U.S. report cites ‘degrading’ Guantanamo treatment
By Will Dunham
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Guantanamo Bay interrogators
degraded and abused a key prisoner but did not torture him when
they told him he was gay, forced him to dance with another man
and made him wear a bra and perform dog tricks, military
investigators said on Wednesday.
The general who heads U.S. Southern Command, responsible
for the jail for foreign terrorism suspects at the U.S. naval
base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, also said he declined to heed his
investigators’ recommendation to punish a former commander of
the prison camp.
A military report presented before the Senate Armed
Services Committee stated the Saudi man, described as the “20th
hijacker” slated to have participated in the Sept. 11, 2001,
attacks on America, was forced by interrogators to wear a bra
and had women’s thong underwear placed on his head.
U.S. interrogators also told him he was a homosexual,
forced him to dance with a male interrogator, told him his
mother and sister were whores, forced him to wear a leash and
perform dog tricks, menaced him with a dog and subjected him to
interrogations up to 20 hours a day for about two months, the
Air Force Lt. Gen. Randall Schmidt, who headed the probe
into FBI accounts of abuse of Guantanamo prisoners by Defense
Department personnel, concluded that the man was subjected to
“abusive and degrading treatment” due to “the cumulative effect
of creative, persistent and lengthy interrogations.” The
techniques used were authorized by the Pentagon, he said.
The man was not named during the hearing, but the Pentagon
identified him as Mohamed al-Qahtani.
“As the bottom line, though, we found no torture. Detention
and interrogation operations were safe, secure and humane,”
Schmidt said of the prison for foreign terrorism suspects at
the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
But Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, himself abused by
the North Vietnamese as a POW during the Vietnam War, noted,
“Humane treatment might be in the eye of the beholder.”
Army Gen. Bantz Craddock, who as head of Southern Command
oversees Guantanamo, said he rejected the recommendation by
Schmidt and his fellow investigator Army Brig. Gen. John Furlow
that Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the prison’s commander at
the time, be formally admonished for failing to properly
monitor and limit the interrogation of that prisoner.
Craddock said the interrogation “did not result in any
violation of a U.S. law or policy,” and thus “there’s nothing
for which to hold him accountable.” Miller would have been the
highest-ranking U.S. officer punished in connection with the
abuse of prisoners in the custody of the U.S. military.
‘NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF’
Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, said terrorism
suspects “are not to be coddled” and added, “We have nothing to
be ashamed of. What other country, attacked as we were, would
exercise the same degree of self-criticism and restraint?”
“What damage are we doing to our war effort by parading
these relatively minor infractions before the press and the
world again and again and again while our soldiers risk their
lives daily and are given no mercy by the enemy,” Inhofe said.
But McCain said, “I hold no brief for the prisoners. I do
hold a brief for the reputation of the United States of America
as to adhering to certain standards of treatment of people no
matter how evil or terrible they might be.”
The investigation, announced in January, followed the
release by the American Civil Liberties Union of FBI documents
describing alleged prisoner abuses by Defense Department
personnel at Guantanamo. The documents were obtained by court
order under the Freedom of Information Act.
The FBI documents described prisoners at Guantanamo being
shackled hand and foot in a fetal position on a floor for 18 to
24 hours, and left to urinate and defecate on themselves.
Others said Pentagon interrogators impersonated FBI agents at
the base and used “torture techniques” on a prisoner.
About 520 men are imprisoned at the prison, which opened in
January 2002. Many were detained in Afghanistan and have been
held for more than three years. Only four have been charged.
The United States has classified the detainees as “enemy
combatants” and denied them rights accorded to prisoners of war
under the Geneva Conventions.
(Additional reporting by Vicki Allen)