Guantánamo Trials: Another Torture Victim Charged

2.7.08

Abdul Rahim al-NashiriThe wheels of injustice grind so slowly at Guantánamo that it’s probably a coincidence that charges were announced against another alleged terrorist just hours after the details were revealed of how comprehensively the government had been ridiculed for its “War on Terror” detention policy in the Court of Appeals in Washington. The public barely had time to register that, in throwing out the case against the innocent Chinese Muslim prisoner Huzaifa Parhat, the largely conservative court had compared the government’s evidence to a nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll, before the charges against Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri unexpectedly surfaced to supplant the story in the headlines.

A Saudi who was held in secret CIA custody from November 2002, when he was captured in the United Arab Emirates, until September 2006, when he was transferred to Guantánamo with 13 other “high-value detainees,” including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), al-Nashiri is the 22nd prisoner to be put forward for trial by Military Commission at Guantánamo, and the seventh of the 14 “high-value detainees” to be charged.

In the charge sheet (PDF), al-Nashiri, who has previously been described as al-Qaeda’s operations chief in the Arabian peninsula, is accused of conspiracy, murder in violation of the rules of war, using treachery or perfidy, destruction of property in violation of the law of war, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, and terrorism. The charges relate in particular to his alleged role in the attacks on the USS The Sullivans and the USS Cole in 2000, and the French tanker Limburg in 2002. To increase the impact the announcement, moreover, the Pentagon indicated that it would be seeking the death penalty if he is convicted.

The problem with this otherwise seemingly valid pursuit of justice against a genuine terrorist is that al-Nashiri is one of three prisoners whose torture at the hands of CIA operatives has been publicly admitted. In February, the CIA’s director, Gen. Michael Hayden, told Congress that three “high-value detainees” were subjected to waterboarding in CIA custody: al-Nashiri, KSM (put forward for trial in February and arraigned last month), and Abu Zubaydah (who has not yet been charged, perhaps because of conflicts over his significance). Waterboarding is a form of controlled drowning, which the administration — Gen. Hayden included — refuses to acknowledge as torture, even though the torturers of the Spanish Inquisition had no hesitation in labeling it, unambiguously, as “tortura del agua.”

The French tanker Limburg after a terrorist attack in 2002Al-Nashiri may well be guilty of all the charges against him, but it’s noticeable that, at his tribunal in Guantánamo last year, he was one of only three “high-value detainees” (KSM and Abu Zubaydah were the others) to claim that he had made false allegations because he was tortured. He said that he made up stories tying him to the bombing of the USS Cole and confessed to involvement in several other plots — the attack on the Limburg (see photo), other plans to bomb American ships in the Gulf, a plan to hijack a plane and crash it into a ship, and claims that Osama bin Laden had a nuclear bomb — in order to get his captors to stop torturing him. “From the time I was arrested five years ago,” he said, “they have been torturing me. It happened during interviews. One time they tortured me one way, and another time they tortured me in a different way. I just said those things to make the people happy. They were very happy when I told them those things.”

The administration seems confident that it can exclude all mention of torture from the planned trials at Guantánamo, either by using evidence obtained by “clean teams” of FBI agents, who politely asked the prisoners to repeat what they had previously confessed under torture, or by allowing the government-appointed judges to use their discretion to pretend that the CIA’s secret prisons — and the torture that took place there — never existed.

In the real world, however, where evidence obtained through torture is inadmissible, it remains unclear whether the government’s attempts to set up an offshore judicial system for alleged terrorists, which openly mocks America’s core values, will ever be successful. It is now over six and a half years since the system of trials by Military Commission was introduced, which was conceived by Vice President Dick Cheney and his senior counsel (and now chief of staff) David Addington, and the government has yet to secure a clear victory.

The only verdict to date is in the case of the Australian David Hicks, who was repatriated to serve a nine-month sentence after accepting a plea bargain, in which he admitted providing “material support for terrorism,” in March 2007. Conveniently for the administration, this involved Hicks renouncing well-documented claims that he was tortured and abused in US custody. It also, however, involved Hicks receiving a sentence far shorter than that which prosecutors had first mooted — up to 20 years, according to some reports, which would have been comparable to the draconian sentence imposed in 2002 on John Walker Lindh, the “American Taliban” — which did nothing to reinforce the government’s long-cherished claims that Hicks was one of “the worst of the worst.”

And elsewhere, of course, as the Court of Appeals reminds us, the quality of the administration’s post-9/11 detention policies is most realistically compared to the nonsense spouted by an absurd character in a late nineteenth century English poem.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and see here for my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

As published on the Huffington Post and CounterPunch.

