The Monster & The Constitution

I had heard the reports before about torture and abuse of those captured by Americans after 9/11, but I had never heard it directly as I did today. I am attending a preliminary hearing for Omar Khadr who has been accused of killing an American soldier during a firefight in Khost, Afghanistan in the summer of 2002.

Some may question whether the tactics are torture. We know the past euphemisms of "enhanced interrogation techniques." In court, the government is using the term "nontraditional interrogation." Whatever the term, you decide.

Damien Corsetti testified that there was "always at least one person in air lock with their hands handcuffed above their head with a hood on and shackles on their feet." He said the purpose was to inflict pain.

Mr. Corsetti testified that an interrogation technique used at Bagram, Afghanistan was the "fear of rape." He explained that the rules did not allow interrogators to "directly threaten" a prisoner, but to "plant the seed" of fear in the minds of the detainees.

Defense counsel asked Mr. Corsetti whether he had ever heard detainees screaming in pain. He said, "continually." The screams of pain were heard by the other prisoners, if they had any doubt that their turn might be next.

Mr. Corsetti had very little training on how to conduct lawful interrogations. He had been in tactical operations, but was retrained two weeks before deployment to Afghanistan as an interrogator. He was given another week to observe actual interrogations when he arrived at Bagram, and then he was set loose. He explained that the "only clear rule" for interrogators was "not to strike the prisoner." The pressure to produce was enormous. He stated that interrogators had to produce 20-40 interrogation reports every week or headquarters would call. Corsetti's nickname was "The Monster."

Mr. Khadr claims that he was tortured and that any incriminating statements produced through coercive interrogation should be thrown out. The government claims that Mr. Khadr was treated well and faced no abusive interrogations. Mr. Corsetti shed no light on these allegations as he was not one of the persons who interrogated Mr. Khadr. Mr. Corsetti, though, paints a grim picture of what life was like for many prisoners at Bagram, and it raises doubt about the pattern and practice of interrogation at the facility.

Pivot now to Mr. Khadr. Mr. Corsetti saw the defendant as he arrived at the hospital severely wounded from the firefight with American troops. He said Mr. Khadr "seemed like a typical fifteen year-old child." Except for the life threatening wounds.

The troops nicknamed Mr. Khadr "Buckshot Bob" because his face was peppered with shrapnel. Mr. Corsetti described a wound on Mr. Khadr's back as large enough to stick a can of Copenhagen chewing tobacco inside. An opthamologist testified that the cornea in his left eye was shredded and that there were additional shrapnel wounds in both eyes. Mr. Khadr is blind in his left eye. Despite the grievous injuries and multiple surgeries, Mr. Khadr was discharged from the military hospital to the detention center in about fifteen days.

It is not clear at this stage whether the child soldier is guilty of the charges against him or innocent, or whether he was tortured or not. It is clear, though, from the photos at Abu Ghraib in Iraq to the testimony here at Guantanamo, that the environment during our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was ripe for abusive interrogations: from the lack of training and skilled technicians to the techniques of water boarding approved at the highest levels of our government.

Terrorists want us to fear. They want us to be so afraid that we will abandon reason, violate our laws and Constitution, and disregard our institutions and values. We saw the fearmongering again yesterday in Congress as Members are arguing in the aftermath of the attempted bombing at Times Square that we should strip Americans accused of terrorism of their citizenship and their rights. We should presume guilt before innocence, militarize investigations and abandon our effective federal courts.

On the contrary, this is what terrorists are hoping for--that we will stoop to their level. But if we abandon our own laws and values, then we become no better than them, and they have won a significant part of their battle. By abandoning our own rule of law we lose the support of our own citizens and allies, and at the same time support al Qaeda's most powerful recruitment strategy.

No nation has ever defeated terrorism by embracing its tactics.

The Ripple Effects From Times Square To GTMO

I was swimming at Girl Scout Beach on Guantanamo Bay after another full day of testimony in thehearing of Omar Khadr. He was the fifteen year-old Canadian seized by American forces in Khost, Afghanistan for allegedly throwing a grenade that killed an American soldier. The Caribbean waves that melted into the horizon reminded me of our obligation to get it right--legally, politically, and morally--precisely because of the profound expanse before me.

After 9/11, the world united behind America. We all wanted to see those who committed the atrocities brought to justice. After an initial assault on the Taliban, and the supporters of Osama Bin Laden, though, we quickly lost our way.

The Bush administration tried to cover its tracks by arguing that detainees should be tried under new military commissions, with new rules of evidence, and new rules of procedure. These rules have never even passed the sniff test of legitimacy because they violate many of the basic precepts of due process.

