|The Report Diary||Read The Report||Document Search||About This Project|
Chapter 5, Part 1 - The Battle Lab
A Special Project
A week before President Obama's inauguration, The Washington Post published a story that began,
The top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial has concluded that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a “life-threatening condition.”
“We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani,” said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. “His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case [for prosecution.” 1
That Mohammed al-Qahtani had been abused was hardly news: in June 2005, Time magazine published excerpts from an 83-page log of a 50-day stretch of Qahtani's interrogation, not in a CIA black site or a third-country prison, but by U.S. military interrogators in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The news was who was calling his treatment torture.
A career political appointee, Crawford had held a series of senior civilian Pentagon posts since Ronald Reagan named her General Counsel to the Department of the Army in 1983. In the elder Bush administration, she served as Inspector General of the Department of Defense under Defense Secretary Dick Cheney before Bush nominated her to be a judge on the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, the nation's highest military court. She spent four years of her 15-year term on the court as its Chief Justice. Reliably conservative, she was often to the right of her military peers; in one notable case, in which she was the lone dissenter in a 4-1 decision defining the rights of soldiers in death penalty cases, she even criticized her colleagues' “ recent overreliance on due process .” 2
Crawford replaced John Altenburg, a career military officer, as Convening Authority of the problem-plagued Guantánamo Military Commissions in February 2007. Eight months later, the Chief Prosecutor for the Military Commissions resigned and published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times insisting that under Crawford the commissions system had become “deeply politicized” to the point that “full, fair, and open trial were not possible.” In that piece, titled “AWOL Military Justice,” Colonel Morris “Moe” Davis wrote,
Altenburg's staff had kept its distance from the prosecution to preserve its impartiality. Crawford, on the other hand, had her staff assessing evidence before the filing of charges, directing the prosecution's pretrial preparation of cases (which began while I was on medical leave), drafting charges against those who were accused and assigning prosecutors to cases, among other things.
How can you direct someone to do something— use specific evidence to bring specific charges against a specific person at a specific time, for instance—and later make an impartial assessment of whether they behaved properly? Intermingling convening authority and prosecutor roles perpetuates the perception of a rigged process stacked against the accused. 3
Whether or not she had a hand in its preparation, the sworn Charge Sheet Crawford received on April 15, 2008 was the most momentous she would review. Conferring capital war crimes charges against six alleged agents of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks—Khalid Sheihk Mohammed, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarek Bin ‘Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Azis Ali, Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi, and Mohamed al Qahtani—the Charge Sheet listed crimes including conspiracy, attacking civilians, murder in violation of the law of war, terrorism, and hijacking; it was followed by a 66-page appendix simply listing the names of the attacks' 2,973 victims.
Qahtani's alleged role was not mastermind or facilitator of the attacks but rather failed participant: the so-called 20 th hijacker, he had been turned away when he tried to enter the U.S. just a month before 9/11. According to the Charge Sheet,
107: On or about July 14, 2001, in Rayadh, Saudi Arabia, Mohamed al Kahtanireceived a visa to travel to the United States….
117: On or about August 4, 2001, at approximately 4:18 p.m., a vehicle rented by Mohamed Atta (AA #11) entered a parking garaged at Orlando International Airport, Orlando, Florida.
118: On or about August 4, 2001, Mohamed al Kahtani traveled from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, via Emirates Flight #7 to London-Gatwick, England, and Virgin Atlantic Flight #15 from London to Orlando, Florida, which was scheduled to arrive at 4:40 p.m.
119: On or about August 4, 2001, Mohamed al Kahtani arrived at Orlando International Airport, Orlando, Florida, with $2,800 in his possession, and attempted to enter the United States. Al Kahtani also had an itinerary listing the telephone number 050 52009905, a phone number associated with Mustafa al Hawsawi .
120: On or about August 4, 2001, Mohamed al Kahtani stated to an officer of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service that there was someone “upstairs” in the airport to pick him up. When asked the name of the person, so that the immigration inspector could verify al Kahtani's intentions in the United States, al Kahtani changed his story and stated that no one was waiting for him.
121: On or about August 4, 2001, in between 4:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., a total of five phone calls were placed using a calling card associated with Mohamed Atta (AA #11) from a pay telephone in Orlando International Airport to telephone number 91-50-520-9905, a phone number associated with Mustafa al Hawsawi .
122: On or about August 4, 2001, after being told his application for entry into the United States was going to be denied, Mohamed al Kahtani withdrew his application and was placed on board Virgin Atlantic Fight 15, which was scheduled to depart Orlando, Florida, at 8:25 p.m. and traveled back to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, via London, England.. 4
On May 9, 2008, three weeks after receiving the sworn Charge Sheet, Crawford drew a line through Qahtani's name, rejecting the charges against him, and days later signed a new charge sheet against the five others with all references to Qahtani removed. When the Pentagon publicly announced the change, it offered no explanation, saying only that the charges against Mohammed al Qahtani had been dropped “without prejudice” and could be reinstated in the future. 5
But in the final hours of the Bush administration, Crawford publicly declared that she had dismissed the charges against Qahtani because he was tortured. “You think of torture, you think of some horrendous act done to an individual,” Crawford told the Post's Bob Woodward. “This was not one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge.” 6
Qahtani's treatment, Crawford was careful to emphasize, “met the legal definition of torture.” “The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent,” she explained. She named Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as responsible for approving the abuse, adding “a lot of this happened on his watch.” “It did shock me. I was upset by it. I was embarrassed by it,” she told Woodward. “I sympathize with the intelligence gatherers in those days after 9/11, not knowing what was coming next and trying to gain information to keep us safe. But there still has to be a line that we should not cross. And unfortunately what this has done, I think, has tainted everything going forward.”
