Jeffrey S. Kaye is a native Californian and is a practicing psychologist in San Francisco, Calif. Dr. Kaye has a bachelors degree from the University of California, Berkeley and he received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley. After working as a cab driver, an assistant casting director, a proofreader, a typographer, and assorted odd jobs, he settled down and became a clinical psychologist in his middle age. He still has a full-time psychotherapy practice in San Francisco, California. Dr. Kaye also taught Adult Development and History and Systems of Psychology to Bay Area graduate students in psychology. For 10 years he worked part time with Survivors International, conducting both assessment and psychotherapy of torture victims. After 9/11, he became involved with other psychologists in protesting the use of psychological expertise in the CIA and Department of Defense interrogation programs, which have widely been exposed as including torture and other forms of cruel treatment of prisoners. "Cover-up at Guantanamo: The NCIS Investigation into the “Suicides” of Mohammed Al Hanashi and Abdul Rahman Al Amri" is his first eBook. He has published articles on torture and other subjects at Truthout, The Guardian, Al Jazeera America, Alternet, and other online websites, and he maintains the blog "Invictus" and the website Guantanamo Truth (where he posts the results of his Guantanamo related Freedom of Information requests and key source documents.)
On March 25, 2017, I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Kaye by email exchange.
The Talking Dog: Where were you on 9/11?
Jeffrey Kaye: I was living in San Rafael, California at the time. I’m not a very religious or superstitious person, but on the morning of 9/11 I was awoken around 6pm with a nightmare. People and cars and cows (!) and other items were falling down out of the sky. It was bizarre, and scary enough it work me up. I felt creepy, but shook it off as I had to start the day: get my daughter ready for school and myself ready for the commute to work in San Francisco. I never watch TV in the morning, nor did I listen to the news in those days. But after I dropped my daughter off, I got on the freeway and quickly was in the typical commute crawl. Out of the corner of my eye I could see people making strange faces. One woman had her mouth agape in shock. I turned on the news and heard about the planes hitting the World Trade Center and Pentagon. This was before the buildings had collapsed. I rushed home to watch some on TV, and then headed into work late. I figured my daughter was safe at school, and my wife would pick her up later. I remember thinking, this is so strange, so bizarre. I thought about my dream. I imagined that thousands were dead (after the buildings collapsed). It all felt unreal. Amazingly, in my psychotherapy practice that day, not one person mentioned the terror attack. That added to the surreal atmosphere of the day.
The Talking Dog: Your book, "Cover-Up at Guantanamo," is a detailed takedown of the official story surrounding three prisoners suicides-while-in- detention-at-Guantanamo, in three separate incidents spanning a five year period (or, if you like two suicides and a "bonus" chapter on a third), noting, among other things. deliberate decisions to turn off the detainee data management system moments after the discovery of a suicide, documents (and forensic physical evidence, such as fabric that may have been implicated in the death) missing, or apparently deliberately suppressed, from investigative records, along with the usual overarching redactions and secrecy that define Guantanamo as the default. Before we take them on, I have a couple of pet theories I'd love to hear your take on. As you know, the first alleged suicides at Guantanamo, three simultaneous, took place on the night of 9 June 2006 (reported on 10 June 2006), four and a half years into the operation of the prison. By then, the Supreme Court opened up the possibility of habeas and lawyers were running around Guantanamo. It was also obvious that so called actionable intelligence from non-high value prisoners was a fantasy, and that the bulk of GTMO prisoners were, as feared, taxi drivers and farmers and missionaries and otherwise people of no "intel" value, actionable or otherwise. Oh-- Dubya got reelected as well. That said, I wonder if, to be brutally blunt about it, the compelling need to keep prisoners alive kind of dissipated. Further, I wonder if, by 2006, the staff that rotated into GTMO, particularly in the medical and psychological areas, was, well, just less top-notch (if that term ever applied) than staff earlier, and this was a factor in the "suicides". While Joe Hickman believes that those first three deaths were homicides, and he's likely right, I posit whether it could be gross negligence homicide rather than intentional murder... In other words, let's hypothesize that some sick game of dry-boarding for example which earlier would have been stopped well before the edge of death, by '06 could be pushed just a few seconds or inches further...just a little less quality control... It was less of a "catastrophe" as it were, if GTMO prisoners died on site. Can you comment on any of that? I'd also like to toss out an "Occam's Razor" explanation: after years and years of extreme boredom (even boredom at having to inflict the sort of abuse they were ordered to do), prison and medical staff just suffered periodic breakdowns in doing their jobs-- they just fell asleep at the wheel, whether of keeping contraband out or watching prisoners on schedule and so forth or taking steps to prevent suicides. Can you comment on any of this?
Jeffrey Kaye: It’s worth remembering at every stage that so much has been shrouded in secrecy, that we really don’t know. I think Joe Hickman is right and the three prisoners in 2006 were murdered. It may have been “accidental,” but I don’t think so in their case. After the first died, there should have been some concern by interrogators, or whoever was torturing these prisoners, about what they were doing. But three died, and there was more than one trip in and out to Camp No. Why were these detainees given disorienting drugs (at least one was tested for mefloquine)? Were they dryboarded, or was it even worse than that. The same goes for one of the prisoners whose death I examined, Abdul Rahman Al Amri. He was likely murdered himself. In fact, it seems he was executed (hands tied behind his back, a former compliant prisoner, perhaps even an informant, turned hunger striker, his file was very heavily redacted, with hundreds of pages withheld).
Now, we know (or believe we know) that there were many suicide attempts in the first few years at Guantanamo, or at least there were actions attributable to self-harm. Did the strenuous efforts to prevent suicide wane as the years wore on? Perhaps. There is the possibility that those who were difficult mental health cases (Al Hanashi, Al Latif, and Inayatullah) were killed or allowed to die by withdrawal of care or allowance of self-harm as a result of counter-transference hatred among guards and/or clinical staff. I remember I volunteered at San Francisco Suicide Prevention in the early 1990s. I read about a case where two suicide prevention workers in Sacramento were so incensed and fed up with a “chronic” suicide caller that they drove to his house and tried to strangle him. When I brought up the subject in my own agency, no one wanted to discuss it. I thought that strange. But then later I learned that hostility towards difficult patients is real problem in hospitals. The way Guantanamo was staffed, possibly with poorly trained and less talented staff, but more importantly, with heavy turn-over and therefore poor institutional memory and lousy esprit de corps. I also believe, due to the fact medical decisions were subordinated to military or intelligence officials’ needs, there was a deterioration in the culture of caring that took place. I saw some nurses from the Behavioral Health Unit at Guantanamo speak at the 2007 American Psychological Convention. They seemed like automatons to me, as they lied about the pronounced evidence of personality disorders and the lack of PTSD at Guantanamo.
The Talking Dog: I'd like to acknowledge the nine prisoners who died in custody at Guantanamo. I haven't been able to find the descriptions of all nine men in the same place, so I'll try to put it together in this question. Let's do a quick overview of the ultimate "forever prisoners"- the nine men whose life ended as prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
Ali Abdullah Ahmed (Salah Ahmed al-Salami) (June 10, 2006) suicide [by hanging]
Mani Shaman Turki al-Habardi Al-Utaybi (June 10, 2006) suicide [by hanging]
Yasser Talal al Zahrani (June 10, 2006) suicide [by hanging]
Mohammad Ahmed Abdullah Saleh Al Hanashi (June 1, 2009) suicide [self-strangulation]
Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif (September 8, 2012) suicide [apparent drug overdose]
I'm going to defer to Joe Hickman on Ahmed, al-Utaybi and al-Zahrani (my interview with Joe is here) and I think it's fair to say that your book is the definitive work on the controversial deaths of al-Amri, al-Hanashi and Latif. I'm wondering if you have done any research or have any particular take on the other three deaths-- Inayatullah, so mysterious that we're usually not even given a cause of death besides "suicide" (I suppose "hanging by a bed sheet" is an explanation), or the cardiac arrest of a man my age [I was born in 1962] on an elliptical machine of Awal Gul, something that his family believes is a cover-up of something more insidious, and of course, the death of a 68 year old prisoner Abdul Razzak Hekmati by cancer while undergoing treatment? Whether or not you have specifically researched the other deaths, can you comment on overall media reaction to them, including international media, and can you comment on what I'll call the extraordinarily helpful irony that, but for their deaths, we might be looking at 50 prisoners still at GTMO rather than 41 (even though a couple of the "suicides" were "cleared for transfer")? Also, with respect to the other deaths by suicide, including those you profile, in an inordinate number of cases, the prisoners somehow managed to tie their own hands before hanging themselves... is that common in suicides, and does that not dramatically make one question whether, at minimum, these were "assisted" suicides [if not, as Joe Hickman suggests, murders]? Also, please comment on "the suicide note" of al-Hanashi.