President Obama has rectified some of the problems. He issued Executive Orders promising to close Guantanamo and end torture. Yet, the Obama administration acceded to the continuation of military commissions in some cases, like that of Omar Khadr. It remains unclear whether he will succeed in closing Guantanamo.

Khadr has spent a third of his life now at Guantanamo. He arrived when he was fifteen; he is now twenty-three. He has not had a speedy trial by any standard. Today, we are hearing arguments about whether statements obtained through torture are admissible at trial. It is so Kafkaesque to see this young man, who enters the courtroom as placid as the sea outside his reach, sit smiling, as a Lieutenant Colonel pleads his case.

As I sit on the shores at Girl Scout Beach, I feel too the ripple effects of the attempted bombing in Times Square this week trying to reach these shores. I worry that I will see plane loads of more criminals, alleged and real, sent here.

Rep. McKeon has said he will introduce amendments to the House National Defense Authorization bill to prohibit the administration from trying the 9/11 defendants in civilian courts, even though our federal courts have convicted 400 terrorists since 9/11 and the commissions have tried only three.

Senator Lieberman even went so far Tuesday as to suggest that we strip Americans of their citizenship--strip Americans of their citizenship!!!--if they are suspected of engaging in acts of terror so that we can deprive them of the constitutional guarantees of due process we afford all Americans, even the most notorious.

If we are to get it right--legally, politically, and morally--we must end the politics of fear and return to reason. We must let our Constitution work without interference. We must embrace our federal courts rather than create new justice systems that will be bogged down with constitutional challenges for years to come. Let's embrace the Girl Scout's motto to "be prepared," because we already are.

The Ripple Effects From Times Square To GTMO

I was swimming at Girl Scout Beach on Guantanamo Bay after another full day of testimony in thehearing of Omar Khadr. He was the fifteen year-old Canadian seized by American forces in Khost, Afghanistan for allegedly throwing a grenade that killed an American soldier. The Caribbean waves that melted into the horizon reminded me of our obligation to get it right--legally, politically, and morally--precisely because of the profound expanse before me.

After 9/11, the world united behind America. We all wanted to see those who committed the atrocities brought to justice. After an initial assault on the Taliban, and the supporters of Osama Bin Laden, though, we quickly lost our way.

The Bush administration tried to cover its tracks by arguing that detainees should be tried under new military commissions, with new rules of evidence, and new rules of procedure. These rules have never even passed the sniff test of legitimacy because they violate many of the basic precepts of due process.

President Obama has rectified some of the problems. He issued Executive Orders promising to close Guantanamo and end torture. Yet, the Obama administration acceded to the continuation of military commissions in some cases, like that of Omar Khadr. It remains unclear whether he will succeed in closing Guantanamo.

Khadr has spent a third of his life now at Guantanamo. He arrived when he was fifteen; he is now twenty-three. He has not had a speedy trial by any standard. Today, we are hearing arguments about whether statements obtained through torture are admissible at trial. It is so Kafkaesque to see this young man, who enters the courtroom as placid as the sea outside his reach, sit smiling, as a Lieutenant Colonel pleads his case.

As I sit on the shores at Girl Scout Beach, I feel too the ripple effects of the attempted bombing in Times Square this week trying to reach these shores. I worry that I will see plane loads of more criminals, alleged and real, sent here.

Rep. McKeon has said he will introduce amendments to the House National Defense Authorization bill to prohibit the administration from trying the 9/11 defendants in civilian courts, even though our federal courts have convicted 400 terrorists since 9/11 and the commissions have tried only three.

Senator Lieberman even went so far Tuesday as to suggest that we strip Americans of their citizenship--strip Americans of their citizenship!!!--if they are suspected of engaging in acts of terror so that we can deprive them of the constitutional guarantees of due process we afford all Americans, even the most notorious.

If we are to get it right--legally, politically, and morally--we must end the politics of fear and return to reason. We must let our Constitution work without interference. We must embrace our federal courts rather than create new justice systems that will be bogged down with constitutional challenges for years to come. Let's embrace the Girl Scout's motto to "be prepared," because we already are.

The Ripple Effects From Times Square To GTMO

I was swimming at Girl Scout Beach on Guantanamo Bay after another full day of testimony in thehearing of Omar Khadr. He was the fifteen year-old Canadian seized by American forces in Khost, Afghanistan for allegedly throwing a grenade that killed an American soldier. The Caribbean waves that melted into the horizon reminded me of our obligation to get it right--legally, politically, and morally--precisely because of the profound expanse before me.

