Today we solemnly remember the 2,996 people who died in the horrific terrorist attacks of 15 years ago on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York and the misery and pain this attack unleashed upon the people of the United States and the entire world.
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 changed the face of war. Whereas before wars were waged conventionally between countries with territory, Al-Qaeda broke new ground in defining the enemy. Unfortunately, however, the speedy reaction to the attacks on the part of our government thrust us into a war that had little to do with fighting terrorism and more to do with profiteering. As a result, the actions of our leaders have fostered the spread of terrorism and empowered the terrorist Islamic State, as well as diminished our own civil rights and made us compromise the ethical principles on which this nation was founded; those same principles that made us a country to respect and admire.
The rush to war based on lies
Prior to 2002, the CIA was the Bush Administration’s main provider of intelligence on Iraq. In order to establish the connection between Iraq and terrorists, in 2002, the Pentagon established the “Office of Special Plans” which was, in reality, in charge of war planning against Iraq, and designated by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to be the provider of intelligence on Iraq to the Bush Administration. Its head, the Undersecretary of Defense, Douglas J. Feith, appointed a small team to review the existing intelligence on terrorist networks, in order to reveal their sponsorship states, among other things. In 2002, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz wrote a memo to Feith entitled, “Iraq Connections to Al-Qaida”, which stated that they were “not making much progress pulling together intelligence on links between Iraq and Al-Qaida.” Peter w. Rodman, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security, established a “Policy counter Terror Evaluation Group” (PCTEG) which produced an analysis of the links between Al-Qaida and Iraq, with suggestions on “how to exploit the connections.”
“In February 2003, when former Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the U.N., he described “a sinister nexus between Iraq and the Al-Qaeda network,” stating that “Iraq today harbors a deadly network headed by Zarqawi’s forces, an associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden,” and that Zarqawi had set up his operations , including bioweapons training, with he approval of the Sadaam Hussein regime. This has since been discredited as false. However, in October 2004, due to the fact that the Iraqi insurgency was catching on as a cause in jihadist circles, Zarqawi pledged his allegiance to Al-Qaeda. This was after his group had exploded a massive bomb outside a Shiite mosque in August 2003, killing one of Iraq’s top Shiite clerics and sparking warfare between the Shiite and Sunni communities. The tipping point toward a full-blown civil war was the February 2006 attack on the Golden Mosque in Samarra, which is credited to Haythem Sabah al-Badri, a former member of Sadaam Hussein’s Republican Guard, who joined Al-Qaeda after the U.S. invasion. This gave birth to the AQI, Al-Qaeda in Iraq
General Wesley Clark, the former NATO Allied Commander and Joint Chiefs of Staff Director of Strategy and Policy, stated in his book, Winning Modern Wars, “As I went back through the Pentagon in November 2001, one of the senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were still on track for going against Iraq, he said. But there was more. This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan.”
In 2004, John Negroponte, who had served as ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985, was appointed as ambassador to Iraq with the specific mandate of implementing the “Salvador Option”, a terrorist model of mass killings by US sponsored death squads.
In 2004, Donald Rumsfeld sent Colonel James Steele to serve as a civilian advisor to Iraqi Paramilitary special police commandos known as the “Wolf Brigade”. Steele was a counter-insurgency specialist who was a member of a group of US Special Forces advisors to the Salvadorian Army and trained counter-insurgency commandos in south America, who carried out extreme abuses of human rights. The Wolf Brigade was created and established by the United States and enabled the re-deployment of Sadaam Hussein’s Republican Guard. The Brigade was later accused by a UN official of torture, murder and the implementation of death squads. The techniques used by these counter-insurgency squads were described as “fighting terror with terror”, which was previously done in other theaters, such as Vietnam and El Salvador.
The use of death squads began in 2004 and continued until the winding down of combat operations in 2008. In addition to the death squads, regular military units were often ordered to “kill all military age males” during certain operations; “dead-checking” or killing wounded resistance fighters; to call in air strikes on civilian areas; and 360 degree rotational fire on busy streets. These extreme measures were justified to troops in Iraq by propaganda linking the people to terrorism.
Colonel Steele, with the help of Col. James Hoffman, set up torture centers, dispatching Shia militias to torture Sunni soldiers to learn the details of the insurgency. This has been attributed as a major cause of the civil war which led to the formation of ISIS.
The operation of death squads as counter-insurgency measures was also common knowledge at the time. 
