Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Gul Wins Vote for Turkish Presidency - New York Times

    7:44 AM   No comments
Gul Wins Vote for Turkish Presidency - New York Times: "Gul Wins Vote for Turkish Presidency By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Filed at 10:04 a.m. ET ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- A devout Muslim with a background in political Islam won the Turkish presidency on Tuesday, in a major triumph for the Islamic-rooted government after months of confrontation with the secular establishment. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul received a majority of 339 votes in a parliamentary ballot, Parliament Speaker Koksal Toptan said. Ruling party legislators broke into applause. ''Abdullah Gul was elected Turkey's 11th president, with 339 votes,'' Toptan said. ''I congratulate him.'' The vote took place a day after the military, which has ousted four governments since 1960, issued a stern warning about the threat to secularism. Gul's initial bid for president was blocked over fears that he planned to dilute secular traditions. ''Our nation has been watching the behavior of those separatists who can't embrace Turkey's unitary nature, and centers of evil that systematically try to corrode the secular nature of the Turkish Republic,'' Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, chief of the military, said in a note on the military's Web site Monday. Gul, 56, has promised to uphold secularism. But Turkey's president has the power to veto legislation, and Gul has failed to allay secularist fears that he w"

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Boycott Of Israel: Something Has Changed

    3:07 PM   No comments
By John Pilger
From a limestone hill rising above Qalandia refugee camp you can see Jerusalem. I watched a lone figure standing there in the rain, his son holding the tail of his long tattered coat. He extended his hand and did not let go. "I am Ahmed Hamzeh, street entertainer," he said in measured English. "Over there, I played many musical instruments; I sang in Arabic, English and Hebrew, and because I was rather poor, my very small son would chew gum while the monkey did its tricks. When we lost our country, we lost respect. One day a rich Kuwaiti stopped his car in front of us. He shouted at my son, "Show me how a Palestinian picks up his food rations!" So I made the monkey appear to scavenge on the ground, in the gutter. And my son scavenged with him. The Kuwaiti threw coins and my son crawled on his knees to pick them up. This was not right; I was an artist, not a beggar . . . I am not even a peasant now."

"How do you feel about all that?" I asked him.

"Do you expect me to feel hatred? What is that to a Palestinian? I never hated the Jews and their Israel . . . yes, I suppose I hate them now, or maybe I pity them for their stupidity. They can't win. Because we Palestinians are the Jews now and, like the Jews, we will never allow them or the Arabs or you to forget. The youth will guarantee us that, and the youth after them . . ."

That was 40 years ago. On my last trip back to the West Bank, I recognised little of Qalandia, now announced by a vast Israeli checkpoint, a zigzag of sandbags, oil drums and breeze blocks, with conga lines of people, waiting, swatting flies with precious papers. Inside the camp, the tents had been replaced by sturdy hovels, although the queues at single taps were as long, I was assured, and the dust still ran to caramel in the rain. At the United Nations office I asked about Ahmed Hamzeh, the street entertainer. Records were consulted, heads shaken. Someone thought he had been "taken away . . . very ill". No one knew about his son, whose trachoma was surely blindness now. Outside, another generation kicked a punctured football in the dust.

And yet, what Nelson Mandela has called "the greatest moral issue of the age" refuses to be buried in the dust. For every BBC voice that strains to equate occupier with occupied, thief with victim, for every swarm of emails from the fanatics of Zion to those who invert the lies and describe the Israeli state's commitment to the destruction of Palestine, the truth is more powerful now than ever. Documentation of the violent expulsion of Palestinians in 1948 is voluminous. Re-examination of the historical record has put paid to the fable of heroic David in the Six Day War, when Ahmed Hamzeh and his family were driven from their home. The alleged threat of Arab leaders to "throw the Jews into the sea", used to justify the 1967 Israeli onslaught and since repeated relentlessly, is highly questionable.

In 2005, the spectacle of wailing Old Testament zealots leaving Gaza was a fraud. The building of their "settlements" has accelerated on the West Bank, along with the illegal Berlin-style wall dividing farmers from their crops, children from their schools, families from each other. We now know that Israel's destruction of much of Lebanon last year was pre-planned. As the former CIA analyst Kathleen Christison has written, the recent "civil war" in Gaza was actually a coup against the elected Hamas-led government, engineered by Elliott Abrams, the Zionist who runs US policy on Israel and a convicted felon from the Iran-Contra era.

The ethnic cleansing of Palestine is as much America's crusade as Israel's. On 16 August, the Bush administration announced an unprecedented $30bn military "aid package" for Israel, the world's fourth biggest military power, an air power greater than Britain, a nuclear power greater than France. No other country on earth enjoys such immunity, allowing it to act without sanction, as Israel. No other country has such a record of lawlessness: not one of the world's tyrannies comes close. International treaties, such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, ratified by Iran, are ignored by Israel. There is nothing like it in UN history.

But something is changing. Perhaps last summer's panoramic horror beamed from Lebanon on to the world's TV screens provided the catalyst. Or perhaps cynicism of Bush and Blair and the incessant use of the inanity, "terror", together with the day-by-day dissemination of a fabricated insecurity in all our lives, has finally brought the attention of the international community outside the rogue states, Britain and the US, back to one of its principal sources, Israel.

I got a sense of this recently in the United States. A full-page advertisement in the New York Times had the distinct odour of panic. There have been many "friends of Israel" advertisements in the Times, demanding the usual favours, rationalising the usual outrages. This one was different. "Boycott a cure for cancer?" was its main headline, followed by "Stop drip irrigation in Africa? Prevent scientific co-operation between nations?" Who would want to do such things? "Some British academics want to boycott Israelis," was the self-serving answer. It referred to the University and College Union's (UCU) inaugural conference motion in May, calling for discussion within its branches for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. As John Chalcraft of the London School of Economics pointed out, "the Israeli academy has long provided intellectual, linguistic, logistical, technical, scientific and human support for an occupation in direct violation of international law [against which] no Israeli academic institution has ever taken a public stand".

The swell of a boycott is growing inexorably, as if an important marker has been passed, reminiscent of the boycotts that led to sanctions against apartheid South Africa. Both Mandela and Desmond Tutu have drawn this parallel; so has South African cabinet minister Ronnie Kasrils and other illustrious Jewish members of the liberation struggle. In Britain, an often Jewish-led academic campaign against Israel's "methodical destruction of [the Palestinian] education system" can be translated by those of us who have reported from the occupied territories into the arbitrary closure of Palestinian universities, the harassment and humiliation of students at checkpoints and the shooting and killing of Palestinian children on their way to school.

These initiatives have been backed by a British group, Independent Jewish Voices, whose 528 signatories include Stephen Fry, Harold Pinter, Mike Leigh and Eric Hobsbawm. The country's biggest union, Unison, has called for an "economic, cultural, academic and sporting boycott" and the right of return for Palestinian families expelled in 1948. Remarkably, the Commons' international development committee has made a similar stand. In April, the membership of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) voted for a boycott only to see it hastily overturned by the national executive council. In the Republic of Ireland, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has called for divestment from Israeli companies: a campaign aimed at the European Union, which accounts for two-thirds of Israel's exports under an EU-Israel Association Agreement. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler, has said that human rights conditions in the agreement should be invoked and Israel's trading preferences suspended.

This is unusual, for these were once distant voices. And that such grave discussion of a boycott has "gone global" was unforeseen in official Israel, long comforted by its seemingly untouchable myths and great power sponsorship, and confident that the mere threat of anti-Semitism would ensure silence. When the British lecturers' decision was announced, the US Congress passed an absurd resolution describing the UCU as "anti-Semitic". (Eighty congressmen have gone on junkets to Israel this summer.)

This intimidation has worked in the past. The smearing of American academics has denied them promotion, even tenure. The late Edward Said kept an emergency button in his New York apartment connected to the local police station; his offices at Columbia University were once burned down. Following my 2002 film, Palestine is Still the Issue, I received death threats and slanderous abuse, most of it coming from the US where the film was never shown. When the BBC's Independent Panel recently examined the corporation's coverage of the Middle East, it was inundated with emails, "many from abroad, mostly from North America", said its report. Some individuals "sent multiple missives, some were duplicates and there was clear evidence of pressure group mobilisation". The panel's conclusion was that BBC reporting of the Palestinian struggle was not "full and fair" and "in important respects, presents an incomplete and in that sense misleading picture". This was neutralised in BBC press releases.

The courageous Israeli historian, Ilan Pappé, believes a single democratic state, to which the Palestinian refugees are given the right of return, is the only feasible and just solution, and that a sanctions and boycott campaign is critical in achieving this. Would the Israeli population be moved by a worldwide boycott? Although they would rarely admit it, South Africa's whites were moved enough to support an historic change. A boycott of Israeli institutions, goods and services, says Pappé, "will not change the [Israeli] position in a day, but it will send a clear message that [the premises of Zionism] are racist and unacceptable in the 21st century . . . They would have to choose." And so would the rest of us.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Iraq: Sunni Leader Says Prime Minister 'Finished' - RADIO FREE EUROPE / RADIO LIBERTY

    1:51 PM   No comments
Iraq: Sunni Leader Says Prime Minister 'Finished'

Syria - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki speaks to reporters in Damascus, 21Aug2007
Is the government of Nuri al-Maliki finished? (file photo)
August 22, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The pressure on the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, both domestic and from the United States, continues to grow as the paralysis that resulted from the Sunni-led Iraqi Accordance Front's withdrawal from the government continues.

According to Umar Abd al-Sattar, a member of the Iraqi Islamic Party and a parliamentarian representing the Accordance Front (Al-Tawafuq), the front is working to propose a national-unity plan. Speaking to RFE/RL Iraq analyst Kathleen Ridolfo today, Abd al-Sattar harshly criticized al-Maliki, saying Iraq's first permanent post-Hussein government has done nothing for the people. Abd al-Sattar also discussed Al-Tawafuq's relations with the Sunni tribes of the western Al-Anbar Governorate, and with Kurdish and Shi'ite political parties.

RFE/RL: What is the status of talks between the Iraqi Accordance Front and the political parties inside the government over ending the political crisis?

Umar Abd al-Sattar: I think nowadays there is a negotiation between multiple Iraqi [groups]. Between us, Al-Tawafuq, and the Iraqi government, there is nothing to say about this issue. But, there is a good effort [made] continuously going by [Iraqi President] Jalal [Talabani] and his team to do what he can do to push the government to [meet] Al-Tawafuq and other political [groups'] needs. This is first.

Second, we are involving, nowadays we are busy, to arrange a national program. We think it is very necessary now to make all the categories -- the Iraqi political categories [political streams]...to discuss it.... We think there is a very strong conflict about this. There is some...terms, the Iraqi [groups] have conflict over -- like democracy, federalism, resistance, terrorism. These terms, we think, if we can put them in simple words, we can build upon it a national program. We can meet with the others to pass [through] this dilemma going on nowadays in Iraq.

