Highlights

 
Quotable
The only antidote to the poison of war is the public's courage to disagree with their leader.
Ramman Kenoun
Original Letters Blog US Casualties Contact Donate

 
June 7, 2005

9/11 Commission for Prisoner Abuse?


by William Fisher

On the heels of the dustup over the nomination of John Bolton to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, President George W. Bush's next congressional tsunami may well be a provision tucked away in a proposed anti-terrorist bill. That legislation would establish an independent 9/11-type commission to investigate U.S. abuse of prisoners throughout the world.

The bill, introduced last January by Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, the top Democrat on the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has attracted virtually no media attention.

But Biden – often rumored to be a candidate for the presidency in 2008 – said on a television program Sunday, This Week with George Stephanopoulos, that he expects the bill to come before the committee in the next couple of weeks.

Not surprisingly, the legislation, titled "The Targeting Terrorists More Effectively Act of 2005," has wide support among Democrats. But some congressional sources indicate it may also find favor among a number of moderate Republican committee members.

In introducing the legislation, Biden appeared to go out of his way to downplay the commission proposal, instead emphasizing other anti-terrorist provisions.

But it is the impaneling of an independent commission – long resisted by President Bush – that is most likely to trigger fireworks on Capitol Hill and at the Pentagon, the CIA, and the White House.

Many civil libertarians and human rights groups have repeatedly called for such a commission. Typical is David Cole, author of Enemy Aliens and a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center.

"An independent commission is critical, both in terms of getting to the bottom of this issue, and in terms of showing the world that we are serious about ending such abuse," he told IPS.

Unlike prisoner abuse investigations carried out by the Pentagon, it would specifically investigate whether individuals may have played a policymaking role in setting conditions for detainees, and examine frequently reported differences of opinion between the Pentagon's civilian leadership and senior members of the armed forces. Its scope would be government-wide, thus including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The Biden legislation would establish a national commission to examine the role of policymakers in the development of intelligence related to the treatment of individuals detained during Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom, and the impact of the abuse of prisoners by the U.S. personnel on the security of the armed forces.

Its structure and mandate would be virtually identical to that of the 9/11 Commission.

"We should have an independent commission to go take a look at this, not only Guantanamo, but Abu Ghraib, the rest of the prison system, make a recommendation to the United States Congress, and let's deal with this openly," Biden said recently on the news show This Week, adding that he wants the prison at Guantanamo Bay – recently called "the gulag of our times" by Amnesty International – to be "shut down."

"This has become the greatest propaganda tool that exists for recruiting of terrorists around the world, and it is unnecessary to be in that position," he said.

Armed with subpoena power and its own staff, the proposed bipartisan 15-member commission would consist of prominent U.S. citizens, with national recognition and significant depth of experience in intelligence, law enforcement, or foreign affairs, or experience serving the government, including service in the armed forces.

Three commission members each would appointed by the majority leader of the Senate, the speaker of the House of Representatives, and the minority leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The judge advocates general of the Army, Navy, and Air Force would appoint one member each.

The commission's report would be submitted to the president and Congress within nine months.

The legislation also attempts to clarify U.S. policy regarding prisoner treatment.

"It is the policy of the United States to treat all foreign persons captured, detained, interned, or otherwise held in the custody of the U.S. humanely and in accordance with the legal obligations under United States law and international law, including the obligations in the Convention Against Torture and in the minimum standards set forth in the Geneva Conventions," the bill says.

It calls on the U.S. "to provide individualized hearings for all detainees for the purpose of expeditiously holding detainees accountable for violations of the law of war, to expeditiously conduct intelligence debriefings of such detainees, and to avoid the indefinite detention of any individual."

Other provisions of the bill aim deal with the threat of terrorism on several fronts – military, intelligence, diplomatic, and homeland security – and provide an accountability measure to ensure that the broad range of anti-terrorism efforts are effective.

For example, one provision would replenish the National Security Education Program to help address the shortfall of trained foreign language experts in the U.S. government.

Others call for establishing a "Middle East Foundation" located in the region for research and scholarship of democracy, civil society, and rule of law; bolstering border and port security by adding 1,200 immigration and customs agents over a five-year period; and adding $3 billion dollars over four years to ensure that maritime security standards are met.

The bill would reestablish the Nuclear Cities Initiative in Russia, assisting the Russian government in its efforts to close down or downsize several of its nuclear weapons facilities, and expand funding to accelerate nonproliferation programs throughout the former Soviet Union.

(Inter Press Service)

comments on this article?
 