Matthew Alexander 10/01/10: This is the repeated response we've heard explaining the decision to torture...that it was an emotional response or an overreaction to 9/11. That could be argued perhaps for a soldier in the field, under fire, without adequate time to make decisions in the heat of the battle. We would not authorize such actions even in these extreme circumstances, but at least this "inability to separate emotions from professional duty" would hold more water. In the case of the U.S. torture story, this was certainly not the case. For months, years even, there were opportunities available from the President to the ranking officers in the field to say no to torture.
The 83-page document that was leaked to Time in 2005 begins
23 November 2002
0225: The detainee arrives at the interrogation booth at Camp X-Ray. His hood is removed and he is bolted to the floor. SGT A and SGT R are the interrogators. A DoD linguist and MAJ L (BSCT) are present . 7
It is the middle of the night. Qahtani is shackled to the floor by the wrists and ankles; we know this because several hours in, “one hand is uncuffed to allow him to eat.” The interrogators are military intelligence, Sergeant R male and Sergeant A, we soon learn, female. The Major is from the Joint Task Force Guantánamo's Behavioral Science Consultation Team. The “Biscuits,” as they are known, are psychiatrists and psychologists whose job it is to assess and assist interrogators in exploiting detainees' fears and vulnerabilities. The three and their interpreter form one of three teams that will work on Qahtani around the clock for the next 50 days. In the room throughout, unnoted except when called upon to subdue Qahtani, are masked MPs. Not in the room but never far away is a medic, and often a guard dog and its handler as well. On call at all times is a doctor.
Matthew Alexander 10/01/10: Not even WWII interrogators chained Japanese detainees to the floor. It reinforces that the detainee and interrogator are enemies. Rarely have detainees been constrained for interrogations throughout past wars.
Though it's the beginning of the log, this is not the beginning of Qahtani's interrogation. He has been undergoing intense questioning in the naval brig in Guantánamo since July, when a fingerprint check revealed he had been denied entry to the U.S. a month before the attacks. The White House and Pentagon have been following the progress of his interrogation, and on their September 2002 field trip to Guantánamo the “War Council” sat in on one of his interrogation sessions. After their visit, Defense Department interrogators ratcheted up the pressure through the fall:
In September or October of 2002, FBI agents observed that a canine was used in an aggressive manner to intimidate detainee #63 and, in November 2002, FBI agents observed Detainee #63 after he had been subjected to intense isolation for over three months. During that time period, #63 was totally isolated (with the exception of occasional interrogations) in a cell that was always flooded with light. By late November, the detainee was evidencing behavior consistent with extreme psychological trauma (talking to non-existent people, reporting hearing voices, crouching in a corner of the cell covered with a sheet for hours on end). 8
The effects of weeks of isolation and sleep deprivation are obvious from log's first session. Barely an hour in, Qahtani “dozed off during a break.” At 8:30 in the morning, he is allowed “two hours rest,” and then at 10:35 he “is awakened and secured in chair,” where he will remain, with the exception of bathroom breaks and an hour nap in the evening, until midnight. He announces he is on a hunger strike, and refuses both food and water, though the log records that at lunchtime, “At first he said he would eat, but then said that he was mentally not well and had only agreed because he was not thinking clearly.” The logkeeper observes, “Detainee attempts to control the interrogation by complaining about his treatment, his mental illness, and his separation from his brothers in Cuba.” Twice he breaks down and cries.
When the interrogation resumes at 4 a.m. the following morning, Qahtani alternately “engages in conversation” and “becomes unresponsive”; either way, he is accused of using resistance techniques outlined in the “Manchester Document,” an al Qaeda training manual discovered on a militant's computer in the U.K. in 2002. He asks Sergeant A if she really wants her questions answered, and Sergeant A tells him “she doesn't really need an answer.” “The detainee seems disheartened by her response,' the log observes.
At 8 a.m., just 30 hours into what will be a 1,200 hour interrogation, medical personnel appear:
0800: SGT A offers meal to detainee. The detainee refuses. SGT R explains that refusal to eat is unproductive. SGT A offers 30 minutes rest. The detainee refuses. Interrogators had Corpsman check the detainee's vital signs. The detainee has not taken fluids for over 24 hours. Corpsman states vital signs are good. The detainee still refuses to speak a word.
0820: SGT R removes food from table and tells the detainee he missed his chance. SGT R explains that the detainee's refusal to eat hurts only him. SGT R will not lose any sleep over it.
0830: SGT A uses “Level of Guilt” approach.
0840: SGT R has the detainee stand for 10 minutes to stretch and avoid sleeping
0900: SGT A asks the detainee if he wants to pray and sleep. The detainee says yes. SGT A says you have to drink water. The detainee says no. SGT R gives detainee 1 more chance. The detainee says no. SGT R empties water on floor and tells the detainee “you had your chance.” The Corpsman then checks the detainee's vital signs, they are OK.
0925: SGT A discusses levels of guilt and sin.
0930: SGT A talks about the embarrassment of using a weak cover story and mixes in the “You can make this stop” approach. The detainee remains unresponsive.
0930: CAPT W advises SGT R that the Corpsman can administer IV fluids once Capt W and the Doctor on duty are notified and agree to it.
At 1:30 that afternoon, a “strap was hung from ceiling in anticipation of the doctor's arrival. At 6 p.m., “medical personnel checked vital signs and determined that detainee needed to be hydrated,” and Qahtani is given two bags of fluids intravenously. Forty-five minutes later,
1845: Medical doctor arrives to evaluate detainee to ensure he is physically able to continue. Detainee stated he wanted to sign a form or a release stating that he did not want any medications. The doctor explained that no such form exists. Detainee was informed that we would not let him die.
The interrogation again continues until midnight; again Qahtani is awakened at 4 a.m. and his vitals are checked. He is now so dehydrated that the Corpsman is unable to find a vein; again “the Doctor was called to make a trip to perform an assessment.” Incredibly, the interrogation continues:
0600: To follow up on “Gods message,” SGT R showed 9-11 DVD. SGT R stood behind detainee and whispered in his ear, “What is God telling you right now? Your 19 friends died in a fireball and you weren't with them. Was that God's choice? Is it God's will that you stay alive to tell us about his message?” At that point, detainee threw his head back and butted SGT R in the eye. The 2 MPs in the room wrestled detainee to the ground to regain control. SGT R crouched over the detainee and the detainee attempted to spit on him. SGT R stated “Go ahead and spit on me. It won't change anything. You're still here. I'm still talking to you, and you won't leave until you're given God's message. Detainee is put in chair.”
