Category Archives: Ethics

Charges Against 9/11 Suspect Dropped

His Statements Were the Result of Abusive Interrogation, Officials Say

By Josh White and Julie Tate

U.S. authorities have long considered Mohammed al-Qahtani one of the most dangerous alleged terrorists in U.S. custody, a man who could have been the 20th hijacker in the Sept. 11, 2001, plot if he had not been denied entry into the country.

But yesterday, amid concerns about using information obtained during abusive military interrogations, a top Pentagon official removed Qahtani from the military commission case meant to bring justice to those behind the vast Sept. 11 conspiracy.

Susan J. Crawford, the appointed official who decides which cases will be heard in the largely untested commission process, dismissed the charges against Qahtani while affirming those against five other alleged terrorists to stand trial at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Prosecutors reserve the right to charge Qahtani again, and the military says it can hold him without trial for the duration of the counterterrorism wars. But his defense lawyers and officials familiar with the case say it is unlikely that Qahtani will face new charges because he was subjected to aggressive Defense Department interrogation techniques — such as intimidation by dogs, hooding, nudity, long-term isolation and stress positions.

Those techniques were later rescinded because of concerns about their legality. In 2005, an official military investigation concluded that Qahtani’s interrogation regimen amounted to abuse.

Officials close to the case said Crawford’s office was reluctant to sanction the charges against Qahtani because prosecutors had little evidence against him outside of his own coerced confessions, a point that most certainly would have become a central issue at trial.

“Their case was only based on evidence derived from torture,” said Army Lt. Col. Bryan Broyles, who represents Qahtani. “In six-plus years, the evidence comes down to what they beat out of him. The prosecution evidence was entirely unreliable and inadmissible.”

Crawford has not commented publicly since taking over as the top official for military commissions, and a Pentagon spokesman said yesterday she has not explained her decision. Officials close to the case said the office’s top legal adviser, Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann, concluded in an analysis that Qahtani’s case was too weak to prosecute.

“Decisions relating to joining several accused are based upon such factors as the nature of the offenses, the evidence and applicable rules of procedure,” said Navy Cmdr. J.D. Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman.

“My guess is that they will never charge him at all,” said Charles D. “Cully” Stimson, a lawyer with the Heritage Foundation and former deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs. “It may be next to impossible to prove a case against him without what came out of his mouth.”

From the outset, Qahtani’s case appeared to be an odd companion to the co-conspirator trial, as the other cases involve detainees — such as alleged mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed — held by the CIA, and they involve high-level allegations of conspiracy to commit the attacks, including financing, running al-Qaeda training camps and helping the hijackers carry out the plot. Qahtani is alleged to be a field operative.

Human rights organizations have been warning that harsh treatment of detainees would come back to haunt the U.S. government.

“Statements obtained using interrogation techniques explicitly approved by then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld are so tainted by torture that the current Pentagon has determined that they cannot be used, even in military commissions which allow the use of certain evidence obtained through abuse,” said Jennifer Daskal, senior counterterrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch.

Although some of the other five detainees were subjected to harsh interrogations by the CIA, the military organized a coordinated effort to re-interview them after they arrived at Guantanamo Bay in September 2006, using rapport-building methods. The results yielded incriminating evidence, officials said. But the same “clean teams” were not successful with Qahtani.

“Qahtani has never made a statement that was not extracted without torture,” said Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which also represents Qahtani.

The charges approved against the alleged co-conspirators detail 169 overt acts in support of the Sept. 11 attacks, including murder, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, terrorism and providing material support for terrorism. Barring a continuance, the five suspects should appear in a Guantanamo Bay courtroom within the next month for an arraignment, but those involved in the cases say a joint trial is unlikely to begin before next year.

One issue that could further complicate the Sept. 11 case is the disqualification of Hartmann by a judge in another military commission because of alleged bias in favor of the prosecution. Hartmann has been deeply involved in the conspiracy case, also.

But Stimson said that “anytime Hartmann touches something, you’re giving the defense an opportunity to tee up the unlawful command influence issue.”

Scientists target poor to test sludge theory

from the Cape Cod Times.


BALTIMORE — Scientists using federal grants spread fertilizer made from human and industrial wastes on yards in poor, black neighborhoods to test whether it might protect children from lead poisoning in the soil.

