Torture Victims & Their Advocates Oppose Morell & Haines for National Security Positions in the Biden Administration

In Focus - Front Page // Film

For Immediate Release 
MONDAY, DECEMBER 21

CONTACTS
Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK, Medea.benjamin@gmail.com, 415-235-6517
Marcy Winograd, Progressive Democrats of America, winogradteach@gmail.com, 424-443-9338
Jeremy Varon, Witness Against Torture, jvaron@aol.com ,732-979-3119

Torture Victims & Their Advocates Oppose Morell & Haines for National Security Positions in the Biden Administration.

WASHINGTON, D.C.Today, torture survivors and their advocates released an Open Letter urging President-Elect Biden not to nominate torture defender Mike Morell for CIA Director and asking the Senate not to approve Biden’s nominee Avril Haines, a torture enabler, as Director of National Intelligence. The letter was also delivered this morning to members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, as well as President-Elect Biden and Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris.

Signatories include: Mansoor Adayfi, a writer from Yemen imprisoned for 14 years without charge at Guantanamo Bay, where he was force fed for two years; Moazzam Begg, a British-Pakistani ex-Guantanamo detainee and Outreach Director for CAGE, a service organization for torture survivors and communities impacted by the War on Terror; Sister Dianna Ortiz, a US missionary tortured by members of the CIA-funded Guatemalan army; Colonel Larry Wilkerson, Whistleblower and Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell; John Kiriakou, former CIA officer imprisoned after exposing CIA waterboarding; and musician Roger Waters (formerly with Pink Floyd), whose song “Each Small Candle” is a tribute to torture victims.

The organizers of the letter, Marcy Winograd of Progressive Democrats of America, Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK, and Jeremy Varon of Witness Against Torture, have been lobbying against the inclusion of torture apologists in the Biden administration since the August Democratic National Convention, Their efforts include a letter to Biden from 450 DNC delegates, a CODEPINK petition signed by over 4,000, and calls to the offices of the Senators on the Intelligence Committee. “When we started this campaign,” says 2020 DNC Delegate Marcy Winograd, “Morell was considered the frontrunner, but opposition to his disgraceful defense of torture has cast a pall on his nomination. We want to make sure his nomination is off the table, and that Biden and the Senate also understand we reject Avril Haines for her complicity in suppressing evidence of CIA torture,”. 

Morell, a CIA analyst under Bush and Deputy and Acting CIA Director under Obama, has defended the agency’s “enhanced interrogation” program, objecting to use of the word “torture” to characterize waterboarding, sleep deprivation, starvation diets, sexual humiliation, hypothermia and painful bodily contortions. Morrell also falsely claimed that torture “worked” in foiling terrorists plots. In addition, Morell defended the CIA’s destruction of nearly 90 videotapes documenting brutal interrogations at CIA black site prisons.

As CIA Deputy Director from 2013-2014, Avril Haines overruled the CIA Inspector General in choosing not to punish agency personnel accused of hacking into the Senate Intelligence Committee’s computers during their investigation into the CIA’s use of torture. She was also part of the team that suppressed evidence of CIA torture by redacting the Senate Intelligence Committee’s landmark torture report, reducing a 6,000 page document to 500 pages.

Both Morell and Haines supported Trump’s nomination of Gina Haspel to CIA Director — a nomination that then-Senator Kamala Harris, other prominent Democrats, and Senator John McCain opposed. Haspel supervised a black site prison in Thailand and authorized a memo authorizing the destruction of CIA videotapes documenting torture.

Jeremy Varon, Witness Against Torture:
“Joe Biden and Kamala Harris promised to restore transparency, integrity, and respect for the rule of law to government. So how can their National Security team be led by people who endorsed, or tried to cover up, the clear crime of torture? It makes no sense.”

Djamel Ameziane, Former Guantanamo Prisoner (2002-2013):
“Elevating torture apologists to a leadership position within the Biden administration will damage the USA’s standing and give the world’s dictators succor and comfort.”

Jeffrey Kaye, Author, “Cover-Up at Guantanamo:
“Morell and Haines have put loyalty to CIA torturers above adherence to US treaties and domestic law, as well as basic morality. To allow them to serve in government would send a message to all that accountability for torture is passé, and that war crimes will always be dismissed with a wink from those in high office.” 

John Kiriakou, Former CIA officer who blew the whistle on agency torture:
“Morell has disingenuously said that he was unaware of the CIA’s torture program at the same time that he was the Agency’s fourth-ranking officer. As deputy CIA Director and Acting CIA Director, he oversaw illegal activities around the world.  I can’t believe that any sane person could or would consider Mike Morell as a serious candidate for CIA Director.” 

Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK:
“We can’t allow the new Biden administration to include people who have been involved–in any way–in heinous acts of torture. That’s why we are part of a groundswell of opposition to both Mike Morell and Avril Haines for key intelligence positions. No torture apologists should be allowed to serve in this administration. Period.” 

Torture Survivor Mansoor Adayfi on Morell’s assertion that torture is effective: “In Guantanamo, when they put you under very bad circumstances—like 72 hours under very cold air conditioning, and you are tied to the ground and someone comes and pours cold water on you—you are going to tell them whatever they want you to say. I will sign anything, I will admit anything!,” says Dayfi.

Torture Survivor Moazzem Begg on his treatment at Bagram Air Base before arriving at Guantanamo: “They tied me up with my hands behind my back to my legs, kicked me in the head, kicked me in the back, threatened to take me to Egypt to be tortured, to be raped, to be electrocuted. They had a woman screaming in the next room whom I believed at that time was my wife. They bought pictures of my children and told me I would never see them again.” 

Colonel Larry Wilkerson, torture whistleblower: “Kidnapping, torture and assassination have no place in a democracy and turn the CIA into a secret police …Abuses of the kind documented in the Senate’s report could happen again.”

