Thursday, 16 April 2009

Obama releases Bush torture memos

"Insects, sleep deprivation and waterboarding among approved techniques by the Bush administration"

Extract from The Guardian, UK, 17 April 2009

Ewen MacAskill.

Barack Obama today released four top secret memos that allowed the CIA under the Bush administration to torture al-Qaida and other suspects held at Guantánamo and secret detention centres round the world.

But, in an accompanying statement, Obama ruled out prosecutions against those who had been involved. It is a "time for reflection, not retribution," he said.

The memos provide an insight into the techniques used by the CIA and the legal basis on which the Bush administration gave the go-ahead.

In the first of the memos, dated 1 August 2002, the justice department gave the go-ahead to John Rizzo, then acting general counsel to the CIA, for operatives to move to the "increased pressure phase" in interrogating an al-Qaida suspect.

Ten techniques are approved, listed as: attention grasp, walling (in which the suspect could be pushed into a wall), a facial hold, a facial slap, cramped confinement, wall standing, sleep deprivation, insects placed in a confinement box (the suspect had a fear of insects) and the waterboard. In the latter, "the individual is bound securely to an inclined bench, which is approximately four feet by seven feet. The individual's feet are generally elevated. A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes. Water is then applied to the cloth in a controlled manner........produces the perception of 'suffocation and incipient panic'."

'Walling' involved use of a plastic neck collar to slam suspects into a specially-built wall that the CIA said made the impact sound worse than it actually was. Other methods include food deprivation.

The techniques were applied to at least 14 suspects.

Click here to read the full article.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Barack Obama tells Turks: 'We are not at war with Islam'

Extract from The Times (UK), 6 Apr 2009

President Obama extended the hand of friendship to the Muslim world today by declaring: “Let me say this as clearly as I can: the United States is not at war with Islam.”
In a speech to the Turkish Parliament, Mr Obama sought to draw a line under what he described as the “difficulties these last few years” during the Bush era of the “war on terror” – a phrase rarely used by his own Administration not least because it reinforced the views of many Muslims that they were under attack.

"Our partnership with the Muslim world is critical," he said, "in rolling back a fringe ideology that people of all faiths reject”.
Mr Obama’s 25-minute speech was listened to respectfully in the white marble parliamentary chamber with one of the few bursts of applause reserved for a commitment to back Turkey’s fight against the PKK – Kurdish separatists deemed by the US a terror group