14 January 2005

Gay bombs: US secret weapon plan OR Planet Pentagon Bombards Earth with Sex Rays!

Gay bombs: US secret weapon plan
A US plan to develop a bad breath bomb and a chemical weapon to make enemy soldiers sexually irresistible to each other has been revealed in newly declassified documents.

New Scientist's web site reports that the documents show the Pentagon considered a range of non-lethal chemical weapons aimed at disrupting enemy discipline and morale.

Bush the Imperious meets Wang the Perverted! I doubt this project succeeded or the sex bomb would certainly be available at a number of outlets in Newtown. Presumably the projected weapon would have been carefully designed to ensure the enemy soldiers only developed ungovernable lust and not a desire to marry.

A couple of people assumed I was making this up. That is untrue and here is the proof.

and the other Hickup

Excuses, excuses from a regime too ready to throw away the key
So what now for Hicks? According to the US Department of Defence website, he is one of four Guantanamo enemy combatants who have been charged. There are more than 500 detainees at the US base in Cuba. Most have been there almost three years, since the invasion of Afghanistan. The US military says a quarter are of 'intelligence value' and all remaining detainees are being 'reviewed' to see how dangerous a threat they really pose to the US. We know that close to 200 soon are to be released to their home countries.

The charges against Hicks are quite a way off from being 'tried' by a military commission. Hundreds of writs of habeas corpus are flying around the US court system. The US Supreme Court in June said the detainees do have access to the civil courts and now all eyes are on the case of Osama bin Laden's alleged chauffeur, Samil Ahmed Hamdan. The Bush Administration is appealing a decision of the US District Court last November that the prisoner was entitled to a hearing to determine whether he was a prisoner of war and therefore subject to the Geneva Convention, rather than the Gonzales/Bush convention.

Hicks's lawyers have made an identical application to that of Hamdan's. It is all heading to the US Supreme Court but it may take years to get there.

The Gonzales/Bush plan for the quick railroading of anyone rounded-up by their forces is coming unstuck, and like most else with that spooky regime, there is no fall-back plan.

Major Mori, Hicks' US military lawyer, has made the point that Hicks faces charges much less than anything alleged against Habib. Why then does he remain at Guantánamo facing a military commission? And how long before the Hicks case reaches a court and it, like Habib's, comes unstuck?

the wordiest case of sour grapes on record?

Mamdouh Habib remains a person of security concern: Ruddock
[Attorney-General]PHILIP RUDDOCK: Look, the important point, I think, that needs to be understood is that we looked very closely at information that was known to us as to whether or not he could be charged here in Australia, and the Americans had always taken the view that if we were in a position to charge him - and I might say, for that matter, Mr Hicks - that they would have released them to us for the purposes of pursuing those matters. We looked at our laws in relation to these matters and found our laws were deficient.

HEATHER EWART: Is there any prospect of charges being laid against him in Australia?

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well, there is no prospect under Australian law, on the information that is now before us. But if further information were to become known which suggests that offences have occurred, then charges will be brought.

HEATHER EWART: So you will keep him under surveillance?

PHILIP RUDDOCK: No, I've not said that. What I've said is that he remains a person of security concern and that, in accordance with our law, competent authorities will do what is appropriate in relation to him, and we don't talk about those matters; it's not helpful to talk about them...

HEATHER EWART: But why not, because in effect you're forcing this man to live in some sort of twilight zone.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: No, it's not. It's a situation in which competent authorities have certain lawful entitlements where they can pursue certain matters. Decisions have to be taken in relation to those matters. We do not detail those measures, and it's not appropriate to put that sort of information into the public arena. It only compromises its effectiveness.

HEATHER EWART: But in a democracy like ours, if charges are not laid, isn't a person entitled to live normally with the presumption of innocence?

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well, they're entitled to live a normal life, subject to Australian law, and...

HEATHER EWART: Do you see what I mean? What sort of precedent are you setting here?

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well, no, I'm simply saying that under Australian law, there are certain authorities that have - with appropriate consents to undertake a range of activities in relation to any Australians.

What did our Government know?
Habib has not been charged with any offence. It is clear that he has not committed any offence against Australian law: the legislation that might apply was not passed until nine months after his arrest. We can assume that he has not committed any offence against the law of Pakistan or Afghanistan, since those countries have not sought to extradite or charge him. It seems that he has not committed any offence against American law: if he had, he could have been taken to America for trial, but that has not happened.

The decision to send Habib home is the result of two US court decisions in 2004, which appear to have upset American plans. In US courts, evidence illegally obtained must be excluded, because the state should not break the law. Both in American and Australian courts, confessions obtained under duress must be excluded, because of their inherent unreliability. Confessions obtained by use of torture are excluded on both grounds.

The Americans planned to try Guantanamo prisoners in military commissions that would not be bound by the ordinary rules of evidence. Specifically, the commissions were to be able to receive evidence of confessions obtained by use of torture. The overwhelming inference is that the Australian Government knew or suspected that Habib had been tortured.

However, last July the US Supreme Court ruled that it had jurisdiction to review the circumstances of detention in Guantanamo. In November, the Federal Court for the District of Columbia held that the military commissions violated the standards required for fair trials. It ordered that the commissions be halted until America complied with the Geneva Convention relating to prisoners of war.