James Dorsey, attorney for released Guantanamo detainee Ahcene Zemiri. “As a Marine Corps veteran, I have always understood that when our servicemen have been captured and tortured in the past, a real source of strength for them has been knowing that their country would never engage in such conduct. “ 

Also available for interviews:

James Dorsey, Attorney, represented released Guantanamo Detainee Ahcene Zemiri 
651.762.2837 (h)
612.492.7079 (o)
jdorsey@fredlaw.com  

*******
Letter Below
*********

Open Letter to President-Elect Biden & U.S. Senate:
From: Torture Victims and their Advocates Opposed to Mike Morell for CIA and Avril Haines for National Intelligence

Say NO to Morell; Say NO to Haines.

As survivors of torture and their advocates, we urge President-elect Biden not to nominate Mike Morell for CIA Director and ask the Senate not to approve Biden’s nominee Avril Haine as Director of National Intelligence.   

Both Morell and Haines have troubling records on torture — a form of violence with lingering effects: anxiety, stress, physical and psychological trauma. We know because we have lived this nightmare, either personally or as advocates of survivors forever haunted by past torture.  

We believe that the record of Morell and Haines disqualifies them from directing intelligence agencies. Their appointment would undermine the rule of law and U.S. credibility around the world. It would be a callous rebuke to people like ourselves and all those who care about human rights and the protection of basic dignity. 

Morell, a CIA analyst under Bush and both Deputy and Acting CIA Director under Obama, has defended the Agency’s “enhanced interrogation” practices. These included waterboarding, physical beatings, sleep deprivation, stress positions, and sexual humiliation. These practices have commonly, and rightly, been denounced as torture. In July 2014, President Obama plainly admitted, “We tortured some folks.”  

That same year, the Senate Intelligence Committee issued the 500-page summary of its “Torture Report.” Drawing on millions of pages of internal CIA documents, the report denounced CIA torture as both inhumane and ineffective. It concluded that the Agency’s use of torture was far more frequent and gruesome than previously acknowleged. Senate investigators also documented that the CIA had lied to Congress, the President, and the American people by falsely insisting that its “enhanced interrogations” had forced detainees to reveal critical information, and thereby thwarted terrorists plots.

Yet in his 2015 memoir, Morell asserted without evidence that torture was effective. As the Military Times reported, Senate intelligence committee staffers were so troubled by Morell’s claims that they issued a lengthy rebuttal in a special report. Referencing the CIA’s own documents, the report blasted Morell’s numerous errors and misrepresentation of established facts. 

In addition, Morell defended the CIA’s destruction in 2005 of nearly 90 videotapes of the brutal interrogation of Abu Zubaydah and other detainees in CIA black sites. Sought by congress, the courts, and attorneys, the tapes doubtless depicted troubling US conduct. Their destruction came in the wake of the Abu Ghraib abuse revelations, just as the country was vigorously debating the lawfulness and morality of the treatment of detainees. 

To defend the elimination of the tapes, as Morell has done, is unconscionable. It defies the transparency our democracy needs to function, while serving to shield from accountability those potentially guilty of grave crimes. 

The claim that “torture works” is the great lie used by tormentors throughout history to justify their abuses. When repeated by high-ranking officials to defend post-9/11 torture, it serves to excuse the inexcusable.  

Morell has no place in a Biden-Harris administration. His nomination would send a chilling message to torture survivors and other victims of grave injustice that the United States government, including the Biden administration, does not uphold its own stated principles. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) from the Senate Intelligence Committee has said about Morell: “No torture apologist can be confirmed as CIA director. It’s a nonstarter.” We agree and urge the President-elect not to nominate Morell.

We also oppose Avril Haines, another toture apologist, as Director of National Intelligence. Since she has already been nominated, we ask Senators to oppose her confirmation.

As CIA Deputy Director from 2013-2014, Haines overruled the CIA Inspector General by chosing not to punish agency personnel accused of hacking into the Senate Intelligence Committee’s computers during their investigation into the CIA’s use of torture. In addition, Haines was part of the team that redacted the Senate Intelligence Committee’s landmark 6,000-page report on torture, reducing the public portion to a 500-page summary. The full report has been sought by attorneys, human rights advocates, legislators, and scholars seeking a full account of the United States’s troubling conduct.

Haines also supported Trump’s nomination of Gina Haspel for CIA director. Supervising a CIA black site in Thailand in 2002, Haspel was directly implicated in CIA torture. She later drafted the memo authorizing the destruction of the CIA videotapes. 

Like Morell, Haines has worked both to defend torture and surpress evidence of it. She too, is incompatible with the stated aim of the Biden-Harris administration to restore integrity and respect for the rule of law to government.

The new administration must show the American people and the world that it acknowledges past disturbing U.S. conduct and will ensure that such abuses never recur. To do that, it needs intelligence leaders who have neither condoned torture nor whitewashed the CIA’s ugly record of using torture. We need intelligence leaders who understand that torture is illegal under international law; that is inhumane; that it is ineffective; that it puts at risk U.S. military personnel, should they be captured by adversaries; and that it violates the restoration of trust in American decency central to Biden’s vision for his presidency. 

That is why we urge President-Elect Biden not to nominate Mike Morell for Director of the CIA and the Senate to reject the nomination of Avril Haines for Director of National Intelligence. The people of the United States and the world deserve better.

 Signed (partial list):

Moazzem Begg, Torture Survivor, former Guantanamo prisoner, CAGE, UK; signed confession under torture; while in US custody subjected to sleep deprivation, stress positions, hog tied with hood over head

Djamen Ameziane, Algerian, former Guantanamo detainee, torture survivor imprisoned without charge from 2002-2013, in solitary confinement for a decade, suffered vision loss

Maher Arar, Canadian torture and rendition survivor; whipped with an electrical chord and forced to confess while in US custody in Syria 

Mohamedou Ould Salahi, tortured prisoner at Guantanamo; held without charge for 14 years; beaten, force fed, deprived of sleep; released in 2016, author, Guantánamo Diary

Mansoor Adayfi, Released Guantanamo prisoner sold to US forces in Afghanistan for bounty money; imprisoned at Guantanamo without charge for 14 years, seven in isolation; torture surivor; resettled in Serbia; award-winning writer