Jeffrey Kaye: I have indeed looked briefly at the deaths of Awal Gul and Inayatullah/Nassim. Both raise questions even upon a superficial look. I have not had the time to really dig into their deaths. The timeline around Gul’s death seems suspicious. And how did Inayatullah/Nassim ever get past guards to carry a blanket into the recreation yard, which he supposedly used then to hang himself? It’s not like you can hide a blanket!
The media reaction to the deaths has for the most part been awful. Harpers did open up their pages to Hickman and Scott Horton. But when in 2010 the story got an National Magazine Award there was significant growling from the rest of the media. Most amazing, to me, was the tirade of abuse coming from the pages of Adweek, an advertising industry stalwart. That must have thrown editors into a frenzy, with what I believe was practically explicit warning to stay away from these kinds of story, derogated as irresponsible conspiracy-mongering. From that time forward, you did not see stories about the deaths at Guantanamo. A year earlier, Al Hanashi’s death had garnered a good deal of attention. But there was, except for myself, no follow-up. It was as if marching orders had been given. Major journalists who had worked on the torture story – Mark Benjamin at Salon, Jane Meyer at The New Yorker – were either condemnatory of the Harpers piece, or silent.
In general, the press does not attempt to look beyond the official story at Guantanamo, and this is especially true when it comes to the deaths at Guantanamo. I’ve never seen the Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg, for instance, question the government narrative around any of these deaths, or at least I’ve seen nothing in print. I tried to get people interested in the fact I discovered a government meeting in February 2002 where the deaths of early arrivals at Guantanamo, from “battlefield wounds,” was casually discussed, even after I verified with the government official that he had in fact been told of such deaths. It was as if such evidence fell like sterile seeds onto a hard, barren rocky and soilless field. I write about that in my book, too.
You ask about the tying of hands in the case of four of the suicides. Uniquely, Al Amri’s hands were tied behind his back. The three 2006 prisoners found dead had hands bound in front, and some sort of masks on their faces, not to mention rags stuffed down their throats. None of this seems natural. The government alleges that the 2006 deaths were really a form of Al Qaeda mass suicide, conducted in a ritualistic manner as a form of “asymmetric warfare.” They are totally silent about Al Amri, even seemed to try and hide the circumstances of his death. I did some research on whether hands tied behind the back was a typical finding in suicide cases. No, it is rare. Apparently it can be done. But the authorities I consulted said that you would have to take seriously the possibility also of foul play. I see no indication that government investigators ever considered such a possibility. Indeed, in Al Amri’s case, actual evidence was thrown away or destroyed.
Al Hanashi’s so-called suicide note written on the last day of his life indicated that he was tired of living because of the prospect of abuse of the Koran and Islam in general, and the threat to turn the psychiatric unit at Gitmo over to harsher forms of discipline. He also that very day been pointedly rejected by a leading medical provider when he complained of being tortured. All of this could have led to a decision to kill himself. But as I show in my book, the means by which he killed himself, if he did so by himself, came from unauthorized access to materials he should not have had. Meanwhile, an earlier document, written about a month before, suggested he had consulted with Islam authorities inside Guantanamo and they had said suicide was acceptable to God under the conditions they were in. Internally, Guantanamo officials told medical personnel that Al Hanashi was on some sort of directed suicide list. Certainly Al Hanashi had indicated a wish to die and made multiple suicide attempts in the weeks and months leading up to his death. The “suicide note” never indicates that he was going to kill himself that very day, so I don’t think we can call it a suicide note strictly speaking.
The Talking Dog: One subject I found of interest was the crazy weight fluctuations you have described from the available unredacted records-- how a prisoner might go from, say, a thin 130 lbs. to Auschwitz survivor level of 80, sometimes even, 70 lbs. in a matter of weeks, and then back. You have noted a few possible explanations for this, including deliberate withholding of food in an effort to break the men or otherwise psychologically control them as part of broader psychological experimentation and torture, force-feeding, including pumping detainees up with fluids,hunger striking, or of course, mis-recording, whether as a result of outright negligence or incompetence in weighing or recording or for some more deliberate purpose, You hinted at it in your book, but do you have your own working theory on what the hell was going on with these wildly disparate weight readings?
Jeffrey Kaye: I know there have been some in the medical and legal community who have examined this issue. I’m not at liberty to discuss their research. Thus far it has not been published, and I’m not certain it ever will be. I’ve shown that some of the weight fluctuations seem almost impossible to believe. I’m not sure it’s even physically possible to gain 30 or 40 pounds in a matter of days. The forced-feeding is abusive, it goes without saying. They certainly didn’t want a Gitmo version of Bobby Sands on their hands.
The primary misunderstood fact about Guantanamo was that it was a facility for experimentation. Top Pentagon brass referred to it themselves as a “Battle Lab in the War on Terror.” Later this embarrassed them and they tried to suppress that fact, even redacting the term in a FOIA document I received. But I was able to cross-check that document with a quote from it in the 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee report on detainee abuse, and successfully appeal that redaction.
The reference in the book is to a decades-old meeting of CIA and military-linked health scientists, one of whom, Josef Brozek, who conducted something called the Minnesota Starvation Study in 1944-45, considered then and even now as the definitive study on human starvation and semi-starvation. At a psychiatry symposium on “forceful indoctrination’ in 1956, Brozek told those present, who included the former Chief Medical Officer at Alcatraz, that differential offerings and withdrawals of food, combined with “other forms of deprivation and insults” can induce a “breakdown” in most people. I truly believe the U.S. government analyzed everything that happened at Guantanamo, and that food, even the forced feedings and the prisoners’ own hunger strikes, were used to collect data in their insatiable effort to gain knowledge about human beings so they can be controlled. It is a fantasy that they will ever achieve total control, but that doesn’t keep them from trying.
The Talking Dog: Let's talk about record-keeping, such as the mysterious disappearance of the seemingly omniscient "DIMS" (Detainee Information Management System) that invariably failed right around the time of any prisoner deaths. In particular in the case of al-Hanashi, it seems an order (from NCIS? Or was it Langley, VA?) came down to stop making recordings in a DIMS system whose instructions included " "Relevant observations" of detainee behavior to be recorded include requests for copies of the Koran; refusals to let their cell be searched; refusal of a meal; visits by non-block personnel; and anything deemed a "significant activity."" And something near and dear to both of us professionally, I suppose, forensic records- in this case, criminal, psychological, medical and so forth... even in the redacted form you received some of them, there was left a great deal to be desired. You also noted, that even with "DIMS' in place, there was an apparent false entry concerning a headcount concerning the three simultaneous 2006 "suicides." Please comment on this, and if you have had a chance to observe other military records, or in the civilian context, can you compare and contrast with what is clearly endemic -- somewhere between "lapses of protocol" and outright deliberate cover-up, quite probably criminal in nature?
Jeffrey Kaye: The DIMS system did not fail. It was deliberately sabotaged in the case of al Hanashi, as you note– ordered turned off – and manipulated with false information in other cases. In the case of Al Latif, evidently the failure was to enter necessary data, in other words, a human failure, if indeed it was a failure and not a deliberate obfuscation of evidence.
Unfortunately, I cannot give you an opinion as to the legality of such shenanigans, as I am not legally trained. The only contemporary documents I have experience with are medical records and reports, as well as psychotherapy notes. I also have experience looking at government documents of various sorts, but I don’t believe I have seen anything to match the situation with the DIMS. It would be as if a bank had its security monitoring systems turned off just as a major hack was taking place and money stolen. In this case, men’s lives were stolen from them.
I think your readers and the common man would hear about all this and think, where there’s smoke there’s fire. This kind of obvious destruction of or tampering with records, or the creation of records, is sadly nothing new. We have the example of the destruction by the CIA of the torture videotapes. Over 40 years ago, just as the revelations around the CIA’s notorious MKULTRA program was taking place, the CIA destroyed massive amounts of documents related to that program. No one was prosecuted or indicted for that. Back in 1999, a U.S. academic told Congress that documents he was seeking about the U.S. biowarfare program and its collaboration with the World War II Japanese war criminals of Unit 731 and similar operations were being destroyed upon his inquiry. The charge was entered in the Congressional Record, and helped lead to the passing of the Japanese Imperial Government Disclosure Act a few years later, and the declassification of the documents. But no one was held to account for what was destroyed.
Of course, I believe the destruction of records in a criminal case, especially a case of possible murder, would, you’d think, carry even greater penalties and merit greater attention from authorities. But it didn’t, although my book does document an internal investigation by NCIS into the turning off of DIMS in the al Hanashi case. That investigation, however, went nowhere, or its findings were covered-up.