Note: Al-Nashiri is also referred to as Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.

See the following for a sequence of articles dealing with the stumbling progress of the Military Commissions: The reviled Military Commissions collapse (June 2007), A bad week at Guantánamo (Commissions revived, September 2007), The curse of the Military Commissions strikes the prosecutors (September 2007), A good week at Guantánamo (chief prosecutor resigns, October 2007), The story of Mohamed Jawad (October 2007), The story of Omar Khadr (November 2007), Guantánamo trials: where are the terrorists? (February 2008), Six in Guantánamo charged with 9/11 attacks: why now, and what about the torture? (February 2008), Guantánamo’s shambolic trials (ex-prosecutor turns, February 2008), Torture allegations dog Guantánamo trials (March 2008), African embassy bombing suspect charged (March 2008), The US military’s shameless propaganda over 9/11 trials (April 2008), Betrayals, backsliding and boycotts (May 2008), Fact Sheet: The 16 prisoners charged (May 2008), Four more charged, including Binyam Mohamed (June 2008), Afghan fantasist to face trial (June 2008), 9/11 trial defendants cry torture (June 2008), Folly and injustice (Salim Hamdan’s trial approved, July 2008), A critical overview of Salim Hamdan’s Guantánamo trial and the dubious verdict (August 2008), Salim Hamdan’s sentence signals the end of Guantánamo (August 2008), High Court rules against UK and US in case of Binyam Mohamed (August 2008), Controversy still plagues Guantánamo’s Military Commissions (September 2008), Another Insignificant Afghan Charged (September 2008), Seized at 15, Omar Khadr Turns 22 in Guantánamo (September 2008), Is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Running the 9/11 Trials? (September 2008), two articles exploring the Commissions’ corrupt command structure (The Dark Heart of the Guantánamo Trials, and New Evidence of Systemic Bias in Guantánamo Trials, October 2008), Meltdown at the Guantánamo Trials (five trials dropped, October 2008), The collapse of Omar Khadr’s Guantánamo trial (October 2008), Corruption at Guantánamo (legal adviser faces military investigations, October 2008), An empty trial at Guantánamo (Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, October 2008), Life sentence for al-Qaeda propagandist fails to justify Guantánamo trials (al-Bahlul, November 2008), Guilt by Torture: Binyam Mohamed’s Transatlantic Quest for Justice (November 2008), 20 Reasons To Shut Down The Guantánamo Trials (profiles of all the prisoners charged, November 2008), How Guantánamo Can Be Closed: Advice for Barack Obama (November 2008), More Dubious Charges in the Guantánamo Trials (two Kuwaitis, November 2008), The End of Guantánamo (Salim Hamdan repatriated, November 2008), Torture, Preventive Detention and the Terror Trials at Guantánamo (December 2008), Is the 9/11 trial confession an al-Qaeda coup? (December 2008), The Dying Days of the Guantánamo Trials (January 2009), Former Guantánamo Prosecutor Condemns Chaotic Trials (Lt. Col. Vandeveld on Mohamed Jawad, January 2009), Torture taints the case of Mohamed Jawad (January 2009), Bush Era Ends with Guantánamo Trial Chief’s Torture Confession (Susan Crawford on Mohammed al-Qahtani, January 2009), Chaos and Lies: Why Obama Was Right to Halt The Guantánamo Trials (January 2009), Binyam Mohamed’s Plea Bargain: Trading Torture For Freedom (March 2009).

And for a sequence of articles dealing with the Obama administration’s response to the Military Commissions, see: Don’t Forget Guantánamo (February 2009), Who’s Running Guantánamo? (February 2009), The Talking Dog interviews Darrel Vandeveld, former Guantánamo prosecutor (February 2009), Obama’s First 100 Days: A Start On Guantánamo, But Not Enough (May 2009), Obama Returns To Bush Era On Guantánamo (May 2009), New Chief Prosecutor Appointed For Military Commissions At Guantánamo (May 2009), Pain At Guantánamo And Paralysis In Government (May 2009), My Message To Obama: Great Speech, But No Military Commissions and No “Preventive Detention” (May 2009), Guantánamo And The Many Failures Of US Politicians (May 2009), A Child At Guantánamo: The Unending Torment of Mohamed Jawad (June 2009), A Broken Circus: Guantánamo Trials Convene For One Day Of Chaos (June 2009), Obama Proposes Swift Execution of Alleged 9/11 Conspirators (June 2009), Obama’s Confusion Over Guantánamo Terror Trials (June 2009).

