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Torture, Rendition, and other Abuses against Captives in US Custody

Mental Abuse

Project: Prisoner Abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan and Elsewhere
Open-Content project managed by Derek, KJF, mtuck

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Walid al-Qadasi, a 22-year-old Yemeni, is captured in Iran and transferred to US custody, where he is soon transferred to an Afghan prison. Like another captive, Wisam Ahmed (see December 2001 and After), al-Qadasi calls the site the “Dark Prison.” (Civil rights activist Andy Worthington later writes that he believes Ahmed and al-Qadasi were kept at different sites.) Al-Qadasi will later recall: “The Americans interrogated us on our first night which we coined as ‘the black night.’ They cut our clothes with scissors, left us naked, and took photos of us before they gave us Afghan clothes to wear. They then handcuffed our hands behind our backs, blindfolded us, and started interrogating us.… They threatened me with death, accusing me of belonging to al-Qaeda.” After the initial interrogation, he recalls: “They put us in an underground cell measuring approximately two meters by three meters. There were 10 of us in the cell. We spent three months in the cell. There was no room for us to sleep so we had to alternate.… It was too hot in the cell, despite the fact that outside the temperature was freezing (there was snow), because the cell was overcrowded.” He will recall being fed only once a day, tormented by ear-splittingly loud music, and will say that one of his fellow detainees “went insane.” According to his later statement, when Red Cross representatives come to visit, the most severely disturbed prisoners are secretly moved to another cell that is off limits. Al-Qadasi will be transferred to Guantanamo, and in 2004 will be remanded into Yemeni custody. [Future of Freedom Foundation, 4/27/2009]

Entity Tags: Wisam Ahmed, Andy Worthington, Walid al-Qadasi

Category Tags: Detainments, Extreme Temperatures, Insufficient Food, Mental Abuse, Poor Conditions, Sleep Deprivation, Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba)

Mohammed Omar Abdul-Rahman.Mohammed Omar Abdul-Rahman. [Source: Public domain]In 2007, NBC News will report that the CIA uses aggressive interrogation techniques on at least 13 high-ranking al-Qaeda detainees between 2002 and 2004. These techniques are first used on Abu Zubaida, captured in March 2002 (see March 28, 2002), and some of the techniques are discontinued in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal around the middle of 2004 (see April 28, 2004), which is also around the time the CIA’s Inspector General issues a secret report suggesting many of these techniques could be a violation of an international treaty against torture (see May 7, 2004). Euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation,” these techniques include:
bullet Sleep deprivation.
bullet Exposure to extreme heat and cold.
bullet Confined quarters.
bullet Psychological and physical abuse.
bullet The use of psychotropic drugs.
bullet Waterboarding. However, waterboarding is allegedly only used on about four of the detainees (see May 2002-2003).
All 13 of these detainees will later be transferred to Guantanamo prison to stand trial before a military tribunal there (see September 2-3, 2006). (Two others similarly transferred - Abu Faraj al-Libbi and Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi - are captured after the Abu Ghraib scandal and thus are not subjected to as many interrogation techniques.) [MSNBC, 9/13/2007] However, there are other “ghost detainees” not officially acknowledged as captured by the US government (see June 7, 2007). Some, like Hassan Ghul, Abdul Rahim al-Sharqawi, and Mohammed Omar Abdul-Rahman, are held in the same secret prison as most of the “official” high-ranking detainees later transferred to Guantanamo, so it would seem likely that aggressive techniques have been used on many of them as well. In 2007, President Bush will sign an executive order allowing the CIA to use most of these aggressive techniques again (see July 2007).

Around mid-April 2002, the CIA begins using aggressive interrogation techniques on al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida. A new CIA team led by psychologist James Elmer Mitchell arrives and takes control of Zubaida’s interrogation from the FBI (see Mid-April 2002). This team soon begins using techniques commonly described as torture, such as waterboarding (see April - June 2002, May 2002-2003 and Mid-May 2002 and After). Journalist James Risen will write in a 2006 book: “The assertions that the CIA’s tactics stopped short of torture were undercut by the fact that the FBI decided that the tactics were so severe that the bureau wanted no part of them, and FBI agents were ordered to stay away from the CIA-run interrogations. FBI agents did briefly see Abu Zubaida in custody, and at least one agent came away convinced that Zubaida was being tortured, according to an FBI source.” [Risen, 2006, pp. 32] Newsweek will similarly report in 2007 that Zubaida’s interrogation “sparked an internal battle within the US intelligence community after FBI agents angrily protested the aggressive methods that were used. In addition to waterboarding, Zubaida was subjected to sleep deprivation and bombarded with blaring rock music by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. One agent was so offended he threatened to arrest the CIA interrogators, according to two former government officials directly familiar with the dispute.” [Newsweek, 12/12/2007] The FBI completely withdraws its personnel, wanting to avoid legal entanglements with the dubious methods. The CIA then is able to use even more aggressive methods on Zubaida (see Mid-May 2002 and After). [New York Times, 9/10/2006] The CIA torture of Zubaida produces a raft of almost useless information (see Mid-April 2002 and June 2002). Zubaida, already mentally unstable (see Shortly After March 28, 2002), says yes to every question asked of him: if al-Qaeda is planning on bombing shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, and water systems. After each “confession,” the CIA cables Washington with the “intelligence,” and much of it is given to President Bush. White House officials will use Zubaida’s dubious admissions to issue many groundless terror warnings and alerts. [Savage, 2007, pp. 220]

