Andy Worthington, who largely broke the story of the reported 'suicide' of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi in a Libyan prison, into the English-language press on Sunday (as we helped that night), picked up last night on our followup to the original story, decrying the paucity of coverage of the disturbing report in the U.S. corporate mainstream media.
Al-Libi was, after all, the 'ghost detainee' who had offered a false link between Iraq and al-Qaeda, used loudly by the Bush Administration before the war as a key justification for it, after being tortured by the CIA and Egypt, where he'd been secretly renditioned from U.S. custody at Guantanamo. He would later recant his false 'confession,' explaining that it had come about only after 17 hours of 'mock burial,' and a session of brutal beatings by his captors which followed it.
Newsweek describes the al-Libi affair today as "one of the biggest intelligence fiascos of the run up to the Iraq War" and "a major embarrassment for the Bush administration."
Worthington asked why the initial "media silence," before noting that while U.S. outlets have finally begun to cover the story, one of the better initial reports, from Peter Finn at Washington Post fails to follow up on the paper's own previous coverage of 'ghost detainees,' which included al-Libi, who had disappeared, at some point, from the Bush Administration's long list of suspected 'terrorists' captured following 9/11.
Al-Libi was one of those captives previously reported on by WaPo. His re-emergence in Libya --- where he was spotted by Human Rights Watch at the Abu Salim prison in late April, in apparent good health, but refused to be interviewed, reportedly saying only "Where were you when I was being tortured in American prisons?" --- was punctuated, just two weeks later, by the surprising news of his reported 'suicide.'
But where WaPo covered some of the points mentioned in a press release on al-Libi's death from HRW, they failed to mention any of the other 'ghost detainees' mentioned in the very same press release, whose whereabouts had been a mystery up until now. That, even though WaPo had previously reported the 'missing' status of those same detainees!
Given the disturbing fate of al-Libi --- who, HRW's Tom Malinowski charges, "was missing because he was such an embarrassment to the Bush administration. He was Exhibit A in the narrative that tortured confessions contributed to the massive intelligence failure that preceded the Iraq war" --- it's disappointing that the paper has so far failed to connect dots that could, in this case, help shine a spotlight on growing concerns about some of those other detainees: A spotlight which may help keep them alive, at this point.
There is certainly good reason to question both the timing, and reported means, of al-Libi's death, not the least of which is the point made in several media reports, including AP's, where some have "expressed doubts that al-Libi killed himself, saying al-Libi was a 'true Muslim and Islam prohibits committing suicides.'"
Yet, as Worthington notes, the Post failed to even mention the current status of the other detainees HRW discovered in the Libyan prison, even as they had similarly been sent there by the CIA following claims of abuse and torture at the hands of the U.S....
One of the men, Mohamed Ahmad Mohamed al-Shoroeiya, also known as Hassan Rabi'i, told Human Rights Watch that "in mid-2003, in a place he believed was Bagram prison in Afghanistan," he had been subjected to the following abuse: "The interpreters who directed the questions to us did it with beatings and insults. They used cold water, ice water. They put us in a tub with cold water. We were forced [to go] for months without clothes. They brought a doctor at the beginning. He put my leg in a plaster. One of the methods of interrogation was to take the plaster off and stand on my leg."
[T]he Post failed to follow up on the stories of the other prisoners mentioned in the Human Rights Watch press release, even though, in October 2007, Craig Whitlock had written a front-page article for the Post, "From CIA Jails, Inmates Fade Into Obscurity," which included details of the four prisoners.
Just as the story of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi should shine the most uncomfortable light on former Vice President Dick Cheney's claims that the CIA's web of secret prisons and proxy prisons protected America from further deadly attacks (and not, as it transpired, provided false information obtained through torture to justify an illegal war), so the stories of these four men deserve to be heard, to focus much-needed attention on a policy which, with no oversight from either Congress or the judiciary, allowed the Executive branch to indulge its dictatorial fantasies by "disappearing" prisoners anywhere around the world, and, in some cases, returning them to countries like Libya, with its notoriously poor human rights record, even when, as Craig Whitlock noted, at least two of these men "had nothing to do with al-Qaeda."
Worthington, a journalist, blogger, historian, and the author of The Guantanamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America's Illegal Prison goes on to conclude by pointing out the hypocrisy with which the U.S., under the Bush Regime, decided to begin not only negotiating with, but actually working as partners with the terrorist regime in Libya...