Last week I published an article, 15 Years of Torture: The Unending Agony of Abu Zubaydah, in CIA “Black Sites” and Guantánamo, marking the 15th anniversary of the capture, in Pakistan, of Abu Zubaydah (Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn), the gatekeeper of an independent training camp in Afghanistan who was mistakenly regarded by the US authorities as a key player in al-Qaeda and subjected to torture in secret CIA prisons in Thailand, Poland and elsewhere before arriving at Guantánamo with 13 other “high-value detainees” in September 2006.
My article last week ran though the main elements of Abu Zubaydah’s post-capture story — in particular, how he has been severely mentally and physically damaged by his torture, and how, embarrassingly for the US, he was not even who the authorities claimed he was.
As I stated, “We know … that Abu Zubaydah’s torture was profoundly damaging to his mental and physical health, and that he suffers from seizures, and we also know that, ignominiously, the US authorities have walked back from almost all their claims about him. Once mistakenly touted as al-Qaeda’s No. 3, even though the FBI knew that claim was idiotic, it was eventually conceded that he wasn’t a member of al-Qaeda and knew nothing about the 9/11 attacks in advance.”
I also noted how the authorities have worked hard to silence the “high-value detainees” — to try to prevent any discussion of their torture in the CIA’s “black sites” from becoming public. As I put it, “Like all the Guantánamo prisoners, everything that Zubaydah says to his attorneys is presumptively classified, but whereas the lawyers for the prisoners in the general population can apply to have their notes declassified by a Pentagon censorship team, the ‘high-value detainees’ have been almost entirely silenced, unable to tell their stories to the world.”
In response to this ongoing censorship, I promised last week to publish two declarations made by Abu Zubaydah, in 2008 and 2009, which were released last year as part of ongoing legal challenges, and those declarations are published below.
The first — the 2009 declaration — is an eight-page declaration that he provided to his attorney, which was released last summer. As the investigative journalist Jason Leopold explained for Vice News, it was “filed under seal in US District Court in Washington, DC seven years ago in his habeas corpus case,” and was unsealed last summer and prepared for public release in response to a motion filed by investigative journalist Raymond Bonner, “who convinced the federal judge presiding over Abu Zubaydah’s case to unseal dozens of court filings that have been shrouded in secrecy since 2008.”
As Leopold also explained, “The judge who previously oversaw the case, Richard Roberts, failed to rule on nearly every motion” Abu Zubaydah’s attorneys filed since 2009. Judge Roberts “abruptly retired from the bench as chief judge of the US District Court for the District of Columbia” last March, on the same day he was accused of sexual assault over 30 years ago.
Leopold proceeded to explain that the declaration “was attached as an exhibit to a 21-page motion his attorneys filed on September 21, 2009 asking the court to impose sanctions against the government for destroying ‘material evidence’ — nearly 100 interrogation videotapes, at least one of which showed Abu Zubaydah being waterboarded.” Helpfully, Leopold added, “The destruction of the videotapes was the catalyst behind the Senate Intelligence Committee’s decision in 2009 to launch an investigation into the efficacy of the CIA’s torture program. In December 2014, the committee released a 500-page declassified executive summary of its landmark 6,600-page report, which concluded that the torture of Abu Zubaydah and other detainees in the custody of the CIA failed to produce unique and valuable intelligence — and that the torture was far more brutal than the CIA had let on.”
The first declaration, in which Abu Zubaydah recounts the torture to which he was subjected, particularly focuses on how his interrogators came to understand that he was not who they had been led to believe he was.
The second declaration — predating the first — was written in February 2008, and focuses much more specifically on the torture to which Abu Zubyadah was subjected. This second account was published by the New York Times on January 19 this year — President Obama’s last day in office — and was included in documents released to the Times by the ACLU, as part of their ongoing case against James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the psychologists who designed the CIA’s torture program
Until these two accounts were released, the only account of Abu Zubaydah’s torture, in his own words, came from a leaked ICRC report, based on interviews with the “high-value detainees,” which was compiled and sent to the US government in February 2007, and leaked to the New York Review of Books in April 2009 — and also see this follow-up article. Both are by Mark Danner, whose work was a great inspiration to me as I began working on Guantánamo full-time in 2006. I published Abu Zubaydah’s own account in March 2010, as Abu Zubaydah’s Torture Diary.
