Prisoner forced to wear women’s clothing, tied with a leash, forced to do dog tricks
WASHINGTON — The interrogations went on for up to 20 hours a day, day after day. The prisoner was told his mother and sisters were whores. He was forced to wear a bra and put a thong on his head. At one point, an interrogator tied a leash to him and forced him to conduct a series of dog tricks.
It all took place at the U.S. detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in an effort to get suspected al-Qaeda member Mohamed al-Kahtani to co-operate with his interrogators.
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Military investigators appointed to look into allegations of abuse at Guantanamo provided to a U.S. Senate committee graphic detail yesterday of the “creative interrogation techniques” used to soften up enemy combatants at the prison that has been subject of sharp criticism by human rights advocates.
The senators were told how Mr. al-Kahtani, a Saudi, was captured in December of 2001 on the Afghan-Pakistani border after the collapse of the Taliban regime. It was later discovered he had tried to enter the United States to take part in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but had been refused entry at the airport in Orlando.
According to General Bantz Craddock, head of the U.S. Southern Command which oversees Guantanamo, when Mr. al-Kahtani resisted “standard” questioning methods for several months, approval was obtained from higher authorities to use “more aggressive interrogation techniques.”
The chief investigator, Air Force General Randall M. Schmidt, detailed how interrogators successfully wore down their prisoner through techniques aimed at attacking the prisoner’s sense of self-worth and persuading him that continued resistance was futile.
Sexual humiliation was an essential part of the routine. In addition to forcing the prisoner to wear the bra and thong, he was forced to stand naked in front of a female interrogator, was subject to repeated strip searches and was told to dance with a male interrogator. In one case, a female interrogator massaged Mr. al-Kahtani’s back and neck over his clothing.
“Twice, interrogators told him he was a homosexual or had homosexual tendencies and that other detainees knew,” Gen. Schmidt said.
“Twice, interrogators brought military working dogs into the interrogation room and directed [them] to growl, bark and show teeth to the detainee,” the Senate committee heard. Air conditioners were used “to make the room uncomfortable.”
The interrogation routine followed this typical pattern. “A seven-hour interrogation; a new set of interrogators would come in; seven hours interrogation; a new set would come in; six hours; and then the detainee was released for four hours. He could sleep if he chose to sleep,” Gen. Schmidt said.
He concluded in his report that the methods used were “degrading and abusive” but said he didn’t think they were “inhumane” because there was no torture and the prisoner was given access to adequate food and water, clothing, shelter and medical treatment.
The report also found other cases of unauthorized techniques being used, including the chaining of detainees to the floor and the use of duct tape to silence a prisoner .
In yet another case, a female interrogator dipped her hand in red ink and then wiped it on the detainee, telling him it was her menstrual blood. Gen. Schmidt said the interrogator had acted in revenge after the detainee spit on her.
Gen. Schmidt recommended that Major General Geoffrey Miller, Guantanamo’s commander, be reprimanded for failing to properly oversee these interrogations. But Gen. Craddock overruled him, explaining to the committee that no U.S. law or policy was violated.
He also noted the use of aggressive interrogation techniques “led to breaking Kahtani’s resistance and to solid intelligence gains.”
Senator Carl Levin, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the abuses seemed to be part of a pattern. “It is clear from the report that detainee mistreatment was not simply the product of a few rogue military police in a night shift,” a reference to the excesses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where reservists have been court-martialled for similar abuses.
Senator John McCain wanted to know whether the “enemy combatants” held at Guantanamo were protected by the Geneva Conventions on treatment of prisoners of war. Gen. Craddock responded that the treatment was consistent with the Conventions “where military necessity has allowed.”
Mr. McCain said that wasn’t good enough. “They may be al-Qaeda, they may be Taliban, they may be the worst people in the world, and I’m sure some of them are. But there are certain rules and international agreements the United States has agreed to, and that we will observe.”
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