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

Poor Conditions

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

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Fawaz Younis, a militant for the Lebanese Amal organization who has just been captured by the US (see June 14-30, 1985 and September 18, 1987), is kept in poor conditions, according to a later account he gives. Yousef will make the following allegations of mistreatment:
bullet Both his wrists are broken when he is captured and he is not given medical treatment or painkillers for five days. However, according to the US, the broken wrists are not discovered until Younis is transported to the US, a few days after his capture.
bullet While being held at sea, he is placed in a “highly heated cabin” and, “An exhaust pipe inside the cabin blew sand and hot air during that period, and my only resort for fresh air was to constantly ask my abductors to go to the toilet, where I could breathe fresh air.”
bullet Younis will also say he suffered from seasickness.
At his trial, he will say that a confession was coerced from him thanks to these factors, but will be convicted. However, FBI spokesman Frank Scafidi will dismiss the claims, saying: “This man was convicted. He is raising these allegations while sitting in prison, and I think that speaks for itself. The FBI as [a] matter of policy treats prisoners or arrestees in conformance with its policies and regulations.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 1/24/1999]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Frank Scafidi, Fawaz Younis

Category Tags: Detainments, Extreme Temperatures, Forced Confessions, Medical Services Denied, Poor Conditions

After two days naked, hungry, in pain and sleepless in the cold container (see December 7-8, 2001, John Walker Lindh is dressed in hospital garb and carried, still blindfolded and handcuffed, to a nearby room or tent. As his blindfold is removed, Lindh finds himself in the presence of an FBI agent. From an “advice of rights” form, the agent begins to read Lindh his Miranda rights. Where the form refers to the right to an attorney, the FBI agent adds, “Of course, there are no lawyers here.” Lindh nevertheless asks if he can see an attorney, but the FBI agent repeats his statement that there are no attorneys present. Lindh then signs a Miranda waiver of his constitutional Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and to consult an attorney, believing he would otherwise return to the conditions to which he was previously subjected, or that a worse fate may await him. The subsequent interrogation by the FBI agent lasts at least three hours. [United States of America v. John Walker Lindh, 6/13/2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, John Walker Lindh

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Legal Proceedings, Abrogation of Rights, Poor Conditions, John Walker Lindh

Shafiq Rasul.Shafiq Rasul. [Source: Public domain]Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed (the “Tipton Three”), held at Sheberghan prison, are among thirty to fifty other foreign prisoners whose custody is taken over by US Special Forces from the troops of the Northern Alliance. [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 pdf file] Abdul Razaq, a Pakistani teacher of English, says he is singled out for no other reason than that he speaks English. [Guardian, 12/3/2003] Taken to the main gate, US Special Forces personnel surround them pointing their guns at them. One by one they are stripped of all their clothes, despite the freezing temperature, and photographed. After five minutes they are allowed to put their clothes back on. [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 pdf file] One by one, they are taken to a shed. With their hands and feet tied with plastic cuffs, each of them is questioned by US soldiers in uniform. As one American starts the interrogation, another soldier, Rasul says, keeps a machine gun aimed at him. The interrogator, according to Rasul, says, “if you move, that guy over there will shoot you.” When it is Iqbal’s turn, a soldier, he says, is “holding a black 9mm automatic pistol to my temple. The barrel of the pistol was actually touching my temple.” [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 pdf file] Razaq’s interview takes only three or four minutes with only two questions asked: “What is your name, and why have you come to Afghanistan?” [Guardian, 12/3/2003] Immediately after the interrogations, the non-Afghan prisoners have a sandbag put over their heads. For three or four hours, they have to wait in the cold for all detainees to complete the interrogations. “I think we were all suffering from the cold, dehydration, hunger, the uncertainty as well as the pain caused by the plastic ties,” Ahmed recalls. “Added to this, periodically Special Forces soldiers would walk along a line of sitting detainees and kick us or beat us at will.” Iqbal remembers that “one of them said ‘you killed my family in the towers and now it’s time to get you back.’ They kept calling us motherf_ckers and I think over the three or four hours that I was sitting there, I must have been punched, kicked, slapped or struck with a rifle butt at least 30 or 40 times. It came to a point that I was simply too numb from the cold and from exhaustion to respond to the pain.” [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 pdf file] In the end, the prisoners are dragged, tied up and hooded, the skin scraping off their feet, to the backs of a number of trucks that take them to an airstrip. Loaded onto freezing cold cargo planes, they are forced to sit on the floor, still hooded, with their tied-up feet straight in front of them and their hands tied behind their backs. [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 pdf file] Rasul testifies, “Given that I was extremely weak and that I was suffering from dysentery, dehydration, hunger, and exhaustion it was impossible to maintain this position for more than a few minutes at a time. If however I leant back or tried to move, I would be struck with a rifle butt. These blows were not designed to prevent us from falling back or to adjust our position, they were meant to hurt and punish us.” [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 pdf file] They eventually land at a US air base at Kandahar. According to Razaq prisoners arriving at Kandahar are offloaded in a particularly violent manner. “They haul you from your neck and drop you off the plane.” Relating his experience at Kandahar, Mohammed Saghir, a grey-bearded sawmill owner, says: “They would just pick us up and throw us out. Some people were hurt, some quite badly.” And Pakistani detainee Shah Mohammed, who arrives at Kandahar from a prison near Mazar-i-Sharif, says: “They kicked us out of the plane and threw us on the ground.” [Guardian, 12/3/2003] At Kandahar, probably on the evening of December 28, the newly arrived prisoners are forced to walk in a circle which is “unbearably painful” because their cuffs cut into their skin. US soldiers force their foreheads into the stony ground, hit, kick, and punch them and occasionally strike them with a rifle butt. They cut off their clothes and carry out “humiliating” cavity searches. [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Shafiq Rasul, Rhuhel Ahmed, Noor Aghah, Northern Alliance, Asif Iqbal, Mohammed Saghir

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Extreme Temperatures, Insufficient Food, Intimidation/Threats, Physical Assault, Poor Conditions, Sexual Humiliation, Asif Iqbal, Rhuhel Ahmed, Shafiq Rasul, Other US Bases and Centers

