FBI Inquiry Details Abuses Reported by Agents at Guantanamo

January 3, 2007 12:00 am

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New Details Emerge of “Baptizing” of Detainees and Koran Desecration; ACLU Questions FBI Failure to Investigate Detainee Abuse


Steve Shapiro, Legal Director of the ACLU, talks about what is at stake in the legal battle over Guantánamo, detention and the Military Commissions Act.

Witness to Abuse: The ACLU Blogs on Guantánamo, including observations on the litigation over the past five years, first-hand accounts from the 2004 military commissions and hearings, and thoughts on the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld Supreme Court case.
Read the blog >>

> ACLU of Florida and Amnesty International Call on Congress to Restore Habeas, Close Guantánamo(1/11/2007)

> Blogs and Audio on Five Years in Guantánamo

NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union today released more than 200 pages of documents obtained from the Federal Bureau of Investigation detailing 26 eyewitness accounts by agents of detainee abuse, 17 of which the Bureau apparently chose not to investigate further.

“These documents contain eyewitness FBI accounts of prisoner abuse which cannot be dismissed by the Administration, and only underscore the need for a comprehensive investigation into the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay and other U.S. controlled detention facilities,” said Amrit Singh, an attorney with the ACLU. “The documents also call into question the FBI’s apparent decision to not follow up on prisoner abuses by Defense Department personnel. The fact that Defense Department policy allowed this treatment does not mean that it was legal, humane or ethical.”

The documents provide detailed responses from FBI personnel to a “special inquiry” initiated by the FBI’s Inspection Division after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke in 2004. The inquiry requested that personnel make a report if they witnessed “aggressive mistreatment, interrogations or interview techniques of GTMO detainees by representatives of any law enforcement, military or Bureau personnel which were not consistent with Bureau guidelines.”

Included in the documents are some new accounts of abuse related to the detainees’ religious beliefs: Investigators wrapped a detainee’s head in duct tape “because he would not stop quoting the Koran;” another agent said an interrogator bragged about making a detainee listen to “satanic black metal music for hours and hours.” According to the same report, the interrogator later “dressed as a Catholic Priest and baptized the detainee in order to save him.” In another incident observed by an FBI agent, a Marine captain squatted over the Koran during an interrogation of a Muslim prisoner, which the prisoner found extremely offensive.

But after the FBI received these responses from its own personnel describing detainee abuse by military interrogators and military police, the agency apparently made a deliberate decision not to conduct follow-up interviews, citing the fact that the techniques reported were expressly authorized by Defense Department policies.

Of the 26 responses, only nine were slated for further investigation. In assessing one response, the FBI’s office of Council General states: “no further interview necessary” regarding techniques that included draping an Israeli flag around a detainee, shackling detainees to the floor and subjecting them to loud music and strobe lights.

“The FBI appears to have turned a blind eye to the very abuses that most need investigating – those abuses that were expressly authorized by Defense Department policy,” said Jameel Jaffer, an attorney at the ACLU. “The FBI documents only remind us that a thorough and independent investigation is long overdue.”

The ACLU said the documents further confirm that then-Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was directly involved in authorizing harsh interrogation techniques at Guantánamo. One document quotes an FBI agent saying that he was told that 24-hour interrogations “may have come from Secretary Rumsfeld. On several occasions when questioned about the techniques utilized, [name redacted] said it had been approved by ‘the Secretary.'”

The documents, which were released late yesterday by the FBI, came as a result of the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, which to date have uncovered more than 100,000 pages of government documents detailing the torture and abuse of detainees. The ACLU has created a search engine for the public to access the documents at www.aclu.org/torturefoiasearch

Yesterday, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the incoming chairman of the Judiciary Committee, disclosed that the Department of Justice has refused to release to him key documents relating to the administration’s torture policies and abuse of power. Senator Leahy had requested those documents in November of last year when the government disclosed the existence of the documents in response to the ACLU’s FOIA litigation. The failure of the government to provide that information, the ACLU said, makes it increasingly difficult for lawmakers to conduct meaningful oversight.

In seeking accountability for detainee abuses, the ACLU and others have turned to the courts. In March 2005, the ACLU and Human Rights First filed a lawsuit charging then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other top officials with direct responsibility for the torture and abuse of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of the claims in the Rumsfeld lawsuit were based on information disclosed through the ACLU’s FOIA litigation. Further information about the case, Ali v. Rumsfeld, is online at www.aclu.org/rumsfeld

The ACLU brought the FOIA lawsuit with the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace. The New York Civil Liberties Union is co-counsel in the case.

In addition to Singh and Jaffer, attorneys in the FOIA case are Lawrence Lustberg and Melanca Clark of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione, P.C.; Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU; Arthur Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the NYCLU; and Barbara Olshansky of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

The documents released today are available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/27807lgl20070102.html

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