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New York Times Decides Guantanamo Detainee Committed Suicide

By: Jeff Kaye Monday November 26, 2012 8:24 pm

Jason Leopold continues to do superb reporting on the mysterious death last September of Guantanamo detainee Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif. Monday, Leopold posted breaking news that a government autopsy report on Latif, not yet officially released, concludes that the 36-year-old prisoner died of suicide.

Guantanamo protesters in prisoner outfits with 'CLOSE GUANTANAMO' Banner

Despite years of pressure (& a presidential promise) Guantanamo remains open.

Leopold sourced the revelation to Yemeni government officials and “a US military investigator close to the case.” The Department of Defense has not yet officially stated any cause of death for Latif, who was discovered inert in his cell at Guantanamo’s Camp 5 on September 8.

Leopold wrote that a “spokesman for United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), Joint Task Force-Guantanamo’s (JTF-GTMO) higher command” told Truthout that DoD would “issue a statement as soon as [Yemen] accepts [Latif's] remains.” Just two days after Latif’s death, a Guantanamo spokesman told Associated Press, “There is no apparent cause [of death], natural or self-inflicted.”

But none of this stopped the New York Times from stating in an editorial Sunday calling for Guantanamo’s closure that Latif had in fact committed suicide. Coming out of nowhere, such a statement was, frankly, bizarre.

Here’s what the Times wrote, some 12 hours before Leopold even posted his story at Truthout, and with no published source anywhere definitively reporting Latif’s cause of death as suicide (bold emphasis added):

In September, a member of this stranded group, a Yemeni citizen named Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, killed himself after a federal judge’s ruling ordering his release was unfairly overturned by an appellate court. It was the kind of price a nation pays when it creates prisons like Guantánamo, beyond the reach of law and decency, a tragic reminder of the stain on American justice.

Narratives R Us

There is a lot wrong about the claims in the NYT op-ed, as much as I might agree with the overall thrust of the editorial about shutting down Guantanamo. The Times editors may have thought the latest death of a prisoner at Guantanamo highlighted the crime of keeping Guantanamo open. And they are right about that, but their conclusion — their narrative of Latif’s death — closes off inquiry into what actually occurred, and in doing that they are not acting as a watchdog upon possible government abuse.

First of all, there is no affirmative statement by the government that Latif’s cause of death was suicide. In fact, as Leopold points out in his article, all the earlier statements from DoD led one to believe that suicide was not a cause of death. The only recent article to claim otherwise was by Leopold, and it was not published until many hours after the NYT made their claim.

Secondarily, not only does the New York Times supposedly know how Latif died, they also imply they know why he killed himself, i.e., he “killed himself after a federal judge’s ruling ordering his release was unfairly overturned by an appellate court.”

Well, yes, he did die after the appellate court ruling — nearly eleven months afterward, as the ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia came in October 2011. A subsequent appeal by Latif’s attorneys to the U.S. Supreme Court was rejected last June, also approximately three months before Latif died.

Since no one reads articles very carefully, and it is enough to spread a particular narrative in mainstream media sources to manufacture a version of Truth, the NYT does its readers a disservice by producing a bogus narrative of the death of Adnan Latif. According to the Times, Latif killed himself, and it was likely because his court case was overturned.

To be fair to the Times, there were stories in the press that speculated upon just such a scenario, as the Reprieve spokesperson in this Alternet article from last September appeared to do. In addition, the Swiss chapter of Amnesty International wrote about the Latif death on November 1, and indicated that the Guantanamo prisoner had died of suicide. (“Le suicide du détenu yéménite Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif en septembre 2012 nous rappelle la cruauté de ce régime de détention qui permet une détention illimitée et illégale.”).

But statements by human rights groups are not the same as statements by the editorial board of the New York Times. One wonders what led them to assert that Latif had died from suicide, when no public source, indeed no story in their own paper had reported the same, until Truthout published Leopold’s story nearly 12 hours later.

“Questions Remain”

 

Anti-Torture Psychologists Respond to Attack from APA Division Chief

By: Jeff Kaye Wednesday November 7, 2012 1:47 pm
TortureChamberBodrumTurkey_bazylek100-Flickr

Torture Chamber. Bodrum, Turkey.

The battle within the American Psychological Association (APA) to bring that organization into line with other human rights groups and attorney organizations in opposing the use of psychological personnel in national security interrogations accelerated last month when a prominent APA official came out strongly against a petition to annul APA’s ethics policy on national security and interrogations.

In June 2005, the APA published their report on Psychological Ethics and National Security (the PENS report). APA, stung by criticism that psychologists had been involved in torture at Guantanamo and elsewhere, nevertheless stacked the panel hastily assembled that Spring with over fifty percent military and/or military connected members.

These were not just any military individuals, but included the former Chief of Psychology at Guantanamo, a SERE psychologist who supported use of SERE techniques in interrogations, and a Special Forces top psychologist who, according to an investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee, had actually trained interrogators in use of SERE torture techniques in interrogations.

Reposted below is a letter from the Coalition for Ethical Psychology (CEP), responding to an October 26  letter from the President of the American Psychological Association’s Division 42, Psychologists in Independent Practice, who had written a reply to CEP’s request for support for their call for annulment of the APA’s PENS report.

The original petition to annul the PENS report was posted at CEP’s website in October 2011. The petition called PENS “the defining document endorsing psychologists’ engagement in detainee interrogations.”

The petition continued: “Despite evidence that psychologists were involved in abusive interrogations, the PENS Task Force concluded that psychologists play a critical role in keeping interrogations ‘safe, legal, ethical and effective.’ With this stance, the APA, the largest association of psychologists worldwide, became the sole major professional healthcare organization to support practices contrary to the international human rights standards that ought to be the benchmark against which professional codes of ethics are judged.”

The political heat around the anti-PENS petition increased noticeably when CEP came out publicly against a so-called “member-initiated task force” to “reconcile policies related to psychologists’ involvement in national security settings.” This task force, actually established with APA Board and staff support, was opposed to the annulment petition, and likely was formed to blunt the impact of CEP’s call for annulment, which was gaining much support. One of the prominent members of this new “task force” is William Strickland, the president and CEO of the long-time military contractor-research group, Human Resource Research Organization (HumRRO),

A number of APA divisions have signed onto CEP’s petition, including Div. 6 (Behavioral Neuroscience & Comparative Psychology), Div. 27 (Society for Community Research and Action), Div. 39 (Psychoanalysis), and others. The CEP petition also gained the support of the ACLU, Center for Constitutional Rights, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Physicians for Human Rights, and other organizations, as well as prominent individuals, including past APA President Philip Zimbardo, psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton, and Nobel Prize winning geneticist Richard Lewontin, among many others.

“Harming our practice of psychology”

The Div. 42 letter was written by Jeffrey Younggren, a psychologist who has long presented himself or been recognized as an expert in psychological ethics, and who has a long-time association with military psychology, including a posting as Colonel in the United States Army Reserve to the Office of the Surgeon General, 1999 – 2002, and four medals for service to the Department of Defense.

Readers interested in Dr. Younggren and the Division 42 board’s point of view on PENS are encouraged to read their letter.

Quoted directly below is a portion of Younggren’s letter, wherein he describes the response of Div. 42′s Board to CEP’s original request to them for support of PENS annulment. Dr. Younggren concludes Div. 42 “will not introduce or sign onto any resolution about recalling or annulling the PENS report,” but his discussion goes farther than a mere statement of position on annulment.  He lambasted CEP itself (bold emphases are added for emphasis):

We request that your Coalition stop using the press to spread all negative information about its dissatisfaction with APA. You are harming our practice of psychology by giving false and biased information and therefore, impacting negatively on the ability of people who need psychological services to receive them from ethical and competent psychologists in independent practice….

[The PENS report] was properly vetted at the APA COR [Council of Representatives] meeting that voted to accept it. It is not APA policy. Rather COR merely accepted the information that may or may not be used in formulation of formal APA policies. Annulment [of PENS] would disenfranchise the COR members who voted to accept the report in 2005 and further would be disrespectful to the work done by members whose contribution may have helped the report be more honest than if only members who agreed with the Coalition’s were represented on it….

