Naeem — 4 articles

Topic(s): Civil Rights | Comments Off on Naeem — 4 articles

1. Tales of Despair From Guantánamo
2. Asylum Seekers Suffer Psychological Setbacks
3. Patriot Act of 2001 Casts Wide Net
4. Hundreds of 9/11 detainees rights violated
June 17, 2003
Tales of Despair From Guantánamo
KABUL, Afghanistan, June 16 ? Afghans and Pakistanis
who were detained for many months by the American
military at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba before being
released without charges are describing the conditions
as so desperate that some captives tried to kill
According to accounts in the last three months from
some of the 32 Afghans and three Pakistanis in the
weeks since their release, it was above all the
uncertainty of their fate, combined with confinement
in very small cells, sometimes only with Arabic
speakers, that caused inmates to attempt suicide. One
Pakistani interviewed this month said he tried to kill
himself four times in 18 months.
An Afghan prisoner who spent 14 months at the camp, at
the American naval base at Guantánamo, described in
April what he called the uncertainty and fear. “Some
were saying this is a prison for 150 years,” said
Suleiman Shah, 30, a former Taliban fighter from
Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan.
None of those interviewed complained of physical
mistreatment. But the men said that for the first few
months, they were kept in small wire-mesh cells, about
6 1/2 feet by 8 feet , in blocks of 10 or 20. The
cells were covered by a wooden roof, but open at the
sides to the elements.
“We slept, ate, prayed and went to the toilet in that
small space,” Mr. Shah said. Each man had two blankets
and a prayer mat and slept and ate on the ground, he
The prisoners were taken out only once a week for a
one-minute shower. “After four and a half months we
complained and people stopped eating, so they said we
could shower for five minutes and exercise once a
week,” Mr. Shah said. After that, he said, prisoners
got to exercise for 10 minutes a week, walking around
the inside of a cage 30 feet long.
In interviews at their homes, weeks after being
released, he and the freed Pakistani detainee talked
of what they said was the overwhelming feeling of
injustice among the approximately 680 men detained
indefinitely at Guantánamo Bay.
“I was trying to kill myself,” said Shah Muhammad, 20,
a Pakistani who was captured in northern Afghanistan
in November 2001, handed over to American soldiers and
flown to Guantánamo in January 2002. “I tried four
times, because I was disgusted with my life.
“It is against Islam to commit suicide,” he continued,
“but it was very difficult to live there. A lot of
people did it. They treated me as guilty, but I was
In the 18 months since the detention camp opened,
there have been 28 suicide attempts by 18 individuals,
with most of those attempts made this year, Capt.
Warren Neary, a spokesman at the detention camp, said
today. None of the prisoners have killed themselves,
but one man has suffered severe brain damage,
according to his lawyer.
The prisoners come from more than 40 countries, and
include more than 50 Pakistanis, about 150 Saudis and
three teenagers under 16, a majority of them captured
in Afghanistan, said Dr. Najeef bin Mohamad Ahmed
al-Nauimi, a former justice minister in Qatar, who is
representing nearly 100 of the detainees.
Dr. Nauimi represents many of the Saudis, and American
lawyers represent about 14 prisoners from Kuwait.
There are also 83 Yemenis, he said, and a sprinkling
of others, including Canadians, Britons, Algerians and
Australians, and one Swede.
Since January 2002, at least 32 Afghan prisoners and
three Pakistanis have been released from Guantánamo
Bay. Five Saudis were recently handed over to the
Saudi authorities. Yasser Esam Hamdi, an American-born
Saudi, was moved from the camp to a military brig in
Norfolk, Va., in April 2002. Captain Neary said 41
people had been released in all, but he could not give
a more exact description.
At the same time, the military is preparing to place
about 10 of the prisoners before a military tribunal
soon, officials said this month.
Mr. Muhammad, who spent 18 months in Cuba before his
release, said that “when they first took us there they
would not let us talk, or stand or walk around the
“At the beginning it was very hard to bear,” he added.
“There was no call to prayer, and there was no shade.
In the afternoon the sun came in from the side.”
Under the current routine, a majority of the prisoners
remain in their cells but for two 15-minute periods a
week, in which they walk around the cage and take a
shower. In addition, the call to prayer is played over
the prison’s loudspeakers five times a day, according
to Capt. Youseff Yee, the Muslim chaplain who oversees
the religious needs of the Guantánamo prisoners.