Lakhdar Boumediene,  Algerian-born citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay from 2002-2009, force fed for two years; lead plaintiff in Boumediene v. Bush, a 2008 US Supreme Court decision that Guantanamo detainees have the right to habeas corpus in US federal courts

Carlos Mauricio, College professor kidnapped and tortured by US-backed right-wing death squads in El Salvador; Executive Director: Stop Impunity Project

Hector Aristizabal, Psychologist and theater artist; torture surivor from Colombia, CoCreator of Reconectando; Theater of the Oppressed

Sister Dianna Ortiz, US missionary teaching Mayan children, tortured in 1989 by members of the US supported Guatemalan Army

Jean Marie Kalonji, Congolese youth leader tortured by the police and military, Coordinator of the Fourth Way

Mario Avila, a Guatemalan torture survivor kidnapped in 1969 and again in 1976 and tortured in clandestine jails under the directives of the U.S. government; Colectivo Guatemalteco Los AngelesTorture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC)

Gloria Avila, Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC)

Frankie Flores, Torture Survivor from El Salvador; Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC)

Jennifer Harbury, Atty, wife of deceased Guatemalan torture victim Efraín Bámaca Velásquez; author, “Truth, Torture and the American Way,” which documents the CIA’s historical use of torture

Major Todd Pierce (U.S. Army, Retired), Judge Advocate General attorney on the defense teams for Guantánamo military commissions defendants

Buz Eisenberg, Attorney for Guantanamo detainee

Jim Dorsey, Attorney for released Guantanamo detainee

Colonel Larry Wilkerson, Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell

Bill Binney, Retired National Security Agency official and whistleblower

Elizabth Murray, Retired Deputy National Intelligence Office/Near East

Colonel Ann Wright, US Army Colonel (retired) and former US Diplomat

Ray McGovern, Retired CIA officer, Member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

Philip M. Giraldi, former CIA Operations Officer, Executive Director, Council for the National Interest

John Kiriakou, Former CIA officer imprisoned after whistleblowing re CIA torture

Coleen Rowley, former FBI special agent and whistleblower 

Greg Thielmann, retired intelligence official, U.S. State Department

Valerie Lucznikowska, September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows

Roy Bourgeois, School of the Americas Watch

Dr. Maha Hilal, Justice for Muslims Collective

Kathy Kelly, Voices for Creative Nonviolence

Marcy Winograd, Progressive Democrats of America; 2020 DNC Delegate, Author of Open Letter to Joe Biden: Hire New Foreign Policy Advisors, signed by 450 Delegates opposed to torture whitewashing

Adrienne Kinne, President, Veterans For Peace

Garett Reppenhagen, Executive Director, Veterans For Peace

Jeremy Varon, Witness Against Torture and Professor of History at The New School

Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK Women for Peace

Andy Worthington, Director, CloseGuantanamo.org

Roger Waters, musician, songwriter, “Each Small Candle”- tribute to a torture victim

Frank Goldsmith and Robin Kirk, Co-chairs, North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture

Nancy Talanian, No More Guantanamos

Johnny Zokovitch, Executive Director, Pax Christi USA

Rev. Emma Jordan-Simpson, Executive Director, Fellowship of Reconciliation

Sue Udry, Executive Director, Defending Rights and Dissent

David Swanson, Executive Director, World Beyond War; author, “Torture is Foreplay for War”

Alfred W. McCoy, author, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation from the Cold War to the War on Terror

Marjorie Cohen, Atty, author The United States And Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, And Abuse

Rebecca Gordon, author, Mainstreaming Torture

Jeffrey S. Kaye, author, Cover-Up at Guantanamo

Norman Solomon, Author, War Made Easy

Matthew W. Daloisio, Atty, Witness Against Torture

Helen Sklar, Certified Specialist in Immigration Law, represented torture victims from all over the world in asylum proceedings

Angela Edman, Esq, Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC)

Art Laffin, Catholic Worker House

Bogdan Dzakovic, Son of WWII torture victim

Sandra and Ulis Williams, Activists, School of the Americas Watch

Martin Melkonian, Teachers for Human Rights

Uwe Jacobs, Psychologist, Survivors International

David Segal, Executive Director, Demand Progress

Linda Lewis, Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence

Dr. Mary Helen White, Physicians for Human Rights, works with torture victims

C. Peter Dougherty, Co Founder, Meta Peace Team

Sara Olson, Women Against Military Madness, Tackling Torture Committee

twitterFacebooktumblrmailtwitterFacebooktumblrmail

David Barrows’ Day in Court: A Most Persuasive Guilty Plea

News // Film

by Helen Schietinger

What’s a good outcome when you’re pleading guilty to calling out a major crime by breaking a minor law?  On March 8, when David Barrows pleaded guilty to “disrupting Congress” last spring — warning the senators not to confirm Gina Haspel as CIA director —  he achieved what some of us would call a significant achievement: the judge acknowledged that the government should not try to stop civil disobedience.

Here’s how the hearing went: David, with Attorney Mark Goldstone at his side, appeared in respectable Court Drag: he displayed a distinguished presence in his dress shirt, vest, tie and cuff links.  David’s guilty plea was established, and then the government’s prosecutor spent an incredible amount of time presenting the government’s sentencing recommendation.  First he extensively reviewed David’s (admittedly extensive) record of prior arrests and convictions.  Then he correlated those events with when David had been on probation for previous infractions. 

Arguing that David is a “Career Protestor,” the prosecutor said, “Mr. Barrows doesn’t stop his conduct unless he is on probation and threatened with jail…. The government doesn’t want him to go to jail, or do community service, or pay a fine, or report to CSOSA.  The only way to stop his behavior is to order him to stay away.  Therefore he should have a 6-months stay-away from all Congressional buildings and 5 years of probation.”

When Attorney Goldstone began his response, Judge Solerno cut him off, saying, “This isn’t about torture.” Mark pushed back, arguing that David spoke out because our government had destroyed videotapes that would have documented crimes, and the Senate was deciding whether to approve Gina Haspel, the very person who had authorized the destruction of those tapes, to head the CIA.

Judge Solerno reiterated that that wasn’t what this case was about.