By distributing copies of this letter, we will ask APA to maintain a vigorous response to any further complaints publicized by the Coalition in the media that may damage our members’ independent practice of psychology. We believe that only by giving a partial story to the media, the Coalition is damaging the entire field of psychology.

PENS, Younggren, and APA’s Council of Representatives

Government’s Psychological Evaluation of Manssor Arbabsiar Fails to Impress

By: Jeff Kaye Tuesday October 9, 2012 2:31 pm

Manssor Arbabsiar

Gregory B. Saathoff M.D. is the latest mental health professional to weigh in on the Manssor Arbabsiar case. Marcy Wheeler at Emptywheel has been dissecting aspects of Saathoff’s narrative of events surrounding Arbabsiar’s interrogation and confession (see here, here, and here).

I want to look more closely at the claims Saathoff makes in an October 3 “Forensic Psychiatric Evaluation” on Arbabsiar’s mental status, symptoms and diagnosis. The evaluation was dated the same day as a government memorandum arguing against a defense motion to dismiss or suppress evidence drawn from Arbabsiar’s interrogation. The reason for such dismissal or suppression? The defense presented expert opinion that Arbabsiar had been in a manic episode during the period of his interrogation, having a previously undiagnosed case of Bipolar Disorder. As a result, he was not in his right mind when he waived presentment (presentation before a judicial official) and his Miranda rights.

For those who have forgotten, Arbabsiar is Iranian-born, but a U.S. naturalized citizen, a Texas used car salesman with a cousin in the Iranian Quds force. According to U.S. prosecutors, in 2011, Arbabsiar contacted a confidential DEA informant in Mexico, and, believing he was talking to someone in a Mexican drug cartel, arranged the assassination of Saudi ambassador Adel al-Jubeir. But the assassination and other alleged terrorist plots, of course, never took place, and Arbabsiar was detained in Mexico, flown to the U.S. and interrogated by the FBI at (it turns out) an undisclosed military base from September 29 to October 10, 2011.

Here’s Saathoff quoting FBI Special Agent Shalabi about what the latter called Arbabsiar’s “erratic” behavior during his “confession” in the early morning hours of October 3:

FBI SA Shalabi recalled in a September 7, 2012 interview that after having observed Mr. Arbabsiar sleeping soundly, Mr. Arbabsiar awakened at 3 am and expressed concerns about jail. “The first thing out of his mouth was “What is jail like in the United States? How harsh are the conditions? What should I expect?” After going into the bathroom [where elsewhere we learn he "washed his shirt in the bathroom sink" - JK], Mr. Arbabsiar came back out into the living area, and FBI SA Shalabi recalled Mr. Arbabsiar’s statements and behavior:

“You know what I did?” And I said “no”. Then on his own accord, without me asking, (I decided to keep my mouth shut) he told me he was in big trouble. Had gotten involved in big politics. Wife had a lot of financial demands. Son’s pregnant girlfriend added more to the stress. So he told me that he decided to go to Iran to solicit more help for [his] family… He said that his cousin was a “big general”, [who] was “senior” with decision-making powers. [He was] Approached by cousin to then give money to kill the Saudi Ambassador. As he was telling me this, he reflected back on the whole situation. As he told me the story, [as] he said that, he looked upset and [said that he] had been used by his cousin. Then he went back to smoking [elsewhere Arbabsiar is described as smoking four packs a day - JK], tossed and turned, and then fell asleep.

For the U.S. it was a propaganda coup, for it claimed that someone in the Iranian government was planning or instigating a terrorist attack in the U.S. against a foreign diplomat. The hawks in the U.S. government squawked loudly and long.

No one ever seems to notice that the only foreign diplomat ever actually assassinated in the U.S. was former Chilean ambassador to the U.S., Orlando Letelier, murdered in Washington D.C. in 1973 by order of the government of Augusto Pinochet. The hit man was Michael Townley, an agent for Chile’s intelligence directorate (DINA) who also worked for the CIA. In 2000, it was revealed that the mastermind of the terrorist attack, which also killed Letelier’s assistant, Ronnie Moffett, was Chilean intelligence chief Manuel Contreras, and he, too, was a paid asset of the CIA.

In the case against Arbabsiar, the evidence seems sketchy. Wheeler points out that Saathoff’s report explains the DEA informant Arbabsiar is supposed to have contacted “had a younger sister with whom he had a sexual relationship in 1992, while he was married to his third wife”! What a coincidence, one might say.

But particularly damaging to the government are the questions surrounding the veracity of his confession, which was attacked by top mental health experts brought in by the defense, who stated Arbabsiar, who had waived his rights within hours of capture (while possibly jonesing terribly for a cigarette), suffered from bipolar disorder and was not able to make a reasoned decision about his rights or actions.

Bipolar Disorder with “Impaired Cognitive Functioning”

Omar Khadr Leaves Guantanamo, While Press Refuses to Report His Water Torture

By: Jeff Kaye Saturday September 29, 2012 10:00 am

Omar Khadr as he looked when he was first sent to Guantanamo. (photo: Sherurcij / wikimedia)

On a pre-dawn Saturday morning, September 29, the youngest prisoner in Guantanamo, Omar Khadr left the harsh US-run prison where he had been held since October 2002. At the time of his incarceration he was fifteen years old. According to a CBC report, Khadr was flown to Canadian Forces Base Trenton, where he was to be transferred to the Millhaven Institution, a maximum security prison in Bath, Ontario.

Khadr is supposed to serve out the remainder of an eight-year sentence, part of a deal his attorneys made with the U.S. government, with Khadr agreeing to plead guilty to the killing of SPC Christopher Speer during a firefight at the Ayub Kheil compound in Afghanistan, in addition to other charges such as “material support of terrorism” and spying. Khadr essentially agreed to participate in what amounted to a show trial for the penalty phase of his Military Commissions hearing. For this, he got a brokered eight year sentence, with a promise of a transfer out of Guantanamo to Canada after a year.

The Khadr deal was made in October 2010, but the transfer promise was dragged out as seemingly the Canadian government balked at accepting the former child prisoner, who was also a Canadian citizen. The entire affair became a magnet for right-wing propaganda in Canada, while human rights groups also fought for Khadr’s release. But not long after Macleans leaked U.S. documents related to the Khadr transfer, including psychiatric reports by both government and defense evaluators, the Canadians appeared to move more quickly to accept Khadr into Canada.

CBC reported that Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said he was “satisfied the Correctional Service of Canada” (CSC) could administer Khadr’s sentence, presumably six more years of imprisonment. Speaking no doubt to those fear-mongerers who suggested Khadr’s safety somehow threatened the average Canadian, he also noted the CSC could “ ensure the safety of Canadians is protected during incarceration.”

For those looking for an early release by Canadian authorities, Toews said, “Any decisions related to his future will be determined by the independent Parole Board of Canada in accordance with Canadian law.” According to Carol Rosenberg’s report, Khadr could be eligible for early release because he was a juvenile at the time of his supposed crimes.

Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Legal Director Baher Azmy released a statement calling for Khadr’s immediate release, and for President Obama to close Guantanamo and release the 86 known detainees already cleared for transfer.

Khadr never should have been brought to Guantanamo. He was a child of fifteen at the time he was captured, and his subsequent detention and prosecution for purported war crimes was unlawful, as was his torture by U.S. officials.

Like several other boys held at Guantanamo, some as young as twelve years old, Khadr lost much of his childhood. Canada should not perpetuate the abuse he endured in one of the world’s most notorious prisons. Instead, Canada should release him immediately and provide him with appropriate counseling, education, and assistance in transitioning to a normal life.

Azmy also suggested that Canada could “accept other men from Guantanamo who cannot safely return to their home countries,” such as Algerian citizen Djamel Ameziane, who lived legally as a refugee in Canada from 1995 to 2000. Ameziane fears persecution if he were transfered back to Algeria.

New Document Shows FBI Interrogation Advice Draws on CIA Torture Manuals

By: Jeff Kaye Sunday August 5, 2012 11:23 am

Federal Bureau of Investigation Seal

A 2010 FBI interrogation “primer” (PDF), apparently a fifth version of earlier FBI manuals dealing with “Cross-cultural, Rapport-based” “intelligence-oriented interrogations in overseas environments,” repeatedly draws upon advice from two CIA torture manuals, the 1963 KUBARK Counter-intelligence Manual and the 1983 Human Exploitation Resource Manual.

