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Context of 'September 15, 2004: Four US Civilians Convicted for Running Private Jail and Torturing Afghans'

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Jonathan Idema (far right) and his colleagues interrogating an Afghan.Jonathan Idema (far right) and his colleagues interrogating an Afghan. [Source: Columbia Journalism Review]Four Afghans and three Americans, Jonathan Idema, Brent Bennett, and Edward Caraballo, are convicted of running a private jail in Kabul and torturing Afghans. The Afghans are sentenced to between one and five years in prison; Idema and Bennett to 10 years; and Caraballo to eight years. They were arrested in Kabul in July on charges of kidnapping, torture, and illegal entry into Afghanistan. The US government calls Idema a bounty hunter, and the Pentagon denies any ties with the Americans. But Idema says his work was approved by Afghan and US authorities. He also tells the court the FBI is setting him up. During the trial, however, Idema fails to prove that his actions were authorized by the US authorities. An unnamed US agency gave him a passport, he alleges, and a visa similar to those furnished to US Special Forces. He also claims, “while we were not in the United States army, we were working for the United States army.” He says he had hundreds of videos, photos, and documents that could prove his claims—but they were confiscated by the FBI following his arrest. In their defense, lawyer Robert Fogelnest shows a video of the Americans suggesting they have received an official welcome in Afghanistan. In the footage, they are officially greeted by Afghan officials upon arrival in Afghanistan. One of the officials present was the Kabul police chief. [BBC, 9/15/2004]

Entity Tags: Jonathan Idema, Robert Fogelnest, Brent Bennett, Edward Caraballo

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, War in Afghanistan

Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, writes jailed reporter Judith Miller (see July 6, 2005) a chatty two-page letter that asserts he had wanted her to testify about their conversations all along. Miller is jailed pending her reversal of a decision not to reveal Libby as a confidential source; Libby had told Miller that former ambassador Joseph Wilson’s wife Valerie Plame Wilson was a CIA agent (see June 23, 2003, 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003, and Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003). Libby’s letter comes after rounds of intensive negotiations between his lawyers, Miller’s lawyer Robert Bennett, and special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. Libby says that he is glad to grant Miller a waiver of confidentiality which will allow her to testify about their conversations (see September 12, 2005), and says that a year earlier his lawyer had assured her lawyer that he had then waived confidentiality (see January 2-5, 2004). He reassures her that his decision to waive confidentiality is completely voluntary, and says he will actually be “better off” if she testifies. In conclusion, Libby writes: “You went into jail in the summer. It is fall now. You will have stories to cover—Iraqi elections and suicide bombers, biological threats and the Iranian nuclear program. Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them. Come back to work—and life.” [Libby, 9/15/2005 pdf file; New York Times, 9/29/2005] Miller will deny any hidden meaning in Libby’s last few lines, and deny to Fitzgerald that Libby attempted to “shape” her testimony in any way through the letter. [New York Times, 10/16/2005] Bennett will say he does not believe that Libby was trying to influence Miller’s testimony, but knew as soon as he read his letter that it would “be trouble” for her. “I know that the letter bothered [Judy] and it bothered me,” Bennett says. “She might be soon testifying, and a prosecutor might construe that as an attempt to influence her testimony. It was more probably just sort of a dumb thing to put in a letter.” Bennett will add: “I think it is important that Judy was protecting a source in terms of source confidentiality and the journalistic privilege. She was not protecting a source to prevent someone from going to jail. The letter just didn’t help matters.” [National Journal, 10/18/2005]

Entity Tags: Robert T. Bennett, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Judith Miller, Joseph C. Wilson, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Valerie Plame Wilson

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Columnist Bob Herbert accuses Bennett of ‘racial effrontery.’Columnist Bob Herbert accuses Bennett of ‘racial effrontery.’ [Source: Louisville Courier-Journal]William Bennett, the conservative radio host who is facing heavy criticism for suggesting that aborting black children would lower the US crime rate (see September 28-October 1, 2005 and September 29-30, 2005), defends his position by saying: “I was putting forward a hypothetical proposition. Put that forward. Examined it. And then said about it that it’s morally reprehensible. To recommend abortion of an entire group of people in order to lower your crime rate is morally reprehensible. But this is what happens when you argue that the ends can justify the means.… I’m not racist, and I’ll put my record up against theirs,” he says, referring to leading Democrat Nancy Pelosi and other critics. “I’ve been a champion of the real civil rights issue of our times—equal educational opportunities for kids. We’ve got to have candor and talk about these things while we reject wild hypotheses,” Bennett says. “I don’t think people have the right to be angry, if they look at the whole thing. But if they get a selective part of my comment, I can see why they would be angry. If somebody thought I was advocating that, they ought to be angry. I would be angry. But that’s not what I advocate.” Bennett says he owes no one an apology: “I don’t think I do. I think people who misrepresented my view owe me an apology.” [CNN, 9/30/2005]
Says Topics of Race and Crime Cannot Be off-Limits - Later, he continues to defend his remarks, saying, “It would have worked for, you know, single-parent moms; it would have worked for male babies, black babies.” Asked why he would bring the subject up at all, Bennett says: “There was a lot of discussion about race and crime in New Orleans. There was discussion—a lot of it wrong—but nevertheless, media jumping on stories about looting and shooting, and roving gangs and so on. There’s no question this is on our minds.… What I do on our show is talk about things that people are thinking… we don’t hesitate to talk about things that are touchy. I’m sorry if people are hurt, I really am. But we can’t say this is an area of American life [and] public policy that we’re not allowed to talk about—race and crime.” [ABC News, 9/29/2005; Guardian, 10/1/2005]
Feeding Perception that Republicans are Racist - Robert George, a black conservative editorial writer for the New York Post, agrees that Bennett did not mean his remarks as racist. But, he says, he worries that Bennett is feeding the perception that Republicans are racist. “His overall point about not making broad sociological claims and so forth, that was a legitimate point,” George says. “But it seems to me someone with Bennett’s intelligence… should know better the impact of his words and sort of thinking these things through before he speaks.” [ABC News, 9/29/2005] Bob Herbert, a black progressive columnist for the New York Times, later says he was unsurprised by Bennett’s remarks: “I’ve come to expect racial effrontery from big shots in the Republican Party. The GOP has happily replaced the Democratic Party as a safe haven for bigotry, racially divisive tactics and strategies, and outright anti-black policies. That someone who’s been a stalwart of that outfit might muse publicly about the potential benefits of exterminating blacks is not surprising to me at all.… Bill Bennett’s musings about the extermination of blacks in America (it would be ‘impossible, ridiculous, morally reprehensible’) is all of a piece with a Republican Party philosophy that is endlessly insulting to black people and overwhelmingly hostile to their interests.” [New York Times, 10/6/2005]

Entity Tags: Bob Herbert, Republican Party, William J. Bennett, Robert George

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

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