The Talking Dog: You are, of course, a practicing psychologist. In that light, can you describe some of the stresses (or stressors) these men were under-- we can talk about the three men [al-Amri, al-Hanashi and Latif] you have profiled, and then talk about the more general "treatment" that men at Guantanamo have been, and as far as we know, still are subjected to. Americans, being on the whole, not very imaginative (or perhaps this is just what the media tells them) generally assume that "torture" has to mean "waterboarding" or some overt act that, say, Torquemada might have employed during the Inquisition, rather than, oh, sleep deprivation, or "stress positions," or constant cell moving, or denial of dignity or indefinite detention itself or any of the other "degrading treatment" that, along with torture, is barred by international and domestic law (including treaty). So... bottom line it, please for the three guys your book discusses, and then, as a practicing psychologist, describe the likelihood that such treatment might result in suicide attempts.
Jeffrey Kaye: The autopsy report for Mohammad al Hanashi stated that he suffered from “adjustment disorder, anti-social personality disorder and stressors of confinement." What did the military mean by “stressors of confinement”? They do not say, but it can only mean the stressors of an imprisonment that was precisely calculated to break down men psychologically. This was done by applying the formula of DDD – Debility, Dependency, and Dread. This form of torture was codified in a 1950s article by famous U.S. psychologist Harry Harlow, CIA-linked psychiatrist Louis Joylon West, and another researcher. By debility, they meant the physical weakening of the prisoner.
We’ve already discussed starvation and differential food intake. Other major factors inducing physical weakness included solitary confinement, forms of sensory deprivation and sensory overload (loud music, strobe lights), constant lighting or deprivation of light, exposure to cold, use of drugs, beatings, sleep deprivation, forced exercise, and stress positions. This is likely not a definitive list. By dread, of course they mean induction of fear. This was done by threats to life, to the life and safety of family members, threats of physical harm, use of the sanctioned Army Field Manual technique, used even today, of “Fear Up,” manipulation of phobias (as determined by psychologists), and again, likely more. The whole idea, you see, is to break the prisoner’s sense of self by an attack on the body, its autonomic nervous system, and its sense of personal self and connection to the world in order to produce total dependency, the third D, in the prisoner for purposes of “exploitation.”
By “exploitation,” the CIA and Pentagon mean not only the gathering of information, but the use of prisoners for other purposes as well: as experimental subjects, as informants, as propaganda tools in show trials.
But the government had one problem. Individuals exposed to these “stressors of confinement” experienced intolerable pain via the induction of such breakdown. Some, many turned to self-harm to reduce that pain, even at the expense of their own lives. Government documents speak to a rash of suicide attempts in the early years at Guantanamo. Government psychiatrist Elspeth Ritchie, who later gave talks on the neurological effects of mefloquine, and also did government assessments of detainees at Guantanamo, was supposedly sent to Guantanamo in late 2002 to deal with a spate of suicide attempts or “gestures” there. Ritchie later was involved in the training of psychologists and other mental health professionals in the Behavioral Science Consultation Teams used to assist interrogators and Guantanamo camp officials. Even later yet, she became chief clinical officer for the District of Columbia's Department of Mental Health. I believe she is now retired.
In clinical work, each person’s situation is unique and their response to environmental stressors, even torture, is also individual to them. Not everyone tortured gets PTSD or tries to commit suicide. People also try to commit suicide, or succeed in doing so, who have never been tortured or experienced extreme environmental insult or trauma.
In the case of the Guantanamo detainees who died by purported suicide, all we can do is look at the evidence we have. In the case of the three detainees who died in 2006, there is no evidence that they were suicidal prior to their deaths. Even the so-called suicide notes were not really suicide notes.
In the case of the 2007 death of Al Amri, the government has chosen to withhold hundreds of pages of documents from the NCIS investigation into his death. What little information we have is contradictory. There’s a possibility that he was in poor health, and that might have inclined him, along with torture and “conditions of confinement,” to have considered suicide. Additionally, we know there’s a good likelihood that he, along with 2006 “suicide,” Ali Abdullah Ahmed, were administered mefloquine for reasons having nothing to do with malaria or prevention of malaria. Mefloquine is a controversial antimalarial drug that has been documented to cause extreme neurological and psychological side effects, including suicidal behavior. Both Al Amri and Ahmed were tested for the presence of mefloquine in their systems. This was not a routine lab test.
I think my book adequately documents the persistent suicidal behaviors and thoughts of both Al Hanashi and Al Latif. They suffered greatly and were certainly depressed. It is also certain that their conditions were caused by or exacerbated by mistreatment at Guantanamo. We don’t know the full extent of the harm caused, and we don’t know if their suicides were truly spontaneous. I make a case that they were allowed to happen. In that case, we have murder by medical negligence, or by clever design. I think one would need to see the full panoply of evidence as presented in my book and the documents I published to judge for oneself if that conclusion is merited.
I’d like to add some convergent evidence to my own findings. In a recently released 2012 psychiatric assessment of the purported USS Cole bomber, Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, held at Guantanamo since 2006, after years of torture in CIA black site prisons, Dr. Sandra Crosby stated lacked “appropriate mental health treatment at Guantanamo.” Dr. Crosby said that Al Nashiri’s medical and psychiatric care was “woefully inadequate to his medical needs.” She found that Guantanamo medical professionals, including those in mental health care, were instructed not to inquire into the basis of his mental distress, and to ignore protestations of torture. They misdiagnosed Al Nashiri to cover-up the real nature of his condition and provide stigmatizing diagnoses, like Narcissistic Personality Disorder. (See PDF page 129)
The Talking Dog: Your book observes that, certainly with the three suicides you profile, that there was "contraband" in the cells (be it in general population camps, or in the "Behavioral Health Unit", a euphemism if not oxymoron), including sheets or underwear one could hang himself with, razors to cut said sheets (or self) or drugs, and then let's juxtapose that with monitoring of cells, supposedly by camera and direct visual observation. Both from the documents you have obtained, people you've talked to, and your own surmise, what do you think was going on? In particular, I'm wondering if we're looking at "gross negligence," "failure to follow standard operating procedures," intentional-assisted-suicide (i.e. homicide) or something else?
Jeffrey Kaye: I believe that certain detainees were singled out for harm. The reasons are murky. I’d guess that the guards were responsible, if not at least complicit. Al Hanashi and Al Latif were in particular considered troublesome and problematic. It was also believed Al Hanashi was some kind of leader or spokesperson for the other detainees. I think they were hated by medical and guard personnel, if not command officials, and their deaths were therefore facilitated. In other words, it was known they were suicidal, or that they could be driven to suicidal desperation, and the means were provided to them. Can I prove it? No, although there is plenty of circumstantial evidence. There is also testimony that such contraband material was provided to detainees, as well as testimony that in the case of Al Hanashi, Al Amri and Al Latif that they had materials or drugs that could be used to harm themselves, materials that were heavily monitored and controlled by prison authorities. Speaking of monitoring, there is also the fact these detainees were under constant surveillance and searched repeatedly. How they found time to render complex modes of killing themselves without being observed is a mystery to all who have looked at these cases.
The Talking Dog: Let's talk about Col. John Bogdan, whose command pretty much precipitated the most widespread (in terms of percentage of participation) of the many hunger strikes that broke out at GTMO-- a hunger strike so widespread that it captured the public imagination and made Barack Obama start to pick up the pace of periodic reviews and prisoner transfers out. In particular, we're talking about the context of Latif, as it seems that Bogdan wanted him punished for his behavior issues, and so, notwithstanding that he should have been on suicide watch and probably had pneumonia, was transferred back to a camp 5 solitary cell, rather than held in a medical facility. Bogdan seemed unusually martinet-like, even for an unpleasant place like Guantanamo. We should note that, interestingly, no prisoner actually died during the tenure of the notorious Gen. Geoffrey Miller. But Bogdan in particular seemed hellbent on making life hell for his prisoners, and while he may have been at an extreme, I think other commanders-- and you note at least one psychologist who evidently walked away from a prisoner/patient in the middle of a consult-- had their role in the prisoner suicides. Can you comment on this (what I call "personnel = destiny")?
