Balkinization  

Friday, June 08, 2007

Kidnapping Young Children to Use Them as "Leverage"

Marty Lederman

It's a very close competition, but this might be the most ghastly and indefensible -- and previously unimaginable -- thing we are doing in the conflict with Al Qaeda.

Here's hilzoy on a new human-rights report on the U.S. practice of "disappearing" detainees (and, by the way, if you aren't reading hilzoy regularly, you really should -- there's no better blogging anywhere):

The evidence that our government held Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's sons is not conclusive, and I do not mean to suggest that it is. Still, if you had told me, six years ago, that I would find myself seriously entertaining the possibility that my own government had detained children [under age ten], I would have thought you were insane. Disappearing people of any age, without charges or trial or anything, is what two-bit dictators do; not what we do. But disappearing children, not seventeen year olds about whom one might have interesting debates about when exactly childhood ends but seven- and nine-year olds -- that's so far across the line that it would have been unimaginable to me. And the fact, if it is one, that they are supposedly "handled with kid gloves" and "given the best of care" does not begin to make up for this. Detention is not "the best of care" for anyone. It is certainly not "the best of care" for a young child.

Later in the same article, someone identified as 'a CIA official' says of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed: "His sons are important to him. The promise of their release and their return to Pakistan may be the psychological lever we need to break him." I'm sorry: children are not "psychological levers". They are children. And if we don't know the difference, then we should just hang it up right now, since we have plainly lost anything remotely resembling a sense of decency.

Comments:

Detaining KSM's family for "leverage" in interrogations with the implied or expressed threat of harm to them would almost certainly be a violation of the severe psychological pain element of torture. Threats to those the prisoner cares about like family, girl friends and comrades in arms is precisely the kind of tactic meant to be covered under psychological pain. If the CIA did this, they crossed the line.

The only way I can imagine you can justify the detention of the family is to determine their status as combatants or to temporarily detain them to keep the news of KSM's capture from getting to out al Qaeda while KSM is being broken.
 

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What was, beyond the obvious, really sad in reading the story was that, when I saw that there was one comment, I just knew it was Bart DePalma, ready to find some mitigation, justification or obfuscation to lessen the weight of yet another scandalous act.

Bart, you are as predictable as April showers.
 

barrett:

What scandalous act? Right now we have an allegation of a rumor from an unidentified source.
 

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I would qualify my first post in one way. It is a common law enforcement tactic to threaten to investigate or prosecute a family member who is tangentially related to the criminal activities with which the prisoner is accused and offer to let them off if the prisoner cooperates.

For example, it has been reported that the government lessened the charges against Aldrich Ames' wife in order to get him to cooperate and plea to a crime so that the government would not be compelled to reveal highly classified materials in open court.

I see no reason why the CIA could not likewise lean on KSM in the same manner by offering not to investigate or prosecute his family in return for KSM's cooperation. That is fundamentally different from threatening to harm his family for no reason except to get him to talk.

However, once again, until we have some evidence, we are engaged in yet another round of speculation here.
 

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bitswapper said...

Bart wrote: The only way I can imagine you can justify the detention of the family...

Would be if I wanted every last bit if international support and cooperation with the US to disappear altogether.


I am fairly sure that it has been previously reported that CIA temporarily detained the family living with KSM as well as Majid Khan when they were captured. This is old news.

Allow me to pose a question to you.

Would you temporarily detain the family living with KSM in order to keep them from informing al Qaeda of the capture and allow al Qaeda to redeploy and hide the cells of which KSM had knowledge?
 

When Bart's right, he's right.

Suskind in his last book reported that we threatened harm or death to KSM's kids. Didn't work, and as Suskind notes, you can't build up the rapport needed for successful interrogation after you've threatened to kill your subject's kids.
 

Anderson:

What was Suskind's source for this claim? Let me guess...

A single anonymous "member of the administration."

What ever happened to the two source rule for publishing stories?

You assume that I am a member of the administration. So, if I told you off the record that George Bush tortures fluffy bunny rabbits in the Oval Office for laughs and giggles, would you quote me as a "member of the administration" and actually publish this quote if you were a reporter?
 

