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Goodbye Mick Keelty, Hello Torture?

Watching the Lateline feature on the torture memos last night, I wondered how Mick Keelty was going to fare. On top of his other counterterrorism muck-ups, there was more to come. Keelty admitted years ago that he'd dismissed Mamdou Habib's claims of torture as a deceptive fantasy.

As mentioned here before, the United Nations Human Rights Council has evidence proving that Australian operatives were interviewing Aussie War On Terror prisoners at the places where they were being tortured. The evidence was submitted in early February.

In some ways I feel sorry for Keelty. His claims that invading Iraq would result in more terrorism in Australia went down badly with the Howard Government, resulting in photos of John and Mick shaking hands cropping up all over the place. I felt at the time that an honest and proud man had been conquered, but since then? The AFP's assistance in rounding up and deporting Halliburton activist Scott Parkin was a travesty, as was the treatment of Mahommed Haneef. Then, this year, came Keelty's defence of AFP response to the murder at Sydney airport, when Mick said his boys had done a great job answering a 000 call for help.

The torture stuff, though, has been the one really bugging me., and hopefully it's been bugging Mick. Australia's been involved in Guantanamo-based torture programs. We even took one man, David Hicks, home after his torture claims were about to come out in a trial. Then we locked him up again.

As I say, watching how the remnants of the Bush Administration are squirming in their attempts to escape accountability for authorising such brutal treatment of detainees (except for Dick Cheney, who is having his usual gloat) and arguing that they believed their actions to be legal, I was wondering how Mick Keelty would fare when the Australian participation in these atrocities finally reaches the media.

Hearing of Keelty's resignation from his AFP job today came as no surprise at all. Downer, Ruddock and Howard are long-gone, ASIO chief O'Sullivan has moved on. It would seem that the last head left to place on a chopping block was Mick's. In such circumstances, discretion would certainly be the better part of valour.

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Torture Day: What to do, what to do?

Cheney hasn't changed his stance for years, Paul Walter. Back in 2006, his spokesperson watered down his comments that dunking a suspect in water was an "no-brainer". This time Dick isn't letting anybody try to veil his words. Here's an exquisite extract from the full transcript (here) of the Face The Nation interview:

SCHIEFFER: Does it talk about planning for attacks or attacks that were actually stopped?

CHENEY: Well, I need to be careful here, Bob, because it’s still classified. The way to answer this is give us the memos. Put them out there. Release them to the press. Let everybody take a look and see.

What it shows is that overwhelmingly, the process we had in place produced from certain key individuals, such as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah, two of the three who were waterboarded, and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is the man who killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11, blew up the World Trade Center, attacked the Pentagon, tried to blow up the White House or the Capitol building. An evil, evil man that’s been in our custody since March of ‘03. He did not cooperate fully in terms of interrogations until after waterboarding. Once we went through that process, he produced vast quantities of invaluable information about Al Qaida.

SCHIEFFER: What do you say to those, Mr. Vice President, who say that when we employ these kinds of tactics, which are after all the tactics that the other side uses, that when we adopt their methods, that we’re weakening security, not enhancing security, because it sort of makes a mockery of what we tell the rest of the world?

CHENEY: Well, then you’d have to say that, in effect, we’re prepared to sacrifice American lives rather than run an intelligent interrogation program that would provide us the information we need to protect America.

The fact of the matter is, these techniques that we’re talking about are used on our own people. We -- in a program that in effect trains our people with respect to capture and evasion and so forth and escape, a lot of them go through these same exact procedures. Now...

SCHIEFFER: Do you -- is what you’re saying here is that we should do anything if we could get information?

CHENEY: No. Remember what happened here, Bob. We had captured these people. We had pursued interrogation in a normal way. We decided that we needed some enhanced techniques. So we went to the Justice Department. And the controversy has arisen over the opinions written by the Justice Department.

The reason we went to the Justice Department wasn’t because we felt we were going to take some kind of free hand assault on these people or that we were in the torture business. We weren’t. And specifically, what we got from the Office of Legal Counsel were legal memos that laid out what is appropriate and what’s not appropriate, in light of our international commitments.

CHENEY: If we had been about torture, we wouldn’t have wasted our time going to the Justice Department.

