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By Jamil Dakwar, Director of the ACLU's Human Rights Program. Jamil was in Guantánamo this week for the hearing of Mohammad Jawad.

Last week's Supreme Court rebuke of the Bush administration's attempt to preserve Guantánamo as a lawless place, a place   where human beings are less worthy of protection under U.S. law than iguanas, brought newfound hope that this travesty of justice would finally come to an end. Unfortunately, this was not the case, as this week the military commission hearings resumed in what appears to be a signal from the Pentagon that it is business as usual at Guantánamo. It was during these hearings that we learned more about Guantánamo's frequent flyer program.

No, this program is not the airline rewards program for the very limited number of commercial flights to Guantánamo, the place chosen by the Bush administration to evade the Constitution and ignore international law. It is a program whereby detainees are constantly and systematically moved from cell to cell to disrupt their ability to sleep. This program is a form of mental torture in direct violation of the U.S. Constitution, the Torture Act, the War Crimes Act, and the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

There were two frequent flyer programs employed at Guantánamo under which prisoners were systematically deprived of sleep. As it turns out, there were official and unofficial frequent flyer programs. The official program (PDF) was authorized to be used against prisoners at Guantánamo (PDF) who were believed to have intelligence information. This program was reportedly eliminated in March 2004. The unofficial program was used as a disciplinary method by guards and military personnel at Guantánamo.

The unofficial frequent flyer program was the focus of one of many motions filed and argued yesterday at Mohammad Jawad's military   commission. Mr. Jawad is an Afghan who was a minor when he was captured in   December 2002 after allegedly throwing a grenade that injured two U.S. soldiers and an Afghan interpreter. Mr. Jawad arrived at Guantánamo in January 2003 and despite his status as a minor, the fact that the U.S. government has never made any connection between Mr. Jawad and either al Qaeda or the Taliban, and a statement by the former Commanding General of Joint Task Force-Guantánamo, Maj. Gen. Jay W. Hood (who stopped the official frequent flyer program), that Mr. Jawad was of no intelligence value, Mr. Jawad remains at Guantánamo and has been subject to   torture, including the frequent flyer program. Referring to the program, Mr. Jawad stated during his hearing yesterday that "day and night they were shifting me from one place to another…nobody answered why they were giving me this punishment." Mr. Jawad's attorney, Major David J. R. Frakt, recounting Mr. Jawad's experience with the frequent flyer program in May 2004, stated yesterday that over the course of 14 days Mr. Jawad was moved to a different cell 112 times, each time he was shackled and unshackled. Major Frakt argued late into the night yesterday on a motion to dismiss the charges against his client due to the use of torture. He gave an historic closing argument that should be taught in every military academy across the country. What makes this abuse of Mr. Jawad's basic human right to be free from torture even more indefensible is that on Christmas Day 2003, Mr. Jawad attempted suicide at Guantánamo. With full knowledge of the poor state of Mr. Jawad's mental health, the U.S. personnel carried out these horrific acts.

Beyond the details of specific torture techniques employed at Guantánamo, this week also brought about new revelations as to where   the torture orders originated. We learned of new evidence as to the complicity of high ranking officials, now commonly referred to as Bush's "torture team", and of the authorization of torture and other abusive techniques. In addition, we learned that Bush's "torture team" ignored fierce objections and reservations from military lawyers across the armed services.  

I will write again, and in more detail, about yesterday's 14 hours of hearings at the military commission, including the first appearance as a witness of Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann, the Legal Adviser to the Convening Authority in the Department of Defense Office of Military   Commissions. Brig. Gen. Hartmann testified on the motion to dismiss on basis of unlawful command influence. These hearings, which I believe will not withstand constitutional scrutiny after the Supreme Court's decision last week, have long been tainted and have lost all legitimacy in the eyes of the World.

Originally posted to ACLU on Sat Jun 21, 2008 at 10:07 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Justice Scalia's Urban Myth Busted (7+ / 0-)

    Report: Scalia’s Claim That Released Gitmo Prisoners Have Killed Americans Is An ‘Urban Legend’

    A new report from the Seton Hall University School of Law explodes the myth that some 30 detainees released from Guantanamo Bay prison have "returned to the battlefield" against American forces.

    This conservative urban legend was recently parroted by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in his dissent from the Court’s Boumediene decision. Scalia wrote that granting habeas corpus rights to Gitmo detainees "will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed," and supported this view by asserting that "at least 30 of those prisoners hitherto released from Guantanamo Bay have returned to the battlefield."

    The new Seton Hall report (pdf) states that "Justice Scalia’s claim of 30 recidivist detainees is belied by all reliable data" :


    Despite being repeatedly debunked, this statement has been reflexively accepted as true by Members of Congress and much of the American public. Justice Scalia is only the most recent disseminator of an urban legend that refuses to die. [...]

    Saying the Iraq "Surge" worked is like saying Thelma & Louise had a flying car.

    by JML9999 on Sat Jun 21, 2008 at 10:23:36 AM PDT

  •  It seems throughout our nation we are quite (5+ / 0-)

    silent about the hearings on torture this past week. We should be outraged not only about the whole torture program that was used but also because our newspapers hardly mentioned the torture. For sure, front pages lacked headlines and one had to look at pages within the front section to find a report on the hearings.

    I am sicken when we learn new details and still the administration goes on as if "gloves off" and lawlessness are routine and the executive branch is supreme because "we are at war" - "a war like no other."

  •  A form of torture that doesn't leave marks (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mataliandy, Overseas, JML9999, rhutcheson

    Exactly what the Bush administration looks for.  
    Didn't Clarence Thomas help build this line of 'reasoning' that if you can't show bruises or x-rays of broken bones in court, whatever you did is OK?

    We're all pretty strange one way or another; some of us just hide it better. "Normal" is a dryer setting.

    by david78209 on Sat Jun 21, 2008 at 10:42:14 AM PDT

  •  Please do write much more on (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mataliandy, horsepatsy, rhutcheson

    these issues. I am also curious as to whether the guards were indoctrinated to believe the worst lies about the prisoners by the interrogators. Does anyone have any information as to whether or not all the secret camps have been closed?
    Torture is a horrendous page in the history of the US and I'm not sure how we will redeem ourselves unless we bring these people to justice where the world can see it happening.

    The Justice Department is no longer a credible defender of the rule of law or the Constitution.

    by Overseas on Sat Jun 21, 2008 at 10:54:58 AM PDT

  •  Thanks (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mataliandy, rhutcheson

    Thank you for going to the hearings, for reporting the information, and for being able to find the words to describe what has happened. I don't know what it will take to get this horrible time into the conscience of America.

  •  Frakt's arguement is very powerful. n/t (0+ / 0-)

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