Standards of American justice under George W. Bush

A New York Times Op-Ed by a U.S. military prosecutor seeking to defend the humane conditions at Guant

Published June 26, 2007 1:23PM (EDT)

A New York Times Op-Ed this morning by U.S. Air Force Col. Morris D. Davis -- the chief prosecutor in the Defense Department's Office of Military Commissions -- is entitled "The Guantanamo I Know." Col. Davis' defense of America's treatment of Guantanamo detainees, featuring the case of Australian detainee David Hicks, illustrates the standards of American justice under the Bush administration:

STEP 1: Imprison someone in Guantanamo indefinitely, in this case Australian David Hicks, with no possibility to contest his guilt, little contact with the outside world, and no hope of ever leaving:

Australian-born David Hicks was captured by US forces in Afghanistan in November 2001, while fighting for the then Taleban government.

He was transferred to the US camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba in January 2002 where he spent more than five years before finally being tried and convicted of supporting terrorism - the first detainee to go through a US military tribunal there.

Although he was formally charged in 2004 with conspiracy, attempted murder and aiding the enemy-- to which he pleaded not guilty -- the charges were subsequently dropped after a US Supreme Court ruled that the system of military tribunals was unlawful.

It was not until February 2007 that Hicks, by now 31, was charged again -- this time with providing material support for terrorism.

STEP 2: Subject him to extreme "coercive interrogation" -- i.e., torture -- while keeping him for years in intensely inhumane and mentally unbearable conditions:

Lawyers for Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks say they have uncovered evidence supporting claims that the South Australian may have been the subject of organised torture by American troops.

In an interview with ABC TV's Four Corners program, Hicks's father Terry has detailed allegations of physical and sexual abuse of his son by American soldiers.

"He said he had a bag over his head and he said, 'Oh look, I know their accents - they're definitely American' - some pretty horrific things that were done to him," he said.

David Hicks also told his father he was given injections by the Americans and then anally penetrated with various objects.

Another detainee says David Hicks told him of being flown by helicopter off a warship to an undisclosed location where he was spat on and beaten before being brought back to the ship.

Former detainee Martin Munbanga says he spoke to Hicks about the allegations.

"He was basically taken ... by helicopter, to a place. They [were] blindfolded and there they [were] beaten and spat upon and he [Hicks] was abused and assaulted," he said.

Terry Hicks believes his son was flown to a location where United Nations conventions regarding the treatment of prisoners would not apply.

Lawyers for Hicks say they have found some evidence that the helicopter flight did take place.

They claim it is highly unlikely a detainee would have been moved without official authorisation.


David Hicks is spending 22 hours a day in "nightmarish" isolation in conditions described by Guantanamo Bay inmates as "a dungeon above the ground", court documents suggest.

Fresh evidence about the treatment of prisoners in the US military base has been revealed amid deepening concerns about the Australian terrorist suspect's mental state, and just days before Hicks receives a visit from his Australian lawyer. . . .

The US military had imposed on the men "a regimen of isolation and cruelty unheard of in penal or military law and unknown to civilised people", said [lawyer Sabin] Willett, who visited Guantanamo Bay on January 15 to 18.


DAVID Hicks' father, Terry, has called for an independent inquiry into claims his son was sexually tortured, after a witness report in the US described a similar assault by the US millitary at the same site in Afghanistan where Hicks was held.

The US report, released under freedom-of-information laws, was made by a senior military officer and describes an incident in February 2002 in which a prisoner was allegedly anally assaulted by military police at the US joint interrogation facility at Kandahar.

David Hicks told his family when they visited him at Guantanamo Bay in 2004 that he had been anally assaulted during interrogation by the US in Afghanistan while he was hooded and restrained.


[Hicks] previously alleged, via his family and lawyers, that he had been beaten and kicked, routinely deprived of sleep and even offered the services of a prostitute to spy on others.

In a letter to his family dated August 2004, David Hicks said he was on the brink of madness, and suffered extreme mood swings and confusion brought on by long periods of solitary confinement.


DAVID Hicks has renewed allegations of torture at Guantanamo Bay, claiming he was stamped on, repeatedly hit with a rifle butt and injected with drugs.

A new document written by Hicks in support of his bid for British citizenship expands on previous claims and details new allegations of abuse.