Private contractors, such as Steele, were often subject to different rules than the military forces they served and, in some cases, served with. As of 2008, an estimated 155,286 private contractors were employed by the US on the ground in Iraq, compared to 152,275 troops. The estimated annual cost for such contractors ballooned to $5 billion per year by 2010.
In August 2006, four American soldiers from a combat unit in Iraq testified in an Article 32 hearing that they had been given orders by their commanding officer, Colonel Michael C. Steele, to “kill all military age males”.
The “targeted killing” program that has been developed under President Obama’s watch is being hailed as the most effective tool against fighting terrorism. Unfortunately, no mention is made in the mainstream media of the innocent victims (collateral damage) caused by this assassination program, nor its lack of authority under international law. According to the journalist Glen Greenwald, all military age males in strike zones of the latest drone aircraft strike programs are considered militants unless it can be proved otherwise. Some say that this has resulted in more civilian casualties than has been reported by the government.
The “gas wars” are also the current impetus behind the anti-terrorist rhetoric in bombing Syria. Dubbed the “Islamic Pipeline,” a planned 3480 mile long Iran-Iraq-Syria natural gas pipeline going toward Europe from the Middle East, has the full support of the current Assad government. This pipeline project is competing with U.S. and European backed plans to run a similar pipeline from Qatar and Saudi Arabia through Syria to Turkey, to connect with the Nabucco pipeline to supply European customers through Austria.
The rise of ISIS and lone-wolf terrorism
The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) was established in 2004 to serve as the primary organization in collecting and analyzing all intelligence pertaining to terrorism possessed or acquired by the U.S. government. However, according to a 2011 Congressional Report, it could be more effective.
“Arguably most important, however, is the capability of ensuring that analysts are integrated into the counterterrorism effort, that operational planning is shared with analytical offices so that particular reactions or threats can be anticipated and assessed. The most important “wall” may not be the one that existed between law enforcement and intelligence agencies prior to 2001, but the one that often persists between analysts and operators. The latter may lack the time and opportunity to integrate analytical efforts into their ongoing work, but if the country is aiming for a “zero defects” approach to terrorism, close attention to intelligence is a prerequisite. Some experienced observers maintain that “zero defects” is unrealizable, some failures are inevitable and argue that it is more responsible to minimize failures and limit their effects. The use of intelligence by policymakers and military commanders is in largest measure the responsibility of the Executive Branch, but some observers argue that the quality of analysis may be enhanced when analytical efforts are regularly reviewed by congressional committees and hearings are conducted to ensure that they are properly prepared and fully used.”
President Obama held a briefing with his national security team at the NCTC in December 2015 but it was a largely symbolic measure, resulting in no change in policy.
There is a growing threat from the so-called “lone-wolf” attacks, such as we have seen in Nice on July 14, 2016 and other parts of Europe, but there are also jihadists recruiters for the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, Hamas and Nusra using social media to connect with potential jihadists for financing and soldiering right here in the United States.
What is alarming is that most of the recruits are young people; many of them teenagers. The turbulent teenage years are known for philosophical reflectiveness on the meaning of life (or lack thereof). Despair and even suicide is a common solution that some young people resort to instead of facing their problems. ISIS has tapped into these feelings of Muslim youths, some of whom have bought in to their propaganda and go on to serve the Islamic State by fighting in Syria, or answering the call to kill infidels in their own backyard. Suddenly, suicide becomes a more complicated problem, with often more than one victim.
While enforcement efforts are disjointed, disconnected, and have not evolved to address the threats, the real solution can only be found in social change. Unfortunately, young people often turn to their peers instead of authority, and this can be a problem. In the case of the Islamic State, the recruiters come disguised as peers. Not only is education important, but enlightenment as well. The young people of the millennial generation are lost. Their prospects for gainful employment, even with education are bleak, and they are struggling to find the purpose to their lives while the elites in the establishment continue to make disastrous interventionist foreign policy which gave rise to the power of the Islamic State, and then pulled out the military force too soon, leaving a tremendous gap of power that ISIS was only too glad to fill up.
Vigilantism is not the answer. The government feels free to disregard its laws and principles and continues to use assassination abroad as a technique to deter the spread of the Islamic State, but whether it is with drones or teams of Navy Seals, or lone CIA assassins, a program of targeted killing is not going to solve the problem and does nothing more than give the politicians something to brag about in the next election.
