what some referred to as a « golden shield » from the Justice Department—the legal rationale that was embodied in the infamous « torture memorandum, » written by John Yoo and signed by Jay Bybee in August 2002, which claimed that for an « alternative procedure » to be considered torture, and thus illegal, it would have to cause pain of the sort « that would be associated with serious physical injury so severe that death, organ failure, or permanent damage resulting in a loss of significant body function will likely result. » The « golden shield » presumably would protect CIA officers from prosecution. Still, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet regularly brought directly to the attention of the highest officials of the government specific procedures to be used on specific detainees— »whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subject to simulated drowning »—in order to seek reassurance that they were legal. According to the ABC report, the briefings of principals were so detailed and frequent that « some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed. » At one such meeting, John Ashcroft, then attorney general, reportedly demanded of his colleagues, « Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly. »[12]

We do not know if the plywood appeared in Zubaydah’s white room thanks to orders from his interrogators, from their bosses at Langley, or perhaps from their superiors in the White House. We don’t know the precise parts played by those responsible for « choreographing » the « alternative set of procedures. » We do know from several reports that at a White House meeting in July 2002 top administration lawyers gave the CIA « the green light » to move to the « more aggressive techniques » that were applied to him, separately and in combination, during the following days:

After the beating I was then placed in the small box. They placed a cloth or cover over the box to cut out all light and restrict my air supply. As it was not high enough even to sit upright, I had to crouch down. It was very difficult because of my wounds. The stress on my legs held in this position meant my wounds both in the leg and stomach became very painful. I think this occurred about 3 months after my last operation. It was always cold in the room, but when the cover was placed over the box it made it hot and sweaty inside. The wound on my leg began to open and started to bleed. I don’t know how long I remained in the small box, I think I may have slept or maybe fainted.

I was then dragged from the small box, unable to walk properly and put on what looked like a hospital bed, and strapped down very tightly with belts. A black cloth was then placed over my face and the interrogators used a mineral water bottle to pour water on the cloth so that I could not breathe. After a few minutes the cloth was removed and the bed was rotated into an upright position. The pressure of the straps on my wounds was very painful. I vomited. The bed was then again lowered to horizontal position and the same torture carried out again with the black cloth over my face and water poured on from a bottle. On this occasion my head was in a more backward, downwards position and the water was poured on for a longer time. I struggled against the straps, trying to breathe, but it was hopeless. I thought I was going to die. I lost control of my urine. Since then I still lose control of my urine when under stress.

I was then placed again in the tall box. While I was inside the box loud music was played again and somebody kept banging repeatedly on the box from the outside. I tried to sit down on the floor, but because of the small space the bucket with urine tipped over and spilt over me…. I was then taken out and again a towel was wrapped around my neck and I was smashed into the wall with the plywood covering and repeatedly slapped in the face by the same two interrogators as before.

I was then made to sit on the floor with a black hood over my head until the next session of torture began. The room was always kept very cold.

This went on for approximately one week. During this time the whole procedure was repeated five times. On each occasion, apart from one, I was suffocated once or twice and was put in the vertical position on the bed in between. On one occasion the suffocation was repeated three times. I vomited each time I was put in the vertical position between the suffocation.

During that week I was not given any solid food. I was only given Ensure to drink. My head and beard were shaved everyday.

I collapsed and lost consciousness on several occasions. Eventually the torture was stopped by the intervention of the doctor.

I was told during this period that I was one of the first to receive these interrogation techniques, so no rules applied. It felt like they were experimenting and trying out techniques to be used later on other people.

5.

All evidence from the ICRC report suggests that Abu Zubaydah’s informant was telling him the truth: he was the first, and, as such, a guinea pig. Some techniques are discarded. The coffin-like black boxes, for example, barely large enough to contain a man, one six feet tall and the other scarcely more than three feet, which seem to recall the sensory-deprivation tanks used in early CIA-sponsored experiments, do not reappear. Neither does the « long-time sitting »—the weeks shackled to a chair—that Abu Zubaydah endured in his first few months.

Nudity, on the other hand, is a constant in the ICRC report, as are permanent shackling, the « cold cell, » and the unceasing loud music or noise. Sometimes there is twenty-four-hour light, sometimes constant darkness. Beatings, also, and smashing against the walls seem to be favored procedures; often, the interrogators wear gloves.