First off, I agree that it is wrong to explicitly use the kids as leverage. However, it sounds like a case where the choices are between bad and worse.

It sounds like the Pakistanis captured the kids initially, and subsequently handed them over to the US. I'm assuming that the care they are receiving in US custody is substantially better than in Pakistan, which by itself wouldn't justify the detention but it mitigates it somewhat.

I just wonder what the alternatives are. Having been captured, we either have to continue holding them or release them - given their situation, it's plausible that there is no party that we would possibly want to turn them over to.

An equivalent situation might be that of a child who becomes a ward of the state as all living relatives are totally unfit parents. You might be able to place the kids in foster care, except in this case the kids are foreign nationals and the foster parents would be at considerable risk unless the children's identities were kept concealed.

A no-win situation. Hopefully it's not as bad as it seems.
 

You assume that I am a member of the administration.

No, I sometimes *suspect* that you are a paid flack of some rightwing group. Tho if you actually were Karl Rove, the past few years would make more sense.

A single anonymous "member of the administration."

Right. Two-source rule is for journalism. A book like Suskind's, or Woodward's, etc., depends on one's trust of the author. Woodward has been attacked by some of his sources, and I take him with a grain of salt.

Suskind appears more reliable; I didn't see any serious pushback on his book. I'll believe his plausible claims unless someone gives me a reason not to. Which you haven't.
 

Ali Khan, the father of Majid Khan, another one of the fourteen "high-value detainees", released an affidavit on Monday April 16, 2006, that reported that interrogators subjected Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's children, aged six and eight years old, to abusive interrogation. Ali Khan's affidavit quoted another of his sons, Mohammed Khan:

"The Pakistani guards told my son that the boys were kept in a separate area upstairs, and were denied food and water by other guards. They were also mentally tortured by having ants or other creatures put on their legs to scare them and get them to say where their father was hiding."
- wikipedia

At least Bart concedes that if this happened it was unlawful. He just doesn't concede this happened.

If this is true, what remedy do you think is available to the family and to KSM?

Should those involved in the authorization and implementation be tried as war criminals?
 

"Ron Suskind is the author of the # 1 New York Times bestseller The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed A Hope in the Unseen. He has been senior national affairs reporter for The Wall Street Journal, where he won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing." - Simon & Schuster

Ron Suskind is a liar - Bart DePalma
 

"I would qualify my first post in one way. It is a common law enforcement tactic to threaten to investigate or prosecute a family member who is tangentially related to the criminal activities with which the prisoner is accused and offer to let them off if the prisoner cooperates." - Bart DePalma

And we would be threatening to charge his 6 and 8 year old children with... what?

Don't those CHILDREN have a right not to be detained or tortured. The mere fact that they were captured means that they were taken from someone who was looking after them.

Detaining, torturing or even threatening to torture children is UNAMERICAN. i think even Bart would agree.

Recall that Seymour Hersh has indicated that we have yet to see the worst abuses perpetrated by our troops.
 

Bart writes:
Allow me to pose a question to you.

Would you temporarily detain the family living with KSM in order to keep them from informing al Qaeda of the capture and allow al Qaeda to redeploy and hide the cells of which KSM had knowledge?


Your question does more proposing than anything else. Is that what happened?
 

The United States views itself as the world human rights champion, a senior US spokesman said Thursday, despite reports this week that it runs secret prisons and flouts civil liberties.

A new report this week found that 14 European countries had either colluded with or tolerated the secret transfers of terror suspects by the United States. Two of them, Poland and Romania, may have harbored CIA detention centers, the report said.

Meanwhile, six human rights groups named 39 people believed to be held in Central Intelligence Agency prisons.

But State Department spokesman Tom Casey said none of the criticism would diminish Washington's commitment to safeguarding human and civil rights.

Fallacy, fallacy, fallacy. The report is obviously intended to shame the Administration into increasing Washington's committment to safeguarding human and civil rights.
 

I'll believe Suskind before I'll believe "Barf" -- er, "Bart".