The deterioration of civil rights and the resort to torture
After the release of the CIA Torture Report, we are reminded once again of the abuses that our own government committed in the so-called “War on Terror.”
Amnesty international has called the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp the “gulag of our time.” Since President Obama’s order to close the camp within one year on January 23, 2009, it has remained open because the president decided to amass political capital to use for his domestic agenda, which included “Obamacare.” On January 7, 2011, Obama signed the 2011 Defense Authorization Bill, which placed restrictions on transferring prisoners to the United States. As of May 2014, there were 149 detainees being held, at a cost to the government of roughly $1.9 million per detainee. Some of them have been held, without trial and without charge, since 2003. 46 of them have been declared by the government to be too dangerous to release, but they cannot be tried for any crime because there is insufficient evidence to try them. Approximately half of the detainees held today have been cleared for release, but may never regain their freedom. Many of their native countries have refused to repatriate them, and, because of the new legislation, they cannot be transferred to prisons in the United States.
Courts have upheld detentions at Guantanamo under the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by Congress three days after the September 11th attacks. The reasoning behind this is to keep prisoners from returning to the battlefield until the conflict is over. But the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan show no sign of being over, especially with the rise in power of ISIS, which is a direct result of U.S. intervention and destruction of infrastructure.
When the United States military arrested the detainees and threw them into Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp indefinitely, they denied them the right to counsel guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. They also denied them the right to a speedy trial, to confront the witnesses against them, to a trial by jury, and the right to be informed of what they were was charged with. They denied them the his right to trial by jury, guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment, his right to due process of the law by holding them indefinitely with no charge, and his coerced confession violated his privilege against self-incrimination.
Finally, and most importantly, by beating them, torturing them and treating them as less than human, depriving them of sensory input, overloading their senses, force feeding and torturing them, the Government denied them the Eighth Amendment guarantee to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Not only were detainees denied the constitutionally guaranteed rights that any person imprisoned in the United States would be entitled to, no matter the heinous crime they may be accused of, they were also denied the rights that any enemy soldier captured fighting against the United States would get pursuant to the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions prohibits detention practices that are “cruel, degrading, or humiliating.”
The Government’s position that the Constitution had no effect at Guantanamo Bay has caused enormous separation-of-powers concerns in that the president was not allowed to simply “turn the Constitution off” simply because Guantanamo, which had been under U.S. possession and control for over 100 years, was located in a foreign country.
After September 11, 2001, torture was official U.S. policy under George Bush – authorized at the highest levels of government. Evidence of its continued and systematic practice continues to surface to this day.
On September 17, 2001, George Bush signed a secret finding empowering the CIA to capture, kill, or interrogate al-Qaeda Leaders.” It also authorized establishing a secret global network of facilities to detain and interrogate them without guidelines on proper treatment. Around the same time, Bush approved a secret “high-value target list” of about two dozen names. He also gave CIA free reign to capture, kill and interrogate terrorists not on the list.
On November 13, 2001, the White House issued a Military Order regarding the “Detention, Treatment, and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War on Terror.” It determined that “an extraordinary emergency exists for national defense purposes that this emergency constitutes an urgent and compelling government interest and that issuance of this order is necessary to meet the emergency.” It defined targeted individuals as al Qaeda and others for aiding or abetting acts of international terrorism or harboring them. These individuals were to be denied access to U.S. or other courts and instead tried by military commission with the power to convict by the concurrence of two-thirds of its members.
On December 28, 2001, Deputy Assistant Attorney Generals Patrick Philbin and John Yoo, sent a Memorandum to General Counsel, Department of Defense, and William Haynes II entitled: “Possible Habeas Jurisdiction over Aliens Held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.” It said that federal courts have no jurisdiction over and cannot review Guantanamo detainee mistreatment or mistaken arrest cases. It further stated that international laws don’t apply in the “War on Terror.” This laid the groundwork for abuses in all U.S. military prisons.
On January 18, 2002, Bush issued a “finding” stating that prisoners suspected of being al Qaeda or Taliban members are “enemy combatants” and unprotected by the Third Geneva Convention. They were to be denied all rights and treated “to the extent….consistent with military necessity.” Torture was thus authorized. The 2006 Military Commissions Act (also known as the “torture authorization act”) later created the Geneva-superseded category of “unlawful enemy combatant” to deny them any chance for judicial fairness.