In later interrogations new techniques emerge, of which « long-time standing » and the use of cold water are notable. Walid Bin Attash, a Yemeni national involved with planning the attacks on the US embassies in Africa in 1998 and on the USS Cole in 2000, was captured in Karachi on April 29, 2003:

On arrival at the place of detention in Afghanistan I was stripped naked. I remained naked for the next two weeks. I was put in a cell measuring approximately [3 1/2 by 6 1/2 feet]. I was kept in a standing position, feet flat on the floor, but with my arms above my head and fixed with handcuffs and a chain to a metal bar running across the width of the cell. The cell was dark with no light, artificial or natural.

During the first two weeks I did not receive any food. I was only given Ensure and water to drink. A guard would come and hold the bottle for me while I drank…. The toilet consisted of a bucket in the cell…. I was not allowed to clean myself after using the bucket. Loud music was playing twenty-four hours each day throughout the three weeks I was there.

This « forced standing, » with arms shackled above the head, a favorite Soviet technique ( stoika ) that seems to have become standard procedure after Abu Zubaydah, proved especially painful for Bin Attash, who had lost a leg fighting in Afghanistan:

After some time being held in this position my stump began to hurt so I removed my artificial leg to relieve the pain. Of course my good leg then began to ache and soon started to give way so that I was left hanging with all my weight on my wrists. I shouted for help but at first nobody came. Finally, after about one hour a guard came and my artificial leg was given back to me and I was again placed in the standing position with my hands above my head. After that the interrogators sometimes deliberately removed my artificial leg in order to add extra stress to the position….

By his account, Bin Attash was kept in this position for two weeks— »apart [from] two or three times when I was allowed to lie down. » Though « the methods used were specifically designed not to leave marks, » the cuffs eventually « cut into my wrists and made wounds. When this happened the doctor would be called. » At a second location, where Bin Attash was again stripped naked and placed « in a standing position with my arms above my head and fixed with handcuffs and a chain to a metal ring in the ceiling, » a doctor examined his lower leg every day— »using a tape measure for signs of swelling. »

I do not remember for exactly how many days I was kept standing, but I think it was about ten days…. During the standing I was made to wear a diaper. However, on some occasions the diaper was not replaced and so I had to urinate and defecate over myself. I was washed down with cold water everyday.

Cold water was used on Bin Attash in combination with beatings and the use of a plastic collar, which seems to have been a refinement of the towel that had been looped around Abu Zubaydah’s neck:

Every day for the first two weeks I was subjected to slaps to my face and punches to my body during interrogation. This was done by one interrogator wearing gloves….

Also on a daily basis during the first two weeks a collar was looped around my neck and then used to slam me against the walls of the interrogation room. It was also placed around my neck when being taken out of my cell for interrogation and was used to lead me along the corridor. It was also used to slam me against the walls of the corridor during such movements.

Also on a daily basis during the first two weeks I was made to lie on a plastic sheet placed on the floor which would then be lifted at the edges. Cold water was then poured onto my body with buckets…. I would be kept wrapped inside the sheet with the cold water for several minutes. I would then be taken for interrogation….

Bin Attash notes that in the « second place of detention »—where he was put in the diaper— »they were rather more sophisticated than in Afghanistan because they had a hose-pipe with which to pour the water over me. »

6.

A clear method emerges from these accounts, based on forced nudity, isolation, bombardment with noise and light, deprivation of sleep and food, and repeated beatings and « smashings »—though from this basic model one can see the method evolve, from forced sitting to forced standing, for example, and acquire new elements, like immersion in cold water.

Khaled Shaik Mohammed, the key planner of the September 11 attacks who was captured in Rawalpindi on March 1, 2003—nine of the fourteen « high-value detainees » were apprehended in Pakistan—and, after a two-day detention in Pakistan during which he alleges that a « CIA agent…punched him several times in the stomach, chest and face [and]…threw him on the floor and trod on his face, » was sent to Afghanistan using the standard « transfer procedures. » (« My eyes were covered with a cloth tied around my head and with a cloth bag pulled over it. A suppository was inserted into my rectum. I was not told what the suppository was for. ») In Afghanistan, he was stripped and placed in a small cell, where he « was kept in a standing position with my hands cuffed and chained to a bar above my head. My feet were flat on the floor. » After about an hour,

I was taken to another room where I was made to stand on tiptoes for about two hours during questioning. Approximately thirteen persons were in the room. These included the head interrogator (a man) and two female interrogators, plus about ten muscle guys wearing masks. I think they were all Americans. From time to time one of the muscle guys would punch me in the chest and stomach.