 
Archives

  • Obama Faces Spate of 'Terror War' Lawsuits
    3/27/2009

  • Red Cross Report Bolsters Case for Bush Inquiry
    3/19/2009

  • Obama Follows Bush on Detainees
    3/17/2009

  • Senate Committee Weighs 'Truth Commission'
    3/5/2009

  • Al-Marri Lawyers Seek Supreme Court Review
    3/4/2009

  • Lawsuits Challenge Charity Blacklisting
    3/4/2009

  • Britain Admits Complicity in U.S. Rendition
    2/27/2009

  • What About Bagram?
    2/26/2009

  • Gitmo Report Contradicts Govt. Claims of 'Humane' Detention
    2/25/2009

  • Court Passes the Buck on Fate of Chinese Muslims
    2/20/2009

  • Democrats Divided Over 'Reckoning' for Bush
    2/17/2009

  • Lawsuit Sheds More Light on Terror War Abuses
    2/16/2009

  • Rendition Case Enters 'Bizarre' Realms of Secrecy
    2/14/2009

  • 'State Secrets' Privilege Not Gone With Bush
    2/10/2009

  • The Children of Guantánamo
    2/6/2009

  • Study Challenges Claims of Gitmo Recidivism
    2/5/2009

  • Indefinite Detention Case to Test Obama's Pledges
    2/5/2009

  • Close Torture Loopholes, Physicians' Group Urges
    1/30/2009

  • Muslim World Hails End of a Despised Symbol
    1/27/2009

  • Fate of Guantánamo Detainees Still Murky
    1/14/2009

  • Bagram: Worse Than Guantanamo?
    1/13/2009

  • 'Bad Apples' Didn't Fall Far From the Tree
    12/20/2008

  • Immunity Recedes for Private Contractors in Iraq
    12/6/2008

  • Ret. Officers Urge Obama to Expunge 'Stain of Torture'
    12/4/2008

  • Next President Will Inherit Guantanamo Dilemma
    10/22/2008

  • Freedom Recedes for Uighurs at Guantanamo
    10/22/2008

  • Muslim Charity to Get
    Its Day in Court
    10/13/2008

  • The Most Secretive Administration Ever?
    9/16/2008

  • Muslim Charities Negotiate a Minefield
    8/30/2008

  • Arar Faces Uphill Legal Battle
    8/19/2008

  • One-Fifth of Iraq Funding Paid to Contractors
    8/15/2008

  • Hamdan's Future Remains Unclear
    8/9/2008

  • NGO 'Blacklist' Unfair and Arbitrary, Groups Say
    7/24/2008

  • New Spying Law Quickly Challenged
    7/23/2008

  • Hamdan Case to Test Military Tribunals
    7/22/2008

  • Uyghurs Jailed From Guantanamo to Beijing
    7/15/2008

  • 'State Secrets' Privilege Derails Rendition Suit
    7/4/2008

  • Guantanamo Trials Hit Setbacks
    5/21/2008

  • Lawmakers Seek Probe of 'Media Generals'
    5/9/2008

  • Abuse Claims Mount Against Pentagon, Contractors
    5/8/2008

  • Fabricated 'Bioterrorism' Case Collapses
    5/3/2008

  • Groups Wrangle with CIA over 'Ghost Prisoners'
    4/26/2008

  • Courts May Get More Latitude on 'State Secrets'
    4/26/2008

  • Trials of Muslim Charities Likened to a Witch-Hunt
    4/22/2008

  • Serious Abuses No Bar to US Military Aid
    4/11/2008

  • Jordan Acted as Hub for US Renditions, Report Says
    4/9/2008

  • Arab Govts Ever More Draconian, Group Says
    3/28/2008

  • Reforms Failed to Curb FBI Spying
    3/19/2008

  • Former Gitmo Prosecutor to Testify for Defense
    3/12/2008

  • We Don't Do Torture – Especially in Debates
    3/11/2008

  • Just Waterboarding Under the Bridge
    3/10/2008

  • Bush, Congress Wrangle Over Domestic Spying
    2/28/2008

  • Renditions Clothed in State Secrets Mantle
    2/26/2008

  • Experts Doubt Fair Trials for Gitmo Suspects
    2/20/2008

  • Bush's Budget Sidelines Transparency
    2/18/2008

  • Bush: Uniter, Decider, and Now, Interpreter
    2/6/2008

  • Congress Seeks to Limit 'State Secrets' Privilege
    2/1/2008

  • Afghan Prison Looks Like Another Guantanamo
    1/15/2008

  • Terror Prosecutions Shed More Heat Than Light
    1/3/2008

  • Legal Community Condemns Destruction of CIA Tapes
    12/27/2007

  • 'Black Site' Survivor Relates Horrific Tale
    12/20/2007

  • Bush's New Spin Master
    a Lame Duck?
    12/19/2007

  • Glaring Hypocrisy of Arab Annapolis Participants
    12/6/2007

  • Civil Libertarians Warn of 'PATRIOT Act Lite'
    11/28/2007

  • Gitmo Policy Faces Another Supreme Court Test
    11/22/2007
  • William Fisher writes for Inter Press Service.

    Reproduction of material from any original Antiwar.com pages
    without written permission is strictly prohibited.
    Copyright 2014 Antiwar.com