If you had any doubts that the Pentagon lives in a bizarre world all its own, such doubts will surely be dispelled when you read this blog post by Glenn Greenwald. The post concerns Clive Stafford, an international human rights lawyer who represents Binyam Mohamed, a British citizen whom the Pentagon recently released from Guantanamo after several years of imprisonment. Upon his return to Britain, Mohamed detailed brutal torture to which he was subjected at Guantanamo.
Before relaying what the Pentagon is doing to Stafford, permit me first to remind everyone what the official position of the Pentagon, President Bush, and President Obama has been from 2001 through the present: “We don’t torture.”
Mohamed secured a major court ruling in Britain ordering the British government to turn over CIA documents in its possession detailing his torture. That major court decision, however, was quickly overturned because of a threat by U.S. officials to terminate intelligence-sharing activities with the British government.
In other words, “we don’t torture” but we will threaten you with severe punitive action if you reveal information that we shared with you on how we tortured one of your citizens.
Stafford drafted a letter to Obama detailing the torture of his client. However, in the abundance of precaution he first submitted the letter to what is called the Privilege Review Board, a board that is presumably composed of U.S. military officials, whose identities are kept secret. The reason he did that is because the Pentagon requires lawyers for Guantanamo prisoners to sign an agreement promising to keep secret what their clients tell them about how they’re being tortured. Of course, don’t forget the mantra — “We don’t torture” — that the Pentagon keeps repeating even as it requires those defense lawyers to sign those non-disclosure agreements.
So, Stafford submitted his letter detailing the torture of his client to that super-secret Privilege Review Board, asking for permission to disclose the details of the torture to President Obama, who is the U.S. military’s commander in chief.
Well, guess what that super-secret Privilege Review Board did. It returned the letter to Stafford, with everything in the letter redacted.
And this from the people who steadfastly claim, with straight faces, that “we don’t torture”!
So, Stafford decided to send Obama not the full letter detailing the torture but instead just the redacted letter. Perhaps he hoped that Obama, who portrayed himself throughout his presidential campaign as a super agent for hope and change, would get the point — that his subordinates were keeping information about how they’ve tortured Mohamed from reaching him.
That didn’t sit too well with the super-secret Privilege Review Board. So, lo and behold, it has now filed criminal charges against Stafford in a Washington, D.C., court, for sending the redacted letter he received to President Obama.
Greenwald also reminds us that the Pentagon specifically asked Mohamed to agree to never disclose what the Pentagon had done to him at Gitmo as a condition of release (even while, again, steadfastly claiming that “we don’t torture”). To his credit, Mohamed refused to do so, unlike Australian David Hicks and American John Walker Lindh, two former Pentagon prisoners who acceded to the Pentagon’s demand that they keep silent about their torture as part of plea bargains entered into with the government.
At the risk of asking some dumb questions, if the Pentagon is telling the truth when it claims that “we don’t torture,” why is it going to such great lengths to keep its prisoners from disclosing how they’ve been tortured? And why is it doing its best to punish lawyers who are simply trying to advise the commander in chief of how the Pentagon is torturing people? Aren’t these the type of things the authorities in China do? Or that they do in Bizarro World?