Security Cameras Capture Horrific Mississippi Prison Conditions

The East Mississippi Correctional Facility (EMCF) is supposed to take care of mentally ill prisoners, but there is little mental health care available. Many mentally ill prisoners are locked away in solitary confinement cells for a minimum of 23 hours per day for weeks, months and years. The man featured in this video was held in solitary and despite repeated requests for help was left in the cell until he hung himself. They live among rats, human waste and debris from fires lit to get the attention of officers in emergency situations.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Law Offices of Elizabeth Alexander are representing a class of prisoners in a federal lawsuit forcing the Mississippi Department of Corrections to put an end to constitutional and human rights violations at EMCF.

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Will We Deny Constitutional Rights in the Name of Fear?

Authorities have used a public safety exception to delay reading Boston Marathon suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev his “Miranda” rights to remain silent and to have an attorney present, a move that has sparked controversy. The Obama administration has been criticized in the past for rolling back Miranda rights after unilaterally expanding the public safety exception in 2010. A group of Republican lawmakers have also called for Tsarnaev to be held as an “enemy combatant,” but the Obama administration has signaled its intention to try him in civilian court. Constitutional lawyer and Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald joins us to discuss the legal issues surrounding the case. “It’s sort of odd that the debate is Lindsey Graham’s extremist theory [to hold Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant] or rushing to give President Obama credit for what ought to be just reflexive — if you arrest a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil of a crime before you imprison him, you actually charge him with a crime and give him the right to a lawyer,” Greenwald says. “The fact those are the two extremes being debated I think is illustrative of where we’ve come.”

Six Claims on Detainee Torture, Skewered

Guantanamo Military Prison Stays Open As Future Status Remains Uncertainby Christie Thompson ProPublica, April 22, 2013, 4:04 p.m.
Among the news that ended up being buried in the events last week: A nonpartisan think tank, the Constitution Project, released a scathing, 577-page report on the U.S.’s treatment, and torture, of detainees in the aftermath of 9/11. The investigation began in 2009, after Obama opposed creating a “truth commission.”

With a Senate investigation of detainee treatment still classified, the report from the bipartisan task force is the most comprehensive public review to date. The 11-member panel interviewed more than 100 former military officials, detainees and policymakers.

Among their findings: There is no compelling security reason to keep classified details about the CIA’s now-shuttered black prisons. The task force hopes their report will spur more government transparency on the treatment of detainees, starting with the release of the Senate investigation.

Here’s a rundown of previous claims skewered by the report:

Claim No. 1: The U.S. didn’t use torture.

“Perhaps the most important or notable finding of this panel is that it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture,” the report concludes. The task force says that despite overwhelming evidence of torture, both government officials and many in the media have continued to present the issue as a two-sided debate.

The task force measured confirmed reports on detainee treatment against several international and domestic legal definitions of torture. The U.S.’s tactics unequivocally amount to torture, they found, under definitions the U.S. itself has used to accuse other countries of the same crime.

Former UN ambassador John Bolton rejected the task force’s findings, telling the Associated Press the report is “completely divorced from reality.” Bolton said a team of lawyers scrutinized the policies to ensure interrogation never crossed the line.

Claim No. 2: When torture happened, it was because of a few low-level “bad apples.”

The report details how the decisions to use “enhanced interrogation” techniques were not rogue entry-level soldiers, but rather came from decisions made at the top of the administration. As a former Marine general told the task force, “Any degree of ‘flexibility’ about torture at the top drops down the chain of command like a stone 2014the rare exception fast becoming the rule.”

Claim No. 3: Only three terror suspects were waterboarded by the CIA.

The task force’s findings support and elaborate on a Human Rights Watch report, which detailed how the CIA tortured at least two Libyans with water and abused several others to “win favor with el-Gaddafi’s regime,” the task force found.

The testimonies of the two Libyans undermine the Bush administration’s repeated claims that the CIA only waterboarded against three people.

Claim No. 4: Torture definitely worked.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney and others have claimed that abusive treatment saved “thousands of American lives.” But the report found no evidence that torture itself was actually useful. As Obama’s former National Director of Intelligence Admiral Dennis Blair wrote, as quoted in the report, “There is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means.”

The movie Zero Dark Thirty, which gets a shout out in the report, has fueled the debate about whether torture ultimately helped the U.S. find Osama bin Laden. Officials have pointed to the tips provided by one detainee, Hassan Ghul, who was beaten and deprived of sleep while held in a secret CIA prison.

But the report is skeptical of the connection. As the report notes, Senator Dianne Feinstein and other officials said key information Ghul provided was “acquired before the CIA used their enhanced interrogation techniques against the detainee.”

Claim No. 5: A third of released Gitmo detainees have returned to terrorism.

Many lawmakers have used the supposedly high rate of detainee recidivism to justify keeping detainees at Gitmo. The government has claimed that nearly a third of released detainees returned to terrorism. But the report noted that Gitmo prisoner shouldn’t be counted as “returning to the battlefield” if they were never there in the first place. A former Guantanamo commander told the panel that up to half of detainees “were mistakes.”

Government stats also include both confirmed and suspected reports of “re-engagement.”  Nor, the report notes, does the government have “firm guidelines” on what counts as a return to terrorism.

Claim No. 6: It’s all behind us.

“We need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards,” Obama said in 2009. But the report details how the ongoing lack of transparency and oversight leaves the door open for abuse. The CIA’s prisons have been closed, but the report notes that the current Army Field Manual on Interrogation contains amendments made in 2006 allow for sleep deprivation, separation and stress positions to be used in interrogation.

The bipartisan task force also concluded that current treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo, such as force-feeding hunger striking inmates and keeping them in indefinite detention, could qualify as torture under international law. The committee couldn’t come to a consensus on whether the prison at Guantanamo should be closed.

Photo: Detainee escorted by guards at US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba by Getty Images

“The Terror Courts”: An Inside Look at Rough Justice, Torture at Guantánamo Bay. Part 2 of 2

Wall Street Journal journalist Jess Bravin reports on the controversial military commissions at Guantanamo. Describing it as “the most important legal story in decades,” Bravin uncovers how the Bush administration quickly drew up an alternative legal system to try men captured abroad after the Sept. 11 attacks. Soon evidence obtained by torture was being used to prosecute prisoners, but some military officers refused to take part. We speak to Jess Bravin, author of “The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantánamo Bay,” and to Lt. Col. Stuart Couch, a former Guantánamo prosecutor featured in the book.

“The Terror Courts”: An Inside Look at Rough Justice, Torture at Guantánamo Bay. Part 1 of 2

Wall Street Journal journalist Jess Bravin reports on the controversial military commissions at Guantanamo. Describing it as “the most important legal story in decades,” Bravin uncovers how the Bush administration quickly drew up an alternative legal system to try men captured abroad after the Sept. 11 attacks. Soon evidence obtained by torture was being used to prosecute prisoners, but some military officers refused to take part. We speak to Jess Bravin, author of “The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantánamo Bay,” and to Lt. Col. Stuart Couch, a former Guantánamo prosecutor featured in the book.