Below are the two declarations. I hope you find them useful, and will share this article if you do.
Pursuant to § 1746, I hereby declare as follows:
1. I am detained by the Department of Defense in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I submit this declaration in connection with my petition for habeas corpus and in support of a motion to obtain record s of my interrogations by U.S. government officials in lieu of video recordings of such interrogations that I understand have been destroyed.
2. This declaration describes some of what I said during interrogations, during which time I repeatedly explained that I was not a member of or affiliated with al Qaeda and that I never supported or engaged in any hostilities against the United States. I told my interrogators this information repeatedly, during calm interrogations and even during the extreme duress and violence of my most intense period of torture by the CIA. Any videotapes of such interrogations would have recorded these repeated statements of my innocence. This declaration is not meant to be a comprehensive description of my treatment or my interrogations. Time limitations and logistical difficulties make it difficult for me to do so.
3. After I was wounded and apprehended by the U.S. government in Pakistan in about March 2002 [redacted] and spent time recovering in a hospital. Interrogations by FBI officials started then. After some period of recovery, the FBI moved me to an interrogation room. Here, I endured constant sleep deprivation, was shackled to a chair naked in freezing temperatures for about 2-3 weeks, and bombarded with high-decibel noise, and without solid food. FBI interrogators questioned me for hours each day.
4. They asked me many questions about al Qaeda, which made me think they believed I was a member. As I explained during my CSRT and in my habeas petition, I was not and never was a member of al Qaeda.
5. l was unconnected to al Qaeda, and did not train anyone for operations and did not support violence against the United States or Americans. In fact, people with the CIA later admitted to me that the were wrong to think I was in al Qaeda and apologized to me for my torture.
6. During the early interrogations, the interrogators believed that I was “number 3 in al Qaeda.” This was absurd. I explained repeatedly that I was not a member and opposed violence against civilians. I did give them basic information about what I know of al Qaeda, but thls was information that anyone who spent time in Afghanistan could know. I told the truth to them and gave them whatever information I could give.
7. When I told them I was not in al Qaeda, they said, “don’t go there!” They said, “you are al Qaeda, do not deny it. [redacted] You are number 3.” I continued to explain why they were wrong.
8. They also asked me repeatedly 3 questions: [redacted] I kept telling them I can’t answer these questions. I do not know any answers because I was not involved with al Qaeda or any of its operations.
9. At some point, the FBI officials who had been interrogating me, stopped. I spent about 1 month in isolation, with no contact with interrogators. Still, I was kept naked, underfed, and freezing.
10. One day guards came into my cell with a man who later told me his name was [redacted] I later learned that he was working with the CIA [redacted] I also met a man who worked with [redacted] and who I later began to call [redacted] I believe he was also one of either [redacted] came into my cell screaming obscenities; he slammed me against the concrete wall, hitting my head repeatedly. He said something like, “Are you ready to talk? Now we are going to tell you how real interrogation is done!” Later, they put me (I was still naked) in a big black box made of wood. They kept me confined in the black box for hours in extremely uncomfortable positions without adequate air or food and with the extreme noise of a machine nearby.
11. This began a period of my most painful and cruel period of torture, which seemed to be directed by the men who I called [redacted] This torture included slamming my head and body against a wall while my neck was collared by a towel; nights confined in a large box (about 3 feet wide, 3 feet deep and over 6 feet tall) or hours confined in a small “dog box” (about 2 1/2 feet wide, by 2 1/2 feet long by 2 1/2 feet high); sleep deprivation; denial of food; exposure to cold; hanging by arms; prolonged, shackled standing. These methods were used repeatedly during this time in different combinations. The pain, discomfort and humiliation were incredible. Sometimes I would pass out from the pain and stress.
12. For example, the pain in the small box was unbearable. I was hunched over in a contorted way and my back and knees were in excruciating pain. I began slamming my body and shackled arms against the inside and screaming for help and tried to break the door. The wound in my stomach and leg opened up and I started bleeding, yet I didn’t care: I would do anything to stretch my leg and back for 1 minute.
