This is pretty amazing stuff: the Bush Cabal is suddenly trying to execute the prisoners whose information (extracted under torture, as is now readily admitted) has provided the cornerstone of "facts" for the 9/11 Commission's findings.
At the same time - quite extraordinarily - Former 9/11 Commission Chief Philip Zelikow has gone on the Democracy Now! radio show to answer allegations of misconduct. To my mind, Zelikow is the weak point in the whole 9/11 coer-up, so this is BIG!
Give Zelikow credit for coming on the show, but it's all very evasive. He refuses to flatly deny his former secretary's claims that he called her into his office and told her not to keep logs of his phone calls, instead insisting that nobody on the Commission kept phone logs. He says Max Cleland resigned for "very personal reasons" and deflects further enquiries to "either Max or Tom Daschle or the commissioners involved". And he more or less denies everything else in Sheldon's book with a standard line: "Go ask the people who were on the commission."
It doesn't seem to bother Zelikow too much that the information which formed the cornerstone of his Commission's findings was based on information extracted by torture. What bothers him is whether or not he is the one who is going to be blamed for this huge mess.
NBC analysis shows that more than a quarter of all footnotes in the 9/11 Commission Report refer to controversial interrogation techniques.As Michael Ratner (president of the Center for Constitutional Rights) says:
Think about it. If the Bhutto assassination -- if the government of Pakistan issued a report, and we knew it came out of torture, would any of us be sitting at this table believing it? Would we believe that about the assassination of Kennedy, if it came out of tortured people? No, we wouldn't. Why are we accepting this?Zelikow says that "Gonzales, George Tenet and Don Rumsfeld" are the ones who flatly refused to let the Commission talk with prisoners, but promised to get specific answers to specific questions if needed. He says he has always advocated bringing the prisoners involved to trail:
"I've been an advocate both inside and outside of the government of bringing these people to trial in every possible way. And perhaps a little bit due to my efforts, a couple of years ago the President decided that those people would be brought out of the black sites and brought to trial. And my hope is that when they are eventually brought to trial, we'll have a chance to gather more information, perhaps through a more adversarial process, and check on some of the assertions."Well, we won't get much information from them if they are dead, will we? Yeah, that's right - the Pentagon is now calling for these prisoners to be executed!
It is critically important that they not be executed, and that they have their day in a free and fair court, to give their own version of events. Make your voices heard NOW, people!
(NB: It occurs to me that this could be the most important post I have ever blogged. This is like the killing of Lee Harvey Oswald. We gotta stop this, folks.)
UPDATE: US "military lawyers and analysts" say there is not much chance the men will be executed before Bush leaves office:
President Bush has made the war on terrorism the cornerstone of his administration. But trial rules, a shortage of military defense lawyers and pending legal challenges almost guarantee the next U.S. president will inherit the Guantanamo trials when he or she takes office in January.Anyone who followed the case of Gitmo detainee David Hicks knows that's a joke. Dick Cheney runs the military commissions and he will step in and do whatever he likes whenever it pleases him. These US military tribunals are a kangaroo court which does not stand up to any sort of reputable scrutiny.
To quote Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union:
"Those accused of planning the Sept. 11 attacks should be brought to justice, but a credible trial is impossible under a flawed military commissions system lacking in basic due process protections and allowing for the admission of coerced testimony, possibly obtained through practices condemned throughout the world as torture."UPDATE: This bit of damage control does not synch up very well with what Zelikow told the Annual Lecture, Houston Journal of International Law, on April 26, 2007. On that occasion, he insisted that "good intelligence can be gained by physically tormenting captives". (See my previous post here)
He said improved interrogation methods have been developed through "a process of painful trial and error"! He said it was " tempting for some local governments to let the Americans do the distasteful things that protect their people too." He called for such governments to abandon the rule of "traditional" law. And he argued in favour of "the quite defensible policy of renditions".
I have now posted this story at TPM Muckraker.
UPDATE: Shenon has now set up a blog for his book, The Commission, and has even posted his email exchanges with Zelikow during writing. Zelikow has released virtually identical exchanges here. Secrecy News says there is not much difference between the two.