Some war crimes trials are more equal than others


Richard Moore

"War Crimes Trial Opens With Grisly Video"

But not in America. We destroy the videos.


Original source URL:

War Crimes Trial Opens With Grisly Video

Jan 7, 3:10 PM (ET)


THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) - The war crimes trial of Charles Taylor, Liberia's 
former president, heard its first testimony Monday and saw video of victims 
telling of being sexually assaulted or dismembered by rebels who plundered West 
African diamond fields.

The trial before the international tribunal in this Dutch city resumed following
a six-month break, having been adjourned in June after Taylor boycotted 
proceedings and fired his lawyer.

Back in court, Taylor looked confident and blew a kiss to supporters in the 
gallery as his new lawyers challenged the prosecution to prove that he was 
behind the widespread murder, rape and amputations during Sierra Leone's civil 

Prosecutors allege the so-called "blood diamonds" mined in Sierra Leone were 
smuggled through neighboring Liberia and that Taylor used the profits to arm the
rebels. Taylor, 59, is accused of orchestrating the violence from his 
presidential palace in Liberia's capital, Monrovia. He has pleaded innocent to 
all 11 charges.

He is the first former African head of state to face an international tribunal.

The opening testimony came from Ian Smillie, a Canadian expert on conflict 
diamonds. He said miners, many of them kidnapped and enslaved by Sierra Leone's 
Revolutionary United Front, or RUF, dug up diamonds worth between $60 million 
and $125 million each year.

Smillie interviewed Taylor as part of a U.N. team that investigated arms 
smuggling in Liberia in 2000. In that interview, Taylor conceded that Sierra 
Leone diamonds likely were being smuggled in and out of Liberia, but denied 

However, Smillie said he stood by the findings of his team's report and read out
a summary that was included in a 2001 U.N. Security Council resolution imposing 
sanctions on Taylor's regime.

The resolution said that diamonds smuggled through Liberia were the key source 
of RUF income "and that such illicit trade cannot be conducted without the 
permission and involvement of Liberian government officials at the highest 
levels," Smillie told judges.

He also explained why the chopping off of hands was turned into the signature 
atrocity of the 10-year Sierra Leone civil war that ended in 2003 - "to create 
such a fear of the RUF that the areas would be cleared for them to do whatever 
they wanted, including diamond mining and foraging for supplies."

Fleeting video images of maimed victims cast a grim shadow over the courtroom - 
a woman who said she was sexually assaulted with a stick by a rebel and then saw
her husband staggering out of the jungle with blood spurting from the stumps of 
his arms; a boy who described being kidnapped and forced to mine diamonds, a man
with no hands who said his wife and children were burned to death by militias.

Taylor's attorneys objected to Smillie being portrayed as an expert on Sierra 
Leone history and to the video images. The three judges agreed Smillie should 
not be allowed to testify about atrocities and said they will rule later on 
whether to admit the videos.

"I think they're desperate," Taylor's lead attorney Courtenay Griffiths said of 
the prosecutors. "Let us now see what the firm concrete evidence is that he was 
directly involved in ordering the atrocities in Sierra Leone."

Elise Keppler of Human Rights Watch welcomed the resumption of the trial.

"This is a huge moment, as a former head of state is being tried for these most 
serious crimes," she said.

Prosecutors have 144 witnesses, but only expect to call half of them to appear. 
The trial is expected to last nearly two years.

The second witness scheduled to testify - likely Tuesday - was a victim of the 
militias. The defense does not deny the atrocities happened, and says calling 
victims to testify is an unwarranted play for the judges' sympathy.

Later in the week, a former member of Taylor's inner circle will testify about 
how the former Liberian president allegedly controlled and encouraged Sierra 
Leone militias, the prosecution says.

In Monrovia, hundreds of pro-Taylor Liberians gathered for prayers before a 
mammoth poster of the ex-president Sunday night.

"We strongly believe in the innocence of the accused," Baptist preacher Joseph 
Johnson told the congregation.