As soon as terror suspect Tarek Dergoul arrives at Bagram, he is subjected to treatment that he later describes as sexually humiliating. “When I arrived, with a bag over my head, I was stripped naked and taken to a big room with 15 or 20 MP’s. They started taking photos and then they did a full cavity search. As they were doing that they were taking close-ups, concentrating on my private parts.” Dergoul sees other prisoners enduring beatings, which he is spared. “Guards with guns and baseball bats would make the detainees squat for hours, and if they fell over from exhaustion, they’d beat them until they lost consciousness. They called it ‘beat down.’” Dergoul is interrogated 20 to 25 times at Bagram. Once, a team from the British intelligence agency MI5 is present, at which occasion he is told his family’s assets will be seized. His interrogators accuse him of fighting with al-Qaeda in the Tora Bora mountains. Although he says none of that is true, Dergoul finally breaks. “I was in extreme pain from the frostbite and other injuries and I was so weak I could barely stand. It was freezing cold and I was shaking and shivering like a washing machine. The interrogators, who questioned me at gunpoint, said if I confessed I’d be going home. Finally I agreed I’d been at Tora Bora—though I still wouldn’t admit I’d ever met bin Laden.” [Guardian, 3/13/2004; Observer, 5/16/2004]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda, UK Security Service (MI5), Tarek Dergoul

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Key Events, Use of Dogs, Sexual Humiliation, Physical Assault, Stress Positions, Poor Conditions, Bagram (Afghanistan), Tarek Dergoul

More than 140 suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda members are transferred to an alleged US detention center in Kohat, Pakistan. According to one report, the Pakistani army is responsible for maintaining the external security of the prison, while US officials are responsible for security inside. As at Bagram, US officials interrogate prisoners in order to determine who should be transferred to Guantanamo Bay. According to Javed Ibrahim Paracha of the Pakistan Muslim League-N party, prisoners at Kohat are shackled and dressed only in shorts. Detainees are transferred in military planes only under the cover of night. [First, 6/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Javed Ibrahim Paracha

Category Tags: Detainments, Poor Conditions, Other US Bases and Centers

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)

In Kandahar, American soldiers call out a number of prisoners including Shafiq Rasul (see November 28, 2001). He has a sack placed over his head and his wrists and ankles are shackled. Someone, “for no reason,” hits him on the back of his head with a handgun. During the night, he stays with about 20 other detainees in a tent with a wet floor, and “no bed or mattress or anything.” The next morning, Asif Iqbal and Rasul, both recall, have their clothes cut off and their beards and heads shaven. [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 pdf file] Taken outside, naked, shackled, and hooded, Rasul hears dogs nearby and soldiers shouting, “Get ‘em boy.” In another tent, something is painfully forced into his anus. He and the others are then given orange uniforms, and new handcuffs are attached to a chain around their waists and cuffs around their ankles. The cuffs, according to Rasul, are “extremely tight and cut into my wrists and ankles.” Next, they are donned with mittens, ear-muffs, blacked-out goggles, and a sort of surgical mask. Rasul is then made to sit down outside in the freezing cold on the ground “for hours and hours, perhaps nine or ten altogether,” not allowed to move. At last Rasul, Iqbal, and about 40 other prisoners are led aboard a cargo plane, and chained on benches with no back. Any movement is responded to with a kick. [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 pdf file] Later on, the passengers’ hands will be tied to hand rests and their bodies held attached by a belt to the back of a chair. [Guardian, 12/3/2003] Their destination is unknown to them. During the flight, according to Iqbal, they receive an unusual luxury: “peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and orange slices.” At some point during the journey, more than halfway, the plane lands and the prisoners are transferred to another plane. As to where this is, the two Britons have no clue, but it is “obviously somewhere very hot.” Ahmed, who will come to Guantanamo one month later, makes a similar landing during the journey and is told by soldiers they have landed in Turkey. During the switch, a soldier stamps on the chain between Iqbal’s ankles, which is “extremely painful.” Two-and-a-half years later Rasul will still have scarring on his left arm from the tightness of the shackles during the flight. He also loses the feeling in his right hand for a long time because of it. [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 pdf file] Around January 13, Iqbal and Rasul arrive at Guantanamo (see January 13, 2002).

Entity Tags: Asif Iqbal, Rhuhel Ahmed, Shafiq Rasul

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Extreme Temperatures, Physical Assault, Poor Conditions, Sexual Humiliation, Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba), Kandahar (Afghanistan), Asif Iqbal, Rhuhel Ahmed, Shafiq Rasul

Army Lt. Col. Bill Cline, deputy commander of Camp X-Ray, shows some understanding for the plight of the Guantanamo prisoners in March 2002. “Consider yourself being locked up 24 hours a day; getting out once in a while very, very little getting out; not knowing what’s going to happen, probably not even knowing why you’re here,” he says. “I think it would frighten anybody.” [Amnesty International, 8/19/2003]

Entity Tags: Bill Cline

Category Tags: Detainments, Poor Conditions, Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba)

28-year-old Afghan taxi driver Sayed Abassin is on his way from Kabul to Khost, when he is stopped at a checkpoint at Gardez. One of his passengers is identified as a wanted suspect, and all the occupants in the vehicle, Abassin included, are arrested. At the Gardez police station, Abassin is beaten before being turned over to the US military. After a brief interrogation, he is flown by helicopter to the Bagram base. When his father makes inquiries, he is only told that his son has been taken to Bagram. For the first week he is held in shackles and kept in a cell with 24-hour lighting, with the guards waking him up whenever he would fall asleep. He does not get enough to eat and is forced to stand or kneel for four hours a day. A year later he will say he still has problems with his knees. He is interrogated six or seven times. In total, he spends 40 days at Bagram. [Associated Press, 3/15/2003]

Entity Tags: Sayed Abassin

Category Tags: Detainments, Stress Positions, Sleep Deprivation, Poor Conditions, Insufficient Food, Bagram (Afghanistan), Other Detainees

