Guantanamo Bay detainees’ frustrations simmering, lawyers and others say

Tensions between detainees and the military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have spiked in recent weeks, with a hunger strike at one of the camps reflecting growing despair that the Obama administration has abandoned efforts to repatriate prisoners cleared for release, according to defense lawyers and other people with access to information about detention operations.

A majority of the 166 detainees remaining at Guantanamo Bay are housed in Camp 6, a facility that until recently held men the military deemed “compliant.” But the camp, where cell doors are left open so detainees can live communally, has been at the center of a series of escalating protests since January.

The lawyers and human rights advocates said there is a mass hunger strike at Camp 6 that is threatening the health and life of a number of detainees. In a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, they said they have received “alarming reports” that men have lost “over 20 and 30 pounds” and that “at least two dozen men have lost consciousness due to low blood glucose levels.”

A military official said 14 detainees are on hunger strikes and six of them are being force fed. Others have been refusing meals but eating non-perishable food stashed in their cells, officials said.

In a statement, Navy Capt. Robert Durand, a spokesman for Joint Task Force Guantanamo, said “claims of a mass hunger strike . . . are simply untrue.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross, the only outside organization allowed unrestricted visits to the camps, said it visited Guantanamo from Feb. 18 to 23 and “is aware of the tensions at the detention facility.”

How a U.S. Citizen Came to Be in America’s Cross Hairs

WASHINGTON — One morning in late September 2011, a group of American drones took off from an airstrip the C.I.A. had built in the remote southern expanse of Saudi Arabia. The drones crossed the border into Yemen, and were soon hovering over a group of trucks clustered in a desert patch of Jawf Province, a region of the impoverished country once renowned for breeding Arabian horses. Then, on Oct. 14, a missile apparently intended for an Egyptian Qaeda operative, Ibrahim al-Banna, hit a modest outdoor eating place in Shabwa. The intelligence was bad: Mr. Banna was not there, and among about a dozen men killed was the young Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who had no connection to terrorism and would never have been deliberately targeted.

It was a tragic error and, for the Obama administration, a public relations disaster, further muddying the moral clarity of the previous strike on his father and fueling skepticism about American assertions of drones’ surgical precision. The damage was only compounded when anonymous officials at first gave the younger Mr. Awlaki’s age as 21, prompting his grieving family to make public his birth certificate.

He had been born in Denver, said the certificate from the Colorado health department. In the United States, at the time his government’s missile killed him, the teenager would have just reached driving age.

And while the Constitution generally requires judicial process before the government may kill an American, the Supreme Court has held that in some contexts — like when the police, in order to protect innocent bystanders, ram a car to stop a high-speed chase — no prior permission from a judge is necessary; the lawyers concluded that the wartime threat posed by Mr. Awlaki qualified as such a context, and so his constitutional rights did not bar the government from killing him without a trial.

 

Plan for hunting terrorists signals U.S. intends to keep adding names to kill lists

Editor’s note: This project, based on interviews with dozens of current and former national security officials, intelligence analysts and others, examines evolving U.S. counterterrorism policies and the practice of targeted killing. This is the first of three stories.

Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the “disposition matrix.”

The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. U.S. officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the “disposition” of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.

Although the matrix is a work in progress, the effort to create it reflects a reality setting in among the nation’s counterterrorism ranks: The United States’ conventional wars are winding down, but the government expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years.

Among senior Obama administration officials, there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade. Given the way al-Qaeda continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight.

Officials declined to disclose the identities of suspects on the matrix. They pointed, however, to the capture last year of alleged al-Qaeda operative Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame off the coast of Yemen. Warsame was held for two months aboard a U.S. ship before being transferred to the custody of the Justice Department and charged in federal court in New York.

The issue resurfaced after the U.S. raid that killed bin Laden. Seeking to repair a rift with Pakistan, Panetta, the CIA director, told Kayani and others that the United States had only a handful of targets left and would be able to wind down the drone campaign.

A senior aide to Panetta disputed this account, and said Panetta mentioned the shrinking target list during his trip to Islamabad but didn’t raise the prospect that drone strikes would end. Two former U.S. officials said the White House told Panetta to avoid even hinting at commitments the United States was not prepared to keep.

Iran says Obama administration’s removal of group from US terror list shows ‘double standards’

Iran condemned on Saturday the Obama administration for taking an Iranian militant group formerly allied with Saddam Hussein off the U.S. terrorism list, saying it shows Washington’s “double standards.”

The Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), which began as a guerrilla movement fighting Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, helped overthrow the monarch in 1979 then quickly fell out with the Islamic Republic’s first leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. It fought in the 1980s alongside Saddam’s forces in the eight-year Iran-Iraq war but disarmed after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The State Department delisted the group on Friday, meaning that any assets the MEK has in the United States are unblocked and Americans can do business with the organization. On Saturday, at their Paris headquarters, MEK members gathered to celebrate, tossing flower petals and displaying photos of members killed in the past 15 years.

The group claims it is seeking regime change through peaceful means, aiming to replace Tehran’s clerical system with a secular government.

However, a senior State Department official suggested that removing MEK from the U.S. terrorist list does not translate into a shared common front against the Islamic Republic.

The MEK was removed from the European Union’s terrorist list in 2009.

Fox News’ Eric Bolling Says Obama Administration ‘Answers To The Quran First,’ Clarifies Remarks

Eric Bolling walked back his words about the Obama administration on Monday’s “The Five.”

The roundtable was discussing the White House’s response to the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, which was initially believed to have been spurred by an anti-Islam film. Filmmaker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was recently questioned over potential probation violations.