13. During the walling and in between these torture techniques [redacted] screamed questions at me, like [redacted] Over and over I told them, “I don’t know! I have nothing to tell you! I don’t know al Qaeda or what they are doing!” This was the truth, as they later admitted to me.
14. Other times I would plead, “Tell me what you want me to say, I will say it!” Other times I just said things that were false and that I had no basis to know or believe, simply to get relief from the pain.
15. Another technique the CIA used on me was the waterboard. As best as I can remember, I was waterboarded for a period of six days, but I am not completely certain. As best as I can remember, I would be waterboarded three times in a row, for two sessions per day, over about six days. [Redacted] were present and administered all of the waterboarding sessions.
16. I would be strapped to a board by my arms and legs and by my waist (which was very painful because of my wound). Guards with black costumes, masks and black goggles strapped me in. My mouth and nose and eyes were covered by a cloth. The board – and my body – were placed horizontally. My head was immobilized by a board. Someone poured over the cloth, which entered my mouth and nose. I could hear one water bottle empty out by the gurgling noise it made; I hoped that would end the process, then I heard another bottle start to pour. Water would enter into my lungs. It felt like my whole body was filled with water; even my eyes felt like they were drowning. I experienced the panicked sensation of death and my body convulsed in terror and resistance. I thought, “I will die. I will die.” I lost control of my functions and urinated on myself. At the last possible moment, the board – and my body – would be made vertical. I instantly vomited water violently but at the same time was still panicked and desperate for air.
17. [redacted] would ask, “Are you ready to talk?” I told them, “I told you everything! I don’t know anything!” Again and again, I tried to explain they were wrong about me.
18. On about the fourth day of the waterboarding, [redacted] told me “nobody in Washington believes you” and started the waterboarding again. Also, in between the waterboarding sessions, I would be put in the dog box for hours and spend nights in the large box.
19. In what was the last session of the waterboard, I noticed [redacted] in the room (in addition to [redacted] and the guards), in the moment before the cloth was put over my face. One I saw again a month later and he introduced himself as a doctor. The other I saw the next day – he was a debriefer who interrogated me for a long period after.
20. After the last session of waterboarding, I was put in the big box. After a period of hours, [redacted] took me out, but this time they did not collar me with a towel and slam me against the wall. They told me that Washington still didn’t believe me and that I would be talking to new debriefers/interrogators. I was forced to stand naked, in shackles in front of a woman and a man. When I refused to talk with a woman present, [redacted] beat my head against the wall repeatedly. Eventually, they provided a towel to cover my private parts.
21. These debriefers/interrogators commenced a process of questioning that lasted a shorter period of time than any of the previous debriefings. They questioned me for only one or two hours per day. These debriefers and then their successors interrogated me every day. But after that day, the brutal period of torture stopped.
22. Interrogators did still ask me many of the same questions that the FBI asked. This process continued every day, for only one or two hours each day, until I was transferred to Guantánamo in 2006.
23. For a period of weeks after this most intense time of torture [redacted] would still visit and talk to me in an intimidating manner. By what they said and their manner, I believed they were attempting to remind me that I could be sent to the torture if the CIA ordered it or if the government thought I was not cooperating. Over time, however, they became more civil with me and tried to greet me politely and ask how I was doing. I think they finally realized they were wrong about me, and that they finally accepted the truth about me. In fact, [redacted] told me this later, and [redacted] did too.
24. To take one example, in a conversation with me, [redacted] told me about interrogations of al Qaeda members Khaled Sheik Mohammed [aka Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] and Abdel Rahim al Nashiri. [Redacted] explained that when these men were asked about me, they each explained that I was never a member of al Qaeda. As [redacted] explained it to me, these men seemed to think that the notion that I was a member of al Qaeda was absurd and were surprised the Americans suggested it. To take another example, in a conversation with [redacted] he was bragging to me that the U.S. intelligence operations were so expert at uncovering al Qaeda and deciding who was lying or telling the truth. I joked with him, as we sometimes did when talking about the mistakes in my case, “What about me? What about your fancy satellites and intelligence – and you thought I was al Qaeda.” He sort of smiled to acknowledge my point and nodded his head; he said, “well your case was a mistake.” I had several other conversations with [redacted] in which it was acknowledged that I was not a member of al Qaeda.
