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More Torture Schemes

Larry Siems,
The Torture Report
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April 22, 2010

It’s becoming clearer by the week that the scheme described in Chapter 4 was not unique.

Last month a federal judge granted the habeas corpus petition of Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman (PDF), a young Yemeni detainee who was arrested in December 2001 and transferred to Guantánamo in January 2002. The U.S. alleged that Uthman, who was 20 at the time he was captured, was one of Osama bin Laden’s bodyguards. That allegation rested on the statements of two other Guantánamo detainees, Sharqwi Abdu Ali Al-Hajj and Sanad Yislam Ali Al Kazimi: Hajj told interrogators he’d met Uthman at a meeting bin Laden attended in Afghanistan shortly after 9/11, and Kazimi identified a photograph of Uthman for his interrogators and said “he heard” that Uthman had become a bodyguard for bin Laden.

As with Binyam Mohamed, it turns out these statements were gathered at Bagram air base after the two men had been tortured, first in foreign dungeons and then in the CIA’s “Dark Prison.”

And as in the case of Farhi Saeed Bin Mohammed — when Judge Gladys Kessler ruled that information Binyam Mohamed provided that incriminated Bin Mohammed was inadmissible because of his treatment in Pakistan, Morocco, and the Dark Prison — Judge Henry Kennedy, Jr. ruled last month in Uthman’s case that

The Court will not rely on the statements of Hajj or Kazimi because there is unrebutted evidence in the record that, at the time of the interrogations at which they made the statements, both men had recently been tortured.

As Judge Kennedy wrote:

Uthman has submitted to the Court a declaration of Kristin B. Wilhelm, an attorney who represents Hajj, summarizing Hajj’s description to her of his treatment while in custody. The declaration states that while held in Jordan, Hajj “was regularly beaten and threatened with electrocution and molestation,” and he eventually “manufactured facts” and confessed to his interrogators’ allegations “in order to make the torture stop.” After transfer to a secret CIA-run prison in Kabul, Afghanistan, Hajj was reportedly “kept in complete darkness and was subject to continuous loud music.”

Uthman also submitted a declaration of Martha Rayner, a Professor at Fordham University Law School who represents Kazimi, regarding Kazimi’s description of his treatment in detention. Rayner reports that while Kazimi was held in the United Arab Emirates, his interrogators beat him; held him naked and shackled in a dark, cold cell; dropped him into cold water while his hands and legs were bound; and sexually abused him. Kazimi told Rayner that eventually “[h]e made up his mind to say ‘Yes’ to anything the interrogators said to avoid further torture.” According to Rayner’s declaration, Kazimi was relocated to a prison run by the CIA where he was always in darkness and where he was hooded, given injections, beaten, hit with electric cables, suspended from above, made to be naked, and subjected to continuous loud music. Kazimi reported trying to kill himself on three occasions. He told Rayner that he realized “he could mitigate the torture by telling the interrogators what they wanted to hear.” Next, Kazimi was moved to a U.S. detention facility in Bagram, Afghanistan, where, he told Rayner, he was isolated, shackled, “psychologically tortured and traumatized by guards’ desecration of the Koran” and interrogated “day and night, and very frequently.” Kazimi told Rayner he “tried very hard” to tell the interrogators at Bagram the same information he had told his previous interrogators “so they would not hurt him.”

Once again, the position of the U.S. government — this time advanced by the Obama administration — was that because the Bagram “clean team” interrogations did not involve torture, statements the men made at Bagram should be admissible. Once again, a federal judge rejected this position, finding that the treatment the men had been subjected to in Jordan and another country undermined the reliability of their statements in Bagram.

I’ve spent the last few months trying to absorb the full implications of the “Ponzi scheme” we covered in Chapter 4. Now, with the Uthman habeas ruling, we’re left to consider what it means that this chapter was not an isolated horror, but rather one episode in a much larger story in which scores of characters — U.S. interrogators, rendition crews, U.S. and foreign government officials, foreign jailers and torturers, CIA jailers and torturers, FBI “clean teams,” U.S. military jailers at Bagram and Guantánamo, just for starters — played specific, well-defined roles again and again over the course of several years. We’re faced with the scope and utter deliberateness of the scheme.

To read more about and see documentary evidence of the Bush administration’s torture program, go to

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