(The Mother of All Updates – 7/22) Targeted Killings: Urgent! Autopsy Egypt's Spymaster Omar Suleiman; Bring light on Al-Aulaqui's and Khan

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By Benjamin G. Davis, Associate Professor of Law, University of Toledo, College of Law

(The Mother of All Updates 7/22 – Holy Toledo! Thanks to intrepid readers I have been provided an Al-Jazeera op-ed story that says that Omar Suleiman died in Cleveland, Ohio on July 19, 2012 and goes farther in describing the Al-Libi case, to wit:

Starting quote:

Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi (Ali Mohammed al-Fakheri) is the second most infamous case under Suleiman. He was a Libyan citizen reportedly captured and interrogated by the CIA, the EGIA, and other security services. The George W Bush administration cited the false information al-Libi gave under torture by Egyptian authorities as evidence of the link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda in the months preceding the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.

When the information was proven to be false, it was a source of great personal embarrassment to Suleiman. Not only had he allegedly tortured an Arab citizen to extract information for the CIA, but he also inadvertently provided justification to the Bush administration for the invasion of Iraq. This is an addition to the apparent incompetence in assessing the information extracted under torture. al-Libi was handed over to the Gaddafi regime in Libya, which Suleiman visited in May 2009. By the time Suleiman’s plane left Libya, al-Libi had allegedly “committed suicide”, the Gaddafi regime announced.

“”This is the bloody joke,” a former member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, who was imprisoned with al-Libi in Tripoli’s notorious Abu Salim prison, told me in an interview. “Al-Libi is a religious man. He would never do that. He was killed by the Libyan Internal Security Services as a favour to Suleiman.”http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/07/2012720132344865981.html

Ending quote

The death in Qaddhafi”s prison of Mr. Al-Libi – the man tortured to make the Saddam Hussein/Al Qaeda link is presented in this op-ed to have been a favor to Mr. Suleiman – the man who had tortured him and given the false information to the United States. 

Everyone should know by now that torture elicits false confessions – this confession of course playing perfectly into the propaganda campaign by the Bush Administration to get Americans to support the War in Iraq in 2002.

Every American who recognizes we were lied into the War in Iraq should have their spider sense going off and want answers to the following questions.  Here are the questions that come to  mind:

1) Who in the State Department and Other Governmental Organizations (read CIA and other intelligence services) played a role in Omar Sulieman getting to Cleveland, Ohio?

2) How long was he in Cleveland, Ohio and at what hospital?

3) Was the State of Ohio (such as the Governor, his office, or the top security people) informed of this person with a significant role in the run up to the War in Iraq being in Ohio, and, if so, when was he/were they informed?

4) What were the ailments for which he was receiving treatment? Who were the doctors treating him?

5) What was the series of events that happened before his death?

6) Who saw him and who was allowed to see him?

7) If an autopsy was done, what was the cause of death?  Who signed the death certificate?

Smarter people will have more extensive questions – but I hope that with this one gets the drift.

A second piece of information sent to me by intrepid friends was this Egypt Independent article of today (http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/brotherhood-mp-calls-investigating-how-omar-suleiman-died) saying a “Muslim Brotherhood MP Calls For Investigating How Omar Suleiman Died” of which I quote two sections, to wit below

Start quote

On his Facebook page, Yassin, who is also a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, said, “Is the simultaneous death and injury of senior intelligence figures from a number of countries a coincidence?”

The same day Suleiman died, Hakan Fidan, the undersecretary of the Turkish intelligence service, was killed in his home in Istanbul, and a senior Israeli intelligence figure died in Austria.

Yassin questioned whether any of the intelligence officials met with officials from the Syrian regime to abort the Syrian revolution. He also questioned whether or not Suleiman was killed in Syria, during the same meeting Wednesday in which the Syrian ministers of defense, national security and interior were killed.


Egyptian news reports Sunday said Ramadan Abdel Hamid, a lawyer, had filed a report with the general prosecutor requesting an autopsy be carried out on Suleiman’s body.

General Hussein Kamal, head of Suleiman’s office, told Egypt’s state TV that Suleiman died of depression because he was extremely saddened by conditions in the country and lost more than 10 kilograms in bodyweight before his death.

End Quote

This article says that the official cause of death was “amyloidosis”.  From the Amyloidosis Foundation webpage (http://www.amyloidosis.org/AboutAmyloidosis/faqs.html#11), to wit:

Start quote:

“3. Can Amyloidosis be cured?