RFE/RL: So, Al-Tawafuq is making its own program. And also there are talks with the government. An Iraqi government spokesman said on August 20 that the only issue that has been agreed upon was to change the de-Ba'athification law. He said all the other issues remain in dispute. Can you talk about these talks with the government, and how they are affecting [the political environment]?

Abd al-Sattar: Really, there is not any negotiation between us and the government. We said everything in a clear way. There is not any negotiation between us. The government did not send any team to meet with us about what we need from the government. The only effort [made] in this field was done by [Talabani].... So, we still think that the government [is] still in the first stage.

What about the preparatory committee working on addressing the outstanding issues such as de-Ba'athification, the constitution, and federalism?

Abd al-Sattar:
It is still working, and I think this is something apart from the government. It is something working to solve what we call a political issue; it's not a government issue.

RFE/RL: Who has formed this committee?

Abd al-Sattar: The committee is from Al-Tawafuq, [and the United Iraqi Alliance and the Kurdistan Coalition].

No Coalition Yet Decided

RFE/RL: A representative of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said on August 20 that al-Sadr supporters are working to establish a new coalition in parliament and that Al-Tawafuq will join it. Is this true?

Abd al-Sattar: I think what al-Sadr's group said [about] this goal, I think it is not in the size or in the shape of a coalition. I think there is a negotiation between us and Al-Fadilah group, and al-Sadr's group, and Jabhat Al-Hiwar [Iraqi National Dialogue Council], Dr. Salih al-Mutlaq's group, and Dr. [Iyad] Allawi's Al-Iraqiyah group and others also.

From the beginning of this year and clearly from March or May of this year, all these groups inside the parliament, they are [working] together...to stop against any thing they [object] to...and it is a very strong coalition. But without a shape, without a name, without a [formal agreement like] the quadri[partite] coalition between the Kurdistan Coalition, Al-Da'wah, and [the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, SIIC].

I think there is a good distance between us and all these [groups] and also between us and the four groups inside the quadri[partite] coalition.... I think the only party we are reaching a closed way [having no relations with] is with the Al-Da'wah Party. We [have communications with] the Supreme Council [SIIC], with the Kurdistan Coalition, with the Iraqis List, with Al-Fadilah, with Al-Sadrists, with others. We are, as the IP [Islamic Party], the same distance from all these [groups]. We are not against any party or any group of these -- we want to meet all these in a national program not in a coalition, in any shape [that] a coalition [comes].

So, the next days we will do something to solve what our people, what our nation, what our country needs. I think what our country and our people do not need [is] a coalition in any shape, but they need something [done for] them, something [done] for the country. And I think any coalition [formed] from these [groups] will not solve the problem. But they will solve the problem of [the parties and their personalities], not the problems of the country or the problems of the people.

Now we are very busy to meet all these groups on a national program [and] we are arranging [this program] to be ready in the next days, god willing.

RFE/RL: So, Al-Tawafuq will not join a coalition?

Abd al-Sattar:
I think we must go to the direction of what the people need, what the country needs. We are now, in these days, doing something with the Kurdistan Coalition, and with [SIIC], and doing the same thing with Al-Iraqiyah [Iraqis List], Al-Hiwar [National Dialogue Council] and Al-Fadilah.

So, I think something will happen in the [coming] days. I think the age of this government is finished. And we must do something, not in the issue of the government, but in the issue of the political process, which is going...from March 2003 until now. We must solve a global thing, [the main issues] we are divided [over]. If this issue will be solved, I think the issue of the government [will be solved] more easily.

RFE/RL: So, will you push for a change in the government and to replace Nuri al-Maliki?

Abd al-Sattar:
I think if this government will not do something to push the [administration] from a sectarian [program] to a national [program], and do something to solve...the political program of this government, after one year [referring to al-Maliki's term in office] to put it to be done, I think this government must be...I think the government until now has done nothing [for] the people, [for] the country.

If we judge this government according to our political program and the agreements that were signed before the establishment of this government and [according to] the constitution, so we will judge them, it will be judged and this government should finish and leave.... Then it is possible to form a new government according to an Iraqi political program and the democracy that we work within until now.

No Future In Sectarianism

RFE/RL: I want to ask you about this sectarianism in the government. Sunni Arabs have said they don't want a government based on sectarianism, that they want a national-unity government. But they also supported the idea of quotas to ensure a certain number of people from each sect in the government, in the ministries. If you eliminate sectarianism and say we will truly have a national-unity government, and we will only appoint ministers who are qualified, what happens if the ministers that come are not Sunni Arabs?

Abd al-Sattar:
I think that if you go with the constitution, if you go with the program of this government...I think that if the government puts a Sunni [Arab] person who is not with Al-Tawafuq...this goes against the constitution and [is] not with the government program. I think that if this will happen, it will not solve the problem.

We do not want to [force] Sunni [Arab] people -- [either] from Al-Tawafuq or from a party from [within] Al-Tawafuq into the government -- this is not a solution. I think we will never mind [if] anyone -- Shi'ite or not Shi'ite, Kurdish or Arabic, Muslims or not, or Christians, will be the prime minister -- we will not mind. But we must guide [ourselves] in a national way, not in a double-standard way, not in a sectarian way. The prime minister must be the prime minister of all Iraqis, not [the prime minister] of a part of Iraq, not [only] of [the] Shi'a, not of [the] Sunnis.

What al-Maliki does is, he is a prime minister of the Shi'a, not the prime minister of all. So, after one year and three months from this government, we feel and we find -- we confirm this -- that the government is a sectarian government. Yes, we are Sunni people...but this is not because we are [Sunni]. Every Iraqi is either Sunni or Shi'a or Kurdi or another, yes. But what his national program is, the Al-Da'wah [Party] and what we call the wing of Al-Da'wah which al-Maliki guides, is a very.... Al-Maliki's wing that is heading the government is a sliding wing [slippery slope], a monopolizing wing, and a wing that is clinging to power, and a police wing.

Al-Maliki in fact proved that he is the secretary-general of Al-Da'wah and at the same time the general commander of the Iraqi Army. And what he did now, he made himself the only leader and the first leader, and we can liken him to Saddam Hussein in his dictatorship, clinging to power. This is not possible [to continue this way].

Our country nowadays, any party, any person, any coalition, cannot guide our country. Our country must be guided by all [parties working together] and all must be helped by the United Nations, because our dilemma is more than [within our ability] to solve it and go to the right direction.

Does Al-Tawafuq have a relationship with former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari's wing of the Al-Da'wah Party?

Abd al-Sattar:
Yes, I think we have good relations with al-Ja'fari's group.... I think the Iraqi parties will not solve their problems [through] a [single] person, [whether] it's al-Ja'fari, al-Maliki, Allawi, or [Sunni Vice President Tariq] al-Hashimi, or [Shi'ite Vice President] Adil Abd al-Mahdi, or Talabani, or [Kurdistan regional President Mas'ud] Barzani [referring to all the possible names that might replace al-Maliki if the government falls].

The Iraqis need a program, a national program, not a sectarian program.... We need a national program, not a person [no matter] what kind this person is, [how] strong this person is....

Al-Anbar Relations

RFE/RL: How are Al-Tawafuq's relations with the Al-Anbar Salvation Council? Al-Maliki said last week that he may replace Al-Tawafuq ministers with members of the Al-Anbar Salvation Council.

Abd al-Sattar:
We have very good relations with the Abu Rishah group [tribes aligned with Sheikh Abd al-Sattar Abu Rishah], we have very good relations with the sheikhs of the tribes of Al-Anbar, but what we say about the Al-Anbar Salvation Council, this coalition is not present. Abd al-Sattar Abu Rishah said that the Al-Anbar Awakening Conference dismantled the Al-Anbar Salvation Council.

So, we have a good relation now, and all the sheiks of the tribes of Al-Anbar are with Al-Tawafuq now. In the next provincial council election of Al-Anbar, we will do a single, unified list. Their tribes are our tribes, and they are form us and we are from them.

There are some people from within the government and from outside the government who want to do something between us and the tribes of Al-Anbar. [They] didn't succeed in this goal, so I think we have no problem with [the tribes], and the names that [the Salvation Council] proposed to be the ministers in the government [to replace Al-Tawafuq] were withdrawn. I think this is not a problem to us nowadays.

Friday, August 10, 2007

W. Deen Mohammed Condemns N. of Islam - washingtonpost.com

    4:43 PM   No comments
W. Deen Mohammed Condemns N. of Islam

The Associated Press
Friday, August 10, 2007; 7:14 PM

LITTLE ROCK -- Imam W. Deen Mohammed, who transformed how African-American Muslims practice their faith, condemned the "hate rhetoric" of Nation of Islam leaders and predicted the group would soon embrace mainstream Islamic teaching the way he did three decades ago.

"The time for those leaders who had that hate rhetoric has come and passed _ and they know it," Mohammed told reporters Friday, after speaking at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. "For the last 10 years or more, they've just been selling wolf tickets to the white race and having fun while they collect money and have fancy lifestyles."

Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan has been fighting prostate cancer and last year stepped down from his post. A board currently oversees the secretive movement and has said nothing about who would succeed the ailing minister.

Mohammed, an African-American Sunni, said that his half brother Ishmael Muhammad and another man he would not identify are in the running to become the next leader of the Nation _ a sign, he said, that the group "had a strong desire to see religious change."

"These persons are already in position to clear up the destruction of the religion in the Nation of Islam," Mohammed said. He predicted the group would unite with his Muslim organization. "I think there's a merger coming," he said.

Mohammed and Farrakhan have a long and difficult history together.

Mohammed is the son of late Nation leader Elijah Muhammad, who was considered a prophet by his followers. When Elijah Muhammad died in 1975, W. Deen Mohammed was named his successor, but soon moved the Nation toward orthodox Islam, emphasizing its message of racial tolerance.

Farrakhan then broke with Mohammed and revived the old Nation of Islam and its teaching of black supremacy, which mainstream Muslims consider heretical.

But in recent years, Farrakhan haltingly tried to move the Nation toward traditional Islam. In 2000, he and Mohammed had a very public reconciliation, embracing each other with their followers and the media invited to watch. Since then, student Nation ministers have been studying the Quran with other orthodox Muslims, Mohammed said.

However, the change has not been complete and questions always remained about whether the two men had truly healed their rift.

Asked about the presidential election, Mohammed said he wouldn't vote for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, but would vote for "anybody that looks a lot like Barack Obama."

Still, he said it was important to keep religion separate from political leadership.

"You know, in the United States when you become president, you take the oath on the sacred Scriptures, the Bible," Mohammed said. "I think all we need to do is make sure that our government's leaders touch, just touch it, that's all."

