The Torturer of Beverly Hills

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The legacy of torture that the United States has left in Iraq and Afghanistan is appalling. Not only has the US failed to investigate or prosecute any of its own torturers, it is now giving safe haven to Afghanistan’s torturer in chief.

In Afghanistan, his presence was enough to cause prisoners to tremble. Hundreds in his organization’s custody were beaten, shocked with electrical currents or subjected to other abuses documented in human rights reports. Some allegedly disappeared.

And then Haji Gulalai disappeared as well.

Today, Gulalai lives in a pink two-story house in Southern California, on a street of stucco homes on the outskirts of Los Angeles.

How he managed to land in the United States remains murky. Afghan officials and former Gulalai colleagues said that his U.S. connections – and mounting concern about his safety – account for his extraordinary accommodation.

But CIA officials said the agency played no role in bringing Gulalai into the country. Officials at the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security would not comment on his relocation or immigration status, citing privacy restrictions. Gulalai and members of his family declined repeated inquiries from source url The Washington Post. [..]

Applicants are screened against databases for criminal convictions or terrorist ties. But experts said those records are unlikely to reveal allegations of human rights abuses, particularly when the alleged abuser was operating under government authority and was not arrested or publicly accused. Prospects of detection may have been further complicated by the fact that Gulalai used only his (Kamal) Achakzai name once in the United States.

There is at least one indication, however, that U.S. authorities were able to connect the asylum seeker to his NDS résumé.

At a hearing before an immigration judge in Los Angeles several years ago, Gulalai defended his asylum claim by presenting photos of the Kabul bombing and other evidence of the danger he faced in Afghanistan, said (Bashir) Wasifi, who accompanied his friend to help interpret.

A U.S. attorney challenging the claim asked repeatedly whether the man now calling himself Achakzai was ever known by another name. After getting only looks of bewilderment, Wasifi said, the attorney changed his question: “Then who is Gulalai?”

Gulalai chuckled and replied that it was just a nickname bestowed by his family, and apologized for the slip, Wasifi said. He emerged from the hearing with his immigration status intact. [..]

Wasifi said Gulalai secured permanent resident status in the United States last year and is moving toward citizenship. The allegations against him, Wasifi said, should not stand in his way.

“I blame the U.S. for this,” Wasifi said. “If he was doing wrong to society, it is a shame for you. You appointed him to this position. NDS (National Directorate of Security) did not exist before. You created it. If you occupy a country, you are responsible.”

He was just doing what the US paid him to do, being a good soldier.

As Marcy Wheeler says, torture for the US and retire with impunity just don’t try to expose the war crimes:

Torturing on behalf of the United States appears to be a career move that results in a comfortable lifestyle after moving on from government service. Jose Rodriguez, who both ordered up torture and then personally destroyed video evidence of it, now profits from those events through book sales. James Mitchell, who was integral to the design of the torture program, now lives quietly in Land O’Lakes, Florida and until very recently didn’t even have to bother talking with reporters, let alone crime investigators. Of course, if you choose to expose US torture, it’s prison for you, as John Kiriakou has demonstrated.

But the disgusting free status of Rogdriguez and Mitchell pales in comparison to the level of depravity in the known history of personal involvement in torture for Haji Gulalai and how it was revealed yesterday that Gulalai is now living a quiet, comfortable life just outside Los Angeles. [Just as a bit of life advice, never piss off Julie Tate, as her work in finding Gulalai is perhaps the best bit of investigative journalism in the US in decades.] [..]

Standing out especially among the disgusting aspects of Gulalai’s case is the mystery surrounding how he was able to enter the US and then be granted asylum. Rank and file interpreters who worked for the US military in Afghanistan (and Iraq) face incredible difficulty getting into the US, even when they can present evidence that they face extreme danger staying behind: [..]

But here is an even bigger outrage in the process surrounding Gulalai, again from the excellent report from Greg Miller, Julie Tate and Joshua Partlow:

   Gulalai has made several return trips to Afghanistan in recent months to sell property there, family members and associates said. If true, the visits could undermine the argument that Afghanistan had become too dangerous for him, potentially complicating his asylum claim.

And what Charles Pierce said:

(O)f course, if there is any attempt to haul this sociopath off to The Hague, there will be several earnest columns written about how unfair it is because of what “we” asked him to do, and about abandoning allies, and so on. We are all complicit accessories before and after the fact. C-Plus Augustus made us that way.

And thank you, Barack Obama.

1 comment

    • TMC on May 1, 2014 at 6:02 pm
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