SCHIEFFER: How much did President Bush know specifically about the methods that were being used? We know that you-- and you have said-- that you approved this...

CHENEY: Right.

SCHIEFFER: ... somewhere down the line. Did President Bush know everything you knew?

CHENEY: I certainly, yes, have every reason to believe he knew -- he knew a great deal about the program. He basically authorized it. I mean, this was a presidential-level decision. And the decision went to the president. He signed off on it.

Anything unclear to anyone here?

You're right, Paul Morrella, about the legality of those cases in rendition programs who, like David Hicks (according to the Four Corners report) went from US custody to rendition to US interrogation. From skimming reports tonight it appears to me that the only instance that Australia is sure torture is illegal is when it is being conducted abroad by Australian operatives on Australian citizens.

To reiterate, what about that percentage, however small, of which the UN has proof were being interviewed and tortured under the same roof? The ISI "safe houses"? I guess the question will be whether it can be proven that the two activities were symbiotic.

As for your mixed-up world ... a long conversation for another time. It involves a couple of busy companies that Cheney ran. Been keeping up with the news?

Marilyn, if McGeogh's in Adelaide on June 23rd, it could be a good time for him to preamble the UN International Day In Support Of The Victims Of Torture on June 26th. As you'd know, it's the anniversary of the empowerment of the Optional Protocol of the Convention Against Torture (allowing for UN inspection of our detention facilities) that the Australian Government has not yet signed. In spite of Howard and Downer's refusal to do so, it's a fair bet that Rudd and McClelland are planning to announce (yet again) an intention to join the party?

I've just realised why some of the NGOs are coming back from Christmas Island earlier than they'd like. To be present at the time of such an announcement would leave them politically implicated.

The Rudds are probably still working out what to do next. It would be pretty hard to come out condemning torture on a UN sanctified day without mentioning the UN's gripes about how to conduct themselves. ASIO's seven-day suspect lockup would have to go, for starters..

Vee have vays of making you talk

Richard Tonkin, I think you'll find most cases are to do with rendition. Since it never took place on American soil or involved (apparently) American citizens torturing, it isn't a crime. Anyhow it was the Clinton Administration that made the practice legal (it needs Presidential permission), so the Dems are hardly likely to be keen on investigation.

The irony of course is that people are fighting tooth and nail to reject American systems. Including legal. This in turn has allowed America to use these people's systems for American gain. It's a crazy upside down world isn't it?

I'd suspect there's many psychological tortures that would be very legal anywhere. It all comes down to the definition, and a smart young chap, somewhere, could surely get around that. Personally, I was surprised by the medieval nature of military exercises such as waterboarding. Thought they'd put a little more thought into it if truth be told!

Found the playing of Metallica a nice if not painful touch though.

Condi, Downer in torture conspiracy?

Unsurprising, Marilyn.

Any idea if we have anything similar to U.S. Code 2340A on our books?

(a) Offense.— Whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life.

(b) Jurisdiction.— There is jurisdiction over the activity prohibited in subsection (a) if—

(1) the alleged offender is a national of the United States; or

(2) the alleged offender is present in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged offender.

(c) Conspiracy.— A person who conspires to commit an offense under this section shall be subject to the same penalties (other than the penalty of death) as the penalties prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy.

Because if we do, any Australian representatives aware of Habib's ISI torture could arguably be guilty. There could also be a question or two needing to be raised to Downer on exactly how much intelligence he shared with his close friend.

A good summary of the Condi video here:

If her six-minute confrontation with students in a Stanford University dorm is any indication, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is ill-prepared for life outside the bubble of the Bush administration.

As recorded on video by student Reyna Garcia, Rice began by incorrectly referring to the 9/11 hijackers as “tyrants.” Then, despite the clear language of recently released memos, she insisted that the excesses at Abu Ghraib were “not policy” and that no one at Guantánamo had been tortured. Next, she mischaracterized the Red Cross conclusions about the Bush administration’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and went on to deny that waterboarding is torture.

Then, increasingly agitated, Rice took a turn for the worse. Responding to the charge of torture, she said, “The president instructed us that nothing we would do would be outside of our obligation, legal obligations under the convention against torture… I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency. And so by definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Convention Against Torture.”