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

CNS STORY: Iraqi Christians were safer under Saddam, says Vatican official

    9:29 AM   No comments
Iraqi Christians were safer under Saddam, says Vatican official

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Although Iraq has a democratic government, Iraqi Christians were safer and had more protection under former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, said the future head of the Vatican's interreligious dialogue council.

During the buildup to the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who will become head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue Sept. 1, had criticized the U.S. government's plan of preventative war and said a unilateral war against Iraq would be a "crime against peace."

In a recent interview with the Italian magazine 30 Giorni, the cardinal said his early criticisms had been prophetic.

"The facts speak for themselves. Alienating the international community (with the U.S. push for war) was a mistake," he said in the magazine's Aug. 10 issue. A copy of the interview was released in advance to journalists.

He said an "unjust approach" was used to unseat Saddam from power, resulting in the mounting chaos in Iraq today.

"Power is in the hands of the strongest -- the Shiites -- and the country is sinking into a sectarian civil war (between Sunni and Shiite Muslims) in which not even Christians are spared," he said.

Christians, "paradoxically, were more protected under the dictatorship," he said.

Cardinal Tauran is a longtime veteran of the Vatican's diplomatic service and a specialist in international affairs. He was Pope John Paul II's "foreign minister," the official who dealt with all aspects of the Vatican's foreign policy from 1990 to 2003.

He said his new appointment as head of the interreligious dialogue council carries "great responsibility" but that he also sees it "as a new chapter in my service to the Holy See." The cardinal will be responsible for overseeing the Vatican's dialogue efforts with representatives of non-Christian religions, including Islam.

His June 25 appointment alleviated concerns that Pope Benedict XVI's temporary merger of the presidencies of the Vatican's interreligious dialogue council with the Pontifical Council for Culture indicated a downgrading of the Vatican's interfaith efforts.

Cardinal Tauran told 30 Giorni, "We have to do everything so that religions spread brotherhood and not hatred."

The Vatican's efforts at bridge-building with Muslims hit a speed bump when the pope's remarks on Islam in a September speech in Regensburg, Germany, prompted negative reactions across the Muslim world.

When asked if the pope's Regensberg address had compromised the Vatican's dialogue efforts with Muslims, the cardinal replied, "At first, yes."

"But later, especially during his subsequent trip to Turkey, the pope explained himself very well," the cardinal said.

He said Pope Benedict has great respect for Muslims.

The controversies that arose after Regensburg only highlighted the importance of having a specific Vatican department dedicated to dialogue with Islam and other religions, he said.

"Thank God the erroneous interpretations of the Regensburg speech did not stop the development of relations -- diplomatic, too -- with Islamic nations," he said, giving the example of the recent establishment of full diplomatic relations between the United Arab Emirates and the Vatican.

Cardinal Tauran said that as head of the Vatican's interreligious dialogue office he would use as his guide the Second Vatican Council's declaration on relations with non-Christian religions, "Nostra Aetate."

"To examine everything humanity has in common ... and to appreciate how much truth and holiness there is in other religions" would be some of the council's goals, he said.

But the quest to understand others will leave room to courageously pay witness to "the way, truth, and life" of Jesus, he said.

"In this sense," he said, "our road map is obviously the declaration 'Dominus Iesus,'" the 2000 document of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which said Christ and the church are necessary for salvation.

Interreligious dialogue should not promote the idea that all religions are equal, he said, but that all religions "which are seeking God must be respected because they have the same dignity."


Tuesday, August 7, 2007

As British Leave, Basra Deteriorates - washingtonpost.com

    10:58 AM   No comments
As British Leave, Basra Deteriorates - washingtonpost.com: "As British Leave, Basra Deteriorates
Violence Rises in Shiite City Once Called a Success Story

By Karen DeYoung and Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, August 7, 2007; A01

As British forces pull back from Basra in southern Iraq, Shiite militias there have escalated a violent battle against each other for political supremacy and control over oil resources, deepening concerns among some U.S. officials in Baghdad that elements of Iraq's Shiite-dominated national government will turn on one another once U.S. troops begin to draw down.

Three major Shiite political groups are locked in a bloody conflict that has left the city in the hands of militias and criminal gangs, whose control extends to municipal offices and neighborhood streets. The city is plagued by 'the systematic misuse of official institutions, political assassinations, tribal vendettas, neighborhood vigilantism and enforcement of social mores, together with the rise of criminal mafias that increasingly intermingle with political actors,' a recent report by the International Crisis Group said.

After Saddam Hussein was overthrown in April 2003, British forces took control of the region, and the cosmopolitan port city of Basra thrived with trade, arts and universities. As recently as February, Vice President Cheney hailed"

Britain Asks for Release of 5 Detainees From Guantánamo - New York Times

    10:57 AM   No comments
Britain Asks for Release of 5 Detainees From Guantánamo - New York Times: "August 7, 2007
Britain Asks for Release of 5 Detainees From Guantánamo

LONDON, Aug. 7 — In a major reversal of policy, the British government today asked the Bush administration to release five British residents that are being held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Under the previous government of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, Britain insisted that it had no obligation to assist the five men because they are not British citizens, even though they all had legal residence status in Britain.

“We saw this as an opportunity to achieve ultimately the closure of Guantánamo,” said a British official, speaking on the usual condition of anonymity.

To that the extent, the British move today, which came in a letter from British Foreign Secretary David Miliband to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, is almost certain to be welcomed by the Bush administration, which has been trying to reduce the number of detainees at Guantánamo.

The administration has in the past been critical of the British government, and other governments, which have called for the closure of Guantánamo but then have been unwilling to take back some detainees.

At the same time, today’s move could lead to some"

BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Iraq power system 'near collapse'

    10:47 AM   No comments
Abbas to PM: I won't talk to Hamas
Herb Keinon, THE JERUSALEM POST Aug. 6, 2007

Concerned that a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation could end fledgling Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic momentum, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert received a commitment from Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting in Jericho on Monday that Abbas will not talk with Hamas, "despite the pressure," sources in Olmert's office said.

Olmert, according to officials in his office, told Abbas he should not hold reconciliation talks with Hamas.

A number of Arab countries - including Egypt and Saudi Arabia - as well as Russia have been trying to bring the two sides to negotiations. Abbas's response, according to Israeli officials, was that he had no intention of renewing a dialogue with Hamas.

Olmert met with Abbas for approximately three hours at the Intercontinental Hotel in Jericho, just north of the IDF checkpoint at the southern entrance to the town. This was the first meeting between an Israeli and Palestinian leader in the West Bank since Ehud Barak met with Yasser Arafat in Ramallah in 2000, before the increase in Palestinian violence. Olmert and Abbas met for the first 90 minutes alone, and then were joined by aides.

Olmert said after the private meeting that he and Abbas decided to "widen" the discussions to "advance understandings and reach a working model that will allow progress toward establishing a Palestinian state."

"The aim is to achieve US President George Bush's vision which both we and the Palestinians share of two states for two peoples, living in security and peace side by side, and we want to do this as soon as possible," he said.

Olmert, at the beginning of the talks, said: "I came here in order to discuss with you the fundamental issues outstanding between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, hoping that this will lead us soon into negotiations about the creation of a Palestinian state."

Israeli officials stressed, however, that when Olmert says "fundamental issues," he is referring to building accountable Palestinian governing institutions and an effective PA security apparatus, while the Palestinians believe the fundamental issues include discussions on the borders of the future Palestinian state, the Palestinian refugees, the status of settlements in the West Bank and the future of Jerusalem.

Olmert's motorcade drove into Jericho as two helicopters hovered overhead. The decision to meet in Jericho, despite the security risks, was taken as a symbolic gesture to Abbas, and to send a signal of parity to the Palestinians. Israeli officials described the atmosphere at the meeting, where a lunch was prepared by PA negotiator Saeb Erekat's wife, as "good" and "constructive."

"I'm delighted to see you," Olmert told Abbas as they embraced outside the hotel. Both Palestinian and Israeli flags were set up for the meeting.

According to Israeli officials, the two men agreed to cooperate in building an effective Palestinian security apparatus and governing institutions.

Abbas, according to sources in Olmert's office, called on the prime minister to release more security prisoners, beyond the 250 who were let go last month, and to allow the return of some 20 Palestinian gunmen who were deported in 2002 to Europe and the Gaza Strip after they holed up in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity.

Olmert, again according to his office, said he would consider these requests. Abbas also asked him to remove checkpoints in the West Bank and to allow Palestinians more freedom of movement, something Olmert said he would discuss with the defense establishment.

The two leaders decided that humanitarian aid to Gaza would continue and that an economic council made up of Israeli and Palestinian businessmen would be established to consider ways of economic cooperation in the West Bank.

Israeli officials said that the two men did not discuss the situation in Gaza.

In a related development, President Shimon Peres told visiting Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stre on Monday that Norway needed to take a strong and clear stand against Hamas.

Norway irked Jerusalem in March, after the Mecca agreement between Hamas and Fatah was signed creating a unity government, by quickly announcing it was reestablishing relations with Hamas.

According to Peres's office, Stre said Norway had cut off all ties it had with Hamas during the period of the Palestinian unity government, and now had no contact with the Islamist organization.

"We have never given money to Hamas, and never will," he said.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni also related to Norway's willingness to deal with Hamas earlier in the year, saying in her meeting with Stre that Fatah-Hamas unity meant a diplomatic "freeze" and a "deterioration" in the situation.

"The Israelis and Palestinians need to decide," she said. "Our relations with Hamas are not a punishment for the past, but rather stems from the fact that it is preventing any chance or hope for the future."

Livni said the Arab world and the international community should support the current PA government and the steps Israel had taken to bolster it as part of a process of "normalization in stages."

Stre is visiting along with Pietro Fassino, the national secretary of Italy's Democrats of the Left Party, as cochairmen of the Socialist International's Mideast committee. The two are scheduled to hold meetings in Ramallah with Palestinian leaders on Tuesday.

BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Iraq power system 'near collapse'

    10:29 AM   No comments
Iraq power system 'near collapse'
Iraq's national power grid is on the brink of collapse, the country's electricity ministry has warned.

Water supplies to Baghdad have also been cut off for days at a time, with summertime pressures on key systems said to be more intense than ever.

The ministry blamed poor maintenance, fuel shortages, sabotage by insurgents and rising demand for the problems, and said some provinces hold onto supplies.

The US Army told the BBC that Iraq must now take charge of fixing the problems.

The general in charge of helping Iraq rebuild its infrastructure, Michael Walsh, said that although Iraqi authorities only have one-quarter of the money needed for reconstruction, solving the problem was now up to them.

