Snapshot: US Funds for Afghanistan from FY2002-June 2011 Totals $72.67 Billion

As of June 30, 2011, the United States had appropriated approximately $72.67 billion for relief and reconstruction in Afghanistan since fiscal year (FY) 2002.

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Court Allows US Army Vet to Sue Rumsfeld Over Claims on Confinement Conditions That "Shock the Conscience" at Camp Cropper

Rumsfeld060202-N-0696M-192Image via WikipediaVia the Government Accountability Project:

(Washington, D.C.) — Yesterday, a federal court in Washington, DC upheld the validity of a constitutional rights claim against former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for his role in the torturing and illegal imprisonment of a U.S. citizen who was working as a translator in Iraq.

The decision was released publicly this morning by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The case, John Doe v. Donald Rumsfeld, et al, (No. 08-cv-1902 CKK), is available here.

Out of many suits brought against Rumsfeld over the torture of detainees in Iraq, this is only the second case that has been allowed to proceed. The Government Accountability Project (GAP) is co-counsel in this suit, along with the Chicago-based civil rights law firm Loevy & Loevy (The other case that is proceeding is Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel v. Donald Rumsfeld, et al (06 C 6964), which is also being handled by Loevy & Loevy).

GAP notes that in John Doe v. Rumsfeld, the plaintiff was granted anonymity by the court due to fears that his relatives could be subject to retaliation.   Read more here.

I supposed granting anonymity to protect his loved ones is the least you can do to somebody thrown in jail without due process and never charged with any crime? U.S. District Court Judge James Gwin writes:

Rumsfeld says that courts should refrain from “judicial reexamination of wartime judgments allegedly made” during a “foreign military engagement that Congress authorized the President to prosecute.”
[…]
Avoiding the “risk of assuming a role that is almost always best suited for Congress,” [Doc. 11 at 17], however, does not recommend that courts be entirely powerless to review legislative or executive action during a time of war. Rather, “a state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the Nation’s citizens.”
[…]
Doe’s complaint does not ask this Court to assume the authority to make or manage war, or to allow foreign citizens access to courts to obstruct foreign policy. Nor does it require this Court to intrude upon the political branches’ authority over military service. Instead, the complaint alleges “constitutional trespass on a detained individual citizen’s liberties where the detention was not a necessary removal from the battlefield,” Padilla, 633 F. Supp. 2d at 1028, and calls upon judicial expertise in safeguarding the citizen’s individual liberties and enforcing already-established procedural rights. See Hamdi, 542 U.S. 507
[…]
The Court thus finds, under the circumstances alleged, that a reasonable federal official would have understood conscience-shocking physical and psychological mistreatment—including temperature, sleep, food, and light manipulation—of a United States citizen detainee to violate the detainee’s constitutional right to substantive due process. Accordingly, Rumsfeld is not entitled to qualified immunity from Doe’s substantive due process claim.

Excerpt from John Doe v. Rumsfeld:

For the purposes of the pending motions to dismiss, the Court accepts as true the following factual allegations made in Plaintiff John Doe’s complaint:

In December 2004, Doe, an American citizen and United States Army veteran, traveled to Iraq as a civilian employee of an American-owned defense contracting firm. Doe went to work as an Arabic translator and was detailed to a United States Marine Corps Human Exploitation Team operating in the United States military bases along the Iraq-Syria border. The Human Exploitation Team, a Marine Corps intelligence unit, gathered and developed military intelligence through local Iraqi contacts. [Doc. 4 at 12.] Doe’s assigned team comprised Doe, two sergeants, and one lieutenant. The Team operated in Iraq’s Anbar Province, a highly volatile region along the western border of Iraq. [Id].

During his tenure in Iraq, Doe worked with the Human Exploitation Team to establish contact with Iraqi Sheikh Abd Al-Sattar Abu Risha. [Doc. 4 at 2.] Doe maintains that, as the Human Exploitation Team’s translator and as the first American to open direct talks with Al-Sattar, he served as the main point of contact for all communications between the Sheikh and the Team. Doe also contends that through a series of highly secretive meetings with Al-Sattar, the Sheikh pledged to support the United States and ultimately became “one of America’s staunchest allies” by providing the United States military with information to help control insurgencies in Anbar. [Doc. 4 at 2, 13.]

On October 20, 2005, Doe was transported to “Camp Korean Village,” a Marine Corps support base, to prepare for his scheduled November 5, 2005 departure from Iraq to the United States for annual leave. [Doc. 4 at 14.] When Doe arrived at Camp Korean Village, a Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) agent questioned him about his work with the Human Exploitation Team. In response to the NCIS agent’s questions, Doe says he provided a general description of his work with the Team.