25. On a particular day, sometime in 2005, I was visited by [redacted] We got into a political discussion about my beliefs and my desire for a Palestinian homeland, my opposition to violence against civilians and that I had no interest in hurting Americans or fighting against them. He said he understood this. During this conversation he admitted to me that the U.S. was wrong about me. He said he had no problem doing what he did (torture) to Khaled Sheik Mohammed, but he was very sorry about what had been done to me, because I was not the person they once thought I was. At one point during this conversation, [redacted] became emotional and became unable to speak; he removed his glasses and wiped his eyes.
26. Sometime in 2005 at a location I do not know, I was visited by a high level official in the U.S. government. I was told that this person was the head of the program I was in. I met with him on two occasions to discuss my conditions. During the first conversatjon, he said that what happened to me was bad, and took personal responsibility for it, even saying it was a mistake. He said he wished to put these events behind us, and make things better for me now and in the future. He agreed to return my diaries, give me exercise equipment, improve the food and cease body cavity searches.
I swear under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America, that the foregoing is true and correct.
Zayn Al Abidin Muhammed Husayn
Guantánamo Bay, Cuba
July 23, 2009
I am kindly asking the translator to forgive me for this letter or for the attached story, for unfortunately many parts were stricken let alone the bad handwriting and misspelling. Writing has become nowadays very difficult for me due to the neurological ailment that is affecting my memory.
Thank you and with all my appreciation.
IN THE NAME OF GOD THE BENEFICENT THE MOST MERCIFUL
Praise God and prayers and peace upon all the prophets.
One month or little over a month went by during which no one came to interrogate me or interview me, except for the guards that came once a day. They would restrain me to the medical metal bed and the physician (or the corman) would quickly change the gauze around my wounded thigh. They would then leave a dish of food that consisted of white dry rice with a very little amount of string beans along with a can of water. They would leave me totally naked except for a towel that they threw on my genitals. I was freezing from the intense cold. My nerves were just about to break from the extreme constant noise that was coming from an unseen device.
Following that month, the guards came one day and did what they previously did every day. They left afterward. As soon as I finished eating my food which, out of hunger, I did very quickly, the guards came back again which surprised me, for they had never done it in the past. They ordered me to put my hands between the metal cell’s bars so that they could tie them up. I followed their orders. Yet they told me to enter them in the upper part where the bar was horizontal. By chaining me in this position I wouldn’t be able to lower my hands as I would be able to do if I were tied up to the vertical bars and thus I would be in the hanging position. I knew they were up for some evil trouble, for they usually don’t do that, or didn’t do it in the past except when they would leave me hung in this position for long hours or when they tore my cloths. But that time I was naked with no cloths on to tear. What happened was after they chained me in the previously described position they opened the cell’s door and came inside, (they had covered my face with a black cloth bag before they came inside). They brutally and quickly pulled the towel that was covering my genitals. They unchained my hands from the bars and chained them with shorts chains to the chains that were around my legs which kept me in a bowing position at all times. They brutally dragged me to the cement wall. Then, they removed the hood. I saw a man wearing black cloths, but he was also wearing a military jacket. His face was uncovered. He had no mask nor big glasses, like the other guards usually had.[… ] Maybe he wanted to scare me with his look. There was anger in his face. He spoke with an angry tone and was yelling words that I did not understand at all. And before I made any attempt to understand what he was saying or respond to him he started brutally banging my head and my back against the wall. He talked a little more and then started again brutally banging me. I felt my back was breaking due to the intensity of the banging. He started slapping my face again and again, meanwhile he was yelling. He then pointed to a large black wooden box that looked like a wooden casket. He said: “from now on this is going to be your home”. At this point, the guards lifted up the box that was lying horizontally on the floor and set it in a vertical position. They fixed it to the metal bars.