Gen Walsh told the BBC that the US had jump-started reconstruction but that, working with donor nations, the Iraqi government needed to do the rest.


The Iraqi warning came a week after the charity, Oxfam, and a coalition of Iraqi NGOs reported that nearly one-third of Iraq's population was in need of immediate emergency aid.

Their report suggested 70% of Iraqis did not have adequate water supplies and that only 20% had access to effective sanitation.

What makes Baghdad the worst place in the country is that most of the lines leading into the capital have been destroyed
Aziz al-Shimari
Iraqi electricity ministry

A spokesman for the electricity ministry said Iraq's electricity system was only meeting half of the demand and that there had been four nationwide blackouts last week.

Aziz al-Shimari said the shortages were the worst since the summer of 2003, shortly after the US-led invasion overthrew Saddam Hussein.

Baghdad residents are complaining that the situation this summer is even worse than four years ago, correspondents say.

Poor maintenance and a lack of diesel fuel have left even newly-refurbished power stations working below capacity.

The continuing threat of damage by insurgents has also been a challenge, with 15 of the 17 high voltage lines running into Baghdad have been sabotaged.

"When we fix a line, the insurgents attack it the next day," Mr Shimari told the Associated Press.

'No control'

The problems have been compounded by provinces holding onto supplies for themselves rather than powering Baghdad.

"Many southern provinces such as Basra, Diwaniya, Nasiriya and Babil have disconnected their power plants from the national grid. Northern provinces, including Kurdistan, are doing the same," Mr Shimari said.

"We have absolutely no control over some areas in the south."

Mr Shimari warned that the national grid would collapse if the provinces did not "abide by the rules".

"Everybody will lose and there will be no electricity winner," he said.

Baghdad's water supply has also been severely affected by failing power supplies.

New water treatment plants are working, but a lack of power and broken pipes mean that the water is easily contaminated and hardly flows at all in many places.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2007/08/07 12:44:50 GMT

Monday, August 6, 2007

The calamity of disregard

    9:24 AM   No comments
The calamity of disregard

It is now chillingly clear: MI6's pre-Iraq warnings were swept aside by an obsessed White House

By Richard Norton-Taylor

08/04/07 "The Guardian" -- -- - I
n the run-up to war, senior British security and intelligence officials as well as diplomats made it clear that they were strongly opposed to the invasion of Iraq - though not clear enough. Why now, why Iraq, they asked; it would merely increase the terrorist threat, as the joint intelligence committee warned ministers less than a month before British troops and bombers joined the US attack on the country. Concern in Whitehall was shared by some perspicacious Americans, including General Tony Zinni, the former head of US central command, which is responsible for operations throughout the Middle East. He called it the wrong war, fought in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

Now comes fresh evidence that senior British officials tried to persuade the Bush administration to keep off Iraq and concentrate on Afghanistan, the real source of terrorist violence inspired by al-Qaida. On the Brink, the newly published memoirs of Tyler Drumheller - the CIA's chief of clandestine operations in Europe until 2005 - tells of a meeting on September 12 2001. The day after al-Qaida's attacks on America, George Tenet, then CIA director, met three British guests - Sir David Manning, then Tony Blair's foreign policy adviser; Richard Dearlove, then head of MI6; and Eliza Manningham-Buller, then head of MI5. "I hope we can all agree that we should concentrate on Afghanistan and not be tempted to launch any attacks on Iraq," Drumheller quotes the leader of the British delegation as telling Tenet.

In a recent article in the New York Review of Books on Tenet's autobiography, At the Center of the Storm, Thomas Powers points out that Tenet names his British guests but omits what was said at the meeting - while Drumheller reports what was said but was prevented by the CIA (which did not want to upset the British) from identifying who said it.

Powers says the appeal not to attack Iraq came from Manning. Drumheller does not dispute that. In his book he says Tenet responded to Manning by saying: "Absolutely, we all agree on that. Some might want to link the issues, but none of us wants to go that route."

A few days later, a group of diplomats and MI6 officers met their American counterparts at a lunch at the British embassy in Washington. Again MI6 expressed concern that the Bush administration had Iraq in its sights. A senior official (Drumheller, obeying instructions, does not identify the official or his nationality) went further, inquiring what the CIA was going to do once the US had "hit the mercury with the hammer in Afghanistan and the al-Qaida cadre has spread all over the world". The official asked: "Aren't you concerned about the potential destabilising effect on Middle Eastern countries?"

Questioned last week about just how far MI6 and other British officials tried to apply pressure on the Americans, Drumheller told the Guardian: "I think the British did everything they could to keep the US focused on Afghanistan. They understood Iraq much better than we did." One of the things they understood was that there was no link between al-Qaida and Saddam, an assertion made against all the evidence by Dick Cheney and his circle.

The worrying, even terrifying, thing about these and other accounts by former CIA officers is the ease with which America's intelligence agency was swept aside by cliques in the White House and the Pentagon intent on war. The CIA's weakness had a knock-on effect on MI6 as both agencies became victims of the blind determination of their respective political masters.

The Bush administration's obsession with Iraq, and Blair's failure to do anything about it, left a dangerous vacuum in Afghanistan. The Taliban was allowed to fill it, and British soldiers continue to be killed there.

· Richard Norton-Taylor is the Guardian's security affairs editor - richard.norton-taylor@guardian.co.uk

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2007.

American Spreads Hiroshima Legacy - MSNBC Wire Services - MSNBC.com

    9:19 AM   No comments
American Spreads Hiroshima Legacy - MSNBC Wire Services - MSNBC.com
American Spreads Hiroshima Legacy
Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press
Updated: 12:02 p.m. CT Aug 4, 2007

TOKYO - Sixty-two years later, the memory of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima still holds such a grip on Japan that its defense minister has had to resign simply for suggesting the attack was "unavoidable."

Now, in a sign of changing times, the task of spreading Hiroshima's message to the world has been entrusted to an American, a citizen of the country that dropped the bomb on Aug. 6, 1945.

Monday's anniversary comes just a month after Fumio Kyuma was forced to quit as defense minister for seeming to implying that the bombing was inevitable, because otherwise Japan would have gone on fighting and would have lost territory to a Soviet invasion.

Not so, says Steven Leeper, the first American to head the Hiroshima Peace and Culture Foundation. "Historically, that's not correct," he said in an interview, "And it's unbelievable that he said it."

Leeper shares the view of most Japanese: that Japan had already lost the war and that the bombing of Hiroshima, and of Nagasaki three days later, was wrong and unnecessary.

"Everybody knows on the left and the right that Japan was finished at the time the bomb was dropped," Leeper said.

Historically, the American justification was that the bombing ended the war and limited the number of U.S. military and Japanese civilian lives that would have been lost in a land invasion.

The Japanese perspective argues that Japan was already working on negotiating a peace treaty, as well as a surrender, and that the U.S. dropped the bomb to test its destructive power and to intimidate the Soviet Union.

Leeper says that rather than focus on fixing blame, Hiroshima needs to work to educate people in other countries about the effects of nuclear weapons.

The 59-year-old American has lived in both countries and says he became interested in disarmament issues when his translation company worked with bomb survivors. In 1999, he created the Global Peacemakers Association in Hiroshima, an organization that trains youth and elderly to travel abroad and speak about the bombings in Japanese and English.

Leeper says his appointment by Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba has been largely supported because he can bridge the language gap and foster a more "cosmopolitan" Hiroshima.

"There have been some people outside Hiroshima who have written letters complaining after my appointment got into the national press. But really very few," he said. "By far, it's mostly enthusiastic praise of the mayor for putting me here, and taking such a bold step."

His group has offered to send exhibits of survivor testimonies, films and educational posters to libraries, universities and museums across the United States. The city has collected photos, stories and video memories from more than 118,000 survivors.

Leeper said he will also use his translation skills to build nuclear weapons education programs in English and encourage relationships with international peace organizations.

He is working against time, noting that as time passes the number of survivors is dwindling and their largest organization "disbanded for lack of people." Survivors often lead the school groups that tour the peace park built on the wreckage of midtown Hiroshima.

"The survivors who are really healthy or active are mostly the ones who were very young children, or came into town later, so we don't have nearly as many who were right there to feel the blast," he said. "It's a problem for us."

The atomic bombing, the world's first, killed more than 140,000 people in Hiroshima. As they do on every anniversary, survivors, relatives of the deceased, residents and officials will attend a memorial service and release doves at the Peace Park at 8:15 a.m. Monday (7:15 p.m. EDT Sunday), the moment 62 years ago when the bomb struck.

The ceremony will take place near an arch-shaped cenotaph which holds 77 volumes filled with the names of those who perished.

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20122961/

Remembering Hiroshima - by David R. Henderson

    9:16 AM   No comments
Remembering Hiroshima - by David R. Henderson: "Remembering Hiroshima
David R. Henderson

Editor's note: The following is an encore presentation of David R. Henderson's column of July 31, 2006.

Sometimes, something happens that is so awful that we find ourselves rationalizing it, talking as if it had to happen, to make ourselves feel better about the horrible event. For many people, I believe, President Truman's dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945, were two such events. After all, if the leader of arguably the freest country in the world decided to drop those bombs, he had to have a good reason, didn't he? I grew up in Canada thinking that, horrible as it was, dropping the atomic bombs on those two cities was justified. Although I never believed that the people those bombs killed were mainly guilty people, I could at least tell myself that many more innocent people, including American military conscripts, would have been killed had the bombs not been dropped. But then I started to investigate. On the basis of that investigation, I have concluded that dropping the bomb was not necessary and caused, on net, tens of thousands, and possibly more than a hundred thousand, more deaths than were necessary."

A Reporter at Large: The Black Sites: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker

    9:13 AM   No comments
A Reporter at Large: The Black Sites: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker: "The Black Sites
A rare look inside the C.I.A.’s secret interrogation program.
by Jane Mayer August 13, 2007

The Black Sites

A rare look inside the C.I.A.’s secret interrogation program.

by Jane Mayer August 13, 2007

In the war on terror, one historian says, the C.I.A. “didn’t just bring back the old psychological techniques—they perfected them.”

In the war on terror, one historian says, the C.I.A. “didn’t just bring back the old psychological techniques—they perfected them.”

In March, Mariane Pearl, the widow of the murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, received a phone call from Alberto Gonzales, the Attorney General. At the time, Gonzales’s role in the controversial dismissal of eight United States Attorneys had just been exposed, and the story was becoming a scandal in Washington. Gonzales informed Pearl that the Justice Department was about to announce some good news: a terrorist in U.S. custody—Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the Al Qaeda leader who was the primary architect of the September 11th attacks—had confessed to killing her husband. (Pearl was abducted and beheaded five and a half years ago in Pakistan, by unidentified Islamic militants.) The Administration planned to release a transcript in which Mohammed boasted, “I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew Daniel Pearl in the city of Karachi, Pakistan. For those who would like to confirm, there are pictures of me on the Internet holding his head.”