Entity Tags: Abu Zubaida, Al-Qaeda, Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Mental Abuse, Sleep Deprivation, Waterboarding, Destruction of CIA Tapes, US Base (Thailand), Abu Zubaida

The law offices of Mitchell, Jessen and Associates are in this American Legion Building in Spokane, Washington.The law offices of Mitchell, Jessen and Associates are in this American Legion Building in Spokane, Washington. [Source: Brian Plonka / Spokesman-Review]The FBI has been interrogating captured al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida at a secret CIA prison in Thailand and learning valuable intelligence information (see Late March through Early June, 2002). However, the prison is controlled by the CIA and the FBI is only in control until a team of CIA interrogators arrives, which apparently happens around mid-April 2002. The FBI has been using humane rapport-building techniques, but the new CIA team immediately abandons this approach. The team is lead by psychologist James Mitchell, who runs a consulting business in Washington State with psychologist Bruce Jessen (see January 2002 and After). Both worked in SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape), a classified US military training program which trains soldiers to endure being tortured by the enemy. Mitchell and Jessen reverse-engineered the techniques inflicted in the SERE training so they could be used on Zubaida and other detainees. [Vanity Fair, 7/17/2007] SERE trainees are subjected to “waterboarding (simulated drowning), sleep deprivation, isolation, exposure to temperature extremes, enclosure in tiny spaces, bombardment with agonizing sounds, and religious and sexual humiliation.” One European official knowledgeable about the SERE program will say of Mitchell and Jessen: “They were very arrogant, and pro-torture.… They sought to render the detainees vulnerable—to break down all of their senses.” The use of these psychologists also helps to put a veneer of scientific respectability over the torture techniques favored by top officials. One former US intelligence community adviser will later say: “Clearly, some senior people felt they needed a theory to justify what they were doing. You can’t just say, ‘We want to do what Egypt’s doing.’ When the lawyers asked what their basis was, they could say, ‘We have PhD’s who have these theories.’” [New Yorker, 8/6/2007] But Mitchell and Jessen have no experience in conducting interrogations and have no proof that their techniques are effective. In fact, the SERE techniques are based on Communist interrogation techniques from the Korean War, designed not to get valuable intelligence but to generate propaganda by getting US prisoners to make statements denouncing the US (see December 2001). Air Force Reserve colonel Steve Kleinman, an expert in human intelligence operations, will later say he finds it astonishing the CIA “chose two clinical psychologists who had no intelligence background whatsoever, who had never conducted an interrogation… to do something that had never been proven in the real world.” FBI official Michael Rolince calls their techniques “voodoo science.” In 2006, a report by the best-known interrogation experts in the US will conclude that there is no evidence that reverse-engineered SERE tactics are effective in obtaining useful intelligence. But nonetheless, from this time forward Zubaida’s interrogations will be based on these techniques. [Vanity Fair, 7/17/2007]

Entity Tags: James Elmer Mitchell, Abu Zubaida, Steve Kleinman, Michael Rolince, Bruce Jessen, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Private Contractors, Deception, Forced Confessions, Intimidation/Threats, Mental Abuse, SERE Techniques, Destruction of CIA Tapes, US Base (Thailand), Abu Zubaida