I'll also believe Seymour Hersh re. Abu Ghraib the evidence -- especially the videotapes -- of not merely torture but rape of boys in front of their mothers in effort to "persuade" their mothers to reveal where their [unadjudicated as either innocent or guilty, therefore presumed innocent under democratic due process] male relatives were so they could be falsely arrested/kidnapped/detained for "enhanced interrogation".

It would be prohibited to attempt to coerce a "suspect" with the torture of his children or other family members even if one were lying; even if one were not actually intending to do so. (It would also be counterproductive -- so say the experts on interrogation.) It would be beyond the usual moral depravity that is torture were one to only threaten them with torture those family members -- the children!? To actually torture those others -- the children!? -- would be beyond even that.
 

And let's not forget the other bombshells in Suskind's book, that has yet to be denied by the WH.

Not only did O'Neill give Suskind his time, he gave him 19,000 internal documents.

“Everything's there: Memoranda to the President, handwritten "thank you" notes, 100-page documents. Stuff that's sensitive,” says Suskind, adding that in some cases, it included transcripts of private, high-level National Security Council meetings. “You don’t get higher than that.”

And what happened at President Bush's very first National Security Council meeting is one of O'Neill's most startling revelations.

“From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,” says O’Neill, who adds that going after Saddam was topic "A" 10 days after the inauguration - eight months before Sept. 11.

“From the very first instance, it was about Iraq. It was about what we can do to change this regime,” says Suskind. “Day one, these things were laid and sealed.”

As treasury secretary, O'Neill was a permanent member of the National Security Council. He says in the book he was surprised at the meeting that questions such as "Why Saddam?" and "Why now?" were never asked.

"It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The president saying ‘Go find me a way to do this,’" says O’Neill. “For me, the notion of pre-emption, that the U.S. has the unilateral right to do whatever we decide to do, is a really huge leap.” 60 Minutes 1/11/2004
 

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The two men were never close. And O'Neill was not amused when Mr. Bush began calling him "The Big O." He thought the president's habit of giving people nicknames was a form of bullying. Everything came to a head for O'Neill at a November 2002 meeting at the White House of the economic team.

“It's a huge meeting. You got Dick Cheney from the, you know, secure location on the video. The President is there,” says Suskind, who was given a nearly verbatim transcript by someone who attended the meeting.

He says everyone expected Mr. Bush to rubber stamp the plan under discussion: a big new tax cut. But, according to Suskind, the president was perhaps having second thoughts about cutting taxes again, and was uncharacteristically engaged.

...

But according to the transcript, White House political advisor Karl Rove jumped in.

“Karl Rove is saying to the president, a kind of mantra.‘Stick to principle. Stick to principle.’ He says it over and over again,” says Suskind. “Don’t waver.”

In the end, the president didn't. And nine days after that meeting in which O'Neill made it clear he could not publicly support another tax cut, the vice president called and asked him to resign.

60 Minutes 1/11/2004
 

During the campaign, candidate Bush had criticized the Clinton-Gore Administration for being too interventionist: "If we don't stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, then we're going to have a serious problem coming down the road. And I'm going to prevent that."

“The thing that's most surprising, I think, is how emphatically, from the very first, the administration had said ‘X’ during the campaign, but from the first day was often doing ‘Y,’” says Suskind. “Not just saying ‘Y,’ but actively moving toward the opposite of what they had said during the election.”

...

The former treasury secretary accuses Vice President Dick Cheney of not being an honest broker, but, with a handful of others, part of "a praetorian guard that encircled the president" to block out contrary views. "This is the way Dick likes it," says O’Neill.

60 Minutes 1/11/2004
 

That's right, Bart, run from the threads where you've been licked and come here to support torture of children. You are a blight and I never will understand how you claim to be either Christian or American.
 

That's right, Bart, run from the threads where you've been licked and come here to support torture of children. You are a blight and I never will understand how you claim to be either Christian or American.

# posted by Robert Link : 5:32 PM

Easy to understand: he's a liar.
 

But did they crush their testicles? John Yoo wants to know why not.
 

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