25 April 2008

-CIA admits they will continue rendition program, which allows torture overseas

Documents show they expected legal challenges from the start

The Central Intelligence Agency knew from the beginning that its secret detention and torturous interrogation tactics probably bordered on illegal from the start, according to new documents identified through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.



In a filing yesterday, the CIA said it had identified 7,000 pages of classified memos, emails and other records relating to President Bush's secret detention and interrogation program. Human rights groups quickly jumped on the filing -- which came after their own Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking information about those detained.

The CIA also acknowledged in their filings that the program “will continue.” Terror suspects detained or "renditioned" by the United States are transferred to third party countries that allow torture which gives the US a legal loophole to allow harsh interrogation without being legally liable. Such suspects, who effectively disappear, are held without access to courts.

The US has refused to produce a list of the suspects it is holding in sites overseas, and only recently provided a list of those held captive at Guantánamo Bay.

Amnesty International says at least 30 people are believed to still be held in secret prisons.

In 2006, President Bush muted dissent surrounding the program by announcing that he would transfer 14 "high-value" detainees to Guantánamo Bay.

The filing also shows that the agency sought legal advice from the White House Office of Legal Counsel numerous times over several years.

"The CIA's purpose in requesting advice from OLC was the very likely prospect of criminal, civil, or administrative litigation against the CIA and CIA personnel who participate in the Program," Ralph S. DiMaio, information review officer for the CIA's clandestine service, said in the documents.

Such proceedings, he added, would "be virtually inevitable."

Nineteen documents were withheld; the Bush Administration cited "presidential communications privilege." The withholding of documents under presidential privlige has been a common practice of the Bush Administration -- but its decision to do so in this case appears a tacit acknowledgment of the high-level interaction between Bush advisors and CIA officials.

The filing says that some of the withheld documents were "authored or solicited and received by the President's senior advisors in connection with a decision, or potential decision, to be made by the president."


Rights groups say CIA is hiding criminal activity


Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the International Human Rights Clinic at NYU School of Law were the key litigants seeking the documents made the claim following a summary judgment motion by the agency.

“For the first time, the CIA has acknowledged that extensive records exist relating to its use of enforced disappearances and secret prisons,” Curt Goering, AIUSA senior deputy executive director, said in a statement yesterday. “Given what we already know about documents written by Bush administration officials trying to justify torture and other human rights crimes, one does not need a fertile imagination to conclude that the real reason for refusing to disclose these documents has more to do with avoiding disclosure of criminal activity than national security.”

RAW STORY was the first news outlet to identify the exact location of one of the sites in the CIA's secret prison network, which was revealed first by the Washington Post. Raw Story identified a prison in northeastern Poland, Stare Kiejkuty, that was used as a transit point for terror suspects.

Once a Soviet-era compound once used by German intelligence in World War II, Stare Kiejkuty is best known as having been the only Russian intelligence training school to operate outside the Soviet Union. Its prominence in the Soviet era suggests that it may have been the facility first identified – but never named – when the Washington Post’s Dana Priest revealed the existence of the CIA’s secret prison network in November 2005.

The groups say that they're not the only ones being stonewalled. Congress, they say, is getting the short end of the stick as well.

"Documents released to plaintiffs by the CIA demonstrate that many within the government itself have been unable to obtain accurate information from the CIA," the groups said. "These documents, which include letters from Members of Congress to the CIA, demonstrate a pattern of withholding information from Congress. In a pointed bipartisan letter on Oct. 16, 2003, then-Chair and Ranking Member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence requested that CIA Director George Tenet provide senior level briefings on the treatment of, and information obtained by, three men known to be held in secret CIA detention, admonishing the CIA by stating that the committee was 'frustrated with the quality of the information' provided in past briefings."

“The CIA has employed illegal techniques such as torture, enforced disappearances, and extraordinary rendition,” said Meg Satterthwaite, Director of the NYU IHRC. “It cannot use FOIA exemptions as a shield to hide its violations of U.S. and international law.”


CIA has begun to lose, destroy documents


Two recent reports signal that the agency has begun to destroy evidence of harsh interrogations conducted at US prisons. Last year, the CIA acknowledged it had destroyed videotapes of two interrogations they were asked to provide to the Sept. 11 commission.

Earlier this week, the erstwhile director of interrogations at Guantánamo Bay said records of a prisoner who accused his captors of torturing him had been destroyed.

"Retired general Michael Dunlavey, who supervised Guantánamo for eight months in 2002, tried to locate records on Mohammed al-Qahtani, accused by the US of plotting the 9/11 attacks, but found they had disappeared," the Guardian writes. "The records on al-Qahtani, who was interrogated for 48 days - "were backed up ... after I left, there was a snafu and all was lost."
(rawstory)

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Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.