Families were assured the sludge was safe and were never told about any harmful ingredients.

Nine low-income families in Baltimore row houses agreed to let researchers till the sewage sludge into their yards and plant new grass. In exchange, they were given food coupons as well as the free lawns as part of a study published in 2005 and funded by the Housing and Urban Development Department.

The Associated Press reviewed grant documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and interviewed researchers. No one involved with the $446,231 grant for the two-year study would identify the participants, citing privacy concerns.

There is no evidence there was ever any medical follow-up.

Comparable research was conducted by the Agriculture Department and Environmental Protection Agency in a similarly poor, black neighborhood in East St. Louis, Ill.

The sludge, researchers said, put the children at less risk of brain or nerve damage from lead, a highly toxic element once widely used in gasoline and paint. Other studies have shown brain damage among children, often in poor neighborhoods, who ate lead-based paint that had flaked off their homes.

The idea that sludge — the leftover semisolid wastes filtered from water pollution at 16,500 treatment plants — can be turned into something harmless, even if swallowed, has been a tenet of federal policy for three decades.

In a 1978 memo, the EPA said sludge “contains nutrients and organic matter which have considerable benefit for land and crops” despite the presence of “low levels of toxic substances.”

But in the late 1990s the government began underwriting studies such as those in Baltimore and East St. Louis using poor neighborhoods as laboratories to make a case that sludge may also directly benefit human health.

Meanwhile, there has been a paucity of research into the possible harmful effects of heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, other chemicals and disease-causing microorganisms often found in sludge.

A series of reports by the EPA’s inspector general and the National Academy of Sciences between 1996 and 2002 faulted the adequacy of the science behind the EPA’s 1993 regulations on sludge.

The chairman of the 2002 academy panel, Thomas Burke, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says epidemiological studies have never been done to show whether spreading sludge on land is safe.

“There are potential pathogens and chemicals that are not in the realm of safe,” Burke told the AP. “What’s needed are more studies on what’s going on with the pathogens in sludge — are we actually removing them? The commitment to connecting the dots hasn’t been there.”

That’s not what the subjects of the Baltimore and East St. Louis research were told.

Rufus Chaney, an Agriculture Department research agronomist who co-wrote the Baltimore study, said the researchers provided the families with brochures about lead hazards, tested the soil in their yards and gave assurances that the Orgro fertilizer was store-bought and perfectly safe.

“They were told that their lawn, as it stood, before it was treated, was a lead danger to their children,” said Chaney. “So that even if they ate some of the soil, there would not be as much of a risk as there was before. And that’s what the science shows.”

Chaney said the Baltimore neighborhoods were chosen because they were within an economically depressed area qualifying for tax incentives. He acknowledged the families were not told there have been some safety disputes and health complaints over sludge.

“They were told that it was composted biosolids that are available for sale commercially in the state of Maryland. I don’t think there’s any other further disclosure required,” Chaney said. “There was danger before. There wasn’t danger because of the biosolids compost. Composting, of course, kills pathogens.”

The Baltimore study concluded that phosphate and iron in sludge can increase the ability of soil to trap more harmful metals including lead, cadmium and zinc, causing the combination to pass safely through a child’s body if eaten.

It called the fertilizer “a simple low-cost” technology for parents and communities “to reduce risk to their children” who are in danger of lead contamination. The results were published in Science of the Total Environment, an international research journal, in 2005.

Another study investigating whether sludge might inhibit the “bioavailability” of lead — the rate it enters the bloodstream and circulates to organs and tissues — was conducted on a vacant lot in East St. Louis next to an elementary school, all of whose 300 students were black and almost entirely from low-income families.

In a newsletter, the EPA-funded Community Environmental Resource Program assured local residents it was all safe.

“Though the lot will be closed off to the public, if people — particularly children — get some of the lead contaminated dirt in their mouths, the lead will just pass through their bodies and not be absorbed,” the newsletter said. “Without this iron-phosphorus mix, lead poisoning would occur.”

Soil chemist Murray McBride, director of the Cornell Waste Management Institute, said he doesn’t doubt that sludge can bind lead in soil.

But when eaten, “it’s not at all clear that the sludge binding the lead will be preserved in the acidity of the stomach,” he said. “Actually thinking about a child ingesting this, there’s a very good chance that it’s not safe.”