For John Dean, former White House counsel to President Richard Nixon, Rice’s remark sounded eerily similar to Nixon’s famous line: “When the President does it, that means that it’s not illegal.” Dean also said that Rice’s words could be construed as meaning she was part of a conspiracy to carry out a program that was illegal.

“She tried to say she didn’t authorize anything, then proceeded to say she did pass orders along to the CIA to engage in torture if it was legal by the standard of the Department of Justice,” Dean said. “This really puts her right in the middle of a common plan, as it’s known in international law, or a conspiracy, as it’s known in American law, and this indeed is a crime.” Specifically, Rice admitted to violating section 2340A (c) of the U.S. Code regarding conspiracy to commit torture.

When Downer was disparaging his detractors as "conspiracy theorists', was he actually enmeshed, by knowledge, in a conspiracy to commit torture?

Downer could heed his 2002 utterances when next composing a column for the Adelaide Advertiser:

"You can obviously interview people, interrogate them... (but) I don't think we want to encourage a world in which torture is justified"

I'd love to see, Alex, a piece on what you think of Conki now! And do you hear Amanda Vanstone's words ringing in you ears?

"The Australian Government does not condone torture; we are signatories to the UN Convention against Torture, so our position is very clear"

Why is Kevin Rudd so quiet?

The ghosts of Xmas past

Richard Tonkin: "Why is Kevin Rudd so quiet?".

Well, a curious parallel on Teev tonight. Cheney was blowharding like an old steel mill blast furnace bellows, ninety to the dozen, attacking Obama for trying to wind back to US torture program.

I would have though one short, sharp retort about who actually made the world , including the USA, a "less safe" place, as a well as a lot less a whole heap of other things, would have been enough, but the appropriate response was deafening in its absence.

They are ignoring the fatty ghost of neo con, or has the cat got their tongue?


Signatory to the convention, so what?

We have enshrined the refugee convention in the migration act and then we ignore it, we are signatory to the covenant on civil and political rights and we ignore it, we are signatory to the convention on the rights of the child and we ignore it. We are indeed signatory to the convention against torture so we outsource refugee torture to the Indonesians.

Who are they kidding? Here is the Committee on Civil and Political rights report from 2 April.

1.While noting with satisfaction the State party’s commitment to use detention in immigration detention centres only in limited circumstances and for the shortest practicable period, the Committee remains concerned at its mandatory use in all cases of illegal entry, the retention of the excise zone, as well as at the non-statutory decision-making process for people who arrive by boat to the Australian territory and are taken in Christmas Island. The Committee is also concerned at the lack of effective review process available with respect to detention decisions. (art. 9 and 14)

The State party should: a) consider abolishing the remaining elements of its mandatory immigration detention policy; b) implement the recommendations of the Human Rights Commission made in its Immigration Detention Report of 2008; c) consider closing down the Christmas Island detention centre; and d) enact in legislation a comprehensive immigration framework in compliance with the Covenant.

And Richard, Paul McGeough will be in Adelaide at the Hawke Centre on 23 June to launch his book.

Keelty and perverting justice

Dateline exposed finally that the AFP have been acting as rogue agents in Indonesia having innocent refugees arrested and locked up, taking photos of so-called smugglers boats (whatever that is supposed to show) and trying to break Indonesian law in the process by demanding they keep people locked up without trial or charge after trying to blackmail them to help in their illegal activities.

Could it be this exposure that finally pushed the repulsive Mick?

Good for David O'Shea - finally we see that no-one else in the world knows anything about people smuggling, we just want to stop refugees.

Perhaps, but...

Maybe that's the straw that broke it, Marilyn, but I'll be interested to see what statistics are timed for release towards the International Day Against Torture at the end of June.

I'm still amazed that there's not yet been further media coverage of proven Australian participation in torture programs.  Keelty's admission that he was aware of Habib's claims but did not investigate is bad enough, but there will be more that Mick will be glad to avoid facing.

And ADF cover ups

Look at this.  We gun them down, lock them up if they escape and pervert the course of justice when we use the feds to pervert the Refugee Convention, the Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and so on.

