Friday, February 20, 2009

Former Guard at Guantanamo Bay tells of US Abuse

Rachel Maddow on MNSBC interviews a former guard at Guantanamo

Full Transcript:

U.S. Army Specialist Brandon Neely was a guard at Guantanamo. He arrived there just before the first prisoners in early 2002. His job at Guantanamo was to guard the prisoners.

He wasn‘t an interrogator. He wasn‘t involved in any intelligence collection. He was just supposed to get prisoner in and out of their cells as necessary, to escort them around the camp.

Specialist Neely was not a witness. He was not a journalist writing about these things. He was not an international observer of some kind. He was a participant in what happened at Guantanamo—which is why his account of conditions there is so remarkable. You have not heard this story before.

You have heard a lot of political jabbering about Guantanamo over the years—much of it prompted by the Pentagon‘s intensive but ultimately failed public relations effort to try to make us think that Guantanamo was something to be proud of.


DONALD RUMSFELD, FMR. U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: The treatment of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay is proper, it‘s humane, it‘s appropriate. And it is fully consistent with the international conventions.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: You are welcome to go there yourself. Maybe you have. And take a look at the conditions. I urge members of our press corps to go down to Guantanamo and see how they are treated, and to see—and to look at the facts.

RICHARD CHENEY, FMR. U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: They‘re very well-treated down there. They are living in the tropics. They are well-fed. They‘ve got everything they could possibly want. There isn‘t any other nation in the world that would treat people who were determined to kill Americans the way we are treating these people.


MADDOW: In the tropics.

Tonight, you are going to hear a very different story about Guantanamo from someone who was there. The very second prisoner to get dumped off a bus at the foot at Camp X-ray Guantanamo, the second prisoner to arrive there, was transferred immediately into then Private Brandon Neely‘s custody. What happened next is in part what led Mr. Neely to go public with his story.

He has not been subpoenaed. Nobody is demanding he give this testimony. He‘s doing it because of the callings of his own conscience.

After serving as guard at Guantanamo for the first six months of its existence as a “war on terror” prison camp, Brandon Neely now says that he is ashamed by some of what he did there and he‘s still haunted by some things that he witnessed. Moved by conscience, Mr. Neely has come forward. He came forward first to the University of California at Davis Guantanamo Testimonials Project. He described incidents to them in quite graphic detail. You can read that testimony at our Web site:

And tonight, for the first time in any broadcast interview, he is here exclusively to describe what he witnessed and what he personally took part in.

Joining us now is U.S. Army Specialist Brandon Neely. His service in the Army included guarding prisoners at the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, beginning when the very first prisoners arrived in January 2002. Mr. Neely was honorably discharged from the Army last year, he‘s now president of the Houston chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Brandon Neely, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

SPC. BRANDON NEELY, FMR. GUANTANAMO PRISON GUARD: Thank you very much for having me on the show.

MADDOW: Because you were at Guantanamo from the beginning, you are one of the first—one of the first people we‘ve had a chance to ask what it was like. I was hoping that you could just describe that very first day that the prisoners arrived there. What you were told to expect and what the scene was like when they got brought into the camp?

NEELY: Well, we were just told from the get-go, you know, right after 9/11, the country‘s very upset about what happened. We were just told from the get-go that these were the guys who planned 9/11, that these are the worst people in the world, that the world had to offer and we are fixing to deal with.

The very fist day, I was there, you know, when they first came in. The marines have the Humvees with 50 cals escorting the bus unto the Camp X-ray at the time. And you could really hear a pin drop when the bus has started to come up. Everybody was quiet. Most people were nervous. We didn‘t know what to expect.

I mean, I‘ve never seen a terrorist. I didn‘t know what one would look like. The bus came on and you could hear the marines yelling at them. The next thing you know, the detainees just started coming off the bus, we‘re just picking them up. We were taking them, control of them, and taking them to the in-processing station.

MADDOW: Brandon, you have talked about a physical incident between you and an older prisoner on that very first day that the detainees arrived at Guantanamo. Could you describe what happened with that older man?

NEELY: What happened was we took custody of the man, the detainee, we took him to in-processing situation. We came up in the other side of the tent, me and my escort partner grabbed him and we could tell at that time he was literally shaking. You could you see his hands moving.

He was very tense. He didn‘t want to walk. So, we started screaming at him to walk. We made it over to Alpha block and we put him in his cage. And he was just real nervous, real tense.

We put him on his knees. My partner took off his leg irons and put the leg irons outside. And he was still shaking real bad and he still has his goggles on. My partner went in with the key to take the handcuffs off. He moved away. We started yelling at him, “Don‘t move, don‘t move.”

