Saturday, October 16, 2004

The New York Times > Washington > Broad Use Cited of Harsh Tactics at Base in Cuba

The New York Times > Washington > Broad Use Cited of Harsh Tactics at Base in Cuba:
"Many detainees at Guant?namo Bay were regularly subjected to harsh and coercive treatment, several people who worked in the prison said in recent interviews, despite longstanding assertions by military officials that such treatment had not occurred except in some isolated cases.

The people, military guards, intelligence agents and others, described in interviews with The New York Times a range of procedures that included treatment they said was highly abusive occurring over a long period of time, as well as rewards for prisoners who cooperated with interrogators."

One regular procedure that was described by people who worked at Camp Delta, the main prison facility at the naval base in Cuba, was making uncooperative prisoners strip to their underpants, having them sit in a chair while shackled hand and foot to a bolt in the floor, and forcing them to endure strobe lights and screamingly loud rock and rap music played through two close loudspeakers, while the air conditioning was turned up to maximum levels, said one military official who witnessed the procedure. The official said that was designed to make the detainees uncomfortable as they were accustomed to high temperatures both in their native countries and their cells.

Such sessions could last up to 14 hours with breaks, said the official, who described the treatment after being contacted by The Times.

"It fried them,'' the official said, explaining that anger over the treatment the prisoners endured was the reason for speaking with a reporter. Another person familiar with the procedure who was contacted by The Times said: "They were very wobbly. They came back to their cells and were just completely out of it.''

Those who spoke of the interrogation practices at the naval base did so under the condition that their identities not be revealed. While some said it was because they remained on active duty, they all said that being publicly identified would endanger their futures. Although some former prisoners have said they saw and experienced mistreatment at Guantánamo, this is the first time that people who worked there have provided detailed accounts of some interrogation procedures.

One intelligence official said most of the intense interrogation was focused on detainees known as the "dirty thirty,'' believed to be the best potential sources of information.

In August, a report commissioned by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld found that tough techniques approved by the government were rarely used, but the sources described a broader pattern that went beyond even the aggressive techniques that were permissible.

The issue of what were permissible interrogation techniques has produced a vigorous debate within the government that burst into the open with reports of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad and is now the subject of several independent investigations.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks and the war in Afghanistan, the administration has wrestled with the issue of what techniques were permissible in interrogations, with many arguing that the campaign against terrorism should entitle them to greater leeway.

Pentagon officials would not comment on the details of the allegations. Lt. Cmdr. Alvin Plexico issued a Defense Department statement in response to questions about the new accounts, saying that the military was providing a "safe, humane and professional detention operation at Guantánamo that is providing valuable information in the war on terrorism.''

The statement said: "Guantánamo guards provide an environment that is stable, secure, safe and humane. And it is that environment that sets the conditions for interrogators to work successfully and to gain valuable information from detainees because they have built a relationship of trust, not fear.''

The sources portrayed a system of punishment and reward, with prisoners who were favored for their cooperation with interrogators given the privilege of spending time in a large room nicknamed "the love shack'' by the guards. In that room, they were free to relax and had access to magazines, books, a television and a video player and some R-rated movies, along with the use of a water pipe to smoke aromatic tobaccos. Those prisoners were also occasionally given milkshakes and hamburgers from the McDonald's on the base.

The Pentagon said the information gathered from the detainees "has undoubtedly saved the lives of our soldiers in the field. And that information also saves the lives of innocent civilians at home and abroad. At Guantánamo we are holding and interrogating people that are a clear danger to the U.S. and our allies and they are providing valuable information in the war on terrorism.''

They always claim they're saving lives, or getting a killer off the street, that they're careful, and limit what they do. But, the whole point of diong things in the dark, is to be beyond accountability, beyond punishment, beyond the law.

My guess is that, they would be hard pressed to come up with a single case where lives were clearly saved. All studies of torture, find that it's a great method of confirming the torturer's bias, because thetortured tend to say whatever they think the torturer wants to hear.
con·cept: The New York Times > Washington > Broad Use Cited of Harsh Tactics at Base in Cuba