Attorney Goldstone concluded by insisting that it was unreasonable for the government to ask for a maximum sentence for a nonviolent offense, in particular for saying something in a public place simply because the government wants to prevent speech there.  Moreover, because the people have every right to be in and to speak out in Congressional buildings — public buildings — he challenged the stay-away order as inappropriate.

David then read his sentencing statement:

Your Honor, I would like to inform you about my state of mind and motive involved in the protest for which I enter a plea of guilty.

I admit that I spoke out during the Senate confirmation vote on Gina Haspel to head the Central Intelligence Agency, speaking from a visitor balcony in the United States Senate chamber so that my words of warning could be heard by the senators below.  I did not curse, nor did I use obscenity, nor was I violent.

I simply warned that any senator who voted for Gina Haspel to become head of the CIA would be knowingly giving approval to, and career advancement to, an unrepentant overseer of torture and destroyer of evidence of torture who had never been held accountable.  Ms. Haspel had supervised torture at a black site (a secret site) in Thailand where at least one man had been tortured to death under her watch.

Therefore, those senators voting for her would be rewarding behaviors deemed criminal in violation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture, the Geneva Conventions and the Nuremberg Principles and the Eighth Amendment.  As a former United States Government employee I took an oath to defend the United States Constitution against all enemies, domestic and foreign.  Haspel is now, despite all this, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. 

I had just heard Senators Leahy and Wyden say they would not vote for Haspel because of her unrepentant involvement in torture and her destruction of evidence of torture.  The late Senator McCain, who was a torture survivor himself, had days before implored other senators to take this stand.

During the week of this critical vote I had stood in front of the Senate office buildings for 3 hours in the rain with a sign that read, “Any senator who votes to affirm a torturer as head of the CIA is a criminal as well.”  I also wrote two letters about this issue to the editors of the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Today with the increased threats of nuclear wars and ever increasing climate disasters the whole human race is virtually floating on a life raft.  When we entrust our fate to torturers and criminals, we sink our own ship.

I admit that I broke the Senate’s rules of etiquette and its criminal statute, but I did so because I believed that it was my duty as an American citizen to non-violently stand up and speak out for justice itself.

I thus ask this court for a sentence of community service in lieu of jail.  I can do more good for the community outside of jail than within.  What I did was speak up for victims and try to prevent further victims of torture.

Thank you, Your Honor.


When David finished, the courtroom was silent for an entire two minutes: his words had reached Judge Solerno.

When the judge finally spoke, he said he understood the prosecutor’s point about preventing repeat conduct, but “What we’re preventing — there’s nothing particularly dangerous or violent about it.  There’s no reason to prevent civil disobedience.  I don’t think a 5-year stay-away or probation would be useful.”  He sentenced David to a 30-day suspended sentence with 9 months unsupervised probation, and 30 hours of community service and $50 to the Crime Victims Fund.  During that time he is not to enter 11 of the 14 Congressional Buildings, but he is allowed on Congressional grounds.

David entered his guilty plea as part of a plea deal with the Government in return for their dropping charges in a more recent arrest, which resulted in not only the charge of interrupting Congress but also contempt of court. Only a few weeks before David had – in a Congressional hearing – confronted Elliott Abrams whom Trump had appointed as head of U.S. interventions  in Venezuela. (Years ago Abrams was convicted of the felony of perjury for lying to Congress to cover up massacres in Central America by the Contras.)  Given these multiple charges, David was faced with almost certain jail time.

David Barrows is extremely grateful to those who were able to be in court for him. He wants them to know that they were as important an audience as the judge: “They were the friends who could bring the best out in me.”

Some activists would wish for the ultimate goal: for the court to find David innocent because he was fully justified in using civil resistance to call out injustice and criminal behavior by the government.  But until that day comes, this was a very successful day in court!

Attorney Mark Goldstone poses with client David Barrows after a “successful day in court.”
twitterFacebooktumblrmailtwitterFacebooktumblrmail

June Newsletter: Torture Awareness Month

In Focus - Front Page // Film

Please join us as we mark Torture Awareness month with a vigil and teach-in, described below.  For our full  newsletter, please click here.

The Dark Legacy of The War on Terror & Muslim Victims of Torture

Vigil & Teach-In

Tuesday, June 26, 6:30 pm
White House, Lafayette Park

From the Bush administration to the Trump administration, torture has continued to be a tactic in the War on Terror. With Gina Haspel, a known torturer now leading the CIA, torture in it’s most egregious form may soon be revived. In the course of all of this, those who have been targeted most by the U.S.’s post 9/11 torture apparatus – Muslims have been marginalized and invisiblized. Join us during torture awareness month on the UN Day in Support of Victims of Torture for a vigil and teach-in on torture in the War on Terror to uplift the voices and stories of Muslim survivors. The program will conclude with a light meal.

 

twitterFacebooktumblrmailtwitterFacebooktumblrmail

Oppose Gina Haspel action May 9

In Focus - Front Page // Film

Prosecution not Nomination: #OpposeHaspel

 

We invite you to participate in an action on the morning of the Gina Haspel confirmation hearing.

Wednesday, May 9 at 8:30 AM – 9:30 AM
Hart Senate Office Building

Last month, President Trump nominated Gina Haspel, the current Deputy Director of the CIA to become Director. Haspel is best known for overseeing a CIA black site in Thailand in 2002 where two Guantanamo detainees, Abu Zubaydah and Al-Nashiri, were waterboarded and tortured. Furthermore, Haspel was involved in destroying agency interrogation tapes – a move clearly designed to erase the possibility of transparency and accountability.

Because of her involvement in torture, Haspel should be prosecuted Instead of rewarded. Thus, this action will be held on the morning of Haspel’s confirmation hearing with the goal of centering the Muslim victims of CIA Black sites in the War on Terror. The call will also be made for Congressional members to oppose her confirmation and to demand accountability for those who designed, conducted, oversaw, and/or implemented the CIA’s Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation program.