Interpreter was yelling at him not to move.

My partner went in to take the handcuffs off and when he did, the detainee moved, go straight, real fast to the left. And I was on the left side. And just out of reaction, I slammed him to the ground, I got on top of him. He was trying to get up and the whole time when he was trying to get up, I was holding him down by the head, and couple of seconds later, I was pulled out of the cage by the other soldiers that came to help.

They went ahead and hog-tied him, which he stayed there for—I really couldn‘t tell you how long. But next day, we arrived at the camp. I was walking by and I could see on the side of his—side of his face, he was all scraped up and bruised. And I later learned from other detainees the reason that he moved and he jerked away from us was when we placed him on his knees, he thought we were going to execute him.

MADDOW: Did you witness other incidents of detainees being beaten up or punched, any other sort of physical abuse of prisoners there?

NEELY: Yes. There is another incident. There was an accident on Charlie block, I remember, because I was working in the block. And I happened to be working night shift for about a week or two and I can‘t remember why.

But the medic was making rounds to give out medication, and there was a detainee that was supposed to take Ensure, a lot of them take Ensure because they were very malnutritioned when they showed up. And he just plain refused and this went on for a while. They finally called the internal reaction force. They came in and they briefed them on what was going on. So, me working on the block, went ahead and walked over there to see what was going to happen.

When they got there, they opened the cage. The IRF team went in. They took him down. They cuffed him. They picked him up and cuffed him to the cage. And then medic walked in.

And when the medic walked in, he looked up and saw me. And then he kind of motioned for me to move over to my left a little bit. I didn‘t know what he was doing. So, I would have to move over. So, they were holding him by face and Medic open an Ensure can and started pouring in his mouth. And he wasn‘t taking—the whole Ensure was just running down his face.

So, the medic looked up and the medic struck him one time on the side of the face. And they got out of the cage, put him back on the floor and they left. I turned around. And when I turned around, the first thing I noticed was that the guard tower was directly behind me, so, I, automatically, thought over time that he positioned me in front of that guard tower so they couldn‘t see what he was doing.

MADDOW: So, it was the medic himself that punched the detainee in the face with you in the way so that it couldn‘t be seen from the guard tower?

NEELY: Correct.

MADDOW: How much do you think that a lack of structural—lack of instruction, a lack of training about how to deal with prisoners contributed to some of these incidents that you saw that you think are now quite troubling?

NEELY: Well, I think—I think it could be a lot because nobody really knew what was going on. There was no standard operating procedures as far as how a detainee camp was supposed to be run. There was kind of like a trial-and-error period, if this didn‘t work, we‘ll try this way one day—you know, just everyday was something different until they thought it was right.

MADDOW: Why are you talking about this publicly now?

NEELY: You know, I have been to Guantanamo and I have been to Iraq. When you return from places like that, it‘s not just something you just shut off overnight. It‘s just something that you relive every day of your life. It‘s nothing you‘ll forget.

And for me, over time, it just really builds up. And every day I think about it and I relive those situations, and it gets the best of me. And the best way for me to deal with this is speak out. And around December, it just—everything just really hit me. And I just knew I had to talk. I knew I needed to speak about Guantanamo.

MADDOW: Do you think that more people should come forward to tell their stories? Obviously, you think that it has helped you personally. Do you think that it helps the country?

NEELY: I think it does. I think people have the right to know what‘s going on everywhere. You know, this helps me in an aspect to get it out. But, also, you know, you got a lot of detainees that were innocent and had proven innocent. And they are trying to tell their stories and people don‘t believe them.

I think more people do need to speak out because I think the public has the right to know what went really on. You know, whether their time there was positive or negative, the people have a right to know what‘s going on and what happened there.

MADDOW: Brandon Neely was a guard at Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

Brandon, thank you for coming on and telling your story publicly. Thank you for spending time telling us about it tonight. I‘ll mention again that you are the head of the Houston chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War. Brandon, thank you.

NEELY: Thank you very much for having me.

MADDOW: Brandon Neely told his entire story to the University of California Davis Guantanamo Testimonials Project, which is online and it‘s pretty incredible. If there is anybody else watching this show tonight who was also at Guantanamo, who wants to tell their story, they want to hear from you at UC Davis. You can e-mail them at

* The Guantánamo Testimonials Project

* The Neurobiology of Psychological Torture

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dick Cheney furious about No Libby Pardon

Dick Cheney furious about No Libby Pardon

Dick Cheney is reportedly furious at George W Bush for refusing to grant a pardon to Scooter Libby and petitioned Bush all the way up to the Inauguration.

