A federal judge has knocked down the government’s attempt to hold a secret hearing in a case challenging the military’s practice of force-feeding Guantanamo detainees who are on hunger strike.
U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler called the government’s desire to close the proceedings “deeply troubling,” and chastised the Department of Justice for appearing to “deliberately” make the request “on short notice.”
As usual, the government tried to argue that revealing how they did it would jeopardize national security. What exactly was the danger?
The government argues that the 28 tapes at issue are classified, and will likely appeal today’s ruling. Releasing the videos, the Justice Department has said, might give a glimpse of the the prison infrastructure, or let Guantanamo inmates or others learn how to resist “forced cell extractions” or locate equipment that could be used as a weapon. The government also warned that the videos might “inflame Muslim sensitivities overseas.”
But the judge, Gladys Kessler, found that those justifications were “unacceptably vague, speculative,” or “just plain implausible.” So much information about the force-feedings was already public, Kessler wrote, and certainly detainees “are already familiar with the tactics used to extract them from their cells and enterally feed them.” The videos may be altered to protect the identities of prison guards, she said.
Yes, I am sure that ISIS/ISIL/IS/Khorasan or whoever the current deadly menace is who watch the video will be able to assemble a crack team of commando to rescue their colleagues, just like in the films.
Judge Kessler seems to be displaying a healthy skepticism to the government’s sweeping assertions. But the most transparent administration in history will not give up their effort to keep everything secret without a fight and will likely appeal. And so far, the only viewing of the videos has been behind closed doors. Sondra Crosby, a Boston University medical professor who saw them, described them as “disturbing”.
The hearing revealed that it is not only the force-feeding that is problematic.
Lawyers displayed medical records that appeared to show decisions such as depriving Dhiab of a wheelchair, his socks and underwear, being made for disciplinary reasons.
“That’s completely inappropriate and cruel, to take a wheelchair away from someone who is not able to walk,” Crosby said. “It looks like medical care is being withheld as part of disciplinary status and that should never happen.”
Attorney Eric Lewis said his client’s hunger strike is the only way he has to protest peacefully. “It’s a cry of humanity from a person who feels he has no choice left,” Lewis said. ”Mr. Dhiab does not want to die, he wants to be treated like a human being,”
The double standards the US media uses keeps rolling along. Reader Peter sent me a link to an NPR Morning Edition interview last week that was very sympathetic to an al Jazeera reporter who was kept in prison in Egypt and was tortured and went on a hunger strike for 149 days and was force-fed. At no point in the interview did the NPR host mention Guantanamo. And today, Morning Edition had an interview with former CIA chief and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and was careful to use the euphemism ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ because of course the accurate word ‘torture’ must never be used when the US does it. They also let Panetta make all kinds of claims about torture without challenging him at all.