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Category: Human Rights

The Story of Mohammed Al-Qahtani

I’ve mentioned high-value terrorists. I wrote about Abu Zubaydah, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or Mohammed Al-Qahtani (most of this story comes from Jane Mayer’s book, The Dark Side). In August 2001, prior to September 11, Al-Qahtani arrived at the Orlando airport in Florida. He had $2800 in cash and no luggage. He came here on a one-way ticket from Saudi Arabia and was refused entry into the country. Further detective work, after 9/11, showed that Mohammed Atta was waiting for him in the parking lot. Al Qahtani was captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan in December of 2001. He was in United States custody for almost 7 months before he was fingerprinted and identified as an Al Qaeda operative. He was the 20th hijacker. He was at the famed Malaysia meeting in 2000. (Why we didn’t get better intelligence at the Malaysia meeting is still a mystery to me. Why we allow the Malaysian intelligence agency to take the lead is mind-boggling.)

FBI interrogator Ali Soufan, who interrogated Abu Zubaydah before he was taken away by the CIA, was called into question Al-Qahtani. He got a lot of information in a short period time. He even identified a sleeper cell located in Chicago. This wasn’t enough information for US officials, who “knew” that Al Qahtani was holding out. Tougher measures were needed. My question is why would officials assume that a low-level screw-up who’d been captured twice in less than six months would have a treasure trove of information? I’m just asking. It is clear that there was a lot of outside pressure being placed on US officials. In April of 2002 there was a terrorist attack on a synagogue in Tunisia. The US Consulate in Karachi was attacked in June.

It is clear that towards the end of 2002, the FBI backed out of the picture. There’s a steady stream of information from Washington to Guantánamo and back to Washington. Donald Rumsfeld and the commander of Guantánamo Major General Dunlevy had what was described as “close and constant contact.” By November of 2002, the gloves indeed came off. For 48 of the next 54 days, Al-Qahtani was only allowed to sleep for four hours a day. Besides being stripped naked, he was strip-searched and forced to undergo enemas in front of females. He was intentionally touched by females, making it impossible for him to pray (you can’t pray if you’re unclean and you’re unclean if you’re touched by female). He was forced to stand so long his feet and hands swelled. He needed to have his hands and feet bandaged and elevated to treat the painful swelling. At one point, he was treated like a dog, which included being placed in a leash and forced to jump around. There was more degrading treatment. He became so dehydrated at one point the physician had to start a special IV.
What did we learn from these harsh interrogations of Al-Qahtani? Nothing. The process was slow and time-consuming. I’m forced to scratch my head and ask the question, “Why?” We learned nothing. We should’ve known he knew nothing. Now my question is, how do we try this guy? How do we put him in jail, where he belongs, for the rest of his life?

Thoughts on Dr. George Tiller (update)

I did not know Dr. George Tiller. I’m not sure if any my friends knew him. I do know that I’m deeply saddened by this act of violence. Dr. George Tiller, whether you believe in what he did or not, was the kind of physician we all would like to be. In the face of incredible danger, after being shot, after having his office bombed… he continued to serve his patients. His bravery needs to be commended.
I guess my question tonight is: Where’s our government? There were some people out there (including Bill O’Reilly who did 29 separate segments on Tiller since 2005 calling him Tiller the baby killer) that believe, no that’s not right, they Know that abortion is akin to murder. These people have sworn to stop abortion at all costs. It appears that this is the same type of jihad that Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden have been carrying out against the United States. We’ve used an enormous amount of resources to try to stop Al Qaeda. Have we use the same type of resources to try to stop domestic terrorism? I don’t know about you, but I see the bombing of abortion clinics as domestic terrorism. Has the FBI been diligent in infiltrating these groups? There is no reason, in my opinion, that a physician who is abiding by United States law should live in fear.
I applaud Dr. Tiller for his bravery and his devotion to his patients. My heart goes out to his family and friends.
There are multiple posts on the Daily Kos on abortion (here, here and here) and Dr. George Teller.

Update (from Huffington Post): In March 1993, three months into the administration of our first pro-choice president, Bill Clinton, abortion provider Dr. David Gunn was murdered in Pensacola, Florida. That was the beginning of what would become a five-fold increase in violence against abortion providers throughout the Clinton years.
Today’s assassination of Dr. George Tiller comes 5 months into the term of our second pro-choice president. For anyone who would like to believe that this is a statistical anomaly, a coincidence that doesn’t portend anything, again, you are wrong.
During the entire Bush administration, from 2000-2008 there were no murders.
During the Clinton era, between 1994-2000 there were 6 abortion providers and clinic staff murdered, and 17 attempted murders of abortion providers. There were 12 bombings or arsons during the Clinton years.
During the Bush administration, not only were there no murders, there were no attempted murders. There was one clinic bombing during the Bush years.
One can only conclude that like terrorist sleeper cells, these extremists have now been set in motion. Indeed the evidence is already there. The chatter, the threats, the hate-filled rhetoric are abundant.
In the last year of the Bush administration there were 396 harassing calls to abortion clinics. In just the first four months of the Obama administration that number has jumped to 1401.
And so the execution of Tiller, 67, is not only tragic but ominous. He was born into an era when being an abortion provider meant saving women’s lives. And the cold-blooded murder in church and in front of his wife of this stalwart defender of women rights and beloved physician, comes as a message for others, as well as tragic deja vu. (more…)
Video of O’Reilly ranting on and on about Dr. Tiller:

Mixed Signals

You know what sends mixed signals to Syria? Working with Syria to torture our detainees for us, then attacking Syria for sponsoring terrorism.

White House Yet To Respect Court on Geneva

The headlines from the NY Times, W. Post and AP claim that in a “big shift” in policy, the Bush Administration will now give Gitmo detainees “protections under [the] Geneva Conventions.”
Of course, “White House to Follow Supreme Court Ruling, Says Checks, Balances A-OK” shouldn’t even be front page news. It should be a given.
But since the Bushies are showing signs of getting cute with how they apply Hamdan v. Rumsfeld to the prosecution of Gitmo detainees, yesterday’s perfunctory Pentagon memo — telling staff that the Court concluded the Geneva Conventions apply to detainee treatment in “the conflict with Al Qaeda” — was treated by the press as a huge deal.
In fact, there’s even less to the memo than that.
As Balkinization flagged, the memo indicates that the Pentagon considers its past treatment of detainees as legal under the Geneva Conventions (though it calls on staff to “review” procedures to make sure).
Since there’s no admission that any policy or practice regarding detainee treatment violates Geneva, there’s no order in the memo for any policy changes.
And since we can’t trust this Administration to respect any action taken by a different branch of government, until an actual policy shift is codified, it is extremely premature to claim that the Bushies are in any way backing down from their opposition to human rights.