On or about November 4, 2005, Doe was transported to Al Asad, a military airbase in Anbar and Doe’s scheduled point of departure from Iraq. Soon after his arrival at Al Asad, Doe was taken to an interrogation room where three NCIS agents and one other official questioned him for approximately four hours. [Doc. 4 at 14-15.] The agents denied Doe’s requests to have a representative from his military company or the Human Exploitation Team present during the interrogation. They also denied his requests for an attorney. Doe says he refused to answer questions, citing a concern for the confidentiality of sensitive information he had learned during his work on the Team. The agents searched and confiscated Doe’s luggage. They also handcuffed and blindfolded Doe, and, he says, kicked him repeatedly in the back. One agent threatened to shoot Doe if he tried to escape. [Doc. 4 at 15.]

Doe was then transported to the airport at Al Asad, where he was helicoptered to a point approximately thirty minutes away and deposited into the custody of the United States Marine Corps.

The Marines strip-searched Doe and placed him in complete isolation in a small cell. After seventy-two hours of solitary confinement, Doe says he was flown, blindfolded and hooded, to Camp Cropper, a United States military facility near Baghdad International Airport dedicated to holding “high-value” detainees. [Doc. 4 at 16.]

Government officials detained Doe in a military jail at Camp Cropper for more than nine months. During the first three months of his detention, Doe was held incommunicado in solitary confinement. On infrequent occasions, Doe was briefly allowed outdoors for short periods after midnight.

When prison officials took Doe out of isolation, they moved him into a cell housing suspected Al Qaeda and Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party members hostile to the United States. Prior to moving Doe, the officials publicized Doe’s affiliation with the Department of Defense and his work for the Human Exploitation Team, thereby encouraging the Al Qaeda and Ba’ath Party detainees to physically attack Doe. Later, prison guards moved Doe into a cell with seven suspected Al Qaeda members, encouraging additional attacks. Doe says he lived in constant fear for his life. [Doc. 4 at 18-19.]

Doe further alleges that the Camp Cropper prison guards tortured him using “psychologically-disruptive tactics designed to induce compliance.” [Doc. 4 at 8.] Among other things, Doe says they exposed him to extreme cold and continuous artificial light, blindfolded and hooded him, woke him by banging on a door or slamming a window whenever they observed Doe trying to sleep, and blasted heavy metal or country music into his cell at what Doe calls “intolerably loud volumes.” [Doc. 4 at 8, 17.] One guard repeatedly choked Doe. [Doc. 4 at 18.]

Government officials also repeatedly interrogated Doe, though they never permitted Doe the assistance of counsel or any other representative. Doe says he consistently denied any wrongdoing and responded truthfully to the questioning but his interrogators continued to threaten him and accuse him of lying. [Doc. 4 at 19.]

During Doe’s detention at Camp Cropper, government officials held two Detainee Status Board hearings to evaluate whether Doe should keep his preliminary designation as a “security internee” or instead be designated an “innocent civilian” or an “enemy combatant.” [Doc. 4 at 19-20 .] A letter from the Detainee Status Board President informed Doe that his first status hearing would be held on or after November 30, 2005. Prior to this first hearing, the Board told Doe that he did not have the right to an attorney and could only present witnesses and evidence “reasonably available” to him at Camp Cropper. [Id.] Doe claims that the Detainee Status Board denied his requests for a Judge Advocate General’s Corps attorney or to call his Human Exploitation Team members as witnesses.

The Status Board held Doe’s first hearing on or about December 22, 2005. [Id.] During this short hearing, Doe was not permitted to view evidence against him, to hear testimony against him, or to cross-examine witnesses. After the hearing, the Board ultimately deemed Doe a threat to the Multi-National Forces in Iraq and authorized his continued detention. [Doc. 4 at 20-21.]

In July 2006 and after detaining Doe for more than an additional six months, the Detainee Status Board held a second hearing regarding Doe’s status as an enemy combatant, security internee, or civilian. The Board once again denied Doe an attorney and stopped him from presenting evidence not “reasonably available” to him at Camp Cropper. Doe was not permitted to present evidence from his military company or the Human Exploitation Team with which he had worked. This second hearing lasted much longer than the first, and Doe faced more extensive questioning about his work with Al-Sattar. In addition, Doe was questioned about his treatment at Camp Cropper and about what he might do if released from the camp. [Doc. 4 at 22.]

The next month, on or about August 10, 2006, Doe was transported, shackled and blindfolded, to Baghdad International Airport, where officials gave him a new United States passport and put him on a military flight to Jordan. [Doc. 4 at 25.] Doe ultimately returned to the United States.