The interrogation and abuse of suspect Mohamed al-Khatani (sometimes spelled “al-Qahtani”—see February 11, 2008) at Guantanamo Bay begins. He is alleged to have tried to enter the US to participate in the 9/11 plot as the twentieth hijacker. He is classified as “Detainee 063.” He is subjected to 160 days of isolation in a pen flooded 24 hours a day with bright artificial light, that treatment starting well before harsher interrogation tactics begin six weeks later (see November 23, 2002). The tactics include:
bullet He is interrogated for 48 of 54 days, for 18 to 20 hours at a stretch.
bullet He is stripped naked and straddled by taunting female guards, in an exercise called “invasion of space by a female.”
bullet He is forced to wear women’s underwear on his head and to put on a bra.
bullet He is threatened by dogs, placed on a leash, and told that his mother was a whore.
bullet He is stripped naked, shaved, and forced to bark like a dog.
bullet He is forced to listen to American pop music at ear-splitting volume. He is subjected to a phony kidnapping (see Mid-2003).
bullet He is forced to live in a cell deprived of heat
bullet He is given large quantities of intravenous liquids and denied access to a toilet
bullet He is deprived of sleep for days on end.
bullet He is forcibly given enemas, and is hospitalized multiple time for hypothermia.
Impact - Towards the end of the extended interrogation session, Al-Khatani’s heart rate drops so precipitously (to 35 beats a minute) that he is placed under cardiac monitoring. Interrogators meticulously note his reactions to his treatment, and make the following notes at various times: “Detainee began to cry. Visibly shaken. Very emotional. Detainee cried. Disturbed. Detainee began to cry. Detainee bit the IV tube completely in two. Started moaning. Uncomfortable. Moaning. Began crying hard spontaneously. Crying and praying. Very agitated. Yelled. Agitated and violent. Detainee spat. Detainee proclaimed his innocence. Whining. Dizzy. Forgetting things. Angry. Upset. Yelled for Allah. Urinated on himself. Began to cry. Asked God for forgiveness. Cried. Cried. Became violent. Began to cry. Broke down and cried. Began to pray and openly cried. Cried out to Allah several times. Trembled uncontrollably.” In November 2002, an FBI agent describes al-Khatani’s condition, writing that he “was talking to non-existent people, reporting hearing voices, [and] crouching in a corner of the cell covered with a sheet for hours on end.” Al-Khatani confesses to an array of terrorist activities and then recants them; he begs his interrogators to be allowed to commit suicide. The last days of al-Khatani’s interrogation session is particularly intense, since interrogators know that their authorization to use harsh techniques may be rescinded at any time. They get no useful information from him. By the end of the last interrogation, an Army investigator observes that al-Khatani has “black coals for eyes.” [New Yorker, 2/27/2006; Vanity Fair, 5/2008]
Reaching the Threshold - In the summer of 2007, Dr. Abigail Seltzer, a psychiatrist who specializes in trauma victims, reviews the logs of al-Khatani’s interrogations. Seltzer notes that while torture is not a medical concept: “[O]ver the period of 54 days there is enough evidence of distress to indicate that it would be very surprising indeed if it had not reached the threshold of severe mental pain…. If you put 12 clinicians in a room and asked them about this interrogation log, you might get different views about the effect and long-term consequences of these interrogation techniques. But I doubt that any one of them would claim that this individual had not suffered severe mental distress at the time of his interrogation, and possibly also severe physical distress.” Everything that is done to al-Khatani is part of the repertoire of interrogation techniques approved by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (see December 2, 2002).
Fundamental Violation of Human Rights - In 2008, law professor Phillippe Sands will write: “Whatever he may have done, Mohammed al-Khatani was entitled to the protections afforded by international law, including Geneva and the torture convention. His interrogation violated those conventions. There can be no doubt that he was treated cruelly and degraded, that the standards of Common Article 3 were violated, and that his treatment amounts to a war crime. If he suffered the degree of severe mental distress prohibited by the torture convention, then his treatment crosses the line into outright torture. These acts resulted from a policy decision made right at the top, not simply from ground-level requests in Guantanamo, and they were supported by legal advice from the president’s own circle.” [Vanity Fair, 5/2008]

Entity Tags: Geneva Conventions, Mohamed al-Khatani, Donald Rumsfeld, Abigail Seltzer, Phillippe Sands

Category Tags: Detainments, High-level Decisions and Actions, Indications of Abuse, Dangerous Conditions, Extreme Temperatures, Forced Confessions, Isolation, Medical Services Denied, Mental Abuse, Physical Assault, Poor Conditions, Sexual Humiliation, Sleep Deprivation, Stress Positions, Suppression of Religious Expression, Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba), Mohamed al-Khatani

Abdur Rahim, a baker from Khost City, Afghanistan, is arrested outside Khost and sent to the Bagram US air base. Abdur Rahim says he was hooded and chained to the ceiling for “seven or eight days,” after which his hands turned black. He was later forced to crouch and hold his hands out in front of him for long periods, which caused intense pain in his shoulders. When he tried to move, he says, “they were coming and hitting me and saying ‘Don’t move!’” In December, he is transferred to Guantanamo Bay. “There were some soldiers that were very good with us,” he will later tell the New York Times. “But there was one soldier, he was a very bad guy. He was stopping the water for our commode. At nighttime, they would throw large rocks back and forth, which hit the metal walkway between the cells and made a loud noise. They did it to keep us awake.…. After I left Cuba, I had mental problems. I cannot talk to people for a long period of time. I work just to survive. But I’m not scared of anyone in this world. I’m just scared of God.” [New York Times, 9/17/2004]

