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In the early days in Afghanistan, two Westerners were picked up with what were believed to be Al Qaeda or Taliban units. They were a kid from California named John Walker Lindh and a young Australian kangaroo skinner named David Hicks. As an act of political largesse directed by Dick Cheney, the man who runs our secret government, Hicks was released from Gitmo and returned to Australia. Lindh, however, didn’t have it so good. A decision was made to make an example of him. So he was sentenced to 20 years without parole by Judge T.S. Ellis III in a case prosecuted by Paul J. McNulty, a man who later made his reputation in the U.S. attorney scandal, and now faces suggestions of perjury and lying to Congress. At the time, I was told repeatedly that prosecutors were frantic to secure a plea bargain because they knew that Lindh had been tortured and that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was deeply implicated in the decision to torture him. If the case went to trial, and there were discovery, this would come out. However, defense counsel got badly outfoxed and outgunned on the matter and accepted a truly foolish plea bargain which seriously criminalized a kid who engaged in antics that read like a chapter from the life of Richard Burton (no, not the Welsh actor, the British orientalist who made a pilgrimage to Mecca, became a Sufi mystic and passed for a jihadi terrorist, all in the course of writing nineteenth century England’s definitive account of the Islamic mind).
Now Spencer Ackerman gives us a key new document in which Paul J. McNulty rats on his colleague Jim Haynes.
As Serrano and others reported, Lindh, an American citizen, was “was kept in harsh conditions, stripped and tied to a stretcher, and often held for long periods in a large metal container.” When a Justice Department ethics attorney, Jesselyn Radack, told a counterterrorism prosecutor that Lindh could not be questioned without his lawyer present if DOJ wanted to build a criminal case against him, she was promptly pushed out of her job. The case against Lindh eventually came down to a 20-year sentence based on a plea bargain, prompting many to speculate that Lindh’s harsh treatment — apparently approved by Rumsfeld’s top aides — ultimately scotched the chances for a successful prosecution on bigger charges than his ties to the Taliban.
“We know he was tortured,” says human-rights attorney Scott Horton. “There’s no beating around the bush. This is clarifying that the authority was given at the highest levels for torture to occur. The strong suggestion here is that it’s Haynes doing that, and the strong suspicion is that the authority for him to do so comes from the secretary of defense.” The further suspicion, according to the Post piece, is that the authority for Rumsfeld’s attorney to have authorized the abuse of an American citizen came from Vice President Cheney.
In other words, torture didn’t start in Gitmo or among some grunts in the field and then spread. In fact perhaps the very first victim was a young American citizen, and the decision was reached right at the pinnacle of power and then hammered down on people out in the field who reacted with disbelief upon hearing the instructions given.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
i. stand with israel
I listen to a lot of conservative talk radio. Confident masculine voices telling me the enemy is everywhere and victory is near — I often find it affirming: there’s a reason I don’t think that way. Last spring, many right-wing commentators made much of a Bloomberg poll that asked Americans, “Are you more sympathetic to Netanyahu or Obama?” Republicans picked the Israeli prime minister over their own president, 67 to 16 percent. There was a lot of affected shock that things had come to this. Rush Limbaugh said of Netanyahu that he wished “we had this kind of forceful moral, ethical clarity leading our own country”; Mark Levin described him as “the leader of the free world.” For a few days there I yelled quite a bit in my car.
The one conservative radio show I do find myself enjoying is hosted by Dennis Prager. At the Thanksgiving dinner of American radio personalities (Limbaugh is your jittery brother-in-law, Michael Savage is your racist uncle, Hugh Hewitt is Hugh Hewitt) Dennis Prager is the turkey-carving patriarch trying to keep the conversation moderately high-minded. While Prager obviously doesn’t like liberals — “The gaps between the left and right on almost every issue that matters are in fact unbridgeable,” he has said — he often invites them onto his show for debate, which is rare among right-wing hosts. Yet his gently exasperated take on the Obama–Netanyahu matchup was among the least charitable: “Those who do not confront evil resent those who do.”
Pairs of moose-dung earrings sold each year at Grizzly’s Gifts in Anchorage, Alaska:
An Alaskan brown bear was reported to have scratched its face with barnacled rocks, making it the first bear seen using tools since 1972, when a Svalbardian polar bear is alleged to have clubbed a seal in the head with a block of ice.
A former prison in Philadelphia that has served as a horror-movie set was being prepared as a detention center for protesters arrested at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump fired his campaign manager.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”