After six months in an Egyptian prison (see October 29, 2001-April 2002), Mamdouh Habib is flown to the Bagram air base in Afghanistan. Habib will arrive at Guantanamo the following month. [Washington Post, 1/6/2005] After his arrival there, according to the Tipton Three (see November 28, 2001, he bleeds from his nose, ears, and mouth when asleep. He receives no medical attention. They describe him as being “in catastrophic shape, mental, and physical.” At some time during his stay at Guantanamo, Habib is put in isolation at Camp Echo, where prisoners are deprived of natural light 24 hours a day. [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Shafiq Rasul, Mamdouh Habib

Category Tags: Poor Conditions, Medical Services Denied, Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba), Bagram (Afghanistan), Other Detainees

Camp X-Ray prisoners. Their detention cages can be seen on the right. Pictures like this provoked an outrage about their treatment.Camp X-Ray prisoners. Their detention cages can be seen on the right. Pictures like this provoked an outrage about their treatment. [Source: Shane T. McCoy/ Associated Press]In Guantanamo, the 300 detainees (see April 28, 2002) being held in at Camp X-Ray are transferred to Camp Delta. Although cells at Camp Delta are even smaller than at Camp X-Ray (8 ft x 6 ft, 8 inches compared to 8 ft x 8 ft), [American Forces Press Service, 1/14/2003] the cells are now equipped with a flush toilet, a sink with running water and a metal bed frame. “There is indoor plumbing, exercise areas are better controlled, and detainees are out of the sun more,” Brig. Gen. Rick Baccus, the commander of Military Police at Guantanamo says. [American Forces Press Service, 1/14/2003] The new facility also has the advantage of being more secure. “We’ve a much more secure facility to house them in Camp Delta. For instance, the guards don’t have to escort them to the bathroom all the time and those types of things. That’s a great improvement in terms of how the guards have to deal with them on a daily basis.” [American Forces Press Service, 1/14/2003] Recreation time goes up from 5 minutes a day at Camp X-Ray to 15 minutes at Camp Delta. [Mirror, 3/12/2004] Use of Camp X-ray does not end. An undated Pentagon memo shows the camp is still used for isolation purposes between December 2002 and January 15, 2003. [US Department of Defense, 1/2003 pdf file] Still, according to a Pentagon adviser, around the middle of 2002, some high-security prisoners will enjoy their recreation time strapped into heavy, straitjacket-like clothing, with their arms tied behind them, goggles over their eyes and their heads hooded. Describing what he was told by a Pentagon official, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh writes in the Guardian of London: “The restraints forced [these prisoners] to move, if he chose to move, on his knees, bent over at a 45-degree angle. Most prisoners just sat and suffered in the heat.” [Guardian, 9/13/2004] The Camp Delta facility was built by Brown & Root, a Halliburton subsidiary, which was awarded the contract even though it was estimated military engineers could do the job for about half the price. [New York Times, 7/13/2002]

Entity Tags: Rick Baccus, Halliburton, Inc.

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba), Poor Conditions, Internal Memos/Reports

Sayed Abassin is taken to Kandahar, and during transport he is totally deprived of sensory information. He is blindfolded; his ears are covered, a black bag is put over his head and taped around his neck, and his hands and legs are tied. At Kandahar he is again interrogated five or six times. Detainees at Kandahar, he says, are not allowed to look at soldiers’ faces. For one look they will be forced to kneel for one hour. For looking twice, they are made to kneel for two hours. Around June 2002, Abassin is flown to Guantanamo (see June 2002). [Amnesty International, 8/19/2003]

Entity Tags: Sayed Abassin

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Stress Positions, Poor Conditions, Kandahar (Afghanistan), Other Detainees