Conditions improved after the first few months, and
prisoners were moved to newly built cells with running
water and a bed, Mr. Shah said. Interrogation was
sporadic and it varied in length and intensity.
Sometimes they were questioned after 10 days, or 20
days, and then not for several months, prisoners said.
But it was the uncertainty and fear that they would be
there forever that drove many of them to despair,
prisoners said.
“All of the people were worried about how long we
would be there for,” Mr. Shah said. “People were
becoming mad because they were saying: `When will they
release us? They should take us to the high court.’
Many stopped eating.”
One Taliban fighter from the southern province of
Helmand, who only uses one name, Rustam, said in May
that he was driven to trying to hang himself because
he was in a block of Arabs and Uzbeks he described as
“There were some very strange people, they were
hitting their heads on the wall, insulting the
soldiers, and that is why I hated it,” said Rustam,
who is 22, in an interview in an Afghan prison in
Kabul. “I think they were really crazy people, and
that’s why I kept asking to be taken out for
When he tried to hang himself, Rustam said, the guards
found him quickly. “They untied me and said `Don’t do
this,’ ” he said. “They gave me medicine, but it was
no good. They put me under supervision and moved me to
another place.”
Mr. Muhammad, one of three Pakistani prisoners to be
released at the end of April, said he first tried to
hang himself because for months on end he was
surrounded by Arabs and could not speak their
“It was difficult not talking to anyone for so long,”
he said. “It was because of the jail. They put me in a
block full of Arabs, they were only letting us out for
a very short time, and it was very difficult. I could
feel myself going down.”
After 11 months in the prison camp, he tied his
bedsheet to a ceiling wire and hanged himself from it
at 4 o’clock one afternoon. “I don’t know what
happened,” he said. “They took me to the hospital. I
was unconscious for two days.”
Only after that suicide attempt, Mr. Muhammad said,
did his American keepers tell him that he was only
being held for questioning, and that one day he would
go home. Tranquilizers were prescribed, he said, but
he stopped taking the tablets after a while and
attempted suicide again.
Then the doctors gave Mr. Muhammad a powerful
injection that he said left him unable to control his
head or his mouth or eat properly for weeks. Although
he refused to have the injection, the military medical
personnel gave it to him by force, he said. He made
two further attempts to kill himself that he said were
more protest actions at the conditions.
“We needed more blankets, but they would not listen,”
he said. “And I kept asking them to take me to the
Afghan and Pakistani side. All the time I was with
Arabs. I did not speak my own language for months.”
Mr. Muhammad also threatened to kill himself again if
he was given another injection. He remained on tablets
until his release, he said.
American officials have confirmed that one prisoner
who tried to commit suicide remains in the prison
hospital with severe brain damage. Dr. Nauimi said the
prisoner was Mish al-Hahrbi, a Saudi schoolteacher. He
said that the teacher became desperate over not
knowing what his future held and that he tried to hang
himself. The teacher was resuscitated but is unlikely
to recover from a severe hemorrhage, the lawyer said.
Back home with time to ponder their ordeal, the former
prisoners now want to demand compensation.
“The Americans said if anyone is innocent, they will
get compensation,” Mr. Muhammad said. “They held me
for 18 months, and so they should give me
compensation. They told me I was innocent, but they
did not apologize.”
Human rights organizations have raised concerns about
the conditions at Guantánamo Bay and the unclear legal
status of the detainees. The American military has
refused to consider them prisoners of war, even though
a majority were captured on the battlefield, and does
not allow them access to lawyers. No charges have yet
been brought against any of the detainees, some of
whom have been there for 18 months.
Concerned about their prolonged detention without
trial or clear legal status, the head of the
International Red Cross, which visits the detainees,
urged the Bush administration last month to start
legal proceedings for the hundreds of detainees and to
institute a number of changes in conditions at the
Cmdr. Brian Grady, the staff psychiatrist at the
camp’s medical facility, said in a recent interview
that most prisoners suffering from depression brought
their symptoms with them to Cuba.
“I don’t know what the effects of this particular
confinement are,” he said. “I’d be hesitant to
comment.” Officials at Guantánamo have generally
dismissed the notion that the confinement and
uncertainty about the future are specifically to
“I would not particularly say these circumstances are
a factor,” Commander Grady said.
But Jamie Fellner, director of the United States
program for Human Rights Watch, said in an interview
that that was highly implausible.