The terror suspect says his body was shaved and he was spat on. . . . He claims he was forced to sit at a window and face six US soldiers with weapons pointed at him. One interrogator "took out his pistol and aimed it at me, with his hand shaking violently with rage".

"I realised that if I did not co-operate with US interrogators, I might be shot," he claimed.

STEP 3: After more than five years of lawless imprisonment, and only in response to the demands of one of our few remaining allied governments in the world, agree to release him from his black hole, but only on the condition that he (a) remains silent about his captivity and (b) signs a document "stipulating" that he was not mistreated during his captivity:

A panel of military officers had recommended a term of seven years, but a section of a plea agreement that had been kept secret from the panel capped the sentence at nine months for David Hicks, who has been held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay for more than five years.

Under the agreement, the confessed Taliban-allied gunman will be allowed to serve his sentence in an Australian prison, but must remain silent about any alleged abuse while in custody.. . . .

Under his plea deal, Hicks stipulated that he has "never been illegally treated by a person or persons while in the custody of the U.S. government," Kohlmann said. In the statement read by [Hicks lawyer Michael] Mori, Hicks thanked U.S. service members for their professionalism during his imprisonment.

Hicks' release is conditioned on his signing the "stipulation" even though it is plainly coerced and insincere:

In the days before his arraignment Monday, Hicks' lawyers said their client was severely depressed and eager to leave Guantanamo. He spent the last few months alone in a small, solid-walled cell. His father, Terry Hicks, suggested he pleaded guilty only to escape the isolated prison. . . .

"I believe one of provisos was that he had to sign a form to say he wasn't badly treated," Terry Hicks told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio in Australia. "We know for a fact that he was, and I'm going to push that issue."

Shayana Kadidal, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents hundred of Guantanamo detainees, said the provisions appeared aimed at preventing abuse allegations from emerging and politically damaging the Bush administration.

STEP 4: With the signed coerced Hicks stipulation in hand, send the Bush administration's military prosecutor in charge of military commissions to the Op-Ed page of The New York Times to tout "the humanity of its detention centers" at Guantanamo and deny allegations of mistreatment of detainees based upon Hicks' "admission." From Col. Davis today:

Critics liken Guantanamo Bay to Soviet gulags, but reality does not match their hyperbole. The supporters of David Hicks, the detainee popularly known as the "Australian Taliban," asserted that Mr. Hicks was mistreated and wasting away. But at his March trial, where he pleaded guilty to providing material support to a terrorist organization, he and his defense team stipulated he was treated properly. Mr. Hicks even thanked service members, and as one Australian newspaper columnist noted, he appeared in court b

So, to recap: we imprison someone for life with no charges, muffle their claims that they were tortured in captivity, agree to let them go after five years provided they sign a statement "stipulating" they were treated properly and vow to remain silent about the mistreatment to which they were subjected, and then send military official parading in public, waving the signed "stipulation" around in the air as proof of the sterling, professional and humane conditions at Guantanamo.

And just by this way, this, of course, was completely despicable, a total breach of all civilized norms, irrefutable proof of the monsters we are confronting in our Epic Global war of Civilizations against Fanatical Islamic Fascists:

Fifteen British sailors and Marines detained by Iran for over a week have confessed to illegally entering the country's waters, Iranian state-run media reported on Monday. . . . A spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair called previous confessions "stage-managed" and said Britain had not changed its demand for the sailors' unconditional release.

Two other British sailors appeared in similar videos last week, prompting outrage in London.

The British Foreign Office called it unacceptable for such pictures to be aired and speaking last week, Prime Minister Tony Blair accused Iran of parading and manipulating the detainees. . . .

The brief video clips that aired on Sunday showed two men, one at a time, standing in front of a map. The first man, who is not seen identifying himself, points to where they were "when we were seized." He says it was "apparently at this point, here, from their maps, which is inside Iranian territorial waters."

IRIB and other news agencies identified him as Capt. Chris Air.

He adds, "So far we're being treated very well by all the people here. They have looked after us and made sure that we're getting enough food, and we've been treated very well by them, so we thank them for that." . .

On Friday, British sailor Nathan Thomas Summers appeared in a video on Al Alam, saying he was "grateful no harm has come to us," and apologizing for "entering your waters without permission."

It's comforting that the U.S. maintains such strong moral credibility in the world to protest behavior of that type. Freedom is on the march.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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