Jay Bybee, the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), writes a secret memo to John Rizzo, the acting general counsel of the CIA. The memo is entitled: “Memorandum for John Rizzo, Acting General Counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency: Interrogation of al-Qaeda Operative.” It will be released seven years later, after prolonged litigation by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU—see April 16, 2009). It parallels another secret memo written by OLC lawyer John Yoo for White House counsel Alberto Gonzales (see August 1, 2002). The memo, written at the request of CIA officials, finds that the use of the interrogation techniques proposed for use on captured Islamist extremist Abu Zubaida are consistent with federal law (see Mid-May, 2002 and July 17, 2002). The OLC has determined that the only federal law governing the interrogation of a non-citizen detained outside the US is the federal anti-torture statute, Section 2340A of Title 18 of the US Code. Bybee’s memo goes into detail about 10 torture techniques, and explains why they are all legal to use on Abu Zubaida (see March 28, 2002), currently being held in a secret CIA “black site” in Thailand (see April - June 2002). Bybee writes that Zubaida will enter a new, “increased pressure phase” of interrogation, and will be dealt with by a “Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (‘SERE’) training psychologist, who has been involved with the interrogations since they began.” [Office of Legal Counsel, 8/1/2002 pdf file; American Civil Liberties Union [PDF], 1/28/2009 pdf file; Senate Intelligence Committee, 4/22/2009 pdf file]
Lack of Intent Equates Legality - As long as there is no intent to cause “severe pain or suffering,” Bybee writes, none of these techniques violate US law. “To violate the statute, an individual must have the specific intent to inflict severe pain or suffering,” Bybee writes. “Because specific intent is an element of the offense, the absence of specific intent negates the charge of torture.… We have further found that if a defendant acts with the good faith belief that his actions will not cause such suffering, he has not acted with specific intent.” [Office of Legal Counsel, 8/1/2002 pdf file; CNN, 4/17/2009]
Ten Techniques of Authorized Torture - Bybee explains the 10 techniques that can be used on Zubaida:
bullet Attention grasp: “The attention grasp consists of grasping the individual with both hands, one hand on each side of the collar opening, in a controlled and quick motion. In the same motion as the grasp, the individual is drawn toward the interrogator.”
bullet Walling: “For walling, a flexible false wall will be constructed. The individual is placed with his heels touching the wall. The interrogator pulls the individual forward and then quickly and firmly pushes the individual into the wall. It is the individual’s shoulder blades that hit the wall. During this motion, the head and neck are supported with a rolled hood or towel that provides a c-collar effect to help prevent whiplash. To further reduce the probability of injury, the individual is allowed to rebound from the flexible wall. You have orally informed us that the false wall is in part constructed to create a loud sound when the individual hits it, which will further shock or surprise in the individual. In part, the idea is to create a sound that will make the impact seem far worse than it is and that will be far worse than any injury that might result from the action.”
bullet Facial hold: “The facial hold is used to hold the head immobile. One open palm is placed on either side of the individual’s face. The fingertips are kept well away from the individual’s eyes.”
bullet Facial slap (insult slap): “With the facial slap or insult slap, the interrogator slaps the individual’s face with fingers slightly spread. The hand makes contact with the area directly between the tip of the individual’s chin and the bottom of the corresponding earlobe. The interrogator invades the individual’s personal space. The goal of the facial slap is not to inflict physical pain that is severe or lasting. Instead, the purpose of the facial slap is to induce shock, surprise, and/or humiliation.”
bullet Cramped confinement: “Cramped confmement involves the placement of the individual in a confined space, the dimensions of which restrict the individual’s movement. The confined space is usually dark. The duration of confinement varies based upon the size of the container. For the larger confined space, the individual can stand up or sit down; the smaller space is large enough for the subject to sit down. Confinement in the larger space can last up to 18 hours; for the smaller space, confinement lasts for no more than two hours.”
bullet Wall standing: “Wall standing is used to induce muscle fatigue. The individual stands about four to five feet from a wall with his feet spread approximately to shoulder width. His arms are stretched out in front of him, with his fingers resting on the wall. His fingers support all of his body weight. The individual is not permitted to move or reposition his hands or feet.”
bullet Stress positions: “A variety of stress positions may be used. You have informed us that these positions are not designed to produce the pain associated with contortions or twisting of the body. Rather, somewhat like walling, they are designed to produce the physical discomfort associated with muscle fatigue. Two particular stress positions are likely to be used on [Zubaida]: (1) sitting on the floor with legs extended straight out in front of him with his arms raised above his head; and (2) kneeling on the floor while leaning back at a 45 degree angle. You have also orally informed us that through observing Zubaydah in captivity, you have noted that he appears to be quite flexible despite his wound.”
bullet Sleep deprivation: “You have indicated that your purpose in using this technique is to reduce the individual’s ability to think on his feet and, through the discomfort associated with lack of sleep, to motivate him to cooperate. The effect of such sleep deprivation will generally remit after one or two nights of uninterrupted sleep. You have informed us that your research has revealed that, in rare instances, some individuals who are already predisposed to psychological problems may experience abnormal reactions to sleep deprivation. Even in those cases, however, reactions abate after the individual is permitted to sleep. Moreover, personnel with medical training are available to and will intervene in the unlikely event of an abnormal reaction. You have orally informed us that you would not deprive [Zubaida] of sleep for more than 11 days at a time and that you have previously kept him awake for 72 hours, from which no mental or physical harm resulted.”
bullet Insect confinement: “You would like to place [Zubaida] in a cramped confinement box with an insect. You have informed us he has a fear of insects. In particular, you would like to tell Zubaydah that you intend to place a stinging insect into the box with him. You would, however, place a harmless insect in the box. You have orally informed us that you would in fact place a caterpillar in the box. [REDACTED]”
bullet Waterboarding: “Finally, you would like to use a technique called the “water-board.” In this procedure, the individual is bound securely on an inclined bench, which is approximately four feet by seven feet. The individual’s feet are generally elevated. A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes. Water is then applied to the cloth in a controlled manner. As this is done, the cloth is lowered until it covers both the nose and mouth. Once the cloth is saturated and completely covers the mouth and nose, air now is slightly restricted for 20 to 40 seconds due to the presence of the cloth. This causes an increase in carbon dioxide level in the individual’s blood. This increase in the carbon dioxide level stimulates increased effort to breathe. This effort plus the cloth produces the perception of ‘suffocation and incipient panic,’ i.e.,the perception of drowning. The individual does not breathe any water into his lungs. During those 20 to 40 seconds, water is continuously applied from a beight of 12 to 24 inches. After this period, the cloth is lifted, and the individual is allowed to breathe unimpeded for three or four full breaths. The sensation of drowning is immediately relieved by the removal of the cloth. The procedure may then be repeated. The water is usually applied from a canteen cup or small watering can with a spout. You have orally informed us that this procedure triggers an automatic physiological sensation of drowning that the individual cannot control even though he may be aware that he is in fact not drowning. You have also orally infomed us that it is likely that this procedure would not last more than 20 minutes in any one application.… You have informed us that this procedure does not inflict actual physical harm.… The waterboard, which inflicts no pain or actual harm whatsoever, does not, in our view, inflict ‘severe pain and suffering.’”
Techniques Can Be Used in Conjunction with One Another - Bybee writes: “You have informed us that the use of these techniques would be on an as-needed basis and that not all of these techniques will necessarily be used. The interrogation team would use these techniques in some combination to convince [Zubaida] that the only way he can influence his surrounding environment is through cooperation. You have, however, informed us that you expect these techniques to be used in some sort of escalating fashion, culminating with the waterboard, though not necessarily ending with this technique. Moreover, you have also orally informed us that although some of these teclmiques may be used with more than once, that repetition wllI not be substantial because the techniques generally lose their effectiveness after several repetitions.” [Office of Legal Counsel, 8/1/2002 pdf file; American Civil Liberties Union [PDF], 1/28/2009 pdf file; Senate Intelligence Committee, 4/22/2009 pdf file]
Factual Background for Analysis - The opinion also gives the factual background for the legal analysis, including CIA research findings on the proposed techniques and their possible effect on Zubaida’s mental health. Much of those findings uses as a touchstone the results gleaned from the military’s SERE training, which uses stressful interrogation techniques, including a form of waterboarding, against US soldiers as part of their counterterrorism training. As the Senate Intelligence Committee will later write, Bybee’s “opinion discussed inquiries and statistics relating to possible adverse psychological reactions to SERE training.” The law clearly prohibits an interrogation method “specifically intended” to inflict “severe physical or mental pain or suffering.”
No Technique Constitutes Torture, Bybee Concludes - Bybee’s opinion considers whether each of the proposed interrogation techniques, individually or in combination, might inflict “severe physical pain or suffering” or “severe mental pain or suffering” on Zubaida or other detainees. The opinion also considers whether interrogators using the technique would have the mental state necessary to violate the statute. Bybee concludes that none of the techniques used individually would inflict “severe physical pain or suffering.” Waterboarding would not inflict such harm, Bybee writes, because it inflicts neither physical damage or physical pain. Nor would it inflict extensive “physical suffering,” because the “suffering” would not extend for the period of time required by the legal definition of the term. None of the techniques, including waterboarding, would inflict “severe mental pain or suffering” as defined in the federal statute, Bybee writes. He bases this conclusion on reports from SERE training, where US soldiers are subjected to brief, strictly supervised sessions of waterboarding as part of their anti-torture training. And, Bybee writes, since the techniques individually do not constitute physical suffering, neither will they constitute such suffering in conbination, because they will not be combined in such a way as to reach that threshold. Bybee writes that the OLC lacks the information necessary to conclude whether combinations of those techniques would inflict severe mental suffering; however, because no evidence exists to suggest that a combination of the techniques would inflict an excessive level of mental harm, using the techniques in combination is not precluded. Bybee also concludes that any interrogator using these techniques would not have a specific intent to inflict severe mental or physical pain or suffering, because the circumstances surrounding the use of the techniques would preclude such intent. Therefore, Bybee concludes, none of these techniques violate the federal anti-torture statute. [American Civil Liberties Union [PDF], 1/28/2009 pdf file; Senate Intelligence Committee, 4/22/2009 pdf file]

