"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)
Monday, June 13, 2005
TIME has obtained the first documented look inside the highly classified realm of military interrogations since the Gitmo Camp at Guantanamo Bay opened. The document is a secret 84-page interrogation log that details the interrogation of ‘Detainee 063’ at Guantanamo Bay. It is a remarkable look into the range of techniques and methods used for the interrogation of Mohammed al Qahtani, who is widely believed to be the so-called 20th hijacker, a compatriot of Osama bin Laden and a man who had tried to enter the U.S. in August 2001 to take part in the Sept. 11 attacks. TIME’s report, by Adam Zagorin and Michael Duffy, appears in this week’s issue (on newsstands Monday).
As an aside, I am intrigued by the identification of al Qahtani as the "20th hijacker," a job title which - like "al Qaeda's number three man" - seems to describe a lot of people. Anyway, to continue:
A Night Watchman’s Diary: The log reads like a night watchman’s diary. It is a sometimes shocking and often mundane hour-by-hour, even minute-by-minute account of a campaign to extract information. The log records every time al- Qahtani eats, sleeps, exercises or goes to the bathroom and every time he complies with or refuses his interrogators’ requests. The detainee’s physical condition is frequently checked by medical corpsmen—sometimes as often as three times a day—which indicates either spectacular concern about al-Qahtani’s health or persistent worry about just how much stress he can take. Although the log does not appear obviously censored, it is also plainly incomplete: there are numerous gaps in the notes about what is said and what is happening in the interrogation booth beyond details like “Detainee taken to bathroom and walked for 10 minutes,” TIME reports.
Chief Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita tells TIME that the log was compiled by various uniformed interrogators and observers on the Pentagon’s Joint Task Force at Gitmo as the interrogation proceeded. It is stamped SECRET ORCON, a military acronym for a document that is supposed to remain with the organization that created it. A Pentagon official who has seen the log describes it as the “kind of document that was never meant to leave Gitmo.”
I'm sure that this document was never meant to leave Gitmo. But now that it has, I wonder - is there a similar log for every detainee there? If so, what interesting details might some of the other logs reveal? Seems like something an enterprising journalist - or a Democratic congressman - might want to pursue.
Among the details from the log itself (emphasis supplied):
More Muscular Strategies: Al-Qahtani’s resilience under pressure in the fall of 2002 led top officials at Gitmo to petition Washington for more muscular “counter resistance strategies.” On Dec. 2, Rumsfeld approved 16 of 19 stronger coercive methods. Now the interrogators could use stress strategies like standing for prolonged periods, isolation for as long as 30 days, removal of clothing, forced shaving of facial hair, playing on “individual phobias” (such as dogs) and “mild, non-injurious physical contact such as grabbing, poking in the chest with the finger and light pushing.” According to the log, al-Qahtani experienced several of those over the next five weeks. The techniques Rumsfeld balked at included “use of a wet towel or dripping water to induce the misperception of suffocation.” “Our Armed Forces are trained,” a Pentagon memo on the changes read, “to a standard of interrogation that reflects a tradition of restraint.” Nevertheless, the log shows that interrogators poured bottles of water on al-Qahtani’s head when he refused to drink. Interrogators called this game “Drink Water or Wear It.”
Playing on individual phobias - that reminds me of something. What was it? Oh, yeah, I remember now - Room 101!
No tragedy is complete without comic relief, however, and this story comes fully equipped (emphasis supplied):
Dripping Water or Playing Christina Aguilera Music: After the new measures are approved, the mood in al-Qahtani’s interrogation booth changes dramatically. The interrogation sessions lengthen. The quizzing now starts at midnight, and when Detainee 063 dozes off, interrogators rouse him by dripping water on his head or playing Christina Aguilera music. According to the log, his handlers at one point perform a puppet show “satirizing the detainee’s involvement with al-Qaeda.” He is taken to a new interrogation booth, which is decorated with pictures of 9/11 victims, American flags and red lights. He has to stand for the playing of the U.S. national anthem. His head and beard are shaved. He is returned to his original interrogation booth. A picture of a 9/11 victim is taped to his trousers. Al-Qahtani repeats that he will “not talk until he is interrogated the proper way.” At 7 a.m. on Dec. 4, after a 12-hour, all-night session, he is put to bed for a four-hour nap, TIME reports.
Invasion of Space by Female: Over the next few days, al-Qahtani is subjected to a drill known as Invasion of Space by a Female, and he becomes especially agitated by the close physical presence of a woman. Then, around 2 p.m. on Dec. 6, comes another small breakthrough. He asks his handlers for some paper. “I will tell the truth,” he says. “I am doing this to get out of here.” He finally explains how he got to Afghanistan in the first place and how he met with bin Laden. In return, the interrogators honor requests from him to have a blanket and to turn off the air conditioner. Soon enough, the pressure ratchets up again. Various strategies of intimidation are employed anew. The log reveals that a dog is present, but no details are given beyond a hazy reference to a disagreement between the military police and the dog handler. Agitated, al-Qahtani takes back the story he told the day before about meeting bin Laden, TIME reports.
A puppet show? What kind of weird, sick fucks are working for us down there, anyway? Do you have to be certifiably nuts to work as an interrogator, or is it merely helpful? And, finally, while it is truly perverse in this context, I must admit that under different circumstances - maybe as the title of an Ed Wood flick - I would find the phrase "invasion of space by female" hysterical.
But this is not funny at all. This is simply revolting. And it's being done in our names.
Update: Whatever It Is, I'm Against It has more. The author has read the actual article (which is behind a subscriber wall), rather than merely the excerpts I read and linked to, and so has more details. You can also find this priceless summation there: "It’s like being interrogated by evil 6-year olds." And so it is.