Jeffrey Kaye: If I read your question correctly, you are asking about the personal culpability of individuals at Guantanamo for the abuse and the deaths. Bogdan is a convenient, if not an apt, scapegoat. He made the decision to move Latif to a cell as punishment, even as he was warned by others that Latif was going to commit suicide. Oddly, Bogdan says he didn’t get the high priority email warning him, but says even if he did, it wouldn’t have changed his mind. Bogdan ran the prison with a heavy hand, and his insensitivity to the distress of the prisoners is clear in what we have of the documentation. But I say Bogdan is a scapegoat, because while he is certainly responsible at least in part for Latif’s death, I’d lay the responsibility more at the hands of the doctors and medical personnel who cleared Latif for transfer out of the detainee hospital’s Behavioral Health Unit. And Bogdan needed that clearance to transfer Latif. These doctors should have seen the signs, for instance, of pneumonia. They also know how distressed Latif was, and how mentally ill he was. They were in charge of watching that medications were actually taken and not hoarded or disposed of. It was even known that Latif was being sent back to a cell where he had previous bad experience causing significant mental distress. Apparently there was some kind of generator hum or something causing constant noise that set him on edge. Interestingly, the high-value prisoner, former CIA prisoner Ramsi bin al Shibh has also protested the use of vibrations and noise in his cell at Camp 7 at Guantanamo. A recent article at the Miami Herald described his accusation of the use of noise and vibrations as a form of sleep deprivation, as it makes it very hard to concentrate or sleep. Did something similar happen to Latif? It seems very possible. Other detainees as well have complained about such sensory disturbance.
The Talking Dog: Can you comment on the quality of care-- both medical care in general and mental health care in particular-- as you have observed it at Guantanamo, whether from the records you have seen, anecdotal evidence, or otherwise? I note that I have some familiarity with the case of Candace Gorman's client al-Ghizzawi, who, at various times, was told he might have tuberculosis, AIDS, assorted liver problems and other ailments, but who, thankfully, was released before GTMO killed him.
Jeffrey Kaye: I think I have touched on this point already. I will only add that the quality of care at Guantanamo was fatally compromised by the secret nature of the prison, and the subordination of medical care to command and intelligence decision-making. Medical records at Guantanamo, despite many complaints and exposure over the years, remain available to investigators. There is no privacy for the “patients” there. Moreover, the diagnoses of patients was also used to stigmatize prisoners, not to accurately assess condition and thereby treatment. How can you have humane care for prisoners in a torture prison? The answer is you can’t. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t moments of caring by individual providers. Some detainees have testified to that. But these were the exceptions, moments of respite in an inexorable regime of cruelty. The providers involved, by giving themselves over to care, legitimized such cruelty, in my mind. They compromised their ethics and became parties to torture and war crimes, such as illegal experimentation. The academic medical ethics professionals call the problem one of dual loyalty, split loyalty, that is, to the military or CIA and to the canon of medical care. They would like to believe that this divided loyalty could be worked out somehow. But in practice, the individual almost always bows to the coercive authority. In all the years at Guantanamo, we only know of one medical protest, the nurse who a few years ago decided he would not participate in the inhumane forced feedings there. He was threatened with court martial, and while that didn’t happen, his military career was certainly destroyed or fatally compromised.
The Talking Dog: Your book ends on an interesting note that might strike some as discordant, noting a "holdback" by progressives to criticize the handling of GTMO issues by a Democratic Administration, for short-term electoral benefit. I note that [my college classmate!] Barack Obama actually had charge of Guantanamo for about a year longer than George W. Bush did, and unlike Dubya, Obama promised- consistently-- that he would close the prison at Guantanamo (in practice, he really meant move it, but he didn't even manage to do that). In any event, the point, I suppose, is that once Guantanamo ceased to be a partisan issue associated solely with Dubya, overall public interest waned dramatically, as (you noted) no one it seems wanted to risk undermining Democratic electoral chances by criticizing the policy of a sitting Democrat, notwithstanding, of course, that this is exactly how you end up with Donald Trump, and of course, we did. All that said, we're over 15 years into this, and there are 41 poor bastards still there, of whom three are "convicted" of something by the dubious military commissions, another seven charged in the commissions system (including the alleged 9-11 plotters) will probably die before their commission trials are ever completed, five are "cleared for transfer" (good luck, guys) and 26 are "forever prisoners"-- too dangerous, bla bla bla. Its fairly obvious that, at least for the foreseeable future, Trump is such a target rich environment that getting the public imagination focusing on Guantanamo again seems a long-shot. You and I have been interested in this subject a long time, and neither us nor anyone else seems to have come up with a narrative that Americans care about, even though we believe this will be a blemish of historical proportions, like the Japanese internment, for example. And yet... Obviously, your work, and the work of others interested in running down the horrifying truth about prisoner deaths at Guantanamo is essential to establishing "the story." Do you see anything else on the horizon that can alter the present moribund (I swear, Obama said he would close GTMO so many times, most people believe he already did) narrative?
Jeffrey Kaye: Unfortunately I do not. I cannot, however, limit the question of indifference to Guantanamo. What about the pervasive ill treatment of prisoners in U.S.-sited prisons? What about the pervasive racism? The neglect of the homeless? The lack of remorse or moral quandary over the literally millions killed by the U.S. military in my own lifetime?
The record, to be sure, is ambiguous and not one-sided. There is plenty of mistrust and scandal around the record of CIA torture. But it only goes as far as official Washington or the mainstream press of record shapes the boundaries of acceptable scandal. So while the anal rape of prisoners has finally broken through to public consciousness and has been written about, the drugging of prisoners remains something barely mentioned, and even, at this point, pointedly suppressed.
I do believe, as I’ve written, that the entire subject of torture has been subordinated to political concerns: first, the need to present the United States as some kind of beacon of human rights in the world, especially in contrast to its “enemies.” And second, as a club to wield over one’s domestic political opponents. In the latter matter, the Democrats, including most of their so-called progressive supporters, have buried protest over torture and crimes committed by Democratic administrations, and tried to present the issue has one of purely GOP perfidy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Torture is bipartisan. Nowhere is this greater represented than by the total failure of the press and, well, nearly everyone, to ignore the recent UN Committee Against Torture report on the use of torture and “ill-treatment” in the Army Field Manual on interrogation. If such a report was made about Bush or Trump, we’d not hear the end of it. But because it was about activities of the Obama administration, nothing is said or reported. This is criminal and immoral.
The Talking Dog: Is there anything else I should have asked you about but didn't, or anything else the public needs to know on these critically important issues, particularly as we seem to be heading into even darker times of an ignorant, feckless President who wants to fill Guantanamo with "bad dudes" and facilitate torture?
Jeffrey Kaye: I want to mention before I go that I don’t believe all is dark. I don’t want to ignore the many, many people who are incensed by and have acted to stop torture. That includes former detainees, certain members of the armed forces and even the CIA. It especially includes the attorneys for the detainees and the organizations that employ them, including law firms and human rights organizations. Most prominent of the latter include the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Reprieve. The attorneys have gone over and over into the heart of the beast in an effort to represent their clients and try to win their trust. Some have come back and been outspoken in their outrage, even as the government puts legal shackles on what they are allowed to say: attorneys such as Candace Gorman, David Remes, David Frakt, Nancy Hollander, Lt. Col. Stuart Couch, Shayana Kadidal and many, many others, too long a list to name. There are also the journalists who have kept the issue alive, and the publications that support their work. While I am critical of some of these journalists, and have said so in this interview, I am also grateful to them for attending to the exposure of these crimes. Journalists such as Jason Leopold, Carol Rosenberg, Michael Otterman, Sheri Fink, Bill Morlan, Mark Benjamin, James Risen, Doug Valentine, Greg Miller, Jane Mayer, Charlie Savage and others. The criticism is that some of these journalists have been too quick to accept the government’s limited hangout of events. By limited hangout, I mean that governmental admissions are often too easily accepted as the full narrative, whereas often further crimes are ignored, and the real criminals left off the hook.
The government’s criminal justice system is the worst villain in this tale, as it has failed to do what it is supposed to do, hold government officials responsible for crimes, and the investigation of those crimes. That is one reason I concentrated on the failures of one of those investigatory agencies, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, in my book on Guantanamo. If we are going to get to the heart of the suppression of the truth, it should start with a close look at those officially responsible for the search for truth. That includes the need for a full declassification of the reports and associated documents of the Congressional investigating committees that have looked into this issue, none of which have recommended any kind of punishment for anyone involved in crimes they themselves documented.
I finally have to thank you as well, as an excellent example of someone who for years has pursued the truth, and tried to bring what evidence you could to bear before the public to expose these crimes. The interviews you have conducted have been invaluable. It is up to the American people to act. It is part of our historical dilemma that the need for action is acute, while the road to effect such action is unclear or even blocked.
The Talking Dog: I join my readers in thanking Dr. Jeffrey Kaye for that thorough and thought-provoking interview. Interested readers should check out Cover-up at Guantanamo: The NCIS Investigation into the “Suicides” of Mohammed Al Hanashi and Abdul Rahman Al Amri .