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

In Asadabad, Afghanistan, US troops arrest Haji Rohullah Wakil, a local leader, together with 11 of his associates. They are flown by helicopter to Bagram air base. [New York Times, 8/28/2002] One of Wakil’s associates, Abdul Qayyum, will later tell the Associated Press of his experience at Bagram. Qayyum stays at the base for two months and five days, during which time he says he is systematically deprived of sleep, forced to stand for long periods of time and humiliated by female US soldiers. All the time, he is forbidden to talk to his fellow detainees. He is held in a large hall with about 100 other prisoners divided by wire mesh into several cages or cells, each containing 10 people. The lights are always on, washing is allowed for only five minutes a week, and a bucket is provided for use as a toilet. When a military spokesperson is later asked to comment on Rahman’s account, the spokesperson says it sounds only partially true (see January 22, 2002). [Associated Press, 3/14/2003]

Entity Tags: Haji Rohullah Wakil, Abdul Qayyum

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Bagram (Afghanistan), Sleep Deprivation, Poor Conditions, Stress Positions, Other Detainees

Abdurahman Khadr.Abdurahman Khadr. [Source: Cageprisoners]Prisoner Abdurahman Khadr says he is forced at a US prison in Bagram, Afghanistan, to lie on a cold concrete block for two days in the spring of 2003. He also experiences US soldiers stepping on his shackles, which cut through his skin “to the bone.” A female guard drags him up a flight of stairs, he recalls, after smiling at her. He is then flown to the US prison in Guantanamo, Cuba. He says the flight was a “whole torture on its own,” because, “There were people screaming around me and there was people begging for water and nobody was getting anything.” At Guantanamo, he is placed in an isolation block for 30 days, in a dark cell with just a hole for food. He is only allowed out for 15 minutes every three days. He claims, “They use this room to torture us.… They put the heat up or they put it too low so we are freezing or we are suffering because there is no air. They put the music on so you can’t sleep. They throw rocks at the block so you can’t sleep.” Ironically, Khadr is serving as a CIA informant at the time (see November 10, 2001-Early 2003). When he asks his CIA handlers why he has to suffer so much, he is told it is to make the prisoners think he is one of them. [Toronto Star, 8/19/2004] He complains and in the early summer of 2003 he is transferred to better quarters and secretly allowed better treatment. Sometimes he is even allowed to secretly leave the prison. In September 2003, he will leave Guantanamo as the CIA gives him another assignment (see September-November 2003). [PBS Frontline, 4/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Abdurahman Khadr, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Extreme Temperatures, Isolation, Physical Assault, Poor Conditions, Sleep Deprivation, Bagram (Afghanistan), Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba), Other Detainees

At the Abu Ghraib prison facility in Iraq, prisoners are reportedly barefoot and have symptoms of untreated illnesses. [New York Times, 5/13/2004]

Entity Tags: Iraq

Category Tags: Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq), Poor Conditions, Medical Services Denied, Other Detainees

Amnesty International publishes a report stating that it believes that “the totality of conditions” in which “most” of the detainees at Guantanamo are being held may itself amount to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. Amnesty notes that the Committee against Torture, established to oversee implementation of the Convention against Torture (see October 21, 1994), “has expressly held that restraining detainees in very painful positions, hooding, threats, and prolonged sleep deprivation are methods of interrogation which violate the prohibition on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.” [Amnesty International, 10/20/2003]

Entity Tags: Amnesty International

Category Tags: Human Rights Groups, Poor Conditions

In downtown Baghdad, Saddam Salah al-Rawi, a 29-year-old Iraqi Sunni Muslim, reports to an Iraqi police officer that he believes a car on Saddoun Street is wired with explosives. The Iraqi police then take him to a US Army base in Baghdad “on Palestine Street.” Upon arrival at the base, he is immediately taken in custody. According to al-Rawi, the US captain cuffs him, pushes him around, and kicks him in the thigh before putting him in a room. After two hours he is visited by two US soldiers—a specialist and a sergeant first class—and an Arab translator, who begin interrogating him. He is left the rest of the day and night without food, water, a blanket, or mattress. [CPTnet, 5/12/2004; Guardian, 5/13/2004; New York Times, 5/14/2004; ABC News, 8/8/2004]

