A crushing indictment of the American Torture program was handed down last week in the case of Fouad al-Rabiah by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. Read the whole story from Andy Worthington here. Trust me. Read it this weekend.
Al-Rabiah was an innocent man picked up in Afghanistan. He worked as a low level employee for Kuwaiti Airlines and was a husband with four children. He also had a history of doing refugee relief work for the Red Crescent. He was picked up (unarmed) by villagers outside Jalalabad in December 2001. Based on testimony from another, unsubstantiated witness, al-Rabiah was transferred to Guatananomo because of allegations that he was an aide to Bin Laden. And he quickly found out that there are no innocent men at Guantanomo. Cheney said so.
Here's what transpired. Al-Rabiah was interrogated initially to no avail. He denied all the accusations brought against him by the unreliable sources. A CIA analyst from 2002 is on record as saying that Al-Rabiah was probably innocent, wrong place at the wrong time. But then he was subjected to the "enhanced interrogation techniques" of Cheneyland and was told that he needed to confess to something because they knew he was guilty. Thinking he would never see his children again otherwise, he "confessed" to numerous charges:
She then moved on to al-Rabiah's own explanations of how he came to make false confessions, noting that he had stated that, shortly after his arrival at Guantánamo, "a senior [redacted] interrogator came to me and said, 'There is nothing against you. But there is no innocent person here. So, you should confess to something so you can be charged and sentenced and serve your sentence and then go back to your family and country, because you will not leave this place innocent.
His interrogators became frustrated, however, as his confessions contained numerous inconsistencies and implausibilities. So he has remained in American custody since then, awaiting a decision on his plea for habeas corpus. And here's the extraordinary thing--- our government's entire case against denying Al-Rabiah habeas corpus is based on the fact that he "confessed" and is therefore a criminal. The Orwellian circularity of the reasoning is just mind boggling. He was presumed guilty. He was told he needed to confess to have any chance at seeing his family again. His confession was so unsubstantiated that even his interrogators didn't believe him and continued to torture him more to get at the "truth". And now our government turns around and uses that confession as their trump card in a trial to justify his continued illegal detention. And these are Department of Justice lawyers from the Obama Administration.
We cannot just turn the page. Accountability is a painful, yet necessary process. The deeper Obama wades into the morass, defending the indefensible, the less distinguishable his legacy becomes from the Cheney/Bush era. He speaks of "moving forward". That's fine. But let's do it with our eyes open for now on. We've betrayed enough core American principles for one generation....