McBride and others also questioned the choice of neighborhoods for the studies and why residents were not told about other, possibly harmful ingredients in sludge.

“If you’re not telling them what kinds of chemicals could be in there, how could they even make an informed decision. If you’re telling them it’s absolutely safe, then it’s not ethical,” McBride said. “In many relatively wealthy people’s neighborhoods, I would think that people would research this a little and see a problem and raise a red flag.”

The Baltimore study used a compost of sludge mixed with sawdust and wood chips packaged as “biosolids,” the term for sludge preferred by government and the waste industry.

“What we did was make the yards greener,” said Pat Tracey, a Johns Hopkins University community relations coordinator who recalled helping with the lawn work. “They were bald, bad yards. It was considered sterile fertilizer.”

Baltimore environmental activist Glenn Ross says choosing poor neighborhoods destined for demolition makes it hard to track a study’s participants. “If you wanted to do something very questionable, you would do it in a neighborhood that’s not going to be there in a few years,” he said.

HUD documents show the study’s lead author, Mark Farfel, has pursued several other studies of lead contamination including the risks of exposure from urban housing demolitions and the vacant lots left behind.

Farfel has since moved to New York, where he directs the World Trade Center Health Registry surveying tens of thousands of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. He denied repeated requests for interviews and referred questions to Baltimore’s Kennedy Krieger Institute, the children’s research facility that was the recipient of HUD grants with Farfel as project manager.

The institute referred questions to Joann Rodgers, a spokeswoman for Johns Hopkins. She said a review board within its medical school approved the study and the consent forms provided to families that participated. “The study did not test children or other family members living in the homes,” she said.

Some of Farfel’s previous research has been controversial.

In 2001, Maryland’s highest court chastised him, Kennedy Krieger and Johns Hopkins over a study bankrolled by EPA in which researchers testing low-cost ways to control lead hazards exposed more than 75 poor children to lead-based paint in partially renovated houses.

Families of two children alleged to have suffered elevated blood-lead levels and brain damage sued the institute and later settled for an undisclosed amount.

The Maryland Court of Appeals likened the study to Nazi medical research on concentration camp prisoners, the U.S. government’s 40-year Tuskegee study that denied treatment for syphilis to black men in order to study the illness and Japan’s use of “plague bombs” in World War II to infect and study entire villages.

“These programs were somewhat alike in the vulnerability of the subjects: uneducated African-American men, debilitated patients in a charity hospital, prisoners of war, inmates of concentration camps and others falling within the custody and control of the agencies conducting or approving the experiments,” the court said.

On the Net:
Baltimore study:
East St. Louis project:
Maryland lead lawsuit:
National Academy of Sciences’ report:

FDA says cloned animals are OK to eat

Cloned Cow

FDA approves cloned meat, milk: newspaper Gloria, the first baby cow of cloned cow Vitoria, is seen with her mother in a 2004 photo. A Food and Drug Administration report finds that meat and milk from cloned animals is, for the most part, safe to eat, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday. REUTERS/Jamil Bittar

The government declared Thursday that food from cloned animals is safe to eat. After more than five years of study, the Food and Drug Administration concluded that cloned livestock is “virtually indistinguishable” from conventional livestock.

I heard about this. OK for who? People with money and sense aren’t going to be eating that stuff. It will invariably be consumed en masse by poorer populations. Though I don’t know of any studies being published to this point, we already “know” the effects of food supplements on the poorer populations. Hormonal differences in children, significant increases in the number of asthmatic and diabetic cases; rises in ADHD and autism. When I say poorer, I don’t just mean financially, but intellectually and psychologically as well. Those who don’t know any better, and those under the yoke of addiction who are challenged in the exercise of their knowledge.

Why do we now have to clone animals instead of eating naturally reproducing animals? Is the environment no longer sustaining animal food sources, and if not, why? Are population levels straining food production levels, and if so, how can this be when we have governments giving subsidies to farmers to throw away crops to regulate the market while their are food shortages in other parts of the world.

