On Sept. 28, 2006, a newly-crafted Military Commission Act passed Congress.
Melina Mara/twp-The Washington Post
Our enemies have been very savvy on the PR front of this war.
One of the things Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters have been made aware of, is the enormous pressure that is brought to bear upon the U.S. by human rights groups and public opinion, both American and world. Whether true or not, the allegations of abuse and torture in themselves do us harm. America is held to a different standard where in the eyes of the ACLU and other anti-American groups, we are guilty until proven innocent, with the benefit of the doubt given to terrorists.
When Guantanamo is compared to Soviet gulags, nothing could be further from the reality. Yet popular perception has been shaped to the point of Guantanamo being irredeemable; and even supporters who recognize the need for it have caved in to the demands of “world opinion” and public pressure in seeing the facility closed.
Torture may not work (remember: Bush and Cheney have both stated that they are against torture); but enhanced interrogations have relinquished results. I believe there is a difference; and for critics to keep trotting out the “we prosecuted Japanese soldiers in WWII for waterboarding” talking point…that’s been thoroughly dismantled in several comment threads, here at FA.
On November 12, 2002, Categories I and II techniques were approved of for interrogating Muhammad al Qahtani, the suspected 20th 9/11 hijacker. Category III methods, which included waterboarding, had not been approved (Interestingly, Rumsfeld approved of some of the Category III techniques in a memorandum dated December 2, 2002, but specifically disapproved waterboarding; on January 15, 2003, he rescinded the Dec 2nd directive).
On November 25th, Qahtani broke down. By spring of 2003, even after harsh interrogations had long ended (January 15, 2003), he was providing a wealth of information and valuable, actionable intelligence.
In October 2005, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), along with co-c0ounsel from the law firm Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger in Vecchione, filed a habeas corpus petition on behalf of Qahtani. That December, Qahtani was visited by a CCR attorney at Guantanamo. He ceased talking to interrogators and ultimately changed his story.
By 2006, Qahtani had recanted previous confessions and testimony. He claimed that the information he gave was extracted from him using torture. In a nine-page letter submitted to the Combat Status Review Board, neatly handwritten entirely in English, Qahtani claimed that he was simply a businessman “kidnapped as a civilian” and illegally brought to Guantanamo. He retracted all his prior statements regarding al Qaeda and bin Laden.
-Pg 37-38, Inside Gitmo
Despite the legal complications,
Qahtani is anything but a “simple businessman”. He is one of the “worst of the worst” and not an innocent victim of injustice and wrongful detainment.
Primarily as a result of excesses done to Qahtani, in April 2003 Rumsfeld approved issuing new interrogation rules that closely followed and further amplified and clarified those detailed in FM 34-52. Helping to dispel confusion, in December 2005 the Detainee Treatment Act required a uniform standard of treatment for detainees held in military custody. This was formally implemented in September 2006 through publication of a new Army Field Manual, 2-22.3, that, among other constraints, specifically prohibits the use of military dogs, nudity, sexual acts or poses, beatings, and waterboarding, during interrogation.
Basically, Obama’s claims of taking credit for banning torture and waterboarding specifically have been meaningless PR pomp, as his January 21, 2009 EO basically amounted to saying the same thing as President Bush’s 2007 EO that it revoked: That torture’s prohibited.
One thing about many of these hardened terrorists, is that they have had extensive training in counter-interrogation.
From the outset, military interrogators concluded that the approved FM 34-52 techniques “were ineffective against detainees who had received interrogation resistance training.” This is hardly surprising when one considers not only counter-interrogation training received in camps such as al Farouk and detailed instructions guiding detainee conduct through al Qaeda’s so-called Manchester Manual, but the example of what al Qaeda and Taliban extremists chose to subject themselves to while fighting at Qala-i-Jangi.7
–pg 30, Inside Gitmo
These were extremely tough, defiant men familiar with giving and taking cruelty. The challenge faced by the military was to save lives by finding out what these men knew about al Qaeda, the Taliban, and, most critically, any future plots to attack the West. Military interrogators at Guantanamo thought that the approved FM 34-52 techniques would be ineffective in achieving this goal because they were dealing with incredibly hard men who had been drilled and trained to resist normal interrogations.