According to the National Security Archive, the KUBARK manual “includes a detailed section on ‘The Coercive Counterintelligence Interrogation of Resistant Sources,’ with concrete assessments on employing ‘Threats and Fear,’ ‘Pain,’ and ‘Debility.’ “ Even so, the manual is on the FBI’s “Recommended Reading” list for agents conducting overseas interrogations.

The 1983 Human Exploitation manual, which has been connected with atrocities by Latin American governments, drew upon both KUBARK and U.S. Army Intelligence manuals, describing the interrogator as someone “‘able to manipulate the subject’s environment… to create unpleasant or intolerable situations, to disrupt patterns of time, space, and sensory perception.’”

The FBI document quotes the 1983 manual twice. While not referenced by name in the body of the document, the source is noted in the footnotes. One such quote from the 1983 torture document describes “the principle of generating pressure inside the source without the application of outside force.”

“This is accomplished by manipulating [the prisoner] psychologically until his resistance is sapped and his urge to yield is fortified,” the Human Exploitation Resource manual states, and FBI agents are so advised. The quote is in bold in the FBI instructions and reproduced as such here.

Meanwhile, the KUBARK manual is repeatedly mentioned in the body of the FBI work. “There are two purposes of screening according to the KUBARK Manual,” the “primer” states. According to the FBI, the “wise Interrogator” will follow “KUBARK Manual guidance.”

According to an ACLU blog posting, the FBI document was “written by an FBI Section Chief within the counterterrorism division.”

The rehabilitation of the KUBARK document began with an essay by U.S. interrogation consultant Colonel (ret.) Steven Kleinman. The essay was published in an Intelligence Science Board (ISB) December 2006 monograph, Educing Information. Kleinman noted KUBARK’s “disturbing legacy,” but added he felt the manual contained “the potential for lessons learned that could be derived from a highly controversial document.”

The FBI “rapport-based” manual repeatedly references another ISB document. Written in 2009, Intelligence Interviewing: Teaching Papers and Case Studies, includes in its two case studies a long discussion of a case of years-long isolation of a very senior North Vietnamese military official. While the interrogator in charge, Frank Snepp, said the treatment of this official ultimately disillusioned him about what the U.S. was trying to achieve in Vietnam, the ISB authors found Snepp had been successful in establishing “some operational accord” with the prisoner.

In his essay, Kleinman seriously played down the nature of the CIA’s manual, which had drawn upon years of MKULTRA research into use of drugs, sensory deprivation and the induction of fear and debility in interrogation subjects.

“Although criticized for its discussion of coercion, the KUBARK manual does not portray coercive methods as a necessary — or even viable — means of effectively educing information,” Kleinman wrote.

But in fact the CIA manual devotes fully a fifth of its instructions to coercive interrogation techniques, or torture, including isolation, “deprivation of sensory stimuli,” induction of physical weakness, use of “fear and threats,” hypnosis, and “narcosis”, i.e., use of drugs (including use of drugs as a placebo to fool prisoners).

Kleinman is the Director for Strategic Research for The Soufan Group, an organization named after ex-FBI agent Ali Soufan, and includes ex-FBI interrogators on its list of experts. It would seem that unwittingly Kleinman’s focus on what was of use to the legal interrogator in the KUBARK manual did not stop some FBI officials from allowing certain forms of coercive interrogation, i.e., reliance on use of isolation and manipulation of human emotional needs to get information and confessions. At times this is taken to extremes that amount to torture.

Kleinman himself is on the record as opposing all coercive interrogation methods. The 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee investigation into detainee abuse described then-Col. Kleinman’s efforts to stop torture occurring at a JSOC interrogation facility in Iraq. The criticism of his KUBARK essay is not meant to imply that he supports in any way the kinds of coercive techniques described therein.

[Update, 8/6/12: Furthermore, it is worth noting, and after hearing critique regarding the first version of this article from Mr. Kleinman himself, that in his essay on the CIA manual, Kleinman specifically says "long-term isolation" causes "profound emotional, psychological, and physical discomfort, and that such abuse would therefore fail to measure up to the standards for the treatment of prisoners as set forth in international accords and U.S. Federal statutes" (p. 138)]

FBI Uses Isolation to Achieve “Rapport”

The FBI manual also argues for the use of isolation to achieve rapport by leveraging the isolation or solitary confinement of a detainee.  Kevin Gosztola highlighted this aspect of the FBI “primer” in an August 2 article at Firedoglake’s The Dissenter blog.

What both Gosztola and the ACLU miss in their otherwise important commentary about the coercive isolation technique (even the CIA’s KUBARK manual recognizes isolation is a coercive technique, i.e., torture) is how the FBI intends to leverage the effects of isolation to achieve effects under their “rapport” paradigm. This psychological aspect of the use of isolation has not been generally publicized.

“The need for affiliation is one of the advantages the Interrogator has if a subject has been isolated from fellow detainees, “ the FBI “primer” states.

In this matter, the FBI is following in the footsteps of the CITF doctrine it followed in DoD interrogations under an October 2003 directive that stated, “The use of isolation facilities will not be employed as an interrogation tactic; however, on a case-by-case basis it can be used as an incentive.” Perversely, the use of isolation under this directive was supposed to be “approved” by the detainee.

The KUBARK manual describes the anxieties, emotional discomfort and psychological regression that follow from enforced isolation, and how the interrogator exploits this situation (italics added for emphasis):

“As the interrogator becomes linked in the subject’s mind with the reward of lessened anxiety, human contact, and meaningful activity, and thus with providing relief for growing discomfort, the questioner assumes a benevolent role….

“At the same time, the calculated provision of stimuli during interrogation tends to make the regressed subject view the interrogator as a father figure. The result, normally, is a strengthening of the subject’s tendencies toward compliance.”

The Appendix M Torture Virus Spreads to FBI Doctrine

Writing in an August 2 letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller, ACLU Director Laura Murphy and Legislative Counsel Devon Chaffee make the important connection between FBI policy on using isolation and current Department of Defense interrogation policy.

As official interrogation doctrine of the Obama administration, Army Field Manual FM 2-22.3 (AFM), Human Intelligence Collector Operations made use of isolation part of their “Separation” technique, as described in its Appendix M.

Murphy and Chaffee write:

“By recommending that FBI agents ask the U.S. military to isolate detainees in its custody, the FBI primer appears to be encouraging the application of Appendix M of the Army’s interrogation manual—a controversial, restricted appendix that allows detainee isolation only in certain circumstances not involving prisoners of war. The FBI primer states that in a Department of Defense facility ‘a formal request from the FBI must be made to isolate the detainee’ and that this request ‘must be approved by the first O-6 in the chain of command.’ Appendix M of the military’s interrogation manual (which requires O-7 level approval) permits the use of isolation—as well as the placement of goggles, blindfolds, and earmuffs on the detainee—to ‘foster a feeling of futility.’ Experienced interrogators and human rights groups, however, have called for Appendix M to be revoked, questioning the technique’s effectiveness and highlighting the risk that its use will lead to serious human rights abuses.”

The abusive techniques of Appendix M, which also includes sleep deprivation and allowed environmental manipulations, along with the AFM’s allowance for use of fear techniques and even use of drugs, were approved in a 2006 Office of Legal Counsel memorandum for the files (PDF) by torture memo author Steven Bradbury.

Although President Obama, with the advice of Attorney General Eric Holder, revoked the 2002, 2005 and a few other OLC Bush-era torture memos, the administration never revoked the memo on Appendix M.

Use of isolation was something the FBI adopted early on, and its use was in evidence even in the early days at Guantanamo, where FBI Special Agent Ali Soufan was in charge of the interrogation of Mohamed Al Qahtani. While Al Qahtani’s interrogation was later the subject of an escalation of use of torture techniques by the military, which was itself a matter of some protest within DoD and FBI circles, while the FBI was in charge, Soufan had Al Qahtani placed in harsh isolation.