That ruling spelt the end of the military commissions. The conditions under which detainees in Guantanamo have been held and interrogated practically guarantee that any confession obtained would be excluded from evidence in any trial that could be described as fair.

At Guantanamo, detainees were forbidden to speak; they were permitted two minutes a week for a shower; they were regularly subjected to body searches, including cavity searches; they were frequently held short-shackled for hours on end: this involves squatting on the floor, the hands shackled between the legs and attached to the floor by a chain so short that the detainee can scarcely move. Detainees were held in cells in which the air-conditioning was set to freezing temperatures. They were interrogated while chained to the floor; they were not allowed to go to the toilet during interrogations and would have to urinate in their clothes. Detainees were threatened with electric shocks; they were threatened with the prospect of being sent to Egypt or Morocco to be tortured.

It is not hard to see why Habib is now to be released. After his arrest in October 2001, he was sent to Egypt for six months, where he was tortured. He was then taken to Guantanamo and interrogated for three years. No American (or Australian) court would admit confessions obtained by these methods.

What is really significant is the timing of his release. The November court decision means, in substance, that evidence obtained by use of torture would not be allowed. The Americans must then have realised that they could never make a case against Habib. Only then did the Australian Government ask that he be returned to Australia.

This sequence of events raises some very disturbing questions: How much did Australia know about the treatment of Habib? Why did Australia not ask for his return before this - why did we wait until evidence obtained by torture was ruled out? Why has Attorney-General Philip Ruddock been so guarded in his comments about the treatment to which Habib has been subjected?

The overwhelming inference is that the Australian Government knew or suspected that Habib had been tortured, but believed that a military commission could use evidence obtained this way. Conditions in Guantanamo have been the subject of many reliable reports over the past two years. From late 2002, Major-General Geoffrey Miller was in charge at Guantanamo. In April last year, he was exposed as the person responsible for the outrages at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. The Australian Government knew of those events months earlier. It must have known of the mistreatment of prisoners in Guantanamo; it must have known that the mistreatment was designed to obtain evidence that could only be admissible in a trial that lacked the basic requirements of fairness. And it certainly knew that the victims of this mistreatment included two Australian citizens. The alternative, only slightly less disturbing, is that our Government simply did not care how the Americans treated Australian citizens.

Detainee Says U.S. Handed Him Over for Torture
Habib, a 48-year-old Australian citizen who grew up in Egypt, was about to disappear for six months into an Egyptian prison. There, he says, his Egyptian captors shocked him with high-voltage wires, hung him from metal hooks on the wall, nearly drowned him and mercilessly beat and kicked him.

The former coffee shop owner soon confessed to a litany of terrorism-related crimes, including teaching martial arts to several of the Sept. 11 hijackers and planning a hijacking himself. Habib later insisted that his confessions were false and given under "duress and torture."

Habib's more than three years of incarceration came into sharp focus this week, when the Bush administration agreed not to charge him with any crime and to repatriate him to Australia. Once home, he will be free, Australian officials said Wednesday.

"When he returns to Australia, he will not be detained or charged," said Matt Francis, a spokesman for the Australian Embassy in Washington. "He is a person of security interest, but we do not have any laws under which he can be charged."

Habib's vivid account of his secret delivery by U.S. forces to an Egyptian prison and his torture before being transferred to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in May 2002 is the most detailed to surface of a CIA-run operation that has played a growing role in the war on terrorism. The operation, the controversial "extraordinary renditions" program, is run by a secret unit in the CIA's counter-terrorism center.

Habib's U.S. lawyer, Joseph Margulies, said he planned to inform his client of his impending freedom when he visited him at Guantanamo on Saturday.

"If the U.S. government believes he's done something wrong, they wouldn't let him go," he said.

In a statement, the Defense Department said the Australian government had "made a number of security assurances … that were important to the transfer decision."

The CIA declined to comment on the case.

News accounts, congressional testimony and independent investigations suggest the spy agency has covertly delivered at least 18 terrorism suspects since 1998 to Egypt, Syria, Jordan and other Middle Eastern nations where, according to State Department reports, torture has been widely used on prisoners.

Impunity in breaking the law is a bad thing. No-one, including the US and Australian governments, contends that the Torture Convention is not part of the domestic law of Australia and the US. Why then are both governments violating it directly (the US) or winking at such violations (Australia's competent authorities)?

I would have thought the most basic sign of competence in the competent authorities dashing about with their lawful pursuits of certain undefined matters would be to understand the presumption of innocence and the right to liberty. Evidently that particular hurdle is too high a leap for Australia's first law officer.

11 January 2005

Mamdouh Habib a free man

11 January 2005 US to release Habib without charge.
Australian Mamdouh Habib will be released from the United States's prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, without charge.

The US has told the Australian Government it does not intend to bring charges against Mr Habib, who has been at Guantanamo Bay since 2002.

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock says there is no timetable for his repatriation.

Mr Habib's lawyer Stephen Hopper has told Sky News he was surprised by the announcement.