“These conditions of confinement by themselves over a
prolonged period are enormously psychologically
stressful,” she said. “Added to that is the
uncertainty as to the future.”
Ms. Fellner added that her group had not found any
credible reports of physical abuse and that it had
investigated several accounts of beatings and such
that turned out to be unfounded.
Hospital officials said that about 5 percent of the
inmates were suffering from depression and that they
were being treated with antidepressants, typically
June 17, 2003
Asylum Seekers Suffer Psychological Setbacks, Study
WASHINGTON, June 16 ? A study of inmates in the
nation’s immigration detention centers has found
rising levels of depression and post-traumatic stress
among victims of torture or persecution who are
seeking political asylum in the United States.
The report, by a team of doctors who specialize in the
treatment of people fleeing persecution, found a
steady deterioration in the psychological well-being
of asylum seekers over the months and years that they
were detained in the centers, many of which offered
little access to counseling and other mental health
In the 2002 fiscal year, more than 9,000 asylum
seekers were detained while awaiting adjudication of
their claims, according to government statistics. The
authors of the report based their findings on only a
small sampling of that group, saying that officials at
the Department of Homeland Security declined to grant
them access to a larger pool of inmates.
The study, written by Physicians for Human Rights and
the Bellevue-New York University Program for Survivors
of Torture, based its findings on interviews with 70
asylum seekers in 2001 and 2002.
Officials at the Homeland Security Department said
today that they had just received the 220-page report
and could not comment on its findings until they had
reviewed it.
Dr. Allen S. Keller, an author of the report, said the
findings were “very disconcerting.” The report, “From
Persecution to Prison: The Health Consequences of
Detention for Asylum Seekers,” will be released on
“The people we interviewed for this study were
subjected to the most awful kind of persecution in
their countries,” said Dr. Keller, the director of the
Bellevue-New York University program. “They came here
seeking safety, seeking refuge. Instead, what they
found was a prison cell.”
Seventy-four percent of those interviewed said they
had been tortured in their home countries, and more
than half said they were suffering from psychological
problems when they arrived here.
People who seek asylum are detained when they arrive
at ports of entry in the United States. Government
officials say detention ensures that people do not
flee before claims are processed.
But 70 percent of those interviewed said their
psychological conditions worsened while they were in
detention. Only about 6 percent reported receiving
counseling services.
Many also said that they were treated poorly by
immigration officials at airports and in detention
Abdulai Bah fled Sierra Leone during the civil war
there and was held for nearly four months at the
Elizabeth Detention Center in New Jersey. Mr. Bah said
he was terrified because no one explained why he was
being detained. He was granted asylum in Feb. 2001, he
“I wasn’t expecting to be sent to any prison,” said
Mr. Bah, 21, in a telephone interview from his home in
Staten Island. “Back in my country, people were
praising the U.S. in terms of democracy and human
rights being respected. I wasn’t ready for this.”
Patriot Act of 2001 Casts Wide Net
By Frank J. Murray
The Washington Times
Monday 16 June 2003
Long-sought details have begun to emerge from the
Justice Department on how anti-terrorist provisions of
the USA Patriot Act were applied in nonterror
investigations, just as battle lines are being drawn
on proposed new powers in a Patriot Act II.
Overall, the policy now allows evidence to be used
for prosecuting common criminals even when obtained
under extraordinary anti-terrorism powers and
information-sharing between intelligence agencies and
the FBI.
“We would use whatever tools are available to us,
within reason, to prosecute violations of any law,”
Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra said in the
wake of his department’s massive report to Congress
describing how the USA Patriot Act is being
The information was a response to doubts, not from
outspoken civil liberties groups, but from Rep. F.
James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican and the
House Judiciary Committee chairman who publicly pushed
for its speedy 337-79 House passage.
“We had something to do with encouraging Chairman
Sensenbrenner to express our concerns,” said Timothy
Edgar, American Civil Liberties Union legislative
counsel. The ACLU spearheaded opposition to sections
that could let the government obtain vast amounts of
information that infringe on constitutional rights.
“It’s clear that the problems of 9/11 were the
result of not analyzing information we had already
collected. Creating more hay to search through the
haystack is not an effective way to find the needle,”
Mr. Edgar said in an interview.
“It’s impossible for anyone to make the case that
our civil liberties were the problem,” agreed Lee
Tien, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier
Foundation in San Francisco.