On January 19, 2002 Donald Rumsfeld sent a memo to the Joint Chiefs of Staff entitled: “Status of Taliban and al Qaeda.” It stated that these detainees “are not entitled to prisoner of war status for purposes of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.” It gave commanders enormous latitude to treat prisoners “to the extent appropriate with military necessity” as they saw fit.
On January 25, 2002, Alberto Gonzales issued a memo to George Bush, which called the Geneva Conventions “quaint” and “obsolete” and said the administration could ignore them in interrogating prisoners. He also outlined plans to try prisoners in military commissions and to deny them all protections under international law, including due process, habeas corpus rights, and the right to appeal. In December 2002, Donald Rumsfeld concurred by approving a menu of interrogation practices allowing anything short of what would cause organ failure.
On February 7, 2002, the White House issued an Order “outlining treatment of al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees.” It stated that “none of the provisions of the Geneva Conventions apply to our conflict with al-Qaida or the Taliban in Afghanistan “or elsewhere throughout the world.”
A plethora of similar memos followed covering much the same ground, allowing all measures that had been banned under international and U.S. law, including the 1994 Torture Statute and the Torture Act of 2000, and the 1996 War Crimes Act, which imposes a penalty of up to life in prison or death for persons convicted of committing war crimes within or outside the US. Torture is a high war crime, the highest after genocide.
Two other memos were written by John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee (now a federal court of appeals justice in the Ninth Circuit) and David Addington, Dick Cheney’s former legal counsel. One was for the CIA on August 2, 2002. It argued that interrogators should be free to use harsh measures amounting to torture. It said federal laws prohibiting these practices don’t apply when dealing with al-Qaeda because of the presidential authorization to use force during wartime. It also denied that U.S. or international law applies in overseas interrogations. It essentially “legalized” anything in the “War on Terror” and authorized lawlessness and supreme presidential power.
On March 14, 2003, the group issued another memo entitled, “Military Interrogation of Alien Unlawful Combatants Held Outside the United States.” This became known as “the Torture Memo” because it swept away all legal restraints and authorized military interrogators to use extreme measures amounting to torture. It also gave the President as Commander-in-Chief “the fullest range of power….to protect the nation.” It stated he “enjoys complete discretion in the exercise of his authority in conducting operations against hostile forces.” In 2004, the head of the Office of Legal Counsel, Jack Goldsmith, rescinded the Memorandum, saying it showed an “unusual lack of care and sobriety in legal analysis and seemed more an exercise of sheer power than reasoned analysis.”
Nevertheless, other administration documents authorized continued use of practices generally reflecting Yoo’s and Bybee’s views. They authorized the infliction of “intense pain or suffering” short of what would cause “serious physical injury so severe that death, organ failure, (loss of significant body functions), or permanent damage” may result. The President’s July 20, 2006 Executive Order was one such document, entitled “Interpretation of the Geneva Conventions Common Article 3 as Applied to a Program of Detention and Interrogation Operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.” It pertained to “a member or part of or supporting al Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated organizations who may have information that could assist in detecting, mitigating, or preventing terrorist attacks….within the United States or against its Armed Forces or other personnel, citizens, or facilities, or against allies or other countries cooperating in the war on terror….”
It authorized the Director of CIA to determine appropriate interrogation practices. Based on what is now known, they included sleep deprivation, waterboarding or simulated drowning, stress positions (including painfully extreme ones), prolonged isolation, sensory deprivation and/or overload, beatings, electric shocks, induced hypothermia, and other measures that can cause irreversible physical and psychological harm, including psychoses.
In a secret 2007 report, the International Committee of the Red Cross concluded that CIA interrogators had tortured high-level al Qaeda prisoners. Abu Zubaydah was one, a reputed close associate of Osama bin Laden and a Guantanamo detainee. He was confined in a box “so small he had to double up his limbs in the fetal position” and stay that way. He and others were also “slammed against the walls,” waterboarded to simulate drowning, and given other harsh and abusive treatment.
The report also said Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged chief 9/11 planner, was kept naked for over a month – “alternately in suffocating heat and in a painfully cold room.” Most excruciating was a practice of shackling prisoners to the ceiling and forcing them to stand for as long as eight hours. Other techniques included prolonged sleep deprivation, “bright lights and eardrum-shattering sounds 24 hours a day.”