The guy [… ] dragged me and brutally shoved me inside the box along with a toilet bucket, a can of water and a can of (Ensure). He was still yelling and cussing: “we will give you another chance, but a short one, for you to give it some thinking on whether you are going to talk or not”. He violently closed the door. I heard the sound of the lock. I found myself in total darkness. The only spot I could sit in was on top of the bucket, for the place was very tight. I couldn’t sit down in length or in width. I believe if I were able to raise my hand I would have barely touched the ceiling of this vertical casket box.Yet they made the chains so tight and so short that I could barely move my hands to take care of my bathroom needs or drink some water. Short hours went by after which I could hear the noise of carpentry work activities being performed outside. I had no clue of what was happening until I heard the click of a lock. Some light came in. At first, l couldn’t see anything, yet I felt something was being wrapped around my neck. I suddenly saw another man [… ] He was twisting a thick towel which was wrapped with a plastic tape so it could be given the shape of a noose. He wrapped it around my neck and brutally dragged me. I fell on the floor along with the bucket, with all its content that fell on me. The guards did not intervene. It was he who dragged me on the floor with that noose towel. He brutally dragged me towards the wall. I suddenly realized there was a wooden wall covering most of the original wall. Before he uttered any word he started brutally banging me against that wooden wall. I suddenly felt the same pain I felt when I was being banged against the cement wall. However, when I thought about it later, I believe they didn’t want to leave any trace of beating and banging on my body, for the first one is green and then it immediately turns blue. He kept banging me against the wail. Given the intensity of the banging that was strongly hitting my head I fell down on the floor with each banging. I felt for few instants that I was unable to see anything, let alone the short chains that prevented me from standing tall. And every time I fell he would drag me with the towel which caused bleeding in my neck. When he realized that I had completely collapsed he started talking breathlessly. He was cussing, threatening. With the help of the hand that was not holding the towel he was slapping my face. I tried more than once to defend myself or to avoid the slapping. I felt so humiliated despite the large amount of humiliation I had already been through. Yet it is an involuntary reaction to protect yourself when you get beaten but I was falling on the floor every time I was trying to protect myself. While he was beating me on my face and banging my back he said, while increasing the intensity of beating: “I see you don’t cover your face to avoid the beating. You think you have pride. I will show you now what pride is about”. He started banging my head against the wall with both his hands. The banging was so strong that I felt at some point that my skull was in pieces, or that the artificial bone in my open head was falling apart. I don’t know how to describe that feeling. The feeling was abnormal. I had this abnormal feeling in my skull. It lasted for ever and that guy [… ] was not getting tired from beating me. He then dragged me to another very tiny squared box. With the help of the guards he shoved me inside the box.
It was so painful. As soon as they locked me up inside the box I tried my best to sit up, but in vain, for the box was too short. I tried to take a curled position but to no vain, for it was too tight. It was a serious problem. I spent long countless hours inside. I felt I was going to explode from bending my legs and my back and from being unable to spread them not even for short instants. The very strong pain made me scream unconsciously. The contractions in my muscles and nerves were increasing with every hour, every minute and every second that were passing by, especially in the wounds I already had in my belly and thigh, let alone the pain in my head that was predominantly stronger than any other pain in my body. As to my back it was playing solo the guitar of pain but with no chords, for I couldn’t feel any chords, or nerves or even bones. The tone of the music was dissonant. Suddenly the door opened and a sudden light came inside. I didn’t hear or feel them come nor heard them turn the lock.