Doe has never been formally charged with a crime. He claims that his personal property has not been returned to him and that he has been placed on a “blacklist” that prevents American military contracting firms from hiring him. Doe also alleges that he has been put on a terrorist “watch” list, leading United States Customs officers to interrogate him and search his belongings when he returns from international travel.

On November 3, 2008, Doe filed the instant suit, challenging the conditions of and procedures used during his confinement, his placement on various blacklists, and the failure to return his seized property. Doe brings this action against Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of the United States Department of Defense, in his individual capacity, alleging substantive and procedural due process violations, as well as denial of access to courts and counsel. Doe argues that Rumsfeld personally approved the use of torturous interrogation techniques on a case-by-case basis and that Rumsfeld maintained control over the release or continued detention of United States detainees. [Doc. 4 at 40.] Ultimately, Doe says, Rumsfeld authorized the policies and actions that resulted in violations of Doe’s substantive and procedural due process rights, as well as the denial of Doe’s access to courts to challenge his detention. [Doc. 4 at 36.] Doe asks this Court to hold Rumsfeld personally liable by allowing a money damages remedy under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), for these alleged constitutional violations.

Doe also sues Defendants Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security, Robert S. Mueller III, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Alan Bersin, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, and John Morton, Assistant Secretary of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in their official capacities, to secure the return of the property seized upon his detention and for alleged violations of his right to travel.1/

Finally, Doe brings claims against unidentified officers or agents of the United States, alleging: (1) false arrest, (2) unlawful detention and conditions of confinement, (3) torturous and unlawful interrogation, (4) denial of the right to counsel and the right to confront adverse witnesses, (5) denial of the right to present witnesses and to have exculpatory evidence disclosed, (6) denial of access to courts and to petition, (7) blacklisting, and (8) conspiracy.2/
[…]
[T]he Court DENIES Rumsfeld’s motion to dismiss Doe’s substantive due process claim. The Court GRANTS Defendant Rumsfeld’s motion to dismiss Doe’s procedural due process and access to courts claims.

The Court further GRANTS the government’s motion to dismiss Doe’s return of seized property claim; the Court permits Doe leave to amend his complaint if he can plead, in good faith, factual allegations supporting a reasonable inference that the government’s refusal to return his property was a “final agency action.” Finally, the Court DENIES the government’s motion for a more definite statement of Doe’s right to travel claim.

Read in full here.

State Dept Issues New Travel Warning for Pakistan, the Wild, Wild West of South Central Asia — But Where’s The Sheriff?

On August 8, the State Department issued a new travel warning for Pakistan not only pointing to the potential danger to U.S. citizens throughout the country due to armed attacks including suicide bombings, but the widespread danger which includes false identification of individuals as intel operatives or private security contractors, spike in the prosecution for visa overstays,  severe restrictions in the travel of U.S. personnel, targeted killings and religious intolerance.  The kidnapping for ransom not just of foreign nationals but also of Pakistani nationals apparently has also increased dramatically nationwide.

Given the unpopularity of the United States in that country, I would not be surprise if consular access to incarcerated American citizens is also a very “challenging” endeavor for our consular officers in Pakistan.  Pakistan in my opinion offers the most dangerous assignments for our diplomats.  All posts in Pakistan except Quetta (25%) and Lahore (30%) get the same danger pay as the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan at 35%.  But if you look at the attacks on diplomats and USG facilities, Pakistan is way ahead than either Baghdad or Kabul.

Excerpt from the new travel warning:

The presence of al-Qaida, Taliban elements, and indigenous militant sectarian groups poses a potential danger to U.S. citizens throughout Pakistan. Terrorists and their sympathizers regularly attack civilian, government, and foreign targets, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province. The Government of Pakistan has heightened security measures, particularly in the major cities. Threat reporting indicates terrorist groups continue to seek opportunities to attack locations where U.S. citizens and Westerners are known to congregate or visit, such as shopping areas, hotels, clubs and restaurants, places of worship, schools, or outdoor recreation events. Terrorists have disguised themselves as Pakistani security personnel to gain access to targeted areas. Some media reports have recently falsely identified U.S. diplomats – and to a lesser extent U.S. and other Western journalists and workers for non-governmental organizations (NGOs)– as being intelligence operatives or private security personnel.

