I was alarmed to read yesterday that up to 17 United States Navy warships may have been used to detain terror suspects by hiding them from international scrutiny, and the legal system, on “black water” prison ships — creating, in an alarming way — terrorist detainment camps in military hulks.  Are the USS Bataan and USS Peleliu the new Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay?



The Guardian reports:

The United States is operating “floating prisons” to house those arrested in its war on terror, according to human rights lawyers, who claim there has been an attempt to conceal the numbers and whereabouts of detainees.

Details of ships where detainees have been held and sites allegedly being used in countries across the world have been compiled as the debate over detention without trial intensifies on both sides of the Atlantic. The US government was yesterday urged to list the names and whereabouts of all those detained….

According to research carried out by Reprieve, the US may have used as many as 17 ships as “floating prisons” since 2001. Detainees are interrogated aboard the vessels and then rendered to other, often undisclosed, locations, it is claimed.

Ships that are understood to have held prisoners include the USS Bataan and USS Peleliu. A further 15 ships are suspected of having operated around the British territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, which has been used as a military base by the UK and the Americans.

Are we in for new horror tales of torture against terrorists that will darken our history of waterboarding

The Reprieve study includes the account of a prisoner released from Guantánamo Bay, who described a fellow inmate’s story of detention on an amphibious assault ship. “One of my fellow prisoners in Guantánamo was at sea on an American ship with about 50 others before coming to Guantánamo … he was in the cage next to me. He told me that there were about 50 other people on the ship. They were all closed off in the bottom of the ship. The prisoner commented to me that it was like something you see on TV. The people held on the ship were beaten even more severely than in Guantánamo.”

Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve’s legal director, said: “They choose ships to try to keep their misconduct as far as possible from the prying eyes of the media and lawyers. We will eventually reunite these ghost prisoners with their legal rights.

“By its own admission, the US government is currently detaining at least 26,000 people without trial in secret prisons, and information suggests up to 80,000 have been ‘through the system’ since 2001. The US government must show a commitment to rights and basic humanity by immediately revealing who these people are, where they are, and what has been done to them.”

Do we live in the past when prison hulks served up living deaths on the water?

Can we ever aspire to be better than our history and tend a brighter,
and more delicate, future against the perpetuation of an ever-glowering new world order?

12 Comments

  1. That’s a good point, Anne! What will happen if Obama wins in November? Will these prison ships be “outed” or covered up or quietly dissolved of their terror cargo? It’s sort of an everlasting sticky mess!

  2. What happens when iy”H Obama wins in November is that we as a country will take at least the next year to fix the damage of the last 8. No more prison ships. Get the respect of other countries. No more wearing a Canadian flag on your bags while traveling to hide your American status.

  3. I think that’s the only way, Gordon: Be completely transparent. Say, “this is what happened, and here’s how we’re fixing it.” It isn’t “weak on terror” to set things right that were done wrong to other people in the false name of freedom. I hope Obama has the stamina to do the job because he will have a lot of “setting right” to do.

  4. I too hope it’s not true. But Bush has done nothing to earn anyone’s trust these past eight years. So nothing would surprise me at this point.
    Gordon–So much damage has been done by this administration both domestically and internationally that I fear it will take many many years to restore our position in the world as well as restoring economic stability and prosperity.
    We have lost so much ground and it sometimes feels like we are sinking . . .

  5. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out, Donna. How long is too long to be considered “detained?” A day? Weeks? Months?
    That seems to be the tipping point of the Navy’s denial: “Yes, we detained people… but not THAT long…”

  6. David–It really sounds like a horror movie!
    I can’t even think what it would be like to be held in the bottom of a ship for any length of time. I can’t stand boats or ships period!
    The numbers are also frightening. 26,000! 80,000! Sounds like a witchhunt of sorts–

  7. It is a horror, Donna. No one knows you’re there and you have no legal way out. You serve at the whim of an evil dictator preaching freedom and unity. The damage done will last many terrible, terroristic, years as revenge is sought and bought.

  8. David! what a terrible thing to do! a sailor’s life is tough enough, but to be held in a cage in the bottom of a ship.. what happens if the ship sinks? do these vessels carry lifeboats for the prisoners who do not exist?

  9. Hi Dananjay!
    I agree — being held nameless on a ship with no way out unless your captors decide you may leave is terrifying!
    I would doubt there are any extra life preservers or boats for the invisible!