Taylor's support in his home country is led by his family, who say he was not in
control of those that carried out the crimes.


Associated Press Writer Jonathan Paye-Layleh contributed to this report from 
Monrovia, Liberia.

On the Net:
Special Court for Sierra Leone:


    CIA Tapes Destroyed as Pressure Mounted
    By Jason Leopold
    t r u t h o u t | Report
    Monday 07 January 2008

The CIA destroyed videotapes showing its agents subjecting high-level al-Qaeda 
detainees to waterboarding after the agency's inspector general issued a 
classified report in the spring of 2004 that concluded the interrogation methods
used on the prisoners "appeared to constitute cruel, inhumane and degrading 
treatment, as defined by the International Convention Against Torture."

Details about when the videotapes were expected to be destroyed were revealed in
a February 2003 letter released last week by Congresswoman Jane Harman 
(D-California). Harman was the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence 
Committee at the time she wrote the letter to the CIA advising the agency 
against destroying the videotapes. Prior to writing the letter to then CIA 
General Counsel Scott Muller, Harman had been briefed about the CIA's 
interrogation methods against so-called high-level detainees. The CIA 
declassified Harman's letter at the congresswoman's request.

Harman's letter provides a more thorough account of the possible reasons CIA 
officials destroyed the videotaped interrogations, which, according to public 
accounts, took place in November 2005, more than two years after Harman sent a 
letter to Muller voicing disapproval about purging the videotapes. It also 
suggests intelligence officials heeded prior warnings to preserve the videotapes
and destroyed the videotapes only after evidence of the agency's covert 
interrogation practices were revealed publicly in news reports.

Harman's letter did not raise concerns or express disapproval about the CIA's 
use of so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques." Moreover, her letter 
advising the agency against destroying the videotapes were made out of concern 
the footage CIA agents captured "would be the best proof that the written record
is accurate, if such record is called into question in the future." It is 
believed Harman was referring to information about the 9/11 attacks and other 
purported plots against the United States.

At the time Harman wrote to Muller, CIA Inspector General John Helgerson was in 
the midst of an internal investigation into the agency's interrogation methods, 
which Truthout reported last week. Helgerson personally viewed the videotapes 
that showed two detainees being subjected to waterboarding by CIA officers, 
which formed the foundation for his still classified report on the CIA's methods
of interrogation.

"In his report, Mr. Helgerson also raised concern about whether the use of the 
techniques could expose agency officers to legal liability," according to a 
November 9, 2005, story in The New York Times was published around the same 
month the tapes were destroyed. "They said the report expressed skepticism about
the Bush administration view that any ban on cruel, inhumane and degrading 
treatment under the treaty does not apply to CIA interrogations because they 
take place overseas on people who are not citizens of the United States."

"The officials who described the report said it discussed particular techniques 
used by the CIA against particular prisoners, including about three dozen terror
suspects being held by the agency in secret locations around the world," The New
York Times reported." They said it referred in particular to the treatment of 
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is said to have organized the Sept. 11 attacks and 
who has been detained in a secret location by the CIA since he was captured in 
March 2003. Mr. Mohammed is among those believed to have been subjected to 
waterboarding, in which a prisoner is strapped to a board and made to believe he
is drowning.

Last week, the Justice Department announced it had opened a formal criminal 
investigation into the destruction of the videotapes headed by John Durham, an 
assistant attorney general from Connecticut. Helgerson, who had been 
investigating the circumstances behind the tapes' destruction before the launch 
of the criminal probe, said he would recuse himself from the matter.

    Inspector General Probe Launched Shortly After Issuance of "Torture Memo"

Helgerson launched a review of the CIA's interrogation techniques less than a 
year after a meeting was convened at the White House in July 2002. It was at 
this meeting former White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, Justice Department 
attorney John Yoo, Vice President Dick Cheney, Cheney's attorney David 
Addington, and unknown CIA officials discussed whether the CIA could interrogate
Abu Zubaydah, a high-level al-Qaeda detainee captured in Pakistan in March 2002,
more aggressively in order to get him to respond to questions about plots 
against the United States and its interests abroad.