Soufan went so far as to remove Al Qahtani from the usual cellblock and built a special cell for him alone, meant to duplicate the hard isolation conditions Jose Padilla had been placed into in a Charleston, South Carolina Navy brig. When Soufan, NCIS Chief Psychologist Mark Gelles, and others protested use of other techniques of physical and psychological torture on Al Qahtani, their alternate proposal was to put the already near-psychotic and ailing prisoner in months more intense isolation.

The use of isolation to break prisoners has a long history. When two former prisoners in the USSR gulags, writing under the pen names F. Beck and W. Godin, published their account of Soviet torture in 1951 in a book entitled Russian Purge and the Extraction of Confession, they described the use of isolation at the start of their detention by the Stalin secret police:

“When a man was arrested he was completely isolated from the outside world….

“Each prisoner was carefully isolated from fellow prisoners who knew him. Consultation with defense counsel was unheard of, and in the overwhelming majority of cases no defense of any kind was permitted.” (pp. 40-41)

American sociologist Albert Biderman studied the effects of coercive interrogation on prisoners. His famous “chart of coercion” was taught to interrogators at Guantanamo. With its emphasis on isolation to deprive the prisoner of all social report and the will to resist, it could be a blueprint for modern FBI interrogation, minus Biderman’s emphasis on induction of debility.

For instance, Biderman’s chart describes demonstrating interrogator “omnipotence” and the use of threats and degradation of the prisoner. The FBI manual explicitly allows AFM “techniques” that play exactly on this, including “Emotional Fear Up,” “Emotional Pride and Ego Down,” “Emotional Futility,” and “The All Seeing Eye or We Know All.”

Changes in Procedures for Law Enforcement Interviews Overseas

Unremarked by the ACLU or other commentators is the FBI manual’s Annex B, “Conducting Custodial Law Enforcement Interviews Overseas.” The first FBI concern is evidence tainted by torture (though they don’t use the word “torture” anywhere in the document, at least in its redacted form).

The FBI counterterrorism Section Chief notes, drily, “Given the extensive media coverage of interrogation activities at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Bagram and other facilities the threshold is particularly high for establishing that any statement you obtained overseas was not coerced in some way.”

Three sentences in the document are then redacted, and the text continues, “The assumption of the court may be that you used prior knowledge of the subject’s statements to obtain a statement which you are asserting is admissible even if you did not confront the subject with information he previously provided. Always keep in mind that you may one day be on the stand swearing that you had no knowledge of the subjects previous statements during intelligence interviews.” [Bold emphasis in original]

A second concern is the videotaping of interrogations. Recognizing that DoD routinely videotapes all interrogations, the FBI manual infers that the government may destroy or has destroyed such interrogation recordings.

“This creates a tremendous suppression hearing issue,” the FBI notes, “because the defense will become aware that the U.S Government (USG) taped the interview but the tape cannot be provided to the defense if a copy was not retained. The obvious accusation will be that the tape was destroyed to hide the fact that the confession was coerced. Seek out information on the videotaping policy for any facility you work in and document it.”

A third concern is the reading of rights to a subject held by a DoD or a foreign power, while emphasizing that the FBI agent has “no control” over such detainees and how they are held. While it requires the agents to document the subject’s condition, the manual does not forbid agents from interrogating subjects held in tortuous or cruel, degrading or inhuman conditions. In fact, the FBI manual’s section about “Recommended practices” regarding agents in such situations is entirely redacted.

A further distortion of normal FBI functioning concerns the advice of rights given to interrogation subjects held by DoD or another state.  The FBI uses a “modified advice of rights” form in such cases, which begins with standard wording regarding the right to remain silent, to have an attorney present.

The “modified” rights form continues:

“If you cannot afford lawyer, one will be appointed for you before any questioning, if you wish.

“Our ability to provide you with counsel at this time, however, may be limited by the decisions of local authorities or the availability of an American or qualified attorney.”

The “modified” form concludes the same as the FBI standard form, informing the individual that even if they talk without an attorney present, they “have the right to stop answering at any time.”

The modification of procedure is necessary because, as the FBI manual states, “there is no way that a detainee in DOD or foreign custody will be allowed access to an American defense attorney…”

Conclusion

The FBI is often contrasted with the military and the CIA in regards to its use of abusive procedures during interrogation. While eschewing “enhanced interrogation” techniques that amount to torture, such as waterboarding, close confinement, and stress positions, the FBI relies instead on psychological manipulations of “rapport” building procedures, while using the harsh pressure of isolation and sensory deprivation to break down the prisoner psychologically.

Isolation itself is a form of sensory deprivation, and is described as such in the KUBARK manual.

This form of psychological torture is added to standard police techniques, and in particular a form of interrogation procedure known as the Reid Technique. The FBI manual references several times the 1963 work on this technique, Criminal interrogation and confessions.

A 2009 study of this kind of interrogation technique in the journal Legal and Criminological Psychology found “innocent people are sometimes induced to confess to crimes they did not commit as a function of certain dispositional vulnerabilities or the use of overly persuasive interrogation tactics.”

These are exactly the tactics the FBI uses, though they are then supercharged via use of isolation of a prisoner, which, as the FBI itself notes, “advantages” the interrogator by playing off the human need for “affiliation” or communication with others. Modern psychological and neuroscience investigators understand that this “need” is hard-wired in the brain, and deprivation of such social stimulation is a direct attack on the nervous system of the individual.

The failure to hold anyone accountable for the use of torture by U.S. officials, including accountability for those who planned and sanctioned such torture, meant that forms of torture were institutionalized in U.S. policy documents, such as the Army Field Manual.

The declassification of this FBI interrogation manual has allowed us to understand that such institutionalization has extended as well to the Department of Justice and the FBI.

[This article has been altered to reflect feedback from Col. Steven Kleinman received after the story was first published.]

Cross-posted at Invictus

Did NYPD “Undercover Agent” Try to Suborn Tarek Mehanna into a “Terrorist Plot”?

By: Jeff Kaye Saturday April 14, 2012 3:18 pm

Many bloggers and the press have reposted Tarek Mehanna’s impassioned speech to the court as he was sentenced to 17-1/2 years for supposedly providing “material support” to terrorists. (See here, here, here, and especially the ACLU’s Nancy Murray’s widely quoted article at the Boston Globe here.) But few have commented on Mehanna’s charges that he was set up by an undercover agent to participate in a terrorist plot, and that he refused the agent’s overtures.

These are the relevant portions of Mehanna’s statement at his sentencing hearing (bold emphases added):

Exactly four years ago this month I was finishing my work shift at a local hospital. As I was walking to my car I was approached by two federal agents. They said that I had a choice to make: I could do things the easy way, or I could do them the hard way. The “easy“ way, as they explained, was that I would become an informant for the government, and if I did so I would never see the inside of a courtroom or a prison cell. As for the hard way, this is it. Here I am, having spent the majority of the four years since then in a solitary cell the size of a small closet, in which I am locked down for 23 hours each day. The FBI and these prosecutors worked very hard — and the government spent millions of tax dollars — to put me in that cell, keep me there, put me on trial, and finally to have me stand here before you today to be sentenced to even more time in a cell….

It was made crystal clear at trial that I never, ever plotted to “kill Americans” at shopping malls or whatever the story was. The government’s own witnesses contradicted this claim, and we put expert after expert up on that stand, who spent hours dissecting my every written word, who explained my beliefs. Further, when I was free, the government sent an undercover agent to prod me into one of their little “terror plots,” but I refused to participate. Mysteriously, however, the jury never heard this.

The Telegram and Gazette described the uproar in the courtroom when Mehanna brought up the accusations regarding the undercover agent’s attempt to recruit him into a terrorist plot.

After Mr. Mehanna said the government had sent an undercover agent to prod him into participating in a terror plot — that he refused — Mr. Chakravarty rose to call that “categorically false.” Mr. Mehanna yelled to him that “you’re a liar.”

Two U.S. marshals strode to Mr. Mehanna seated at the defense table in an orange prison jump suit, put a hand on him and spoke to him, but Judge O’Toole did not allow Mr. Chakravarty to continue.

What actually lie behind these accusations, the prosecutor’s interruption, and the Judge’s subsequent actions? (O’Toole later chided Mehanna for “lack of remorse” and “a quality of defiance.”)

