'Prison Abuse Decisions Came From The Top' and 'Closing Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib Will Not Stop Torture,' Ex-White House Aide Asserts

8/1/2005 10:39:00 AM

      To: National Desk

      Contact: Bob Weiner or Jon Marcin, 301-283-0821 or 202-329-1700

      WASHINGTON, Aug. 1 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The prison torture decisions "came from the top," asserts Robert Weiner, a former Clinton White House senior public affairs official. "No matter where these prisons are, so long as our policy is the same, torture will take place -- closing Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib will not stop the outbreak of abuses and torture."

      In an op-ed in today's Cleveland Plain Dealer, Weiner, now president of a public affairs issues strategies company, contends, "The orders to torture came from the top down. In the pyramid of power, first and foremost was President Bush's Jan. 25, 2002 executive order disavowing the Geneva Conventions for the 'new' kind of war we are fighting. Moreover, then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez (now Attorney General) assisted in writing the 2002 memo, which also asserted that the Geneva Conventions -- respected worldwide -- were 'quaint' and 'obsolete.' Last May, before all our eyes in televised hearings, Department of Defense Under Secretary for Intelligence Dr. Stephen Cambone, who coordinates DOD intelligence policy, visibly waived off and interrupted key parts of Major General Antonio Taguba's testimony before the U.S. Senate on the depths of abuses."

      In the piece, Weiner and co-author Emma Dick, a human rights analyst for Weiner's issue strategies company, contend that "calls to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay have diverted attention from the policies that have made both Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib infamous." They call it "astounding" that "the White House is claiming it would 'restrict the president's authority' to pass bipartisan legislation prohibiting the 'cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment' of detainees, and that Vice President Cheney is meeting with Congress saying the president will veto any such bill." Cheney has even stated that "if we didn't have that facility at Guantanamo to undertake this activity, we'd have to have it someplace else," words which Weiner and Dick say "send a chill to the human rights community."

      The writers point out that "the torture strategy we've seen was hardly accidental or random. Army prison guards and wardens have stated that they often had to yield their turf to DoD Intelligence operations, and then the torture occurred. A June 25, 2004 memo between the FBI and DoD gave instructions to two generals: 'DoD has their marching orders from the Sec Def' about policies in the torture-questioning of prisoners."

      They add, "The administration fought with Amnesty International and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) over the use of the word 'gulag' in reference to the prison at Guantanamo Bay. In fact, such hyperbole may be needed to bring an end to the policies."

      Weiner and Dick assert, "Torturing prisoners, making people pile up naked, electric shock in private areas, using vicious dogs to bite, holding people in secret in perpetuity and denying them access to their families and the legal process are not the human rights values this nation stands for. As prisoners' families, colleagues and countrymen hear of the abuses, support swells rather than diminishes for Jihad against us. We have dramatically reduced our national reputation as a human rights leader."

      Weiner was director of public affairs for the White House National Drug Policy Office in the Clinton White House 1995 - 2001 and previously was communications director for the House Government Operations Committee. He now is president of a public affairs issues strategy company, Robert Weiner Associates -- http://www.weinerpublic.com.

(Source: Robert Weiner Associates)