These « full-dress » interrogations—where the detainee stands naked, on tiptoe, amid a crowd of thirteen people, including « ten muscle guys wearing masks »—were periodically interrupted by the detainee’s removal to a separate room for additional procedures:

Here cold water from buckets was thrown onto me for about forty minutes. Not constantly as it took time to refill the buckets. After which I would be taken back to the interrogation room.

On one occasion during the interrogation I was offered water to drink, when I refused I was again taken to another room where I was made to lie [on] the floor with three persons holding me down. A tube was inserted into my anus and water poured inside. Afterwards I wanted to go to the toilet as I had a feeling as if I had diarrhoea. No toilet access was provided until four hours later when I was given a bucket to use.

Whenever I was returned to my cell I was always kept in the standing position with my hands cuffed and chained to a bar above my head.

After three days in what he believes was Afghanistan, Mohammed was again dressed in a tracksuit, blindfold, hood, and headphones, and shackled and placed aboard a plane « sitting, leaning back, with my hands and ankles shackled in a high chair. » He quickly fell asleep— »the first proper sleep in over five days »—and remains unsure of how long the journey took. On arrival, however, he realized he had come a long way:

I could see at one point there was snow on the ground. Everybody was wearing black, with masks and army boots, like Planet-X people. I think the country was Poland. I think this because on one occasion a water bottle was brought to me without the label removed. It had [an] e-mail address ending in « .pl. »

He was stripped and put in a small cell « with cameras where I was later informed by an interrogator that I was monitored 24 hours a day by a doctor, psychologist and interrogator. » He believes the cell was underground because one had to descend steps to reach it. Its walls were of wood and it measured about ten by thirteen feet.

It was in this place, according to Mohammed, that « the most intense interrogation occurred, led by three experienced CIA interrogators, all over 65 years old and all strong and well trained. » They informed him that they had received the « green light from Washington » to give him  » a hard time. » « They never used the word ‘torture’ and never referred to ‘physical pressure,’ only to ‘ a hard time. ‘ I was never threatened with death, in fact I was told that they would not allow me to die, but that I would be brought to the ‘ verge of death and back again.' »

I was kept for one month in the cell in a standing position with my hands cuffed and shackled above my head and my feet cuffed and shackled to a point in the floor. Of course during this month I fell asleep on some occasions while still being held in this position. This resulted in all my weight being applied to the handcuffs around my wrist resulting in open and bleeding wounds. [Scars consistent with this allegation were visible on both wrists as well as on both ankles.] Both my feet became very swollen after one month of almost continual standing.[13]

For interrogation, Mohammed was taken to a different room. The sessions last for as long as eight hours and as short as four.

The number of people present varied greatly from one day to another. Other interrogators, including women, were also sometimes present…. A doctor was usually also present. If I was perceived not to be cooperating I would be put against a wall and punched and slapped in the body, head and face. A thick flexible plastic collar would also be placed around my neck so that it could then be held at the two ends by a guard who would use it to slam me repeatedly against the wall. The beatings were combined with the use of cold water, which was poured over me using a hose-pipe. The beatings and use of cold water occurred on a daily basis during the first month.

Like Abu Zubaydah; like Abdelrahim Hussein Abdul Nashiri, a Saudi who was captured in Dubai in October 2002, Mohammed was also subjected to waterboarding, by his account on five occasions:

I would be strapped to a special bed, which could be rotated into a vertical position. A cloth would be placed over my face. Cold water from a bottle that had been kept in a fridge was then poured onto the cloth by one of the guards so that I could not breathe…. The cloth was then removed and the bed was put into a vertical position. The whole process was then repeated during about one hour. Injuries to my ankles and wrists also occurred during the water-boarding as I struggled in the panic of not being able to breath. Female interrogators were also present…and a doctor was always present, standing out of sight behind the head of [the] bed, but I saw him when he came to fix a clip to my finger which was connected to a machine. I think it was to measure my pulse and oxygen content in my blood. So they could take me to [the] breaking point.