The answer can be found in a February 25 posting by Mehanna at the Facebook page, “Free Tarek Mehanna.” While one can easily find online the young man’s stirring defense of himself in his April 12 sentencing statement, his statement about the attempt to frame him as part of a government-inspired terrorist “plot,” has virtually escaped coverage outside of some small blogs concerned with defending Islamic or Palestinian causes and defense (with the one notable exception of Richard Hugus at Boston IndyMedia).

DoD Cover-up: Gitmo detainee found hanged with hands tied behind back

By: Jeff Kaye Saturday March 10, 2012 2:24 pm

The government has withheld for years the actual facts surrounding the deaths of two of the six completed Guantanamo “suicides” to date. For instance, they hid the fact that one of the detainees was supposedly found hanged with his hands tied behind his back. Another detainee supposedly used an underwear elastic band (or “ligature”) to strangle himself — except the type of underwear described was not used by the detainees, and the ligature itself has gone missing. It was not provided to the autopsy examiners.

I have found that my ground-breaking investigation into the deaths of two Guantanamo detainees, Abdul Rahman Al Amri and Mohammad Ahmed Abdullah Saleh Al Hanashi, based on hitherto-unexamined autopsy reports, has been largely ignored by the mainstream media and the blogosphere. Except for Jason Leopold, Andy Worthington, Marcy Wheeler and the good folks at Eurasia Review, there has been a decided reluctance to report what I have found.

So I must go public all on my own, and the powers that be know that I will not be silent. Whether it is former Guantanamo officials, or well-known journalists who regularly cover Guantanamo, none have disputed what my investigation found, not publicly, and not privately. I believe that purposeful inattention to the crimes at Guantanamo, facilitated by both government cover-up and the vagaries of the electoral season, which discourages anything that would embarrass the Obama administration and the Democrats as a whole, are responsible for this inattention to important new documented facts.

But the UN Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial Killings, Summary and Arbitrary Executions, Christof Heynes, has informed me he is looking into these matters. I don’t care if the grand poohbahs of the MSM and the blogosphere are going to ignore this story. “Murder will out,” and I will remind the villains involved in these affairs that murder has no statute of limitations. The changes to the war crimes laws implemented by both the Bush and Obama administrations will not protect you. Hence, I understand why you wish to sweep all this under the rug. Maybe you will succeed. Let’s see what readers think when actually informed of these materials.

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Originally posted at Truthout.org

Autopsy reports released last year by the Department of Defense raise stark questions about the circumstances surrounding the deaths of two prisoners at Guantanamo. Both deaths – of Abdul Rahman Al Amri in May 2007 and Mohammad Ahmed Abdullah Saleh Al Hanashi in June 2009 – were labeled suicides by Department of Defense (DoD) investigators.

But the details in the autopsy reports show that Al Amri was found dead by hanging with his hands tied behind his back, calling into question whether he had actually killed himself. (He is referred to as Abd al-Rahman al-Umari in the report.) Al Hanashi was found wearing standard-issue detainee clothing, the undergarments from which he supposedly used to kill himself, and not the tear-proof suicide smock issued to detainees who are actively suicidal. It remains an open question if he were in fact under suicide watch, even though he had been repeatedly banging his head on prison walls, and had made five suicide attempts in the four weeks prior to his death.

Both Al Amri, who was housed in isolation at Guantanamo’s high-security Camp 5, and Al Hanashi, who was resident at the prison’s Behavioral Health Unit, were supposed to be under constant video surveillance, and according to camp officials, someone was supposed to be checking on them every three to five minutes.

A number of outside observers had deemed both prisoners’ deaths suspicious, but the autopsy reports are the first public documentary evidence of what possibly occurred. The autopsies were declassified by the DoD a year ago, but apparently went unexamined, part of a 1,100-plus-page release of documents inresponse to an American Civil Liberties Union Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit.

Al Amri was a 34-year-old former member of the Saudi Arabian Army. According to his May 2006 Detainee Assessment (released by WikiLeaks), he allegedly had “knowledge about, and connections to many high-level Al-Qaida members and operations.” He was also accused of making a film about the USS Cole bombing, a charge he denied. He was reportedly considered a “high-value” detainee, and had been at Guantanamo since February 2002. Al Amri told the Combatant Status Review Tribunal that examined his case that he had not gone to Afghanistan to kill Americans, and that if it had been his intent, he would have had ample opportunity when he was in the Saudi Army.

Al Hanashi was a 31-year-old Yemeni national who, as a young man, had left Yemen to join the Taliban side in the Afghan civil war. His father is said to be the leader of the 4,000-member Hanashi tribe in Yemen. Like Al Amri, DoD claims he was affiliated with al-Qaeda, a charge al Hanashi had denied. Captured after the Qala-i-Jangi prisoner uprising at Mazar-e-Sharif, he was transferred to Guantanamo, arriving two days before Al Amri. According to one prisoner who last saw him six months before his death, Al Hanashi had agreed to be a representative for prisoners’ grievances before camp officials.

Both prisoners had been on long hunger strikes, and at times had weighed at or under 90 pounds. Each had been force-fed while on hunger strike. Both prisoners had never met with an attorney.

“They Covered Up the Crime”

Al Amri’s autopsy (PDF) states that the “male civilian detainee” was “found hanging by his neck in his cell with a ligature made of braided strips of bed sheet. By report, similar fabric bound his hands loosely behind him.”

Despite the fact that Al Amri’s hands were bound behind him, the media was kept unaware of this fact. But it apparently was not unknown among some of the other detainees.

In a 2010 letter to his attorney, released as part of a court filing, longtime Guantanamo hunger striker Abdul Rahman Shalabi told his attorney, “You know what happened to (Abdul Rahman Al-Amri) who was killed in camp five two years ago, hanging while his hands were tied behind his back, and he was in solitary confinement…. When the Americans released the news of his death, they said that they found him dead in his cell and he was on hunger strike and they covered up the crime.”

Authorities consulted for this article agreed, as one source put it, that having hands tied behind one’s back in a hanging “does not necessarily indicate homicide but certainly requires additional investigation.”

>Al Amri’s relatives, as well, were highly dubious about the suicide verdict and, according to a report in Arab News, demanded an inquiry into his death. A Saudi official involved in monitoring “the condition of Saudi nationals being held in Guantanamo … also ruled out the suicide theory.” A follow-up story for Arab News claimed that a Saudi Interior Ministry spokesperson had indicated “a special medical committee would do an autopsy and then prepare a report that will be sent to US authorities on any particular inquires.” No such report has ever surfaced publicly. A request for comment by the Saudi Interior Ministry had not been returned by press time.

There are other curious aspects to the details surrounding Al Amri’s death. Authorities state that a ligature – the rope or other cord-like devise, in Al Amri’s case possibly torn or cut-up bed sheets, used in strangulation – must be long enough for the purpose of hanging. According to the autopsy report, the ligature in Al Amri’s case was only 22 and on-half inches long, inclusive of the portion around the neck.

Curiously, the ligature also had toward its more distant end “a 4-inch area of dark soiling with attached dark hairs.” The report does not state whose hairs these are or why they are there. Since a DNA test was run to verify the prisoner’s identity, presumably the hairs could have been identified as well, but there is no indication they were so identified.

The autopsy examiners assume that altered bed sheets were used for the hanging. But according to a summarized witness statement (pg. 7) by Maj. Gen. (ret.) Mike Dunleavy, who became commander of Guantanamo’s interrogation Task Force 170 in February 2002, the sheets used at Guantanamo were “changed” under his order “to the sheets in the federal prison system so they can’t be torn or tied.”

This previously unreported fact calls into question the narrative on Al Amri’s death, as well as that of the three 2006 Guantanamo “suicides,” who were said to have fashioned nooses, in part, out of torn bed sheets. Indeed, former detainees have questioned the suicides of these prisoners, in part, because they did not have “bed sheets that could easily be constructed into a noose.” Harper’s writer Scott Horton and a team of legal investigators at Seton Hall’s School of Law’s Center for Policy and Research have each conducted critical investigations of the 2006 deaths. More recently, Almerindo Ojeda, principal investigator at the  Guantánamo Testimonials Project, made a compelling argument that the 2006 deaths could have been examples of a torture technique called “dryboarding.” Another book by former Guantanamo guard Joe Hickman examining the 2006 deaths is due out later this year.