In addition, for a sequence of articles dealing with the use of torture by the CIA, on “high-value detainees,” and in the secret prisons, see: Guantánamo’s tangled web: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Majid Khan, dubious US convictions, and a dying man (July 2007), Jane Mayer on the CIA’s “black sites,” condemnation by the Red Cross, and Guantánamo’s “high-value” detainees (including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed) (August 2007), Waterboarding: two questions for Michael Hayden about three “high-value” detainees now in Guantánamo (February 2008), The Insignificance and Insanity of Abu Zubaydah: Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner Confirms FBI’s Doubts (April 2008), Secret Prison on Diego Garcia Confirmed: Six “High-Value” Guantánamo Prisoners Held, Plus “Ghost Prisoner” Mustafa Setmariam Nasar (August 2008), Will the Bush administration be held accountable for war crimes? (December 2008), The Ten Lies of Dick Cheney (Part One) and The Ten Lies of Dick Cheney (Part Two) (December 2008), Prosecuting the Bush Administration’s Torturers (March 2009), Abu Zubaydah: The Futility Of Torture and A Trail of Broken Lives (March 2009), Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos (Part One), Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos (Part Two), 9/11 Commission Director Philip Zelikow Condemns Bush Torture Program, Who Authorized The Torture of Abu Zubaydah?, CIA Torture Began In Afghanistan 8 Months before DoJ Approval, Even In Cheney’s Bleak World, The Al-Qaeda-Iraq Torture Story Is A New Low (all April 2009), Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi Has Died In A Libyan Prison, Dick Cheney And The Death Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, The “Suicide” Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi: Why The Media Silence?, Two Experts Cast Doubt On Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi’s “Suicide”, Lawrence Wilkerson Nails Cheney On Use Of Torture To Invade Iraq, In the Guardian: Death in Libya, betrayal by the West (in the Guardian here) (all May 2009), Lawrence Wilkerson Nails Cheney’s Iraq Lies Again (And Rumsfeld And The CIA), and WORLD EXCLUSIVE: New Revelations About The Torture Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi (June 2009).

For other stories discussing the use of torture in secret prisons, see: An unreported story from Guantánamo: the tale of Sanad al-Kazimi (August 2007), Rendered to Egypt for torture, Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni is released from Guantánamo (September 2008), A History of Music Torture in the “War on Terror” (December 2008), Seven Years of Torture: Binyam Mohamed Tells His Story (March 2009), and also see the extensive Binyam Mohamed archive. And for other stories discussing torture at Guantánamo and/or in “conventional” US prisons in Afghanistan, see: The testimony of Guantánamo detainee Omar Deghayes: includes allegations of previously unreported murders in the US prison at Bagram airbase (August 2007), Guantánamo Transcripts: “Ghost” Prisoners Speak After Five And A Half Years, And “9/11 hijacker” Recants His Tortured Confession (September 2007), Former US interrogator Damien Corsetti recalls the torture of prisoners in Bagram and Abu Ghraib (December 2007), Sami al-Haj: the banned torture pictures of a journalist in Guantánamo (April 2008), Judge Orders Release of Guantánamo’s Forgotten Child (Mohammed El-Gharani, January 2009), Forgotten in Guantánamo: British Resident Shaker Aamer (March 2009).

30 Responses

  1. Telma says...

    Hi Andy,
    After even The New York Times , on July 2, 2008 havejust revealed that the “torture tecniques” the military trainers took to Guantnamo in December 2002 were based on Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain FALSE confessions, is there any possibility that these confessions are nothing but false?
    They picked techniques to extract false confessions!!! This was not by mistake, for sure. Isn’t it more evidence that they have been trying to get false confessions and only false confessions and nothing but false confessions? The article, in case you did not see yet, which I doubt but I feel like I am doing something. All the best , in peace and hope
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/02/us/02detain.html?em&ex=1215230400&en=b995453b1805cf06&ei=5087

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    After this article was published on CounterPunch, I received the following message from Bob Harvey in California:

    Hello Mr. Worthington,

    The clean teams’ approach to getting “good” testimony reminds me of a visit to the dungeon below the Mayor’s Hall in a town on the Danube in Germany. The tour mostly covered the torture facilities there: racks, beds of nails, hanging upside-down, and so on, described as from Carolingian (~ 800AD) times. Torture was carried out under the watchful eyes of doctors, so as not to kill the suspects.

