Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Soldier who reported abuse sent to psychiatrist

WASHINGTON, MARCH 5: A US Army intelligence sergeant who accused fellow soldiers in Samarra of abusing detainees in 2003 was in turn accused by his commander of being delusional and ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation in Germany, despite a military psychiatrist’s initial judgment that the man was stable, according to internal Army records released on Friday.

The soldier angered his commander by urging the unit’s redeployment from the military base to prevent what the soldier feared would be the death of one or more detainees under interrogation, according to the documents. He told his commander three members of the counterintelligence team had hit detainees, pulled their hair, tried to asphyxiate them and staged mock executions with pistols pointed at the detainees’ heads.

The case did not lead to criminal charges and was among 13 described in Army criminal records released at the Pentagon on Friday. They detail the Army’s investigations of allegations by US military personnel in Iraq of abuse, rape and larceny by fellow soldiers.

antiwar: This Was an Attack on Unembedded Journalism (Democracy Now! Interview)

antiwar: This Was an Attack on Unembedded Journalism: "AMY GOODMAN: In an interview with Sky Italia, Sgrena described what happened.

GIULIANA SGRENA: [Translated from Italian]We were on our way to the airport, and we thought we were finally safe, because the area where we were was under the control of the United States. We therefore thought we had escaped the gravest area and entered into a more friendly area, although I was still nervous as my hostage takers had warned me to be careful, because it was the Americans who did not want me to be free, and returned to Italy alive. I just took that as a last threat from my hostage takers and did not really take it seriously. But then suddenly we found ourselves under an immense amount of bullets, something terrible, without any warning, and we realized that nearby there was an American tank which was shooting at us.

AMY GOODMAN: Giuliana Sgrena in an interview. The U.S. military has a different story. They say the car was speeding as it approached a checkpoint. In a statement, the military claims soldiers first tried to warn the driver to stop, by, quote, “hand and arm signals, flashing white lights and firing warning shots in front of the car.” In an interview with an Italian TV channel, Giuliana Sgrena disputed the military's account, stating there was no bright light, no signal, that the car was traveling at regular speed. She also told Italian television that a ransom was paid for her release, and it was possible she was deliberately targeted by U.S. forces. She said, quote, “The fact that the Americans don't want negotiations to free hostages is known. The fact they do everything to prevent the adoption of this practice to save the lives of people held hostages, everybody knows that. So I don't see why I should rule out that I could have been a target,” Sgrena said. The Pentagon has said only the incident is under investigation. Joining us now on the telephone from Rome is Luciana Castellina. She is one of the founders of Giuliana Sgrena’s newspaper, Il Manifesto. She has just returned from the state funeral of Nicola Calipari, the intelligence official who was killed. We welcome you to Democracy Now!


AMY GOODMAN: It’s very good to have you on Democracy Now! again. Can you describe the funeral today and the atmosphere in Rome?

LUCIANA CASTELLINA: Well, I would say that the funeral -- first of all, there were thousands and thousands of people who attended the funeral, and since yesterday, where the coffin had been exposed in Piazza Venezia, there was a long queue which lasted for hours, because everybody wanted to go and make an homage to Nicola. He is called Nicola now by everybody, which is his name because -- I mean, everybody was so grateful because he sacrificed his life. So, the funeral was, I would say, very human. I mean, everybody was there, from the government, the opposition, all the institutions, the family, the friends, the representatives of the church. And I think it was quite human, because I think the government, Italian government, was quite embarrassed because they found themselves in a -- well, you know, I mean, one of the best and most loved men of the secret service which sacrificed his life has been killed by an American bullet. It’s not an easy situation.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about how high up in intelligence he was, the title, International Operations Chief of Italy's military intelligence service, certainly a position that I'm sure was often criticized by Il Manifesto, your newspaper?

LUCIANA CASTELLINA: The services, you mean, in general?

AMY GOODMAN: I'm saying that Nicola Calipari, the fact that he was Chief of International Operations of Italy's military intelligence service, he was, I'm sure, often a target of criticism of your newspaper, Il Manifesto?

LUCIANA CASTELLINA: Well, [inaudible] secret service is [inaudible] the secret service of your own country, do you? We didn’t. But with Nicola, for months, human relation -- he is nearly friendly relationship was established because the editor of Il Manifesto and Giuliana's husband have met Nicola several times, because he was going up and down from Baghdad to here. And really, I mean, everybody trusted him and appreciated the fact that he risked his life to save Giuliana so, that was -- it was a real shock when we were told that he was -- that he was killed. I mean, he was killed for a very courageous gesture, because he covered Giuliana's body, who could have been killed otherwise.