Leonce Byimana, executive director of Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition, in a May 3rd opinion piece for the Washington Post, writes:

Haspel’s promotion would be a direct endorsement of torture, sending that message both to governments that torture and to the people who endure horrific abuse.

twitterFacebooktumblrmailtwitterFacebooktumblrmail

WAT responds to Trump’s executive order on Guantanamo

In Focus - Front Page // Film

It was with heavy hearts that we, as members of Witness Against Torture, listened to Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday evening. We heard him attempt to stoke fear in his listeners with wave after wave of references to terrorists and criminals. He began by linking terror to “illegal immigrants,” border walls, “chain migration,” and visa lotteries, before moving on to ISIS, Al Qaida, rogue regimes, unlawful enemy combatants and more.

By the time he mentioned the prison at Guantanamo, he had already clearly connected the foreigner and the immigrant with the idea of danger in his listeners’ minds. He had already skillfully set the stage when he announced his executive order to keep open the detention facilities at Guantánamo Bay. In Guantanamo, he reassured his listeners, we would “have all necessary power to detain terrorists — wherever we chase them down.”

The prison at Guantanamo has always depended for its existence on xenophobic fear, fueled by racism and Islamophobia. Stoking this fear helps leaders aggrandize their power, as the history of authoritarian regimes has amply demonstrated.

Witness Against Torture from its founding has sought to counter this hatred by recognizing the human dignity of each prisoner, beginning with our attempt to visit the prisoners in 2005, to fast in solidarity with their hunger strikes, and to lift their names, faces, and stories in the public eye and before the seats of power in Washington year after year. We have spoken up relentlessly for the right of every detainee to trial or release.

We continue to stand against the horror of the torture these men have suffered. We regard as an ominous warning Trump’s stated resolve to bring more “unlawful enemy combatants” to Guantanamo where “they should be treated like the terrorists they are.”

And so we resolutely continue. We turn our eyes with hope to the major legal challenge to Donald Trump’s continued detention of the men at Guantanamo, filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights, Reprieve, and co-counsel on the 16th anniversary of the opening of the prison. We are deeply grateful to our friends and allies who continue to plan rallies and actions in support of closing the prison.


New Yorkers gather to protest Trump’s Guantanamo policy

On Thursday, Feb. 1, human rights activists from Witness Against Torture, the Justice for Muslims Collective, World Can’t Wait, the Center for Constitutional Rights and other groups gathered at Grand Central Station to protest Trump’s recent Executive Order on Guantanamo. Announced in the State of the Union address, the Order directs that the detention camp remain open, reversing the policy of President Obama to try to close the prison.

The camp at Guantanamo has been a place of torture and other gross human rights abuses. It continues to imprison 41 men — including 26 held without charge or trial and 5 whom the US government had already cleared for release. Trump’s policy also freezes any releases from the prison and orders that new captives can be brought there.

Guantanamo remains a blight on the US Constitution, the rule of law and basic democratic values. Trump’s policy, as challenged in a lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights, is based in his well-documented racism and Islamophobia.

“Trump’s Executive Order brings us back to the darkest days of the Bush administration, when lawlessness and cruelty ruled,” says Jeremy Varon, an organizer with Witness Against Torture from Brooklyn. “President Trump is an anti-Muslim bigot, pro-torture, and favors keeping a torture prison open forever,” says Maha Hilal of the Justice for Muslims Collective. “With the Guantanamo policy, New Yorkers and the peoples of the world now have another reason to loathe this terrible leader.”

twitterFacebooktumblrmailtwitterFacebooktumblrmail

Letter to the UAE Ambassador protesting secret prisons and torture in Yemen

Uncategorized // Film

Witness Against Torture
Washington, D.C.
www.witnessagainsttorture.com
general information: Matt Daloisio daloisio@riseup.net

Embassy of the United Arab Emirates
Attn: His Excellency Yousef Al Otaiba, Ambassador
Washington, D.C.

January 9, 2018

Your Excellency,

We write with great concern about reports of UAE officials maintaining clandestine prisons in Yemen. The June 22nd AP report which so deeply troubles us described gruesome tortures happening inside the secret prisons.

We want to write a word about ourselves. We are a group of people who have campaigned since 2005 to close Guantanamo and end forever any use of torture. Our group is called Witness Against Torture. We feel particularly responsible to confront the U.S. government’s involvement in torture. It’s alleged that U.S. interrogators have been present in Yemen and, while not inside the chambers where people have been
tortured, U.S. officials have possibly interrogated people who have been subjected to torture.

Within Yemen, stories about torture and disappearance of prisoners must have an extremely chilling effect on any individuals or groups who would attempt to demonstrate on behalf of their loved ones who have disappeared and who fear that their loved ones have been tortured.

Recognizing that it would be quite difficult for Yemeni people to reach your Embassy here in the U.S., we are assembling here today to raise questions: How specifically does the government of the United Arab Emirates respond to each of the allegations made in the June 22nd, 2017 AP report? What information can you offer regarding the presence of U.S. interrogators who acknowledge having been in Yemen? How has the government of the United Arab Emirates responded to the estimated 2000 people in Yemen who have claimed that their loved ones have disappeared?

Recognizing that the UN regards the humanitarian crisis in Yemen as the worst in the world, as people face conflict-driven famine and disease, we feel increasing urgency to alleviate the suffering people face and help abolish any networks of clandestine prisons and any usage of torture by any of the warring parties.

Sincerely,
Members of Witness Against Torture fasting in Washington, D.C.

twitterFacebooktumblrmailtwitterFacebooktumblrmail

16 years of Guantanamo and a year of Trump: The work for justice continues

Fast for Justice 2018 // Film

 

Close Guantanamo, Stop Torture:
Seeking Justice and Resisting Islamophobia in the Age of Trump

We invite you to join us in community in Washington, DC,  January 7 – 14, for Witness Against Torture’s 2018 Fast for Justice.  Please let us know you’re coming– for the week or any part of it– by sending an email to witnesstorture@gmail.com.

We will gather for a week of events marking a tragic and ongoing history:  After 16 years, the US detention camp at Guantanamo remains a living symbol of US torture and human rights abuses and a place of misery for the 41 Muslim men it still houses. Five of the men have been long cleared for release and yet still languish there.  The Trump administration is holding 26 of the detainees for indefinite detention without charge or trial. The Pentagon has plans to try only a small handful of the prisoners.