0630: SGT A showed circumstantial evidence and told detainee repeatedly that she won't go away and neither will the evidence.
0645: Doctor attempted to put in IV and was unsuccessful. The doctor left to get more supplies.
0700: SGT A continued circumstantial evidence theme.
0705: Assessment – His reaction to SGT R was a combination of his guilt (possibly at not participating in the attack), his continuous interrogation, and his obvious hatred of SGT R. He was told after the episode that it proves he's not as weak and mentally ill as he wants us to believe.
0730: Doctor arrived and ran an IV by putting in a temporary shunt to allow continuous IV
0745: SGT A ran the “already captured and talking” approach.” When SGT R entered the booth the detainee reached for the IV. The guard stopped him and he reached again. The guards stopped him and cuffed his hands to the chair so he couldn't reach the IV. The detainee bent over and bit the IV tube completely in two. The guards strapped him to a stretcher and the corpsman attached a new IV. The detainee struggled through the entire process, but could no longer reach the IV.
0900: SGT A resumed the previous approach.
0915: Detainee requested to go to the bathroom but was given an opportunity to use a bottle instead. He was told he will not be unstrapped.
0940: Detainee was given three and one-half bags of IV. He started moaning and told the MPs he's willing to talk so he can urinate. SGT A entered the booth and asked the following questions: Who do you work for (Detainee answered: Al Qaida), Who was your leader (Detainee answered: Usama bin Laden), Why did you go to Orlando (Detainee answered: I wasn't told the mission), Who was meeting you? (Detainee answered: I don't know), Who was with you on the plane (Detainee answered: I was by myself). SGT R told detainee he was wasting SGT R's time. Detainee told SGT A he was willing to drink.
1000: Detainee again said he has to go to bathroom. SGT R said he can go in the bottle. Detainee said he wanted to go to the bathroom because it's more comfortable. SGT R said “You've ruined all trust, You can either go in the bottle or in your pants.” Detainee goes in his pants. SGT A continued approach.
1030: Assessment – Detainee has a greater deal of animosity toward SGT R. He is beginning to understand the futility of his situation. He has to understand that his antics will not stop the interrogation at all. We feel he is slowly realizing that he will not outlast the battle of wills. He is much closer to compliance and cooperation now than at the beginning of the operation.
When the second team of interrogators finally releases Qahtani from the gurney and allows him to wash himself and change his clothes, he agrees to eat, but he immediately recants his earlier statements, insisting he didn't know bin Laden and “admitted to be al-Qaida because of the intense psychological pressure”; he “claimed to have been pressured into making a confession.” The next day, as he is periodically made to elevate his feet and is handcuffed to the strap suspended from the ceiling to relieve dehydration-induced swelling in his extremities, the log records:
2300: Detainee proclaims his innocence and requested that SGT M stop talking about Islam. (ie Usama bin Laden raped Islam. UBL hijacked Islam) Detainee stated, “If you interrogate me in the right way and the right position…you might find some answers
Matthew Alexander 10/01/10: Ironically, he was probably correct. A good interrogator would have asked what method was the correct one, according to the detainee... and let them lead the interrogator to the answer. The coercive nature of the entire interrogation process is working in direct opposite to securing the prisoner's cooperation. The interrogator's attempt to use what "God wants you to do" approach is run with such ignorance of Islam that it has zero chance of success.
2308: Detainee claimed that the interrogations are based on malice, hate, and jealousy. He said, The treatment is wild and animalistic. Everybody has limits. Once those limits are crossed, what is somebody supposed to do?
2310: Detainee said, “If I told the truth, everybody would get mad. If you interrogated me correctly…maybe if you rested and I rested…One interrogator after another…God and his angels see what is happening.”
2315: Detainee was on the verge of breaking.
Four days have passed. For four of the next seven, Qahtani is subjected to non-stop 20-hour interrogations; the other three, he's allowed to nap an extra hour. He has dizzy spells; he's forced to receive an enema to relieve constipation. The interrogations become more aggressive: photographs of 9/11 victims are taped to the wall of the interrogation room, and then to his body. Videos of the 9/11 attacks are played over and over. “Liar,” “Coward,” “Failure” are written in Arabic on the plywood walls, and he is made to wear a sign saying “I am going to hell because I am full of hate.” He is mocked relentlessly. On the morning on December 2, 2002, the tenth day of the interrogation,
1030: Control began “birthday party” and place party hat on detainee. Detainee offered birthday cake – refused. Interrogators and guards sing “God bless America.” Detainee became very angry.
The following morning,
0930: Interrogators gave class to new MPs in view of detainee stating the resistance training, clouded thinking, series of mistakes, and attempts to gain control that the detainee has exhibited. Interrogators ran puppet show satirizing the detainee's involvement with Al Qaida.
Matthew Alexander 10/01/10: This is just absolute buffoonery. Where are the officers? The senior interrogator? This is complete shenanigans, unprofessional, and absolute incompetence.
At 8:00 that evening, the log notes ominously, “Phase 1B begins.”
2000: Detainee awakened and told he is being taken back to Cuba, hooded, and loaded into ambulance. Ambulance drove a few feet and detainee was taken out and into a different interrogation booth. ENS S lead interrogator with a female DOD linguist. ENS S was in civilian clothes and ran an approach to plant seeds in the detainee's mind on how to end the interrogations. The approach centered around how Al Qaida had destroyed Islam and the detainee's life had been spared because it was now his jihad to tell the world about how 9-11 was wrong, and help rebuild Islam.