AMY GOODMAN: Luciana Castellina, we'd like to ask you to wait for a moment. We have to break. And when we come back, I want to ask you about the significance of this death and talk about what it means in Italy, whose population has been very opposed to the occupation, although Prime Minister Berlusconi has been very much an ally of President Bush, and what this means.

My truth (La mia verità) By Giuliana Sgrena

March 6, 2005 (from Il Manifesto)—I am still in the darkness. Last Friday was the most dramatic day of my life since I was abducted.

I had just spoken with my abductors, who for days kept telling me I would be released. So I was living in wait. They said things that I would understand only later. They talked of transfer related problems. I had learned to understand which way the wind blew from the attitude of my two "sentinels," the two fellows who watched over me every day—especially one of them, who attended to my requests, was incredibly bold. In the attempt to understand what was going on, I provocatively asked him if he was happy because I would go away or because I would stay. I was surprised and happy when, for the first time, he told me, "I only know you will go, but I don't know when."

To confirm that something new was happening, at one point they both came in the room to reassure me and joke: "Congratulations," they said, "you are leaving for Rome." To Rome, that's what they were saying.

I had a weird feeling, because that word immediately evoked liberation but also projected a void inside myself. I realized it was the most difficult moment of my abduction and that if all I had lived yet was certain, now an abyss of heavy uncertainties was widening. I changed my clothes.

They came back: "We'll escort you, but don't give signals of your presence, otherwise the Americans might intervene." That was not what wanted to hear. It was the happiest and also the most dangerous moment. If we ran into someone, meaning American troops, there would be an exchange of fire, and my captors were ready and they would have responded. I had to have my eyes covered. I was already getting used to a temporary blindness.

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Monday, March 07, 2005

BBC NEWS | Europe | Transcript: Giuliana Sgrena interview

BBC NEWS | Europe | Transcript: Giuliana Sgrena interview: "In an interview with the BBC's Newshour programme, freed Italian hostage Giuliana Sgrena began by describing the conditions in which she had been held hostage for a month.

The condition of life was not bad from the material point of view but I was in a position of risk and so you can imagine it was not easy, it was very difficult and very hard to spend the days as prisoner in Iraq.

What did your captors tell you when you were hostage?

That I needed to help them to ask [Silvio] Berlusconi to withdraw the troops. They saw all what happens in Italy, demonstrations against the occupation, demonstrations for my liberation. And so they [became] aware that I was really working against the occupation and people were supporting me and so they told me: 'We have seen that you are very appreciated in Italy'. And that helped me to be freed.

You then became aware presumably that negotiations were going on about your possible release.

I can't say it was deliberate because we can't say if there was a lack of information

I could imagine that negotiations were going on but I can't tell you more because I was not aware of what was the object of the negotiations. And when I was freed it was the last of my problems which kind of negotiations were going on.

You do not know whether money was paid for your freedom?

No, I don't know. "

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Sunday, March 06, 2005

CNN.com - CIA sends terror suspects abroad for interrogation

CNN.com - CIA sends terror suspects abroad for interrogation: "WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The CIA has been allowed to secretly transfer terrorism suspects overseas for interrogation, a former U.S. official said Sunday, but a White House spokesman denied that the United States used the practice to 'export torture.'
The official, who asked not to be named because there are classified issues involved, emphasized that the process -- known as 'rendition' -- is conducted with strict government oversight and with approval from the White House and the Department of Justice.

The practice had existed for years, but President Bush expanded it after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, The New York Times reported Sunday.

'This program of renditions is fully authorized, so the CIA is not doing anything illegal that has not been authorized by the president,' the former official said. He said both the chairmen and ranking Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees are entitled to know about it or have been briefed on it."

60 Minutes - CIA Flying Suspects To Torture?

"The option of not doing something is extraordinarily dangerous to the American people," says Michael Scheuer, who until three months ago was a senior CIA official in the counterterrorist center. Scheuer created the CIA's Osama bin Laden unit and helped set up the rendition program during the Clinton administration.

"Basically, the National Security Council gave us the mission, take down these cells, dismantle them and take people off the streets so they can't kill Americans," says Scheuer. "They just didn't give us anywhere to take the people after we captured."