After 9/11, the world united behind America. We all wanted to see those who committed the atrocities brought to justice. After an initial assault on the Taliban, and the supporters of Osama Bin Laden, though, we quickly lost our way.

The Bush administration tried to cover its tracks by arguing that detainees should be tried under new military commissions, with new rules of evidence, and new rules of procedure. These rules have never even passed the sniff test of legitimacy because they violate many of the basic precepts of due process.

President Obama has rectified some of the problems. He issued Executive Orders promising to close Guantanamo and end torture. Yet, the Obama administration acceded to the continuation of military commissions in some cases, like that of Omar Khadr. It remains unclear whether he will succeed in closing Guantanamo.

Khadr has spent a third of his life now at Guantanamo. He arrived when he was fifteen; he is now twenty-three. He has not had a speedy trial by any standard. Today, we are hearing arguments about whether statements obtained through torture are admissible at trial. It is so Kafkaesque to see this young man, who enters the courtroom as placid as the sea outside his reach, sit smiling, as a Lieutenant Colonel pleads his case.

As I sit on the shores at Girl Scout Beach, I feel too the ripple effects of the attempted bombing in Times Square this week trying to reach these shores. I worry that I will see plane loads of more criminals, alleged and real, sent here.

Rep. McKeon has said he will introduce amendments to the House National Defense Authorization bill to prohibit the administration from trying the 9/11 defendants in civilian courts, even though our federal courts have convicted 400 terrorists since 9/11 and the commissions have tried only three.

Senator Lieberman even went so far Tuesday as to suggest that we strip Americans of their citizenship--strip Americans of their citizenship!!!--if they are suspected of engaging in acts of terror so that we can deprive them of the constitutional guarantees of due process we afford all Americans, even the most notorious.

If we are to get it right--legally, politically, and morally--we must end the politics of fear and return to reason. We must let our Constitution work without interference. We must embrace our federal courts rather than create new justice systems that will be bogged down with constitutional challenges for years to come. Let's embrace the Girl Scout's motto to "be prepared," because we already are.

The Ripple Effects From Times Square To GTMO

I was swimming at Girl Scout Beach on Guantanamo Bay after another full day of testimony in thehearing of Omar Khadr. He was the fifteen year-old Canadian seized by American forces in Khost, Afghanistan for allegedly throwing a grenade that killed an American soldier. The Caribbean waves that melted into the horizon reminded me of our obligation to get it right--legally, politically, and morally--precisely because of the profound expanse before me.

After 9/11, the world united behind America. We all wanted to see those who committed the atrocities brought to justice. After an initial assault on the Taliban, and the supporters of Osama Bin Laden, though, we quickly lost our way.

The Bush administration tried to cover its tracks by arguing that detainees should be tried under new military commissions, with new rules of evidence, and new rules of procedure. These rules have never even passed the sniff test of legitimacy because they violate many of the basic precepts of due process.

President Obama has rectified some of the problems. He issued Executive Orders promising to close Guantanamo and end torture. Yet, the Obama administration acceded to the continuation of military commissions in some cases, like that of Omar Khadr. It remains unclear whether he will succeed in closing Guantanamo.

Khadr has spent a third of his life now at Guantanamo. He arrived when he was fifteen; he is now twenty-three. He has not had a speedy trial by any standard. Today, we are hearing arguments about whether statements obtained through torture are admissible at trial. It is so Kafkaesque to see this young man, who enters the courtroom as placid as the sea outside his reach, sit smiling, as a Lieutenant Colonel pleads his case.

As I sit on the shores at Girl Scout Beach, I feel too the ripple effects of the attempted bombing in Times Square this week trying to reach these shores. I worry that I will see plane loads of more criminals, alleged and real, sent here.

Rep. McKeon has said he will introduce amendments to the House National Defense Authorization bill to prohibit the administration from trying the 9/11 defendants in civilian courts, even though our federal courts have convicted 400 terrorists since 9/11 and the commissions have tried only three.

Senator Lieberman even went so far Tuesday as to suggest that we strip Americans of their citizenship--strip Americans of their citizenship!!!--if they are suspected of engaging in acts of terror so that we can deprive them of the constitutional guarantees of due process we afford all Americans, even the most notorious.

If we are to get it right--legally, politically, and morally--we must end the politics of fear and return to reason. We must let our Constitution work without interference. We must embrace our federal courts rather than create new justice systems that will be bogged down with constitutional challenges for years to come. Let's embrace the Girl Scout's motto to "be prepared," because we already are.

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