Entity Tags: Abdur Rahim

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Mental Abuse, Physical Assault, Sleep Deprivation, Stress Positions, Bagram (Afghanistan), Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba), Other Detainees

The head of the delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at Guantanamo states that the “seemingly open-ended detention” and the lack of a “clear legal framework” has had an “overall impact on the mental health of the prisoners.” [BBC Radio 4, 7/13/2003] “The uncertainty these detainees face as regards their legal status and their future does have a very adverse impact on their physical and mental well-being,” Red Cross spokeswoman Antonella Notaria says. “A lot of them are pushed to despair. It is a clear indication that these people are under extreme stress and anxiety.” [Guardian, 7/19/2003]

Entity Tags: Amnesty International, International Committee of the Red Cross

Category Tags: Criticisms of US, Mental Abuse

Top: a detainee cuffed to his bed with panties on his head on October 18, 2003. Bottom: a detainee given the same treatment on October 20, 2003.Top: a detainee cuffed to his bed with panties on his head on October 18, 2003. Bottom: a detainee given the same treatment on October 20, 2003. [Source: Public domain]Between October 17 and 22, several Abu Ghraib detainees are photographed cuffed in their cells with women’s panties wrapped around their heads. MP Charles Graner will later claim that he was ordered to strip, shackle, and hood some of these detainees as part of a sleep deprivation program. One of these detainees will later tell Army investigators. “They stripped me of all my clothes, even my underwear. They gave me woman’s underwear that was rose color with flowers in it, and they put the bag over my face. One of them whispered in my ear, ‘Today I am going to f_ck you,’ and he said this in Arabic. I faced more harsh punishment from Graner. He cuffed my hands with irons behind my back to the metal of the window, to the point my feet were off the ground and I was hanging there for about 5 hours just because I asked about the time, because I wanted to pray. And then they took all my clothes and he took the female underwear and he put it over my head. After he released me from the window, he tied me to my bed until before dawn.” The US Army’s Fay report will later conclude there was “ample evidence of detainees being forced to wear women’s underwear,” and that this may have been part of the military intelligence tactic called “ego down,” designed to break a detainee’s will power through abuse and sexual humiliation. [Salon, 3/14/2006]

Entity Tags: Charles Graner

Category Tags: Mental Abuse, Sexual Humiliation, Stress Positions, Sleep Deprivation

“Sh_tboy” in a variety of self-inflicted poses. Top: he is hanging upside down in his cell. Middle: Charles Graner sits on him while he is in restraints. Bottom: he has covered his face and chest with his own feces.“Sh_tboy” in a variety of self-inflicted poses. Top: he is hanging upside down in his cell. Middle: Charles Graner sits on him while he is in restraints. Bottom: he has covered his face and chest with his own feces. [Source: Public domain]In addition to managing detainees suspected of criminal activity, the Abu Ghraib MPs have to manage some mentally disturbed detainees. One such detainee is given the name Sh_tboy by his guards. For over a month, guards repeatedly photograph him engaging in a series of humiliating and self-destructive situations. But guards let him run wild rather than attempt to stop him in any way. And when he is retrained, MP Charles Graner poses for photographs on top of him “like a big-game hunter displaying a catch.” The US Army’s Fay report will later conclude that he generally was abusing himself, but guards nonetheless committed abuse by facilitating his behavior instead of trying to help or stop him from hurting himself or others. [Salon, 3/14/2006]

Entity Tags: “Shitboy”, Charles Graner

Category Tags: Mental Abuse, Abrogation of Rights, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq)

At Guantanamo, Salim Ahmed Hamdan from Yemen is placed in isolation, where he stays until at least August, according to a sworn statement. Hamdan allegedly develops symptoms, like sudden mood changes and suicidal tendencies, that medical experts say indicate a serious and worsening mental illness. This information will later come to light during a hearing in a lawsuit filed in Seattle challenging the authority of the Bush administration to try prisoners as enemy combatants before military tribunals. [New York Times, 8/7/2004]

Entity Tags: Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba), Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Isolation, Mental Abuse

