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“The Battle Lab”
Today we post Part 1 of Chapter 5 of the Torture Report, titled “The Battle Lab,” which looks at the development of a systematic torture program aimed at breaking detainees in the custody of the U.S. military in Guantánamo Bay , Cuba . In this first section, “A Special Project,” we take a long look at the lab's signature experiment—the 50-day interrogation of Mohammed al Qahtani from November 23, 2002 through January 11, 2003.
As I was working on this section, I kept thinking of this sentence from the declaration of former GTMO prosecutor Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, quoted in the concluding section of Chapter 4:
“I lack the words to express the heartsickness I experienced when I came to understand the pointless, purely gratuitous mistreatment of Mr. Jawad by my fellow soldiers.”
Mr. Jawad is Mohammed Jawad, the young (underage when he arrived at Guantánamo) detainee who was subjected to the military's “frequent flyer” sleep deprivation program. As we'll see throughout Chapter 5, “pointless” and “purely gratuitous” does not mean thoughtless or spontaneous, and nowhere is that clearer than in the interrogation of Mohammed al Qahtani, in which seven weeks of surpassing pointlessness and gratuitousness was the culmination of months of carefully designed, Washington-approved cruelties and humiliations.