    If a suspect confessed, then he/she was taken upstairs before a judge, to publicly confess. If he/she changed the story, then it was back downstairs for some more treatment.

    If a suspect did not confess after a couple of weeks, then the suspect was presumed innocent and released. “Of course, they were never quite the same after this,” said the tour leader.

    Thanks for the article.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    After this article was published on CounterPunch, I received the following message:

    Hello from an ex-Brit now in Canada.
    I’m a regular visitor to Counterpunch.
    I think I may have a mental problem. When I look at the world in which we live, I find myself completely at a loss to understand how the people who think they have the right to play with other people’s lives manage to get into a position where they can do just that and why the people whose lives they mess with put up with it.
    The likes of Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld etc. and the likes of Tony Blair (Turned Catholic for f**ks sake! — can you pray your way out of your share of responsibility for a million deaths and a few million refugees? I hope not. I’m an atheist, but, when I look at these guys, I hope I’m wrong, just so the bastards get what they deserve) are all OBVIOUSLY war criminals and should be dealt with accordingly, but we know they’ll get away with it, don’t we?
    My question is WHY?????
    I don’t have an answer.
    The very last people who should be given power over others are those that want it.
    I don’t vote, as it only legitimises the politicians’ games.
    We have to find a way to hold the bastards to account.
    End of rant.
    Dave Lowe, Canada

    Thanks, Dave. I particularly liked the line, “The very last people who should be given power over others is those that want it.”
    My sentiments exactly. I think politics should be like jury service.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    I also received the following message from a reader named Gina:

    Aside from the injustice, the real patheticness is that many of the detainees at the start actually wanted to participate in their trials because they believed America was fair and would provide justice if they were innocent. They could never even imagine that their torturing was scripted, taught and actually syllabus for intelligence agents. Even when the horrors at Abu Ghraib first came out, the administration denied them claiming it was a few rogue soldiers doing such things, until Mohammad Bazzi, a Newsday reporter in Beirut exposed the whole charade proving that CACI and Titan International were on the US govt. payroll to teach those techniques which were intelligence agency protocol to the guards. Until all of those who are innocent are released, everyone else must do what they can. Don’t give up the fight!

  5. The Dying Days of the Guantánamo Trials says...

    [...] both Dick Cheney and David Addington — to confirm the charges that were filed last July against Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri. A Saudi, and one of 14 “high-value detainees” transferred to Guantánamo from secret CIA [...]

  6. Bookmarks about Torture says...

    [...] – bookmarked by 1 members originally found by Thena91 on 2009-01-02 Guantánamo Trials: Another Torture Victim Charged http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2008/07/02/guantanamo-trials-another-torture-victim-charged/ – [...]

  7. freedetainees.org » Who’s Running Guantánamo? says...

    [...] to the President’s plans, when he refused to suspend the arraignment of the Saudi Prisoner Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri, scheduled for February 9, stating that “he found the prosecutors’ arguments, including [...]

  8. Prosecuting the Bush Administration’s Torturers by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] detainees” in the “War on Terror” — Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), Abu Zubaydah and Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri — had been waterboarded in secret CIA [...]

  9. The Liberty Voice » Web-Only Content » Prosecuting the Bush Administration’s Torturers by Andy Worthington says...

    [...] detainees” in the “War on Terror” — Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), Abu Zubaydah and Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri — had been waterboarded in secret CIA [...]

  10. Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos, Part 1 by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] but, having decided that this was indeed the case with Abu Zubaydah, KSM and one other prisoner, Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri, the CIA and its masters then decided that, in the case of Zubaydah, it was, as Bradbury reveals in [...]

  11. Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos (Part One) « US and Their Allys War against muslims in the world, indicate of falling US and Zionist Empire,(Inshallah)!!! says...

    [...] but, having decided that this was indeed the case with Abu Zubaydah, KSM and one other prisoner, Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri, the CIA and its masters then decided that, in the case of Zubaydah, it was, as Bradley reveals in [...]

  12. Five Terrible Truths About the CIA Torture Memos « Muslim in Suffer says...

    [...] but, having decided that this was indeed the case with Abu Zubaydah, KSM and one other prisoner, Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri, the CIA and its masters then decided that, in the case of Zubaydah, it was, as Bradbury reveals in [...]

  13. the Shackle Report » Blog Archive » tortured policy says...

    [...] and Insanity of Abu Zubaydah: Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner Confirms FBI’s Doubts (April 2008), Guantánamo Trials: Another Torture Victim Charged (Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri, July 2008), Secret Prison on Diego Garcia Confirmed: Six “High-Value” [...]

