head of Guantanamo military commissions uses the “t” word

Posted in Uncategorized by Ryan Locke on January 16, 2009

says Ryan.

We know about the enhanced interrogation techniques that Bush and his top aids approved for use on military detainees.  Were they torture?  That’s been somewhat up in the air — at the very least, no Government officials have used the “t” word in conjunction with these techniques…until now.

Susan Crawford is the senior Pentagon official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial.  This past May, she decided not to bring charges against Mohammed al-Qahtani — he’s the “20th hijacker,” the guy who would have been on the 9/11 plains except he was denied entry into the US at Orlando.  At the time, she didn’t say why she declined to bring charges.  Now we know why:

“We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani,” said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. “His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case” for prosecution.

Bam!  Torture!  That’s from the Washingon Post.  The NY Times covered this too.  Here’s their description of the torture:

Military documents show that Mr. Qahtani’s repeated interrogations at Guantánamo in 2002 and 2003 included prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, forced nudity, exposure to cold and involuntary grooming. He was also forced to dance with a male interrogator and to obey dog commands, including “stay,” “come” and “bark.”

The Washington Post has more details.

His interrogation took place over 50 days from November 2002 to January 2003, though he was held in isolation until April 2003.

“For 160 days his only contact was with the interrogators,” said Crawford, who personally reviewed Qahtani’s interrogation records and other military documents. “Forty-eight of 54 consecutive days of 18-to-20-hour interrogations. Standing naked in front of a female agent. Subject to strip searches. And insults to his mother and sister.”

At one point he was threatened with a military working dog named Zeus, according to a military report. Qahtani “was forced to wear a woman’s bra and had a thong placed on his head during the course of his interrogation” and “was told that his mother and sister were whores.” With a leash tied to his chains, he was led around the room “and forced to perform a series of dog tricks,” the report shows.

The interrogation, portions of which have been previously described by other news organizations, including The Washington Post, was so intense that Qahtani had to be hospitalized twice at Guantanamo with bradycardia, a condition in which the heart rate falls below 60 beats a minute and which in extreme cases can lead to heart failure and death. At one point Qahtani’s heart rate dropped to 35 beats per minute, the record shows.

Needless to say, this had an adverse impact on Qahtani’s mental state.

Mr. Qahtani’s lawyers at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York have said they believe he can never be prosecuted because of his treatment, which they said left him a broken man who has attempted suicide.

Here’s a shocker quote — each of those techniques used independently are okay.

“The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent. . . . You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge” to call it torture, [Crawford] said.

He’s not off the hook completely, however.  Crawford has independent evidence that she will use to charge Qahtani with other crimes, although who knows whether the Obama administration will prosecute these cases through military tribunals or the federal courts.  Due to the slipshod way the military has been handling evidence for these cases, that federal court route could be difficult.

Vandeveld, who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was the lead prosecutor against Jawad until he asked to be relieved of his duties last year, citing a crisis of conscience. He said the case has been riddled with problems, including alleged physical and psychological abuse of Jawad by Afghan police and the U.S. military, as well as reliance on evidence that was later found to be missing, false or unreliable.

Vandeveld said in a phone interview that the “complete lack of organization” has affected nearly all cases at Guantanamo Bay. The evidence is often so disorganized, he said, “it was like a stash of documents found in a village in a raid and just put on a plane to the U.S. Not even rudimentary organization by date or name.”

If there was a lawyer version of Fear Factor, the contestants wouldn’t be asked to eat ox eyes or lay down in a coffin of snakes and spiders.  They’d be asked to do something far worse, something that would cause them to break down and cry like little boys, something like being given 40 or 50 boxes of unorganized documents and told to try the case.

So, a government official using the “t” word is big.  We’ll see what happens.


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