The American public learned in April 2004 that some detainees were being abused in Iraq by U.S. military police who were encouraged to do so by Military Intelligence and by civilian employees of private intelligence contractors, of which there were sixty in Iraq. Little more would come to light about the private contractors, but eventually a substantial body of evidence developed suggesting the use of torture in the war on terror was by no means confined to isolated occurrences. As late as May 2006, the director of human rights for Amnesty International reported that “this increasing outsourcing of war has created a virtual rules-free zone for private military companies” and that the “awarding, overseeing, and enforcing of contracts is shrouded in secrecy....” She noted, “Contractors have been linked to shootings of civilians and to sexual abuse and torture of detainees.” One CIA contractor has been sent to prison for eight years for torture resulting in the death of a detainee. Two other cases have been thrown out of court, and seventeen others are languishing in the office of the US attorney for Eastern Virginia. That office is packed with loyal Bush appointees, who are not expected to investigate or act. The Justice Department has told Congress that there are jurisdictional problems in pursuing cases involving mercenaries. Experts, including those from Amnesty International , believe that the abuse cases involving military contractors easily run into the hundreds. In 2005, videotape footage surfaced showing contract employees machine-gunning occupied civilian cars on an Iraqi highway. This did not involve detainees, but it suggests that some contract employees are lawless cowboys. It is known that the number of contract employees in Iraq is about 2/3s of the number of Armed Forces personnel.
In 2005, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales signed a memorandum authorizing severe physical interrogation techniques that were to be combined with harsh psychological methods. Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey objected and warned that those involved in producing the memo would be ashamed of themselves when the world eventually learned of this policy. The policy memorandum was signed at a time when the administration was vigorously denying that the U.S. was involved in torturing prisoners. When the memo came to light in 2007, the administration refused to provide Congress with any of the paperwork that had been developed as background and underpinning for the memo.
By August 2006, there were 450 prisoners at Guantanimo, as the US had released some prisoners due to international pressure. Those being released were told not to talk to a lawyer and often were asked to sign confessions as a condition for release. Five hundred people were detained in Afghanistan, where the US had used at one time or another 35 different detention centers. Another 13,000 were held in Iraq, and 98 died while in various detention centers. There was no data on how many were held in secret CIA prisons around the world.
In May 2004, photographs surfaced that showed two soldiers posing with the dead body of a detainee who had apparently been beaten to death by CIA or private intelligence contractor operatives. The body was there because the CIA and military interrogators could not agree on who should dispose of it. The Red Cross had been complaining about the abuses since October 2003 and Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch had also expressed deep concern about the abuses. The FBI had been complaining since 2002 that interrogation techniques at Guantanimo had crossed the line of propriety and that detainees were being abused. The administration claimed abuses were isolated to a handful of wayward National Guard personnel. Yet some of the photographs revealed torture techniques known only to skilled professionals. The interrogations were ultimately under the control of military task forces that answered to the Joint Special Operations command. A seasoned retired CIA officer claimed that these teams “had full authority to wack—to go in and conduct ‘executive action’….”
It is likely that the techniques were based on decades of the study of “no-touch” torture techniques. In the 1960s, the CIA spent enormous amounts on these investigations that included sleep deprivation, strange eating schedules, stressful positions, loud noises, self-inflicted pain, sexual humiliation, intense never ending light, and scrambled sleep. Some of the work was farmed out to experimenters at Cornell and McGill Universities. It was found that the interrogators easily slipped from no-touch techniques to traditional brutality.
It soon became apparent that a pattern of abuse had existed in Afghanistan and at the Guantanimo detention facility. In Bagram, Afghanistan two men died due to repeated beatings in December 2002. At first, the military tried to sweep the matter under the rug, but eventually seven soldiers were charged with abuses. The investigation continued for two years, but documents were somehow lost, key people not interviewed, and evidence was mishandled. Finally, in October 2004, it appeared that twenty others might be charged for offenses ranging from lying to unintentional manslaughter. A year later, a regiment of the 173 Airborne burned the bodies of two Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan, a clear violation of Islamic custom. Across the globe at Guantanimo, authorities were looking into charges that soldiers had degraded the corpse of a prisoner.