As with Zubaydah, the harshest sessions of interrogation involved the « alternative set of procedures » used in sequence and in combination, one technique intensifying the effects of the others:

The beatings became worse and I had cold water directed at me from a hose-pipe by guards while I was still in my cell. The worst day was when I was beaten for about half an hour by one of the interrogators. My head was banged against the wall so hard that it started to bleed. Cold water was poured over my head. This was then repeated with other interrogators. Finally I was taken for a session of water boarding. The torture on that day was finally stopped by the intervention of the doctor. I was allowed to sleep for about one hour and then put back in my cell standing with my hands shackled above my head.

Reading the ICRC report, one becomes eventually somewhat inured to the « alternative set of procedures » as they are described: the cold and repeated violence grows numbing. Against this background, the descriptions of daily life of the detainees in the black sites, in which interrogation seems merely a periodic heightening of consistently imposed brutality, become more striking. Here again is Mohammed:

After each session of torture I was put into a cell where I was allowed to lie on the floor and could sleep for a few minutes. However, due to shackles on my ankles and wrists I was never able to sleep very well….The toilet consisted of a bucket in the cell, which I could use on request [he was shackled standing, his hands affixed to the ceiling], but I was not allowed to clean myself after toilet during the first month…. During the first month I was not provided with any food apart from on two occasions as a reward for perceived cooperation. I was given Ensure to drink every 4 hours. If I refused to drink then my mouth was forced open by the guard and it was poured down my throat by force…. At the time of my arrest I weighed 78kg. After one month in detention I weighed 60kg.

I wasn’t given any clothes for the first month. Artificial light was on 24 hours a day, but I never saw sunlight.

7.

Q : Mr. President,…this is a moral question: Is torture ever justified?

President George W. Bush : Look, I’m going to say it one more time…. Maybe I can be more clear. The instructions went out to our people to adhere to law. That ought to comfort you. We’re a nation of law. We adhere to laws. We have laws on the books. You might look at these laws, and that might provide comfort for you.

—Sea Island, Georgia, June 10, 2004

Abu Zubaydah, Walid Bin Attash, Khaled Shaik Mohammed—these men almost certainly have blood on their hands, a great deal of blood. There is strong reason to believe that they had critical parts in planning and organizing terrorist operations that caused the deaths of thousands of people. So in all likelihood did the other twelve « high-value detainees » whose treatment while secretly confined by agents of the US government is described with such gruesome particularity in the report of the International Committee of the Red Cross. From everything we know, many or all of these men deserve to be tried and punished—to be « brought to justice, » as President Bush, in his speech to the American people on September 6, 2006, vowed they would be.

It seems unlikely that they will be brought to justice anytime soon. In mid-January, Susan J. Crawford, who had been appointed by the Bush administration to decide which Guantánamo detainees should be tried before military commissions, declined to refer to trial Mohammed al-Qahtani, who was to have been among the September 11 hijackers but who had been turned back by immigration officials at Orlando International Airport. After he was captured in Afghanistan in late 2002, Qahtani was imprisoned in Guantánamo and interrogated by Department of Defense intelligence officers. Crawford, a retired judge and former general counsel of the army, told TheWashington Post that she had concluded that Qahtani’s « treatment met the legal definition of torture. »

The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent….

You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive.[14]

Qahtani’s interrogation at Guantánamo, accounts of which have appeared in Time and The Washington Post, was intense and prolonged, stretching for fifty consecutive days beginning in the late fall of 2002, and led to his hospitalization on at least two occasions. Some of the techniques used, including longtime sitting in restraints, prolonged exposure to cold, loud music, and noise, and sleep deprivation, recall those described in the ICRC report. If the « coercive » and « abusive » interrogation of Qahtani makes trying him impossible, one may doubt that any of the fourteen « high-value detainees » whose accounts are given in this report will ever be tried and sentenced in an internationally recognized and sanctioned legal proceeding.

In the case of men who have committed great crimes, this seems to mark perhaps the most important and consequential sense in which « torture doesn’t work. » The use of torture deprives the society whose laws have been so egregiously violated of the possibility of rendering justice. Torture destroys justice. Torture in effect relinquishes this sacred right in exchange for speculative benefits whose value is, at the least, much disputed. John Kiriakou, the CIA officer who witnessed part of Zubaydah’s interrogation, described to Brian Ross of ABC News what happened after Zubaydah was waterboarded:

He resisted. He was able to withstand the water boarding for quite some time. And by that I mean probably 30, 35 seconds…. And a short time afterwards, in the next day or so, he told his interrogator that Allah had visited him in his cell during the night and told him to cooperate because his cooperation would make it easier on the other brothers who had been captured. And from that day on he answered every question just like I’m sitting here speaking to you…. The threat information that he provided disrupted a number of attacks, maybe dozens of attacks.

