Watching the Shadows
A Federal military commander's authority, in extraordinary emergency circumstances where prior authorization by the President is impossible and duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation, to engage temporarily in activities that are necessary to quell large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances...
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in conjunction with the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) filed suit (PDF) June 11 against the National Security Agency (NSA) challenging its recently revealed phone data collection. As a Verizon business network services customer, the ACLU argues that the program violates the rights of free speech and association as well as the right of privacy as protected by the First and Fourth Amendments. The complaint also charges that the program oversteps Congress' authority as outlined in the Patriot Ac. On June 10, the ACLU DC affiliate and Yale Law School's Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic, filed a motion (PDF) with the secret surveillance court that issued the order allowing the data collection. They requested that the court provide a statutory basis of its recent controversial decisions to permit collection of civilians' personal data from private communication companies.
The US Department of Defense (DoD) on June 10 announced that military commission charges have been filed against Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi. Al-Hadi is an Iraqi prisoner who has been held at the Guantánamo Bay detention center in Cuba since 2007. The official charge sheet (PDF) alleges, among other things, that al-Hadi was a superior commander for al-Qaeda and that he and his operatives killed multiple US service members and attacked a US military medical helicopter with rocket-propelled grenades and firearms. Prosecutors also allege that al-Hadi funded and oversaw all of al-Qaeda's operations against US and allied forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2002 to 2004 and that he directed his forces to use various unlawful means, such as attacking civilians and detonating car bombs in civilian areas. The charges against al-Hadi will next be reviewed by a Pentagon official. If approved, the case can proceed with arraignment on the charges, which carry a potential life sentence.
US President Barack Obama delivered a speech May 23 on US counterterrorism policy and efforts, outlining plans to restrict the use of unmanned drone strikes and to renew efforts to close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay. In Obama's first major speech on counterterrorism since his re-election, he said: "Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue, but this war, like all wars, must end. That's what history advises. That's what our democracy demands." But rather than introduce new sweeping policies, Obama's speech reaffirmed his national security priorities.
Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a Mauritanian detained at Guantánamo since August 2002, had portions of his handwritten prison-camp memoir published in Slate on April 30. Slahi wrote the 466-page journal from 2005-2006, and it has just become unclassified, although many sections are redacted. Slahi mostly grew up in Germany and went to Afghanistan to fight the Soviet-backed regime in 1990, where he apparently fell in with al-Qaeda. He repudiated al-Qaeda in 1992 and returned to Germany to study, later moving to Canada. In 2001 back in Mauritania, he was detained "for questioning" by police at US behest—and promptly renditioned to Jordan. There, he was tortured for months on suspicion of involvement in the 2000 "Millennium Plot"—on the specious grounds that a member of his Montreal mosque was caught with plot-related explosives. The Jordanians concluded he wasn't involved, but the US sent him to Bagram and then to Guantánamo. That's when the nightmare really began.
US President Barack Obama on April 30 renewed his pledge to make an effort to close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay. At a news conference, Obama was asked about the ongoing hunger strike, now involving 100 of the 166 detainees. He responded, "Well, it is not a surprise to me that we've got problems in Guantánamo, which is why when I was campaigning in 2007 and 2008, and when I was elected in 2008, I said we need to close Guantánamo. I continue to believe that we've got to close Guantánamo." He went on to say:
US authorities have engaged in the torture of detainees, and the nation's "highest officials" bear some of the responsibility, according to a report (PDF) released on April 16 by the Constitution Project, a bipartisan legal advocacy and watchdog group. The Project's Task Force on Detainee Treatment was established after US President Barack Obama announced in 2009 that he opposed a proposal by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy to set up a "truth commission" to investigate controversial actions of the Bush administration, including justifications for the Iraq war, warrantless wiretapping and detainee treatment. The task force members reached their conclusions after a two-year process, which included examination of public records and interviews with former detainees, military and intelligence officers, interrogators, and policymakers.
Military guards at Guantanámo Bay fired four "non-lethal" rounds at hunger-striking detainees the morning of April 13, as the facility commander forced them from a communal area into single cells. Some of the detainees used "improvised weapons" to resist being moved, according to a Department of Defense news release. No guards or detainees were reported to be seriously injured. Currently, 43 detainees are on hunger strike; 13 of those are being force-fed. Yet the military denies that it is attempting to break the strike. "Detainees may continue to hunger strike," but medical staff will now be able to monitor their condition, said Navy Capt. Robert Durand of Joint Task Force Guantanamo. He said the move to single cells was taken "to ensure that detainees are not being coerced by other detainees to participate in the hunger strike." (NYT, Huffington Post, WP, April 13)