When they pulled me outside it took me a long time before I was able to stand on my feet. They were shoving me thinking that I was deliberately refusing to stand up. They didn’t give me any opportunity to do so. They restrained me to a metal bed that had many belts in every direction. I was totally restrained to the point that I was unable to make any movement whatsoever. They restrained me in a lying down position, Obviously, even the wounded thigh was strongly restrained under the gauze. I felt the wounds were opening, although it is a one long open wound that goes all along the left thigh and all you can see is a large piece of red flesh. After they restrained my body, they restrained my head as well with the help of strong plastic cushions on the sides, which made it impossible for me to move it, not even for one centimeter to the left or one centimeter to the right, and obviously neither upward nor downward. At any rate, I didn’t understand the reason for this very strong restraint and found them suddenly putting a black cloth over my head and covered it completely. I suddenly felt water being poured. It shocked me because it was very cold. But the water didn’t stop. So the idea was not to torture me with very cold water in a very cold environment. They could have done that all over my body which would made me startle and shiver. Yet the water that was being continuously poured and flowed over my face was indeed aimed at giving me the feeling of drowning resulting from a feeling of suffocation. And this is exactly what happened. They kept pouring water and concentrating on my nose and my mouth until I really felt I was drowning and my chest was just about to explode from the lack of oxygen. Indeed that was the first time and the first day that I felt I was going to die from drowning. Yet I didn’t know what happened. All I know or remember is that I started vomiting water but also rice and string beans.
They set the bed in a vertical position while I was restrained to it. They removed the hood. And as soon as I emptied my stomach from the water and the food they brought back the bed to the normal horizontal position. I was coughing a lot and I was trying to get some breath. I was breathing with difficulties and I was barely inhaling little carbon dioxide. They stopped me from doing what I was doing and only few minutes went by before they put back the black cloth over my head again. I tried to speak or yell with my head covered: “I don’t know anything” but I suddenly felt the water flowing again. To make a long story short, they performed the same operation three times on that day (the first day). And every time they were deflating the cushion that was holding my head a little bit and so I would feel my head lowered a little bit which made it every time more difficult for me to bear water flowing inside of me. On the third time, they lowered it more and more, (I’m not sure if every time they were increasing the duration of the drowning procedure. It is difficult to say, but that was my feeling.) The suffering was more intense every time they interrupted the operation for few minutes to allow me to breath or vomit and then they would resume again. After the third time on that day (the first day), they kept the hood with all the water on my head and started asking me questions that I was answering with difficulties due to the troubles I had breathing and to the fact that I didn’t know what they were asking me about.
Then, they removed me from the bed and dragged me to the long box; they shoved me inside and locked the door up. I don’t know exactly how much time has elapsed. And I could not believe that I was breathing normally. And I didn’t know how much time had elapsed with me in a fetal position inside the box. My head was lying between one comer of the box and the toilet bucket. And I don’t know how much time had elapsed while I was sleeping or fainted. However, what I felt was that the time was very short. I suddenly felt a strong strike that shook the box from outside followed by several other stronger strikes. The strikes stopped. I had problems readjusting my position to try to sit on the bucket. Yet the chains were making it difficult for me to readjust, for they were too tight and too short, in addition to the fact that they were tied up to the legs. Yet, as soon as I did that, the strikes on the box resumed in the darkness of the box. They shook the box so heavily which made me fall from the bucket. The strikes continued. There were probably ten strikes. Then they stopped. Then every (1/4) quarter of an hour they would bang again ten times, maybe to make sure I am unable to sleep. Yet with the time, the fatigue, the headache and the pain it seemed to me I was able to sleep for a very short time. And I started hearing the bangs as in a dream. They would wake me, I would count them and then fall asleep again; or if I had fallen from the bucket I would readjust again my position.
The same thing that happened in the tiny box happened again. They brusquely opened the door. I didn’t feel them coming or unlocking the box. A light came inside and broke the darkness oft he box. My vision was blurry. And without any introduction, I was dragged to the wooden wall and was asked questions. The individual that was asking me the questions was the guy [… ] He asked me: “do you have an answer?” I said no with my head. And I said: “I don’t know…” but before I could finish my sentence the beating started again and my head and back were brutally banged against the wall. And they did the same arrangement they had done the first day or the previous time, (I am not sure whether a full day had elapsed or at least an entire night). They did the same thing again: the banging against the wall, the little box, the water bed, the long box. Yet this time they increased the degree of harshness and brutality and the amount of time inside the little tight box. They also increased the number of times of water drowning in bed from three to four and some times five. Yet they added new things: 1) keeping me on my feet tied up for long hours, wet with water and urine to the point where I felt my legs, especially the wounded one, were just about to explode from pressure, and my back as well. 2) They kept me lying down on the water bed for long hours. I felt again the same pain and the same feelings that drove me crazy when they used to tie me up to the metal bed the first time I was brought to this location. Yet this time, my head was tied up and restrained in one direction and the wet black cloth was entirely covering my head which added to the pain resulting from the contraction in the neck, the back, the limbs, the joints, the muscles and the nerves. Add to it the difficulties in breathing through a wet cloth. 3) They increased the amount of cold water that was being poured over my naked cold body.
