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Vol. 73/No. 30      August 10, 2009

Washington mulls new approach
to ‘interrogations’ of war prisoners
(front page)
The U.S. government is considering devising new interrogation methods for those detained in its “war on terror.” The shift comes as Washington attempts to clean up its image marked by infamous torture camps at the U.S. Navy base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba; the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan; and others.

The proposal comes as prisoners at Bagram continue a protest against violations of their rights. Since at least July 1 prisoners have refused to leave their cells to shower, exercise, or communicate with family members, reports the Washington Post.

The discussion on modifying interrogation policies, which currently sanction forms of torture, is part of a debate in the U.S. ruling class on how to more effectively pursue what they call the “long war,” in face of world outrage at the mistreatment of prisoners from the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq.

Some 21,000 troops have been ordered to Afghanistan so far this year, and the Pentagon says its goal is to have 68,000 there by the end of 2009.

The White House is considering creating an interrogation team that may include some two dozen people from the FBI, CIA, and other agencies who will come up with new “noncoercive” tactics for collecting intelligence.

An article in the July 18 Wall Street Journal said that some CIA veterans oppose limiting interrogation tactics to “noncoercive” methods because there is a “middle ground” between torture and official guidelines.

“We have to figure out tactic by tactic: Would we allow some things that go beyond the criminal justice system or the Army Field Manual?” former CIA lawyer and federal prosecutor John Radsan told the Journal.

According to the July 16 Washington Post, the prisoners at Bagram Air Base are protesting their indefinite, arbitrary incarceration. The Obama administration has insisted that prisoners from around the world being held at Bagram can be jailed indefinitely without charges and have no right to challenge their detention. None of the prisoners are permitted to visit with their lawyers.

The administration is fighting an April ruling by a U.S. federal district court that stated that habeus corpus rights afforded by the Supreme Court to Guantánamo detainees should also apply to non-Afghan prisoners at Bagram who were detained outside of Afghanistan. Nearly 40 prisoners at Bagram are not Afghan citizens, and many of them were not arrested in Afghanistan.

The facility at Bagram currently holds some 620 prisoners, but Washington has plans to expand the facility to hold nearly 1,000.

In January Obama issued an executive order to close the Guantánamo facility by the end of 2009. However, the Senate in a 90-6 vote May 20 rejected the president’s request for $80 million to close the prison camp.

The Los Angeles Times reported July 21 that the administration said it would not meet self-imposed deadlines for deciding what to do with many of the 240 prisoners still jailed at Guantánamo, claiming many are “too dangerous” for release.
Related articles:
UK rulers to review war strategy, Washington ties
U.S. Army to grow by 22,000 to meet war needs  
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