This new Act demolishes habeas corpus,
the basic element of due process, not only for non-US citizens, but
also for anyone categorized as an "enemy combatant" -- as defined by
none other than Mr. President. Does he have to give a reason or
justification for such categorization? Does he have to supply any
evidence for the decision? Is there any mechanism for assessing the
strength of this evidence?
It's unilateral. All Mr. President has to do is a sign a piece of paper claiming that the prospective detainee has "purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States." This vacuous phrase means that anyone could be detained for the rest of their life, simply for contributing or participating in a group that Mr. President doesn't like; or even for simply criticizing the US government.
And worse still, unnoticed by many, this is the first piece of legislation that allows for US citizens to be defined as "unlawful enemy combatants", on the basis of which they can be detained with their civil and human rights severely curtailed.
Once detained, the Act deprives the detainee of all rights derived from the Geneva Convention. Civilians who have nothing to do with war can still be tried by a military commission rather than a normal civil court. There is no time-limit on the length of the trial, which could theoretically continue for until the detainee dies. The Act permits the use of classified intelligence evidence, and evidence extracted through torture. Evidence that the detainee is not necessarily allowed to even see or properly challenge. The Act also immunizes government officials for past war crimes.
Although the CIA practice of extraordinary rendition and torture has come under increasing scrutiny, the Military Commissions Act has now made it officially legal. Thousands of non-American innocent people have been abducted, trafficked across Europe and the Middle East, and then indefinitely detained for months and years, interrogated and tortured in secret prison centres, without charge. Even repeated decisions by the US Supreme Court condemned the practice, ordering the White House to put the detainees on trial or release them.
Britain is complicit, as is western Europe in general. The Council of Europe named the UK as among 14 countries assisting the CIA in the illegal rendition programme. So western civilization as we know it has been long engaged in the demolition of democratic principles enshrined in the will of the people governed by the rule of law. But the United States has led the way in stamping its seal of approval on the whole process. Neither Britain, nor Europe, is in any moral position to criticize the Act's legalization of practices categorized as flagrantly illegal under international law, as they, too, have been deeply involved.
New evidence from credible witnesses provides shocking new information about the scale of torture that the CIA, working secretly with various UK and European state authorities, has been involved in. A memo from a former British Army officer Peter Wright, who is currently head of one of the biggest scientific research organisations in Germany, recounts evidence from an American military police officer, John Peirce, stationed at the US Army Airfield Colman Barracks in Mannheim. According to the Wright memo, which is considered credible by Amnesty International Berlin, Peirce witnessed the torture of no less than three individuals by US Army and CIA officers. Below are excerpts from the document:
"... the 3 individuals were kept lying on their backs on a Standard US Army issue metal bed frame without a Mattress, all 3 of them were fitted to this bed with hand cuffs and foot cuffs so that they were in principle immobile. This condition had been [in place] for weeks which is easy to prove due to the very deep wounds due to pressure. The normal Toilet activates of a human being were also not allowed; they simply did this fixed to the bed and when the smell appeared US Army Inmates have to hose down the people with a fire hose and clean up.
The US Army has apparently selected this site due to the fact that a Detention site already exists and also due to the Airstrip also on site to allow ease of transport. The PFC [John Peirce] then went on to inform me of a more disgusting act that he has observed personally. The US Army fly in on regular occasions of 3 people 2 men one woman who are dressed not in uniform. It is common knowledge that they are from the CIA amongst the soldiers on base. They come to interrogate the 3 still chained to their beds by using electro-shocks by connecting one electrode to the bed frame and the other to a piece of copper wire wrapped around the Genitals, they bring with them each time a Device to allow this to be done.
First of all no questions are asked. The electro shocks are administered without warning. This process is called 'loosening up'. When the person is screaming constantly between the shocks, the interrogators start talking to him in Arabic, and the other detainees when they hear the screaming clap their hands and make other gestures and comments as they know also of what is happening. When the interrogators leave the Guard room, personnel have learned that to keep the men quiet they replace the professional electro-shock device with a field telephone. All 3 are wired-up to 3 field telephones in the Guard room office and if someone moans or cries they crank up the field telephone to give him a jolt of electricity to make him shut up. It is even a fun game to allow anyone who is willing to give a donation to a Servicemanâ€™s widows organization, to crank the handle."
The US Army officer, John Peirce, who originally provided this information to Peter Wright has now disappeared, and efforts are underway in Germany to track him down.
The Wright memo is consistent with separate findings of evidence suggesting that German territory and airspace are being used for the rendition and torture of US prisoners. However, this is the first time that the kinds of interrogation methods being used by the CIA have been exposed in such detail, in particular the use of electro-shock torture.
This episode reveals the appalling depths to which western security services have sunk in the name of fighting the "War on Terror", and the extent to which western states hold the rule of law in contempt, when it comes to the pursuit and protection of vested interests.
Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly this morning talked about "non-negotiable" British values, such as respect for the law. But while government ministers preach to the public, and to the Muslim community, about the dangers of extremism and terrorism, western intelligence agencies have been busy terrorising and torturing thousands of innocent people in the name of defending our "security."