Readers interested in legal issues and related matters associated with the "war on terror" may also find talking dog blog interviews with former Guantanamo military commissions prosecutors Morris Davis and Darrel Vandeveld, with Guantanamo military commissions defense attorney Todd Pierce, with former Guantanamo combatant status review tribunal/"OARDEC" officer Stephen Abraham, with attorneys Pardiss Kebriaei, Nancy Hollander, Jon Eisenberg, David Marshall, Jan Kitchel, Eric Lewis, Cori Crider, Michael Mone, Matt O'Hara, Carlos Warner, Matthew Melewski, Stewart "Buz" Eisenberg, Patricia Bronte, Kristine Huskey, Ellen Lubell, Ramzi Kassem, George Clarke, Buz Eisenberg, Steven Wax, Wells Dixon, Rebecca Dick, Wesley Powell, Martha Rayner, Angela Campbell, Stephen Truitt and Charles Carpenter, Gaillard Hunt, Robert Rachlin, Tina Foster, Brent Mickum, Marc Falkoff H. Candace Gorman, Eric Freedman, Michael Ratner, Thomas Wilner, Jonathan Hafetz, Joshua Denbeaux, Rick Wilson,
Neal Katyal, Joshua Colangelo Bryan, Baher Azmy, and Joshua Dratel (representing Guantanamo detainees and others held in "the war on terror"), with attorneys Donna Newman and Andrew Patel (representing "unlawful combatant" Jose Padilila), with Dr. David Nicholl, who spearheaded an effort among international physicians protesting force-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, with physician and bioethicist Dr. Steven Miles on medical complicity in torture, with law professor and former Clinton Administration Ambassador-at-large for war crimes matters David Scheffer, with former Guantanamo detainees Moazzam Begg and Shafiq Rasul , with former Guantanamo Bay Chaplain James Yee, with former Guantanamo Army Arabic linguist Erik Saar, with former Guantanamo sergeant-of-the-guard Joseph Hickman, with former Guantanamo military guard Terry Holdbrooks, Jr., with former military interrogator Matthew Alexander, with law professor and former Army J.A.G. officer Jeffrey Addicott, with law professor and Coast Guard officer Glenn Sulmasy, with author and geographer Trevor Paglen and with author and journalist Stephen Grey on the subject of the CIA's extraordinary rendition program, with journalist and author David Rose on Guantanamo, with journalist Michael Otterman on the subject of American torture and related issues, with author and historian Andy Worthington detailing the capture and provenance of all of the Guantanamo detainees, with law professor Peter Honigsberg on various aspects of detention policy in the war on terror, with Joanne Mariner of Human Rights Watch, with Almerindo Ojeda of the Guantanamo Testimonials Project, with Karen Greenberg, author of The LeastWorst Place: Guantanamo's First 100 Days, with Charles Gittings of the Project to Enforce the Geneva Conventions, Laurel Fletcher, author of "The Guantanamo Effect" documenting the experience of Guantanamo detainees after their release, with John Hickman, author of "Selling Guantanamo," critiquing the official narrative surrounding Guantanamo, and with Rebecca Gordon, author of "The New Nuremberg" identifying potential war crimes prosecutions arising from the conduct of the War on Terror, and with Naomi Paik, author of Rightlessness: Testimony and Redress in US Prison Camps since World War II, to be of interest.
I more or less agree with this quite critical assessment in Slate of last night's "major scoop" concerning a release of President Donald Trump's 2005 income tax return by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. I only tuned in as a result of a friend's text message, and we both watched in rapt anticipation, which turned to disbelief when the first commercial break rolled around without "the big reveal." At that moment, we both knew not only that there was no there there, but that "the story" was that (IMHO) it was more likely than not that the President himself leaked his own tax returns to a journalist (in this case Pulitzer Prize winning financial journalist David Cay Johnston), for his own purposes, the most obvious being to change the subject.
And the subject includes the new and not much improved Muslim ban faces several immediate court challenges,
the FBI may or may not be investigating the Trump presidential campaign's ties to Russia, a "Trumpcare" debacle he'd probably prefer to not talk about, and assorted other crises of the petulant and childish President's own making.
What better way to distract than to come back to "the tax returns," a tactic (again, IMHO) he employed successfully during the campaign when he released a single schedule of a single return (1995, IIRC) that showed he had a humongous loss he could carry forward for a really long time-- a loss that he was still using in 2005 (a likely very successful year for him, as he sold two major properties and had over $150,000,000 in income, if the two page fragment of a single tax return is to be believed.)
It is an interesting scoop for a number of reasons-- including that the White House immediately pounced on it and confirmed the income and tax paid-- but does nothing toward establishing the obvious questions, to wit, whether or not the President is in deep hock to foreign powers China and Russia, of which there is strong anecdotal evidence that he is, as well as the extent he is molding national policy with his personal enrichment in mind (again, strong anecdotal evidence, at least.)
At noon EDT today, we'll be at 54 days of this
and I must hand it to the President: he has quite literally slowed down the passage of time, something I didn't believe was possible (and I don't know if Professor Stephen Hawking or other experts on the subject have an opinion). That said, his other "accomplishments" include emboldening anti-semitism, using the White House to tout his daughter's brand of clothing, and inventing "alternative facts" as a neologism for "bald-face lies."
In the face of this, a tax-return-fragment that undermines Rachel Maddow just a bit seems... a welcome diversion, as it were. Heckuva job, Donny!
"A few hundred, perhaps" pro-Trump supporters evidently showed up at rallies near NYC's Trump Tower, in Washington and perhaps elsewhere. To be fair, it's cold out and all.
We now pass through day 43 and into day 44 of the clusterfuck known as the Trump Administration, noting that Vegas odds-makers have now concluded that America's Own Annoying Orange[TM] won't last a full term, and of course, his polling numbers are at a record low for a President this early in his [it's always been a his] term, although unsurprisingly strong among Republicans, to whom he has been shamelessly pandering.
I don't know. My good friend Donald J. Putin reports that twittering remains a target-rich environment. Today, for example, the Jewish Sabbath under which Presidential-Minder-and-Son-in-Law Jared Kushner retreats for the holiday and Steve "Comic Book Guy" Bannon takes to the fore, the President has reverted to own his uncontrollable twittering habit to accuse President Obama of wire-tapping him at the Trump Tower last October. No evidence, of course. Evidently bored with the mere accusation that his predecessor committed Nixonian crimes against him, he also attacked his television successor Arnold Schwarzenegger, contending that the former California governor "was fired for pathetic ratings," again without evidence; for his part, Schwarzenegger observed that "the Trump brand" is pretty radioactive (you think?)
So here we are. It seems indisputable that the Russian state did all within its power to defeat Hillary Clinton, even if that meant that an unstable Donald Trump would win the presidency. It's not as if he doesn't owe lots of money to Russia, and hence, is "reliable" for Moscow's purposes, even if unstable for everything else.
And... well... here we are. It seems obvious that Mr. Trump, who has devoted his life to gratuitously making enemies (and then whining that he is the injured party) somehow believed that this troublesome modus operandi would somehow still play as President of the United States, where a vast bureaucracy of quite literally millions of people has an almost infinite array of means of pushing back against "leadership" with whom it "has issues." So far... it hasn't really played well. Sure, he's pushing a few Republican wet-dreams of abusing undocumented immigrants (many of whom have U.S. citizen dependents). talking up his attempt at a Muslim immigration ban, and of course, trashing regulations intended to protect health, safety and the environment, but by and large, he's mostly in his own way,
In short, his ineptitude appears to trump his malevolence. Not that I'm complaining.
Congressman Mark Sanford, former governor of South Carolina and most famous, ironically, for having disappeared for six days for an extramarital tryst with his Argentine girlfriend while telling his staff he would be uncontactable hiking on the Appalachian trail, is in the bizarre position of having absolute cover to criticize our new president from within the Republican Party.
His digs at Trump cover the spectrum. The president, Sanford says, “has fanned the flames of intolerance.” He has repeatedly misled the public, most recently about the national murder rate and the media’s coverage of terrorist attacks. He showed a lack of humility by using the National Prayer Breakfast to ridicule Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ratings on “The Celebrity Apprentice.” Most worrisome, Sanford says, Trump is unprepared for the presidency. From the Politico interview:
I ask Sanford, in our early February interview, whether it’s fair to say Trump doesn’t impress him. “Yeah, that's accurate,” he tells me. “Because at some level he represents the antithesis, or the undoing, of everything I thought I knew about politics, preparation and life.”
Sanford, an Eagle Scout, has long been renowned for a work ethic that straddles the line between tireless and maniacal. Famously brutal on staff members—his former speechwriter wrote a book documenting his workplace misery—Sanford recalls holding marathon meetings as a congressman and as governor to review every intricate detail of budgets, bills and other proposals that came across his desk.
“And all of a sudden a guy comes along where facts don’t matter?” Sanford asks aloud. “It’s somewhat befuddling. It’s the undoing of that which you base a large part of your life on.”