Important information appears to have been kept from Al Amri’s autopsy examiners. The examiners remark that the fact Al Amri’s hands were tied behind his back was something only known to them “by report,” but there should have been photographs taken and available to them.

The autopsy report, which does not provide a timeline for the events it describes, explains the supposed circumstances of Al Amri’s death:

“Investigation reveals that a razor blade from a razor was used to cut strips from one or more bed sheets and a ligature was fashioned by braiding these strips together…. The free end of the ligature was attached to a ventilation opening, and [redacted] likely stood on his bedroll to place the noose over his head.”

But, according to the official 2004 Camp Delta “Standard Operating Procedures” manual, razors were contraband items. Razors for shaving were allowed only during shower period, but guards were instructed to “Ensure the return of intact razors.” Moreover, detainees in “segregation” units, i.e., isolation, as was Al Amri, are not supposed to be issued razors during shower period at all, raising questions how he ever obtained a blade, if he did at all.

The autopsy report gives no explanation as to how Al Amri obtained a razor blade. It does mention a “superficial, incised wound” on the forefingers of each of his hands, and these could have come from a razor, although the autopsy report does not conclude what their source is. Neither does the report describe the ventilation opening or how the ligature was attached to it.

Finally, in the toxicology section of the report, the examiners note Al Amri was tested “for screened medications (including mefloquine) and drugs of abuse.” It is odd that screening for mefloquine is specially singled out. Mefloquine is a controversial antimalarial drug, which was mass administered to all detainees upon in-processing at Guantanamo. Over a year ago, Truthout examined the use of this drug, which may have been used for abusive purposes or as part of an illegal, secret experiment.

While no drugs were found, it is strange that Al Amri, who had been in Guantanamo for five years, mostly or entirely in solitary confinement, would be possibly thought to have mefloquine in his system. Only a small handful of Guantanamo prisoners were ever found to have malaria, and they came to the prison with the disease. Cuba is not considered to be malaria endemic, and US service personnel and contractors are not routinely administered mefloquine. Interestingly, one of the three purported Guantanamo suicides in 2006, but not the other two, was also tested for mefloquine.

“Stressors of Confinement”

The autopsy report of Guantanamo detainee number 78, Mohammad Ahmed Abdullah Saleh Al Hanashi, similarly raises serious questions about the circumstances surrounding his death. The prisoner was said to have strangled himself using elastic bands from his underwear.

The report provides details about the medical and psychiatric condition of the Yemeni detainee at the time of his death. According to the report, Al Hanashi had a “long history” of psychiatric problems at the Joint Task Force penal facility, including “adjustment disorder, anti-social personality disorder and stressors of confinement.” (Emphases added.)

The presence of psychiatric problems is consistent with a reported “history of suicide gestures and multiple failed suicide attempts” going back to 2003. The previous attempts included methods of killing oneself such as hanging, “self-inflicted sharp force injuries and frequent blunt force trauma to the head,” as well as “neck ligature,” which is the kind of self-strangulation that was the manner of death found by the autopsy examiners, whose identities were redacted in both Al Hanashi and Al Amri’s reports.

The autopsy document notes that Al Hanashi made five suicide attempts in the four weeks preceding his death. While the report’s authors describe medical authorities’ diagnoses given to the prisoner, including “anti-social personality disorder,” no diagnosis of depression is given, despite the history of serious suicidal behavior.

According to the diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association, used by all government medical doctors and psychologists, a diagnosis of anti-social personality disorder is only given to individuals who show “a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others occurring since age 15 years.” It is difficult to believe that Guantanamo medical staff had this kind of information available to them, raising the possibility the diagnosis was given to taint the prisoner’s behavioral profile.

In addition, the autopsy examiners describe the presence of “dark small raised lesions” on Al Hanashi’s forehead, which they explained were “consistent with reported history of witnessed repeated self-inflicted hitting/banging of the head on the detention facility walls.”

Self-injurious and suicidal behavior are two serious psychiatric symptoms long associated with the kinds of detention conditions found in Supermax prisons, or prisons using special administrative measures, where long-term solitary confinement and forms of sensory and social deprivation are the norm.

Suicide Watch?

Despite the very recent multiple suicide attempts, it is unclear if Al Hanashi was on suicide watch at the time of his death the evening of June 1, 2009, in a cell in the Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) at Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay. The autopsy report states he “has been on a suicide watch at BHU, where he is seen daily by medical staff.” (Emphases added.)

But was he on suicide watch the day he died? Multiple email requests for clarification from the DoD on this issue, as well as a number of others – such as what was meant by “stressors of confinement” – have gone unanswered. A Truthout FOIA request for the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) report on his death is pending.

A June 2008 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) described the procedures used after some Guantanamo suicide attempts. One detainee was “stripped naked, dressed in a green plastic rip-proof suicide smock, and placed in an individual cell under constant monitoring,” after a single December 2007 suicide attempt. Nothing was allowed in his cell that could be used to injure himself. He was questioned by BHU personnel daily, and only released after two months. Another detainee on suicide watch was also dressed in the suicide smock and allowed nothing “other than a mat for sleeping, a Koran and toilet paper” in his cell.

It is not known how long Al Hanashi had been at the BHU, but if he was on suicide watch, he was not wearing the special suicide smock worn by those typically held under special suicide surveillance. The 31-year-old was discovered on the floor of his cell in a fetal position under a blanket, dressed “in khaki shirt and pants without undergarments.” According to the autopsy report, the clothes were “general issue of the detention center.

The lack of undergarments is unexplained, but since the autopsy posits that Al Hanashi strangled himself using the elastic found in typical underwear distributed to detainees, it is possible that the undergarments are missing because they were used to construct the device by which it is said he asphyxiated himself.

Yet, there is some question about the type of underwear distributed to the detainees at this time. According to an October 17, 2007, article by Carol Rosenberg at the Miami Herald, after the three “suicides” in 2006, camp officials changed “procedures, including more careful monitoring of captives’ belongings, and the changing of captives’ underwear from more elastic briefs to cotton boxers less liable to be used in a hanging.” The report consistently refers to the underwear Al Hanashi supposedly altered as “briefs” or “white briefs.”

The autopsy does not mention any discovery of altered remnants of the undergarments. It says NCIS agents supplied the medical examiners with a replica of the “white brief” issued to the prisoners. The examiners found the ligature on Al Hanashi’s neck to be “identical to the elastic band of the examined brief.”

The autopsy states that “a civilian detainee” (Al Hanashi’s name is strangely redacted at this point in the document) “of unknown age, died from asphyxia due to ligature strangulation by tightly wrapping the elastic band of his underwear around the neck and apparently securing it with a twist on the right side of the neck and a head tilt.” Interestingly, on page 2 of the report, the autopsy examiners state the ligature was twisted “on the left side.” The method of securing the ligature is somewhat obscure.

An expert on asphyxiation, Dr. Steven Miles, told Truthout, “The description of the ligature, suggests garroting of a type that can be done by a person to themself or by another person, i.e., a rod, pen, utensil etc. is put into the ligature and given several twists and then it is removed.” The ligature marks are “consistent with but not conclusive of the use of an underwear band and quite unlike what would be seen with the use of a wire or cord.” Accordingly, along with other medical evidence as reported, Dr. Miles, who criticized the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology for “substandard investigations and reporting of prisoners’ deaths” in his 2006 book “Oath Betrayed,” concurs with the conclusions of the autopsy examiners that the cause of death for Al Hanashi was most likely suicide. He adds the phrase “stressors of confinement” in the report clearly is “a euphemism.”

Timeline Questions

The autopsy report redacts the date of death, but combining the hourly timeline provided in the report with news accounts, it is almost certain Al Hanashi died sometime in the hour prior to midnight on June 1, 2009.

According to the report, approximately 25 minutes elapsed from the time of the last observation of the prisoner to the discovery of his body on the cell floor. In the examiner’s narrative, at “approximately 2120 hours” (9:20 PM) Al Hanashi asked to speak to a nurse, asking for a “sleeping aid.” Indeed, there were two tranquilizers found in the toxicology reports done post-mortem. Both Lorazepam and the metabolite for clonazepam, two common benzodiazepine drugs commonly known as Ativan and Klonopin, were found in the dead man’s urine and blood.