2040: Detainee hooded and taken to new primary interrogation booth that was decorated with photos of 9-11 victims, the U.S. flag, flags of coalition forces in the global war on terrorism, and red lighting. Detainee was subject to loud music for 20 minutes.
2100: Hood was removed and U.S. National Anthem was played. CAPT W was lead interrogator with the same female DOD linguist.
2105: Detainee's head and beard were shaved with electric clippers. Detainee started resistance when beard was shaved and MPs had to restrain. Shaving was halted until detainee was once more compliant. LTC P supervised shaving. No problems occurred. Photos were taken of detainee when the shaving was finished.
The four-hour sleep period is shifted from midnight to 4 a.m. to 7:00 to 11:00 in the morning; on this first day of “Phase 1B” he is interrogated nonstop through the night. The assault on his senses increases: the lurid lighting, loud music during a showing of the popular Internet “devil in the smoke” 9/11 footage, and then, as if to announce the introduction of a new element in the interrogations, blared Christina Aguilera. Not long afterward SGT L, a female night shift interrogator, approaches and touches al Qahtani, who struggles to get out of his restraints. All of this is closely monitored by a doctor, who checks his vital signs after the Aguilera plays and draws blood not long after to evaluate his kidney function.
“The rules have changed,” he is told, and over the next three days, as medical personnel rehydrate him through an IV, the interrogators ratchet up the pressure. Then, on December 6, 2002, the 14 th day of the interrogation, Qahtani is told another detainee has placed him at a safehouse in Kabul; he is accused of being a bin Laden bodyguard. “This will never end and things will get worse,” his interrogators assure him. A few hours later, Qahtani offers another confession:
1400: Detainee taken to bathroom and walked 10 minutes. Corpsman replaced ankle bandages to prevent chafing from cuffs. Started “Al Qaida used Islam” and “bad muslim” themes. Detainee said “I will tell the truth” and told the interrogator to get out some paper. He also said “I am doing this to get out of here.” Detainee began talking but would not give any information about people other than himself. Detainee talked about traveling to Afghanistan and meeting UBL who gave him money and sent him to America. Detainee also talked about his travel after he was turned away from Orlando.
1600: Detainee allowed to pray after promising to continue cooperating. Detainee asked for air conditioner to be turned off and asked for blanket – both were given.
1610: Detainee offered water and bathroom break – refused.
1715: Detainee allowed to pray.
But the lull is short-lived. Interrogators know this confession is fabricated, and shut down the interrogation session. When it resumes a few hours later, Qahtani is set upon twice, first by Sergeant L, a female interrogator, and then, evidently, by a guard dog:
1930: Third shift interrogation team enters the booth. The approaches were Pride and Ego down, Fear Up Harsh, and Invasion of Space by a Female. The detainee became very violent and irate. Detainee attempted to liberate himself from the chair in order to get away from the female. He struggled for approximately forty minutes attempting to move out of the presence of the female.
Matthew Alexander 10/01/10: This is nowhere in the training or the Army Field Manual. These interrogations are so amateur, incompetent, and ludicrous that any experienced, professional interrogator overseeing them would have interceded long before, removed the interrogators, and issued appropriate disciplines. The interrogations violate Geneva Conventions, the Army Field Manual, the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, not to mention their complete contradiction to the techniques taught in the interrogations training course and Field Manual.
2030: Detainee was exercised for approximately fifteen minutes. The Medical Representative checked the detainee's blood pressure and weight. She cleared the detainee for further interrogation….
0001: First shift began. Detainee made to stand for the National Anthem. Interrogators began harsh Pride & Ego Down by poking holes in the new cover story and outlining the rules he must live by now.
0100: Detainee taken to the porch where he can see foraging banana rats and told that he chose this life with the rats. He is reminded of the good things in life that he chose to leave behind.
0120: Issues arise between MPs and dog handler. CAPT W talks with all parties and resolves issues.
0320: Detainee taken to bathroom and walked for 10 minutes. Corpsman checks vitals – O.K.
0345: Detainee offered food and water – refused. Detainee asked for music to be turned off. Detainee was asked if he can find the verse in the Koran that prohibits music.
0350: Corpsman checks vitals – detainee refuses Motrin and water. Corpsman asked detainee if he has dizziness or a headache – detainee says yes. Corpsman explains it is from lack of water. Vitals show dehydration is beginning. Corpsman calls doctor.
0415: Detainee admits story he told interrogators was false. Stated he told the story because he was under pressure. Detainee was told he chose to be here, and was given the list of decisions he made that brought him here and was told he needs to take responsibility for his actions. Detainee was given an IV by corpsman. Detainee was told that we would not allow him to die.
It is the second time he has heard this pledge.
When Qahtani is “put to bed” at 7 a.m. on December 7, the log states “24 HOUR RECUPERATION STAND-DOWN BEGINS”; his interrogation plan evidently called for a one-day hiatus after two solid weeks of questioning. But that break is not to include additional rest. He is roused as usual after 4 hours of sleep, and MPs are instructed “to offer water every hour, take detainee to bathroom and walk every one and a half hours, offer food once per shift, and keep music playing to prevent detainee from sleeping during stand-down. MPs are instructed not to converse with detainee except to issue commands.” The “stand-down” is anything but recuperative, however, and the calm turns to panic that evening:
2000: Corpsman check vitals and finds the detainee's pulse is unusually slow. Doctor arrives and decides to perform an EKG – leaves to get EKG machine.
2050: Doctor returns and performs EKG. Heartbeat is regular but slow – 35 bpm. Doctor consults with another doctor.
2130: Decision is made to take detainee to GTMO hospital to perform a CT scan of the detainee's brain to see if there are any irregularities.
2215: Depart to hospital.
2230: Arrive at hospital and begin CT scan.
2330: Doctors review scan and do not find any conclusive evidence of any conditions, but request the detainee be kept overnight until a radiologist can be flown in to ensure there are no anomalies. Detainee is placed in isolation ward and hooked up to monitor heart rhythm.