Huda al-Azzawi and her siblings are detained at Abu Ghraib. Numbered 156283, she is to spend a total of 197 days in the prison, [Le Monde (Paris), 10/12/2004] of which 156 days will be in solitary confinement at the Hard Site in one of the upstairs cells. [Guardian, 9/20/2004] She will be interrogated thirty times. [Le Monde (Paris), 10/12/2004] Her cell at the Hard Site measures two square meters, and initially it has no bed and just a bucket for a loo. For the first three weeks she is forbidden to talk. Guards give her a Koran. With a stolen pen, she records her experiences in its margins. In the first weeks at Abu Ghraib, Al-Azzawi witnesses many instances of torture. “The guards used wild dogs. I saw one of the guards allow his dog to bite a 14-year-old boy on the leg. The boy’s name was Adil. Other guards frequently beat the men. I could see the blood running from their noses. They would also take them for compulsory cold showers even though it was January and February. From the very beginning, it was mental and psychological war.” [Guardian, 9/20/2004] Possibly the worst she sees, are incidents of rape. “I saw men that had water bottles forced up their butt by soldiers.” To the question whether women also ran the risk of rape, she says, “the women were relatively sheltered.” But it may also be more difficult to learn of women being raped. “You won’t find a single one who will testify to having been raped. A rape, for a man, is the supreme humiliation, but for a woman, it is a death sentence by her own family.” [Le Monde (Paris), 10/12/2004]

Entity Tags: Mu’taz al-Azzawi, Adil, Nahla al-Azzawi, Ali al-Azzawi, Huda al-Azzawi

Category Tags: Huda al-Azzawi, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq), Use of Dogs, Sexual Humiliation, Isolation, Extreme Temperatures, Mental Abuse

An Army memorandum records an interview of a US interrogator stationed at the Orgun-E Military Intelligence Detention Facility in Afghanistan. According to the interrogator, “standard operating procedure” with detainees includes extended sleep deprivation, stress positions, and withholding food. The interrogator also refers to standard practices of “OGA” officials (OGA means “other goverment agency” and is a reference to the CIA), who drug prisoners and subject them to lengthy sensory deprivation. Another memo records the use of what interrogators call “fear up harsh” techniques, which include “disrespect for the Koran,” insults, subjecting prisoners to blinding lights, and exposing them to extremely loud music for prolonged periods. The memoranda will be released to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 2006 (see January 12, 2006). [American Civil Liberties Union, 1/12/2006]

Entity Tags: US Department of the Army, Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: Reports/Investigations, Forced Confessions, Insufficient Food, Mental Abuse, Sleep Deprivation, Stress Positions, Suppression of Religious Expression

In a statement, British former Guantanamo prisoner Tarek Dergoul “condemns the US and [British] governments for allowing these gross breaches of human rights and demands the release of all the other detainees.” His treatment included “botched medical treatment, interrogation at gunpoint, beatings and inhumane conditions.” The statement adds: “Tarek finds it very difficult to talk about these things and his family believe his mental health has been severely affected by the trauma he has suffered.” When confronted with the allegations of Dergoul and Jamal Udeen, a Pentagon spokeswoman describes these as “simply lies.” The same day, Secretary of State Colin Powell says in a television interview that he believes the US treats the detainees at Guantanamo “in a very, very humanitarian way.” And he adds, “Because we are Americans, we don’t abuse people in our care.” [Guardian, 3/13/2004]

Entity Tags: Colin Powell, Tarek Dergoul, Jamal Udeen

Category Tags: Public Statements, Mental Abuse, Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba), Jamal Udeen, Tarek Dergoul

Spanish detainee Hamed Abderrahman Ahmed, 29, is released on bail [BBC, 10/4/2004] after four and a half months in a Spanish prison. Prior to his time in the Spanish prison, he had spent two years at Guantanamo. Two days later, he will report that he was beaten and psychologically tortured during his detainment at the facility. [Muslim Civil Rights Center, 7/2004]

Entity Tags: Hamed Abderrahman Ahmed

Category Tags: Physical Assault, Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba), Mental Abuse, Other Detainees

Gita Gutierrez, a lawyer for one of the remaining British detainees at Guantanamo, says: “I don’t see how their sanity, much less their physical strength, will survive. It’s bad down here. If they were to remain languishing there, they will be broken and will experience permanent mental and physical deterioration when they leave.” [Independent, 12/12/2004]

Entity Tags: Gitanjali Gutierrez

Category Tags: Mental Abuse

The Justice Department issues a secret opinion that countermands and contradicts the administration’s official policy that torture is “abhorrent” and will not be practiced by US military or law enforcement officials (see December 30, 2004). The secret opinion is, the New York Times writes two years later while publicly revealing its existence, “an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.” The opinion gives explicit authorization to abuse detainees with a combination of physical and psychological abuse, including head-slapping, stress positioning, simulated drowning (“waterboarding”), and prolonged exposure to intense cold. New attorney general Alberto Gonzales (see November 10, 2004) approves the memo over the objections of deputy attorney general James Comey, himself preparing to leave the Justice Department after a series of battles over the legality of torture and the domestic surveillance program (see March 10-12, 2004). Comey says at the time that everyone at the department will be “ashamed” of the new opinion once the world learns of it. [New York Times, 10/4/2007]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Alberto R. Gonzales, Central Intelligence Agency, New York Times