However, it is not known if this is what Al Hanashi was given for sleep, or what drugs, if any, he was prescribed at this time. No other drugs are listed in the toxicology section of the report, except for acetaminophen and pseudoephedrine.

It was “10-15 minutes later,” after his request for medications, that Guantanamo personnel had their last communication with Al Hanashi. This would have been between 2130 and 2135 hours, or between 9:30 PM and 9:35 PM, when the prisoner asked the guard if he could close his “bean hole cover.” The report opines that this was a “sign he was ready to go to sleep.” (The “bean hole” was the slot through which food was given to prisoners.) According to guards, who presumably were interviewed by NCIS, Al Hanashi was in “in ‘good spirit’ and did not appear upset.”

Only “a few minutes later,” the prisoner was “viewed through the cell window and noted to not be breathing.” The report never states the exact amount of time elapsed, though the autopsy examiners report the time of discovery as “approximately 2155 hours,” or 9:55 PM. This would mean that 20 to 25 minutes elapsed before guards or medical staff checked personally on Al Hanashi in his cell, a period that seems to be more than “a few minutes.”

The efforts at resuscitation apparently lasted approximately an hour, as Al Hanashi was pronounced dead at 2259 or 10:59 PM. Medical intervention included use of an external automatic defibrillator, an endotracheal tube and the placement of a central venous line.

Whatever the timeline of the guards’ observations of Al Hanashi, press reports have stated there is “constant video surveillance” inside prisoner cells in the BHU. Furthermore, Guantanamo spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Brook DeWalt told Truthout in November 2009 that, while he couldn’t comment on whether Al Hanashi had been videotaped in his cell, no Guantanamo detainee goes more than “three minutes” without being checked, one way or another. That would be consistent with the “few minutes” noted in the autopsy report, but not with the narrative that presents a lapse of 20 minutes or more. It also tallies with what a prison doctor told journalist Naomi Wolf, who had visited the cells where Al Hanashi had been held in the day or so prior to his death. “They check on prisoners every three minutes,” he told her.

In addition, Wolf reported, “Cortney Busch of Reprieve, a British organization that represents Guantánamo detainees” told her “there is video running on prisoners in the psychiatric ward at all times, and there is a guard posted there continually, too.”

“Tougher Methods” Used on Hunger Strikers

By many accounts, Al Hanashi, like Al Amri, had participated along with other detainees in hunger strikes to protest their situation and treatment. As a result, Al Hanashi, like the other strikers, was forcibly fed at times. Indeed, the autopsy report states, “On January 2009 he started a hunger strike and has been fed enteraly,” that is, fed via a feeding tube. According to the autopsy report, Al Hanashi’s stomach was “distended with partially digested food.” The report does not say what this food could have been, or whether it was liquid food, such as would be fed through a tube. Some of this material was vomited up during the attempts to revive him.

While press reports state the Yemeni prisoner was a long-time hunger striker, Lt. Commander De Walt told reporters shortly after Al Hanashi’s death that the prisoner’s hunger strike had ended in mid-May. In an article for The Associated Press, Guantanamo attorney David Remes, who had a client in the Guantanamo BHU at the same time as Al Hanashi, told reporter David McFadden that “all the prisoners in the ward had been force-fed a liquid nutrition mix through a tube inserted in their noses and down their throats and that al-Hanashi had been the only one force-fed in a restraint chair.”

In another Associated Press article, Remes said there were seven detainees total in the BHU at the time of Al Hanashi’s death.

Guantanamo chronicler Andy Worthington noted in a 2010 article on the “shocking statistics of starvation” at the US “war on terror” Cuban camp that, up to and including Al Hanashi’s death, all the supposed suicides at Guantanamo had been hunger strikers.

A February 2006 story by Tim Golden at The New York Times noted, “tougher measures to force-feed detainees engaged in hunger strikes at Guantánamo Bay,” implemented by US authorities at the time. This includes the period when Al Hanashi was on his final hunger strike. Military authorities have maintained that force-feeding is conducted “in a humane and compassionate manner.”

Golden wrote, “In recent weeks … guards have begun strapping recalcitrant detainees into ‘restraint chairs,’ sometimes for hours a day, to feed them through tubes and prevent them from deliberately vomiting afterward. Detainees who refuse to eat have also been placed in isolation for extended periods in what the officials said was an effort to keep them from being encouraged by other hunger strikers.”

The “tougher measures” had reduced hunger strikers to only four by December 2005, suggesting that Al Hanashi was one of a handful of hunger strikers. Moreover, it means Al Hanashi initiated his 2006 hunger strike when the harsher methods were already in place. Attorney Elisabeth Gilson, who had a client on the psychiatric ward at the same time Al Hanashi was there, called the force-feeding “abusive and inhumane.”

Testimony From a Detainee Witness

One of the released Guantanamo detainees, Binyam Mohamed, told the press that Al Hanashi had been a leader among the prisoners. In a June 11, 2009, story published at the Miami Herald, he said Al Hanashi, whom he calls Wadhah, weighed only 104 lbs. the last time he saw him in January 2009.

Mohamed stated that he was “force-fed together” with Al Hanashi. According to Mohamed, he last saw Al Hanashi on January 17, 2006, when the Yemeni prisoner “was taken outside Camp 5 to meet with the Joint Task Force commander, Adm. David Thomas, and the Joint Detention Group commander, Col. Bruce Vargo.” According to Mohamed’s account, Al Hanashi had agreed to be a prisoner’s representative “on camp issues such as hunger strikes and other contentious issues.” Al Hanashi never returned to his cell, and nothing was known of his fate among the detainees outside BHU until his death was announced.

Given what is known of the six months prior to Al Hanashi’s purported suicide, we are to believe that at the same time Al Hanashi restarted his hunger strike, he also became a prisoner’s representative and met with top camp officials. At some point, he was placed in the camp’s BHU. By mid-May, he had ended his hunger strike, but had also began a series of suicide attempts, for which he was placed on suicide watch. On the night of his death, he appears to have not been on suicide watch, since he was not found wearing the regularly issued suicide smock. He was in “good spirit,” yet he supposedly killed himself minutes later, after taking two different sedating tranquilizers, all while under supposed constant or near-constant surveillance.

No medical staff, camp guard or other prison or military official has ever been disciplined for presumed failures of standard operating procedures surrounding any of the Guantanamo “suicides,” at least so far as is known.

Stress and Mental Illness at Guantanamo

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) found as early as June 2003 that the conditions of confinement at Guantanamo were “tantamount to torture,” as was documented in a “Memorandum for the Record to Major General Geoffrey Miller” on October 8, 2003. Questions about psychological torture at the Navy base prison were raised by ICRC as early as January 2003. According a New York Times article by Neil Lewis, “the Red Cross team found a far greater incidence of mental illness produced by stress than did American medical authorities, much of it caused by prolonged solitary confinement.”

The stressors of confinement at Guantanamo are many, and include the anxiety and tension associated with indefinite detention, isolation, long bouts of intense interrogation, behavioral controls of reward and punishment, periods of sleep deprivation, lack of access for years to an attorney, separation from family and loved ones, cruel treatment and at times torture.

A two-part series published at Truthout last year raised the question of whether waterboarding occurred at Guantanamo, and documented numerous occasions when similar forms of water torture was, in fact, used.

Other forms of detainee torture at Guantanamo, as documented in a 2006 report by the UN’s Commission on Human Rights, included sensory deprivation and sensory overload, exposure to cold, exposure to extreme violence and cultural and religious harassment.

One particular form of abuse that caused great controversy was the policy, still in place, of force-feeding hunger strikers. A report in the August 2007 Journal of the American Medical Association concluded, “force-feeding at Guantanamo Bay violates the Geneva Conventions, international human rights law, and medical ethics.”

Some of the Guantanamo detainees were persistently force-fed for years. The UN report noted that some forms of forced feeding, including accounts of the practice at Guantanamo, amount to torture.

Why Did Al Hanashi Die?