It became known that commandos, probably acting under operation “Copper Green,” seized people in Afghanistan and placed them in “the Pit” and other detention centers, where they were subjected to various forms of abuse, including sexual. They had learned that sex, especially homosexual sex, was especially taboo among Muslims. It was thought that sexual degradation and photographing people in compromising sexual situations would produce information and even recruit prisoners to become informers. The prisoners would do whatever was necessary to prevent the photographs from being shown to their families. These techniques would also be employed in Iraq, and interrogation methods designed to play upon Islamic sensibilities were to be widely reported in Afghanistan, Guantanimo, and Iraq.
One of the Military Intelligence units involved in Bagram abuses was transferred to Iraq, where they continued to ply their skills. Months after the first revelation,, reports began to surface that some prisoners who were released from Guantanimo were claiming that they had been tortured by “prostitutes.” At Guantanimo, under the command of General Geoffrey Miller, interrogators played upon the detainees sexual sensitivities. A whole range of unspeakable techniques was used on Mohammed al Kahtani. This was the first indication that the pattern of abuse existed in Afghanistan and Guantanimo before we had military prisons in Iraq. Evidence surfaced that women questioned these men at Guantanimo in late night sessions that included the use of fake menstrual blood. Female interrogators wore Tight T-shirts, engaged in sexual touching, and paraded in miniskirts, and left bras and thong underwear hanging in the room. This often reduced the detainees to uncontrollable crying. One woman in a tight shirt rubbed her breasts against the back of a praying internee and then mocked him because he had an erection. A class action suite brought the Center for Rights has brought some complaints by detainees. One named Ahmed, was held for five months and tortured in various ways including being frequently bound, stripped, exposed to extreme cold, and kicked and beaten. He was also kicked in his genitals. Ahmed also had to watch his father being tortured. His savings were confiscated and his house destroyed.
Four months of extreme abuses at Abu Ghraib seemed to begin after the Guantanimo Camp X-Ray commander, Major General Geoffrey Miller was ordered to visit the site. Rumsfeld sent him there with oral orders to “Gitmoize” the camp. He was sent to “Gitmoize” the facility, and he told its commander Reserve Brigadier General Janice Karpinski to turn over effective control of the prison to military intelligence. General Miller told the staff to “treat these prisoners like dogs” and said that the guards should soften up the detainees for the intelligence people. Even before his visit, the prison was a hellhole due to overcrowding and the failure of higher command to provide adequate supplies and staff. Karpinski was refused permission to release people who had been cleared. After Miller’s visit, the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade had control of the facility. When news of the torture came out, Karpinski was relieved of command, and the Bush administration later reduced her to colonel on charges that had nothing to do with Abu Gharib. She had no opportunity to defend herself
Lt. General Keith Alexander, as Army Chief of Staff, was sent to Iraq to persuade Colonel T. Pappas, the intelligence officer who had been given control of the camp, to comply with General Jeffrey Miller’s plan to “Gitmoize” interrogation facilities in Iraq by intensifying interrogation techniques. In 2006, Pappas faced the possibility that he could be charged with permitting prisoners to be abused. .
On September 14, 2003, Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez also ordered more intense questioning methods, but they did not include the most troubling techniques revealed in photographs, except the use of dogs. Most of the abuses occurred in Cellblock 1A, which was off-limits to Karpinski and her Reserve troops. General Miller had ordered some unusual interrogation techniques for Mohammed el Quahtani, the so-called “Twentieth Hijacker.” This person was dressed in women’s underwear and required to perform sex acts in the presence of a female. A leash was placed around his neck and he was required to perform dog tricks. A leaked December 2005 inspector general’s report stated that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld monitored these sado-sexual practices via telephone.