In December 1999, three years before this crisis played out in Guantánamo's Camp X-Ray, the American Medical Association amended its 152-year old Code of Medical Ethics to include this provision regarding torture:
Physicians must oppose and must not participate in torture for any reason. Participation in torture includes, but is not limited to, providing or withholding any services, substances, or knowledge to facilitate the practice of torture. Physicians must not be present when torture is used or threatened. Physicians may treat prisoners or detainees if doing so is in their best interest, but physicians should not treat individuals to verify their health so that torture can begin or continue. Physicians who treat torture victims should not be persecuted. Physicians should help provide support for victims of torture and, whenever possible, strive to change situations in which torture is practiced or the potential for torture is great. 9
Nine times in the past two weeks—starting on Day 2 of the interrogation, when it is recorded that a “Medical doctor arrives to evaluate detainee to ensure he is physically able to continue”—military doctors have examined Qahtani. A doctor has installed a shunt in anticipation of the need for repeated IV rehydration and has drawn blood to check his kidney function. Now two doctors send Qahtani to the naval hospital and order a brain scan, and the military summons a radiologist from the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in Puerto Rico. The log summarizes the events of the following day this way:
08 December 2002
Detainee's electrolytes are checked and corrected. Potassium was slightly below normal due to not eating. Detainee's left leg was swollen and an ultrasound was performed to check for blood clots. No blood clots were detected and the detainee's swelling went down naturally. A radiologist was flown in from Roosevelt Roads and checked the detainee's CT scan – no anomalies were found. No unusual heart rhythms were recorded by the monitor during the detainee's stay and his heart rate returned to normal naturally. The detainee slept most of the day between meals.
Incredibly, by the following morning, plans are being made to resume the interrogation, which is now well into its third week but barely a third of the way through the logged sessions.
At six o'clock on the evening of December 09, Qahtani “is hooded, shackled and restrained in a litter for transport to Camp X-Ray.” One of the evening-shift interrogators, Ensign C, rides with him, telling him he can either “tell the whole truth” right there in the ambulance and rejoin the other detainees in Camp Delta or remain silent and go back to Camp X-Ray. A half hour later, “Detainee arrives at Camp X-Ray and is returned to interrogation booth. ENS C enters booth with detainee and gives a last chance to tell the whole truth. Detainee is uncooperative and ENS C leaves. CAPT W enters booth and informs the detainee that he had been medically cleared and only he could make it stop, otherwise it would get worse.” This is followed by a sardonic-sounding entry stating “Detainee was exercised for good health.” A medic checks his vital signs. “The interrogation continued.”
Indeed, there is no change to his sleep schedule, no change in tactics. That evening,
2340: Detainee was repulsed by the female invasion of his personal space. He made several attempts to stand up in order to prevent her from entering his personal space. He attempted to appeal to SGT M but that was not effective. SGT M continued with fear up harsh until the detainee would give new information but the detainee continued to give old information so he was silenced by the interrogation team.
0000: Interrogation team entered the booth and played the national anthem. Detainee was made to stand and put his hand over his heart. Lead explained rules to detainee. Ran pride and ego down approach. Played loud music to keep detainee awake.
In a matter of hours, Qahtani is veering between anger and weeping; when he tries to speak, he is “silenced by interrogator yelling and loud music.” He tells his tormentors he is “having emotional problems and need[s] to see a doctor for this.” In response, he is again accused of using resistance techniques and mocked by interrogators who ask him to “perform the ‘crazy Mohammed' facial expressions again.” He is again “exercised for good circulation and overall good health, has his vital checked, and now is also weighed; 160 pounds before he was isolated over the summer for interrogation, 10 he now weighs 119 pounds, “123 pounds with the three-piece suit,” the vernacular for his wrist and ankle manacles. He urinates on himself when he is being led to the latrine.
Relentlessly, the humiliations escalate. He is taken to watch the foraging banana rats again and told they have “more love, freedom, and concern” than he does; “Detainee began to cry during this comparison.” Interrogators stage an “exorcism to purge the evil Jinns that he claimed were controlling his emotions.” They play childish games: “the lead held the coffee in front of the detainee and when the detainee reached for the coffee, the interrogator poured the coffee on the floor.” He breaks down again, and asks that he be allowed to sleep in a separate room and only questioned in the interrogation room. When the interrogator asks him why he is making the request, the BSCT psychologist intervenes, announcing that he is “only trying to run an approach on the control and gain sympathy.” With his vital signs again “not so good,” 3 IV bags are administered, and the questioning continues through the night.
0150: Interrogators gave detainee rules for the evening. 1) No talking. 2) Face forward. 3) Don't ask for anything. Detainee almost immediately began to speak. The interrogators screamed at detainee until he stopped. Detainee was reminded of his worthlessness as a human being. He was reminded of the fact that his standard of living is less than a Banana rat. While running the Pride and Ego (P/E) down approach, SGT M. showed the bottom of his boot to detainee. Detainee had one of the longest emotional outbursts seen yet. He went into a fit of rage yelling insults in English and Arabic to interrogators. He began to move his arms and legs in his chair as if to want to break away from the shackles and attack.
Just after midnight the next night, an interrogator plays the call to prayer, but tells Qahtani “this is no longer the call to prayer. You're not allowed to pray. This is the call to interrogation. So pay attention.” A sign reading “coward” is hung around his neck. He is “increasingly tired and incoherent,” the log notes. He is again shown the banana rats. Then, after his 4 hour rest,
Interrogators began telling detainee how grateful and grumpy he was. In order to escalate the detainee's emotions, a mask was made from an MRE 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 as “the oldest Christian here” and wanted to know why lead allowed the detainee to be treated this way.
That evening, three weeks into the interrogation and barely four days after the hospital emergency,
2200: …Medical representative took detainee's vital signs and removed the IV housing unit from the detainee's arm. The detainee's pulse rate was low (38) and his blood pressure was high (144/90). Detainee complained of having a boil on his left leg, just below his knee. The medical representative looked at his leg and phoned the doctor. The doctor instructed the corpsman to recheck the detainee's vitals in one hour.