This claim, echoed by President Bush in his speech, is a matter of fierce dispute. Bush’s public version, indeed, was much more carefully circumscribed: among other things, that Zubaydah’s information confirmed the alias (« Muktar ») of Khaled Shaik Mohammed, and thus helped lead to his capture; that it helped lead, indirectly, to the capture of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a Yemeni who was another key figure in planning the September 11 attacks; and that it « helped us stop another planned attack within the United States. »

At least some of this information, apparently, came during the early, noncoercive interrogation led by FBI agents. Later, according to the reporter Ron Suskind, Zubaydah

named countless targets inside the US to stop the pain, all of them immaterial. Indeed, think back to the sudden slew of alerts in the spring and summer of 2002 about attacks on apartment buildings, banks, shopping malls and, of course, nuclear plants.

Suskind is only the most prominent of a number of reporters with strong sources in the intelligence community who argue that the importance of the intelligence Zubaydah supplied, and indeed his importance within al-Qaeda, have been grossly and systematically exaggerated by government officials, from President Bush on down.[15]

Though it seems highly unlikely that Zubaydah’s information stopped « maybe dozens of attacks, » as Kiriakou said, the plain fact is that it is impossible, until a thorough investigation can be undertaken of the interrogations, to evaluate fully and fairly what intelligence the United States actually received in return for all the severe costs, practical, political, legal, and moral, the country incurred by instituting a policy of torture. There is a sense in which the entire debate over what Zubaydah did or did not provide, and the attacks the information might or might not have prevented—a debate driven largely by leaks by fiercely self-interested parties—itself reflects an unvoiced acceptance, on both sides, of the centrality of the mythical « ticking-bomb scenario » so beloved of those who argue that torture is necessary, and so prized by the writers of television dramas like 24. That is, the argument centers on whether Zubaydah’s interrogation directly « disrupted a number of attacks. »

Perhaps unwittingly, Kiriakou is most revealing about the intelligence value of interrogation of « high-value detainees » when he discusses what the CIA actually got from Zubaydah:

What he was able to provide was information on the al-Qaeda leadership. For example, if bin Laden were to do X, who would be the person to undertake such and such an operation? « Oh, logically that would be Mr. Y. » And we were able to use that information to kind of get an idea of how al-Qaeda operated, how it came about conceptualizing its operations, and how it went about tasking different cells with carrying out operations…. His value was, it allowed us to have somebody who we could pass ideas onto for his comments or analysis.

This has the ring of truth, for this is how intelligence works—by the patient accruing of individual pieces of information, by building a picture that will help officers make sense of the other intelligence they receive. Could such « comments or analysis » from a high al-Qaeda operative eventually help lead to the disruption of « a number of attacks, maybe dozens of attacks »? It seems possible—but if it did, the chain of cause and effect might not be direct, certainly not nearly so direct as the dramatic scenarios in newspapers and television dramas—and presidential speeches—suggest. The ticking bomb, about to explode and kill thousands or millions; the evil captured terrorist who alone has the information to find and disarm it; the desperate intelligence operative, forced to do whatever is necessary to gain that information—all these elements are well known and emotionally powerful, but where they appear most frequently is in popular entertainment, not in white rooms in Afghanistan.

There is a reverse side, of course, to the « ticking bomb » and torture: pain and ill-treatment, by creating an unbearable pressure on the detainee to say something, anything, to make the pain stop, increase the likelihood that he will fabricate stories, and waste time, or worse. At least some of the intelligence that came of the « alternative set of procedures, » like Zubaydah’s supposed « information » about attacks on shopping malls and banks, seems to have led the US government to issue what turned out to be baseless warnings to Americans. Khaled Shaik Mohammed asserted this directly in his interviews with the ICRC. « During the harshest period of my interrogation, » he said,

I gave a lot of false information in order to satisfy what I believed the interrogators wished to hear in order to make the ill-treatment stop…. I’m sure that the false information I was forced to invent…wasted a lot of their time and led to several false red-alerts being placed in the US.

