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Thursday, December 26, 2002

Media: stress and duress, renditions, abuse

The Washington Post reports on the interrogation techniques used at Bagram air base, Afghanistan:
  • Stress and duress techniques used include prolonged painful positions, sleep deprivation, bombardment with lights, sensory deprivation.
  • The use of mind altering substances such as sodium pentathol (c.f. Mamdouh Habib's allegations of being forced to use drugs 13 February 2005).
  • Selective use of painkillers.
  • Detainees that do not cooperate are rendered to "foreign intelligence services whose practise of torture has been documented by the U.S. government and human rights organizations."
The report includes quotations from unnamed officials. On human rights, one official is quoted as saying:
If you don't violate someone's human rights some of the time, you probably aren't doing your job. I don't think we want to be promoting a view of zero tolerance on this. That was the whole problem for a long time with the CIA.
On the use and purpose of rendition of prisoners to foreign nations with reputations for human rights abuse, one official is quoted as saying:
We don't kick the [expletive] out of them. We send them to other countries so they can kick the [expletive] out of them.
On accountability for alleged torture of detainees rendered to other nations, one official is quoted as saying:
If we're not there in the room, who is to say?

The report also mentions a US military criminal investigation into two prisoners who died at the facility. In three month's time, the New York Times will report on those two deaths (10 March 2003). Therein, officials will describe the deaths as due to "natural causes".

Monday, December 09, 2002

Memo: Army lawyers working hard

An email written today with the subject-line Legal issues re Guantanamo Bay between two censored individuals in a US department is quoted below
Attached are some documents that may be of interest to Spike Bowman who I understand is reviewing legal aspects of interviews here in GTMO. They were provided to me by one of the JAG lawyers working at CITF.

One of these is a review of interrogation methods by a DOD lawyer. Basically, it appears that the lawyer worked hard to crite (sic) a legal justification for the type of interviews they (the Army) want to conduct here.

Another email written today, with the subject line GTMO, between another two censored individuals, is quoted below:
It was good to talkwith (sic) you the other night. I look forward to reading your response to the outlandish accusations made by the inspectors and [censored].

Attached are two documents - 1) a one-page description of a matter concerning the interview/interrogation which we spoke to the Commanding general about. and 2) An outline of the coercive techniques in the military's interviewing tool kit.

I will also send our Interview Plan for Detainee [censored] When I return to D.C., I will bring a copy of the miloitary's (sic) interview Plan .... You won't believe it!

These documents will form part of the documentation released by various US Government Departments in response to an FOIA court order.

Friday, December 06, 2002

Incident: Abu Kenami dies in detention

Today, Abu Malik Kenami will be detained by 2nd BCT. In four days time, he will be dead.

According to a memo (page 1281) written 28 December 2003, an autopsy was never performed, and so the cause of death could not be determined. However the author of the memo states that "[h]is death was probably due to natural causes with an acute mycardial infarction [a heart attack] as the most probable of these". This conclusion is reached mainly because of the physical exertion of performing "ups and downs" (forced to repeatedly and rapidly stand up and then sit down for up to twenty minutes at a time - description page 1284) and because he was overweight (a BMI of 29.2 classifies him as "overweight") (see page 1295).

Rather than listing heart-failure as likely, one medical witness (page 1329 onward) states that it is very difficult to determine.

Question 4 How did it occur? --
... There are many possibilities to explain "How" it occurred, - this is [illegible] partial [illegible], but I know of no common cause of sudden death with no pre-existing medical conditions, no previous symptoms, and abrupt onset to explain death at his age. It is certainly possible but extremely unlikely.
The witness states that "the most likely cause of death (including only medical, non-trauma cases) in a man of this age and condition" was an undetected infectious disease. Regarding trauma, he states
His exam also demonstrated a small scalp laceration and hematoma [a collection of blood on the surface of the brain] which forced me to entertain trauma as a cause. However it is unlikely to be the case as lesions as small as he had [illegible] would probably not indicate intercranial bleeding.
The investigation concludes with the recommendations that all detainees have physical exams upon arrival, that general population holding areas are monitored with camcorders, and that a location be provided in Mosul to perform autopsies.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Incident: Dilawar tortured to death

Today, according to an article published in 3 month's time, Dilawar was taken into custody at Bagram. Dilawar was a taxi driver and father to a two-year-old little girl. In five days time, he will be dead.

In an article in the NYT (reprint) on 04 March 2003 Lt. Gen. Daniel K. McNeill will provide the following quote regarding the recent deaths at Bagram:

"Our interrogation techniques are adapted," [General McNeill] said. "They are in accordance with what is generally accepted as interrogation techniques..."

"We haven't found anything that requires us to take extraordinary action..."

As described in an article for the International Herald Tribune:
Military spokesmen maintained that both men [referring also to Habibullah, who also died at Bagram around the same time] had died of natural causes, even after military coroners had ruled the deaths homicides. Two months after those autopsies, the American commander in Afghanistan, then-Lt. Gen. Daniel K. McNeill, said he had no indication that abuse by soldiers had contributed to the two deaths. The methods used at Bagram, he said, were "in accordance with what is generally accepted as interrogation techniques."

Lt. Gen. Daniel K. McNeill.

Through an article published in over two year's time, we will learn that Dilawar was beaten to death by US soldiers.