“You want to give anybody the benefit of the doubt. I mean, I’ve learned that through my own trials and tribulations,” Sanford says, one of numerous nods to the Appalachian Trail episode. “But if you see a pattern of over and over and over again, wherein facts don’t matter and you can just make up anything ... ” He stops himself. “Our republic was based on reason. The Founding Fathers were wed to this notion of reason. It was a reason-based system. And if you go to a point wherein it doesn’t matter, I mean, that has huge implications in terms of where we go next as a society.”
OK, I'll get right to it. The President is supposed to be our national Daddy. It is not without irony that our first, and yes, IMHO, our greatest President, George Washington, though actually childless himself, is called "the Father of our Country." And who can forget (if they're really old!) FDR's fatherly fireside chats. Or in more recent times, Dubya (father of twin girls) bought himself a second term through his skillful father-like handling of the aftermath of 9-11. Barack Obama (also father of two girls) putting a nouveau spin on the function, constantly acting as "comforter in chief."
Needless to say, looked at in this light, since demographic shifts favoring the sun belt now prevent the ascendance of a President without winning at least a portion of the most conservative, if not atavistic, parts of the country (the South and the Rust Belt) a woman running for national Daddy was not going to have it easy (and surprise, surprise, while she cruised to an easy win in the liberal parts of the country, she made no inroads anywhere else and lost the election despite winning the popular vote.)
And while Donald J. Trump is the father of five, it is unclear what that really means. He famously bragged that he never diapered any of his own children, as he is a maniacal germophobe and hates touching anyone (let alone poopy infants). It seems clear that his own upbringing involved a father who was somewhere between strict and tyrannical, although Donald J. was the favored one, the heir apparent to the family real estate business.
And it is equally clear that, as a father, whatever Donald did with respect to child-rearing appears to be at least a little bit creepy (assuming he did anything at all, as his first wife, with more than a modicum of credibility on the subject, denies that he had much of a role in raising his first three children at all).
Why do I bring this up? We are fortunate in a sense that, at least in the last four weeks, the only real national crises have been those generated by Mr. Trump himself (although foreign powers ranging from Russia to Iran to North Korea seem hellbent on testing the new waters). And of course, he takes to Twitter several times a day to complain about "unfair treatment" from the people who put him in office. (Having my very close friend also take up that medium, I can attest to its vacuousness.) Specifically, Mr. Trump or his surrogates tastelessly rail against a media that put him in office. For the I don't know how many-eth time, media's monomaniacal pursuit of non-stories like Hillary's emails while not pursuing the real story of Trump's shady business deals and foreign entanglements, not to mention legitimating him with talk show (and SNL!) appearances, actually put him in the White House. Of course, he still complains that games in his favor are "rigged" and that coverage that is insufficiently fawning on his loathsome persona and dreadful performance is somehow "unfair."
Yes, it is a tactic learned from his long tutelage with
Satan Roy Cohn, but it seems to be sincere nonetheless: he genuinely fears-- FEARS-- criticism of any kind, which is why anyone who so much as says an unkind word about him is ineligible to serve in his government (despite the catastrophic cost of not having competent people in key positions as a result).
That is not a trait that sits well in Daddy, who is rugged, and tough, and does what he must. In short, the President (gak) is, in his own parlance, a disaster. He is quite likely a traitor to boot, having seemingly ordered his national security adviser to try to undermine American policy with some kind of implicit promise to Russia even as it was clear as day that Russia was directly interfering in an American election (in his favor of course), and, of course his known ties to Russia are legion, and we have no idea if there are more as he won't disclose his tax returns or provide a full accounting of his business interests, and he may well be being blackmailed, assuming details contained in a no longer secret dossier are to be believed.
We are only at two per cent of the time designated for his presidency, and things don't look good. Foreign powers, be they Iran, or China, or North Korea, or, of course, Russia, are testing, testing... and, well, if the President (gak) isn't actually beholden to Russia, he is certainly doing nothing that is not in the national interest.. of Russia.
Four years is a long time. Things are going to happen. And when our nation's head of state, who already is the least qualified man ever to be in the position, as well as the oldest, is nothing more than a needy, ego-centric and unstable individual with a tendency to being a pathological liar... that ain't good.
Item: The Oroville Dam in California, the nation's highest, in apparently in imminent danger of collapse after damage to the dam's main spillway following severe storms earlier this week. A metaphor for other things? Or a cautionary tale for a global-warming-denying-President?
Item: Democratic Senator Al Franken tells all who'll listen that his Republican colleagues in the Senate believe that Republican President Donald J. Trump is mentally unstable.
Item: The Grey Lady reports on turmoil at the National Security Council, where the National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, may well have improperly signaled future American policy to a hostile power (that would be Russia) while not yet in office... a problem... and Steve Bannon is on the council... a problem... and the President (gak) is looking for public reaction to determine his next move. Meanwhile, the Jared Kushner owned New York Observer offers an analysis of an intelligence community determined to push back against the Trump Administration.
Item: The President is complaining that the media is not reporting about thousands of enthusiastic supporters cheering him at Mar a Lago. Given that he's probably paying many of them time and a half or more for their presence, his irritation is understandable. Perhaps the crowds are admiring the President's golf game, which he now devotes much time to (after, of course, criticizing Obama for playing golf.)
Item: At least someone is optimistic in light of the Trump Presidency: Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, who suggests that having "the idiot Trump" in the White house is cause for optimism.
Item: In the same week Nordstrom's dropped Ivanka Trump's clothing line, Kmart and Sears are dropping their connection to Trump branded products. If Walmart goes... he's sunk.
Kudos to (gak) the President, insofar as he has altered my understanding of the laws of physics, and, for the now just over three weeks (that's it?) he has been President, he has made time run slower. The question is... what can we take out of the fire-hose worth of activity that has been unleashed (often at the unfortunate speed of "Twitter"-- a medium whose stupidity I can personally attest to since
I've my good friend Donald J. Putin has been following the affairs of state.)
Superficially, Trump is a self-absorbed buffoon, stuck in a 3 or 4 year old's narcissistic state of demanding approval and recognition for his greatness. Part of this is his Roy-Cohn-Dark-Side-Jedi training of always lashing out at anyone who crosses him, no matter how small or meaningless the alleged slight, coupled with refusal to pay just debts. But there is also the master tactician at work, who always manages to squeeze something out of any situation for himself, while screwing vendors, contractors, partners, customers, etc. etc. (hint: this won't go so well for the American people). He has figured out that small-minded meanness (of a kind that comes naturally to him) is shockingly popular, and hence, he won't drop his idiotic calls for a Southern border wall and his downright psychotic insistence that Mexico will pay for it, and of course, his surprisingly popular attempt to ban Muslims from entering the United States (then again... how unpopular is it?).
And that's just it. Never before have we had a government come in whose explicit goal was to lie about everything, from voter fraud to the size of crowds to their contacts with Russia presumably to their golf handicaps. So... it becomes hard to see what exactly is coming.
Damned if I know; I just know that I will be very likely poised to oppose it, because it's almost certainly anathema to every principle this country is supposed to stand for. I think.
Hey, boys and girls, we're not even two weeks into the (gak) Trump Administration, and we are so spectacularly dealing with all our old international friends, and our new BFFs over in Russia. In neighborly news...
Item: The President evidently berated and threatened the President of Mexico during a phone call, replete with the threat of U.S. troops to combat drug traffickers in cases where the Mexican military couldn't or wouldn't, to, as Trump described it, stop "bad hombres." According to reports, he also demanded Mexico pay for his God damned wall.
Item: The President berated the prime minister of Australia during a phone call, particularly over a long-standing U.S. commitment to accept some 1,250 refugees housed in island-based controversial refugee centers by the Australian government. Aside from abruptly ending the call early, he treated Prime Minister Turnbull to accounts of the size of his electoral win and presumably some of his body parts.
Item: National Security Advisor Michael Flynn "put Iran on notice" concerning its recent test of a missile that might or might not be a prohibited ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear weapon, which is barred by UN resolution and the recent nuclear deal, or... it might not be. Also, a naval assault on a Saudi frigate by Houthis operating in Yemen, believed to be allied with Iran... Well, that's pretty clear.
And a federal judge in Los Angeles issued one of the broadest temporary injunctions yet, basically ordering the government to stop enforcing much of the executive order
intended as a ban on Muslims intended as a ban on Muslims from countries where the President isn't doing business in a case brought by a family of 28 Yemenis.
In bonus domestic news, a draft executive order that would seriously curtail LGBTQ rights is circulating; Republicans are shifting their aspirations from "repealing Obamacare" to "repairing Obama care;" the President takes the hair growth drug Propecia; and the First Lady may never move into the White House.