2300: Detainee refused water and food. He was taken to the latrine and exercised in order to assist in improving the detainee's vital signs.
2300: The medical representative rechecked the detainee's vital signs. The detainee's blood pressure had improved but it was still high (138/80) and his pulse rate had improved but it remained low (42). The corpsman called the doctor to provide an update and the doctor said operations could continue since there had been no significant change. It was noted that historically the detainee's pulse sometimes drops in the 40's in the evenings.
14 December 2002
0001: Interrogation team was briefed on condition of the detainee's mental and physical state. Detainee's hands were cuffed at his sides to prevent him from conducting his prayer ritual.
0025: Lead begins berating detainee as a coward and liar. Lead taped picture of a 3 year old victim over detainee's heart. Detainee is told he will never leave Cuba. Lead states that if he does not tell the truth, the interrogator will keep talking to him everyday until he does. Control orders detainee to sit up and pay attention. Control dripped a few drops of water on detainees head to keep him awake. Detainee struggles when water is dropped on his head. Detainee attempts to talk, but both control and lead scream over the detainee until he stops.
0120: Interrogators take a break and detainee listens to white noise. Detainee goes to bathroom and is exercised while hooded. Detainee returns to booth and continues to listen to white noise.
0140: Interrogators enter the booth and play cards while conducting a [Pride & Ego] Down. Detainee is told that we get paid to mess with him so we might as well play cards, a leisure he cannot participate in. Detainee is told to shut up and stay awake. At times detainee began to fall asleep and water was dripped on his head as he was ridiculed. White noise was played in the background.
Water is becoming a frequent tool to “assist him in maintaining his attention with interrogator.” Sex is becoming the preferred torment. On December 17, “Control shows detainee photos from a fitness magazine of scantily clad women. Detainee called control an animal and stated that it was against his religion. Lead replied ‘You can kill people and lie, but we can't show you pictures?' [Pride and Ego Down] continues.” That night,
Detainee appeared to have been disturbed by the word homosexual. He did not appear to appreciate being called a homosexual. He denies being a homosexual. He appeared to be very annoyed by the use of his mother and sister as examples of prostitutes and whores. Detainee was taken to the latrine and exercised for approximately 10 minutes. He refuses to drink water again.
2200: Detainee was taken to the latrine and exercised. He did not desire water. He appeared disgusted by the photos of UBL and a variety of sexy females. Detainee would avoid looking at all of the photos shown to him.
Interrogators have now taken to hanging pictures of swimsuit models around his neck; at 2 a.m. on December 19 “While walking out [to a bathroom break], detainee pulled a picture of a model off (it had been fashioned into a sign to hang around his neck) and began to struggle with MPs.” The photos give rise to a new game: “[I]nterrogators added photos of fitness models to a binder. Once completed, the interrogators began showing the photos and asking the detainee detailed questions about the photos.”
Toward dawn, Qahtani is led into a nearby interrogation booth, where interrogators have built a shrine to Osama bin Ladan. He is “told he could now pray to his god – UBL.” The log records, “Detainee was apprehensive and started to walk out of booth. Detainee was not allowed to leave and interrogator played the call to prayer. Detainee began to pray and openly cried.” Then, after the four hours of sleep,
1100: Detainee awakened, taken to bathroom and walked in the interrogation booth due to rain. Corpsman checked vitals – O.K.
1115: Detainee offered water – refused. Corpsman changed ankle bandages to prevent chafing. Interrogator began by reminding the detainee about the lessons in respect and how the detainee disrespected the interrogators. Told detainee that a dog is held in higher esteem because dogs know right from wrong and know to protect innocent people from bad people. Began teaching the detainee lessons such as stay, come, and bark to elevate his social status up to that of a dog. Detainee became very agitated.
1230: Detainee taken to bathroom and walked 30 minutes.
1300: Detainee offered food and water – refused. Dog tricks continued and detained stated he should be treated like a man. Detainee was told he would have to learn who to defend and who to attack. Interrogator showed photos of 9-11 victims and told detainee he should bark happy for these people. Interrogator also showed photos of Al Qaida terrorists and told detainee he should growl at these people. A towel was placed on the detainee's head like a burka with his face exposed and the interrogator proceeded to give the detainee dance lessons. The detainee became agitated and tried to kick an MP. No retaliation was used for the kick and the dance lesson continued.
That evening, the log records, “The doctor spoke with the detainee. He was given an 800mg motrin for chest pains. 11 An hour later:
2145: Detainee was taken to the latrine and exercised. His vitals were taken again. His blood pressure was normal but his pulse rate was high at 93. The medical representative will be monitoring the detainee's vitals closely until his pulse rate is lower.
2200: The detainee was stripped searched. Initially he was attempting to resist the guards. After approximately five minutes of nudity the detainee ceased to resist. He would only stare at the wall with GREAT focus. His eyes were squinted and stuck on one point on the wall directly in front of him. He later stated that he knew there was nothing he could do with so many guards around him, so why should he resist. He stated that he did not like the females viewing his naked body while being searched and if he felt he could have done something about it then he would have.
2331: Detainee's vital signs were taken again by the medical representative. All of his vital signs were normal. His blood pressure was 96/43 and his pulse rate was 61. He was taken to the latrine and exercised for approximately 10 minutes.
21 December 2002
0001: New interrogation shift enters the booth and begins “attention to detail” approach. Detainee looks at photos of fitness models and answers questions about the photos. Drops of water were sprinkled on detainee's head when he did not answer in previous sessions, but detainee is now viewing the photos and answering. Detainee rebuked interrogator under his breath several times.