"He screamed out, 'Allah! Allah! Allah!' and my first reaction was that he was crying out to his god," Specialist Jones said to investigators. "Everybody heard him cry out and thought it was funny."

...It became a kind of running joke, and people kept showing up to give this detainee a common peroneal strike just to hear him scream out 'Allah,' " he said. "It went on over a 24-hour period, and I would think that it was over 100 strikes."

"I saw the bruise because his pants kept falling down while he was in standing restraints," the soldier told investigators. "Over a certain time period, I noticed it was the size of a fist."

The article will describe in devastating detail how the brutality with which he was treated resulted in his death
... Mr. Dilawar grew desperate, he began crying out more loudly to be released. But even the interpreters had trouble understanding his Pashto dialect; the annoyed guards heard only noise. ... he was unable to hold his cuffed hands above his head as instructed, prompting Sergeant Salcedo to slap them back up whenever they began to drop. ... at one point Selena stepped on his bare foot with her boot and grabbed him by his beard and pulled him towards her," he went on. "Once Selena kicked Dilawar in the groin, private areas, with her right foot. She was standing some distance from him, and she stepped back and kicked him. ... it was pushing, shoving, kicking and shouting at him ... he grabbed him by the shirt and pulled him towards him, across the table, slamming his chest into the table front. ... Mr. Dilawar was unable to kneel, the interpreter said, the interrogators pulled him to his feet and pushed him against the wall ... Dilawar was trying to cooperate, but he couldn't physically perform the tasks ...
(Those who are interested in this sort of thing can read the full article themselves.)

On 13 December 2002, Maj. Elizabeth A. Rouse, a pathologist with the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, will sign and date Dilawar's death certificate. She will write that he died as a result of "blunt force injuries to lower extremities complicating coronary artery disease" (source). Rouse later described the tissue in Dilawar's legs for investigators as "pulpified."

"I've seen similar injuries in an individual run over by a bus," she added (source).

Dilawar's father and daughter.

During the trial for Dilawar's death, the accused will reveal that the methods that they used were commonly used, and that they were trained to use them (source)

In the first interview granted by any of the accused soldiers, a former guard charged with maiming and assault said that he and other reservist military policemen were specifically instructed at Bagram how to deliver the type of blows that killed the two detainees, and that the strikes were commonly used when prisoners resisted being hooded or shackled.

"I just don't understand how, if we were given training to do this, you can say that we were wrong and should have known better," said the soldier, Pvt. Willie V. Brand, 26, of Cincinnati, a father of four who volunteered for tours in Afghanistan and Kosovo.

On 28 September 2005, interrogator Sgt. Joshua R. Claus will be sentenced to five months prison for "maltreatment and assault". The charges for the murder of Dilawar are as follows (source):
  • Spc. Brian E. Cammack;
    Crime: Abuse;
    Sentence: Three months in prison, and a bad-conduct discharge.
  • Pfc. Willie Brand;
    Crime: Assault, maltreatment, maiming and making a false official statement;
    Sentence: A reduction in rank and pay to a private;
    Admitted to assaulting Dilawar over 30 times in the legs.
  • Sgt. Selena Salcedo;
    Crime: Assault, maltreatment, maiming and making a false official statement;
    Sentence: A reduction in rank and pay to a private.
  • Spc. Joshua Claus;
    Crime: Dereliction of duty and assault;
    Sentence: Demoted, given a letter of reprimand and ordered to forfeit $250 a month for four months;
  • Spc. Glendale Walls;
    Crime: Dereliction of duty and assault;
    Sentence: Two months in prison, reduced in rank and pay and a bad-conduct discharge;
    Admitted to pushing Dilawar against a wall. He also admitted doing nothing to prevent other soldiers at the US base at Bagram from abusing him.
  • Sgt. James P. Boland;
    Crime: Dereliction of duty and assault;
    Sentence: Charges were dropped. A letter of reprimand was issued.


The following is a timeline. It reveals several lies that were told regarding Dilawar's and Habibullah's murder:

  • 10 December 2002: Dilawar "found collapsed in his cell" (source).
  • 13 December 2002: Maj. Elizabeth A. Rouse, a pathologist with the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, based in Washington, signs Dilawar's certificate saying that he died as a result of "blunt force injuries to lower extremities complicating coronary artery disease". Based on this, she indicates "homicide" as the cause of death (04 March 2003, NYT).
  • 17 January 2003: Dilawar's brother Shahpoor collects Dilawar's corpse and his death certificate. Shahpoor is unable to read the content of the certificate, and no one explains it to him.
  • In the aftermath of the deaths, military spokespersons maintain that both Dilawar and Habibullah (who died around the same time) had died from natural causes (21 May 2005, International Herald Tribune).
  • 04 March 2003: NYT article (reprint) discusses the start of the US investigation into Dilawar's homicide, and quotes one Lt. Gen. Daniel K. McNeill saying that the men's treatment was accordance with what is generally accepted as interrogation techniques..." and "We haven't found anything that requires us to take extraordinary"
  • 04 August 2002: An accused soldier reveals that he was specifically instructed in the type of blows that killed Dilawar and Habibullah (08 August 2005, New York Times (reprint at ICH)).
  • 28 September 2005: The heaviest sentence anyone received for the murders -- 5 months.


Further reading on Dilawar: