[Ppnews] Torture Policies Undermine 9/11 Case

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri May 16 11:59:58 EDT 2008



Torture Policies Undermine 9/11 Case

May 16, 2008 By Jason Leopold
Source: <http:// www.pubrecord.org>The Public Record


The Pentagon's decision to drop war-crimes 
charges against Mohammed al-Qahtani, the alleged 
"20th hijacker" in the 9/11 attacks, again 
underscores the consequences of the Bush 
administration's descent into torture and other 
abusive treatment of "war on terror" detainees.

If al-Qahtani's case had gone forward, the U.S. 
government would have been forced to reveal its 
own violations of the Geneva Convention, 
anti-torture statutes and the laws of war, 
according to lawyers representing al-Qahtani.

"All of the [incriminating] statements Mohammad 
al-Qahtani made or is alleged to have made were 
the result of torture or made under the threat of 
torture and that is in my view why the government 
decided to dismiss his case at this point," said 
Vince Warren, executive director of the Center 
for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York.

CCR has been representing Mohammed al-Qahtani 
since 2005 and has led the legal battle for the 
human rights of detainees incarcerated at 
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the last six years.

The harsh treatment of al-Qahtani was catalogued 
in an 84-page log of his interrogation that was 
leaked in 2006. The so-called "torture log" shows 
that beginning in November 2002 and continuing 
well into January 2003, al-Qahtani was subjected 
to sleep deprivation, interrogated in 20-hour 
stretches, poked with IV's, and left to urinate on himself.

On Dec. 11, 2002, interrogators began to apply 
what they called the "pride and ego down 
approach," subjecting him to religious and sexual 
humiliation, making him bark like a dog, and 
calling him "a pig" as he was made to pick up 
piles of trash with his hands cuffed.

According to one entry for Dec. 13, 2002, the 
interrogators sought to "escalate the detainee's emotions."

"A mask was made from an MRE [meals ready to eat] 
box with a smiley face on it and placed on the 
detainee's head for a few moments. A latex glove 
was inflated and labeled the ‘sissy slap' glove. 
This glove was touched to the detainee's face 
periodically after explaining the terminology to him.

"The mask was placed back on the detainee's head. 
While wearing the mask, the team began dance 
instruction with the detainee. The detainee 
became agitated and began shouting. The mask was 
removed and detainee was allowed to sit. Detainee 
shouted and addressed lead [interrogator] as ‘the 
oldest Christian here' and wanted to know why 
lead allowed the detainee to be treated this way."

The log contains numerous entries describing 
al-Qahtani's reaction to the interrogations, as 
he cried, shook, moaned, yelled, prayed, cried 
out for Allah, trembled uncontrollably and asserted his innocence.

Psychological Trauma

According to a report by CCR attorneys, "on one 
occasion described in the interrogation log, Mr. 
al-Qahtani was rushed to a military base hospital 
when his heart rate fell dangerously low during a 
period of extreme sleep deprivation, physical stress and psychological trauma.

"The military flew in a radiologist from the U.S. 
Naval Station in Puerto Rico to evaluate the 
computed tomography (‘CT' or ‘CAT') scan. After 
being permitted to sleep a full night, medical 
personnel cleared Mr. al-Qahtani for further 
interrogation the next day. During his 
transportation from the hospital, Mr. al-Qahtani 
was interrogated in the ambulance."

Legal experts, who have followed the al-Qahtani 
case since his capture in December 2001, say a 
core problem for the Pentagon was that the 
evidence against al-Qahtani was derived 
substantially from admissions that he made while under harsh interrogation.

There was also circumstantial evidence related to 
al-Qahtani's attempt to enter the United States 
before the 9/11 attacks. An immigration official 
turned him back and U.S. government officials 
claim that action forced the 9/11 hijackers to 
proceed with only 19 participants.

Last February, the Pentagon announced its 
intention to pursue the death penalty against 
al-Qahtani and five other men for their alleged 
involvement in the 9/11 attacks.