For non-hereditary forms of the disease, there is no cure. However there are effective TREATMENT OPTIONS as documented on this web site.

 4. What is the goal of today’s treatment options?

 Treatment is a 2 part process:

First, the goal behind any treatment is to stop or slow the production of the amyloid. If the production is not stopped, whichever body system, soft tissue or organ(s) are being effected by amyloid deposits will continue to deteriorate. This is why it is important to get a conclusive and accurate EVALUATION/diagnosis and treatment plan as soon as possible.

Second, the affected system, tissue or organ(s) must be dealt with. The goal is to restore as much function as possible. This is typically done with medication, diet, exercise and in some cases an organ transplant or surgery. It is the diseased or damaged organ(s) that puts the patient at the most risk.”

End Quote

This diagnosis raises the question of the severity of Omar Suleiman’s amyloidosis, assuming the report of the official cause of death is accurate in this article.  The “depression” basis also in the article gives me pause to wonder what is the truth here.  And, for Americans who lost sons and daughters in Iraq or are taking care of wounded warriors now, it is important that we get to the bottom of this queer case of Mr. Suleiman’s demise.

There is something happening here and what it is is not exactly clear.

I. Omar Suleiman’s Demise

It is reported today that former Egyptian Vice-President Omar Suleiman died while having medical tests in a US hospital and is to be buried with military honors on Friday (http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/19/world/meast/egypt-suleiman-dead/index.html; http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/48146/Egypt/Politics-/Egypts-exspy-chief-Omar-Suleiman-dies,-military-fu.aspx). 

Before this is done, we need to autopsy him to make sure his death was from natural causes and not a targeted killing.  Here’s why.

When he was head of the Egyptian Intelligence Service (Egyptian General Intelligence Apparatus or EGIA according to this article about him kindly sent to me http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/07/2012720132344865981.html), Omar Suleiman personally tortured a certain Al-Qaeda operation named Mr. Al-Libi at the behest of the CIA as part of the extraordinary rendition program in the Bush Administration.  It was pursuant to this torture that Mr. Al-Libi said there was a link between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda.  This tortured evidence from Mr. Al-Libi was referred to in part of the Authorization to Use Military Force in Iraq of October 19, 2002 past by Congress and was made part of then Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation to the United Nations in late 2002 as part of the effort, ultimate to no avail, to get a UN resolution to authorize force in Iraq and the 2003-2011 War in Iraq.

After Mr. Libi had given this testimony, the torture stopped and he immediately recanted.  When asked why he had said it, he replied (as any person tortured would reply) that he said it to have the torture stopped.  It has been reported that Mr. Suleiman was not happy with what Mr. Libi did (a great loss of face).  Later on we learn that Mr. Al-Libi was sent back to his home country – then Qaddafi Libya – where he languished in prison and was reported to have “hung himself” at one point.

Several years ago, on May 12, 2009,  I wrote about Mr. Al-Libi as the Man Who Knew Too Much, (http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/forumy/2009/05/man-who-knew-too-much-convenient.php) and how convenient his then newly reported “suicide” in Qaddafi’s prison was for all the apologists that had lied us into the War in Iraq.  Al-Libi would have been able to testify as to the circumstances under which he had given that testimony that he immediately recanted.  With hindsight, while not as elegant as a drone strike, the process of “handling” Al-Libi looks like a targeted killing where he is picked up, transferred to torture, says what is needed, becomes a problem when he recants what he said under torture, is made to disappear in a Qaddhafi Libyan prison with no trial, and then – almost magically – commits suicide.  If you buy that was a suicide, “I have a bridge in Brooklyn…”

Which brings us to Suleiman.  A 76 year old man comes to the United States for medical tests and suddenly shows up dead.  Maybe even more than Mr. Al-Libi, as head of Egyptian Intelligence, Mr. Suleiman would have detailed knowledge about all of the cooperation done by the Egyptians with America and its allies with regard to interrogation in the War on Terror and – what is also important – from earlier periods.  He would have information on all of the Egyptian governing class and their role in the Mubarak years.  Just like Al-Libi, surely Mr. Suleiman’s sudden death at this juncture, was convenient to many people for he was a man who knew too much.

