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Navy Continues to Persecute Nurse Who Refused to Force-feed Guantanamo Hunger Strikers

By: Tuesday September 16, 2014 12:45 am

Carol Rosenberg reported today that a Navy commander had decided not to court-martial a Guantanamo nurse for refusing to participate in the forced-feeding of hunger strikers at the U.S. military prison. Announcement of the “pending court-martial” was made in late August.

While on Twitter it appeared that many were relieved the nurse would not be going to jail for taking a principled stand against the medically unethical practice of forced “enteral” feeding — and that must be some relief, after all — the fact is the Navy announced that after some months of investigation, the nurse is now subject to an administrative review, or “Board of Inquiry,” that may continue on for up to nine more months, according to Rosenberg.

The nurse, who is threatened with expulsion from the military and loss of his military benefits, is a 40-ish year old, possibly Latino, Navy Lieutenant. The discovery of his protest against the forced feeding of Guantanamo hunger-strikers, which he had participated in for many months, noted first in a letter from Guantanamo prisoner Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a Syrian prisoner cleared for release in 2010. Dhiab languishes in ill-health at the Cuban-based prison, as he awaits possible transfer to Uruguay. (See this latest report on Dhiab from Andy Worthington.)

The military is not interested in doing its conscientious-objector nurse any favors. The Board of Inquiry will no doubt cause the Navy Lieutenant a great deal of stress and money, with no certain outcome. Anyone who has been under administrative investigation and “review” for many months knows how difficult such a procedure really is. Whatever the outcome, the continued legal wrangling by the Navy amounts to persecution of a medical officer who had decided not to obey an unlawful order.

Forced feeding of prisoners is denounced as both medically unethical and in the form practiced at Guantanamo to amount to torture, according to a report from the prestigious Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) report released last year.

The Navy certainly had little interest in an actual court-martial proceeding. As Rosenberg reported, “The administrative review, also known as a Board of Inquiry, keeps the circumstances of that episode secret. A military trial could have put a very public spotlight on both Guantánamo’s hunger-strike policy and how the military manages medical-ethics issues.” 

A very different fate for former BSCTs

It is very embittering for anyone who cares about this country’s mainstreaming of torture to reflect upon the experience of this Navy nurse. It strongly reminds me of the case of former Guantanamo guard Albert Melise, who was threatened with dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of all his military benefits because he spoke to reporter Jason Leopold about his experiences with former Guantanamo prisoner David Hicks. (Hicks today is fighting to have his conviction in the Guantanamo military commissions overturned.)

While the military continues to persecute those who stand against torture and medical maltreatment, key personnel who participated in interrogations and torture at Guantanamo are rewarded. I recently was made aware that one of the members of Guantanamo’s infamous Behavioral Consultation Science or BSCT (“biscuit”) teams, Lisa Teegarden, is today the chief of Psychology at Walter Reed National Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland (not to be confused with Walter Reed Army Hospital, which, plagued with scandals over patient neglect, closed in 2011).

According to her LinkedIn page, she was Behavioral Science Command Consultant from May 2008 to October 2010. Teegarden indicates that during this period she “[s]erved as Special Staff to Commander, Joint Task Force, Guantanamo Bay, Guantanamo Bay Cuba. Served as the subject matter expert to the Commander, JTF-GTMO on matters pertaining to clinical psychology, organizational psychology / dymanics [sic] and social psychology principles as they pertain to military organizations. Specialized in behavioral management of detainees, behavioral drift, and counter-interrogation / intelligence operations.”

The BSCTs were notorious for their participation in abusive interrogations, including use of SERE-derived torture. The American Psychiatric Association went so far as to prohibit its members from participating, while the American Psychological Association was (and to some degree still is) embroiled in controversies over allowing psychologists to staff the interrogation consultant role at Guantanamo. (For a full discussion of the pertinent issues, see this excellent article by psychologist Stephen Soldz.)

Teegarden’s stint at Guantanamo, providing her expertise on clinical psychology and “behavioral management of detainees” and intelligence operations, at the time of the mysterious death of Mohammad Ahmed Abdullah Saleh Al Hanashi in June 2009. Al Hanashi was found dead in a constantly-monitored cell in Guantanamo’s Behavioral Health Unit. An NCIS report on his death has not been released.

I requested a copy of the report via FOIA in January 2012. NCIS to date refuses to even give me a date of completion for the FOIA request. A separate request for the AR 15-16 report on Hanashi’s death has been sitting in Southcom’s FOIA office since January 2013.

When the autopsy report for Hanashi’s death was finally released, it raised many questions about what actually happened to the former hunger-striking prisoner. But one aspect of the latter document is especially relevant when it comes to Teegarden, as the autopsy stated Hanashi suffered from “stressors of confinement.”

If true, Teegarden, a psychologist who as BSCT had great responsibility in regards to “behavioral management of detainees,” should answer for what kind of conditions of confinement drove Hanashi to make multiple suicide attempts, and what the actual circumstances of his death were.