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Coverup, High-level Decisions and Actions, Impunity, Legal Proceedings, Media, Statements/Writings about Torture, Abrogation of Rights, Dangerous Conditions, Extreme Temperatures, Forced Confessions, Mental Abuse, Sleep Deprivation, Stress Positions, Waterboarding, Internal Memos/Reports

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) releases Defense Department documents that include reports of suicide attempts by Guantanamo detainees. ACLU executive director Anthony Romero says: “These documents are the latest evidence of the desperate and immoral conditions that exist at Guantanamo Bay. The injustices at Guantanamo need to be remedied before other lives are lost. We must uphold our American values and end indefinite detentions and widespread abuse.” One report documents an attempted suicide by hanging that ended up with the detainee in a persistent “vegetative state” (see April 29, 2003). The ACLU notes that the Defense Department documents support other reports of attempted suicide at Guantanamo (see Summer 2002 and After, Mid-October 2002, October 9, 2003, and December 2003). Pentagon officials called the suicides an “act of asymmetrical warfare” and “a good PR move to draw attention.” The ACLU’s Amrit Singh says: “It is astounding that the government continues to paint the suicides as acts of warfare instead of taking responsibility for having driven individuals in its custody to such acts of desperation. The government may wish to hide Guantanamo Bay behind a shroud of secrecy, but its own documents reveal the hopelessness and despair faced by the detainees who are being held without charge and with no end in sight.” [American Civil Liberties Union, 6/19/2006]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, American Civil Liberties Union, Amrit Singh

Category Tags: Criticisms of US, Detainments, Human Rights Groups, Prisoner Deaths, Mental Abuse, Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba)

In two separate sessions, from October 6-11 and again from December 4-14, officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) interview 14 detainees newly transferred from a variety of CIA secret “black sites” to Guantanamo. The transfers followed President Bush’s acknowledgment that the CIA has maintained a number of these sites and his announced intention to have a number of the detainees sent to the Cuban facility (see September 17, 2001 and September 6, 2006).
ICRC Access - The ICRC is legally bound to monitor compliance with the Geneva Conventions and to supervise the treatment of prisoners of war; previously, it had not been allowed to see the detainees, and in some cases were never informed of their detention. The ICRC officials interview each prisoner in private, with the intention of producing “a description of the treatment and material conditions of detention of the 14 during the period they were held in the CIA detention program.”
Interviews - The 14 have been held for periods ranging “from 16 months to almost four and a half years.” The ICRC’s report, never intended for public consumption, will be released to the CIA several months later (see February 14, 2007) and revealed in a book in early 2009 (see March 15, 2009). Some of the detainees, concerned about the possible repercussions that may ensue from their discussions, ask the ICRC to withhold their names from some allegations, though most of the report attributes specific narratives and allegations to particular prisoners. Almost every allegation is independently corroborated by other, named detainees.
'Striking Similarity' - In 2009, author Mark Danner will write, quoting the ICRC report: “[I]ndeed, since the detainees were kept ‘in continuous solitary confinement and incommunicado detention’ throughout their time in ‘the black sites,’ and were kept strictly separated as well when they reached Guantanamo, the striking similarity in their stories, even down to small details, would seem to make fabrication extremely unlikely, if not impossible. ‘The ICRC wishes to underscore,’ as the writers tell us in the introduction, ‘that the consistency of the detailed allegations provided separately by each of the 14 adds particular weight to the information provided below.’”
Topics of Report - The report covers the following areas:
bullet Main elements of the CIA detention program;
bullet Arrest and transfer;
bullet Continuous solitary confinement and incommunicado detention;
bullet Other methods of ill-treatment;
bullet Suffocation by water (the ICRC term for waterboarding);
bullet Prolonged stress standing;
bullet Beatings by use of a collar;
bullet Beating and kicking;
bullet Confinement in a box;
bullet Prolonged nudity;
bullet Sleep deprivation and use of loud music;
bullet Exposure to cold temperature/cold water;
bullet Prolonged use of handcuffs and shackles;
bullet Threats;
bullet Forced shaving;
bullet Deprivation/restricted provision of solid food;
bullet Further elements of the detention regime.
Conclusion - The report concludes: “The allegations of ill-treatment of the detainees indicate that, in many cases, the ill-treatment to which they were subjected while held in the CIA program, either singly or in combination, constituted torture. In addition, many other elements of the ill-treatment, either singly or in combination, constituted cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.” Danner will write, “Such unflinching clarity, from the body legally charged with overseeing compliance with the Geneva Conventions—in which the terms ‘torture’ and ‘cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment’ are accorded a strictly defined legal meaning—couldn’t be more significant.” [New York Review of Books, 3/15/2009]

Entity Tags: International Committee of the Red Cross, Geneva Conventions, Central Intelligence Agency, Mark Danner

