Barbarians inside the gates

Barbarians inside the gates

by digby

Let's talk some more about the terrorist barbarians we're up against, shall we?
In the interviews with his lawyers, Khan described a carnival-like atmosphere of abuse when he arrived at the CIA detention facility.

"I wished they had killed me," Khan told his lawyers. He said that he experienced excruciating pain when hung naked from poles and that guards repeatedly held his head under ice water.

" 'Son, we are going to take care of you,' " Khan said his interrogators told him. " 'We are going to send you to a place you cannot imagine.' "

Current and former CIA officials declined to comment on Khan's account.

Khan's description of his experience matches some of the most disturbing findings of the U.S. Senate report, the product of a five-year review by Democratic staffers of 6.3 million internal CIA documents. CIA officials and many Republicans dismissed the report's findings as exaggerated.

Years before the report was released, Khan complained to his lawyers that he had been subjected to forced rectal feedings. Senate investigators found internal CIA documents confirming that Khan had received involuntary rectal feeding and rectal hydration. In an incident widely reported in news media after the release of the Senate investigation, CIA cables showed that "Khan's 'lunch tray,' consisting of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts, and raisins, was 'pureed' and rectally infused."

The CIA maintains that rectal feedings were necessary after Khan went on a hunger strike and pulled out a feeding tube that had been inserted through his nose. Senate investigators said Khan was cooperative and did not remove the feeding tube.

Most medical experts say rectal feeding is of no therapeutic value. His lawyers call it rape.

Khan told his lawyers that some of the worst torture occurred in a May 2003 interrogation session, when guards stripped him naked, hung him from a wooden beam for three days and provided him with water but no food. The only time he was removed from the beam was on the afternoon of the first day, when interrogators shackled him, placed a hood over his head and lowered him into a tub of ice water.

An interrogator then forced Khan's head underwater until he feared he would drown. The questioner pulled Khan's head out of the water, demanded answers to questions and again dunked his head underwater, the detainee said. Guards also poured water and ice from a bucket onto Khan's mouth and nose.

Khan was again hung on the pole hooded and naked. Every two to three hours, interrogators hurled ice water on his body and set up a fan to blow air on him, depriving him of sleep, he said. Once, after hanging on the pole for two days, Khan began hallucinating, thinking he was seeing a cow and a giant lizard.

View galleryFile picture shows the exterior of Camp Delta at the …
The exterior of Camp Delta is seen at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, in this file photo take …
"I lived in anxiety every moment of every single day about the fear and anticipation of the unknown," Khan said, describing his panic attacks and nightmares at the black site. "Sometimes, I was struggling and drowning under water, or driving a car and I could not stop."

In a July 2003 session, Khan said, CIA guards hooded and hung him from a metal pole for several days and repeatedly poured ice water on his mouth, nose and genitals. At one point, he said, they forced him to sit naked on a wooden box during a 15-minute videotaped interrogation. After that, Khan said, he was shackled to a wall, which prevented him from sleeping.

When a doctor arrived to check his condition, Khan begged for help, he said. Instead, Khan said, the doctor instructed the guards to again hang him from the metal bar. After hanging from the pole for 24 hours, Khan was forced to write a "confession" while being videotaped naked.


Khan's account also includes previously undisclosed forms of alleged CIA abuse, according to experts. Khan said his feet and lower legs were placed in tall boot-like metal cuffs that dug into his flesh and immobilized his legs. He said he felt that his legs would break if he fell forward while restrained by the cuffs.

Khan is not one of the three people whom current and former CIA officials say interrogators were authorized to “waterboard,” whereby water is poured over a cloth covering a detainee's face to create the sensation of drowning. Nor is he the fourth detainee whose waterboarding was documented by Human Rights Watch in 2012.

His descriptions, however, match those of other detainees who have alleged that they were subjected to unauthorized interrogation techniques using water. Human-rights groups say the use of ice water in dousing and forced submersions is torture.

Khan's account also includes details that match those of lower-level detainees who have described their own interrogations. Like other prisoners, Khan said he was held in complete darkness and isolated from other prisoners for long periods. To deprive him of sleep, his captors kept the lights on in his cell and blared loud music from KISS and other American rock and rap groups.

He said that he was given unclean food and water that gave him diarrhea and that he was held in an outdoor cell and in cells with biting insects. Other prisoners later told him they were held in coffin-shaped boxes.

Conditions improved significantly in 2005, after the U.S. Congress passed the Detainee Treatment Act. That measure includes anti-torture provisions sponsored by Senator John McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner in Vietnam.

In the recent Frontline documentary about the torture regime, John Rizzo, the CIA's general counsel ran to McCain at one point and laid out the torture regime for him assuming that he'd understand that it wasn't really all that bad and that it certainly wasn't tantamount to torture. He undoubtedly gave him a very sanitized version of what went on, which included little of what's alleged above. Whatever Rizzo described to McCain resulted in McCain growling at him saying, "it sounds like torture to me." Rizzo said that "gave him pause." Seriously.

I get that these terrorists (the real ones not the innocent ones) are terrible people. This one is a cooperating witness now who is facing another 20 years in prison for spilling what he knows. But America is full of terrible people who may be a threat and who may know things that could save lives in the future. I don't think they tortured Timothy Mcveigh and he had held the record for most people killed in a terrorist attack prior to 9/11. He certainly could have been part of a conspiracy. But there's no record of them using these sick primitive methods to question him.

Regular law enforcement is certainly guilty of torture.(See:Chicago) But it's rightly seen as illegal and immoral when it's revealed and decent people do not defend the practice. But we seem to think that this is fine when applied to terrorist suspects, many of whom have proven to not be terrorists. ("That's what the torture is for!")

When a society says that torture is justified "in order to save lives" it becomes very difficult to stop that society from doing such things in any threatening circumstance, not just war (or "war"). There is no logical reason that Americans who approve of torture for suspected terrorists should not approve of torture for suspected mass murders or the head of a violent drug cartel is there? Is there any reason it shouldn't be applied to someone suspected of being involved in a kidnapping? Or a person suspected of running a pedophile ring or a human trafficking operation? There is no logical reason other than racism which certainly plays a part but since I doubt that being a white member of Al Qaeda would prevent them being tortured, it's not the controlling reason.

No, we've just given ourselves the authority to torture a specific group of people under the phony rationale that we have no choice. Even though it doesn't work. Even though there are better methods of getting information. (And I write that in the present because I can see no reason why the same thing will not happen again if the authorities say it's "necessary.") This is one of the tools in the toolbox now.

I don't know if they wanted the Islamic terrorists to know that we did these things so they would be "afraid", if they thought it was truly effective despite the evidence that it was unnecessary or if they just thought sadism was normal and reasonable. None of those things are moral excuses for doing it. But the first is especially vacuous: they are not "afraid." They do these things themselves and consider it normal. Why would our willingness to stoop to that level make even the slightest amount of difference? It certainly hasn't in Syria where ISIS knows very well that the Assad regime is one of the pre-eminent torturers in the world. (After all, we "rendered" prisoners there. Even innocent ones.)

Personally, I figure it's sadism. The Frontline documentary discussed how they big wigs in DC would meet every day and talk about all this violent torture in detail. Unlike the actual torturers in the secret prisons who were getting sick and horrified by what they were doing, the more the big wigs heard about what they were doing, the more of it they demanded. It's pretty clear they felt empowered, alive, in control.

If one has a propensity for that sort of thing, that's probably like any other addiction: you need more and more of it to scratch that itch. Abstinence is the only answer for this one.