Yoo, Gonzales and Addington gave the CIA the green light to use a wide variety 
of techniques, including waterboarding, on Zubaydah and other detainees at 
several secret prisons overseas to "break" them and force them to cooperate with
interrogators, according to an account published in Newsweek in late December 
2003. Less than a month after the meeting, on August 1, 2002, Yoo drafted a memo
to Gonzales that was signed by Jay Bybee, the assistant attorney general at the 
time. That memo declared President Bush had the legal authority to allow CIA 
interrogators to employ harsh tactics to extract information from detainees. 
Human rights organizations and Democratic and Republican lawmakers have 
characterized the methods outlined in the Yoo memo as torture.

    Chertoff Provides Legal Guidance to CIA on Interrogation Methods

During this time, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff advised the CIA 
that its agents had the legal authority to use what was referred to as "enhanced
interrogation techniques" on Abu Zubaydah, according to a little-known report 
published in The New York Times in January 2005.

Chertoff was head of the Justice Department's Criminal Division when CIA 
officials inquired whether its agents could be charged with violating the 
federal anti-torture statute for employing interrogation methods such as 
waterboarding. The tactic causes detainees to slowly drown, and is generally 
terminated before the detainees die.

"The CIA was seeking to determine the legal limits of interrogation practices 
for use in cases like that of Abu Zubaydah, the Qaeda lieutenant who was 
captured in March 2002," says a January 29, 2005, New York Times story. That 
story quoted unnamed sources who told the newspaper "Chertoff was directly 
involved in these discussions, in effect evaluating the legality of techniques 
proposed by the CIA by advising the agency whether its employees could go ahead 
with proposed interrogation methods without fear of prosecution."

During his Senate confirmation hearing in February 2005, Chertoff maintained he 
provided the CIA broad guidance in response to its questions about interrogation
methods and never specifically addressed the legality regarding waterboarding or
other techniques.

Chertoff told former CIA General Counsel Scott Muller and his deputy, John 
Rizzo, that an August 1, 2002, memo widely referred to as the "Torture Memo" put
the CIA on solid legal ground and that its agents could waterboard a prisoner 
without fear of prosecution. The memo was written by former Justice Department 
attorney John Yoo.

Yoo's memo said Congress "may no more regulate the president's ability to detain
and interrogate enemy combatants than it may regulate his ability to direct 
troop movements on the battlefield."

    New Legal Guidelines Defining Torture

In the summer of 2004, Yoo's memo was publicly disclosed which led the 
administration to reject the former Justice Department official's legal opinion 
on interrogation methods. A new opinion made public in December 2004, signed by 
former Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey, rejected Yoo's interpretation of 
the law defining torture and more restrictive standards defining it were 

"But a cryptic footnote to the new document about the 'treatment of detainees' 
referred to what the officials said were other still-classified opinions. 
Officials have said the footnote meant coercive techniques approved by the 
Justice Department under the looser interpretation of the torture statutes were 
still lawful even under the new, more restrictive standards," according to a 
November 9, 2005, report in The New York Times.

The new legal opinion meant agents involved in the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah
could have found themselves in legal jeopardy if their conduct had been exposed 
publicly. And it was just a matter of time before details of the CIA's covert 
operations surfaced.

    Deputy Inspector General Believed "CIA People" Lied to Congress

Shortly before Helgerson completed his internal investigation in the spring of 
2004, he tapped Mary O. McCarthy, a career CIA official, as deputy inspector 
general to assist him with a number of investigations including his probe of the
CIA's interrogation methods.

McCarthy was also personally briefed on the existence and content of the 
videotapes, according to several CIA officials who worked closely with her, 
however it's unknown whether she viewed the material. McCarthy also oversaw the 
inspector general's investigation into the treatment of prisoners in Iraq and 
Afghanistan. But something related to the CIA's treatment of detainees had 
disturbed McCarthy enough to confide in her friends that the CIA covered-up the 
methods officers used when interrogating certain detainees.