Depraved indifference to human lives as far as I can see.

Australia, The Torturer's Apprentice

Richard Neville (published on the respected US website Counterpunch today):

In Feb 2005, the New York Times revealed that soon after the CIA kidnapped Habib, the Department of Foreign Affairs sent a bizarre fax to his wife: “We remain confident that your husband is detained in Egypt... the government has received credible advice that he is well and being treated well.” (Until recently, Downer continued to claim there was no proof torture occurred at Guantanamo). The ABC's Four Corners program disclosed a paper trail of documents that revealed the Government was aware, within days of his rendition, that Mr Habib was in Egyptian hands.

Article 2 of CAT states that no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture. A Sydney Morning Herald trawl of FOI documents revealed that “senior Australian officials were fully aware that Habib was a victim of the CIA’s rendition program and desperately tried to cover it up.”

Unfortunately Mr Neville's suggestion that we start with the lawyers, given that U.S. Justice looks set to clear their U.S collegues, would seem unlikely:

The conclusions of the 220-page draft report are not final and have not yet been approved by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. The officials said that it is possible that the final report might be subject to further revision but that they did not expect major alterations in its main findings or recommendations.

The findings, growing out of an inquiry that started in 2004, would represent a stinging rebuke of the lawyers and their legal arguments.

But they would stop short of the criminal referral sought by some human rights advocates, who have suggested that the lawyers could be prosecuted as part of a criminal conspiracy to violate the anti-torture statute.

Australia's torture illegalities

These were well expressed by Professor George Williams in today's SMH:

International law requires Australia to outlaw all forms of torture. We have yet to do so. The International Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment has been ratified by more than 130 nations, including Australia, and came into force in 1987. It forbids governments from inflicting "severe pain or suffering", whether physical or mental, for purposes such as punishment, coercion or obtaining information.

Last year the United Nations Committee Against Torture found serious flaws in our laws and practices. Problems include ASIO's power to have non-suspects detained in secret for up to a week for questioning, and aspects of Australia's anti-terrorism regime of preventative detention and control orders. The committee was also concerned about jail conditions, including overcrowding in Western Australia, the disproportionate number of indigenous prisoners and the fact that mentally ill inmates are subjected to extensive solitary confinement.

A more general problem is Australia's failure to live up to its commitment to outlaw torture completely. This promise was met in part when the federal Parliament passed the Crimes (Torture) Act 1988. It creates a limited offence that applies only where torture is committed by a public official outside of Australia. Even then, a person can only be prosecuted if they are in Australia or are an Australian citizen.

Okay, let's go back to footnote 68 of the Special Rapporteur's submission to the U.N. Human Rights Council in February:

Evidence proves that Australian, British and United States intelligence personnel have themselves interviewed detainees who were held incommunicado by the Pakistani ISI in so-called safe houses, where they were being tortured

So, is this Australians (AFP and ASIO) using the laws of another country to extract information from prisoners? By utilising the intel-gathering "benefits" of interrogating people being tortured, does this make Australian officials de facto torturers?

Trevor, the use of Indonesian laws on Australian kids, however heinous, pales to insignificance when compared to this example of similar Australian policing techniques. In a similar fashion to way we gave these kids the death penalty, we've allowed people to be treated brutally in order to force them to divulge information we require

What to do

Richard Tonkin, just prior to the last Federal election we heard endlessly day after day about Mamdou Habib, Hicks, and those Australian kids (drug couriers) in Bali.

It's funny now that Labor are in power, not a word is heard about the two would be terrorists Mamdou Habib and Hicks, or for that matter the Bali Nine.

I suspect in any case the average Australian could not give a toss about these 11 upright citizens.

You would be wrong, Alan

And ignorant to boot.


My guess, Alan, is that somebody's worked out how much the cases might cost.

Regarding the Bali 9 deserving what they get;  what then, is you opinion of Australia using Indonesia's laws to implement the death penalty?  Should we just bring it back? 

Regarding those in Martin Place not being aware of Habib; perhaps if there was a little more mainstream publicity of the story, as in "Habib, the bloke who had his penis slit by the Pakis so he'd answer ASIO"?  I reckon that sort of thing might stick in people's heads.