But on May 9, the Pentagon dismissed the case 
against al-Qahtani without explanation - and 
without prejudice, meaning that the charges could 
be reinstated at a later date. Though the charges 
were dropped, he will remain detained indefinitely at Guantanamo.

Al-Qahtani is believed to be one of the first 
detainees subjected to harsh questioning after 
the Justice Department issued a legal opinion in 
August 2002 permitting U.S. government 
interrogators to sidestep the Geneva Convention 
and use cruel and humiliating techniques, from 
forced nudity to stress positions to waterboarding, to extract information.

The Geneva Convention bars abusive or demeaning 
treatment of captives. However, John Yoo, then a 
senior lawyer in the Justice Department's Office 
of Legal Counsel, concluded that the Geneva 
Convention did not apply to alleged members of al-Qaeda.

As reported previously, specific interrogation 
methods used against al-Qahtani were approved by 
former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in a 
December 2002 action memorandum.

Months of Torture

Gitanjali S. Gutierrez, an attorney with CCR and 
the lead attorney defending al-Qahtani, said in a 
sworn declaration that his client, imprisoned at 
Guantanamo, was subjected to months of torture 
based on verbal and written authorizations from Rumsfeld.

"Mr. al-Qahtani was subjected to a regime of 
aggressive interrogation techniques, known as the 
‘First Special Interrogation Plan,'" Gutierrez 
said. "Those techniques were implemented under 
the supervision and guidance of Secretary 
Rumsfeld and the commander of Guantánamo, Major General Geoffrey Miller.

"These methods included, but were not limited to, 
48 days of severe sleep deprivation and 20-hour 
interrogations, forced nudity, sexual 
humiliation, religious humiliation, physical 
force, prolonged stress positions and prolonged 
sensory over-stimulation, and threats with military dogs."

Gutierrez's claims about the type of 
interrogation al-Qahtani endured have since been 
borne out by the release of hundreds of pages of 
internal Pentagon documents, which described 
interrogation methods at Guantanamo, as well as 
by the findings of two independent reports on prisoner abuse.

Rumsfeld's action memo was criticized by Alberto 
Mora, the former general counsel of the Navy.

"The interrogation techniques approved by the 
Secretary [of Defense] should not have been 
authorized because some (but not all) of them, 
whether applied singly or in combination, could 
produce effects reaching the level of torture, a 
degree of mistreatment not otherwise proscribed 
by the memo because it did not articulate any 
bright-line standard for prohibited detainee 
treatment, a necessary element in any such 
document," Mora wrote in a 14-page letter to the Navy's inspector general.

Additionally, a Dec. 20, 2005, Army Inspector 
General Report relating to the capture and 
interrogation of al-Qahtani included a sworn 
statement by Lt. Gen. Randall M. Schmidt, who 
said Secretary Rumsfeld was "personally involved" 
in the interrogation of al-Qahtani and spoke 
"weekly" with Maj. Gen. Miller about the status 
of the interrogations between late 2002 and early 2003.

Last February, the Justice Department's Office of 
Professional Responsibility (OPR) confirmed that 
it had launched a formal investigation to 
determine, among other issues, whether department 
attorneys provided the White House with poor 
legal advice when it said interrogators could use 
harsh interrogation methods against detainees.

CCR's Warren said a trial of al-Qahtani would 
have forced the government to disclose how it 
obtained information from the defendant about 
alleged terrorist plans and the inner workings of al-Qaeda.

"We were pursuing the case that the government 
got evidence through torture," Warren said. "The 
government would have to talk about how the 
information was obtained. That would never be 
able to survive in court because the torture log 
is clear that Mr. al-Qahtani provided information 
because he was being tortured."

Warren said he wants the Pentagon to release 
al-Qahtani and have him sent to Saudi Arabia 
"where they have a system in place to maintain 
custody of any former Guantanamo detainee who 
presents a danger, as well as a strong 
rehabilitation program supervising those that are released."

"It's unlikely he would face torture or abuse on 
the magnitude Mr. al-Qahtani faced at Gitmo," Warren said.


Jason Leopold has launched a new Web site, The 
Public Record, at <http://www.pubrecord.org/>www.pubrecord.org




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