–Pg 31-32, Inside Gitmo
7The Manchester Manual, discovered in a counterterrorist police raid in Manchester, England, revealed specific instructions for captured operatives to make extravagant claims of torture. In the chapter entitled “Prisons and Detention Centers,” the al Qaeda “brothers” are instructed to “prove that torture was inflicted on them” and to “complain of mistreatment while in prison.” Al Qaeda operatives are told to memorize the names of guards and to “mention those names to the judge.” If brought to a trial, the terrorists need to make certain to “notify [the court] of any mistreatment.” While in confinement they are encouraged to establish clandestine communications links with each other and to “master the art of hiding messages.” Most important, the Manual stresses, is for the jihadists to “create an Islamic program for themselves inside the prison,” and to “shout Islamic slogans out loud” if exposed to the public. These enemy combatants were thoroughly prepared to resist interrogation, defy convention, upset the court pro cesses, and play to the interests of anti- American, pro- Islamic organizations to sow dissension and further their cause. The full text of the Manual can be found in translation.
We have seen an estimated 1 in 7 Guantanamo graduates return to the battlefield, having convinced those “harsh” interrogators that they had reformed their ways, loved Americans, or were never a hardened jihadi, but a simple carpenter, tax driver, or peasant farmer that was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Moazzam Begg, a former detainee released in 2005, understands the propaganda war: He now denies all previous statements as to his involvement in terrorism and claims they were coerced through torture and that “torture only generates lies”. He has learned to say all the right things.
Interrogators at Guantanamo told me that Begg in their opinion is a hardened terrorist who has used the opportunity of release to enter the public information forum in a big way. “He is doing more good for al Qaeda as a British poster boy than he would ever do carrying an AK-47,” Paul Rester said. Meanwhile in the United Kingdom, some of the more politically active crowd, such as actress Vanessa Redgrave, have vigorously supported the proposition that Begg stand for election to Parliament.”
From the released “torture” memos:
“This effort plus the cloth produces the perception of ‘suffocation and incipient panic,’ i.e., the perception of drowning. The individual does not breathe any water into his lungs. During those 20 to 40 seconds, water is continuously applied from a height of 12 to 24 inches. … The sensation of drowning is immediately relieved by the removal of the cloth. The procedure may then be repeated.”
“Although the subject may experience the fear or panic associated with the feeling of drowning, the waterboard does not inflict physical pain. … Although the waterboard constitutes a threat of imminent death, prolonged mental harm must nonetheless result to violate the statutory prohibition infliction of severe mental pain or suffering. … Indeed, you have advised us that the relief is almost immediate when the cloth is removed from the nose and mouth. In the absence of prolonged mental harm, no severe mental pain or suffering would have been inflicted, and the use of these procedures would not constitute torture within the meaning of the statute.”
Waterboarding should only be used simultaneously with two other methods: dietary manipulation and sleep deprivation.
As we understand it, when the waterboard is used, the subject’s body responds as if the subject were drowning—even though the subject may be well aware that he is in fact not drowning. You have informed us that this procedure does not inflict actual physical harm. Thus, although the subject may experience the fear or panic associated with the feeling of drowning, the waterboard does not inflict physical pain. as we explained in the Section 2340A Memorandum, “pain and suffering” as used in Section 2340 is best understood as a single concept, not distinct concepts of “pain” as distinguished from “suffering”… The waterboard, which inflicts no pain or actual harm whatsoever, does not, in our view, inflict “severe pain and suffering”. Even if one were to parse the stature more “finely” to attempt to treat suffering as a distinct concept, the waterboard could not be said to inflict severe suffering. The waterboard is simply a controlled acute episode, lacking the connotation of a protracted period of time generally given to suffering… We find the use of the waterboard constitutes a threat of imminent death… Although the procedure will be monitored by personnel with medical training and extensive SERE school experience with this procedure who will ensure the subject’s mental and physical safety, the subject is not aware of any of these precautions. From the vantage point of any reasonable person undergoing this procedure in such circumstances, he would feel as if he is drowning at the very moment of the procedure due to the uncontrollable physiological sensation he is experiencing. Thus, this procedure cannot be viewed as too uncertain to satisfy the imminence requirement. Accordingly, it constitutes a threat of imminent death and fulfills the predicate act requirement under the statute. Although the waterboard constitutes the real threat of imminent death, prolonged mental harm must nonetheless result to violate the statutory prohibition on infliction of severe mental pain or suffering… We have previously concluded that prolonged mental harm is mental harm of some lasting duration, e.g., mental harm lasting months or years. Based on your research into the use of these methods at the SERE school and consultation with others with expertise in the field of psychology and interrogation, you do not anticipate that any prolonged mental harm would result from the use of the waterboard… In the absence of prolonged mental harm,no severe mental pain or suffering would have been inflicted, and the use of these procedures would not constitute torture within the meaning of the statute.