For those keeping score, the number of days without a significant act of national humiliation as a result of actions by the Trump Administration remains unchanged, at zero.
A federal judge right here in Brooklyn (I was just at a rather spirited rally outside the courthouse) just issued a nationwide temporary emergency stay of the "controversial" immigration ban on nationals of seven Muslim majority countries issued by the President earlier in the week. Protests had broken out all over the country over an ill-advised and poorly drafted order intended to implement the Trump campaign promise made to White supremacists at his Nuremberg style rallies to ban all Muslim immigrants.
The order, which took effect without notice so that people literally in flight were effected, is deliberately intended to affect nationals from all Muslim countries not doing business with the Trump organization, notably refugees from Syria, and all immigrants from Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, nations with well over 130 million people among them, but more to the point, around 500,000 persons with visas, or green cards, or otherwise, a legal entitlement to enter the United States.
Say this for the new President: he has no sense of the incremental. He went right for a sore point, and in a yuuuuge way.
The real question is, where the f*** are business leaders? And where the f*** are grownups within the GOP? What he is proposing is a f***ing disaster for American business-- we need talent to be able to enter the country to keep our dubious economy running. We won't even think about the fact that many people Trump intends to shut out have American citizen dependents, not to mention families, jobs and lives here. We'll forget about what this says about us as a nation... and the amazing thing is, there is no particular emergency involved-- the emergency is that we have elected a petulant asshole to the presidency who is too stupid to know what he doesn't know, i.e., the scope of his legal authority in the immigration area, for example. Where the f*** is American business, on the phone with Mnuchin and Ross and the money people, to say "keep this up and your party is dead to us." Where. the f***. are. they?
Just asking. The games will continue until morale improves. This man has been in the
Trump White House just over eight days, and he has already soured relations with our southern neighbor, abused hundreds of thousands of hardworking honest people who just want to make their lives here, threatened the health insurance of tens of millions, proposed re-instituting torture, and quite probably driven our Pacific region partners into the arms of China (and that's when he wasn't ordering his flacks to lie about the size of his inaugural crowd and threaten an investigation into non-existent voter fraud in an election he won)... all for no reason other than he is a small man (with small fingers and all that goes with that) and he is a huge bigot. And also because all of these policies are really good for Russia, a country to whom he is personally in debt for hundreds of millions of dollars and with whose oligarchs he partners with in a number of businesses.
Is a grown up going to come forward? I doubt it will be from the GOP... but you know who you are...
Brooklyn born Mary Tyler Moore passed away at 80.
Mary played Laura Petrie (of New Rochelle, NY) for much of my early childhood, and then, from the magical era of my age 7-14 years, she was the uber-cool Mary Richards of Minneapolis, a 30-something single working girl (a t.v. news producer; the back story is that she broke up with a man she supported through medical school). For a political blog (that pretty much no one reads) I certainly do spend what seems (to me anyway) an inordinate amount of time on celebrity deaths, I'll admit that this is that rare one that periodically brings me to tears notwithstanding, of course, that I never knew Ms. Moore in actuality, even though I thought I did.
Probably because it marks a major turning point, whether to me, or to the culture writ large. Mary Tyler Moore the person had a private life, with its own tragedies (she was divorced more than once, her only child died at 24 of a shotgun accident, and she suffered from, among other things, alcoholism and diabetes). She was also an amazing serious actress, as her performance in the movie Ordinary People demonstrated. But Mary the fixture of Saturday nights was a beacon of calm in a roiling culture,,, calmly depicting discussion of issues raging in the real world of the 1970's, particularly issues affecting the changing role of women, amidst the still-formulaic world of television... reality in art, long before any remaining value of the television medium was sucked away in the cesspool known as "reality television," which in turn has blessed us with the elevation of... well, never mind.
Those who know me know that I'm barely passed the one-year mourning period following my father's death, and in the last year, lost two of my friends of his vintage (and Ms. Moore herself was born just four months before my father). And all of this transpires against a maelstrom of national madness that a minority of our countrymen have inflicted on us. And it's not as if we were starting from a great place, either. And so, one must somehow continue to hold it together.
Time marches on, I know. Another icon of a key part of my life (and those of my contemporaries) passes on. It's the way of the world. Hang in there: you're going to make it after all.
We must remember that it was only the media that first gave us Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee in the first place(how often can you report "superdelegates" in the count as real delegates...apparently as often as it takes). And then, it locked in our current predicament when it gave us Donald Trump as the Republican nominee (letting him be on all the talk shows without even showing up while the other candidates had to pay for ads... and don't forget his gratuitous Saturday Night Live appearance as guest host, a privilege no other candidate of either party was afforded.) And not to be outdone, said media breathlessly reported a series of meaningless internal campaign emails which showed up on Wikileaks (as a result of either an internal leak or an external hack) as if they were the most important news story ever, thereby, despite his unbelievable offensiveness (describing how he committed rape, insulting service members, including fallen heroes and Gold Star families, Mexicans, Muslims, women, the disabled, and the list goes on)... the media ended up allowing an avowed television huckster and charlatan, utterly unfit for the presidency by experience or temperament, to assume that office over a former secretary of state and senator (and First Lady) who certainly had "issues," but among them was not being outright unfit, whether for reasons of experience or temperament (and quite possibly being mentally unstable).
And now that the media has gifted us with Mr. Trump as President, it is doing its damndest to maximize his "effectiveness" (if by effectiveness, we mean how quickly he can dismantle any function of government designed to check powerful moneyed interests of any kind in order to preserve the health and safety of the population at large) by doing exactly what it did in the campaign. And that, of course, is salivating every time Mr. Trump rings a bell. Currently, the bell tone is Mr. Trump's twin insistence that more people attended his inauguration than attended Barack Obama's and that he only lost the popular vote as a result of between three and five million illegal immigrants casting votes for Mrs. Clinton. Because both of these contentions are not merely easily disproved, but are facially absurd, the eager doggies of the press have locked on to both of them, and just won't let go. And yes, it's certainly interesting that the President has devoted the first few days of his administration to disseminating lies that his Bond villain gal Friday helpfully calls "alternative facts," at no point do any of the doggies drop the bone (you see, like me, these doggies can also talk) and ask, "Hey wait a minute... you're doing this for a reason... and why might that be?"
My good friend and nom de russe Donald J. Putin, has recently discovered twitter for the only possible use that makes any sense, i.e., hit and run parody. Comrade Donald J.P. tries to point out stories each day that the media is soft-pedaling while Rome burns (we seem to have both Nero and Caligula in the Emperor's spot at the same time), as it plays with itself and follows the most obvious Trump lies with reckless abandon. Meanwhile, as Mr. Trump, his party and their minions, steal from, and undermine what's left of, this republic right from under us, obvious stories and their implications are simply left on the table by media ineptitude.
The thing is, this is actually the perfect time to learn some shockingly well-kept secrets that shouldn't be secrets, i.e., just what the hell it is that our government actually does, and what will happen to us when, thanks to Mr. Trump, his party and their minions, government no longer does those things. Obviously, Mr. Trump's first order of business is ordering government employees not to talk to the public who pays for their employment-- a measure that his good friend Vladimir Putin (or perhaps, Kim Jong Un, for whom he has expressed admiration) would give their own personal approval. That said, we might expect some government employees for whom this does not sit well to engage in leaks, and even if not, we can certainly explore the question of what these government agencies are actually supposed to do, in the face of direct orders not to do it, and have the public debate over the function of government that we seem to have been denied for decades.
The irony is that it is Mr. Trump himself who showed us that we do not need media gatekeepers to have these discussions. While rising to command the ultimate in top-down hierarchies, the United States government, Mr. Trump ostensibly used "new media" tactics, primarily Twitter and his own personal appearances. Interestingly, this was the same way-- via a social media suggestion gone viral-- that got millions of women (and quite a few men) to take to the streets just one day after Trump's inauguration.
While I'm not suggesting that it will be successful in bringing down Mr. Trump's government, or even in keeping it particularly accountable, I will say that it could "change the story." Maybe it will take a year, or two, or four, or even eight. But the story has to change: let's see what happens when dedicated, hard-working highly skilled government-employed experts, whose job it is to make sure that we and our children aren't poisoned or defrauded or abused or that we can safely get from point A to B or whatever else their function is... suddenly can't do their jobs out of a well-established and extraordinarily profitable ideology. Blame that on the Democrats; I'm betting that a better story-- the actual story-- that a few fat cats who, ideologically, just want their fellow human beings to suffer for no reason other than that they enjoy it and they enjoy being higher on a hierarchymight just emerge as a narrative.
