Tuesday, February 27, 2007

JOSE PADILLA AND THE MANCHESTER MANUAL: US can't resist the moldy-oldy but a judge does the right thing

Buried inside today's Los Angeles Times was a story entitled, "Ruling on book benefits Padilla: Federal prosecutors tried to argue that his actions jibed with an Al Qaeda manual." (No link. Read it in subscriber copy, no web access because it's behind a reader hostile tribune.com registration wall.)

Reporter Carol J. Williams wrote, "A federal judge in terrorism suspect Jose Padilla's competency hearing on Monday refused to admit into evidence a purported al Qaeda manual that prosecutors said advised captured terrorists to cooperate with attorneys and to allege they were mistreated -- as Padilla had done."

"US District Judge Marcia Cooke said there was nothing to indicate Padilla had ever seen the inch-thick 'Manchester Manual' found five years ago in a raid in Manchester, England."

The judge did the right thing.

The use of the Manchester Manual by a prosecution is now a sign of grasping at straws, an indication that the offense is doing badly. During the London ricin trial of 2004-2005, British prosecutors used it as part of a collection of documents they wished to use to demonstrate a linkage between al Qaeda and an alleged poison ring. They failed because the poison recipes taken off convicted killer Kamel Bourgass were traced to translations from American sources and Yahoo servers in Palo Alto, California.

A lawyer for the defense in the ricin trial also remarked that the Manchester Manual's designation as an al Qaeda manual was an American invention, specifically the US Department of Justice's, which posted an edited form of it on its website.

Last summer, your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow wrote that informed readers know that when someone invokes a "document" attributed to have some meaning in the war on terror, it's time to review it. This is because you either won't be getting the entire picture, or its historical context and provenance will be distorted in some interesting but politically or legally expedient manner.

And so it is with the Manchester Manual which has become a talisman for failing terrorism cases. It is a totem to shake when parties wish to convince people of something about terrorism based on little hard reasoning or evidence. (One original discussion is here from when George W. Bush's speech writers wished to allow him to make a connection between al Qaeda and Hitler. The Manchester Manual, one was supposed to believe, was al Qaeda's 'Mein Kampf' and approved of torture, something us Americans would never stoop to.

The Manchester Manual does indeed speak about ill treatment at the hands of interrogators. It does not use the milder word mistreatment. It is straightforward in its use of the word TORTURE and this comes in a section at the very back of the manual dealing with what "the brother" should do if he is captured by a Middle Eastern regime known for torturing prisoners.

Torture is expected in the Manchester Manual and, curiously, there is no mention of the United States, probably because at the time the manual was written, this country didn't have a rep as torturer.

These sections are not about alleging that one has been tortured by interrogators in order to throw off authorities. They are what to do when one is expecting to be tortured and when one is tortured.

In reading the Los Angeles Times article it is difficult to know how much the reporter and other parties know of this. One wishes to give them the benefit of the doubt but it is difficult to know who is the source of misinformation in this particular piece.

In the next three graphic snapshots, DD shows the sections of the Manchester Manual which the prosecution attempted to employ to show that Padilla and his lawyers are making it all up with regards to his ill treatment.

Note: "[In our country, the police authority] does not hesitate to use all kinds of torture ... " and "Under pressure of torture ..." -- as well as, "Torture of the brother takes place once again in the questioning apparatus ... "

It does not say anything about faking being tortured.

The manual continues with a straightforward discussion of establishing a baseline by asking for medical examination whether one has yet been tortured or not. Then, when one is tortured, to ask that this be entered into proceedings.

"The brother may have to confess under the pressure of torture ..." it reads.

More of the text, above, tells the jihadi he will be beaten and tortured.

This is not a section on how to trick people into thinking you've been mistreated in court. Instead, it is a section on what to expect in an interrogation cell.

Since the United States government established itself as a torturer for the sake of winning the alleged war on terror, it is now a questionable, self-defeating and confounding tactic to imply that a document which clearly discusses being tortured in other countries -- not the United States -- is about teaching one how to allege mistreatment when one hasn't been mistreated.

On the contrary, the government's position on this item is, so to speak, tortured.

Although the judge did not appear to address these technical details, she did the right thing when tossing the document and argument out under the explanation that there was no reason to believe Padilla knew of the Manchester Manual.

Other extracts from the what-to-do-when-tortured section of the Manchester Manual -- here.

The entire Manchester Manual, duplicated at Cryptome -- here. Relevant section near end.

There is further discussion an excerpts from the New York Times' article on the manaul treatment here. By way of Discourse Net, the NYT reported:

"In declining to admit the manual into evidence, [the judge] added that the manual would have converted the competency hearing into a debate over whether the defendant had been tortured in the brig."


Post a Comment

<< Home