Why? Possibly because Cheney was trying to be loyal to the man who took the fall for Cheney's actual criminal involvement in outing the CIA operative Valerie Plame in retaliation for an op- ed piece by her Plame's husband Joe Wilson ( hired by the Republican Administration) to check on rumors that Iraq was trying to obtain materials from Africa to build a nuclear weapon. Despite Wilson finding out the rumors were false, the Administration continued to use the rumors to support their presumptive attack on the sovereign nation of Iraq.

BY Thomas M. Defrank

WASHINGTON - In the waning days of the Bush administration, Vice President Dick Cheney launched a last-ditch campaign to persuade his boss to pardon Lewis (Scooter) Libby - and was furious when President George W. Bush wouldn't budge.

Sources close to Cheney told the Daily News the former vice president repeatedly pressed Bush to pardon Libby, arguing his ex-chief of staff and longtime alter ego deserved a full exoneration - even though Bush had already kept Libby out of jail by commuting his 30-month prison sentence.

"He tried to make it happen right up until the very end," one Cheney associate said.

In multiple conversations, both in person and over the telephone, Cheney tried to get Bush to change his mind. Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in the federal probe of who leaked covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to the press.

Several sources confirmed Cheney refused to take no for an answer. "He went to the mat and came back and back and back at Bush," a Cheney defender said. "He was still trying the day before Obama was sworn in."

After repeatedly telling Cheney his mind was made up, Bush became so exasperated with Cheney's persistence he told aides he didn't want to discuss the matter any further.

The unsuccessful full-court press left Cheney bitter. "He's furious with Bush," a Cheney source told The News. "He's really angry about it and decided he's going to say what he believes."

He did just that the day after becoming a private citizen. In an interview with The Weekly Standard, Cheney heaped praise on Libby and denounced his conviction. "He was the victim of a serious miscarriage of justice, and I strongly believe that he deserved a presidential pardon," Cheney said. "Obviously, I disagree with President Bush's decision."

The vehemence of Cheney's last-minute onslaught has struck some Bush loyalists as excessive. "At some point you have to accept the decision of the guy who appointed you," one of them said after learning the details. "I think Cheney was over the top."

A Cheney ally disagreed. "He had every right to push it as hard as he wanted," he argued. "Cheney places great store in loyalty and thinks Scooter got a raw deal."

In July 2007, at Cheney's urging, Bush commuted Libby's 30-month prison sentence. But he also said, "I respect the jury's verdict" and noted that his decision "leaves in place a harsh punishment" for the man often described as "Cheney's Cheney." Libby was fined $250,000, and as a convicted felon, he has been disbarred from practicing law and cannot vote.

Rob Saliterman, a spokesman for the former President, said Bush would have no comment. A Cheney spokeswoman could not be reached for comment.

The latest Libby flap has injected fresh strains in a relationship that had become more businesslike than warm in recent years.

Ten days before leaving office, Bush hailed Cheney as "a fabulous vice president."

About the same time, however, an official who has worked closely with both men mused that the relationship "isn't what it was" when Bush tapped Cheney as his running mate in 2000.

"It's been a long, long time since I've heard the President say, 'Run that by the vice president's office.' You used to hear that all the time."

Past post on this issue:

23 Administration Officials Involved In Plame Leak

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby = The Guilty Scapegoat

Joe Wilson's Op-Ed for New York Times

Valerie Plame -

Plame CIA leak Lawsuit in Court - Lawyers questioned by Judge

"Evidence in this case overwhelmingly indicated Mr. Libby's culpability "
Scooter Libby today expressed no remorse, and Judge Reggie B. Walton showed no mercy.

U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald Statement about Libby's commuted sentence

Libby in Limbo and famed lawyer Dershowitz take on the case

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Powell: I Don’t Know Whether Torture ‘Would Be Considered Criminal’

Powell: I Don’t Know Whether Torture ‘Would Be Considered Criminal’

Last night, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow interviewed former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Unlike many journalists, Maddow asked him about — and pressed him repeatedly on — his role in approving torture against detainees. Specifically, she asked him about reports that he was among nine White House “principals” who approved torture techniques so specifically that “interrogation sessions were almost choreographed.”

Collin Powell

Powell refused to acknowledge his role in these meetings, and claimed ignorance about long-released legal memos that specifically authorized torture. Choosing his words carefully, he would say only that, “at least from the State Department standpoint,” it was important to stand by the Geneva Conventions. Powell also questioned whether tactics like sleep deprivation, stress positions, or waterboarding were “criminal” — despite specific U.S. statutes and international law forbidding torture:

MADDOW: If there was a meeting though at which senior officials were saying, were discussing and giving the approval for sleep deprivation, stress positions, waterboarding. Were those officials committing crimes when they were giving their authorization?

