(I included the "?" in the title because I've yet to doublesource the facts of this story. However, I've come to rely on Syed Saleem Shahzad, Pepe Escobar and the other intrepid investigative journalists at Asia Times Online (about us page). They've been, on a consistent basis, both accurate in what they're reporting and timely in their delivery of that reporting.)
Getting to know this administration's modus operandi over the past 6-years, I don't doubt its the story's authenticity but I offer this disclaimer only for those who might.
There’s no question that the Bush administration is currently under heightened pressure from both Democrats and Republicans in Congress to close down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. There’s also no question by now that the Bush administration will do just about anything - including breaking the law - to keep Guantanamo detainees out of the U.S. federal court system. Details of a plan the administration is apparently going to use to take care of two birds with one stone, is now coming to light.
In a word: Pakistan. The Musharraf military regime is weakened substantially by internal unrest; under fire by its populace for the recent firing of a popular member of their supreme court, and more and more perceived by the public at home as capitulating to Washington’s demands to hunt down al-Qaeda cells in the border/northern territories. This move is unlikely to bolster public opinion for Musharraf in Pakistan, and unless he’s pimpin’ another book on The Daily Show, his favorability rating in the U.S. is also unlikely to rise.
Now, I know there’s a reason why I doubt Musharraf’s sincerity about helping in Bush's war on terror without a price, but my memory’s kinda hazy... I vaguely remember something about a real tall feller that the Pakistanis were suppose to find for us. You remember, that bearded guy the Bush administration says killed nearly 3,000 people in Washington and New York City. You remember don’t ya? He’s always totin’ around a dialysis machine, and hangin’ around with a bunch of A-rab, cave-dwelling folks. Perhaps, Pakistan is trying to make amends for not
looking for finding him. Or, perhaps the U.S. is the only thing propping up Musharraf's regime.
But, I digress.
Musharraf’s tacit support for Bush’s war on terror has a lot to do with the regime’s instability. Yet his regime is once more stepping in to help its ally in the war on terror, this time offering to hold detainees transferred from Guantanamo Bay.
The website Asia Time Online has an exposé on the plan:
Both US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have suggested that President Bush transfer Guantanamo's detainees to the United States, saying the facility is undercutting US foreign-policy efforts. Should Bush not do so, it is likely that the joint military prison and interrogation camp will be closed by the Democrat-controlled Congress. Vice President Dick Cheney's office and the Justice Department oppose having Guantanamo prisoners moved to the US.
The prison holds people suspected by the US of being al-Qaeda or Taliban operatives, as well as those no longer considered suspects who are being held pending relocation.
The camp has drawn strong criticism both from within the US military and worldwide for its extrajudicial detention of captives and acknowledgment that the interrogation rules there opened the possibility that captives were being tortured. To date, the Pentagon has only held military commissions for three al-Qaeda members, out of the 375 or so detainees currently at Guantanamo. Several hundred have been released over the past few years.
Asia Times Online has learned that the Bush administration is considering a plan under which inmates would be returned to special facilities in their countries of origin, where they would be treated on a case-by-case basis. There are an estimated 65 or so Pakistanis in Guantanamo, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US.
These special jails would be administered jointly by American and local security staff. At the same time, the new jails in allied countries would also house new suspects netted in the "war on terror." (emphasis mine)
Apparently, a top Pakistani official has told Asia Times Online that a special facility has already been built in the city of Faisalabad, adjacent to the existing Faisalabad Central Prison. Another such facility is under construction in Multan and is expected to be completed within the next few months. Work on a detention center adjacent to Adyala Jail in Rawalpindi, the capital Islamabad's twin city, has just started.
These facilities are being funded by the US and will fall under the jurisdiction of Pakistan's Ministry of Interior. Special staff will be deputed to the centers to work in conjunction with US officials.
Back to the article:
The Asia Times Online contact said similar facilities will be established in Afghanistan, Egypt and other countries sympathetic to the "war on terror". Last week, the Associated Press reported that the US is helping to expand a prison in Afghanistan to take some detainees from Guantanamo. The report said a high-security wing is being built at the Pul-e-Charki prison complex near the capital Kabul. It will be capable of holding up to 660 people; Afghan officials were reported as saying.
A special cell comprising various Pakistani intelligence agencies will reinvestigate the cases of the returnees from Guantanamo and, after coordination with US officials, will decide their fate.
When the Supreme Court ruled against the Bush administration’s interpretation of detainees’ judicial rights on June 29, 2006; the next month, the Department of Defense issued an internal memo stating that prisoners would in future be entitled to protection under the conventions.
However, in my opinion that’s highly unlikely. Pakistan is already known to play fast and loose with the rules, kinda making them up as they go along.
Does that sound familiar?
According to Asia Times Online, they've learned that over the past few months several al-Qaeda members have been rounded up, but they have not been formally arrested or charged, although they are being interrogated about bin Laden and his colleagues.
Again, sound familiar? If it doesn’t, this sure ought to...
In theory, the facilities being built in Pakistan will not be classified as "secret" and will be subject to the laws of the land, although they will be used only for suspects in the "war on terror". Actual interrogation could be carried out elsewhere.
Contacts confirmed that suspects would be kept in detention for a long time as Pakistan does not want to be embarrassed, as happened with two men released from Guantanamo: Abdullah Mehsud of the Pakistani tribal area of South Waziristan and Mullah Shahzada of Afghanistan are both known to have joined the Taliban. Mehsud was subsequently killed in a shootout with Pakistani security forces in March 2005. (emphasis mine)
Business as usual, I guess. The Bush administration is once again going to skirt the law and do an end run around SCOTUS and Congress both, doing exactly what they want to do, when they want to do it – where they want to do it.
You know what to do, folks. Congress needs to know about this. A sustained email and phone call campaign is definitely called for.
I’m sending a copy of the article to Keith Olbermann too and it wouldn’t hurt for others to do the same.
Please, if you respect the rule of law and democracy in America... support impeachment.
Throw da bums out already!
(Update): McJoan offered a link to Sec. of Defense Gates' trial balloon in an open thread earlier. h/t to cosette (and, McJoan)