Will Hillary's emails still be so important in such an environment? The overall story has to change. Otherwise, Einstein's definition of insanity-- doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results-- will continue to be the order of the day. If it's up to Pavlov's media lapdogs, we're screwed. A few intrepid members of the media will certainly move beyond the bullshit... but this is mostly up to us.
Final GTMO census number under now former President Barack Obama... forty-one men were handed off to the tender mercies of [gak] President Donald Trump, as of his inauguration mid-day on January 20. Andy, nearing the end of his American post-reality reality tour here has more on the ten men recently released to Oman.
And so we have a challenge...and an opportunity. As Andy and GTMO attorney Tom Wilner recently noted in an op-ed in NY's Daily News, at this census level, it costs around $10 million per prisoner each year... an insane amount of money simply to continue a pointless injustice. It would be a bizarre "only Nixon could go to China" development if Trump manages to shove the actual closing of Guantanamo through a Republican Congress. Not how you bet- but an opportunity. IMHO, people of goodwill were all too often stymied by Obama being notionally "on our side". It made getting public traction quite difficult.
Nothing will likely happen in the short run-- obviously, the rush for transfers comes to an end, and the Obama Administration itself has been oh so helpful in shutting down any legal options for detainees. Trump has threatened to "fill Guantanamo up with bad dudes," whatever that means.
But Guantanamo is still an insane expense, an insane moral stain on this nation, and will, hopefully, be a source of irritation to Team Trump, as, I hope, genuine left-wing opposition becomes a thing again. The concept of someone "who cannot be tried but is too dangerous to release" is anathema to an allegedly free country bound by the rule of law... but that is what GTMO is. But 26 men still fit that definition, including Candace's client Saeed Bakhouche, and have no recourse save executive whim; the courts have abrogated any responsibility over them. And five more are "cleared for release"-- some for as long as eight years in that status-- and yet... we the USA taxpayers will shell out $50 million a year to continue to hold them. And then we hold ten alleged terrorist kingpins as "high value detainees" subject to military commission trials at incredible cost, even though it is almost certain that, if the commission trials ever happen, that any convictions would probably be overturned by real courts.
But the game goes on. We need a better story-- and outrageous cost-- financial and moral-- is as good as any. Facts mean nothing to the American people-- as the obvious facts about the odiousness of the orange-hued cretinous boor we have just handed the presidency too mattered not a whit to millions of voters. They just liked his stories better. And so... the fact, of course, is that most of the men at Guantanamo are not, and have never been "terrorists"-- and the fact that only three have been "convicted" even by the flawed commissions tells you all you need to know. Indeed, they represent only about five per cent of the men who have cycled through the place, and again, five are "cleared" as it is, and, assuming the review process set up by Obama continues, we could assume more would be "cleared." And maybe "cleared" will lead to "transferred." Will any of this happen?
There's the challenge. I for one aren't giving up. Who's with me?
Given that we have the twitter President, at this point, I can only direct you to the twitter site of my good friend, Donald J. Putin.
With the new regime, we have to take it literally, but not seriously. Whatever that means.
With barely 72 hours or so left in his Administration, President Barack Obama announced a commutation of the sentence of whistleblower Chelsea Manning. From the Grey Lady:
President Obama on Tuesday commuted all but four months of the remaining prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the Army intelligence analyst convicted of a 2010 leak that revealed American military and diplomatic activities across the world, disrupted Mr. Obama’s administration and brought global prominence to WikiLeaks, the recipient of those disclosures.
The decision by Mr. Obama rescued Ms. Manning, who twice tried to kill herself last year, from an uncertain future as a transgender woman incarcerated at the men’s military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. She has been jailed for nearly seven years, and her 35-year sentence was by far the longest punishment ever imposed in the United States for a leak conviction.
At the same time that Mr. Obama commuted the sentence of Ms. Manning, a low-ranking enlisted soldier at the time of her leaks, he also pardoned Gen. James E. Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who pleaded guilty to lying about his conversations with reporters to F.B.I. agents investigating a leak of classified information about cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear program.
The two acts of clemency were a remarkable final step for a president whose administration carried out an unprecedented criminal crackdown on leaks of government secrets. Depending on how they are counted, the Obama administration has prosecuted either nine or 10 such cases, more than were charged under all previous presidencies combined.
In addition, Mr. Obama on Tuesday commuted the sentence of Oscar Lopez Rivera, who was part of a Puerto Rican nationalist group that carried out a string of bombings in the late 1970s and early 1980s; the other members of that group had long since been freed. Mr. Obama also granted 63 other pardons and 207 other commutations, mostly for drug offenders.
Under the terms of the commutation announced by the White House on Tuesday, Ms. Manning is set to be freed on May 17 of this year rather than in 2045. A senior administration official said the 120-day delay was part of a standard transition period for commutations to time served, and was designed to allow for such steps as finding a place for Ms. Manning to live after her release.
The commutation also relieved the Defense Department of the difficult responsibility of Ms. Manning’s incarceration as she pushes for treatment for her gender dysphoria, including sex reassignment surgery, that the military has no experience providing.
But the move was sharply criticized by several prominent Republicans, including the chairmen of the House and Senate armed services committees, Representative Mac Thornberry of Texas and Senator John McCain of Arizona, who called her leaks “espionage” and said they had put American troops and the country at risk.
Speaker Paul D. Ryan called it “outrageous.” “President Obama now leaves in place a dangerous precedent that those who compromise our national security won’t be held accountable for their crimes,” he said in a statement.
But in a joint statement, Nancy Hollander and Vince Ward — two lawyers who have been representing Ms. Manning in appealing her conviction and sentence, and who filed the commutation application — praised the decision.
Oh... ten Guantanamo prisoners were released to Oman. No details on names and nationalities are forthcoming, but this transfer reduces the GTMO census from 55 to 45... will that be the number handed off to incoming President
Voldemort Cohn Trump? We will see,
Meanwhile, it seems, the Cockwork Orange continues to play out his pro-wrestler-heel fantasies... and in three days, from the squared circle known as the Oval Office.
And we're off. In an interview with the German publication Bild and London's Times, the president-elect suggested that the NATO alliance was "obsolete," that only five members (there are twenty-eight total members) are "paying their fair share," he praised the Brexit vote, called the EU a device for Germany's benefit to impose its will on the rest of Europe, and he threatened to impose import duties on BMW if it locates a plant in Mexico, as it proposes. He also suggested he wants a deal with Russia, to reduce nuclear weapons and to eliminate sanctions. He chided German chancellor Angela Merkel for her refugee policy (there's a surprise), noting he believed it a "catastrophic mistake."
And he's not even going to take office for five more days. Here's the thing: this is actually pretty consistent with what he campaigned on. And there is an interesting national debate that would not be inappropriate, as to the appropriateness of our contribution to NATO (which Mr. Trump unsurprisingly is overstating) and indeed, the appropriateness of our involvement in an alliance with other states that are in a far better position to defend themselves than they were in the aftermath of World War II. The bigger question is whether the United States's overall massive defense footprint and expenditures are actually required for our own security, or whether we should scale back in light of both world geopolitical conditions and our own financial situation. Seriously... why should all aspects of our present policies be taken on sheer faith? Same with the EU-- though that is the EU members' business-- as to whether they believe that trade accord is in their interest. That is, it is not Mr. Trump's business.
And import duties on a non-American company choosing to locate its operations in Mexico presents a host of troubling issues (including whether he has the authority to do it on this basis). But again, maybe "a businessman" (even a terrible one like Mr. Trump) might correctly ask why we don't have a national industrial policy? Maybe he's not answering correctly-- but it is somewhat refreshing to see someone asking this kind of question.
Obviously, if his "policy positions" are being driven by his personal financial ties to the Russian state and Russian oligarchs in particular, rather than by actual personal conviction that this is sound policy (a virtual certainty, as Mr. Trump believes in nothing besides his personal aggrandizement)... then we have some deadly serious issues (of a national security nature) in allowing him to proceed. But I am not saying that, in isolation of Mr. Trump's wholly inappropriate motives (some might call them-- correctly-- treasonous), that the policy direction he seems to be proposing is not worthy of debate, and possibly even implementation.
All this said, none of this means that this man who is entirely unfit to be president is not to be opposed, consistently, and vociferously, at every turn, unless and until he behaves in an appropriate manner. Which means, he will likely need to be opposed consistently and vociferously.
It's the 15th anniversary of the opening of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba today; Andy is stateside, and, when not sojourning at Stately Dog Manor, is down in Washington, where I will be as well, protesting near the Supreme Court (festivities start 11:30 a.m., for those able to join...)
Obviously, none of us really know what the next Administration will bring... but, in matters GTMO, drone, indefinite detention, war/peace, etc.... it's not like we don't have "issues" with the current Administration. Just sayin'.