12/7/2021

“At the heart of the [Military] commissions’ problems is their original sin, torture. The United States chose to secretly detain and torture the men it now seeks to punish. From the beginning, justice was an afterthought. As a CIA interrogator told a detainee, “[you will] never go to court, because ‘we can never let the world know what I have done to you.’” When the cases did land in court (or military commission), the government was well aware of the consequences of the black-site and other Guantanamo abuse [in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks]. The chief prosecutor who was serving when the CIA’s so-called ‘high value detainees’ arrived at GTMO has since said, ‘Rather than bolstering the prosecution’s case, allegations of abuse required further investigation and might leave the prosecution in a weaker position.’ He was correct. Torture impacts and undermines every aspect of these prosecutions.”

– John G. Baker, “Testimony of John G. Baker, Brigadier General, United States Marine Corps, Chief Defense Counsel, Military Commissions Defense Organizations, Department of Defense Before the Senate Judiciary Committee,” judiciary.senate.gov, December 7, 2021

11/3/2021

“The FBI released hundreds of pages of newly declassified documents Wednesday [11/3/2021] about its long effort to explore connections between the Saudi government and the September 11th attacks, revealing the scope of a strenuous but ultimately fruitless investigation whose outcome many question to this day. …

Agents for years investigated support given to several of the hijackers upon their arrival in the U.S., focusing in particular on whether three Saudi nationals — including a Saudi Embassy official in Washington — had advance knowledge of the attacks.

Ultimately, investigators found insufficient evidence to charge any of the three with illegally supporting the hijackers, according to an FBI memo from May that closed out the probe and was among the more than 700 pages released Wednesday. The FBI noted in the memo that al Qaeda compartmentalized the roles within its major attacks and ‘did not make the attack plans known in advance to others’ for fear of word getting out.”

– CBS News, “FBI Releases Declassified Documents About Investigating Ties Between Saudi Government and Sept. 11 Attacks,” cbsnews.com, November 4, 2021

10/28/2021

During an October 2021 hearing at Camp Justice, at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba: “…Majid Khan, 41, became the first former prisoner of the black sites to openly describe, anywhere, the violent and cruel ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ that agents used to extract information and confessions from terrorism suspects…He expressed remorse for hurting people through his embrace of radical Islam and Al Qaeda, but also found a way around a labyrinth of U.S. intelligence classifications to realize a decade-long ambition to tell the world what U.S. agents had done to him….Mr. Khan gained attention with the release of a 2014 study of the C.I.A. program by the Senate Intelligence Committee that said, after he refused to eat, his captors ‘infused’ a purée of his lunch through his anus. The C.I.A. called it rectal refeeding. Mr. Khan called it rape.”

– Carol Rosenberg, “For First Time in Public, a Detainee Describes Torture at C.I.A. Black Sites,” NYTimes.com, Oct. 30, 2021

10/28/2021

“A suburban Baltimore high school graduate turned Al Qaeda courier, speaking to a military jury for the first time, gave a detailed account this week [around October 28, 2021] of the brutal forced feedings, crude waterboarding and other physical and sexual abuse he endured during his 2003 to 2006 detention in the C.I.A.’s overseas prison network….So, like other victims of torture, he said he manufactured tales that his captors wanted to hear: ‘I lied just to make the abuse stop.’ Mr. Khan offered the dark accounting Thursday [October 28, 2021] evening to a jury of eight U.S. military officers who on Friday deliberated for less than three hours and sentenced him to 26 years in prison, starting from his guilty plea in February 2012.”

– Carol Rosenberg, “For First Time in Public, a Detainee Describes Torture at C.I.A. Black Sites,” NYTimes.com, Oct. 30, 2021

10/28/2021

“A suburban Baltimore high school graduate turned Al Qaeda courier, speaking to a military jury for the first time, gave a detailed account this week [around October 28, 2021] of the brutal forced feedings, crude waterboarding and other physical and sexual abuse he endured during his 2003 to 2006 detention in the C.I.A.’s overseas prison network. Appearing in open court, Majid Khan, 41, became the first former prisoner of the black sites to openly describe, anywhere, the violent and cruel ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ that agents used to extract information and confessions from terrorism suspects.”