POWELL: You’re asking me a legal question. I mean, I don’t know that any of these items would be considered criminal. And I will wait for whatever investigations that the government or the Congress intends to pursue with this.

Throughout the interview, Powell shirked any responsibility to account for his actions by deferring to hypothetical “investigations” or pointing to the unreleased — and possibly non-existent — “written record” of these meetings as providing the ultimate final word. As Maddow pointed, it’s unclear whether any such investigations will ever take place. Watch it:

Powell has gotten credit in the past for supposedly “breaking” with the Bush administration on the issue of torture. However, his refusal to even acknowledge centuries-long definitions of torture is a discouraging indication that he is more concerned with protecting himself legally than getting to the truth of America’s national disgrace.


RACHEL: On the issue of intelligence, tainted evidence, and those things, were you ever present at meetings at which the interrogation of prisoners, like Abu Zubaydah, other prisoners in those early days, where the interrogation was directed, where specific interrogations were approved? It has been reported on a couple of different sources that there were principals meetings to which you would have typically been there, where interrogations were almost play by play discussed.

POWELL: They were not play-by-play discussed, but there were conversations at senior level as to what could be done with respect to interrogation. I cannot go further because I don’t have knowledge of all the meetings that took place or what was discussed at each of those meetings and I think it’s going to have to be the written record of those meetings that will determine whether anything improper took place.

But it was always the case that, at least from the State Department standpoint, we should be consistent with the requirements of the Geneva Convention and that’s why this was such a controversial, controversial issue. But you’ll have to go — and in due course I think we all will go — to the written record of what memos were signed. I’m not sure what memos were signed or not signed. I didn’t have access to all of that information.

MADDOW: If there was a meeting though at which senior officials were saying, were discussing and giving the approval for sleep deprivation, stress positions, waterboarding. Were those officials committing crimes when they were giving their authorization?

POWELL: You’re asking me a legal question. I mean, I don’t know that any of these items would be considered criminal. And I will wait for whatever investigations that the government or the Congress intends to pursue with this.

MADDOW: There have been two Bush administration officials now who have said explicitly that what we did at Guantanamo was torture. One of them was the State Department general counsel for Guantanamo litigation, a man named, um, Vijay - excuse me – Padmanabhan.

POWELL: I don’t know him.

MADDOW: Also Susan Crawford, who heads up the military tribunals at Guantanamo. Both have said it was torture. Do you think that they are wrong? Do you feel like you have enough information to know if people were waterboarded, is that torture?

POWELL: I will let those who are making the legal determination of that make that judgment. Susan Crawford has made a statement and she is in a position of authority to make such a statement, has access to all the information. The lawyer you mentioned who is working in I guess in the legal advisor’s office in the State Department, but I don’t believe I know him, has made statements recently. What’s the basis for his statements and what meetings he was in and whether he was in Guantanamo I just don’t know.

MADDOW: I guess have to ask that — just a broader question about whether or not you have regrets, not about what the Bush administration did broadly in the years that you were secretary of state but the decisions that you participated in about interrogation, about torture, about the other things that are now so controversial —

POWELL: We had no meeting on torture. It is constantly said that the meetings - I had an issue with this - we had meetings on what torture to administer. What I recall, the meetings I was in, and I was not in all the meetings and I was not a author of many of the memos that have been written and some have come out and some have not come out. The only meetings I recall were where we talked about what is it we can do with respect to trying to get information from individuals who were in our custody. And I will just have to wait until the full written record is available and has been examined.

MADDOW: I don’t mean to press you on this to the point of discomfort, but there is an extent to which there is a legal discussion around this where everybody feels a little constrained by the legal terms and whether or not they are a legal professional. There is also the policy implications that you’ve been so eloquent about, in terms of what the implications are of these policies for the U.S. abroad in a continuing way. And you’ve been very optimistic in thinking that America still has a reservoir of good will around the world that we can call on regardless of these difficulties that we’ve had around these issues.

If specific interrogation techniques were being approved by people at the political level in the Cabinet, it doesn’t — the legal niceties of it almost become less important.

POWELL: I don’t know where these things were being approved at a political level.

MADDOW: If there a principals meeting at the White House to discuss interrogation techniques?

POWELL: It does not mean it was approved, anything was approved at a meeting.