Key objections include authorizing FBI agents to
monitor mosques, which the Justice Department said was
done only by 20 percent of FBI’s 45 field offices;
access to business records, which they say includes
files at libraries and bookstores; and expanding CIA
influence over domestic intelligence by authorizing
the agency to request individual surveillance.
The Justice Department takes the position that
grand juries have long had the power to subpoena
bookstore and library records, and that the Patriot
Act merely expanded that authority to anti-terror and
foreign intelligence probes.
Mr. Tien said the Patriot Act corrected a general
belief that the long-standing Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act was restricted to terrorist activity.
“It is now much easier to use FISA surveillance in
an investigation for a law-enforcement purpose,” he
said, but he added that authorities rarely cross that
Without acknowledging such objections, Attorney
General John Ashcroft told the House Judiciary
Committee in an appearance Thursday to consult on
guidelines for future investigations that September 11
proved the FBI must prevent crime, and not just wait
for new outrages.
But Mr. Ashcroft always was emphatic about the
law’s purpose and on Oct. 25, 2001, told the U.S.
Mayors Conference that he supported applying to
terrorists Robert Kennedy’s stated policy to arrest
organized crime figures for “spitting on the sidewalk”
if need be.
“We will use every available statute. We will seek
every prosecutorial advantage,” Mr. Ashcroft said that
day before the Patriot Act was signed into law. On
June 5 he asked that those powers be expanded.
More changes were expected to follow Justice
Department negotiations with House Judiciary Committee
staffers scheduled for last week, but the recent
revelations showed that information gathered under the
law ? by secret warrant or compulsory disclosures ?
will be used for nonterrorist prosecutions as well.
The committee’s ranking Democrat, John Conyers Jr.
of Michigan, said he hoped the meetings would allow
better analysis of the complex subject than each
member’s having five minutes each to quiz Mr.
The complexity of the 342-page USA Patriot Act
would be difficult to overstate since it modified 15
existing laws to:
* Expand the capability to obtain warrants and conduct
searches without disclosing them immediately.
* Expand DNA collection to include any violent crime.
* Allow Internet monitoring.
* Mandate access to “business records” that include
librarian and bookstore files.
* Restrict lawsuits to keep from bankrupting airlines
whose planes were hijacked September 11.
* Compensate survivors of more than 3,000 people
killed that day.
Many provisions are now planned to expire in
October 2005, although evidence obtained now may be
used later. Some provisions are yet to go into effect,
including aspects requiring fuller identification of
“financial-transaction” customers, which takes full
force Oct. 1.
Software, like that sold by Innovative Systems of
Pittsburgh, helps firms in 25 finance-related
industries covered by the law to compare millions of
customer records with thousands of entries on federal
government blacklists. “Suspicious Activity Reports”
will be required to the Treasury Department from car
dealers, insurance companies, investment brokers,
lenders, and real-estate firms.
“The only companies out doing that today are banks.
I’ll bet a lot of places don’t even know they’ll have
to do it,” said Charles Schardong, Innovative’s
product manager, who said private companies shield
their customers’ privacy.
One example of detail in the law ? whose full
formal name is Uniting and Strengthening America by
Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and
Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act of 2001 ? is that
Acting Assistant Attorney General Jamie E. Brown used
60 closely spaced pages to respond to 18 pages of
questions on civil liberties issues. In addition,
answers containing classified information were filed
Among other things, the DOJ revealed it obtained
113 secret emergency search or electronic-surveillance
authorizations in the year after September 11,
compared with 47 in the 23 years before that attack.
The law lowered the standard for such intrusions from
terrorism being “the purpose” to being only “a
significant purpose.”
Other replies on statistical questions about the
law’s implementation:
* One of the 15 requests to seize material without
notifying the owners was refused. A court ruled
photographs of items in storage would suffice, so
seizure was unjustified.
* Justice refused to say how many persons were
detained as “material witnesses” or identify any, but
said that as of January the total was “fewer than 50”
and that most were freed in less than 90 days.
* Six hundred accounts encompassing $124 million in
assets were frozen and 70 “terrorist financing”
investigations led to 23 convictions or guilty pleas.
* Information obtained from computer-service providers
was used in investigations unrelated to foreign
terrorism. They included a kidnaping, a bomb threat
against a school, a hacker who extorted his victim,
and a lawyer who defrauded clients.
* The FBI hired 264 translators “to support
counterterrorism efforts,” including 121 Arabic
speakers and 25 who speak Farsi.