It is easy to lose hope in these troubling times.  Yet we know that hope resides not in calculating future probabilities, but in bearing witness to injustice in this present moment.  It resides in lifting up human dignity. It resides in imploring our fellow citizens not to turn their eyes away.  And so, once again, we gather.

Highlights of WAT’s 2018 Fast for Justice

Here is a preliminary skeleton structure for the week (Jan. 7 – 14):

Sunday evening: arrive anytime after 3; settle in and gather for evening circle
Monday:  share the morning meal and begin the fast; opening circle; begin planning the week’s actions
Tuesday:  morning circle; plan and carry out actions; evening event (Mark Fallon talk: see below)
Wednesday:  morning circle; plan and carry out actions; evening event (Book launch and Peace Poets: see below)
Thursday:  11:30 am White House rally with coalition partners; action; possible evening vigil
Friday:  morning circle; afternoon No Foreign Military Bases demonstration in Baltimore; possible evening circle
Saturday:  all-day retreat to examine our capacity and how to move forward; evening meal to break the fast together and celebrate our community
Sunday morning:  breakfast, circle and closing ceremony; depart.

January 9 – Mark Fallon Event

Author Mark Fallon presents Unjustifiable Means: The Inside Story of How the CIA, Pentagon, and US Government Conspired to Torture, at Kramerbooks at 1517 Conn. Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.  6:30 pm.

Mark Fallon is a former intelligence officer and investigator at the heart of America’s “war on terror.”  Karen Greenberg, Director of the Center on National Security, calls his book “Essential reading for those who wish to understand this dark period in American history.”

January 10 –  Book Launch, Performance, and Speakers

There is a Man Under that Hood: Closing Guantánamo and Stopping Torture in the Age of Trump

The Impact Hub
419 7th St. NW, Washington, DC
Jan. 10, 6-8 pm

Please join Witness Against Torture, the Peace Poets and friends for a book launch and performance on the eve of our annual January 11 demonstrations against Guantanamo.

The book, There is a Man Under that Hood, collects highlights from eight years of anti-torture photography curated by Justin Norman, and pairs them with Luke Nephew’s powerful poem by the same name. The contents are book-ended by a foreword from WAT’s Jeremy Varon and an afterword from Omar Farah, Senior Staff Attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights.

The Peace Poets will perform pieces from current human rights struggles. UK author Andy Worthington will address the state of Guantanamo in the era of Trump. And legal advocates will report on the fate of their clients still in the prison. Together we will celebrate our resistance to torture and work to close Guantanamo.

New book from Witness Against Torture on Guantanamo activism

The 72-page book is available for pre-order in hardcover for $25. Release is set for January 10th, 2018. The proceeds will be used to further the human rights work of the creators.

January 11 – Rally Marking 16 years of Guantanamo

Please join human rights activists, torture survivors, Guantanamo attorneys, 9-11 family members, ex-military officials, and members of diverse faith communities in Washington, D.C. on January 11, 2018 as we rally against Guantanamo, indefinite detention, and Islamophobia and call for the immediate transfer of the cleared detainees. The rally at the White House will begin at 11:30 am.

Muslim Ban

Just days after Donald Trump retweeted anti-Muslim propaganda, the Supreme Court decided to implement Muslim Ban 3.0 while the lower courts adjudicate the ban’s constitutionality, by kicking the case back to the 4th and 9th Circuit courts.  However, they have allowed the racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic and anti-Muslim ban to go into effect in the meantime. See this op-ed from the ACLU.

In response, the Justice for Muslims Collective organized an emergency rally at the Supreme Court on December 7th. Co-directors Maha Hilal and Darakshan Raja MC’d the event that highlighted the voices of inspiring Muslim women speaking truth to power:

Here’s a link to the livestream video of the rally.

North Carolina Torture Accountability Hearings

On November 30 and December 1, several hundred people gathered in Raleigh, North Carolina for an extraordinary event: the public hearings of the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture.  Over two days, eight commissioners heard riveting and often heart rending testimony about the global rendition and torture program undertaken by the United States following the 9/11 attacks.  The witnesses included the world’s leading rendition researcher; military, ex-military, and ex-intelligence officers outspoken against torture; legal experts on human rights; psychologists who treat torture victims; and, via Skype, survivors of US torture. The Commission grew out of local, North Carolina efforts to protest Aero Contractors — a private airline company contracted by the CIA to carry out likely hundreds of rendition flights ferrying US captive to torture by the CIA or foreign governments.  The commissioners will author a report based on the hearings.

The NCCIT hearings were a landmark event.  The Bush administration sought to define out of existence, conceal, and immunize grave crimes. The Obama administration chose not to prosecute potential perpetrators of torture operating under legal directives from Bush’s DoJ.  Several lawsuits targeting torture policies have been dismissed from federal and international courts for reasons of executive privilege, state’s secrets provisions, and pressure from the US government. It has therefore been up to civil society actors like the NCCIT to provide at least symbolic forms of accountability for years of US torture.  The hearings further educated the public about US conduct, solidified the legal case that torture occurred, and may help to deter future uses of torture by fortifying a public narrative that it happened and that it was wrong.  The hearings also brought victims of torture into a judicial-style inquiry, simulating forms of due process that has been denied them.

For more on the hearings, including links to media and video archive of them, go to the NCCIT website.

We Must Resist: Join WAT in DC in January!

For 13 years Witness Against Torture has championed the cause of the Muslim men unjustly imprisoned at Guantanamo, also using our witness to shine a light on other U.S. institutions of racist, Islamophobic state violence.

Now, as our outrageous Narcissist-In-Chief distracts the world, those very institutions are quietly cementing into place and strengthening the security state that is stripping entire groups of people of due process rights and protection under the law.

We must resist: come to DC in January to witness in community with us and to engage the future together!

Donate to support our work

Please consider a donation to help fund our annual Fast for Justice this January.  We are completely volunteer driven and run. We have no paid staff; all of the money you donate goes to funding the work we do together. We are fiscally sponsored by the Washington Peace Center. The Washington Peace Center is a verified US-registered non profit. If you are able, click here to donate.