It is now the 29 th day of the interrogation. “Phase II” has begun: Qahtani is allowed to sleep in a separate cell in a block where interrogators have place an informant, but he still spends 20 hours a day in the interrogation booth. After 4 weeks of intense sleep deprivation, he is visibly subdued; on the morning of December 21, the logkeeper notes, “Detainee appeared very stoic at first and claimed he was just tired, which is unusual for this shift. It is possible the detainee did not sleep much due to the introduction of the confederate detainee.” Interrogators take a softer approach, letting Qahtani pick the topic of conversation, and he asks rudimentary questions about Cuba: “is there a mosque in Cuba, is Cuba part of the U.S., is Cuba in America, Europe, or Asia?” They ask Qahtani about “his dreams for getting out of this place.” Qahtani tells them ”he would like to get a job but not with the Saudi government. The detainee then announced in clear English ‘I would like to be a supervisor or foreman.'”
That evening, however, Sergeant L presses the “invasion of personal space” to extremes. She records the events herself, in the first person:
2103: Detainee became very emotional during the discussion of taking the right and wrong paths in life. As we discussed taking the wrong path the discussion led into a discussion of consequences for taking the wrong path. This discussion of the consequences for taking the wrong path, led to the discussion of torture, beating and killing according to the Manchester document. At this point of the discussion I was forehead to forehead with the detainee and he stated that he would rather be beaten with an electrical wire than to have me constantly in his personal space. He stated that this is unbearable to him, my being in his personal space.
2223: Detainee was taken to the latrine and exercised. He refused to drink water. I sat the detainee on the floor and told him that he was considered to be beneath me and that he didn't deserve to be seated in a chair like civilized human beings. I told him constantly that he was a coward and weak minded individual who killed innocent women and children that God created. The discussion of the Saudi government followed the conversation of being beneath me. As I began to inform the detainee of the changes the Saudi government has been making in order to support the efforts of peace and terror free world I began to engage closeness with the detainee. This really evoked strong emotions within the detainee. He attempted to move away from me by all means. He was laid out on the floor so I straddled him without putting my weight on him. He would then attempt to move me off of him by bending his legs in order to lift me off but this failed because the MPs were holding his legs down with their hands. The detainee began to pray loudly but this did not stop me from finishing informing the detainee about the Al Qaeda member, Qaed Salim Sinan al Harethi aka Abu Ali, that was killed by the CIA. When the linguist mentioned this killing she informed me that the detainee told her to get out of his face. She did not move and she continued to interpret as usual.
Over the next week, Qahtani's exchanges with his interrogators grow more poignant as his desperation grows. Small talk and little indulgences alternate with the ritual humiliations. Allowed to speak, Qahtani tells interrogators “Muslims in America have it good because they can speak their minds, unlike in Saudi Arabia.” He responds to interrogators' “Afghanistan theme” by offering his view that “the Afghans have their own problems that only they can solve,” and he suggests that the reason “high ranking al Qaeda” captives are talking to interrogators is “because they have information and he does not.” He speaks frankly about his treatment:
23 December 2002
0001: Upon entering booth, lead changed white noise music and hung pictures of swimsuit models around his neck. Detainee was left in booth listening to white noise.
0030: Lead entered booth and observed that detainee appeared troubled. Lead asked detainee how he was doing. Detainee related that he had problems. When lead first asked him what the problems were he stated that they were between him and god. Lead then told detainee to tell interrogator his problems because they could not be solved unless they were addressed. Detainee then address the following problems to lead:
• Being subjected to pictures of swimsuit models and question. – he began to cry quietly at this point.
• Metal chair is too stiff and uncomfortable.
• The overall treatment here. He cannot handle the treatment much longer – when he made this statement he began to cry and sob out loud.
Lead asked him if he had any other problems and he stated that the other problems he could deal with on his own. Ie: physical pain, sleeping arrangement etc. What he could not deal with much longer were his being subjected to the pictures and the treatment day after day.
A few hours later:
0230: Detainee drank 1 cup of coffee. Upon completion he was told to go exercise and go to the bathroom. Detainee then asked lead if he could ask a question. Lead told detainee to ask his question. Detainee requested that lead add wearing the towel over his head to the list of detainee problems. Detainee related that he already knows where he is, so why does he continue to wear a towel over his head. Lead then told detainee that he will continue to wear a towel over his [head[ and live this lifestyle until he has proven himself to be truthful, and provides answers to questions asked. He was reminded that he chooses when this treatment stops.
0300: Lead and translator played cards in front of detainee. Lead instructed detainee to drink 24 ounces of water. He was told that he needed to drink the 24 ounces by the time the next break approached. If he was not finished the remainder would be spilled over his head. Detainee completed the 24 ounces of water.
0400: Detainee was exercised and taken to the bathroom. MPs told lead that detainee cried quietly under the towel while exercising. When he returned to the booth lead asked, what is bothering you? Detainee immediately began to cry and sob loudly and when he regained his composure he stated “I'm tired of my life here” and continued to cry. Lead reinforced that he, detainee knew what he had to do to go back to his brothers in Cuba. Detainee then related, “I'm ready to tell my story.” Lead told detainee that he has not proven himself to be able to answer questions in detail and truthfully, and therefore lead did not want to hear his story at this time.
Again interrogators interpret Qahtani's behavior to suggest progress. On Christmas eve, an interrogator notes “The detainee is thinking a lot more on the themes when presented to him, seems to be on the verge of breaking. “Then, on December 26 th :
1945: The doctor checked the detainee. The doctor looked at detainee's back to ensure there were no abrasions from sitting in the metal chair for long periods of time. The doctor said everything was good.
2030: Detinee stated the SGT L would be the cause of him committing suicide. He requested to write a will. His request was granted and he wrote a will with a crayon. Lead had will translated and it was a request that if he died here to have his body and passport sent back to his country quickly and to notify his mother. Lead entered booth with the detainee's will and told detainee that since he had allowed the detainee this opportunity, what would the detainee offer in return. The detainee said “thank you” and lead stated that was not enough. Lead told detainee that a single truth would be enough and asked the detainee “who recruited you into Al Qaida?” Detainee stated he was not Al Qaida and lead tore up the will in front of him.