Richard, of course I do not want the death penalty brought back in Australia but if the Indonesians are comfortable with it in their country that's fine with me.

Apparently the only ones who did not know about the death penalty if you got caught smuggling drugs were the Bali 9. Well, now they know, and I think they they knew the risk all along and they now want us all to feel sorry for them. I do hope they are not waiting for the Rudd lot to help them out, he only used them as part of his election con.

As for  "Habib, the bloke who had his penis slit by the Pakis",  I don't believe a word of his or his lawyers regarding the so-called torture. When you see him these days he does not look like a person who endured all those so-called tortures. Anyway, he will think twice about going to Pakistan again.

I think it was a great learning experience for an Aussie traveller.

As correct as it is unedifying

Alan Curran's comment about 80% of the public not knowing or caring about Habib and Hicks about is as probably correct as it is unedifying.

I suppose I should regard Alan's expressing of the sentiment presumed of the wider public as to realism as altruism deferred as curiously refreshing in its almost innocently childlike forthright expression of the fact. But you just wish the prosaic necessary could be transcended or mediated thru the poetic aspirational: the dichotomy is exclusive and need this be the case?

Must looking after ourselves automatically preclude, ever, any act of concern or generosity beyond our little worlds of self, ever exerting even tentative exploration of life beyond such a narrow and self-limiting narrowing confine?

People could avoid making the slip of reductionism from educated guess on a given situation to normative and inflexible rule that finds itself and its own prior assumptions eventually no longer consciously examined, so that what was once prudence applied to an actual becomes unthinking living by unconscious rote in unthinking exclusion of alternatives. Because then we are at contempt prior to investigation. Someone didn't pay back $5 bucks I lent them decades ago, so not even my poor ol' mum, well or starving, will get a look in now.

I always thought Dickens' Christmas Carol did a wonderful job in refuting the sort of mindset discussed in demonstrating where the lazy underbelly of Hobbesian puritanism produces a moral trap resulting in an apathy that refuses any release from a strict, gloomy and eventually autonomous self renewing determinism. To mention Dickens again, think of the downfalls of Ralph Nickleby, Squeers, Fagan and Sykes, brought down by habituated, eventually unthinking rote survivalism and lack of humanity as examples of " what goes round coming round", when, in the wake of ducking the effort to help others, they find no one is there for them when they need help.

Not wrong

Marilyn Shepherd, get out and talk to people, the ordinary bloke in the street does not give a toss about Habib and Hicks. In fact 80% of the people I spoke to in Martin Place the other day did not even know who Habib was. The Bali 9 deserve everything they have got, and their parents have to take some of the blame too.

Life is a cabaret

Howard's dog and not allowed to leave till after the judicial inquiry into Haneef, otherwise he would have been actually canned, not just figuratively.

Labor knew they had a little gold mine with him, as to maintaining public awareness of Howard, post 2007. They exploited it beautifully, even if it meant an unpleasant time in the limelight for Mick himself, who now heads for the nearest rock.

Goodbye Mick Keelty

Richard, I agree with all that you have said, but these are not the end of the list of Mr Keelty's questionable actions. I am thinking in particular of the arrests of the Bali Nine, young Australian drug couriers who could have easily been arrested as they stepped off a plane in Australia, thus avoiding any possibility of capital punishment. The parents of one of the couriers even contacted the AFP in order to avoid any possibility of their son being caught and executed by the Indonesians. The AFP's response was to alert the Indonesians, thus effectively placing the lives of these young Australians in extreme danger. Even if they escape death at Indonesian hands, their incarceration will be much more unpleasant than if it was served here. It will not be in keeping with Australian standards. I would like to see Keelty, the AFP and the Australian government held accountable for this gross failure of their duty of care to all Australians, regardless of their crimes.

Keelty represents a new breed of police trained in the US, a practice with which many within Australian police forces have significant concerns. Perhaps we are seeing some of the consequences of this new approach to policing.

US training

He has good company. Wasn't Saddam trained by the US? And the Taliban?

Isn't Julia advocating US methods for our kids?

Of course, we shouldn't convict using guilt by association. But, it's too spicy a link to ignore.

Don't forget training the INP

To sink refugee boats.

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