Whether or not Al Hanashi died a suicide, the question remains why he was driven to such a desperate measure, or why those in charge of his care failed so miserably to keep him alive. While his death may have been due to the stresses of torture and imprisonment, bringing the prisoner to despair and suicide, there may have been other, more distal causes affecting his situation.

Al Hanashi may have been singled out, along with Al Amri, as a trouble maker. Al Hanashi’s June 2008 detainee assessment, written as a memorandum for the commander of US Southern Command, labeled him a “HIGH threat from a detention perspective.” The report complained that Al Hanashi’s “overall behavior has been non-compliant and hostile to the guard force and staff.” The report, which was part of a large release of detainee files by WikiLeaks last year, listed “163 Reports of Disciplinary Infraction” up to that date, including “inciting and participating in mass disturbances, failure to follow guard instructions/camp rules, inappropriate use of bodily fluids, unauthorized communications, damage to government property, attempted assaults, assaults, provoking words and gestures, exposure of sexual organs, and possession of food and non-weapon type contraband.”

The report also describes the DoD’s version of Al Hanashi’s connections to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. While Al Hanashi admitted in a written response to a Combatant Status Review Tribunal hearing that he had associated with the Taliban, hedenied any association with al-Qaeda. The DoD relied for that claim on the interrogations of two detainees known to have been repeatedly torturedAbu Zubaydah and Sanad Ali Yislam al-Kazimi.

November 2009 Truthout article by this author speculated whether Al Hanashi’s death had anything to do with thepossibility that he was a material witness to the 2002 mass killings by Afghan Gen. Abdul Dostum, which possibly included knowledge or participation by US forces. (The Obama administration has refused to investigate the atrocity.) Al Hanashi had been imprisoned and then wounded at Qala-i-Janghi Prison, where there had been an uprising by Taliban prisoners. (His DoD assessment notes that, in interrogation, John Walker Lindh stated that Al Hanashi had helped negotiate the surrender of the prisoners.) Afterward, he was sent to Shabraghan Prison, where he spent the next four weeks or so recuperating in the prison hospital. In the hospital at the same time were survivors from the mass execution of Taliban prisoners. The bulk of the Taliban POWs had presumably been dumped in mass graves at Dasht-i-Leili.

A major news story by The New York Times on the Afghan mass graves, and a report on the forensic evidence gathered in the case was released in the month after Al Hanashi’s death. The Times report by journalist James Risen noted “several Afghan witnesses” to the slaughter “were later tortured or killed.” Had Al Hanashi talked to survivors of the massacre, and if so, what could he have said about it?

Interestingly, Dostum’s denial of any involvement in the murder of Taliban prisoners was posted just after the Times story broke at the web site for the US government-backed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty web site, suggesting the US was actively involved in disseminating misinformation on the war atrocity.

Former detainee Binyam Mohamed, who knew Al Hanashi, found it difficult to believe he would take his own life, and felt Al Hanashi was murdered. “If he did take his life – after being forced into a BHU – what put him there?” Mohamed asked. “Who takes responsibility for making him lose hope after having held on for so many years, despite the inhumane treatment and conditions?”

Another Suicide

Al Amri’s death came almost exactly one year, and Al Hanashi’s death almost three years, to the day after three detainees were found dead on one night in June 2006. Another detainee, former British resident Shaker Aamer, was reportedly also beaten severely and suffocated by Guantanamo personnel on the same night. Aamer’s case has been a focus of British activists seeking his release.

All these deaths were called suicide by the DoD, and the investigations into them apparently proceeded with only the presumption of suicide. Even Al Amri, who had died with hands tied behind his back, was labeled a suicide by autopsy examiners only days after his death, with no indication of possible investigation into homicide.

In May 2011, a 37-year-old detainee, Inayatullah, also known asHajji Nassim, was found dead, reportedly hanging by bed sheets, in a recreation yard at Guantanamo. Nassim’s Guantanamo detainee assessment is one of 14 missing from the WikiLeaks Guantanamo release. Nassim’s attorney, federal public defender Paul Rashkind, has told the press that his client had attempted suicide twice before at Guantanamo, and was the long-time victim of “a paralyzing psychosis” that had begun long before he was sent to Guantanamo in September 2007.

According to the US government, Nassim was “an admitted planner for Al-Qaeda terrorist operations.” Nassim’s court filings also identify him under the alias “Harun Al-Afghani” and “Mohammed Naseem.” Other reports have described him as a father of six, “the owner of a black market cellphone store in Zahedan, Iran,” and someone who, sometime after his capture, stopped cooperating with US authorities under detention because he could not “afford his fellow Afghani detainees to believe that he cooperates with US intelligence.”

Rashkind would not answer Truthout queries about his client’s case, stating, “everything is classified.”

This work by Truthout is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

Confirmed: Lamo to Manning, “Treat this as a confession” or journalist interview

By: Jeff Kaye Wednesday July 13, 2011 2:55 pm

Wired Magazine, for reasons of its own that I’m not sure I believe, has suddenly decided to post the full text of the Bradley Manning-Adrian Lamo chat logs. I’m sure that many people will find much to mull over. (Kevin Gosztola also has a posting up at MyFDL examining more about what can be gleaned from the release at last of the entire logs: Wired Magazine Finally Releases Entire Manning-Lamo Chat Logs: What’s Revealed?) One thing that stands out immediately, because it occurs very early on in the chat logs, is Adrian Lamo’s assertion to Bradley Manning that he is both a journalist and a minister, and that their conversations are legally protected.

In the quotes following, “bradass87″ is Bradley Manning and “info@adrianlamo.com” is Adrian Lamo:

(10:21:34 AM) bradass87: im fairly open… but careful, so yes..

(10:22:00 AM) bradass87: im aware of your bi part

(10:22:24 AM) bradass87: uhm, trying to keep a low profile for now though, just a warning

(10:23:34 AM) info@adrianlamo.com: I’m a journalist and a minister. You can pick either, and treat this as a confession or an interview (never to be published) & enjoy a modicum of legal protection.

This is not totally new information, but it does corroborate a report made by Glenn Greenwald on June 18, 2010, and something Lamo told Jonathan Fildes at BBC ten days earlier.

From Greenwald’s article:

If one assumes that this happened as the Wired version claims, what Lamo did here is despicable.  He holds himself out as an “award-winning journalist” and told Manning he was one (“I did tell him that I worked as a journalist,” Lamo said).  Indeed, Lamo told me (though it doesn’t appear in the chat logs published by Wired) that he told Manning early on that he was a journalist and thus could offer him confidentiality for everything they discussed under California’s shield law.  Lamo also said he told Manning that he was an ordained minister and could treat Manning’s talk as a confession, which would then compel Lamo under the law to keep their discussions confidential (early on in their chats, Manning said:  ”I can’t believe what I’m confessing to you”).  In sum, Lamo explicitly led Manning to believe he could trust him and that their discussions would be confidential — perhaps legally required to be kept confidential — only to then report everything Manning said to the Government.

According to the BBC story:

[Lamo] also said that he was not approached by Mr Manning as a journalist.

“I was a private citizen in a private capacity – there was no source, journalist relationship,” he told BBC News.

“I did tell him that I worked as a journalist. I would have been happy to write about him myself, but we just decided that it would be too unethical.”

BoingBoing also posted a version of the logs posted first by Wired, as did the Washington Post; FDL posted a merged version of all the previously posted logs. None of these had posted the portions of the log cited at the beginning of this article, which obviously had been withheld by Wired, who certainly had the full logs all along. One must assume the Feds had this material as well, yet they tortured Manning by holding him for months in solitary confinement and sexually humiliating him via forced nudity, even though they knew he had issues around sexual gender and being bullied by others because of sexuality.

Rob Beschizza at BoingBoing commented this afternoon, upon the release of the logs, “It reads like a deliberated attempt to manipulate or even entrap Manning, on Lamo’s part, and seems quite important to understanding what Manning thought he was doing by talking to him.”

Indeed, it does read exactly like that. In the logs, Manning himself seems to realize how his own desperation has led him to seek someone out. Such a situation only highlights the dubiety of the operation utilized to get to Manning. I’m no attorney, and I’ll leave it to other legal types to ascertain to what degree this damages the government’s case, if indeed there ever had much of a case, against Bradley Manning.