For all the talk of ticking bombs, very rarely, if ever, have officials been able to point to information gained by interrogating prisoners with « enhanced techniques » that enabled them to prevent an attack that had reached its « operational stage » (that is, had gone beyond reconnoitering and planning). Still, widespread perception that such techniques have prevented attacks, actively encouraged by the President and other officials, has been politically essential in letting the administration carry on with these policies after they had largely become public. Polls tend to show that a majority of Americans are willing to support torture only when they are assured that it will « thwart a terrorist attack. » Because of the political persuasiveness of such scenarios it is vital that a future inquiry truly investigate claims that attacks have been prevented.

As I write, it is impossible to know what benefits—in intelligence, in national security, in disrupting al-Qaeda—the President’s approval of use of an « alternative set of procedures » might have brought to the United States. What we can say definitively is that the decision has harmed American interests in quite demonstrable ways. Some are practical and specific: for example, FBI agents, many of them professionals with great experience and skill in interrogation, were withdrawn, apparently after objections by the bureau’s leaders, when it was decided to use the « alternative set of procedures » on Abu Zubaydah. Extensive leaks to the press, from both officials supportive of and critical of the « alternative set of procedures, » undermined what was supposed to be a highly secret program; those leaks, in large part a product of the great controversy the program provoked within the national security bureaucracy, eventually helped make it unsustainable.

Finally, this bureaucratic weakness led officials of the CIA to destroy, apparently out of fear of eventual exposure and possible prosecution, a trove of as many as ninety-two video recordings that had been made of the interrogations, all but two of them of Abu Zubaydah. Whether or not the prosecutor investigating those actions determines that they were illegal, it is hard to believe that the recordings did not include valuable intelligence, which was sacrificed, in effect, for political reasons. These recordings doubtless could have played a critical part as well in the effort to determine what benefits, if any, the program brought to the security of the United States.

Far and away the greatest damage, though, was legal, moral, and political. In the wake of the ICRC report one can make several definitive statements:

1. Beginning in the spring of 2002 the United States government began to torture prisoners. This torture, approved by the President of the United States and monitored in its daily unfolding by senior officials, including the nation’s highest law enforcement officer, clearly violated major treaty obligations of the United States, including the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture, as well as US law.

2. The most senior officers of the US government, President George W. Bush first among them, repeatedly and explicitly lied about this, both in reports to international institutions and directly to the public. The President lied about it in news conferences, interviews, and, most explicitly, in speeches expressly intended to set out the administration’s policy on interrogation before the people who had elected him.

3. The US Congress, already in possession of a great deal of information about the torture conducted by the administration—which had been covered widely in the press, and had been briefed, at least in part, from the outset to a select few of its members—passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and in so doing attempted to protect those responsible from criminal penalty under the War Crimes Act.

4. Democrats, who could have filibustered the bill, declined to do so—a decision that had much to do with the proximity of the midterm elections, in the run-up to which, they feared, the President and his Republican allies might gain advantage by accusing them of « coddling terrorists. » One senator summarized the politics of the Military Commissions Act with admirable forthrightness:

Soon, we will adjourn for the fall, and the campaigning will begin in earnest. And there will be 30-second attack ads and negative mail pieces, and we will be criticized as caring more about the rights of terrorists than the protection of Americans. And I know that the vote before us was specifically designed and timed to add more fuel to that fire.[16]

Senator Barack Obama was only saying aloud what every other legislator knew: that for all the horrified and gruesome exposés, for all the leaked photographs and documents and horrific testimony, when it came to torture in the September 11 era, the raw politics cut in the other direction. Most politicians remain convinced that still fearful Americans—given the choice between the image of 24 ‘s Jack Bauer, a latter-day Dirty Harry, fantasy symbol of untrammeled power doing « everything it takes » to protect them from that ticking bomb, and the image of weak liberals « reading Miranda rights to terrorists »—will choose Bauer every time. As Senator Obama said, after the bill he voted against had passed, « politics won today. »

5. The political damage to the United States’ reputation, and to the « soft power » of its constitutional and democratic ideals, has been, though difficult to quantify, vast and enduring. In a war that is essentially an insurgency fought on a worldwide scale—which is to say, a political war, in which the attitudes and allegiances of young Muslims are the critical target of opportunity—the United States’ decision to use torture has resulted in an enormous self-administered defeat, undermining liberal sympathizers of the United States and convincing others that the country is exactly as its enemies paint it: a ruthless imperial power determined to suppress and abuse Muslims. By choosing to torture, we freely chose to become the caricature they made of us.

8.