Pearl was taken aback. In 2003, she had received a call from Condoleezza Rice, who was then President Bush’s national-security adviser, informing her of the same news. But Rice’s revelation had been secret. Gonzales’s announcement seemed like a publicity stunt. Pearl asked him if he had proof that Mohammed’s confession was truthful; Gonzales claimed to have corroborating evidence but wouldn’t share it. “It’s not enough for officials to call me and say they believe it,” Pearl said. “You need evidence.” (Gonzales did not respond to requests for comment.)

The circumstances surrounding the confession of Mohammed, whom law-enforcement officials refer to as K.S.M., were perplexing. He had no lawyer. After his capture in Pakistan, in March of 2003, the Central Intelligence Agency had detained him in undisclosed locations for more than two years; last fall, he was transferred to military custody in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. There were no named witnesses to his initial confession, and no solid information about what form of interrogation might have prodded him to talk, although reports had been published, in the Times and elsewhere, suggesting that C.I.A. officers had tortured him. At a hearing held at Guantánamo, Mohammed said that his testimony was freely given, but he also indicated that he had been abused by the C.I.A. (The Pentagon had classified as “top secret” a statement he had written detailing the alleged mistreatment.) And although Mohammed said that there were photographs confirming his guilt, U.S. authorities had found none. Instead, they had a copy of the video that had been released on the Internet, which showed the killer’s arms but offered no other clues to his identity.

Further confusing matters, a Pakistani named Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh had already been convicted of the abduction and murder, in 2002. A British-educated terrorist who had a history of staging kidnappings, he had been sentenced to death in Pakistan for the crime. But the Pakistani government, not known for its leniency, had stayed his execution. Indeed, hearings on the matter had been delayed a remarkable number of times—at least thirty—possibly because of his reported ties to the Pakistani intelligence service, which may have helped free him after he was imprisoned for terrorist activities in India. Mohammed’s confession would delay the execution further, since, under Pakistani law, any new evidence is grounds for appeal.

A surprising number of people close to the case are dubious of Mohammed’s confession. A longtime friend of Pearl’s, the former Journal reporter Asra Nomani, said, “The release of the confession came right in the midst of the U.S. Attorney scandal. There was a drumbeat for Gonzales’s resignation. It seemed like a calculated strategy to change the subject. Why now? They’d had the confession for years.” Mariane and Daniel Pearl were staying in Nomani’s Karachi house at the time of his murder, and Nomani has followed the case meticulously; this fall, she plans to teach a course on the topic at Georgetown University. She said, “I don’t think this confession resolves the case. You can’t have justice from one person’s confession, especially under such unusual circumstances. To me, it’s not convincing.” She added, “I called all the investigators. They weren’t just skeptical—they didn’t believe it.”

Special Agent Randall Bennett, the head of security for the U.S. consulate in Karachi when Pearl was killed—and whose lead role investigating the murder was featured in the recent film “A Mighty Heart”—said that he has interviewed all the convicted accomplices who are now in custody in Pakistan, and that none of them named Mohammed as playing a role. “K.S.M.’s name never came up,” he said. Robert Baer, a former C.I.A. officer, said, “My old colleagues say with one-hundred-per-cent certainty that it was not K.S.M. who killed Pearl.” A government official involved in the case said, “The fear is that K.S.M. is covering up for others, and that these people will be released.” And Judea Pearl, Daniel’s father, said, “Something is fishy. There are a lot of unanswered questions. K.S.M. can say he killed Jesus—he has nothing to lose.”

Mariane Pearl, who is relying on the Bush Administration to bring justice in her husband’s case, spoke carefully about the investigation. “You need a procedure that will get the truth,” she said. “An intelligence agency is not supposed to be above the law.”

Mohammed’s interrogation was part of a secret C.I.A. program, initiated after September 11th, in which terrorist suspects such as Mohammed were detained in “black sites”—secret prisons outside the United States—and subjected to unusually harsh treatment. The program was effectively suspended last fall, when President Bush announced that he was emptying the C.I.A.’s prisons and transferring the detainees to military custody in Guantánamo. This move followed a Supreme Court ruling, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which found that all detainees—including those held by the C.I.A.—had to be treated in a manner consistent with the Geneva Conventions. These treaties, adopted in 1949, bar cruel treatment, degradation, and torture. In late July, the White House issued an executive order promising that the C.I.A. would adjust its methods in order to meet the Geneva standards. At the same time, Bush’s order pointedly did not disavow the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” that would likely be found illegal if used by officials inside the United States. The executive order means that the agency can once again hold foreign terror suspects indefinitely, and without charges, in black sites, without notifying their families or local authorities, or offering access to legal counsel.

The C.I.A.’s director, General Michael Hayden, has said that the program, which is designed to extract intelligence from suspects quickly, is an “irreplaceable” tool for combatting terrorism. And President Bush has said that “this program has given us information that has saved innocent lives, by helping us stop new attacks.” He claims that it has contributed to the disruption of at least ten serious Al Qaeda plots since September 11th, three of them inside the United States.

According to the Bush Administration, Mohammed divulged information of tremendous value during his detention. He is said to have helped point the way to the capture of Hambali, the Indonesian terrorist responsible for the 2002 bombings of night clubs in Bali. He also provided information on an Al Qaeda leader in England. Michael Sheehan, a former counterterrorism official at the State Department, said, “K.S.M. is the poster boy for using tough but legal tactics. He’s the reason these techniques exist. You can save lives with the kind of information he could give up.” Yet Mohammed’s confessions may also have muddled some key investigations. Perhaps under duress, he claimed involvement in thirty-one criminal plots—an improbable number, even for a high-level terrorist. Critics say that Mohammed’s case illustrates the cost of the C.I.A.’s desire for swift intelligence. Colonel Dwight Sullivan, the top defense lawyer at the Pentagon’s Office of Military Commissions, which is expected eventually to try Mohammed for war crimes, called his serial confessions “a textbook example of why we shouldn’t allow coercive methods.”

The Bush Administration has gone to great lengths to keep secret the treatment of the hundred or so “high-value detainees” whom the C.I.A. has confined, at one point or another, since September 11th. The program has been extraordinarily “compartmentalized,” in the nomenclature of the intelligence world. By design, there has been virtually no access for outsiders to the C.I.A.’s prisoners. The utter isolation of these detainees has been described as essential to America’s national security. The Justice Department argued this point explicitly last November, in the case of a Baltimore-area resident named Majid Khan, who was held for more than three years by the C.I.A. Khan, the government said, had to be prohibited from access to a lawyer specifically because he might describe the “alternative interrogation methods” that the agency had used when questioning him. These methods amounted to a state secret, the government argued, and disclosure of them could “reasonably be expected to cause extremely grave damage.” (The case has not yet been decided.)

Given this level of secrecy, the public and all but a few members of Congress who have been sworn to silence have had to take on faith President Bush’s assurances that the C.I.A.’s internment program has been humane and legal, and has yielded crucial intelligence. Representative Alcee Hastings, a Democratic member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, said, “We talk to the authorities about these detainees, but, of course, they’re not going to come out and tell us that they beat the living daylights out of someone.” He recalled learning in 2003 that Mohammed had been captured. “It was good news,” he said. “So I tried to find out: Where is this guy? And how is he being treated?” For more than three years, Hastings said, “I could never pinpoint anything.” Finally, he received some classified briefings on the Mohammed interrogation. Hastings said that he “can’t go into details” about what he found out, but, speaking of Mohammed’s treatment, he said that even if it wasn’t torture, as the Administration claims, “it ain’t right, either. Something went wrong.”

Since the drafting of the Geneva Conventions, the International Committee of the Red Cross has played a special role in safeguarding the rights of prisoners of war. For decades, governments have allowed officials from the organization to report on the treatment of detainees, to insure that standards set by international treaties are being maintained. The Red Cross, however, was unable to get access to the C.I.A.’s prisoners for five years. Finally, last year, Red Cross officials were allowed to interview fifteen detainees, after they had been transferred to Guantánamo. One of the prisoners was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. What the Red Cross learned has been kept from the public. The committee believes that its continued access to prisoners worldwide is contingent upon confidentiality, and therefore it addresses violations privately with the authorities directly responsible for prisoner treatment and detention. For this reason, Simon Schorno, a Red Cross spokesman in Washington, said, “The I.C.R.C. does not comment on its findings publicly. Its work is confidential.”

The public-affairs office at the C.I.A. and officials at the congressional intelligence-oversight committees would not even acknowledge the existence of the report. Among the few people who are believed to have seen it are Condoleezza Rice, now the Secretary of State; Stephen Hadley, the national-security adviser; John Bellinger III, the Secretary of State’s legal adviser; Hayden; and John Rizzo, the agency’s acting general counsel. Some members of the Senate and House intelligence-oversight committees are also believed to have had limited access to the report.

Confidentiality may be particularly stringent in this case. Congressional and other Washington sources familiar with the report said that it harshly criticized the C.I.A.’s practices. One of the sources said that the Red Cross described the agency’s detention and interrogation methods as tantamount to torture, and declared that American officials responsible for the abusive treatment could have committed serious crimes. The source said the report warned that these officials may have committed “grave breaches” of the Geneva Conventions, and may have violated the U.S. Torture Act, which Congress passed in 1994. The conclusions of the Red Cross, which is known for its credibility and caution, could have potentially devastating legal ramifications.

Concern about the legality of the C.I.A.’s program reached a previously unreported breaking point last week when Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat on the intelligence committee, quietly put a “hold” on the confirmation of John Rizzo, who as acting general counsel was deeply involved in establishing the agency’s interrogation and detention policies. Wyden’s maneuver essentially stops the nomination from going forward. “I question if there’s been adequate legal oversight,” Wyden told me. He said that after studying a classified addendum to President Bush’s new executive order, which specifies permissible treatment of detainees, “I am not convinced that all of these techniques are either effective or legal. I don’t want to see well-intentioned C.I.A. officers breaking the law because of shaky legal guidance.”

A former C.I.A. officer, who supports the agency’s detention and interrogation policies, said he worried that, if the full story of the C.I.A. program ever surfaced, agency personnel could face criminal prosecution. Within the agency, he said, there is a “high level of anxiety about political retribution” for the interrogation program. If congressional hearings begin, he said, “several guys expect to be thrown under the bus.” He noted that a number of C.I.A. officers have taken out professional liability insurance, to help with potential legal fees.