Since January 2010, terrorists have executed coordinated attacks with multiple operatives using portable weaponry such as guns, grenades, rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), and suicide vests or car bombs in Peshawar, Lahore, Karachi, and Rawalpindi. Recent attacks included armed assaults on heavily guarded sites such as the naval air base in Karachi, the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar, police offices in Lahore and Karachi, military installations in Lahore, religious shrines including the Data Darbar shrine in Lahore and the Baba Farid Ganj Shakar shrine in southern Punjab, religious processions in Lahore, a hospital in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and a food distribution center in Bajaur Agency.

U.S. citizens have been victims of attacks in the last few years.

On May 20, 2011, a U.S. consulate general vehicle in Peshawar was attacked, killing one person and injuring a dozen, including two U.S. employees of the mission.

On April 5, 2010, terrorists carried out a complex attack on the U.S. Consulate General in Peshawar, with several Pakistani security and military personnel killed or wounded.

On February 3, 2010, ten persons, including three U.S. military personnel, were killed and 70 injured in a suicide bombing at a new girls’ school in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The October 2009 attack on the World Food Program headquarters resulted in serious injury of a U.S. citizen.

On November 12, 2008, a U.S. citizen contractor and his driver in Peshawar were shot and killed in their car.

In September 2008, over 50 people, including three U.S. citizens, were killed and hundreds injured when a suicide bomber set off a truck filled with explosives outside a major international hotel in Islamabad.

In August 2008, gunmen stopped and shot at the vehicle of a U.S. diplomat in Peshawar.

In March 2008, a restaurant frequented by Westerners in Islamabad was bombed, killing a patron and seriously injuring several others, including four U.S. diplomats.

On March 2, 2006, a U.S. diplomat, a Consulate General employee, and three others were killed and 52 people wounded when a suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives alongside the U.S. Consulate General in Karachi.

Visits by U.S. government personnel to Peshawar, Karachi and Lahore are limited, and movements by U.S. government personnel assigned to the Consulates General in those cities are severely restricted. U.S. officials in Islamabad are instructed to restrict the frequency and to minimize the duration of trips to public markets, restaurants, and other locations. Only a limited number of official visitors are placed in hotels, and for limited stays.

Depending on ongoing security assessments, the U.S. Embassy places areas such as hotels, markets, and/or restaurants off limits to official personnel. U.S. citizens in Pakistan are strongly urged to avoid hotels that do not apply stringent security measures and to maintain good situational awareness, particularly when visiting locations frequented by Westerners.

Access to many areas of Pakistan, including the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Afghan border and the area adjacent to the Line of Control (LOC) in the disputed territory of Kashmir, is restricted by local government authorities for non-Pakistanis. Travel to any restricted region requires official permission from the Government of Pakistan. Failure to obtain such permission in advance can result in arrest and detention by Pakistani authorities. Due to security concerns the U.S. government currently allows only essential travel within the FATA by U.S. officials. Travel to much of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and Balochistan is also restricted.

The Governor of the Punjab province and the federal Minister for Minority Affairs were assassinated in Islamabad in January and March 2011, respectively. There have been targeted attacks on a provincial minister in Balochistan, university faculty in Swat, and an Iranian diplomat in Peshawar. Suicide bomb attacks have occurred at Islamabad University, schools, rallies, places of worship, and major marketplaces in Lahore and Peshawar.

Reports of religious intolerance rose in 2010-2011. Members of minority communities, including a U.S. citizen, were victims of targeted killings. Accusations of blasphemy—a crime that carries the death penalty in Pakistan—against Muslims as well as non-Muslims also increased. Foreign nationals including U.S. citizens on valid missionary visas have encountered increased scrutiny from local authorities since early 2011. Local authorities are generally less responsive and do not operate with the level of professionalism that U.S. citizens may be accustomed to in the United States.

U.S. citizens throughout Pakistan have been arrested, deported, harassed, and detained for overstaying their Pakistani visas or for traveling to Pakistan with the inappropriate visa classification. U.S. citizens who attempt to renew or extend their visas while in Pakistan have been left without legal status for an extended period of time and subjected to harassment or interrogation by local authorities. In 2011, the number of U.S. citizens arrested, detained, and prosecuted for visa overstay increased markedly across the country.

U.S. citizens throughout Pakistan have also been kidnapped for ransom or for personal reasons. Reported kidnappings include the June 2011 kidnapping of a U.S. citizen in Lahore; the 2010 kidnapping of a U.S. citizen child in Karachi, and the 2009 kidnapping of a U.S. citizen official of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Balochistan. The kidnapping of Pakistani citizens and other foreign nationals, usually for ransom, continues to increase dramatically nationwide.

Read the whole thing here.

U.S. Mission Afghanistan: Online Outreach Curtailment Comes with New Management?

