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Civil Liberties After 9/11
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Prisoner Policies and Documents

American treatment of prisoners of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts keeps making news. One year after the explosive release of the prisoner abuse photos from Abu Ghraib, new allegations are still coming to light. On April 27, 2005, watchdog group Human Rights Watch released a report maintaining that the Abu Ghraib abuses were merely the "tip of the iceberg" in an ongoing practice of maltreatment of prisoners. Two days earlier a United Nations monitor's report accused the U.S. military and its contractors in Afghanistan of acting above the law "by engaging in arbitrary arrests and detentions and committing abusive practices, including torture."

Just the week before, an Army investigation cleared four of the five top Army officers overseeing prison policies and operations in Iraq of responsibility for the abuse of detainees. The Senate Armed Services Committee had requested the review of the top officers by the Army. Only Army Reserve Brigadier General Janis Karpinski was held responsible; she maintains she is being made a scapegoat. THE NEW YORK TIMES has reported that Senator John W. Warner, who heads the Armed Services Committee, will call for yet another hearing on senior officer accountability in the detainee abuse scandal. Nine soldiers have been charged in connection with the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison. Several have been sentenced to prison terms and discharged from the Army.

Meanwhile, the Army is about to issue new guidelines in the first major revision of an interrogations manual in 13 years. The TIMES reports that the new manual will specifically prohibit some of the practices seen in the Abu Ghraib photos — "stripping prisoners, keeping them in stressful positions for a long time, imposing dietary restrictions, employing police dogs to intimidate prisoners and using sleep deprivation as a tool to get them to talk." These practices were neither condoned nor prohibited in the previous manual.

The question of what policies both the Army, and the Bush administration, were following in Iraq, Afghanistan and at the base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba has been a matter of much legal contention. Several groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights, have used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain documents discussing everything from interrogation practices to administration memos on whether or not the U.S. is bound by the Geneva Conventions in the War on Terror. These documents have not only raised legal questions, but caused debate even among military and law enforcement officials over whether torture leads to useful information gathering.

Below are links that will lead to you many documents relating to prisoner treatment. Also, see NOW's look at the legal cases related to prisoner's rights.


ACLU: Torture FOIA
The ACLU filed a request on Oct. 7, 2003 under the Freedom of Information Act demanding the release of information about detainees held overseas by the United States. A lawsuit was filed in June 2004 demanding that the government comply with the October 2003 FOIA request. The site contains the documents released as a result. The ACLU is still seeking the release of additional documents.

The Center for Constitutional Rights
The Center for Constitutional Rights, party to some lawsuits on behalf on Guantanamo detainees, has posted the controversial Pentagon "Working Group Report on Detainee Interrogations in the Global War on Terrorism: Assessment of Legal, Historical, Policy and Operational Considerations" from 2003 on its Web site. Read the Pentagon Report

Center for Public Integrity
The Abu Ghraib Supplementary Documents project includes background materials from Army Major General Anthony Taguba's investigation into abuses of military detainees in Iraq. The documents include high-level policy memos, special investigations and witness testimony.

The Man in the Hood: New Accounts of Prisoner Abuse in Iraq
Video of reporter Donovan Webster's talk at the University of Virginia. Webster published an article on Abu Ghraib detainees in VANITY FAIR in February, 2005.

National Security Archive at George Washington University
The Interrogation Documents: Debating U.S. Policy and Methods collection contains 14 documents originating from the White House, the Pentagon and the Justice Department concerning the Administration's interrogation policies released by the White House in June, 2004 as well as other documents leaked to the press. The site also includes the press releases from the White House and the Department of Defense related to the documents.

Reporter Michael Isikoff obtained a classified memo by Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo which argued "Afghanistan was a 'failed State' whose territory had been largely overrun and held by violence by a militia or faction rather than by a government. Accordingly, Afghanistan was without the attributes of statehood necessary to continue as a party to the Geneva Conventions." Read the Jan. 9, 2002 memo from John Yoo, Deputy Assistant Attorney General; Michael Isikoff, "Double Standard?" NEWSWEEK, May 21, 2004; Michael Isikoff, "Memos Reveal War Crimes Warnings," NEWSWEEK; John Barry, Michael Hirsh and Michael Isikoff, "The Roots of Torture," NEWSWEEK; "A Tortured Debate," NEWSWEEK

THE WASHINGTON POST: Bush Administration Documents on Interrogation
The WASHINGTON POST provides an annotated guide to the documents about interrogation procedures released by the Bush administration in June 2004. Among the documents: Memorandum from Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee to The White House Counsel on the status of Taliban Forces under Article 4 of the Third Geneva Convention of 1949.

Additional sources: BBC Q and A on Abuse Scandal; Human Rights Watch Report; International Committee of the Red Cross; Christian Peacemaker Team

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