Paul Gimigliano, a spokesman for the C.I.A., denied any legal impropriety, stressing that “the agency’s terrorist-detention program has been implemented lawfully. And torture is illegal under U.S. law. The people who have been part of this important effort are well-trained, seasoned professionals.” This spring, the Associated Press published an article quoting the chairman of the House intelligence committee, Silvestre Reyes, who said that Hayden, the C.I.A. director, “vehemently denied” the Red Cross’s conclusions. A U.S. official dismissed the Red Cross report as a mere compilation of allegations made by terrorists. And Robert Grenier, a former head of the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorism Center, said that “the C.I.A.’s interrogations were nothing like Abu Ghraib or Guantánamo. They were very, very regimented. Very meticulous.” He said, “The program is very careful. It’s completely legal.”

Accurately or not, Bush Administration officials have described the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo as the unauthorized actions of ill-trained personnel, eleven of whom have been convicted of crimes. By contrast, the treatment of high-value detainees has been directly, and repeatedly, approved by President Bush. The program is monitored closely by C.I.A. lawyers, and supervised by the agency’s director and his subordinates at the Counterterrorism Center. While Mohammed was being held by the agency, detailed dossiers on the treatment of detainees were regularly available to the former C.I.A. director George Tenet, according to informed sources inside and outside the agency. Through a spokesperson, Tenet denied making day-to-day decisions about the treatment of individual detainees. But, according to a former agency official, “Every single plan is drawn up by interrogators, and then submitted for approval to the highest possible level—meaning the director of the C.I.A. Any change in the plan—even if an extra day of a certain treatment was added—was signed off by the C.I.A. director.”

On September 17, 2001, President Bush signed a secret Presidential finding authorizing the C.I.A. to create paramilitary teams to hunt, capture, detain, or kill designated terrorists almost anywhere in the world. Yet the C.I.A. had virtually no trained interrogators. A former C.I.A. officer involved in fighting terrorism said that, at first, the agency was crippled by its lack of expertise. “It began right away, in Afghanistan, on the fly,” he recalled. “They invented the program of interrogation with people who had no understanding of Al Qaeda or the Arab world.” The former officer said that the pressure from the White House, in particular from Vice-President Dick Cheney, was intense: “They were pushing us: ‘Get information! Do not let us get hit again!’ ” In the scramble, he said, he searched the C.I.A.’s archives, to see what interrogation techniques had worked in the past. He was particularly impressed with the Phoenix Program, from the Vietnam War. Critics, including military historians, have described it as a program of state-sanctioned torture and murder. A Pentagon-contract study found that, between 1970 and 1971, ninety-seven per cent of the Vietcong targeted by the Phoenix Program were of negligible importance. But, after September 11th, some C.I.A. officials viewed the program as a useful model. A. B. Krongard, who was the executive director of the C.I.A. from 2001 to 2004, said that the agency turned to “everyone we could, including our friends in Arab cultures,” for interrogation advice, among them those in Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, all of which the State Department regularly criticizes for human-rights abuses.

The C.I.A. knew even less about running prisons than it did about hostile interrogations. Tyler Drumheller, a former chief of European operations at the C.I.A., and the author of a recent book, “On the Brink: How the White House Compromised U.S. Intelligence,” said, “The agency had no experience in detention. Never. But they insisted on arresting and detaining people in this program. It was a mistake, in my opinion. You can’t mix intelligence and police work. But the White House was really pushing. They wanted someone to do it. So the C.I.A. said, ‘We’ll try.’ George Tenet came out of politics, not intelligence. His whole modus operandi was to please the principal. We got stuck with all sorts of things. This is really the legacy of a director who never said no to anybody.”

Many officials inside the C.I.A. had misgivings. “A lot of us knew this would be a can of worms,” the former officer said. “We warned them, It’s going to become an atrocious mess.” The problem from the start, he said, was that no one had thought through what he called “the disposal plan.” He continued, “What are you going to do with these people? The utility of someone like K.S.M. is, at most, six months to a year. You exhaust them. Then what? It would have been better if we had executed them.”

The C.I.A. program’s first important detainee was Abu Zubaydah, a top Al Qaeda operative, who was captured by Pakistani forces in March of 2002. Lacking in-house specialists on interrogation, the agency hired a group of outside contractors, who implemented a regime of techniques that one well-informed former adviser to the American intelligence community described as “a ‘Clockwork Orange’ kind of approach.” The experts were retired military psychologists, and their backgrounds were in training Special Forces soldiers how to survive torture, should they ever be captured by enemy states. The program, known as SERE—an acronym for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape—was created at the end of the Korean War. It subjected trainees to simulated torture, including waterboarding (simulated drowning), sleep deprivation, isolation, exposure to temperature extremes, enclosure in tiny spaces, bombardment with agonizing sounds, and religious and sexual humiliation. The SERE program was designed strictly for defense against torture regimes, but the C.I.A.’s new team used its expertise to help interrogators inflict abuse. “They were very arrogant, and pro-torture,” a European official knowledgeable about the program said. “They sought to render the detainees vulnerable—to break down all of their senses. It takes a psychologist trained in this to understand these rupturing experiences.”

The use of psychologists was also considered a way for C.I.A. officials to skirt measures such as the Convention Against Torture. The former adviser to the intelligence community said, “Clearly, some senior people felt they needed a theory to justify what they were doing. You can’t just say, ‘We want to do what Egypt’s doing.’ When the lawyers asked what their basis was, they could say, ‘We have Ph.D.s who have these theories.’ ” He said that, inside the C.I.A., where a number of scientists work, there was strong internal opposition to the new techniques. “Behavioral scientists said, ‘Don’t even think about this!’ They thought officers could be prosecuted.”

Nevertheless, the SERE experts’ theories were apparently put into practice with Zubaydah’s interrogation. Zubaydah told the Red Cross that he was not only waterboarded, as has been previously reported; he was also kept for a prolonged period in a cage, known as a “dog box,” which was so small that he could not stand. According to an eyewitness, one psychologist advising on the treatment of Zubaydah, James Mitchell, argued that he needed to be reduced to a state of “learned helplessness.” (Mitchell disputes this characterization.)

Steve Kleinman, a reserve Air Force colonel and an experienced interrogator who has known Mitchell professionally for years, said that “learned helplessness was his whole paradigm.” Mitchell, he said, “draws a diagram showing what he says is the whole cycle. It starts with isolation. Then they eliminate the prisoners’ ability to forecast the future—when their next meal is, when they can go to the bathroom. It creates dread and dependency. It was the K.G.B. model. But the K.G.B. used it to get people who had turned against the state to confess falsely. The K.G.B. wasn’t after intelligence.”

As the C.I.A. captured and interrogated other Al Qaeda figures, it established a protocol of psychological coercion. The program tied together many strands of the agency’s secret history of Cold War-era experiments in behavioral science. (In June, the C.I.A. declassified long-held secret documents known as the Family Jewels, which shed light on C.I.A. drug experiments on rats and monkeys, and on the infamous case of Frank R. Olson, an agency employee who leaped to his death from a hotel window in 1953, nine days after he was unwittingly drugged with LSD.) The C.I.A.’s most useful research focussed on the surprisingly powerful effects of psychological manipulations, such as extreme sensory deprivation. According to Alfred McCoy, a history professor at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, who has written a history of the C.I.A.’s experiments in coercing subjects, the agency learned that “if subjects are confined without light, odors, sound, or any fixed references of time and place, very deep breakdowns can be provoked.”

Agency scientists found that in just a few hours some subjects suspended in water tanks—or confined in isolated rooms wearing blacked-out goggles and earmuffs—regressed to semi-psychotic states. Moreover, McCoy said, detainees become so desperate for human interaction that “they bond with the interrogator like a father, or like a drowning man having a lifesaver thrown at him. If you deprive people of all their senses, they’ll turn to you like their daddy.” McCoy added that “after the Cold War we put away those tools. There was bipartisan reform. We backed away from those dark days. Then, under the pressure of the war on terror, they didn’t just bring back the old psychological techniques—they perfected them.”

The C.I.A.’s interrogation program is remarkable for its mechanistic aura. “It’s one of the most sophisticated, refined programs of torture ever,” an outside expert familiar with the protocol said. “At every stage, there was a rigid attention to detail. Procedure was adhered to almost to the letter. There was top-down quality control, and such a set routine that you get to the point where you know what each detainee is going to say, because you’ve heard it before. It was almost automated. People were utterly dehumanized. People fell apart. It was the intentional and systematic infliction of great suffering masquerading as a legal process. It is just chilling.”

The U.S. government first began tracking Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in 1993, shortly after his nephew Ramzi Yousef blew a gaping hole in the World Trade Center. Mohammed, officials learned, had transferred money to Yousef. Mohammed, born in either 1964 or 1965, was raised in a religious Sunni Muslim family in Kuwait, where his family had migrated from the Baluchistan region of Pakistan. In the mid-eighties, he was trained as a mechanical engineer in the U.S., attending two colleges in North Carolina.

As a teen-ager, Mohammed had been drawn to militant, and increasingly violent, Muslim causes. He joined the Muslim Brotherhood at the age of sixteen, and, after his graduation from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, in Greensboro—where he was remembered as a class clown, but religious enough to forgo meat when eating at Burger King—he signed on with the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan, receiving military training and establishing ties with Islamist terrorists. By all accounts, his animus toward the U.S. was rooted in a hatred of Israel.

In 1994, Mohammed, who was impressed by Yousef’s notoriety after the first World Trade Center bombing, joined him in scheming to blow up twelve U.S. jumbo jets over two days. The so-called Bojinka plot was disrupted in 1995, when Philippine police broke into an apartment that Yousef and other terrorists were sharing in Manila, which was filled with bomb-making materials. At the time of the raid, Mohammed was working in Doha, Qatar, at a government job. The following year, he narrowly escaped capture by F.B.I. officers and slipped into the global jihadist network, where he eventually joined forces with Osama bin Laden, in Afghanistan. Along the way, he married and had children.

Many journalistic accounts have presented Mohammed as a charismatic, swashbuckling figure: in the Philippines, he was said to have flown a helicopter close enough to a girlfriend’s office window so that she could see him; in Pakistan, he supposedly posed as an anonymous bystander and gave interviews to news reporters about his nephew’s arrest. Neither story is true. But Mohammed did seem to enjoy taunting authorities after the September 11th attacks, which, in his eventual confession, he claimed to have orchestrated “from A to Z.” In April, 2002, Mohammed arranged to be interviewed on Al Jazeera by its London bureau chief, Yosri Fouda, and took personal credit for the atrocities. “I am the head of the Al Qaeda military committee,” he said. “And yes, we did it.” Fouda, who conducted the interview at an Al Qaeda safe house in Karachi, said that he was astounded not only by Mohammed’s boasting but also by his seeming imperviousness to the danger of being caught. Mohammed permitted Al Jazeera to reveal that he was hiding out in the Karachi area. When Fouda left the apartment, Mohammed, apparently unarmed, walked him downstairs and out into the street.