The entire world has their eyes on what is going on in California with protected coastline – an effort to increase the number of fish in the wake of habitat destruction, overfishing, and pollution. Why not just nip the problem in the bud and stop destroying habitats and rebuilding them, stop overfishing and enforce stricter rules, stop polluting the oceans and rejuvenate them? The logic is about as crazy as another situation in California where a delta region is under threat of flooding, the result of which jeopardizes California’s fresh water supply. One of the best solutions has been mired in politics and finances. While everyone wants to fight over who has control over the fresh water, or whose backyard it will collect in, the water may end up lost. When selfish interests override common sense, it is a sad day.

In a culture that prescribes to a single patient multiple medications, each of which has side affects, and yet nobody seems to do the math that, acting in concert, the culmination of collective side affects may in fact be more life threatening than the original illness, it is no wonder that we eat plants loaded with pesticides, livestock loaded with steroids, and products loaded with various forms of synthetic sweeteners, the combination of which…

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness have been hijacked by the pursuit of money, power, and status. Common sense has been lynched by private wealth. We learned in elementary school that everything is connected in cycles and that what affects something at the low end of the food chain, eventually has affects at the top of the food chain. We learned that ecological systems are very delicate, easily disrupted, and very necessary to maintain a natural balance here on earth. When we introduce new factors in the grand scheme of things, usually the earth’s immune system can deal with it – but lately it seems that man is hell bent on creating hell on earth.

We learned in science about recessive and dominant genes, gene pools, and the negative affects of inbreeding. There is a reason why you’re not supposed to have kids with your sister. Are we so blind that we don’t see that our actions have consequences – that there will be a piper to pay down the line. Are we so self-centered and near sighted that we have no consideration for our children’s future?

For those of us with culinary interests, we learn that free range animals taste different than animals bred in captivity. The health benefits are dissimilar as well. Fresh fish versus farm raised fish also have differences in quality. In pharmaceuticals the public isn’t usually made aware of health consequences for years after FDA approved drugs have been allowed onto the market. Should we expect any different with this latest decision by the FDA? Remember – you are what you eat.

Cloned animals are okay to eat…?! tell them to clone themselves and feast on that!

Schools ponder role as child nears death

Kids’ Do Not Resuscitate orders prompt debate

As the school bus rolled to a stop outside her Lake County home, Beth Jones adjusted the bright yellow document protruding from the pouch of her daughter’s wheelchair, making sure it was clearly visible.

In bold letters it warned, “Do Not Resuscitate.”

The DNR order goes everywhere with Katie, including her 2nd-grade classroom at Laremont School in Gages Lake. The school is part of the Special Education District of Lake County, where an emotional two-year discussion ended this summer when officials agreed to honor such directives.
Now, district officials find themselves in the unusual position of having planned the steps its staff will, or won’t, take to permit a child to die on school grounds. Although DNR orders are common in hospitals and nursing homes, such life-and-death drama rarely plays out in schools, where officials realize how sensitive and traumatic the situation could be for nurses, teachers and students.

Katie’s brain was deprived of oxygen before birth. She can’t walk, talk or do anything for herself. She is fed through a tube in her stomach and has an increased susceptibility to infection. Violent choking and coughing spasms have signaled a turn for the worse in her condition.

A Do Not Resuscitate order is a doctor’s directive, issued with the consent of the family, that cardiopulmonary resuscitation will not be used if the patient suffers from heart or breathing problems. It can also prohibit using such devices as a defibrillator or an intubation tube.

The new DNR policy puts Katie’s school district at the forefront of a growing national debate about severely disabled and chronically ill children whose lives have been extended by medical advances — and whose parents must face heart-wrenching decisions about the future. Two other pupils in the district have similar DNR orders.

Katie’s order was put to the test last month, when she stopped breathing during class. Her lips turned blue and her skin took on a gray pallor. A teacher picked her up, as allowed by the DNR, and Katie soon started breathing on her own.

School officials called her mother, who arrived within 10 minutes. She brought Katie home, where a nurse from the family’s hospice program met them.

“It was a little unnerving,” Jones said. “It kind of put it all in perspective — this is real.”

The scare strengthened Beth and Dave Jones’ resolve to face the death of their daughter on their own terms.

Although some school districts follow parents’ wishes about DNRs, many others have not yet focused on how they will handle the issue. It’s a topic school officials across the country are beginning to wrestle with, experts say.