But Teegarden is not being investigated, unlike the nurse who protested the brutal process of forced cell extraction and forced feeding of hunger-striking prisoners, despairing of years of indefinite detention, psychological torture, beatings, forced drug injections, isolation and more.

Instead, Teegarden isn’t worried about her medical benefits or her job. Like scores of others involved in the torture of prisoners, including Department of Defense SERE officials, Pentagon attorneys, psychologists and doctors and nurses, flag officers, CIA and JSOC officers, Teegarden is rewarded with plum assignments for her adherence to a torture regime. Meanwhile, a lowly Navy lieutenant can only count himself lucky that he isn’t being thrown into the brig, and only must endure a stressful “inquiry” about whether to throw him out of the military.

Teegarden is not alone in being an ex-BSCT who has gone on with her career. Former head BSCT and chief psychologist at Abu Ghraib, Larry James, who personally led the rendition and detention of young teens from Afghanistan, went on to a career as dean of the School of Professional Psychology at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. (James ultimately left, and his subsequent attempt at a career has not been without controversy.)

At least one BSCT psychologist, Lt. Col. Dianne Zierhoffer was called to account for her participation in the torture of another Guantanamo juvenile prisoner, Mohammed Jawad (now released), but was allowed to plead the Fifth Amendment in order not to testify. John Leso, yet another BSCT, who had been identified in helping organize Guantanamo’s SERE-inspired torture regime, was exonerated of ethics charges by the American Psychological Association

The real message is for those who staff or would staff the military and intelligence bureaucracy of 21st century America: Don’t make waves. Do your job in support of or conducting torture, and you will be rewarded.


The Justice Department’s Scandalous Decision to Invoke ‘State Secrets’ & Protect an Anti-Iran Group

By: Monday September 15, 2014 8:10 pm

Attorney General Eric Holder, head of the Justice Department (US Government Photo from the Department of Education)

In an unprecedented move, the United States government has moved to invoke the state secrets privilege in a private defamation lawsuit, which does not appear to hinge upon any government activity. The government has also called for the court hearing the case to dismiss the lawsuit.

The lawsuit filed in the US District Court of the Southern District of New York involves Greek businessman and ship owner Victor Restis and others, who have accused United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) of falsely and maliciously identifying them in their campaign to name and shame individuals or companies that do business in Iran.

The Justice Department submitted a motion [PDF] last week in which the agency indicates it has “concluded that information that would be at risk of disclosure in discovery and further proceedings is properly subject to the state secrets privilege and should be excluded from their case.”

It states, “The head of the federal agency responsible for the information at issue has asserted a formal claim of privilege, based on his or her personal consideration of the matter, and has set forth why disclosure of the privileged information could reasonably be expected to cause serious damage to the national security.”

“Because information subject to the state secrets privilege is inherently at risk of disclosure in future proceedings, the government also seeks dismissal of this lawsuit,” the motion further argues.

This action came less than two months after the President Barack Obama’s administration moved to shield the group from having to reveal its donor list and other internal documents.

As Abbe Lowell, lawyer for Restis, told The New York Times, “There is no precedent, literally, for what the government is attempting to do.”

“It is clear that UANI and its leaders know they have no defense, and so are hoping to get the government to make this case go away,” Mr. Lowell said. “The bigger question now turns to why the government is doing UANI’s bidding and exactly what relationship UANI has with the US government, other countries and its web of undisclosed financial supporters.”

Indeed, the action by the Justice Department raises key questions about whether UANI had functioned as a kind of front group for US foreign policy, but first it is important to understand the state secrets privilege and how it has been invoked in past history.

The “state secrets privilege” has its roots in a 1953 case known as United States v. Reynolds, where the United States government refused to tell victims’ families how their loved ones had died in a military plane crash because they contended “secrets” would be revealed. In recent years, it has become known through declassified Air Force documents that fraud was likely perpetrated [PDF] by the government in this case. The fraud essentially deprived victims of judgments in court.

Court Challenges US Navy’s Dragnet Surveillance of Civilian Computers & Suppresses Evidence in Criminal Case

By: Monday September 15, 2014 10:55 am

NCIS seal

A federal appeals court issued a decision suppressing evidence found by a Naval Criminal Investigative Service special agent and used to prosecute a civilian for child pornography. The NCIS special agent had conducted dragnet surveillance of all civilians in an entire state. The “extraordinary nature of the surveillance” demonstrated “a need to deter future violations” of the Posse Comitatus Act and send a message to the government that military personnel are not permitted to enforce civilian laws.

NCIS Special Agent Steve Logan began to investigate the distribution of child pornography in late 2010. Months later, he used software called RoundUp to “search for any computers located in Washington state showing known child pornography on the Gnutella file-sharing network.” He found a computer with an IP address that was sharing child porn, downloaded three files and confirmed that these files were child porn.