In the early months of 2003, U.S. authorities reportedly paid a twenty-five-million-dollar reward for information that led to Mohammed’s arrest. U.S. officials closed in on him, at 4 A.M. on March 1st, waking him up in a borrowed apartment in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. The officials hung back as Pakistani authorities handcuffed and hooded him, and took him to a safe house. Reportedly, for the first two days, Mohammed robotically recited Koranic verses and refused to divulge much more than his name. A videotape obtained by “60 Minutes” shows Mohammed at the end of this episode, complaining of a head cold; an American voice can be heard in the background. This was the last image of Mohammed to be seen by the public. By March 4th, he was in C.I.A. custody.

Captured along with Mohammed, according to some accounts, was a letter from bin Laden, which may have led officials to think that he knew where the Al Qaeda founder was hiding. If Mohammed did have this crucial information, it was time sensitive—bin Laden never stayed in one place for long—and officials needed to extract it quickly. At the time, many American intelligence officials still feared a “second wave” of Al Qaeda attacks, ratcheting the pressure further.

According to George Tenet’s recent memoir, “At the Center of the Storm,” Mohammed told his captors that he wouldn’t talk until he was given a lawyer in New York, where he assumed he would be taken. (He had been indicted there in connection with the Bojinka plot.) Tenet writes, “Had that happened, I am confident that we would have obtained none of the information he had in his head about imminent threats against the American people.” Opponents of the C.I.A.’s approach, however, note that Ramzi Yousef gave a voluminous confession after being read his Miranda rights. “These guys are egomaniacs,” a former federal prosecutor said. “They love to talk!”

A complete picture of Mohammed’s time in secret detention remains elusive. But a partial narrative has emerged through interviews with European and American sources in intelligence, government, and legal circles, as well as with former detainees who have been released from C.I.A. custody. People familiar with Mohammed’s allegations about his interrogation, and interrogations of other high-value detainees, describe the accounts as remarkably consistent.

Soon after Mohammed’s arrest, sources say, his American captors told him, “We’re not going to kill you. But we’re going to take you to the very brink of your death and back.” He was first taken to a secret U.S.-run prison in Afghanistan. According to a Human Rights Watch report released two years ago, there was a C.I.A.-affiliated black site in Afghanistan by 2002: an underground prison near Kabul International Airport. Distinctive for its absolute lack of light, it was referred to by detainees as the Dark Prison. Another detention facility was reportedly a former brick factory, just north of Kabul, known as the Salt Pit. The latter became infamous for the 2002 death of a detainee, reportedly from hypothermia, after prison officials stripped him naked and chained him to the floor of his concrete cell, in freezing temperatures.

In all likelihood, Mohammed was transported from Pakistan to one of the Afghan sites by a team of black-masked commandos attached to the C.I.A.’s paramilitary Special Activities Division. According to a report adopted in June by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, titled “Secret Detentions and Illegal Transfers of Detainees,” detainees were “taken to their cells by strong people who wore black outfits, masks that covered their whole faces, and dark visors over their eyes.” (Some personnel reportedly wore black clothes made from specially woven synthetic fabric that couldn’t be ripped or torn.) A former member of a C.I.A. transport team has described the “takeout” of prisoners as a carefully choreographed twenty-minute routine, during which a suspect was hog-tied, stripped naked, photographed, hooded, sedated with anal suppositories, placed in diapers, and transported by plane to a secret location.

A person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry, referring to cavity searches and the frequent use of suppositories during the takeout of detainees, likened the treatment to “sodomy.” He said, “It was used to absolutely strip the detainee of any dignity. It breaks down someone’s sense of impenetrability. The interrogation became a process not just of getting information but of utterly subordinating the detainee through humiliation.” The former C.I.A. officer confirmed that the agency frequently photographed the prisoners naked, “because it’s demoralizing.” The person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry said that photos were also part of the C.I.A.’s quality-control process. They were passed back to case officers for review.

A secret government document, dated December 10, 2002, detailing “SERE Interrogation Standard Operating Procedure,” outlines the advantages of stripping detainees. “In addition to degradation of the detainee, stripping can be used to demonstrate the omnipotence of the captor or to debilitate the detainee.” The document advises interrogators to “tear clothing from detainees by firmly pulling downward against buttoned buttons and seams. Tearing motions shall be downward to prevent pulling the detainee off balance.” The memo also advocates the “Shoulder Slap,” “Stomach Slap,” “Hooding,” “Manhandling,” “Walling,” and a variety of “Stress Positions,” including one called “Worship the Gods.”

In the process of being transported, C.I.A. detainees such as Mohammed were screened by medical experts, who checked their vital signs, took blood samples, and marked a chart with a diagram of a human body, noting scars, wounds, and other imperfections. As the person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry put it, “It’s like when you hire a motor vehicle, circling where the scratches are on the rearview mirror. Each detainee was continually assessed, physically and psychologically.”

According to sources, Mohammed said that, while in C.I.A. custody, he was placed in his own cell, where he remained naked for several days. He was questioned by an unusual number of female handlers, perhaps as an additional humiliation. He has alleged that he was attached to a dog leash, and yanked in such a way that he was propelled into the walls of his cell. Sources say that he also claimed to have been suspended from the ceiling by his arms, his toes barely touching the ground. The pressure on his wrists evidently became exceedingly painful.

Ramzi Kassem, who teaches at Yale Law School, said that a Yemeni client of his, Sanad al-Kazimi, who is now in Guantánamo, alleged that he had received similar treatment in the Dark Prison, the facility near Kabul. Kazimi claimed to have been suspended by his arms for long periods, causing his legs to swell painfully. “It’s so traumatic, he can barely speak of it,” Kassem said. “He breaks down in tears.” Kazimi also claimed that, while hanging, he was beaten with electric cables.

According to sources familiar with interrogation techniques, the hanging position is designed, in part, to prevent detainees from being able to sleep. The former C.I.A. officer, who is knowledgeable about the interrogation program, explained that “sleep deprivation works. Your electrolyte balance changes. You lose all balance and ability to think rationally. Stuff comes out.” Sleep deprivation has been recognized as an effective form of coercion since the Middle Ages, when it was called tormentum insomniae. It was also recognized for decades in the United States as an illegal form of torture. An American Bar Association report, published in 1930, which was cited in a later U.S. Supreme Court decision, said, “It has been known since 1500 at least that deprivation of sleep is the most effective torture and certain to produce any confession desired.”

Under President Bush’s new executive order, C.I.A. detainees must receive the “basic necessities of life, including adequate food and water, shelter from the elements, necessary clothing, protection from extremes of heat and cold, and essential medical care.” Sleep, according to the order, is not among the basic necessities.

In addition to keeping a prisoner awake, the simple act of remaining upright can over time cause significant pain. McCoy, the historian, noted that “longtime standing” was a common K.G.B. interrogation technique. In his 2006 book, “A Question of Torture,” he writes that the Soviets found that making a victim stand for eighteen to twenty-four hours can produce “excruciating pain, as ankles double in size, skin becomes tense and intensely painful, blisters erupt oozing watery serum, heart rates soar, kidneys shut down, and delusions deepen.”

Mohammed is said to have described being chained naked to a metal ring in his cell wall for prolonged periods in a painful crouch. (Several other detainees who say that they were confined in the Dark Prison have described identical treatment.) He also claimed that he was kept alternately in suffocating heat and in a painfully cold room, where he was doused with ice water. The practice, which can cause hypothermia, violates the Geneva Conventions, and President Bush’s new executive order arguably bans it.

Some detainees held by the C.I.A. claimed that their cells were bombarded with deafening sound twenty-fours hours a day for weeks, and even months. One detainee, Binyam Mohamed, who is now in Guantánamo, told his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, that speakers blared music into his cell while he was handcuffed. Detainees recalled the sound as ranging from ghoulish laughter, “like the soundtrack from a horror film,” to ear-splitting rap anthems. Stafford Smith said that his client found the psychological torture more intolerable than the physical abuse that he said he had been previously subjected to in Morocco, where, he said, local intelligence agents had sliced him with a razor blade. “The C.I.A. worked people day and night for months,” Stafford Smith quoted Binyam Mohamed as saying. “Plenty lost their minds. I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and doors, screaming their heads off.”

Professor Kassem said his Yemeni client, Kazimi, had told him that, during his incarceration in the Dark Prison, he attempted suicide three times, by ramming his head into the walls. “He did it until he lost consciousness,” Kassem said. “Then they stitched him back up. So he did it again. The next time, he woke up, he was chained, and they’d given him tranquillizers. He asked to go to the bathroom, and then he did it again.” This last time, Kazimi was given more tranquillizers, and chained in a more confining manner.

The case of Khaled el-Masri, another detainee, has received wide attention. He is the German car salesman whom the C.I.A. captured in 2003 and dispatched to Afghanistan, based on erroneous intelligence; he was released in 2004, and Condoleezza Rice reportedly conceded the mistake to the German chancellor. Masri is considered one of the more credible sources on the black-site program, because Germany has confirmed that he has no connections to terrorism. He has also described inmates bashing their heads against the walls. Much of his account appeared on the front page of the Times. But, during a visit to America last fall, he became tearful as he recalled the plight of a Tanzanian in a neighboring cell. The man seemed “psychologically at the end,” he said. “I could hear him ramming his head against the wall in despair. I tried to calm him down. I asked the doctor, ‘Will you take care of this human being?’ ” But the doctor, whom Masri described as American, refused to help. Masri also said that he was told that guards had “locked the Tanzanian in a suitcase for long periods of time—a foul-smelling suitcase that made him vomit.” (Masri did not witness such abuse.)

Masri described his prison in Afghanistan as a filthy hole, with walls scribbled on in Pashtun and Arabic. He was given no bed, only a coarse blanket on the floor. At night, it was too cold to sleep. He said, “The water was putrid. If you took a sip, you could taste it for hours. You could smell a foul smell from it three metres away.” The Salt Pit, he said, “was managed and run by the Americans. It was not a secret. They introduced themselves as Americans.” He added, “When anything came up, they said they couldn’t make a decision. They said, ‘We will have to pass it on to Washington.’ ” The interrogation room at the Salt Pit, he said, was overseen by a half-dozen English-speaking masked men, who shoved him and shouted at him, saying, “You’re in a country where there’s no rule of law. You might be buried here.”

According to two former C.I.A. officers, an interrogator of Mohammed told them that the Pakistani was kept in a cell over which a sign was placed: “The Proud Murderer of 3,000 Americans.” (Another source calls this apocryphal.) One of these former officers defends the C.I.A.’s program by noting that “there was absolutely nothing done to K.S.M. that wasn’t done to the interrogators themselves”—a reference to SERE-like training. Yet the Red Cross report emphasizes that it was the simultaneous use of several techniques for extended periods that made the treatment “especially abusive.” Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who has been a prominent critic of the Administration’s embrace of harsh interrogation techniques, said that, particularly with sensory deprivation, “there’s a point where it’s torture. You can put someone in a refrigerator and it’s torture. Everything is a matter of degree.”

