The similarities between Bush administration wartime incarceration and interrogation techniques and abuses in US prisons will be illuminated in a compelling show soon to air on Marc Emery’s Pot-TV Internet television network (www.pot-tv.net).
Pot-TV News reporter Loretta Nall, who is also president of the US Marijuana Party, says she recently received and viewed videotapes showing torture meted out to prisoners in Texas during the late 1990’s. Nall says she is editing the tapes for presentation on Pot-TV.
The alleged abuse, which has been the subject of dozens of state and federal prisoner lawsuits, occurred when George W. Bush was governor of Texas, from 1994 until 2000.
Bush’s reign as governor resulted in deteriorating conditions at Texas prisons, long known as among the toughest in the nation.
The Bush prisons were the subject of numerous lawsuits and federal investigations for prisoner abuse and overcrowding while Bush was governor.
A federal district court judge sanctioned Texas prisons after determining that prison guards and prison gang leaders were running inmate “sex slave” operations.
Bush was known as “Governor Death” because he enthusiastically executed death row inmates at a rate that far exceeded any governor of any state. By the time he left office, 152 prisoners had been executed, despite pleas from religious leaders, including the Pope, asking Bush to slow down the killings until DNA testing and other judicial procedures could determine if any death row inmates were innocent.
The then-governor was also asked to explain how his fundamentalist “pro-life” anti-abortion stance could co-exist with his eagerness to implement the death penalty. The Catholic Church, which opposes war, the death penalty and abortion, says all human life is sacred, not just the life of unborn fetuses. Bush disagrees.
The videotaped prisoner abuse documentary that will soon debut on Pot-TV occurred in Texas prisons that were housing prisoners from Missouri. The prisoners were sent to Texas from Missouri because Missouri’s prisons were too overcrowded.
Nall says the tapes were made by government employees, and were intended as training videos. She received the tapes from a long-time Virginia cannabis activist, who says he got them from a Missouri clergyman.
“I was appalled by what I saw,” Nall reports. “In one scene, the cops rush into a cell block, hose the prisoners down soaking wet, beat them with billy clubs, mace them, and take away their towels so they cannot cover their eyes. Prisoners appear to be being choked with towels around their necks. Then they are all taken outside in the freezing cold in their wet clothes and made to sit for hours while they are strip-searched. In another scene, sheriffs deputies and narcotics officers burst into a cell and order everyone on the floor. Everyone complies and they are all lying there peacefully, but the cops whip out the mace and walk around and spray all of them.”
Media reports say that other videotapes from Texas prisons during the same era show prisoners being stomped, verbally absued, beaten, attacked by dogs, and zapped by stun guns.
In their lawsuits, prisoners allege that Missouri and Texas officials refused to do anything about the abuse until a videotape surfaced and was leaked to the press.
Some of the abuses took place in private prisons run by Capital Correctional Resources Incorporated (CCRI). Private prisons, private security agencies, and personnel who work for them figure prominently in prisoner abuse scandals in the US and Iraq.
Sources say that some private prisons and private security firms hire guards and other personnel who have a history of violent, criminal behavior. A CCRI jailer working in Texas had been previously imprisoned for beating a prisoner, for example, but was hired to work in a CCRI prison anyway.
The Pentagon blindly trusted private firms and contractors to hire guards and interrogators for prisons in Iraq, but military investigators now say that private personnel and military personnel were not properly screened, trained or supervised.
US prisons and law enforcement are routinely accused of using excessive force and violating human rights. At Wallens Ridge Maximum Security Prison in Virginia, prisoners are forced to wear black hoods, and are beaten and cursed by guards. At Corcoran State Prison in California, dozens of inmates, most of them unarmed, have been shot by prison guards; at least seven prisoners have been killed by guards. In February 1998, federal authorities indicted eight Corcoran officers for deliberately pitting unarmed inmates against each other in gladiator-style fights which the guards would then break up by firing rifles at the prisoners.
In Iraq, Abu Ghraib Prison was long known as a torture chamber run by Saddam Hussein. After the US illegally invaded Iraq last year, US Attorney General John Ashcroft hand-picked the former director of Utah’s prisons, Lance McCotter, to refurbish and run Abu Ghraib for the American military.
The Red Cross estimates that 60 to 80% of the thousands of people arrested and imprisoned at Abu Ghraib by US forces were innocent of any crimes.
Ashcroft put McCotter in charge of Abu Ghraib even though McCotter was forced to resign his directorship of Utah prisons in 1997 after a mentally ill patient was tortured and died in a Utah prison, and even though a private prison run by McCotter’s “Management & Training Corporation” was under investigation by Ashcroft’s Justice Department at the time Ashcroft sent McCotter to Iraq.
Military investigators and media reports allege that employees of CACI International and Titan Corporation supervised or conducted brutal interrogations in Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison.
One of the private contractor guards accused of abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib was a former prison guard who worked at a troubled US state-run prison. He has not been prosecuted for the alleged abuse he committed in Iraq, and has reportedly gone back to working at a brutal US prison that has its own history of prisoner abuse problems.
The now-famous torture photos and videos from Abu Ghraib document abuses that are virtually direct echoes of abuse shown on the Texas prison videos, and in what happened to South Carolina high school who were victimized by gun-toting police and police dogs, Nall says.
In the meantime, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, right-wing radio talk show host Flush Limbaugh, and other leading conservatives have defended US tactics that the Red Cross and other organizations say violated international law, such as the Geneva Convention.
A New Yorker article written by award-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh credibly asserts that Rumsfeld and other top Pentagon officials approved torture at US prisons in Cuba and Iraq.
Nall, who recently returned from Washington, DC, where she was meeting with members of Congress in her capacity as president of the US Marijuana Party, says that Pot-TV viewers will be shocked to find that human rights violations iare occurring not just in Iraq, but in American prisons and schools.