What makes it worse is a period I was not aware of. They told me later that it was (5) times or (5) days. However, I felt it was more and longer. This period would end with me losing sometimes control over my urination. I clearly noticed it the first time I was tied up to the bed that was placed in a vertical position and I would vomit what I had inside my stomach after the drowning operation before they bring me back to the previous position. I noticed that I was vomiting, there were tears in my eyes, my nose was leaking and even my genital organ was involuntarily discharging. This has become a normal routine after every drowning operation and I noticed that it was fully discharging more than once while I was standing on my feet and tied up for hours.
As soon as this period was over I would start feeling a weird headache that was new to me that was followed me like my shadow; the shadow rather \illegible\ sometimes, but this headache would become lighter sometimes but never disappeared. Actually it would become even stronger to the point that I felt sometimes like I wanted to hit my head against the wall. This headache is different from headaches caused by hunger or cold or low vision or lots of thinking or even by an ailment or physical weakness. These types of headaches could be sometimes very strong but this one is different and distinctively strong. Sometimes I was unable to distinguish one type of headache from another. That period was over and my hand started to shake lightly as soon as I start thinking a lot or get angry or become tense. This is very similar to the shaking I noticed years ago after I was wounded in my head (in 1992) and lost my memory. I would even say that it is the same loss of control I had over my right fingers that lasted for some time after that old head injury. The same thing started to happen to me again during that period.
At any rate, the torture continued using the same methods during the period of drowning that was not limited to water but also urine, in addition to the heavy vomiting that was breaking my head in two and tearing apart my stomach — that was already wounded. The long closed wound that goes through my belly and appears a little under the chest and go through \illegible\ seemed as if it opened internally during every episode of vomiting or after drowning or during long standings or even by just sitting down.
The humiliations, the terrorizing, the hunger, the pain, the tension, the nervousness and the sleep deprivation lasted for some time until one day they did all these things to me but with more intensity and for longer periods of time before they brought me back to the big box and they started banging on it with me inside to prevent me at least from sleeping. Before they did that they said to me: “we have two individuals that came from Washington to talk to you and they know about you more than you know about yourself, at least for now. They will ask you questions and the more truthful you will be with them the more you will be able to save yourself from worse troubles.” I didn’t really realized what he said. I was still lying down on the floor surrounded by the large number of guards with their black cloths. When he did not get any response from me except for another series of vomiting episodes, he gave them the order to readjust my position, made me stand on my feet and clean the floor with the same black hood they covered my head with while I was standing for long hours, just to humiliate me and disgrace me. And indeed they cleaned the floor with the black hood and then put it on my head. A short time went by and few minutes later I heard foot steps and other individuals came in. The hood was lifted and I saw two other individuals: a man and a woman in civilian cloths. lt took minutes before I realized that I was completely naked in front of a woman. For moral and religious reasons I rushed and covered my genitals with my hands with expressions of anger on my face. The guy […] said to me: “don’t start getting angry again otherwise we’ll start again from zero. Understood?” He said this while shoving me several times to the wall and then he put me in a standing position. At this point, the woman started reading questions from a piece of paper she was holding.
And out of embarrassment or tension she read several questions at once and her friend told her: “ask one question at a time”; which she did. I told her: “I will answer the questions while looking at this man”, and I pointed towards her friend, adding: “it is not appropriate for me to look at you while I am naked”. Suddenly, the guy [… ] brutally shoved me several times to the wall and said: “you still have pride, right?” I tried to clarify and say that it was not a matter of pride but rather a matter of good manners regardless of the circumstances and regardless of the fact that this woman is an enemy and regardless of the fact that she is part of the team that is torturing and humiliating me in such an rude and inconsiderate manner. But my words were like putting fuel on fire and they made him immaturely angry. At any rate, after several questions were posed to me and that I had already answered a million times, even prior to the recent intense episode of torture, the two individuals left and the guards brought me back to the long box and locked the door up.