One day, Mohammed was apparently transferred to a specially designated prison for high-value detainees in Poland. Such transfers were so secretive, according to the report by the Council of Europe, that the C.I.A. filed dummy flight plans, indicating that the planes were heading elsewhere. Once Polish air space was entered, the Polish aviation authority would secretly shepherd the flight, leaving no public documentation. The Council of Europe report notes that the Polish authorities would file a one-way flight plan out of the country, creating a false paper trail. (The Polish government has strongly denied that any black sites were established in the country.)

No more than a dozen high-value detainees were held at the Polish black site, and none have been released from government custody; accordingly, no first-hand accounts of conditions there have emerged. But, according to well-informed sources, it was a far more high-tech facility than the prisons in Afghanistan. The cells had hydraulic doors and air-conditioning. Multiple cameras in each cell provided video surveillance of the detainees. In some ways, the circumstances were better: the detainees were given bottled water. Without confirming the existence of any black sites, Robert Grenier, the former C.I.A. counterterrorism chief, said, “The agency’s techniques became less aggressive as they learned the art of interrogation,” which, he added, “is an art.”

Mohammed was kept in a prolonged state of sensory deprivation, during which every point of reference was erased. The Council on Europe’s report describes a four-month isolation regime as typical. The prisoners had no exposure to natural light, making it impossible for them to tell if it was night or day. They interacted only with masked, silent guards. (A detainee held at what was most likely an Eastern European black site, Mohammed al-Asad, told me that white noise was piped in constantly, although during electrical outages he could hear people crying.) According to a source familiar with the Red Cross report, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed claimed that he was shackled and kept naked, except for a pair of goggles and earmuffs. (Some prisoners were kept naked for as long as forty days.) He had no idea where he was, although, at one point, he apparently glimpsed Polish writing on a water bottle.

In the C.I.A.’s program, meals were delivered sporadically, to insure that the prisoners remained temporally disoriented. The food was largely tasteless, and barely enough to live on. Mohammed, who upon his capture in Rawalpindi was photographed looking flabby and unkempt, was now described as being slim. Experts on the C.I.A. program say that the administering of food is part of its psychological arsenal. Sometimes portions were smaller than the day before, for no apparent reason. “It was all part of the conditioning,” the person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry said. “It’s all calibrated to develop dependency.”

The inquiry source said that most of the Poland detainees were waterboarded, including Mohammed. According to the sources familiar with the Red Cross report, Mohammed claimed to have been waterboarded five times. Two former C.I.A. officers who are friends with one of Mohammed’s interrogators called this bravado, insisting that he was waterboarded only once. According to one of the officers, Mohammed needed only to be shown the drowning equipment again before he “broke.”

“Waterboarding works,” the former officer said. “Drowning is a baseline fear. So is falling. People dream about it. It’s human nature. Suffocation is a very scary thing. When you’re waterboarded, you’re inverted, so it exacerbates the fear. It’s not painful, but it scares the shit out of you.” (The former officer was waterboarded himself in a training course.) Mohammed, he claimed, “didn’t resist. He sang right away. He cracked real quick.” He said, “A lot of them want to talk. Their egos are unimaginable. K.S.M. was just a little doughboy. He couldn’t stand toe to toe and fight it out.”

The former officer said that the C.I.A. kept a doctor standing by during interrogations. He insisted that the method was safe and effective, but said that it could cause lasting psychic damage to the interrogators. During interrogations, the former agency official said, officers worked in teams, watching each other behind two-way mirrors. Even with this group support, the friend said, Mohammed’s interrogator “has horrible nightmares.” He went on, “When you cross over that line of darkness, it’s hard to come back. You lose your soul. You can do your best to justify it, but it’s well outside the norm. You can’t go to that dark a place without it changing you.” He said of his friend, “He’s a good guy. It really haunts him. You are inflicting something really evil and horrible on somebody.”

Among the few C.I.A. officials who knew the details of the detention and interrogation program, there was a tense debate about where to draw the line in terms of treatment. John Brennan, Tenet’s former chief of staff, said, “It all comes down to individual moral barometers.” Waterboarding, in particular, troubled many officials, from both a moral and a legal perspective. Until 2002, when Bush Administration lawyers asserted that waterboarding was a permissible interrogation technique for “enemy combatants,” it was classified as a form of torture, and treated as a serious criminal offense. American soldiers were court-martialled for waterboarding captives as recently as the Vietnam War.

A C.I.A. source said that Mohammed was subjected to waterboarding only after interrogators determined that he was hiding information from them. But Mohammed has apparently said that, even after he started coöperating, he was waterboarded. Footnotes to the 9/11 Commission report indicate that by April 17, 2003—a month and a half after he was captured—Mohammed had already started providing substantial information on Al Qaeda. Nonetheless, according to the person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry, he was kept in isolation for years. During this time, Mohammed supplied intelligence on the history of the September 11th plot, and on the structure and operations of Al Qaeda. He also described plots still in a preliminary phase of development, such as a plan to bomb targets on America’s West Coast.

Ultimately, however, Mohammed claimed responsibility for so many crimes that his testimony became to seem inherently dubious. In addition to confessing to the Pearl murder, he said that he had hatched plans to assassinate President Clinton, President Carter, and Pope John Paul II. Bruce Riedel, who was a C.I.A. analyst for twenty-nine years, and who now works at the Brookings Institution, said, “It’s difficult to give credence to any particular area of this large a charge sheet that he confessed to, considering the situation he found himself in. K.S.M. has no prospect of ever seeing freedom again, so his only gratification in life is to portray himself as the James Bond of jihadism.”

By 2004, there were growing calls within the C.I.A. to transfer to military custody the high-value detainees who had told interrogators what they knew, and to afford them some kind of due process. But Donald Rumsfeld, then the Defense Secretary, who had been heavily criticized for the abusive conditions at military prisons such as Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, refused to take on the agency’s detainees, a former top C.I.A. official said. “Rumsfeld’s attitude was, You’ve got a real problem.” Rumsfeld, the official said, “was the third most powerful person in the U.S. government, but he only looked out for the interests of his department—not the whole Administration.” (A spokesperson for Rumsfeld said that he had no comment.)

C.I.A. officials were stymied until the Supreme Court’s Hamdan ruling, which prompted the Administration to send what it said were its last high-value detainees to Cuba. Robert Grenier, like many people in the C.I.A., was relieved. “There has to be some sense of due process,” he said. “We can’t just make people disappear.” Still, he added, “The most important source of intelligence we had after 9/11 came from the interrogations of high-value detainees.” And he said that Mohammed was “the most valuable of the high-value detainees, because he had operational knowledge.” He went on, “I can respect people who oppose aggressive interrogations, but they should admit that their principles may be putting American lives at risk.”

Yet Philip Zelikow, the executive director of the 9/11 Commission and later the State Department’s top counsellor, under Rice, is not convinced that eliciting information from detainees justifies “physical torment.” After leaving the government last year, he gave a speech in Houston, in which he said, “The question would not be, Did you get information that proved useful? Instead it would be, Did you get information that could have been usefully gained only from these methods?” He concluded, “My own view is that the cool, carefully considered, methodical, prolonged, and repeated subjection of captives to physical torment, and the accompanying psychological terror, is immoral.”

Without more transparency, the value of the C.I.A.’s interrogation and detention program is impossible to evaluate. Setting aside the moral, ethical, and legal issues, even supporters, such as John Brennan, acknowledge that much of the information that coercion produces is unreliable. As he put it, “All these methods produced useful information, but there was also a lot that was bogus.” When pressed, one former top agency official estimated that “ninety per cent of the information was unreliable.” Cables carrying Mohammed’s interrogation transcripts back to Washington reportedly were prefaced with the warning that “the detainee has been known to withhold information or deliberately mislead.” Mohammed, like virtually all the top Al Qaeda prisoners held by the C.I.A., has claimed that, while under coercion, he lied to please his captors.

In theory, a military commission could sort out which parts of Mohammed’s confession are true and which are lies, and obtain a conviction. Colonel Morris D. Davis, the chief prosecutor at the Office of Military Commissions, said that he expects to bring charges against Mohammed “in a number of months.” He added, “I’d be shocked if the defense didn’t try to make K.S.M.’s treatment a problem for me, but I don’t think it will be insurmountable.”

Critics of the Administration fear that the unorthodox nature of the C.I.A.’s interrogation and detention program will make it impossible to prosecute the entire top echelon of Al Qaeda leaders in captivity. Already, according to the Wall Street Journal, credible allegations of torture have caused a Marine Corps prosecutor reluctantly to decline to bring charges against Mohamedou Ould Slahi, an alleged Al Qaeda leader held in Guantánamo. Bruce Riedel, the former C.I.A. analyst, asked, “What are you going to do with K.S.M. in the long run? It’s a very good question. I don’t think anyone has an answer. If you took him to any real American court, I think any judge would say there is no admissible evidence. It would be thrown out.”

The problems with Mohammed’s coerced confessions are especially glaring in the Daniel Pearl case. It may be that Mohammed killed Pearl, but contradictory evidence and opinion continue to surface. Yosri Fouda, the Al Jazeera reporter who interviewed Mohammed in Karachi, said that although Mohammed handed him a package of propaganda items, including an unedited video of the Pearl murder, he never identified himself as playing a role in the killing, which occurred in the same city just two months earlier. And a federal official involved in Mohammed’s case said, “He has no history of killing with his own hands, although he’s proved happy to commit mass murder from afar.” Al Qaeda’s leadership had increasingly focussed on symbolic political targets. “For him, it’s not personal,” the official said. “It’s business.”

Ordinarily, the U.S. legal system is known for resolving such mysteries with painstaking care. But the C.I.A.’s secret interrogation program, Senator Levin said, has undermined the public’s trust in American justice, both here and abroad. “A guy as dangerous as K.S.M. is, and half the world wonders if they can believe him—is that what we want?” he asked. “Statements that can’t be believed, because people think they rely on torture?”

Asra Nomani, the Pearls’ friend, said of the Mohammed confession, “I’m not interested in unfair justice, even for bad people.” She went on, “Danny was such a person of conscience. I don’t think he would have wanted all of this dirty business. I don’t think he would have wanted someone being tortured. He would have been repulsed. This is the kind of story that Danny would have investigated. He really believed in American principles.”


Most popular articles

Karama Videos

Search for old news

Find Articles by year, month hierarchy

Contact Us


Email *

Message *


Copyright © KARAMA. All rights reserved.