It is unclear what measures Major General Miller recommended. At some time after the visit, he was briefed –“read in”- about “Copper Green” which Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice had approved after 9/11, and was most probably pursuant to the program Bush, Rumsfeld, and Ashcroft signed off to, which was designed to extract information from “high value” prisoners. It was a “black”, special-access program (SAP) that authorized elite personnel from the CIA, Seals, and other agencies to “Grab whom you must. Do what you want.”
Dr. Rice signed off on Copper Green, but there is evidence that she did not know about the 2002 “torture memo” which made Copper Green and its outgrowths so horrible. However, it is known that Dr. Rice played a major role in shaping torture policy. She and other NSC officers carefully reviewed what the CIA could do to detainees. They all but orchestrated interrogation sessions, detailing whether slapping. Simulated drowning, etc. could occur. President Bush acknowledged that he knew that these discussions took place and approved of them.
On January 11, 2002, CIA briefers met with White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and David S. Addington, Cheney’s lawyer. The briefers said they would have problems obtaining actionable intelligence if they had to work within the rules of the Geneva Convention. Vice President Cheney took it upon himself to lead the effort to promote “robust interrogation” by finding a way around international law by redefining torture. The famous memo justifying torture was the work of Gonzales, Timothy E. Flanigan of the White House, Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee, John Yoo, also of Justice, and Addington. Yoo, who is usually given most of the credit for the memo, later said it would be dangerous to let the military implement the memo. Built into it was a defense for the torturer. If he or she acted with the intent of obtaining information rather than inflicting harm, no crime was committed. Donald Rumsfeld, Cheney’s old mentor, claimed Cheney was the driving force in forging the new policy. Rice and Colin Powell learned of the August, 2002 memo on June 8, 2004. International Law professor Jordan Paust wrote, “Not since the Nazi era have so many lawyers been so clearly involved in international crimes concerning the treatment and interrogation of persons detained during war.”
It was the creation of the Copper Green program and its subsequent extension to Iraq that set the scene for horrible transgressions of human rights and international law.. Among them were guards urinating on detainees, riding them, and having snakes bite them. There were reports of homosexual rape and of guards jumping on the injured leg of a prisoner. It was later learned that some of the Arabic-speaking interrogators/torturers were the same people the Israelis used in South Lebanon in 1991. Under- Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen A. Cambone authorized “Copper Green” tactics at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq. Apparently “Copper Green” originally dealt with the abuse of high value detainees. Cambone’s order made possible the use of these techniques against many more detainees. More Military Intelligence and civilian intelligence people appeared, using aliases, and instructed military police to abuse the detainees. Some detainees were singled out for such extensive abuse that their names were not recorded. They were “ghost detainees” who existed in no records. Cambone resigned in late 2006.
Specialist Charles A. Garner, Jr. confided to whistle-blower Joseph M. Darby, “The Christian in me says its wrong. But the corrections officers says, ‘ I love to make a grown man piss on himself.’” In one instance, the sickly son of a former Iraqi official was stripped naked, driven around in a truck with mud spattered over him in order to induce the “high value” detainee to talk. He did so when more threats were made against the boy and rest of the family. The boy was later placed in cellblock where a sergeant warned he was likely to be raped. Smothering and chest compression techniques were often used to bring on near asphyxiation as a means of getting other high value captives to talk. At least two high-ranking Iraqi officers died this way, and there are believed to be at least six other homicides; although twenty-seven people died under interrogation in Iraq. One of the dead was the former head of the Iraqi Air Force, Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush.
There have been complaints of Islamic women being raped. A British paper first broke this story. Then Newsweek said that unreleased photographs showed a soldier having sex with a female detainee and soldiers having sex with juveniles. Nadia, a reporter for a London-based paper, was held there for six months and was first raped bt five soldiers to the refrains of heavy metal music. She reported :
One month later, a soldier showed up and told me in broken Arabic to take a shower. And before finishing my bath, he kicked the door open. I slapped him but he raped me like animals and called two of his colleagues, who forced me to have sex with them for up to 10 times," added Nadia.
Four months later, the female soldier came along with four male soldiers with a digital camera. She stripped me naked and started fondling me as if she was a man while her male colleagues broke into laughter and started taking photos.