'It's a great day for justice. This proves we were right all along,' he said.

The US Government continues to assert that Mr Habib had prior knowledge of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Mr Ruddock says it is unlikely he will face charges when he returns to Australia because counter-terrorism laws are not retrospective.

But he says Mr Habib will remain of interest to Australian security agencies.

Mr Hopper has called on the Attorney-General to concede that Mr Habib is innocent.

'This sounds like the Attorney-General is full of sour grapes,' he said.

'Why can't he clear this man?'

Mr Habib's release means that David Hicks, from Adelaide, is the only Australian still detained at Guantanamo Bay.

On Monday, a Pentagon spokesman said only about 25 per cent of the 550 detainees at Guantanamo Bay had intelligence value.

More than 200 other detainees have been returned to their home countries to be detained or released.

11 January 2005 Government must explain: Labor
Opposition attorney-general spokeswoman Nicola Roxon said the release raised serious questions about the Australian government's credibility.

"It does seem extraordinary that for three years the government has been describing Mr Habib as a terrorist, really from day one, and now the US is going to release him I think we're entitled to an explanation as to the reasons for the release and the reasons that the government was already accusing him from day one," Ms Roxon said.

"Is it really fair to spend three years telling the public that (Hicks and Mr Habib) are terrorists?

"To then find that (one of) these men isn't going to be charged, let alone convicted, certainly raises questions over both of them."

Mr Ruddock said Hicks would not be repatriated because he faced three terrorism-related chargers under American law, for which he is due to face trial by a military commission in early March.

The sudden decision to request the release of Mr Habib may have been prompted by allegations last week that the men had been tortured while in custody at Guantanamo Bay, Ms Roxon said.

"You have to query why he's now suddenly being released and we'd like the government to explain whether it's related in any way to the recent allegations of treatment in custody, torture in custody," she said.

8 December 2004 Ruddock Doorstop Interview, Canberra
JOURNALIST:  Just on another topic, there’s been some reports from foreign wire services, concerns about unfair practises at Guantanamo Bay. There’s a human rights lawyer, one of the first British non-government people to visit Guantanamo Bay, said he had serious concerns about the situation there. Do you have any sort of updated information on the, where does the Government stand on?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL:  Well look, our interest is of course in relation to Australians who are within that system and to ensure that they are humanely treated and we’ve taken those matters up as matters specific to them are raised and they are being investigated. There’ve been some preliminary comments, we’ve received assurances that they have not been the subject of abuse and there are further enquiries that have yet to report. Look, I know that there are people who want to focus on every statement made in relation to these issues whether people have been there, whether they haven’t, whether they have any first hand knowledge or whether they don’t. The only point I’d make is that the only context in which these matters become relevant are legitimate complaints to those who are in authority that can do something about it and that means that people who have information, first hand information, that warrants enquiry they should take it to the United States authorities. If it relates to the Australians, we will follow it up as we have before. But there’s no new information that’s come to us relating to either Hicks or Habib. Finally, if these matters are relevant to any trial process in which they’re engaged, whatever form of process is used, evidence that is obtained inappropriately, that issue will be raised before the competent authorities, and it’s unhelpful I think if people have substantive issues they want to see raised at a trial, to have them canvassed in a way which is prejudicial to a proper consideration of those issues by people who are competent to determine them in a proper process, whether it’s the military commission or whether it’s any other trial process. I don’t comment on those issues here at home and it’s unreasonable to expect that I should comment on every remark made by people who may or may not have first hand information and published abroad.

JOURNALIST:  Are you confident you’re getting information regarding some of these tribunals, there’s been some concerns about combatant status review tribunal not being sort of being open and accountable and providing enough information publicly?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL:  Look, there are people who are going to mount critiques, who don’t like the results, and

JOURNALIST:  But do they see the results?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL:  Well, I have seen results published, I think they said today that 33 people have been [inaudible] combatant review tribunals, their matters have been considered and

JOURNALIST:  [inaudible] reasons been given?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL:  Well, I think that again is a matter for the Americans as to what degree they will publish material that may have broader security implications. I mean the question of holding people and reviewing their status as combatants is one, a serious one, and if you have material that goes to national security, you may not publish it. It’s the same issue that we are debating in the Parliament now as to our own courts where you have national security information the extent to which it is appropriate to put it in the public domain. So, if the United States formed a view that information that might go to sources, might go to the techniques that they use, may compromise foreign agencies who provide information, they may well have the same view that we have that that information needs to be handled sensitively and not necessarily in the public domain. I don’t think it tends to be a major question to me.

What a difference a month makes. The reason, as Ruddock should know, for the traditional rights that protect civil liberties, is that uncontrolled executive power makes mistakes. In this case the Bush administration, backed by a supine Ruddock and a supine Man of Steel, has inflicted catastrophic harm on this man and his family. The US now says it cannot charge him. He must be very innocent indeed for the US military tribunal system, with its disregard for the rules of evidence and the independence of the courts, cannot convict.

Perhaps what we are seeing is not so much a new form of warfare as an old form of bungling with impunity.

One wonders if the Autralian government will offer an apology or any form of compensation. I would not not hold my breath waiting.