In recent months, school boards in Hillsborough, N.J., and Visalia, Calif., have debated DNR orders. Milwaukee Public Schools updated its policy two years ago so that officials at least talk to parents about what’s best for the child, even if the rule-of-thumb is not to obey a DNR.

Barring a court order, the policy in Chicago Public Schools is to ignore such orders and do everything possible to save a child’s life, officials said.

The school debate underscores the struggle of parents as they try to imagine the unimaginable: How will their child die? Will it be on a gurney tethered to a cluster of machines that sometimes only postpones the inevitable or will it happen in their arms? A DNR order can help ease such worries, some medical authorities say.

“They have some control over this whole uncontrollable disease that their child has lived through,” said Dr. Kimberly Battle-Miller, associate medical director of Hope’s Friends, a hospice that has helped Katie and her family since April.

The Barrington-based hospice allows the child to remain at home rather than make frequent visits to a hospital, easing the emotional burdens on those closest to her.

On a recent morning, Beth Jones could readily see how keenly her daughter enjoyed her trips to school. The little girl was beaming up at her from her wheelchair as they waited for the bus.

“You’re in a really good mood, aren’t you?” Beth Jones asked her.

Two winters ago, Katie’s parents felt far less in control of their daughter’s fate. The child was near death every night for nearly three weeks. Katie’s increasingly severe attacks were a sign that her condition had worsened.

“The light went on in my head,” Dave Jones recalled. “This can’t go on forever.”

A friend — a paramedic and the leader of Dave Jones’ Bible study group — mentioned that parents can face legal consequences if a child dies at home. If they dialed 911, the paramedics would swing into frenzied action with a swirl of invasive medical equipment and powerful drugs.

“The end result could still be the same, and you had the last few minutes with her as mad chaos, and her being whisked away in an ambulance,” Beth Jones said. “We don’t want that.”

So in April, the couple met with Battle-Miller, who signed Katie’s DNR order. They also discussed Katie’s illness with the local fire chief to be sure paramedics understood their wishes. Then they met with school officials to plan what will happen if their daughter is stricken at Laremont.

Beth Jones will be called first, then paramedics, who will be on standby at the school in case Katie’s mother decides that she wants them to intervene. Meanwhile, Katie will be moved to a nurse’s office, shielding her from other students.

School nurses will be allowed to use suction to ease Katie’s breathing and give her oxygen with a mask. The child can be positioned in a way that makes it easier to breathe.

But they will not perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation or use a defibrillator. Nor will they intubate her, a procedure that puts a flexible plastic tube down the patient’s throat to provide ventilation.

“We’re not just standing by doing nothing,” said Susan Hodgkinson, nursing coordinator for the Special Education District of Lake County. “We’re providing supportive measures. But most importantly, we are there loving her.”

Some educators are concerned about lawsuits by parents who might later decide that something should have been done to save their child. They also “may be worried that a DNR order could be misinterpreted by medically untrained staff … or they may worry that personnel would feel bound not to respond to an easily reversible condition,” according to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Battle-Miller, who began as a pediatric critical-care doctor more than 10 years ago, has been baptized in the kind of emotionally charged emergencies that only the doctor, nurse or parent of a terminally ill child can ever really know.

Doctors, she said, are sometimes focused on one thing — saving lives. They lose sight of the toll such action can take on patients and their families.

Taking a break from her shift on the pediatric critical-care unit at Central DuPage Hospital, Battle-Miller recalled children who were brought in for their end of life care. The doctors and staff, she said, didn’t always know what to do.

She paused, thinking back on those early days of her career. “They had very unpleasant deaths,” Battle-Miller said. “We were intubating a lot of these kids, preventing them from dying naturally. Some of them would die on the machine. Some would survive the episode but have to keep re-living it.”

Beth Jones says she has prepared herself for her daughter’s death. For now, though, she enjoys sitting with her two daughters on early mornings when Katie is well enough for school and younger sister Allie, 4, is awake enough to join them.

“I think of it as snuggle time,” their mother said, enveloping both girls in an embrace.

Before the bus arrived, Beth Jones weaved a French braid into the school girl’s long brown hair, while Allie held up a feeding tube. A machine could do the job, but that makes group hugs difficult.

Besides, anything that beeps isn’t allowed in the Jones house.

“When we took her home from the hospital, where there were so many machines, we made the no beeping rule,” Beth Jones said.