Given that the practice of waterboarding ended on Bush’s watch, President Obama’s so-called “ban on waterboarding and torture” is all but window-dressing rhetoric; all the public scrutiny and attention to it has all but effectively eliminated its usefulness as an interrogation tool. Even if it were still in practice, our enemy could be trained to endure as much as they can, the simulated drowning that is based upon SERE methods. The enemy now knows that should they be waterboarded, they would not in fact drown. Much of the fear and panic was created by the uncertainty; by the “not knowing” that drowning wasn’t in fact, taking place.
al Qaeda fighters today don’t even have to worry about training to resist its effects since they know the practice was discarded years ago, let alone “outlawed” under the current Administration.
Congress wants the OLC memos made public, but the reason to keep them secret is so enemy combatants can’t use them as a resistance manual. If they know what’s coming, they can psychologically prepare for it. We know al Qaeda training often involves its own forms of resistance training, and publicly describing the rules offers our enemies a road map for resistance.
Hugh McManners review of The Interrogator’s War-inside the secret war against Al Qaeda, by Chris Mackey with Greg Miller :
The Geneva Conventions were strictly adhered to, especially Article 3, which forbids “violence to life and person…. mutilations, cruel treatment and torture…. outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment.” One lapse of self-control would earn an interrogator several years in the notorious Fort Leavenworth military jail. Mackey says the abuses at Abu Ghraib set back all the good work he and his team carried out: “The more a prisoner hates America, the harder he will be to break. The more a population hates America, the less likely its citizens will be to lead us to a suspect.”
The learning process was difficult, especially once the prisoners realised the Americans were not going to hurt them. In mid February, a pile of documents from a Special force raid on the Al Farook terrorist training camp was found to contain the Al Qaeda guide to resisting interrogation. Mackey and his team immediately recognised the tactics described in this training manual from the many interrogations they had already carried out, including baiting the Americans to trick them into violence that leaves bruises or scars that can be shown to the Red Cross. The American aversion to using torture was presented as a weakness – “because they are not warriors”. But other sections of the Al Qaeda manual described what “brothers can expect” from interrogators in Arab countries: “Hanging with arms tied behind backs, filleting people, skinning arms with knives, drilling knee caps, gouge out eyes, cut out tongue…”
Mackay was infuriated to learn that the manual was absolutely right about the Americans being unable to do anything to their prisoners, apart from feeding them “halal meals-ready-to-eat and giving them showers a couple of times a week. …At the time it felt like a terrible weakness.”
It’s generally agreed that torture does not produce reliable intelligence. Mackey takes this one stage further by quoting various examples of prisoners who only started giving reliable information once they were convinced that the Americans were not going to torture them. But interrogations only started to produce results after 12 to 16 hours, which runs contrary to the Geneva Conventions rules regarding sleep deprivation. So Mackey ensured that prisoner and interrogator had the same amount and quality of sleep and food. Hitherto, the prisoners had enjoyed far more sleep and more regular meals than their hard-worked inquisitors, and unsurprisingly were better able to resist interrogation.
A former fetus, the “wordsmith from nantucket” was born in Phoenix, Arizona in 1968. Adopted at birth, wordsmith grew up a military brat. He achieved his B.A. in English from the University of California, Los Angeles (graduating in the top 97% of his class), where he also competed rings for the UCLA mens gymnastics team. The events of 9/11 woke him from his political slumber and malaise. Currently a personal trainer and gymnastics coach.
The wordsmith has never been to Nantucket.