ICRC’s Bernard Barrett declined to comment but confirmed that Red Cross personnel regularly visit Guantanamo detainees, including high-level ones. They also “have an ongoing confidential dialogue with members of the US intelligence community, and we would share any observations or recommendations with them.”
The executive continued to deny all basic rights to detainees, including the constitutional guarantee of habeas corpus, and the Congress went along with it, in passing a series of Acts of Congress attempting to limit this constitutional guarantee. However, in 2004, the United States Supreme Court held, in Rasul v. Bush, that the habeas corpus jurisdiction of United States federal courts extended to Guantanamo Bay. In 2004, the Court also held, in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, that due process mandated that an alleged enemy combatant held on U.S. soil be entitled to a due process challenge of his enemy combatant status.
In June 2006 the Supreme Court, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld threw out section 1005a of the Detainee Treatment Act denying the right of an alien detainee to habeas corpus, and ruled that the structure and procedures of the military commissions established to try detainees violated both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions had been violated. Congress passed and Bush signed into law the Military Commissions Act in October 2006, overriding the Supreme Court’s decision.
In 2008, the Supreme Court threw out the Act’s prohibition of the federal courts’ jurisdiction to hear detainees’ habeas corpus petitions as an unconstitutional suspension of habeas corpus in Boumedine v. Bush.
District Court Judge Aiken threw out two sections of the Patriot Act that modified the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in Mayfield v. United States, but her decision was rendered moot on appeal when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal decided that Mayfield could not pursue his declaratory relief claim after he had settled with the government.
The “War on Terror” is still on, and is still being used as an excuse to broaden or extend the broad brush of governmental power. The USA Patriot Act was designed to be temporary, but has been reauthorized in 2005 and 2006. On February 27, 2010, President Obama signed into law legislation reauthorizing three controversial sections of the Act relating to roving wiretaps, lone wolf surveillance and seizure of property and records. On May 26, 2011, he signed into law the Patriot Sunsets Extension Act to extend key provisions of the Act. On June 1, 2015, the Patriot Act expired, but the next day, Obama signed into law the USA Freedom Act, which restored, in modified form, the most controversial provisions of The Patriot Act.
James Madison said, “The means of defense against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.”
When he said this, he knew that he and Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and all the other statesmen who formed this country made the government to answer to the people, not the other way around. When they set up three branches of government with checks and balances, they did this so that no one branch would get any more powerful than the other. What we are seeing now is an abuse of power which must be stopped. It is making the United States of America, once a beacon for liberty and freedom, and an example for every other democracy to follow, into an aggressive country that does not respect its own laws and does not play by its own principles. This is unacceptable, and we, as citizens of this country, need to send a clear message to your government with this verdict that the United States is a good and humane nation, who does not torture prisoners of war. We are a nation of laws, a nation who respects our fellow humans and the rights of our own citizens, as well as the rights of citizens of other countries.
Yes, we must never forget September 11th. But we must also never allow our leaders to use it as a pitiful excuse to wage war on behalf of the military industrial complex. Please use your right to vote to expel every one of our leaders who voted for the war in Iraq which has caused a destructive domino effect. Instead of fighting terrorism, their actions have made it grow and become even worse.
About the author
Described by critics as “one of our strongest thriller writers on the scene,” author Kenneth Eade, best known for his legal and political thrillers, practiced law for 30 years before publishing his first novel, “An Involuntary Spy.” Eade, an up-and-coming author in the legal thriller and courtroom drama genre, has been described by critics as “One of our strongest thriller writers on the scene and the fact that he draws his stories from the contemporary philosophical landscape is very much to his credit.” He is the author of the “Brent Marks Legal Thriller Series”, the fifth installment of which, Killer.com, won best legal thriller in the 2015 Beverly Hills Book Awards, and the “Involuntary Spy Espionage Series”.
Said Eade of the comparisons, “Readers compare me in style to John Grisham and, there are some similarities, because John also likes to craft a story around real topics and we are both lawyers. However, all of my novels are rooted in reality, not fantasy. I use fictional characters and situations to express factual and conceptual issues. Some use the term ‘faction’ to describe this style, and it is present in all my fictional works.”
Eade has written thirteen novels, which are now in the process of being translated into six languages. He is known to keep in touch with his readers, and offers a free Kindle book to all those who sign up at his web site, http://www.kennetheade.com.
 NCTC website: https://www.nctc.gov/index.html
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