* Telephone voicemails were obtained through search
warrants rather than wiretap orders “in a variety of
criminal cases … [including] foreign and domestic
terrorists.” The law also opens to seizure e-mail
stored on a provider’s server.
* Pen-register devices that record strokes on a
telephone keypad or a computer keyboard identified
conspirators in the murder of Wall Street Journal
reporter Daniel Pearl.
* More than 8.4 million FBI files were provided to the
State Department, and 83,000 records on wanted persons
went to the Immigration and Naturalization Service
along with data on detainees held in Afghanistan,
Pakistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“In our judgment the government success in
preventing another catastrophic attack on the American
homeland in the 20 months since September 11, 2001,
would have been much more difficult, if not impossibly
so, without the USA Patriot Act,” wrote Ms. Brown, who
directs congressional affairs for the Justice
Mr. Edgar, her opposite number at the ACLU, largely
dismissed the bulky reply that provided answers his
organization had long demanded.
“I’d say the response was dismissive and cavalier.
It provided some information without answering the
basic question: ‘Are we safer from terrorism?’ ” said
Mr. Edgar, adding that the impact of the Patriot Act
appears exaggerated.
“They say we’ve used this section or that section
but don’t say why, how, or whether it was important or
what would have happened if they had not used that
section or whether it was used to prevent terrorism,”
Mr. Edgar said.
9/11 Detainees’ Treatment Casts a Deep Shadow
Ashcroft used a cloak of secrecy to violate the rights of hundreds.
By Morton H. Halperin and Ken Gude
Friday 13 June 2003
Morton H. Halperin is director of the Washington office of the Open Society Institute. Ken Gude is a policy analyst at the Center for National Security Studies.
The abuses against the immigrant detainees who were rounded up after Sept. 11 have been amply detailed in a report released by the Justice Department’s inspector general.
Many of the detainees were kept in unnecessarily harsh confinement, denied access to counsel and family and not informed of the charges against them for weeks or months. Some were beaten. They were automatically denied bail and many were jailed even though they were never charged with any serious crime. The inspector general’s report also confirms that many of those detained were never suspected of terrorism but were simply caught up in the wide net cast after 9/11.
But the ultimate abuse, in our opinion, was the shroud of secrecy ordered by Atty. Gen. John D. Ashcroft over the entire process.
On Sept. 20, 2001, he directed the department’s chief immigration judge to keep secret all information about the detainees. As a result, the government refused to disclose the names of those arrested and then closed their hearings to the public. This made any outside review of the Justice Department’s actions virtually impossible; the department was not accountable to anyone outside the government until the inspector general’s report was released this month.
And the report is only the tip of the iceberg. The inspector general examined the cases of only 119 out of the 762 aliens detained.
Before the report’s release, Ashcroft repeatedly asserted that at no time were the rights of the detainees violated. He told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Dec. 6, 2001, that “all persons being detained have the right to contact their lawyers and their families.” That claim was false. The inspector general “found that the Bureau of Prisons’ decision to house Sept. 11 detainees in the most restrictive confinement conditions possible severely limited the detainees’ ability to obtain, and communicate with, legal counsel.”
The attorney general has also claimed that the uncompromising application of punitive detention before trial was justified because it targeted suspected terrorists. But the inspector general said the FBI made little or no effort to distinguish between detainees who were the subjects of the Sept. 11 investigation and those who were encountered by investigators “coincidentally.” That failure caused the prolonged and extremely harsh detention of individuals whom the government never suspected of terrorist activity.
Remarkably, even in the face of a 198-page report detailing numerous rights abuses, the Justice Department still maintains that the law was “scrupulously followed and respected.”
Where in the law does it allow for the physical abuse of individuals in government custody?
The government remains stubbornly determined to keep secret the identities of the detainees. It has appealed a federal court’s order to release the names; the appeals court’s decision is pending. And it is clear from the Justice Department’s “no apologies” response to the inspector general’s report that it is not taking seriously the findings or recommendations.
Congress should demand that the Justice Department release the names of the detainees, and it should act to prohibit secret arrests and secret hearings in the future. Unfortunately, at the House Judiciary Committee hearing, members never even addressed the secrecy of the arrests.
In his opening statement on June 5, the attorney general very powerfully read aloud names of those who were murdered on Sept. 11. I hold out hope that at some appearance before some congressional body, some attorney general will read aloud names of those who were detained, jailed and beaten in the aftermath of that tragic day.