According to a May 2006, Washington Post story, McCarthy "worried that neither 
Helgerson nor the agency's Congressional overseers would fully examine what 
happened or why." Another friend said, "She had the impression that this stuff 
has been pretty well buried." The Post story reported, "In McCarthy's view and 
that of many colleagues, friends say, torture was not only wrong but also 
misguided, because it rarely produced useful results."

McCarthy was among a group of former intelligence officials who late last year 
signed a letter opposing the nomination of Attorney General Michael Mukasey on 
grounds he would not denounce waterboarding. She alleged - two years or so after
she and Helgerson completed their report into the agency's interrogation 
practices - CIA officials lied to members of Congress during an intelligence 
briefing when they said the agency did not violate treaties that bar, cruel, 
inhumane or degrading treatment of detainees during interrogations, according to
a May 14, 2006, front-page story in The Washington Post.

"A CIA employee of two decades, McCarthy became convinced that 'CIA people had 
lied' in that briefing, as one of her friends said later, not only because the 
agency had conducted abusive interrogations but also because its policies 
authorized treatment that she considered cruel, inhumane or degrading," The 
Washington Post reported.

In April 2006, ten days before she was due to retire, McCarthy was fired from 
the CIA for allegedly leaking classified information to the media, a CIA 
spokeswoman told reporters at the time.

The CIA said McCarthy had spoken with numerous journalists, including The 
Washington Post's Dana Priest, who in November 2005 exposed the CIA's secret 
prison sites, where in 2002 the CIA videotaped its agents interrogating a 
so-called high-level detainee, Abu Zubaydah. The videotaped interrogation of 
Zubaydah, which is said to have shown the prisoner being subjected to 
waterboarding, was destroyed after Priest's story was published, and is now at 
the center of a wide-ranging Congressional and Justice Department investigation.
Priest won a Pulitzer Prize for her expose. The CIA did not say whether McCarthy
was a source for Priest's story.

Following news reports of her dismissal from the CIA, McCarthy, through her 
attorney Ty Cobb, vehemently denied leaking classified information to the media.
However, the CIA said she failed a polygraph test after the agency launched an 
internal investigation in late 2005. The agency said the investigation was an 
attempt to find out who provided The Washington Post and The New York Times with
information about its covert activities, including domestic surveillance, and it
promptly fired her.

The Washington Post reported, "McCarthy was not an ideologue, her friends say, 
but at some point fell into a camp of CIA officers who felt that the Bush 
administration's venture into Iraq had dangerously diverted US counterterrorism 
policy. After seeing - in e-mails, cable traffic, interview transcripts and 
field reports - some of the secret fruits of the Iraq intervention, McCarthy 
became disenchanted, three of her friends say."

"In addition to CIA misrepresentations at the session last summer, McCarthy told
the friends, a senior agency official failed to provide a full account of the 
CIA's detainee-treatment policy at a closed hearing of the House intelligence 
committee in February 2005, under questioning by Rep. Jane Harman (California), 
the senior Democrat," The Washington Post says. "McCarthy also told others she 
was offended that the CIA's general counsel had worked to secure a secret 
Justice Department opinion in 2004 authorizing the agency's creation of "ghost 
detainees" - prisoners removed from Iraq for secret interrogations without 
notice to the International Committee of the Red Cross - because the Geneva 
Conventions prohibit such practices."

The fact the videotapes were allegedly destroyed during the same month The New 
York Times published a story about Helgerson's classified report on CIA 
interrogation methods, and The Washington Post published a story exposing the 
CIA's covert interrogation activities at overseas prisons, suggests the CIA may 
have decided to destroy the videotaped interrogations because it feared that if 
the tapes became part of the public record it could expose its agents to a 
federal criminal investigation.

Also see:

AOL/Microsoft-Hotmail Preventing Delivery of Truthout Communications    €

newslog archives:

Escaping the Matrix website:
cyberjournal website:

How We the People can change the world:

Community Democracy Framework:

Moderator: •••@••.•••  (comments welcome)