So the CIA started taking suspects to Egypt and Jordan. Scheuer says renditions were authorized by Clinton's National Security Council and officials in Congress - and all understood what it meant to send suspects to those countries.

"They don't have the same legal system we have. But we know that going into it," says Scheuer. "And so the idea that we're gonna suddenly throw our hands up like Claude Raines in 'Casablanca' and say, 'I'm shocked that justice in Egypt isn't like it is in Milwaukee,' there's a certain disingenuousness to that."

"And one of the things that you know about justice in Egypt is that people get tortured," says Pelley.

"Well, it can be rough. I have to assume that that's the case," says Scheuer.

But doesn't that make the United States complicit in the torture?

"You'll have to ask the lawyers," says Scheuer.

Is it convenient?

"It's convenient in the sense that it allows American policy makers and American politicians to avoid making hard decisions," says Scheuer. "Yes. It's very convenient. It's finding someone else to do your dirty work."

Shootings by U.S. at Iraq Checkpoints Questioned (washingtonpost.com)

Shootings by U.S. at Iraq Checkpoints Questioned (washingtonpost.com): "The deadly shooting of an Italian intelligence officer by U.S. troops at a checkpoint near Baghdad on Friday was one of many incidents in which civilians have been killed by mistake at checkpoints in Iraq, including local police officers, women and children, according to military records, U.S. officials and human rights groups.

U.S. soldiers have fired on the occupants of many cars approaching their positions over the past year and a half, only to discover that the people they killed were not suicide bombers or attackers but Iraqi civilians. They did so while operating under rules of engagement that the military has classified and under a legal doctrine that grants U.S. troops immunity from civil liability for misjudgment. "

Aljazeera.com: Sgrena: I was an American target -

Sgrena: I was an American target -:

"The freed Italian hostage Giuliana Sgrena suggested that U.S. soldiers deliberately tried to kill her, fueling what could possible be a growing diplomatic rift between Rome and Washington.
Il Manifesto journalist Sgrena's convoy was attacked by U.S. forces when being driven her to Baghdad airport, after Italian intelligence services managed to negotiate her release. One of Italy's top intelligence officials was killed trying to protect Sgrena who along with two others suffered gun wounds.
Sgrena said she may have been a target because the US opposed negotiations with her kidnappers.
'Everyone knows that the Americans don't want hostages to be freed by negotiations, and for that reason, I don't see why I should rule out that I was their target,' Sgrena told a television news channel on Sunday"

Reader Comments:

a the truth has come out ,she has said the car was not speeding and they shot at her delibretly.i bet those soldiers downed a bottle of j,ack daniel's which made them think the car was speeding.but what will happen if italy decides to withdraw its troops,it would be another blow for bush as other county's may follow.

proud englishman from england

it's very sad. american soldiers are little guys. they don't understand difference betwen video game and real life. they aren't trained at all. it's disgusting

italo from italy

Reuters.com: Italy Rejects U.S. Version of Iraq Shooting

International News Article | Reuters.com: "ROME (Reuters) - Italian hostage Giuliana Sgrena, shot and wounded after being freed in Iraq, said Sunday U.S. forces may have deliberately targeted her because Washington opposed Italy's policy of dealing with kidnappers.

She offered no evidence for her claim, but the sentiment reflected growing anger in Italy over the conduct of the war, which has claimed more than 20 Italian lives, including the secret agent who rescued her moments before being killed.

Friday evening's killing of the agent and wounding of the journalist, who worked for a communist daily, has sparked tension with Italy's U.S. allies and put pressure on Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to take a hard line with President Bush.

The United States has promised a full investigation into incident, in which soldiers fired on the Italians' car as it approached Baghdad airport Friday evening.

The U.S. military says the car was speeding toward a checkpoint and ignored warning shots, an explanation denied by government ministers and the driver of the car.

Speaking from her hospital bed where she is being treated, Sgrena told Sky Italia TV it was possible the soldiers had targeted her because Washington opposes Italy's dealings with kidnappers that may include ransom payments.

'The United States doesn't approve of this (ransom) policy and so they try to stop it in any way possible.'

According to Italy's leading daily Corriere della Sera, the driver, an unidentified Italian agent, said: 'We were driving slowly, about 40-50 km/h (25-30 mph).'

In a harrowing account of her ordeal, Sgrena wrote in Sunday's Il Manifesto newspaper that the secret agent, Nicola Calipari, saved her life by shielding her with his body.

"Nicola threw himself on to protect me and then suddenly I heard his last breath as he died on top of me," she wrote. "