I assume, or at least very much hope, that all readers of this blog are aware of the case of Binyam Mohamed, who was released from Guantanamo this week after seven years of imprisonment, and allowed to return home to Britain. There is overwhelming evidence that Mohamed was tortured with the full knowledge and complicity of both American and British officials, and very little evidence that he was actually guilty of terrorist acts or planning them.
In today's Los Angeles Times, columnist Rosa Brooks, who just happens to be the daughter of the progressive journalist Barbara Ehrenreich (and a writer every bit as talented and wise), offers an interesting twist on the case: One of the key pieces of "evidence" against Mohamed was that he had read a satirical piece Ehrenreich wrote 30 years ago entitled "How to Build Your Own Home H-Bomb." Brooks says that the article, which appeared in the lefty magazine Seven Days,
...was chock-full of helpful tips for would-be nuclear bomb makers. For instance, it advised those struggling to enrich uranium to make "a simple home centrifuge. Fill a standard-size bucket one-quarter full of liquid uranium hexafluoride. Attach a six-foot rope to the bucket handle. Now swing the [bucket] around your head as fast as possible. Keep this up for about 45 minutes."
As a result of the torture, Brooks points out,
...Mohamed began to confess to an impressive range of sins. Pressed for details about his purported nuclear know-how, for instance, Mohamed admitted that he had, indeed, once read my mother's article on the Web, but said it was just a spoof.
They didn't get the joke. According to Mohamed's attorneys, who have had access to classified records, the article seems to have been deemed a crucial piece of "evidence" against their client. An intelligence-community game of Telephone ensued, in which Mohamed's "confession" that he'd read up on the manufacture of nuclear weapons was passed along from interrogator to interrogator, until U.S. authorities convinced themselves that Mohamed was part of a dangerous nuclear plot against the United States.
Mohamed is now free, and yet there are disturbing signs that the Obama administration might want to cover up for the Bush administration's crimes--a policy that seems to be behind several perplexing Justice Department actions in recent weeks--by refusing to release details of Mohamed's torture and imprisonment. If Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder persist in such a position, they will become enemies of truth, civil liberties, and the U.S. Constitution. Binyam Mohamed and his attorneys reportedly refused to agree to a gag order that U.S. authorities (we are talking about the Obama administration here again, remember) wanted to impose on him.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose? Let's hope not.
Meanwhile, on the disloyal opposition: Charlie Petit of the Knight Science Journalism Tracker gets on Bobby Jindal's case for distorting, as Republicans are so very good at doing, the rationale behind spending money on certain scientific projects. "Government-waste cheap-shot artists," is what Charlie calls these intellectual midgets, aptly so.