  14. Obama’s First 100 Days: A Start On Guantánamo, But Not Enough « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] chief judge, Army Col. James M. Pohl, refused to suspend the arraignment of the Saudi prisoner Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri, until it was called off by Crawford. In what appeared to be a snub to the new President, Col. Pohl [...]

  15. Dick Cheney And The Death Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi « Israelis wars on muslims indicates the beginning of the fall of the American Empire! says...

    [...] drowning) on three “high-value detainees” — Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, and Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri — Vanity Fair published an article in which other informed sources explained to the journalist [...]

  16. USA: Tortured Gitmo prisoner found dead-AlterNet « FACT – Freedom Against Censorship Thailand says...

    [...] on three “high-value detainees” — Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, and Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri — Vanity Fair published an article in which other informed sources explained to the [...]

  17. Out Of Guantánamo: African Embassy Bombing Suspect To Be Tried In US Court by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] during his military tribunal, that he was tortured (unlike Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri, whose torture by waterboarding was admitted by CIA director Michael Hayden), but during my [...]

  18. Guantánamo: Charge Or Release Prisoners, Say No To Indefinite Detention by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] is difficult to know quite what conclusion to draw from this. Certainly, there is a problem with the case against al-Nashiri — one of three prisoners subjected to waterboarding, according to Gen. Michael Hayden, the former [...]

  19. The Logic of the 9/11 Trials, The Madness of the Military Commissions « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] the case of Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri, a “high-value detainee” seized in the United Arab Emirates in November 2002, and held in [...]

  20. Guantánamo: Idealists Leave Obama’s Sinking Ship by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] sent Ghailani to New York to be tried in a civilian court, it just announced two weeks ago that Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, whose case originated as a criminal investigation with the FBI, would now be turned over to a [...]

  21. On Democracy Now! Andy Worthington Discusses the Forthcoming 9/11 Trials and “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] Juan that I was deeply disappointed to hear that it is expected that other prisoners – including Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri, another CIA prisoner, who, like Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah, was subjected to waterboarding, a form [...]

  22. » New Evidence About Prisoners Held in Secret CIA Prisons in Poland and Romania : To Be or Not to Be @abdolian.com says...

    [...] is that three of the men who arrived on December 5, 2002, were the HVDs (HVDs) Abu Zubaydah, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who had all been held previously in a secret CIA prison in [...]

  23. New Evidence About Prisoners Held in Secret C.I.A. Prisons in Poland and Romania « Little Alex in Wonderland says...

    [...] who arrived on December 5, 2002, were the “high-value detainees” (HVDs) Abu Zubaydah, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who had all been held previously in a secret C.I.A. prison in [...]

  24. New Evidence About Prisoners Held in Secret CIA Prisons in Poland and Romania : says...

    [...] is that three of the men who arrived on December 5, 2002, were the HVDs (HVDs) Abu Zubaydah, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who had all been held previously in a secret CIA prison in [...]

  25. reboot the republic » New Evidence About Prisoners Held in Secret CIA Prisons in Poland and Romania says...

    [...] is that three of the men who arrived on December 5, 2002, were the HVDs (HVDs) Abu Zubaydah, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who had all been held previously in a secret CIA prison in [...]

  26. » Blog Archive » New Evidence About Prisoners Held in Secret CIA Prisons in Poland and Romania says...

    [...] is that three of the men who arrived on December 5, 2002, were the HVDs (HVDs) Abu Zubaydah,Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who had all been held previously in a secret CIA prison in [...]

  27. No Surprise at Obama’s Guantánamo Trial Chaos | NW0.eu says...

    [...] administration “has shelved the planned prosecution,” in a trial by military commission, “of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged coordinator of the October 2000 suicide attack on the USS Cole in Yemen,” as the [...]

  28. Gvantanamo aizspogulija « socialismslv says...

    [...] One of them is Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, and it has been openly acknowledged that he is one of the detainees that the U.S. tortured with [...]

  29. Dick Cheney And The Death Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] drowning) on three “high-value detainees” — Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, and Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri — Vanity Fair published an article in which other informed sources explained to the journalist [...]

  30. The Progressive Mind » Trial at Guantánamo: What Shall We Do With The Torture Victim? :: www.uruknet.info :: informazione dal medio oriente :: information from middle east :: [gd] says...

    [...] is also one of three “high-value detainees” who, under the Bush administration, was subjected to waterboarding, an ancient form of torture that involves controlled [...]

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