Entity Tags: Saddam Salah al-Rawi

Category Tags: Saddam Salah al-Rawi, Poor Conditions, Other US Bases and Centers

On the fourth day of Saddam Salah al-Rawi’s detention, he is again handcuffed and hooded, and then driven to an unknown location. As he is being registered, all his personal belongings are confiscated, including his “identification, some documents, $350 US and 1,940,000 Iraqi Dinars, giving [him] no receipt.” Taken to a cell with a bed frame and two blankets, he is given prison clothes, a Koran, water, and cigarettes. For two days he is left alone. He is fed twice a day, and allowed to use the lavatory once a day, “which wasn’t enough, so I had to pee in my empty water bottles,” he later recalls. [CPTnet, 5/12/2004]

Entity Tags: Saddam Salah al-Rawi

Category Tags: Saddam Salah al-Rawi, Poor Conditions

After her brother’s dead body has been taken away, Huda al-Azzawi and 18 other Iraqi detainees at the US base in Adhamiya are put inside a minibus. “The Americans told us: ‘Nobody is going to sleep tonight.’ They played scary music continuously with loud voices. As soon as someone fell asleep they started beating on the door. It was Christmas. They kept us there for three days. Many of the US soldiers were drunk.” [Guardian, 9/20/2004] During the coming days, she is subjected to severe physical violence when a US guard either breaks [Guardian, 9/20/2004] or dislocates her shoulder. It leads to her being examined by a doctor. “Paradoxically, that was the best thing that happened to me. The doctor was furious with the guard and demanded that they cuff my hands in front of me, instead of behind my back, a less painful position.” For a week she is kicked or hit with rifle butts in her breasts and her stomach. She is forced to squat or stand up for hours. She is denied sufficient food and sleep, and is forced to listen to “terrifying” music. [Le Monde (Paris), 10/12/2004]

Entity Tags: Huda al-Azzawi

Category Tags: Sleep Deprivation, Poor Conditions, Physical Assault, Huda al-Azzawi, Insufficient Food, Other US Bases and Centers

“There was never enough food and one day,” Huda al-Azzawi, detained at Abu Ghraib (see January 4, 2004), recalls, “I came across an old woman who had collapsed from hunger. The Americans were always eating lots of hot food. I found some in a packet in a bin and gave it to her. They caught me and threw me in a one-meter-square punishment cell. They then poured cold water on me for four hours.” [Guardian, 9/20/2004]

Entity Tags: Huda al-Azzawi

Category Tags: Huda al-Azzawi, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq), Poor Conditions, Physical Assault, Insufficient Food, Extreme Temperatures

In Guantanamo, British/Zambian detainee Martin Mubanga is taken from his cell for interrogation. After several hours of questioning, he asks his interrogator to let him use the lavatory. But according to Mubanga, the official says: “You’ll go when I say so.” When the interrogator leaves the room, Mubanga feels forced to urinate on the floor. The interrogator returns with a mop, dips it in the puddle and begins to cover Mubanga with his own urine, “like he’s using a big paintbrush.” “All the while,” Mubanga relates, “he’s racially abusing me, cussing me: ‘Oh, the poor little negro, the poor little nigger.’” [Observer, 2/6/2005]

Entity Tags: Martin Mubanga

Category Tags: Poor Conditions, Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba), Other Detainees

Mehdi Ghezali, held at Guantanamo since December 2001, returns to Sweden. He has lost feeling in part of his left foot because of the ankle chains he wore at Guantanamo. His teeth are also in poor condition. [Agence France-Presse, 7/14/2004]

Entity Tags: Mehdi Ghezali

Category Tags: Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba), Poor Conditions, Other Detainees

Paul T. Mikolashek.Paul T. Mikolashek. [Source: US Army]The US Army’s inspector general, Lt. Gen. Paul T. Mikolashek, presents a 300-page report listing 94 documented cases of prisoner abuse to the Senate Armed Services Committee. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004] Of the 94 cases cited in the report, 39 are deaths. Twenty of those are suspected homicides. [Los Angeles Times, 10/15/2004] In preparing the report, Mikolashek’s team visited more than two dozen US military installations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the US. Unlike previous investigations, Mikolashek did not look at individual cases. Instead, his team reviewed records of reported cases and the findings of previous investigations. Team members also interviewed 650 soldiers and officers and looked at broad Army doctrine and training. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004] Mikolashek’s report concludes that abuses were not due to “systemic” problems. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004] For example, it found no evidence that there was a “pattern of abuse” in the central command’s area of responsibility. [New York Times, 6/6/2004] The report’s conclusions are made in spite of the fact that the investigative team identified numerous problems at the prison stemming from poorly trained US military personnel, inadequate supervision, and vague and contradictory policies and orders. According to Mikolashek, documented cases of abuse were “aberrations” that did not follow from Army doctrine but from the “the failure of individuals to follow known standards of discipline and Army values and, in some cases, the failure of a few leaders to enforce those standards of discipline.” They were, the report stressed, “unauthorized actions taken by a few individuals.” The conduct of most of the soldiers, however, exhibited “military professionalism, ingrained Army values, and moral courage,” the report insisted. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004] The report’s conclusions stand in stark contrast to the Red Cross’s report (see February 24, 2004), released in late February, which concluded that problems in the US detention system were widespread and systemic. Though the report will be heavily criticized for its conclusion that military and administration officials should not be blamed for the atrocities, it does contain an abundant amount of evidence that they created an environment that encouraged the abuses to happen. For example, Mikolashek’s team found:
bullet The military hired private contractors to interrogate detainees because the military had too few translators and interrogators in the field. More than a third of these private contractors were not sufficiently trained. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004]
bullet Almost two thirds of the prisoners were kept in makeshift prison camps, or collection points, for as many as 30 days—60 times the 12-hour limit set by Army doctrine. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004]
bullet Preventive medical services were insufficient. Not one of the US-run facilities visited by the team met the Army’s medical screening requirements. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004]
bullet Copies of the Geneva Conventions in the detainees’ native languages were present at only four of the 16 facilities visited by Mikolashek’s team, in contravention of international law. There was not a single US-run facility in Afghanistan that had a copy. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004]
bullet At Abu Ghraib, the conditions were extremely unsanitary. The prison was seriously overcrowded, lacked an adequate supply of potable water, and had garbage and sewage strewn on the grounds of the outdoor camps. There were only 12 showers available for 600 to 700 detainees. Meals provided to the detainees were often contaminated with dirt and rodent droppings. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004]
bullet The Bagram base in Afghanistan had a leaking roof and no sanitary system. “Human waste spills were frequent on the main floor,” the reports says. Sections of the base were contaminated with toxic chemicals leftover from previous airport operations. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004]
bullet The military’s interrogation policy was confusing and instructions were often conflicting. “While the language of the approved policies could be viewed as a careful attempt to draw the line between lawful and unlawful conduct, the published instructions left considerable room for misapplication.” This could “create settings in which unsanctioned behavior, including detainee abuse, could occur,” the report’s authors conclude. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004]