Reluctant as I was, she fired four shots close to my head and threatened to kill me if I resist. Then, four soldiers raped me sadistically and I lost conscience. Later, she forced me to watch a clip of my raping, saying bluntly: ‘You were born to give us pleasure’.
When it was clear that the operations at Abu Ghraib prison had gotten out of hand, the CIA withdrew from the project. Several military Judge Advocate general officers tried unsuccessfully to get the New York State Bar Association to intervene. There was also great concern about the number of civilian contractors used in the operation because they were subjected to no restrains. For months, the International Red Cross and various human rights organizations had alerted the administration to the growing abuses.
It is unclear if the deaths of high value detainees at Al Asad, a remote air base, were connected to this program. There is unmistakable evidence based on photographic evidence that Sunni tribal leader Abdul Kareem Abdul Jaleel was tortured to death there. American medical personnel said he died of natural causes. About five bodies a week are delivered to Forensic Institute in Baghdad from American detention facilities. The Iraqi coroners and scientists are forbidden to examine bodies for which there is a US- issued death certificate, but they do look at them. Off the record, they say the bodies show obvious signs of torture.
High value suspected terrorists could be moved across borders and kept in various locations in a vast US interrogation network. This secret gulag or network of prisons was linked largely by CIA operated Gulf Stream and other executive jets. There is evidence that a number of shell corporations were used in these rendition operations. Rendition involved seizing a person in a foreign land and flying him to a secret CIA prison , also abroad, or to a foreign prison where he would be questioned by foreign jailers who were not bound by any rules of conduct. One was Aero Contractors, which operated out of the Johnston County Airport in Smithfield, NC. Prisoners were also turned over to other regimes in Egypt, Syria, and Pakistan for torture and interrogation. One Canadian citizen was held in Syria for three months, a matter that caused great consternation in Canada. Some were sent to other countries known for the use of brutal torture techniques Australian citizen Mamdouh Habid was held for forty-eight months in Pakistan, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Guantanimo. The experiences he claimed were consistent with reports from other former detainees. He may have been considered a fairly high value prisoner because U.S. authorities knew he had trained in two Al Qaeda camps and had reason to suspect he might have trained people for the attack on 9/11.
At several of these sites, electric shock techniques were employed. Sometimes a wired helmet was used, which interrogators said was truth detector. American female interrogators touched his private parts, and one reached under her skirt and threw what she claimed were blood at him. `Egyptians snubbed out cigarettes on his skin and a Pakistani interrogator dropkicked him in the skull. Americans also beat him, and his head was hit against the floor at Guantanimo. By 2007, it was known that at least 300 people had been subjected to rendition by the George W. Bush administration.
These abuses have their origins in the Clinton administration, but they were vastly magnified in the subsequent administration. In the mid- 1990s, the Clinton administration laid the foundations for this program when it began to sanction the transportation of terrorist detainees to foreign countries for questioning. This policy of “rendition” was limited to people who had already been found guilty in our courts. The Bush administration broadened this policy to include mere suspects, and about one hundred and fifty have been subjected to rendition since 2001. The new policy was part of what Alberto Gonzales called the New Paradigm, the administration’s new approach to detention and interrogation. Rendition also changed in that it often meant more than just sending detainees to foreign countries, they were often held and questioned by Americans in safe houses in those countries.
Some theorize that much of the torture would have occurred even without the involvement of civilian and military authorities because soldiers were led to believe that the people they were fighting were terrorists, closely connected to those who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.Eventually, Pentagon officials admitted that 90% of its detainees were innocent. The Geneva Conventions states: “No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed," and "collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.” So far, the preferred opinion of the government and most Americans is that these abuses were very limited and entirely the actions of a few low-ranking individuals.