POWELL: It depends on, did the meeting end up in a conclusion or was it just a briefing that then went to others to make a final decision on and to document. And so it is a legal issue and I think we have to be very careful and I have to be very careful because I don’t want to be seen as implicating anybody or accusing anybody because I don’t have the complete record on this. And that complete record I think in due course

Sunday, February 01, 2009

P.W. Singer with Jon Stewert discuss : Wired for War

Video Below

Peter W. Singer is a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution where he is Director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative. Singer served as coordinator of the Defense Policy Task Force for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

At 34 years old, Dr. Singer was the youngest scholar named a Senior Fellow in the ninety-year history of Brookings. He is considered one of the world’s leading experts on changes in 21st century warfare and has written for many of the world's major media and journals, including the Boston Globe, L.A. Times, New York Times, Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, Current History, Survival, International Security, Parameters, Weltpolitik, and the World Policy Journal. He has been quoted in every major U.S. newspaper and news magazine and delivered talks at venues ranging from the U.S. Congress and Pentagon to more than 40 universities around the world.

And last week he was interviewed by Jon Stewert of the Daily Show (on Comedy Central) about his new book:

Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century" (Penguin, 2009) is Singer's latest book. It explores what happens when science fiction starts to play out on modern day battlefields, as robots start to be used more and more in war. For the book research, Singer interviewed hundreds of robot scientists, science fiction writers, soldiers, insurgents, politicians, lawyers, journalists, and human rights activists from around the world. Even before publication, the work had already been featured in the video game "Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots", as well as in presentations to audiences as diverse as the U.S. Army War College, Air Force Institute of Technology and the National Student Leadership Conference. Singer's 2009 book tour will take him to the opening of the TED conference, and presentations at 25 venues around the country.

His other books include:

"Corporate Warriors"

His first book Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry (Cornell University Press, 2003) was the first to explore the new industry of private companies providing military services for hire, an issue that soon became important with the use and abuse of these companies in Iraq. [2] The book, originally planned for a 500 copy print run, has sold over 40,000 copies, gone through three print runs and a paperback version, as well as being translated into Japanese, Korean, Urdu, and Italian. It was named best book of the year by the American Political Science Association, among the top five international affairs books of the year by the Gelber Prize, and a “top ten summer read” by Businessweek. It is now in the assigned texts at venues ranging from Yale Law School to the Army War College.

"In the years that followed, Singer was feted as one of the only knowledgeable experts on the subject who would speak to the press (PMFs loving their secrecy, almost as a matter of course), but was also threatened with assault, lawsuits, and even death by people who would have preferred he kept everything he learned to himself. Also, Iraq—just a gleam in a neo-con’s eye back when Singer was writing the book—happened.

Singer adds a Chapter: “The Lessons of Iraq.”

Five years into the Iraq War, Cornell Press has republished Corporate Warriors, which would have been a welcome thing even if they hadn’t done anything to the book besides fix a few typos. But fortunately, Singer has gone back and added a terse but heavy-hitting afterword on what has transpired since the book’s original publication: “The Lessons of Iraq.” When Singer first wrote Corporate Warriors he was trying partially to start a debate on the good and bad aspects of the PMF phenomenon, but mostly just trying to shed light and analysis on an incredibly secretive field that had been little studied. By the time he revisited the subject for this new edition, the situation appears to have grown to include an even larger part of the American military infrastructure, and with almost just as little reflection as there was before the first missile hit Baghdad.

For all the alarms that Singer raises about this issue, though, he’s no Chicken Little. The idea of hiring mercenaries to fight our wars may rankle many Americans (particularly those of a liberal disposition), but Singer scrupulously explains that the 19th and 20th century tradition of nation-states waging war with vast armies of conscripted or volunteer citizens is actually an aberration in the history of warfare, not the norm. For much of human history, warfare was in fact more likely to be waged by small of units of professionals who hired themselves out to the highest bidder. One of the reasons was that many governments didn’t have the means or ability to maintain large standing armies of men who could take the time to master the intricacies of warfare."

Children at War

Dr. Singer’s next book, Children at War (Pantheon, 2005), explored the rise of another new force in modern warfare, child soldier groups. Dr. Singer’s “fascinating” (New York Post) and “landmark” (Newsweek) work was the first book to comprehensively explore the compelling and tragic rise of child soldier groups and was recognized by the 2006 Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Book of the Year Award. His commentary on the issue was featured in a variety of venues ranging from National Public Radio and Fox News to Defense News and People magazine. Dr. Singer has served as a consultant on the issue to the U.S. Marine Corps and Congress, and the recommendations in his book resulted in changes in the UN peacekeeping training program. An accompanying A&E/History Channel documentary entitled Child Warriors was broadcast in 2008.

His site:

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