Entity Tags: International Committee of the Red Cross, Paul T. Mikolashek

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Coverup, Prisoner Deaths, Reports/Investigations, Poor Conditions, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq), Key Events

Officials at the CIA refer a case in which a detainee named Gul Rahman apparently froze to death at the Salt Pit prison in Afghanistan (see November 20, 2002) to the Justice Department for examination. [Washington Post, 9/19/2009] The full name of the CIA officer who caused the detainee to die is not known, although his last name is Zirbel. [Mahoney and Johnson, 10/9/2009, pp. 29 pdf file] The case is reviewed with an eye to prosecution by the US Attorneys Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, where one of the office’s top prosecutors works on it. [Washington Post, 9/19/2009] This is apparently one of eight such referrals around this time. [New York Times, 10/23/2005] According to the New York Times, the Justice Department will be “reviewing its jurisdiction” in the case in May 2005. [New York Times, 5/22/2004] The department will decide not to prosecute in October 2005 (see Mid-October 2005), but will re-examine the case in 2009 (see August 24, 2009).

Entity Tags: Gul Rahman, Matthew Zirbel, Central Intelligence Agency, US Department of Justice

Category Tags: Legal Proceedings, Prisoner Deaths, Dangerous Conditions, Extreme Temperatures, Poor Conditions, Salt Pit (Afghanistan), Other Detainees

Lawyers refile a civil suit against Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on behalf of “enemy combatant” Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, who has been in US custody since late 2001 (see December 12, 2001) and was designated as an enemy combatant a year and a half later (see June 23, 2003). Al-Marri is asking the federal district court in South Carolina to declare unconstitutional what he, through his lawyers, calls the severe and unnecessary deprivations and restrictions to which he has been subjected since he was placed in military custody. Al-Marri had already filed a suit challenging the legality of his detention on habeas corpus grounds, a lawsuit that was ultimately dismissed (see October 4, 2004). Human Rights Watch director Jamie Fellner says: “It is bad enough that al-Marri has been held indefinitely without charges and incommunicado. Now we learn that his life in the brig has also been one of cruelty and petty vindictiveness.” [Human Rights Watch, 8/8/2005]
Allegations of Cruel Treatment - Al-Marri is currently the only known person designated as an enemy combatant still in legal limbo. He has been in solitary confinement since his December 2001 arrest, and in Guantanamo since mid-2003. Al-Marri was sent to the Charleston, South Carolina Naval brig once he was designated as an enemy combatant, isolated in a lightless cell hardly larger than a closet, and since then, his lawyers say, he has been subjected to deprivations of the most basic kinds, including shoes, socks, blankets, toilet paper, toothpaste, and sunlight. Sometimes he is denied water. During the day his mattress is removed. His captors often turn the temperature down in his cell to near-freezing conditions, but do not give him extra clothes or blankets. He is provided three short “recreation” sessions a week—in handcuffs and leg irons—but those are often denied him. He is allowed three showers a week, again in handcuffs and leg irons. He has been denied access to medical care. A devout Muslim, he is not given the basic necessities for religious observances—his captors even refuse to tell him which way to face towards Mecca, an essential element of daily devotions. Letters from his wife and children are heavily censored. Privileged notes he has written to his lawyer have been confiscated and not returned. He is subjected to constant video surveillance. He was repeatedly interrogated, his lawyers say, but has not been interrogated for a year. His captors have repeatedly threatened his family, telling him that he would be sent to Egypt or Saudi Arabia, where he would be tortured and sodomized and his wife raped in front of him. According to the lawsuit, his captors falsely told him that, because of him, his father and four of his brothers were in jail, and that if he cooperated, they would be released.
Commentary - “Mr. al-Marri has been detained at a naval brig for two-and-a-half years in cell that is 9 feet by 6 feet,” says law professor Jonathan Hafetz, who will become one of al-Marri’s lawyers. “During that time he has long been denied books, news, any contact with the outside world other than his attorneys, including his wife and five children, who he has neither seen nor spoken to. I mean things that we don’t even do to people who’ve been convicted of crimes.” Fellner says: “It’s the combination of restrictions imposed on al-Marri that offends basic norms of decency. There is no security justification for them. The Pentagon apparently believes it can hold him under any conditions they choose for as long as they choose.” [Human Rights Watch, 8/8/2005; Associated Press, 8/9/2005; Al-Marri v. Rumsfeld, 8/9/2005 pdf file; CNN, 12/13/2005]
Military Denies Mistreatment - The military denies that al-Marri has been mistreated. [CNN, 12/13/2005] Defense spokesman Navy Lieutenant Commander J. D. Gordon says in 2007, “The government in the strongest terms denies allegations of torture, allegations made without support and without citing a shred of record evidence. It is our policy to treat all detainees humanely.” [Progressive, 3/2007]

Entity Tags: Jamie Fellner, Bush administration (43), Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, Donald Rumsfeld, J.D. Gordon, US Department of Defense, Mohammed al-Marri, Human Rights Watch, Jonathan Hafetz