In the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, Cofer Black, the former head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center and a famously colorful hard-liner, appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee and made the most telling pronouncement of the era: « All I want to say is that there was ‘before’ 9/11 and ‘after’ 9/11. After 9/11 the gloves come off. » In the days after the attacks this phrase was everywhere. Columnists quoted it, television commentators flaunted it, interrogators at Abu Ghraib used it in their cables. (« The gloves are coming off gentlemen regarding these detainees, Col Boltz has made it clear that we want these individuals broken. »[17] )

The gloves came off: four simple words. And yet they express a complicated thought. For if the gloves must come off, that means that before the attacks the gloves were on. There is something implicitly exculpatory in the image, something that made it particularly appealing to officials of an administration that endured, on its watch, the most lethal terrorist attack in the country’s history. If the attack succeeded, it must have had to do not with the fact that intelligence was not passed on or that warnings were not heeded or that senior officials did not focus on terrorism as a leading threat. It must have been, at least in part, because the gloves were on—because the post-Watergate reforms of the 1970s, in which Congress sought to put limits on the CIA, on its freedom to mount covert actions with « deniability » and to conduct surveillance at home and abroad, had illegitimately circumscribed the President’s power and thereby put the country dangerously at risk. It is no accident that two of the administration’s most powerful officials, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, served as young men in very senior positions in the Nixon and Ford administrations. They had witnessed firsthand the gloves going on and, in the weeks after the September 11 attacks, they argued powerfully that it was those limitations—and, it was implied, not a failure to heed warnings—that had helped lead, however indirectly, to the country’s vulnerability to attack.

And so, after a devastating and unprecedented attack, the gloves came off. Guided by the President and his closest advisers, the United States transformed itself from a country that, officially at least, condemned torture to a country that practiced it. And this fateful decision, however much we may want it to, will not go away, any more than the fourteen « high-value detainees, » tortured and thus unprosecutable, will go away. Like the grotesque stories in the ICRC report, the decision sits before us, a toxic fact, polluting our political and moral life.

Since the inauguration of President Obama, the previous administration’s « alternative procedures » have acquired a prominence in the press, particularly on cable television, that they rarely achieved when they were actually being practiced on detainees. This is especially the case with waterboarding, which according to the former director of the CIA has not been used since 2003. On his first day in office, President Obama issued executive orders that stopped the use of these techniques and provided for task forces to study US government policies on rendition, detention, and interrogation, among others.

Meantime, Democratic leaders in Congress, who have been in control since 2006, have at last embarked on serious investigations. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Christopher Bond, the chair and ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, have announced a « review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, » which would study, among other questions, « how the CIA created, operated, and maintained its detention and interrogation program, » make « an evaluation of intelligence information gained through the use of enhanced and standard interrogation techniques, » and investigate « whether the CIA accurately described the detention and interrogation program to other parts of the US government »—including, notably, « the Senate Intelligence Committee. » The hearings, according to reports, are unlikely to be public.

In February, Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, called for the establishment of what he calls a « nonpartisan commission of inquiry, » better known as a « Truth and Reconciliation Committee, » to investigate « how our detention policies and practices, from Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib, have seriously eroded fundamental American principles of the rule of law. » Since Senator Leahy’s commission is intended above all to investigate and make public what was done— »in order to restore our moral leadership, » as he said, « we must acknowledge what was done in our name »—he would offer grants of immunity to public officials in exchange for their truthful testimony. He seeks not prosecution and justice but knowledge and exposure: « We cannot turn the page until we have read the page. »

Many officials of human rights organizations, who have fought long and valiantly to bring attention and law to bear on these issues, strongly reject any proposal that includes widespread grants of immunity. They urge investigations and prosecutions of Bush administration officials. The choices are complicated and painful. From what we know, officials acted with the legal sanction of the US government and under orders from the highest political authority, the elected president of the United States. Political decisions, made by elected officials, led to these crimes. But political opinion, within the government and increasingly, as time passed, without, to some extent allowed those crimes to persist. If there is a need for prosecution there is also a vital need for education. Only a credible investigation into what was done and what information was gained can begin to alter the political calculus around torture by replacing the public’s attachment to the ticking bomb with an understanding of what torture is and what is gained, and lost, when the United States reverts to it.