 

twitterFacebooktumblrmailtwitterFacebooktumblrmail

There is a Man Under that Hood: Book launch, performance and more news

Fast for Justice 2018 // Film

There is a Man Under that Hood: Closing Guantanamo and Ending Torture in the Age of Trump

January 10, 2017 – The Impact Hub
419 7th St. NW, Washington, DC
6-8 pm

Please join Witness Against Torture, the Peace Poets and friends for a book launch and performance on the eve of our annual January 11 demonstrations against Guantanamo. The book — “There is a Man Under that Hood” —  sets the words of Luke Nephew’s (Peace Poets) remarkable poem of that title to images of anti-torture demonstrations: photographs taken or curated by Justin Norman (WAT).  The afterword is written by Omar Farah, Senior Staff Attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights.

The Peace Poets will perform pieces from current human rights struggles. UK author Andy Worthington will address the state of Guantanamo in the era of Trump. And legal advocates will report on the fate of their clients still in the prison. Together, we will celebrate our resistance to torture and work to close Guantanamo.

January 2018 Fast for Justice

The January 10 event is on Day 3 of the WAT Fast for Justice, January  7 – 14.   We invite you to join us in community in DC — for the week or any part of it.  Please let us know you’re coming by sending an email to witnesstorture@gmail.com.

Here is a skeleton structure for the week:  Sun evening: arrive; Mon: share morning meal and begin fast, planning and week’s activities; Wed evening:  Book launch and Peace Poet performance; Thu: Guantanamo rally and action; Fri afternoon: possibly join No Foreign Military Bases rally; Fri/Sat: strategic planning; Sun morning: final circle and depart.

North Carolina Torture Accountability Hearings: Nov. 30 and Dec. 1

You are invited to attend public hearings on the U.S. torture program and North Carolina’s involvement, to be held in Raleigh, NC on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.  The North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on  Torture  (NCCIT) is conducting the nation’s first state-level, non-partisan, blue-ribbon examination of the record of U.S. torture, in particular of the role played by North Carolina in the Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation program.  That role involves hosting CIA aviation infrastructure that accounted for the renditions of fully 30% of the black-site prisoners listed in the Senate torture report.

The list of witnesses for the two days includes Alberto Mora, Juan Mendez, Mohamedou Slahi, Lt. Col. Sterling Thomas, Steve Kleinman, and Mark Fallon.  Fallon has written a controversial new book on torture, “Unjustifiable Means.”  NCCIT is a nonprofit organization established to investigate and encourage public debate about the role that North Carolina played in facilitating the U.S. torture program carried out between 2001 – 2009.

Guantanamo authorities no longer force-feeding hunger strikers

According to the anti-torture organization Reprieve, medical staff at Guantanamo are no longer force-feeding hunger striking prisoners.  Will the U.S. government allow prisoners to suffer organ failure or even death?  WAT organizer Dr. Maha Hilal in her recent article for Newsweek, poses the prisoners’ dilemma in  this way:

“But of course, what the prisoners are ultimately asking for is justice, not force feeding — something that seems to be increasingly out of reach under the Trump administration.”

Maha goes on to describe the nature of the prisoners’ act of resistance:

“Muslim prisoners who have constantly been vilified in the War on Terror are using this last, dangerous form of resistance — despite the personal harm it’s causing them — to re-claim ownership over their bodies in a system that has denied them all other levels of agency.”

Ever since WAT formed in 2005, traveling to Cuba to attempt to visit hunger-striking Guantanamo prisoners, fasting in solidarity with them at the prison gates, we have denounced force-feeding as an act of torture.  We call upon U.S. authorities to listen to the hunger strikers’ desperate pleas: Try the prisoners or release them.  End indefinite detention and torture.  Close Guantanamo.

The military commissions at Guantanamo have reached a “new low”

Andy Worthington details the latest absurdities in the war court at Gitmo.  A New Low for Guantánamo’s Credibility: The Brief But Absurd Imprisonment of the Military Commissions’ Chief Defense Counsel

Julia E. Rodriguez, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, writes in the New York Times that the military commissions have “yielded nothing” for Sept. 11th families.  Guantánamo Is Delaying Justice for 9/11 Families

And lest we forget, the military base where the commissions are taking place is itself illegal, as WAT member Martin Gugino points out in his recent letter to the editor: The U.S. has breached Guantanamo agreement

We Must Resist: Come to DC in January!

For 13 years Witness Against Torture has championed the cause of the Muslim men unjustly imprisoned by the our government at Guantanamo, using the prison to shine a light on the other U.S. institutions of racist, Islamophobic state violence.   But now, as our outrageous Narcissist-In-Chief distracts the world, those very institutions are quietly cementing into place and strengthening the security state that deprives entire groups of people of due process and protection under the law.   We must resist: come to DC in January to witness in community and to build bridges with our allies as we engage the future!

Donate to support our work

Please consider a donation to help fund our annual Fast for Justice this January.  We are completely volunteer driven and run. We have no paid staff; all of the money you donate goes to funding the work we do together. We are fiscally sponsored by the Washington Peace Center. The Washington Peace Center is a verified US-registered non profit. If you are able, click here to donate.

Witness Against Torture formed in 2005 when 25 Americans went to Guantánamo Bay and attempted to visit the detention facility. They began to organize more broadly to shut down Guantánamo, end indefinite detention and torture and call out Islamophobia. During our demonstrations, we lift up the words of the detainees themselves, bringing them to public spaces they are not permitted to access. Witness Against Torture will carry on in its activities until torture is decisively ended, its victims are fully acknowledged,Guantánamo and similar facilities are closed, and those who ordered and committed torture are held to account.