The administration’s top policy engagement is Afghanistan. Of course, we are nosy; we want to know what’s going on there. One of the things that makes the US Mission in Afghanistan different from say, the US Embassy Baghdad or US Embassy Islamabad, is the accessibility of information on its website and its social media outreach.

US Mission Afghanistan has come a long way from 2009 when Ambassador Eikenberry visited Kunar Province and the embassy made available pinhead sized photos of the visit in its Flickr account. Since then, its social media outreach, particularly in Flickr and Facebook has become one of the most up-to-date source of official information, VIP visits, CODEL visits, events and programs at the US Mission in Afghanistan.

In late July, the new U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker assumed charge of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

He recently went to Kandahar Province to met with met with Tooryalai Wesa, the governor of Kandahar Province.  He also visited Camp Nathan Smith and the Kandahar PRT on August 6, but the official press statement did not say that. Except for a one-sentence undated press release (see below) and one photograph from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, you could easily miss this trip and the press conference (no published text available).

“U.S. Ambassador Crocker and Kandahar Governor Toryalai Weesa participate in a joint press conference during the Ambassador’s recent visit to the province.”

US Mission Kabul’s Flickr photostream has not been updated since July 26, when the ambassador presented his credentials to President Karzai. Its Facebook page contains a statement by President Obama on the recent casualties in Afghanistan and a virtual trip of the week (to Orlando, Florida!) last week. It does not have the embassy statement nor the ambassador’s trip.

And for details about the August 6 Kandahar trip, you have to look up  Chief Master Sgt. Richard Simonsen’s story and Senior Airman Sean Martin’s photos of the visit for dvidshub:

 U.S. Army 1st Lt. Alexander Augustine-Marceil (left), Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team civil affairs officer, from Marshall, Wis., talks with Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, from Spokane, Wash., after he addressed the Kandahar PRT during his visit to Camp Nathan Smith Aug. 6. 
Photo by Senior Airman Sean Martin

U.S. ambassador visits Kandahar province

KANDAHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, from Spokane, Wash., met with Tooryalai Wesa, the governor of Kandahar Province, and other provincial officials in Kandahar City Aug. 6.
The two men discussed the progress made in and the challenges still ahead for Kandahar province during the more than hour-long visit.

Kandahar is one of the most important provinces in Afghanistan. Afghanistan means Kandahar,” said Wesa. “The history and policies of Afghanistan are determined in Kandahar. A peaceful Kandahar is a peaceful Afghanistan; a developed Kandahar is a developed Afghanistan.”

This trip was the ambassador’s first visit to Kandahar province since being sworn in as ambassador last month.

“It was important for me that my first trip be to Kandahar,” said Crocker. “The role of Kandahar has been central to shaping Afghanistan. I also came here to learn.”

Wesa expressed the thankfulness of the Kandahari people for the sacrifices made by coalition forces to wrest control of the province away from the insurgents.

“Our international friends have helped us with their blood and with the lives of their youth,” said Wesa. “The people of Kandahar will never forget their sacrifices.”

Because of its historical and strategic importance, both sides are focusing on control of Kandahar province, said Wesa.

“We should not rush into withdrawing [international forces] right away,” said Wesa. “We should have them for another summer.”

“We are not going to repeat the mistakes of the past,” said Crocker. “We are committed to lead the transition [to full Afghan control] in a secure and responsible way. This time, we will get it right. We have set a timeline of 2014, but we will be engaged in your support for many years to come.”

Wesa told the ambassador that education is still a serious problem in Kandahar province.

“We need to focus on education,” said Wesa. “It used to be that the first doctors and the best doctors and the first engineers and the best engineers came out of Kandahar. It is a real problem. Those people that left should come back to lead the process forward.”

“I completely agree that education is central. That is how a democratic society is built,” said Crocker. “I congratulate you on the progress you have made. Today there are 8.5 million students [in schools] and almost 40 percent are girls. It starts at the primary and secondary levels, and then that expands into the universities.”

Crocker finished up the meeting expressing condolences from the American people on the recent deaths of municipal and provincial government officials.
“I express my sympathy and my solidarity,” said Crocker.

See, that’s why we want to pay attention to what they’re doing and saying out there.  Ambassador Crocker says “We have set a timeline of 2014, but we will be engaged in your support for many years to come.”

Waaaiit! What does that mean? Did he just assure the Kandahar governor that we will be footing the bill for many years to come?

In any case, don’t look now … not only are our reconstruction/stabilization folks wear combat boots, public affairs covering the embassy now also wear combat boots? I hope this hiccup has to do with personnel rotation and not a walk back of the mission’s online outreach the last two years.