Category Tags: Criticisms of US, High-level Decisions and Actions, Independent Investigations, Forced Confessions, Insufficient Food, Isolation, Mental Abuse, Physical Assault, Sleep Deprivation, Stress Positions, Suppression of Religious Expression, Waterboarding, Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba)

MSNBC reports that Mohammed al-Khatani, the alleged would-be twentieth 9/11 hijacker, will likely never be put on trial. A US army investigation concluded that he “was forced to wear a bra. He had a thong placed on his head. He was massaged by a female interrogator who straddled him like a lap dancer. He was told that his mother and sisters were whores. He was told that other detainees knew he was gay. He was forced to dance with a male interrogator. He was strip-searched in front of women. He was led on a leash and forced to perform dog tricks. He was doused with water. He was prevented from praying. He was forced to watch as an interrogator squatted over his Koran.” Mark Fallon, head of the Pentagon’s Criminal Investigation Task Force, claims that he was told by other officials several times not to worry building a legal case against al-Khatani since there would never be a trial against him due to the interrogation techniques used on him. [MSNBC, 10/26/2006] According to al-Khatani’s lawyer, al-Khatani appears to be a broken man, who “painfully described how he could not endure the months of isolation, torture and abuse, during which he was nearly killed, before making false statements to please his interrogators.” [Time, 3/3/2006]

Entity Tags: Mohamed al-Khatani

Category Tags: Legal Proceedings, Forced Confessions, Mental Abuse, Sexual Humiliation, Physical Assault, Intimidation/Threats, Suppression of Religious Expression, Abrogation of Rights, Isolation, Sexual Temptation, Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba), Mohamed al-Khatani

Majid Khan.Majid Khan. [Source: Associated Press]At hearings in Guantanamo Bay in spring 2007 to determine whether they are “enemy combatants” (see March 9-April 28, 2007), several alleged top al-Qaeda leaders complain of being tortured in US custody:
bullet Alleged al-Qaeda logistics manager Abu Zubaida says he is ill in Guantanamo Bay and has had around 40 seizures that temporarily affect his ability to speak and write properly, as well as his memory; apparently they are originally the result of a 1992 injury from which he still has shrapnel in his head. He says that the seizures are brought on by broken promises to return his diary, which he describes as “another form of torture,” as he is emotionally attached to it. He also says he was tortured after being captured (see Mid-May 2002 and After), when he was “half die”, due to a gunshot wound received when he was taken, and that he lied under torture. However, the passage in which he describes his treatment at this time is redacted. He has many other injuries, has lost a testicle, and also complains the Guantanamo authorities refuse to give him socks for his cold feet. He has to use his prayer hat to keep his feet warm and does so during the hearing. [US Department of Defense, 3/27/2007 pdf file]
bullet 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed remarks that, “I know American people are torturing us from seventies.” However, the next section of the transcript is redacted. He also says his children were abused in US custody. [US Department of Defense, 3/10/2007 pdf file]
bullet Alleged travel facilitator Majid Khan submits a 12-page “written statement of torture.” Khan’s father also gives an account of the torture he says his son was subjected to: he was tied tightly to a chair in stress positions; hooded, which caused him difficulty breathing; beaten repeatedly; deprived of sleep; and kept in a mosquito-infested cell too small for him to lie down in. His father also says Khalid Shaikh Mohammed’s children, aged about 6 and 8, were held in the same building and were tortured by having insects placed on their legs to make them disclose their father’s location. [US department of Defense, 4/15/2007 pdf file]
bullet Alleged al-Qaeda manager Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri says he was tortured into confessing the details of plots he invented. He claims that “he was tortured into confession and once he made a confession his captors were happy and they stopped torturing him… [and] he made up stories during the torture in order to get it to stop.” Many of the details of the torture are redacted, but he says in one unredacted comment, “One time they tortured me one way and another time they tortured me in a different way.” [US department of Defense, 3/14/2007 pdf file]
Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, says that the claims of torture could undermine the legitimacy of future military commissions: “Someone has got to get to the bottom of these allegations… If there is something there, they are going to need to address it.” The Pentagon promises to investigate the allegations, but Amnesty International comments, “Given the Bush administration record so far on these matters, it strains credulity that any such investigation would be anything other than substandard, or [that] those responsible would be held accountable.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/31/2007]

Entity Tags: National Institute of Military Justice, Majid Khan, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaida, Amnesty International, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Eugene R. Fidell

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Mental Abuse, Medical Services Denied, Sleep Deprivation, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Majid Khan, Stress Positions, Forced Confessions, Poor Conditions, Military Commissions / Tribunals