Please “like” us on Facebook & follow us on Twitter.

twitterFacebooktumblrmailtwitterFacebooktumblrmail

Join us in DC this January

Fast for Justice 2017 // Film

Please note:  RSVP is required – email us: witnesstorture@gmail.com

Fast for Justice Schedule

Jan. 11 Rally info

WE FAST BECAUSE YOU HUNGER STRIKE. WE STRUGGLE UNTIL YOU LIVE FREE

We come together not only to call for the closure of Guantanamo and its legacy of institutionalizing Islamophobia, but also to invite our government and fellow citizens to choose the side of love, mercy and justice.

We demand an end to policies that maintain racism, mass incarceration, and fear of our neighbors. We come together to envision the world we want to live in where justice and equality reign.

We hope you will join us for a week of actions and fasting from January 3-12, 2017 in Washington, DC and our presence at the presidential inauguration January 19-21.

We will start fasting from the evening of Jan. 3rd and break our fast on January 11 in the morning. If you cannot make it to DC, but are considering fasting during this time – let us know. We will organize a conference call for everyone fasting across the country and we want to include you.

If you can only come for one day, join us for the rally with our coalition partners on January 11th.  Location is TBD. We will also engage in creative actions around DC between Jan. 4-12 – contact us if you are interested in participating.

Jan 10 we will host a cultural event in collaboration with the Tea Project – more details coming soon.

We also invite you to join us from afar, to participate in our solidarity actions and to organize actions in your own communities to raise awareness of torture and indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay.

January 8 – Workshop on tear gas use in prisons with War Resisters League – https://www.facebook.com/events/226640994413157/

January 9 Action with War Resister League : https://www.facebook.com/events/210198856106456/

You can join us for our annual rally on January 11 at noon at the Ellipse. More information here : https://www.facebook.com/events/1818873991715572/

Jan 10 we will host a cultural event in collaboration with the Tea Project – Space is limited so please RSVP here : https://ccrjustice.org/wordsfromthegrassroots#.

For more info and to RSVP, email us: witnesstorture@gmail.com.

The latest updates are on our Facebook event page.

twitterFacebooktumblrmailtwitterFacebooktumblrmail

Forced-Feeding is Torture! No Secret Courts!

News // Film


Forced-Feeding is Torture! No Secret Courts!

Emergency Call to Action and Solidarity Fast – Witness Against Torture
Gather at the US Federal District Court (333 Constitution Ave) on Oct. 6 and 7
8:30 am. 333 Constitution Ave, Washington, D.C.

On Monday October 6 a trial will begin in which attorneys for Wa-ei Dhiab will seek a stop to the brutal forced-feeding of men at Guantánamo protesting their indefinite detention and abuse at the prison. Witness Against Torture is calling for a public presence at the courthouse to demand an end to forced-feeding and the closing of Guantánamo.

Dhiab is a Syrian man held without charge or trial at Guantánamo since 2002 and cleared for release in 2009 by the US government. He has, according to his attorneys, been forcibly extracted from his cell and force-fed as many as three times a day since the start of the most recent Guantanamo hunger strike in the winter/spring 2012.

Dhiab’s lawsuit seeks an end to forced-feeding. Justice Gladys Kessler, who is hearing the case, has described forced-feeding at the prison as “painful, humiliating, and degrading.” The lawsuit is our best chance to have the courts do what President Obama has been unwilling to do — end forced-feeding.

dhiabInvite


Pack the Court – No Secret Trials

Dhiab’s attorneys will present as evidence videotapes showing Dhaib being violently extracted from his cell and/or force-fed. The government has petitioned that the trial be held entirely in secret so that the press and public may not see or otherwise learn about the gruesome reality of forced-feeding. Judge Kessler has denied the request, describing the government’s request of a secret trial as “deeply troubling.” As of today, portions of the trial will be open to the public.

We need to pack the courthouse and demonstrate that the torture of forced-feeding is immoral, illegal, and unacceptable.

Plan on attending the hearing. The attorneys for Dhiab have requested that there be no signs or anything else that may irritate the judge. Our presence, and gestures of our protest such as orange ribbons on our clothes, will convey our protest.

Click here to read recent news stories:

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/article2295641.html

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/10/02/judge-knocks-government-attempt-keep-gitmo-hearing-secret/


Fast for Dhiab and the Hunger Strikers — Fast for Justice

Witness Against Torture is calling for an emergency fast in solidarity with Wa-ei Dhiab, other hunger strikers, and all the men at Guantánamo. Please consider fasting on October 6 and/or October 7.

If you plan to fast, send an email to witnesstorture@gmail.com. Please included in the email where you live and a brief statement as to why you are fasting.

Witness Against Torture will report to the media, Dhiab’s attorneys, and the public the numbers of those fasting and convey, through attorneys, your messages to Dhiab and others at Guantánamo.

Furthermore, please consider making two phone calls to:

1. Cliff Sloan at the State Department (202-647-4000) to insist he tells the military to stop the inhumane practice of force feeding prisoners on hunger strike and to work more quickly to shut the doors and empty the cells of the prison.

2. U.S. Southern Command (305-437-1213) to decry the conditions at Guantánamo, especially the force feeding.

Example script: I am fasting for 24 hours in solidarity with the prisoners at Guantánamo, especially for those who are on hunger strike and being force fed. I am particularly mindful of Wa-ei Dhiab, a prisoner who is being represented by attorneys in Federal District Court October 6th and 7th. His attorneys are seeking a stop to the brutal force-feeding of men at Guantánamo protesting their indefinite detention and abuse at the prison I am calling today out of concern for him and for the rest of the prisoners. I am asking you to stop the inhumane practice of force feeding and resume releasing the number of prisoners on hunger strike.

The men at Guantánamo have repeatedly expressed how important it is to them to know that people in the United States and the world fast in solidarity with them.

Join us on Monday, October 6th at 8:30 am. 333 Constitution Ave, Washington, D.C.


Witness Against Torture on Social Media:

Please “like us on Facebook & follow us on Twitter & Instagram

Post any pictures of your local activities to our flicker account and we will help spread the word on Tumblr.


Donate to support our work:

Witness Against Torture is completely volunteer driven and run.  We have no paid staff, but do have expenses associated with our organizing work.  If you are able, please donate here. www.witnesstorture.org

 

twitterFacebooktumblrmailtwitterFacebooktumblrmail