Mr. Suleiman’s death thus should be investigated by the police – police with both national security experience but also those who have experience with investigating mob hits.  Maybe this is another case for US Attorney John Durham who is investigating the CIA’s role in the torture with a view to prosectuion.  His experience in bringing down FBI types in Boston and investigating Whitey Bulger is a perfect set of skills for this kind of case.

With this little note, all those who read it will see how a lowly individual in Toledo, Ohio can “connect the dots” sufficiently to hopefully raise concerns for Americans of all stripes about a suspicious death with implications for how the surveillance and national security state is acting, in this case domestically on a matter with regard to a foreigner who played a key role in torture overseas.

II. Bring light on Al-Aulaqui’s and Khan

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights have just filed a case on behalf of three American citizens who died in targeted killings through drone strikes in Yemen – far from the battlefield of Afghanistan and since the War in Iraq has ended (http://www.ccrjustice.org/newsroom/press-releases/rights-groups-file-challenge-killings-of-three-americans-u.s.-drone-strikes).

Several levels of thinking can go into thinking about this case, but at the heart are going to be some issues of necessity, proportionality and distinction – I would argue whether one is in the international humanitarian law vision, international human rights vision, or a law enforcement vision.  It is much like the analysis I did on  May 2, 2011 a day after the killing of Osama Bin Laden  (http://jurist.org/forum/2011/05/benjamin-davis-post-osama.php).  The overlay of course is that these three are U.S. citizens (even in death one retains one’s citizenship) and therefore Constitutional, Statutory, and International Law obligations are owed by the USA to them.

Of course, because of the supine approach of our Courts in maneuvering Court created doctrines to avoid decisionmaking in national security cases, the plaintiffs will have a very difficult road to hoe.  But, I salute the ACLU and CCR for bringing the case and raising the issue of wrongful death of American citizens.  If we learned anything in the Ninth Circuit’s refusal to allow the Padilla v/ Yoo case to prosper, we learned that our courts really struggle when they are asked to protect the rights of an American individual who is disfavored .  We saw that also in the earlier case when, before Al-Aulaqui was killed, his family sought relief from his targeting in US courts without any success.

Now, with the dead bodies, maybe an American court will allow the kind of meaningful inquiry that protects American citizens from their government when the government thinks it is acting to protect American citizens.  We have seen too many times in the past the suppression of dissent by the government in a relentless manner.  If it turns out that the elder Al-Aulaqui was in fact operational with Al-Qaeda (like an American joining forces with a foreign government to fight America) then let him be targetable and Khan – who is with him – finds himself in the spot of being “collateral damage” as would be the 16 year old Al-Aulaqui.  But, let there be a day in court where the evidence is put out there and a judge or jury of our peers hears the case and makes a determination – not the US government who ordered the strikes.  That will no doubt be seen as interference by the security state – and it is interference.  Interference of an appropriate kind to make sure that in their zeal Americans are not killed on flimsy data. 

After all, we are learning that with “signature strikes” the assumption is that all killed were Al-Qaeda until after the fact proven innocent.  That sounds like the “stop and frisk” of young black and hispanic men in New York City attitude of the state on steroids.  If these people had a status of opposing forces (distinctive sign or uniform) in an armed conflict provided there was a military advantage, and proportionality and necessity were met, yes they would be targetable.  These men in these signature strikes do not meet those criteria.  The signature strike approach is problematic precisely because of its inability to do any kind of meaningful distinction. 

As a young black man, I sold dictionaries door to door for three summers on straight commission as a way to make money.  I worked in many neighborhoods.  When in an all-white neighborhood, and when doing exactly the same thing I had been doing in the Hispanic or rare black neighborhoods, inevitably there were far more stops by the police to check my papers due to calls from the people.  In that setting, the signature was that I was a young black man knocking on doors in a white neighborhood.  Of course, the national security state will say their signaturing is far more sophisticated than that.  My point is that the Al-Aulaqui’s and Khan cases allow us to bring light.  We can no longer count on open Congressional hearings to bring light – they prefer for electoral reasons to be rubber stamps rather than protectors of American rights – particularly on violations of Muslim-American rights.  As I wrote on July 20, 2011 in this space, even the former CIA Acting General Counsel John Rizzo referred to some of these strikes as “murder” (http://www.blog.saltlaw.org/2011/07/20/bringing-light-to-dark-matter-drones-torture-illegal-wars/).  We need to question authority much more – whether Democrat or Republican – whether Bush or Obama – whether white or black or other minority doing the dirty work.