The New York Times reveals that the Justice Department issued two secret rulings authorizing far more extensive use of torture and abuse during the interrogation of terror suspects than has previously been acknowledged by the White House (see February 2005 and Late 2005). The White House’s deputy press secretary, Tony Fratto, makes the same counterclaim that Bush officials have made for years, saying, “We have gone to great lengths, including statutory efforts and the recent executive order, to make it clear that the intelligence community and our practices fall within US law” and international agreements. But that claim is countered by the statements of over two dozen current and former officials involved in counterterrorism. When Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned in September after accusations of misleading Congress and the public on a wide array of issues, he said in his farewell speech that the Justice Department is a “place of inspiration” that had balanced the necessary flexibility to pursue the administration’s war on terrorism with the need to uphold the law and respect civil liberties (see July 25, 2007). But many of Gonzales’s associates at the Justice Department now say that Gonzales was usually compliant with the wishes of Vice President Cheney and Cheney’s chief counsel and adviser, David Addington, to endorse whatever interrogation policies the White House wished in the name of protecting the nation, no matter what conflicts may arise with US and international law or whatever criticisms from other governments, Congressional Democrats, or human rights groups may ensue. Critics, including many of the officials now speaking out, say that Gonzales turned the Justice Department from the independent law enforcement arm of the US government into just another arm of the White House. [New York Times, 10/4/2007]

Entity Tags: Alberto R. Gonzales, Bush administration (43), David S. Addington, New York Times, US Department of Justice, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Tony Fratto

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Coverup, High-level Decisions and Actions, Impunity, Legal Proceedings, Abrogation of Rights, Extreme Temperatures, Insufficient Food, Intimidation/Threats, Mental Abuse, Physical Assault, Stress Positions, Waterboarding, Internal Memos/Reports

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Time period


Categories

Key Events

Key Events (98)

General Topic Areas

Abu Ghraib Scandal Aftermath (28)Coverup (144)Criticisms of US (171)Detainee Treatment Act (15)Detainments (121)Disciplinary Actions (17)High-level Decisions and Actions (450)Human Rights Groups (81)Impunity (49)Indefinite Detention (41)Independent Investigations (27)Indications of Abuse (61)Legal Proceedings (217)Media (77)Military Commissions / Tribunals (66)Other Events (20)Prisoner Deaths (48)Private Contractors (8)Public Statements (84)Reports/Investigations (144)Statements/Writings about Torture (129)Supreme Court Decisions (5)

Renditions

Extraordinary Rendition (24)Rendition after 9/11 (75)Rendition before 9/11 (34)

Types of Abuses Performed by US

Abrogation of Rights (37)Dangerous Conditions (18)Deception (5)Electrodes (9)Exposure to Insects (4)Extreme Temperatures (48)Forced Confessions (37)Ghost Detainees (28)Insufficient Food (25)Intimidation/Threats (44)Involuntary Drugs (14)Isolation (33)Medical Services Denied (14)Mental Abuse (21)Physical Assault (140)Poor Conditions (30)SERE Techniques (30)Sexual Humiliation (57)Sexual Temptation (3)Sleep Deprivation (74)Stress Positions (65)Suppression of Religious Expression (18)Use of Dogs (20)Waterboarding (92)

Documents

Internal Memos/Reports (95)Presidential Directives (8)

Specific Events or Operations

Destruction of CIA Tapes (94)Operation Copper Green (9)Qala-i-Janghi Massacre (17)

US Bases and Interrogation Centers

Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq) (187)Al Jafr Prison (Jordan) (8)Al Qaim (Iraq) (6)Bagram (Afghanistan) (60)Camp Bucca (Iraq) (13)Camp Cropper (Iraq) (13)Diego Garcia (8)Gardez (Afghanistan) (7)Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba) (293)Kandahar (Afghanistan) (19)Salt Pit (Afghanistan) (34)Stare Kiejkuty (Poland) (21)US Base (Thailand) (15)USS Peleliu (7)Other US Bases and Centers (40)

High Ranking Detainees

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (32)Abu Zubaida (52)Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani (6)Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri (26)Hambali (9)Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi (10)Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (34)Majid Khan (7)Ramzi bin al-Shibh (13)Other High Ranking Detainees (14)

Other Detainees

Abed Hamed Mowhoush (8)Asif Iqbal (20)Binyam Mohamed (14)Bisher al-Rawi (11)Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr (37)Huda al-Azzawi (10)Jamal Udeen (10)Jamil al-Banna (9)John Walker Lindh (29)Jose Padilla (31)Khalid el-Masri (17)Maher Arar (14)Moazzam Begg (8)Mohamed al-Khatani (13)Mohammed Jawad (14)Rhuhel Ahmed (22)Saddam Salah al-Rawi (8)Salim Ahmed Hamdan (12)Shafiq Rasul (20)Tarek Dergoul (11)Yaser Esam Hamdi (22)Other Detainees (167)
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