Iraq Watch: Prisoner Dies during CIA Torture, Abuses by Contrators, US Working against Al-Jazeera

Iraqi Prisoner Died in Handcuffs During CIA Torture, Abuses by Private Contractors in Iraq Reported, US Accused of Plan to Muzzle Al-Jazeera Through Privatization

Iraqi Prisoner Died in Handcuffs During CIA Torture

(From Democracy Now! 2/18/2005)

A major expose by the Associated Press has revealed that an Iraqi whose corpse was photographed with grinning U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib died under CIA interrogation while suspended by his wrists, which had been handcuffed behind his back. The death of the prisoner, Manadel al-Jamadi, became known last year when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke. The U.S. military said back then that it had been ruled a homicide. But the exact circumstances of the death were not disclosed at the time.

According to investigative documents reviewed by the AP, the prisoner died in a position known as “Palestinian hanging.” It is unclear whether that position- which human rights groups condemn as torture – was approved by the Bush administration for use in CIA interrogations. The Justice Department and the CIA refused to comment on the story.

Al-Jamadi was one of the CIA’s so-called “ghost” detainees at Abu Ghraib -prisoners being held secretly by the agency. His death in November 2003 became public with the release of photos of Abu Ghraib guards giving a thumbs-up over his bruised and puffy-faced corpse, which had been packed in ice. According to the documents, Al-Jamadi died in a prison shower room during about a half-hour of questioning, before interrogators could extract any information. The documents consist of statements from Army prison guards to investigators with the military and the CIA’s Inspector General’s office.

One Army guard, Sgt. Jeffery Frost, said the prisoner’s arms were stretched behind him in a way he had never before seen. Frost told investigators he was surprised al-Jamadi’s arms “didn’t pop out of their sockets.” Frost and other guards had been summoned to reposition al Jamadi, who an interrogator said was not cooperating. As the guards released the shackles and lowered al-Jamadi, blood gushed from his mouth “as if a faucet had been turned on,” according to the interview summary.

Navy SEALs apprehended al-Jamadi as a suspect in the Oct. 27, 2003, bombing of Red Cross offices in Baghdad that killed 12 people. His alleged role in the bombing is unclear. According to court documents and testimony, the SEALs punched, kicked and struck al-Jamadi with their rifles before handing him over to the CIA early on Nov. 4. By 7 a.m., al-Jamadi was dead.

According to the documents seen by the AP, Al-Jamadi was brought naked below the waist to the prison with a CIA interrogator and translator. A green plastic bag covered his head, and plastic cuffs tightly bound his wrists. Guards dressed al-Jamadi in an orange jumpsuit, slapped on metal handcuffs and escorted him to the shower room, a common CIA interrogation spot.

Abuses by Private Contractors in Iraq Reported

There are new allegations that heavily armed private security contractors in Iraq are brutalizing Iraqi civilians. In an interview with NBC News, four former security contractors told that they watched as innocent Iraqi civilians were fired upon, and one crushed by a truck. The contractors worked for an American company named Custer Battles, hired by the Pentagon to conduct dangerous missions guarding supply convoys. They were so upset by what they saw, three quit after only one or two missions. Said one of the four men, “What we saw, I know the American population wouldn’t stand for.”

These abuses by private contractors would seem to be the product of a lack of a vetting process by the U.S. government. Though contractors can use lethal force, the U.S. government does not vet who is hired. The Pentagon says it does watch how companies perform and investigates any alleged misconduct. According to some military experts, discipline varies greatly among these hired contractors. “[It varies] greatly from highly professional contractors to flat-out dangerous guys,” says Col. Thomas Hammes, a Marine instructor at the National Defense University in Washington.

Hammes spent two months working alongside Iraqis. He says some contractors showed outright contempt for civilians. And even good contractors sometimes used tactics that turned Iraqis against the United States. “If the government is hiring people that are running them off the road and intimidating them, that really undercuts your message,” says Hammes.

Meanwhile, Custer Battles and the Coalition Provisional Authority are under investigation for the manner in which contracts were awarded and paid for. Franklin Willis, a former official with the Coalition Provision Authority, told the Senate Democratic Policy Commmittee that Iraq, after the fall of Saddam Hussein, was “like the Wild West — awash in $100 bills.” Willis described how, during one point in the summer of 2003, Middletown-based contractor Custer Battles was paid with $2 million in fresh U.S. bills, stuffed into a gunnysack. Willis said the cash was a partial payment on a $16-million contract that Custer Battles had won to provide security for eventual civilian flights at the Baghdad International Airport.

This hearing came just two weeks after an audit of the CPA by the special inspector general for Iraqi reconstruction found the agency had failed to provide proper oversight of ministry spending, issued unauthorized contracts and lost track of $9 billion in Iraqi funds. In response to that criticism, L. Paul Bremer III, the former administrator of the authority, had strongly defended the agency’s financial practices. Bremer said auditors mistakenly assumed that “Western-style budgeting and accounting procedures could be immediately and fully implemented in the midst of a war.”

In another development concerning security contractors, it has been revealed that at least 10 South African companies and businessmen are being investigated on suspicion of recruiting former specialized police officers and soldiers to work in Iraq. Information given to the Cape Argus reveals that at least 10 South African companies may be recruiting South Africans for work in Iraq, contrary to South African law. This work includes close protection of Iraqi government officials and contract workers such as engineers.

US Accused of Plan to Muzzle Al-Jazeera Through Privatization

According to reports in the US and the Gulf, the Qatari government, owner of al-Jazeera since its foundation in 1996, has ordered privatization plans for the station to be speeded up. Many al-Jazeera employees fear this could lead to a loss of editorial freedom. America and its key ally Saudi Arabia are being accused of quietly seeking to muzzle al-Jazeera, the Arab satellite news station that has often incurred Washington’s ire for its coverage of Iraq and President George Bush’s “war on terror”.

US officials reject all charges of meddling despite the fact that Vice-President Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, the Defense Secretary, have fiercely criticized al-Jazeera for what they say is biased and inflammatory reporting. Washington has been particularly irritated by the station’s coverage of civilian casualties and destruction caused by US troops in Iraq, and by its airing of messages from Osama bin Laden, the al-Qa’ida leader. In Iraq and some other Arab countries, al-Jazeera offices have been shut down.

Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media // mediamouse.org