The NCIS special agent requested the name and address that had been associated with the IP address when he downloaded the files. He submitted the request to the NCIS representative at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which then turned the request over to the FBI. The FBI sent Comcast an administrative subpoena and Logan ultimately obtained information indicating the IP address was associated with Michael Allan Dreyer of Algona, Washington.

Logan checked a Defense Department database for evidence of any current military affiliation. He found none and so Logan forwarded a report with supporting evidence on to the NCIS office in Washington. That office provided the evidence to Officer James Schrimpler of the Algona Police Department, which proceeded to initiate an investigation that led to additional searches of Dreyer’s computer.

Ultimately, videos and images of child porn were found and Dreyer was arrested, prosecuted and convicted of child pornography offenses. He was sentenced to 216 months in prison and lifetime supervised release. He appealed the conviction and argued that the “fruits of the investigation” in his case should have been suppressed because the military is prohibited from enforcing civilian laws.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded [PDF] that they had to order the suppression of evidence. Not only had Logan engaged in dragnet surveillance without a warrant on multiple civilians but the record showed this was “routine practice for the Navy to conduct surveillance of all the civilian computers in an entire state to see whether any child pornography can be found on them, and then to turn over the information to civilian law enforcement when no military connection exists.”

“The record here demonstrates that Agent Logan and other NCIS agents routinely carry out broad surveillance activities that violate the restrictions on military enforcement of civilian law,” according to the court’s decision. “Agent Logan testified that it was his standard practice to ‘monitor[] any computer IP address within a specific geographic location,’ not just those ‘specific to US military only, or US government computers.’”

Logan apparently had initially been able to figure out that Dreyer’s personal IP address was located in Federal Way, Washington. He figured this area had a “large” Defense Department and US Navy “saturation indicating likelihood of USN/DOD suspect.” While it is true that this area was within 30 miles of “several military installations,” it was also similarly near Seattle and Tacoma.

“He did not try to isolate military service members within a geographic area,” the court found. Also, Logan “appeared to believe that these overly broad investigations were permissible, because he was a ‘US federal agent’ and so could investigate violations of either the Uniform Code of Military Justice or federal law.”

Hearts, Minds and Dead Sunnis in Iraq

By: Monday September 15, 2014 8:12 am

A critical part of America’s plan to resolve all issues left unresolved after nine years of war and occupation is to divide the indigenous Sunnis from the “foreign” Sunnis, i.e., ISIS, and “unite” Iraq. As counter-insurgency theory teaches, bad guys can only thrive when they have local support, what Mao called the “water we swim [...]

Podcast: ‘Urban Shield’ & the Ramping Up of Police Militarization in the United States

By: Sunday September 14, 2014 11:13 am

One week ago, Alameda County in California hosted an annual major police gathering supported by corporations and law enforcement and security agencies from the local, state and federal level. Corporations displayed their military-grade equipment available for police departments to purchase, and training exercises or competitions played out in the San Francisco Bay Area. Anyone observing [...]

Lawyer for Edward Snowden: Positive Developments in Switzerland But Issues Still Remain

By: Friday September 12, 2014 8:35 pm

The attorney general of Switzerland did a review of whether National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden would have to be extradited to the United States if he came to the country to testify as part of an inquiry into NSA surveillance. He concluded that Snowden would be safe from extradition, however, “upper-level government commitments” might [...]

American Held in Incommunicado Detention in Yemen Calls Family, Says He’s Being Beaten & Gassed

By: Friday September 12, 2014 5:15 pm

An American citizen in Yemeni custody who his lawyers say has been disappeared for over 180 days has surfaced. One of his lawyers reports he was apparently allowed to make two calls to his wife and mother last night and a guard said he is being held in the Central Security Forces base in central [...]

CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou Recounts How Prison Gave Him Wrong Medication in New Letter From Loretto

By: Friday September 12, 2014 11:46 am

In a letter from CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, who has been serving a prison sentence in a federal correctional facility in Loretto, Pennsylvania for over a year, he recounts how he had a medical emergency in the prison and received virtually none of the appropriate care or treatment that a person should typically receive. The [...]

Obama Should Go to Tehran

By: Friday September 12, 2014 7:44 am

President Obama left out the most important word of all in his speech outlining a strategy for Iraq: Iran. For if Iran is the 500 pound gorilla in the room with Iraq, it is the 800 pound monster in the Middle East. No real stability can be achieved without Iran. It is time for the [...]

US Can Claim This Isn’t War but ISIS Militants Killed by 500-Pound Laser-Guided Bombs Beg to Differ

By: Thursday September 11, 2014 6:00 pm

President Barack Obama’s administration has committed to an escalation of war in Iraq and Syria to “degrade” and “destroy” the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Yet, farcically, administration officials maintain the United States is not at war with ISIS. Secretary of State John Kerry told CNN that the strategy for going after ISIS [...]

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