. In 2005, Dana Priest of the Washington Post revealed that the US maintained a network of secret prisons in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. The paper was persuaded not to mention two of the locations. A Swiss paper published intelligence information that showed that there were black holes in Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and the Ukraine. The highest-ranking Al Qaeda operatives are sent to “Bright Light,” a prison, it is said, from which there is no return. ABC News soon discovered secret prisons were in Poland and Romania. It also reported some of the black sites were being evacuated with prisoners being removed to somewhere in North Africa. The White House persuaded the network not to mention sites in Poland and Romania for four days, probably allowing time to complete the removals. The ABC television network agreed to this, not realizing the whole story had been broadcast on ABC Radio and placed on the website. All this fancy footwork was necessary so that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice could deny the existence of the black holes and torture during a hastily arranged trip to Europe. Of course, all of this had been widely reported in Europe, but these “secrets” were withheld from American news consumers. The Republican Congress promptly launched an investigation of how this information was leaked.
Ms. Priest and her paper did their jobs, but most of the American media avoided using the word “torture” and followed the administration line of blaming a few, low-ranking bad apples. Moreover, the Democrats did not raise the question in the 2004 presidential campaign. When Bush was reelected, Yoo said the election had been a referendum on torture and that the public had decisively upheld the administration’s position. Although Secretary Rice denied the existence of secret prisons and seemed to deny rendition, Europeans did not drop the matter. On June 6, 2006, the Council of Europe released a 67-page report on CIA renditions across Europe. It even provided flight logs. At about that time, Italian investigative judge Armando Spataro in Milan activated a case against 22 agents who kidnapped Hussan Nsar. In November 2006, investigators finally found a memorandum in which President George W. Bush authorized policies for the handling of foreign detainees.
To appease public opinion, the Pentagon ordered Major General Antonio M. Taguba to undertake an investigation of the situation at Abu Ghraib. His orders were very narrow. He was to investigate the military police there but no one above them, including the military intelligence teams. One can assume that a report was expected that would result in the punishment of untrained prison guards and few else. It would develop later that it would be almost impossible to investigate many of the military intelligence people who were involved because they used fake names. Taguba’s report was thorough and it took little reading between the lines to understand the extent of the abuse and that this was just the work of young kids in the military police.
The report was leaked, and this, along with its contents, would destroy Taguba’s career. Old friends in uniform now avoided him, and Secretary Rumsfeld did not conceal his displeasure. The Secretary was mainly concerned with finding the leak and creating the false impression that he knew very little about all this and had only seen the pictures of abuse briefly before testifying before Congress. In fact, he had access to all that for months. General John Abizaid told him, “You and your report will be investigated.” Taguba thought, “I’d been in the Army thirty-two years by then, and it was the first time T thought I was in the Mafia.” He eventually concluded that it was impossible that the President had not been aware of the torture program all along. A member of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee offered the prevailing view of the scandal: “Abu Ghraib was the price of defending democracy.” In January 2006, Taguba was ordered to resign.
Subsequently, the Pentagon decided that water-boarding should be discontinued, and the revised manual on interrogation specifically forbids it. However, the CIA is permitted to water-board prisoners, and both the Pentagon and Justice Department have ruled that testimony from detainees gathered through torture was admissible in court. Detainees do not have the right of habeas corpus to determine if their detainment is appropriate.
A FBI report released in 2008 revealed that agents knew of the torture almost at its inception. They were instructed not to participate. Agents watched prisoners being tortured hundreds of times but nothing was done to expose or stop these deplorable practices. This internal report praised the agents for their integrity and professionalism.
Sherman has written African American Baseball: A Brief History, which can be acquired from LuLu Publishing on line.http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?search_forum
"Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." Orwell-- The US is probably moving toward becoming a heavily controlled Rightist state. This blog is an effort to document how that happened.
- Sherman De Brosse
- Sherm spent seven years writing an analytical chronicle of what the Republicans have been up to since the 1970s. It discusses elements in the Republican coalition, their ideologies, strategies, informational and financial resources, and election shenanigans. Abuses of power by the Reagan and G. W. Bush administration and the Republican Congresses are detailed. The New Republican Coalition : Its Rise and Impact, The Seventies to Present (Publish America) can be acquired by calling 301-695-1707. On line, go to http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping. It can also be obtained through the on-line operations of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Do not consider purchasing it if you are looking for something that mirrors the mainstream media!