On Monday, co-host Greg Gutfield blasted what he saw as an apology from the White House. Bolling pulled up a picture of Nakoula with probation officials, and went one step further. “America changed at that moment,” he said. “To use what is being called a flimsy ploy to bring this guy in for questioning proves that the Obama administration, through all this appeasement and apologizing, answers to the Quran first and to the Constitution second.”

Co-host Bob Beckel was outraged. “That’s just an outrageous statement. Even for you, that’s an outrageous statement,” he exclaimed, slamming his fist on the table. “That is the most — of all the things you’ve said, and I love you, brother, but that’s the most outrageous statement I’ve ever heard.”

Bolling clarified his remarks later on in the “One More Thing” segment, saying, “What I meant was, rather than appeasing the Muslims, [President Obama] should worry about free speech first. That’s it. I’m done with, I don’t want to hear about it.”

Original Video :

Retraction/Clarification :

 

Op-Ed: Michele Bachmann’s baseless attack on Huma Abedin

TO CONSPIRACY theorists like Rep. ¬Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), the Obama administration’s approach to the Arab world is the product not of considered diplomacy but of wicked “influence operations,” traceable to the Muslim Brotherhood and its agents. Exhibit A among those agents with murky “ties” to the Muslim Brotherhood, Ms. Bachmann warns darkly, is Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Ms. Bachmann’s smear of Ms. Abedin, a 37-year-old Muslim American born and educated in this country, was contained in a letter last month to the State Department’s inspector general’s office. It would be simple to ignore the baseless and paranoid assertions of Ms. Bachmann were she not a member of Congress and an also-ran in the recent race for the Republican presidential nomination. Her status doesn’t confer respectability on her views — Americans are inured to all manner of nonsense from Congress — but it does call for a response, if only to restore a dose of rationality to the public discourse.
Today, though, for arguably the first time in her congressional career, the Minnesota GOP congresswoman is finding herself publicly on the outs with some in her own party. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), among others, have publicly criticized Bachmann for her suggestion that State Department officials, including longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, might be part of a Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy to infiltrate the U.S. government. (Though notably, Newt Gingrich defended her this morning.)

Catholic bishops cry for religious freedom: This is not a Jewish issue. This is not an Orthodox, Mormon, or Muslim issue. It is an American issue

The nation’s Catholic bishops are calling on the faithful to pray and mobilize in a “great national campaign” to confront what they see as a series of threats to religious freedom, and they are setting aside the two weeks before July 4 for their “Fortnight for Freedom” initiative.

The exhortation is contained in a 12-page statement released Wednesday (April 12) by the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, and its chief concern is the Obama administration’s proposal to provide contraception coverage to all employees with health insurance, including those who work for religious groups.

The statement represents the hierarchy’s latest effort to overturn that policy, and it includes an explicit threat of widespread civil disobedience by the nation’s 67 million Catholics.

 

“What is at stake is whether America will continue to have a free, creative, and robust civil society — or whether the state alone will determine who gets to contribute to the common good, and how they get to do it,” the statement says. “This is not a Catholic issue. This is not a Jewish issue. This is not an Orthodox, Mormon, or Muslim issue. It is an American issue.”

Joe Walsh: Obama Should Distance Himself From Muslim Brotherhood

U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, who was recently criticized for saying the national debate over birth control coverage is “not about women,” issued a statement Friday calling on President Barack Obama to “distance himself” from the Muslim Brotherhood.

The statement comes after the Egyptian political group met with “mid-level officials from the U.S. National Security Agency” on Thursday, Voice of America reports. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney defended the meetings, saying that the administration is meeting with many political groups as Egypt’s “political sitiuation evolves” following President Hosni Mubarak departure.

“I call on the President not to meet with or recognize groups that do not respect women’s rights and basic freedoms,” Walsh said in a statement, adding that the group has one of the “worst women’s rights records in the Middle East.”

GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum has also criticized the Obama administration’s relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood, accusing the president of a willingness to “jump in bed” with the group during conflicts in Libya and Egypt.

Holder tells Congress he’s disturbed by reports of NYPD spying on Muslims in New Jersey

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress on Thursday he’s disturbed by what he’s read about the New York Police Department conducting surveillance of mosques and Islamic student organizations in New Jersey.

Holder’s brief comments represented the most extensive public discussion of the topic to date by anyone in the Obama administration. The administration has repeatedly refused to endorse or repudiate the NYPD’s tactics, which include cataloging mosques and Muslim-owned businesses, recording the license plates of worshippers at mosques, infiltrating student groups and eavesdropping in Muslim neighborhoods.

Ten years later, CIA ‘rendition’ program still divides N.C. town

Smithfield, N.C. — The small airport that houses what some here call Smithfield’s “dirty secret” lies just beyond the town’s outskirts, where tobacco warehouses and car dealerships give way to pine forests and then, abruptly, an imposing 10-foot-high fence.

Inside, in a metal hangar with its own security, is the headquarters of Aero Contractors Ltd., a private aviation company whose ties to the CIA have long inspired local speculation and gossip. Newspaper investigations and books have linked the firm’s planes to secret abductions, waterboardings and more, usually eliciting the same mute response from the occupant of Hangar No. 3.

These days, Aero’s jets are seldom seen in public, and the controversy over the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” program — in which captured terrorist suspects were secretly transported to another country for interrogation — has vanished from the headlines in most of the country.

The most controversial interrogation and detention practices ended in 2006, and further limits were imposed by the Obama administration, which has prioritized killing suspected terrorists over capturing them. Yet, 10 years after the first “high-value” detainee was hooded and forced into a CIA plane, Aero’s presence remains for opponents a powerful symbol: a rare, visible reminder of what they view as a uniquely shameful chapter in America’s history.