President Obama, while declaring that « nobody’s above the law, and if there are clear instances of wrongdoing…people should be prosecuted, » has also expressed his strong preference for « looking forward » rather than « looking backwards. » One can understand the sentiment but even some of the decisions his administration has already made—concerning state secrecy, for example—show the extent to which he and his Department of Justice will be haunted by what his predecessor did. Consider the uncompromising words of Eric Holder, the attorney general, who in reply to a direct question at his confirmation hearings had declared, « waterboarding is torture. » There is nothing ambiguous about this statement—nor about the equally blunt statements of several high Bush administration officials, including the former vice-president and the director of the CIA, confirming unequivocally that the administration had ordered and directed that prisoners under its control be waterboarded. We are all living, then, with a terrible contradiction, an enduring one, and it is not subtle, any more than the accounts in the ICRC report are subtle. « It was, » as Mr. Cheney said of waterboarding, « a no-brainer for me. » Now Abu Zubaydah and his fellow detainees have stepped forward out of the darkness to link hands with the former vice-president and testify to his truthfulness.

—March 12, 2009

Notes

[1]See « Restoring Trust in the Justice System: The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Agenda in the 111th Congress, » 2009 Marver Bernstein Lecture, Georgetown University, February 9, 2009.

[2]See « President Discusses Creation of Military Commissions to Try Suspected Terrorists, » September 6, 2006, East Room, White House, available at cfr.org.

[3]See, for the authoritative account, Dana Priest, « CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons, » The Washington Post, November 2, 2005.

[4]See Jonathan Alter, « Time to Think About Torture: It’s a New World, and Survival May Well Require Old Techniques That Seemed Out of the Question, » Newsweek, November 5, 2001. See also Raymond Bonner, Don Van Natta Jr., and Amy Waldman, « Interrogations: Questioning Terror Suspects in a Dark and Surreal World, » The New York Times, March 9, 2003.

[5]« President Bush’s News Conference, » The New York Times, September 15, 2006.

[6]From « CIA—Abu Zubaydah. Interview with John Kiriakou. » This is the rough and undated transcript of a video interview conducted by Brian Ross of ABC News, apparently in December 2007, available atabcnews.go.com. Quotations from this document have been edited very slightly for clarity. See also Richard Esposito and Brian Ross, « Coming in from the Cold: CIA Spy Calls Waterboarding Necessary But Torture, » ABC News, December 10, 2007.

[7]See « Working Group Report on Detainee Interrogations in the Global War on Terrorism: Assessment of Legal, Historical, Policy, and Operational Considerations, » April 4, 2003, in Mark Danner, Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror (New York Review Books, 2004), pp. 190–192. A great many of these documents, collected in this book and elsewhere, were leaked in the wake of the publication of the Abu Ghraib photographs, and have been public since late spring or early summer of 2004.

[8]See David Johnston, « At a Secret Interrogation, Dispute Flared Over Tactics, » The New York Times, September 10, 2006.

[9]See Mark Hosenball, « How Good Is Abu Zubaydah’s Information?, » Newsweek Web Exclusive, April 27, 2002.

[10]See Johnston, « At a Secret Interrogation, Dispute Flared Over Tactics. »

[11]See KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation—July 1963 and Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual—1983, both archived at « Prisoner Abuse: Patterns from the Past, » National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 122. For the historical roots of the « alternative set of procedures » see Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror (Metropolitan, 2006); and Jane Mayer, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals (Doubleday, 2008), especially pp. 167–174. See also my« The Logic of Torture, » The New York Review, June 24, 2004, and Torture and Truth.

[12]See Jan Crawford Greenburg, Howard L. Rosenberg, and Ariane de Vogue, « Sources: Top Bush Advisors Approved ‘Enhanced Interrogation,’ » ABC News, April 9, 2008.

[13]The bracketed comment appears in the ICRC report.

[14]See Bob Woodward, « Detainee Tortured, Says US Official: Trial Overseer Cites ‘Abusive’ Methods Against 9/11 Suspect, » The Washington Post, January 14, 2009.

[15]See Ron Suskind, « The Unofficial Story of the al-Qaeda 14, » Time, September 10, 2006. See also Suskind’s The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America’s Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11 (Simon and Schuster, 2006), pp. 99–101, and Mayer, The Dark Side, pp. 175–177.

[16]See « Statement on Military Commission Legislation: Remarks by Senator Barack Obama, » September 28, 2006.

[17]See my Torture and Truth, p. 33.

(Source: “New York Review Of Books” (USA), Volume 56, Number 6 · April 9, 2009)

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