– Carol Rosenberg, “For First Time in Public, a Detainee Describes Torture at C.I.A. Black Sites,” NYTimes.com, Oct. 30, 2021

10/7/2021

“Farkhonda, twenty-four, was born southwest of the capital, in Ghazni, and as a toddler in early 2001 moved with her family to Kabul. … Farkhonda is part of a generation of young Afghans raised in a post-Taliban country, believing in the ideas of freedom and democracy they’ve learned from an early age. The American invasion didn’t bring only soldiers to Afghanistan, after all—it brought aid workers and entrepreneurs and teachers, too. … This is the flip side of the forever war, … one many Americans … tend not to consider when bandying about that term. For the vast majority of Farkhonda’s conscious existence, she’s lived in an open-ish society, where a young woman could study and work and dream. Was all of Afghanistan like this the past twenty years? No. But hers was.

Farkhonda says America’s withdrawal began to feel real ‘in the last three months. … The situation got tenser … and then the war spread everywhere. … It all happened so rapidly.’ She feels betrayed in particular by Ashraf Ghani, the democratically elected president whose flight from the country with a reported $169 million in cash birthed a denial and countless conspiracy theories …

Fear now reigns in Kabul, she says: ‘Almost every shop is closed, even the bakeries. You do not see a single woman on the streets.’ … I ask what she thinks will come next. ‘Honestly, I have no idea,’ she says. But she knows her objective. ‘Primarily, we have to get out of Afghanistan.’”

– Matt Gallagher, “Leaving Afghanistan Behind,” esquire.com, October 7, 2021

10/7/2021

Nicholas Irving, former U.S. Army ranger, with three tours each in Iraq and Afghanistan, talking with Matt Gallagher for Esquire, said that he agrees with the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, “100 percent . . . . My stance is completely different than it was. What’s changed for me is nothing’s changed over there. We got bin Laden a long time ago. … It’s watching young guys go over there and do the same thing I was doing. The whole purpose of us going was so they wouldn’t have to.”

– Matt Gallagher, “Leaving Afghanistan Behind,” esquire.com, October 7, 2021

10/7/2021

David Petraeous, the former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, interviewed by Matt Gallagher for Esquire, said about the U.S withdrawal from Afghanistan, “This is not going to end the endless war. It’s going to end our involvement in it … I fear that the endless war is actually going to get worse.” According to Gallagher, “He goes on to cite those fears, some of them prescient: An Afghan civil war. A refugee crisis. A safe haven for radical jihadism to flourish.”

– Matt Gallagher, “Leaving Afghanistan Behind,” esquire.com, October 7, 2021

10/7/2021

“The United States invaded in the weeks after 9/11, at the behest of George W. Bush, to dismantle and destroy the Al Qaeda terrorist group who’d attacked us. We sought something between justice and vengeance. Once Al Qaeda and its Taliban enablers had been defeated, the original mission accomplished, we stayed. Once Osama bin Laden was killed, in neighboring Pakistan, we stayed. We stayed and we stayed and we stayed.

We stayed for democracy at one point, human rights at another. To nation-build, if you believed in counterinsurgency, or to ‘mow the grass’—a euphemism for killing terrorists that admits doing so will produce more—if you favored counterterrorism.

Somewhere along the way, the war lost public interest and support. Those matter in a republic, though one could be forgiven for getting lulled into thinking otherwise the past twenty years. The war’s justification became the war’s existence itself, and that’s a twisted reason to keep killing people in the name of country, as well as risking the lives of our own.”

– Matt Gallagher, “Leaving Afghanistan Behind,” esquire.com, October 7, 2021

9/11/2021

“The FBI on Saturday [9/11/2021] released the first document related to the 9/11 attacks since President Biden ordered the declassification of more records last week, unveiling a memo detailing ‘significant logistic support’ that two of the Saudi hijackers received in the U.S.

The document, which is heavily redacted, comes from the secret FBI investigation into 9/11 — dubbed ‘Operation Encore’ — which centered on the two hijackers who lived in San Diego and who may have assisted them. …

The declassification is part of a push by families of victims from 9/11 who are suing Saudi Arabia for money and demanding to know if the government provided aid to the hijackers. …

Jim Kreindler, court-appointed co-chair for the plaintiffs, said in a statement that the new document supports their case. ‘The findings and conclusions in this FBI investigation validate the arguments we have made in the litigation regarding the Saudi government’s responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. This document, together with the public evidence gathered to date, provides a blueprint for how al Qaeda operated inside the U.S. with the active, knowing support of the Saudi government.'”

– Catherine Herridge and Andres Triay, “FBI’s Investigation into 9/11: First Document Released Following Biden’s Promise to Declassify Materials,” cbsnews.com, September 12, 2021