Two days later—it is now the sixth week of the interrogation—“Interrogators instructed MPs to unshackle the detainee except for his legs to let him feel what it was like and give the detainee a chance to make the decision to talk.” Sergeant L is replaced by an interrogator Qahtani recognizes from earlier interviews, before his “special interrogation” began; he takes it as a “good sign.” On New Year's Day, 2003, “DETAINEE WAS GIVEN 12 HOURS IN HIS SLEEP CELL,” the first time since he was hospitalized three weeks before that he has had an opportunity to sleep more than four hours straight.
On the 7 th of January, the Guantánamo Joint Task Force's Staff Judge Advocate, the base commandant's attorney, reviews the interrogation log, and again at 6:40 p.m. on January 10. What follows is the final night of Qahtani's logged interrogation:
2100: Head break and 10 minutes exercise.
2130: Interrogation team entered the booth, IS1E and a DOD linguist. Interrogator covered previous night's topic of hopelessness unless the detainee cooperates fully so he can receive leniency. Detainee stated that the session this night was quieter and he liked that, and that he didn't like to talk about his case because the conversations would become harsh. Interrogator told detainee that conversations became harsh because the detainee lies. Detainee tried to deflect conversation when it turned to Al Qaida.
2245: Head break and 10 minute exercise. Interrogator allowed detainee to choose a topic to talk about. Detainee wanted to talk about dinosaurs. Interrogator gave history of dinosaurs and talked about the meteor that wiped them out, and equated this event with nuclear war. Detainee expresses great ignorance about dinosaurs and space, topics that are taught in U.S. grade schools. Detainee asked interrogator if the sun revolved around the earth.
11 January 2003
0145: Head break and 10 minutes exercise.
0200: Source ate 1 MRE and drank 1 bottle of water.
0230: Source received haircut. Detainee did not resist until the beard was cut. Detainee stated he would talk about anything if his beard was left alone. Interrogator asked detainee if he would be honest about himself. Detainee replied “if God wills.” Beard was shaven. Detainee stated he was on strike from interrogation on all teams. A little water was poured over the detainee's head to reinforce control and wash hair off. Interrogator continued futility approach. Detainee began to cry when talking.
0400: Head break and 10 minute walk.
0545: Head break and 10 minute walk. Interrogator told detainee to choose a topic of discussion. Detainee asked to know about the rituals of Christianity. Interrogator told detainee to talk about the rituals of Islam first.
0650: Medical check, OK.
0700: Taken to X-ray for sleep period.
Five days later, at 8 p.m. on January 16, 2003, a doctor is called upon again, this time to certify Qahtani's condition. The entire 1-page “MD Note” of that exam remains redacted. Unredacted is this final assessment: “Normal physical exam. No injuries or trauma. Plan: follow up with medical personnel.” 12
- 1. Bob Woodward, “Detainee Tortured, Says U.S. Official,” Washington Post , January 14, 2009, available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/13/AR2009011303372.html
- 2. United States v. William J. Kreutzer, 61 M.J. 293, 18 (C.A.A.F. 2005), available at http://www.armfor.uscourts.gov/opinions/2005Term/04-5006.htm
- 3. Morris D. Davis, “AWOL Military Justice,” Los Angeles Times , December 10, 2007, available at http://www.truth-out.org/article/morris-d-davis-awol-military-justice
- 4. April 15, 2008 Charge Sheet available at http://www.defense.gov/news/commissionsCo-conspirators.html
- 5. Woodward asked Crawford whether the other five had also been tortured. “I assume torture,” she answered, citing CIA Director Michael V. Hayden public acknowledgements that Khalid Sheik Mohammed had been waterboarded. However, as Woodward reported, “Crawford said she let the charges go forward [against the five] because the FBI satisfied her that they gathered information without using harsh techniques. She noted that Mohammed has acknowledged his Sept. 11 role in court, whereas Qahtani has recanted his self-incriminating statements to the FBI.”
- 6. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/13/AR2009011303372.html
- 7. This and all the quotations that follow in this section are from the Al-Qahtani Interrogation Log available at http://ccrjustice.org/files/Al%20Qahtani%20Interrogation%20Log.pdf
- 8. Letter from T.J. Harrington to Major General Donald J. Ryder, July 14, 2004, available at http://www.pegc.us/archive/In_re_Gitmo/pet_mot_disc_20050110_ex_C.pdf
- 9. http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/physician-resources/medical-ethics/code-medical-ethics/opinion2067.shtml
- 10. In his October 12, 2006 statement before the Administrative Review Board in Guantánamo, Qahtani described the interrogation methods recorded in the Interrogation Log and told the Board, “As a result of the intense physical and psychological stress from these methods, I went from approximately 160 pounds to 100 pounds and was sent to the hospital twice when I was close to death during interrogation.” See “Summary of Administrative Review Board Proceedings for ISN 063,” 7, available at http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/63-mohammed-al-qahtani
- 11. An alternate, heavily redacted Qahtani interrogation log released as an attachment to the Schmidt Furlow report describes this scene in greater detail: “The doctor spoke with the detainee. He was given an 800mg Motrin for chest pains. The detainee was attempting to gain the sympathy of the doctor. The detainee complained of having a hard time breathing but after the doctor examined the detainee he determined that the detainee could and was breathing just fine. The detainee also told the doctor that he was tired and needed to get some sleep. The doctor informed the detainee that he was getting ample sleep.” See “Extracts from Shift logs 13 Dec 02 – 14 Jan 03,” enclosure #64 to the Schmidt-Furlow report, available at http://action.aclu.org/torturefoia/released/061906/Schmidt_FurlowEnclosures.pdf
- 12. Enclosure #65 to the Schmidt-Furlow Report, “Investigation into FBI Allegations of Detainee Abuse at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba Detention Facility,” available at http://action.aclu.org/torturefoia/released/061906/Schmidt_FurlowEnclosures.pdf