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Legal Proceedings, Abrogation of Rights, Extreme Temperatures, Isolation, Poor Conditions, Suppression of Religious Expression, Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri

The Justice Department decides not to prosecute in most cases where detainees were abused and killed by the CIA. The cases, of which there are apparently eight, had been referred to the department by the CIA’s inspector general (see (August 2004)) and were investigated primarily by the US Attorneys Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, although officials at department headquarters in Washington are also involved in the decision not to prosecute. Although some of the cases are still technically under review at this time, the department indicates it does not intend to bring charges. [New York Times, 10/23/2005] The cases include:
bullet The death of Iraqi prisoner Manadel al-Jamadi in CIA custody in November 2003 (see Between 4:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. November 4, 2003 and (7:00 a.m.) November 4, 2003);
bullet The asphyxiation of Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush in Iraq, also in November 2003 (see November 24 or 25, 2003 and November 26, 2003). This incident involved the military, as well as at least one CIA contractor; [New York Times, 10/23/2005]
bullet The intimidation of al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri by a CIA officer named “Albert” using a gun and drill (see September 11, 2003).
bullet The death of detainee Gul Rahman, who froze to death at the Salt Pit prison in Afghanistan (see November 20, 2002). The case was examined by prosecutors, but, in the end, a recommendation not to prosecute the officer who caused the detainee to die is made. [Washington Post, 9/19/2009] The officer’s first name is not known, although his last name is Zirbel. [Mahoney and Johnson, 10/9/2009, pp. 29 pdf file] The decision is made because prosecutors conclude that the prison was outside the reach of US law; although the CIA funded it and vetted its Afghan guards, it was technically an Afghan prison. In addition, it is unclear whether Rahman, who was captured in Pakistan and then taken to Afghanistan, would have died from injuries sustained during his capture, rather than by freezing. Although hypothermia was listed as the cause of death in the autopsy, the body was not available to investigators. According to the Washington Post, “questions remain whether hypothermia was used as a cover story in part to protect people who had beaten the captive.” However, according to a “senior official who took part in the review,” the decision not to prosecute in this case is not initially that clear, and an indictment is considered. However, the prosecutors decide not to press charges against Zirbel and a memo explaining this decision is drafted. An official involved in the review will later say there is “absolutely no pressure” from the Justice Department’s management to decide not to prosecute. However, a later report by the Post will indicate there may be a split among prosecutors over the decision, and that a political appointee, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Paul McNulty, assesses the case. McNulty will be nominated for the position of deputy attorney general around this time (see October 21, 2005). [Washington Post, 9/19/2009]
However, one CIA employee, a contractor named David Passaro, has been charged with detainee abuse (see June 18-21, 2003). [New York Times, 10/23/2005] The department will begin a second review of some or all of these cases in 2009 (see August 24, 2009).

Entity Tags: Matthew Zirbel, Paul J. McNulty, Gul Rahman, Central Intelligence Agency, Abed Hamed Mowhoush, Manadel al-Jamadi, US Department of Justice

Category Tags: Abu Ghraib Scandal Aftermath, Coverup, High-level Decisions and Actions, Legal Proceedings, Reports/Investigations, Dangerous Conditions, Physical Assault, Poor Conditions, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq), Salt Pit (Afghanistan), Other Detainees

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 American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) releases previously classified documents that contain excerpts from a government report on harsh interrogation tactics used by US personnel against detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay. The excerpts document repeated instances of abusive behavior, sometimes resulting in the deaths of prisoners. The documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), contain a report by Vice Admiral Albert Church, who compiled a comprehensive report on the Defense Department’s interrogation operations. Church terms the interrogations at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan as “clearly abusive, and clearly not in keeping with any approved interrogation policy or guidance.” Only two pages from the Church report were released without redactions.
Deaths at Bagram - A portion of the document reports on the deaths of two prisoners at Bagram (see December 5-9, 2002 and November 30-December 3, 2002), who were, the document states, “handcuffed to fixed objects above their heads in order to keep them awake.” The report continues: “Additionally, interrogations in both incidents involved the use of physical violence, including kicking, beating, and the use of ‘compliance blows,’ which involved striking the [prisoners] legs with the [interrogators] knees. In both cases, blunt force trauma to the legs was implicated in the deaths. In one case, a pulmonary embolism developed as a consequence of the blunt force trauma, and in the other case pre-existing coronary artery disease was complicated by the blunt force trauma.” Both detainees died from pulmonary embolisms caused by, the ACLU writes, “standing chained in place, sleep deprivation, and dozens of beatings by guards and possibly interrogators.”
Deaths at Other Facilities - The documents also report on torture conducted at Guantanamo and several US-Afghan prisons in Kabul; the death of prisoner Dilar Dababa in Iraq in 2003 at the hands of US forces; the torture and beating of an Iraqi prisoner at “The Disco,” a detention facility located in the Special Operations Force Compound at Mosul Airfield in Iraq; an investigation into torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad; and the murder of prisoner Abed Mowhoush.
Process Flowed Through Undersecretary Cambone - Columnist Scott Horton writes: “A large portion of the torture, maiming, and murder of detainees occurred under authority issued under secret rules of engagement in the Pentagon. Much of this flowed through Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone, a figure who has so far evaded scrutiny in the torture scandal.… Even the Senate Armed Services Committee review fails to get to the bottom of Dr. Cambone, his interrogations ROEs for special operations units he controlled, and the death, disfigurement, and torture of prisoners they handled. This is one of many reasons why a comprehensive investigation with subpoena power is urgently needed. But full airing of the internal investigations already conducted by the Department of Defense is an essential next step.” [Raw Story, 2/12/2009; American Civil Liberties Union, 2/12/2009]

Entity Tags: Senate Armed Services Committee, American Civil Liberties Union, Albert T. Church III, Bush administration (43), Dilar Dababa, Stephen A. Cambone, US Department of Defense

Category Tags: Coverup, Criticisms of US, Indications of Abuse, Reports/Investigations, Isolation, Physical Assault, Poor Conditions, Sleep Deprivation, Stress Positions, Bagram (Afghanistan), Other Detainees

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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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