That time or that night they didn’t bang on the box from outside. I believe they were using rods or batons for the banging. Thus, I slept that night for a long time though interrupted given the hard sitting position. Well, how could I sleep with all the nightmares and the pain that became so impossible for me to know its sources.
Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album ‘Love and War’ and EP ‘Fighting Injustice’ are available here to download or on CD via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).
To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.
When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:
Following my article last week marking the 15th anniversary of the capture of Abu Zubaydah, for whom the post-9/11 torture program was created, after he was mistakenly regarded as a senior figure in al-Qaeda, here are two important declarations made by Abu Zubaydah himself, in 2008 and 2009, which were only unsealed by judges last summer, and in January this year. The case of Abu Zubaydah – still held without charge or trial at Guantanamo, where he has been since September 2006 – remains one of the most shocking in the whole of the brutal and sordid “war on terror.”
I hope this is getting out to those of you who retain an interest in the torture victims of Guantanamo. Abu Zubaydah, of course, is not the only one of the 14 “high-value detainees” brought to Guantanamo from “black sites” in September 2006 who continues to be held without charge or trial. Although six of the 14 have been charged – plus a seventh man brought to Guantanamo in 2008 – and one was moved to the US mainland in 2009, where he was successfully convicted, and another has agreed to a plea deal, but has not yet been sentenced, five others are in the same limbo as Abu Zubaydah – Hambali (Indonesian), the Malaysians Mohd Farik bin Amin and Mohammed Bashir bin Lap, Abu Faraj al-Libi (Libyan) and Guleed Hassan Ahmed (Somali). No justice for any of them – just Periodic Review Boards that, it is sensible to infer, have no intention of approving any of them for release.
Nancy Vining Van Ness wrote:
Andy, I am more grateful to you than I can ever say for all the work you have done on the prisoners who were tortured and held at Guantanamo. Thank you.
That’s very kind of you, Nancy. You know your support is very greatly appreciated!
Roy Randall wrote:
Does he tell of an interrogation with Ali Soufan of the FBI? Who states that he got Abu Zubaydah to turn on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged mastermind of 9/11 and the dirty shoe bomber, Jose Padilla, using non coercive interrogation tactics?
That’s the great tragedy, Roy – Abu Zubaydah was cooperating, and then senior Bush administration officials (I’m thinking Dick Cheney), the CIA and Mitchell and Jessen were all slavering to torture him instead.
Roy Randall wrote:
Ali Soufan alleged that he got the information from Abu and when he saw what the CIA was doing told his superiors and they told him to leave. Interesting.
Roy Randall wrote:
Thanks, just curious.
Yes, it’s an important part of the story, Roy. There’s a good Der Spiegel interview with Ali Soufan here: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/former-fbi-official-ali-soufan-condemns-guantanamo-torture-a-1014475.html
Roy Randall wrote:
Thanks for all you do, Andy.
You’re welcome, Roy. Thanks for the supportive words!
Oh, and just to be clear, Roy, in reference to your first comment: Padilla was alleged to be planning an attack in the US. He wasn’t the shoe bomber; that was UK citizen Richard Reid. The problem with the Padilla case is that Paul Wolfowitz admitted, after his capture in May 2002, at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, that there was no actual plot; that it hadn’t gone beyond browsing the internet. This didn’t stop the authorities from holding him as an “enemy combatant” on the US mainland, without charge or trial, and torturing him until, according to numerous witnesses, he lost his mind and became as docile as a piece of furniture, before Bush, when threatened with having to account for Padilla’s treatment, put him into the federal court system, where he was tried and convicted by a jury who wore stars and stripes-themed clothes on one of the trial days, July 4.
And see this article about how, over six years after his sentence, a judge added time to it! http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2014/09/16/shameful-us-judge-increases-prison-sentence-of-tortured-us-enemy-combatant-jose-padilla/
Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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