A recent detailed New York Times article, “Where Even Nightmares Are Classified: Psychiatric Care at Guantánamo,” provides a powerful review of the horrors of Guantánamo from the perspective of “more than two dozen military medical personnel who served or consulted” at the prison.
The Times article, written by Sheri Fink, explains how some prisoners were disturbed when they arrived at the prison, others “struggled with despair” as their imprisonment without charge or trial dragged on, and some “had developed symptoms including hallucinations, nightmares, anxiety or depression after undergoing brutal interrogations” by US personnel — sometime in CIA “black sites,” sometimes at Guantánamo — who had themselves been advised by other health personnel. Those who were tortured — although the Times refused to mention the word “torture,” as has been the paper’s wont over the years, coyly referring to dozens of men who “underwent agonizing treatment” — “were left with psychological problems that persisted for years, despite government lawyers’ assurances that the practices did not constitute torture and would cause no lasting harm.”
The result, Fink concluded, was that “a willful blindness to the consequences emerged. Those equipped to diagnose, document and treat the effects — psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health teams — were often unaware of what had happened.” Doctors told the Times that, “[s]ometimes by instruction and sometimes by choice, they typically did not ask what the prisoners had experienced in interrogations,” a situation that seriously compromised their care. Read the rest of this entry »
Regular readers will know that I returned on Tuesday from an intense and rewarding two-week tour of the US, in which I visited New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles calling for the closure of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The tour was supported by the campaigning group World Can’t Wait (see the report here), and was timed to coincide with the 12th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, marked by a protest in Washington D.C. outside the White House and in the National Museum of American History. Please see here for videos from New York, see here for videos and photos from Washington D.C., see here and here for the radio shows I took part in, and see here for a video of Jason Leopold and I speaking in Anaheim, California on January 16.
As the next step in providing a permanent record of the tour, I’m delighted to make available below the 57-minute video of the panel discussion that took place at Stanford University on Monday January 13, in which I was joined by my friend and colleague Jeff Kaye, a psychologist who has done some groundbreaking and genuinely pioneering work on the Bush administration’s torture program, former Stanford student and journalist Adam Hudson, who recently visited Guantánamo, and Stephanie Tang standing in for World Can’t Wait’s national director Debra Sweet, who missed all the action unfortunately because of an injury she had received in New York just before my arrival in the US.
This was a powerful event, and I’m very glad that it was recorded, as it provided a detailed analysis of Guantánamo past, present and future, as well as providing an overview of the torture program initiated by the Bush administration, which, of course, is inextricably tied in with the existence of Guantánamo, as well as having had its own malevolent life in the CIA’s global network of “black sites,” and living on, albeit in a reduced manner, in the torture techniques still available to US forces, under President Obama, in Appendix M of the Army Field Manual (as Jeff explained in his presentation). Read the rest of this entry »
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January 11, 2014 is the 12th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, an experiment in extraordinary rendition, torture and indefinite detention without charge or trial that should never have opened. Since 2011, I have been visiting the US on the anniversary, to take part in events to raise awareness of the ongoing injustice of Guantánamo, and to call for the prison’s closure (see here, here and here), and this year is the fourth occasion on which I have braved the sometimes inhospitable weather of America in January to add my voice to those of others calling for Guantánamo to be closed, and the third year in which I have done so as the co-founder, with the attorney Tom Wilner, of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, which we established on the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison in January 2012.
This year, I will be visiting from January 8 to 21, and taking part in events in New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles (my first ever visit!) from January 9 to 17, mostly with Debra Sweet, the National Director of the campaigning group the World Can’t Wait, who has organized my trip. Debra has been organizing my visits to the US since 2009, and it will be wonderful to spend time with her and with the other participants in the various events we have planned — who include the investigative journalist Jason Leopold, psychologist and anti-torture writer and activist Jeffrey Kaye, the former SERE instructor and anti-torture campaigner Michael Kearns, and Todd Pierce, a former military defense attorney, who represented men at Guantánamo who were put forward for trials by military commission. We will, at some events, be showing the excellent documentary film “Doctors of the Dark Side,” directed by Martha Davis, and the full itinerary is below (also see the Facebook page here, and see here for Debra’s post about the tour). POSTSCRIPT Jan. 10: Debra is unable to take part in the tour because of a head injury sustained just before it began. Everyone involved in the tour wishes her a speedy recovery.
For the last five years, of course, the ownership of Guantánamo has been in the hands not of George W. Bush and the Republican Party, but of Barack Obama and the Democrats, and it has, for the most part, been a dispiriting experience watching as fine words turned to inaction. After promising to close the prison by January 2010, President Obama failed to keep that promise, and although he released 64 prisoners from February 2009 to September 2010, those releases almost ground to a halt for the next three years, after Congress imposed onerous restrictions on the release of prisoners, and the president didn’t think it was worthwhile spending political capital overriding lawmakers, even though he had the power to do so. Read the rest of this entry »
Ten and a half years into the Guantánamo experiment, as it becomes ever harder for those who are still appalled by the prison’s existence, and by the failures of all three branches of the US government — under Barack Obama — to close it, my friends and colleagues Jeffrey Kaye and Jason Leopold are to be commended for not giving up, and for digging away at the secrets that still shroud Guantánamo, and that, moreover, are still capable of providing a shock when uncovered, even if they are generally ignored by the mainstream media.
On Wednesday, the mainstream media decided to pay attention for a change, and Jeff and Jason’s report on a drugging scandal at Guantánamo, published on Truthout, where Jason is the lead investigative reporter and Jeff, a full-time psychologist, is also a regular contributor, was picked up by mainstream media outlets including the Associated Press, AFP and Britain’s Daily Mail.
Their article was based on the release of a Pentagon report, “Investigation of Allegations of the Use of Mind-Altering Drugs to Facilitate Interrogations of Detainees” that they requested through Freedom of Information legislation two years ago, and it paints a depressing story of prisoners at Guantánamo being given given powerful anti-psychotic medication and then, on occasions, interrogated, even though they were in no fit state to answer questions competently. Read the rest of this entry »
San Francisco and Chicago, January 2012, a set on Flickr.
Earlier this week, I posted the first two sets of photos on my new Flickr account. The first set was of of my wanderings in New York in January, at the start of my two-week US tour to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo on the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison, and the second was of the protests in Washington D.C. on the 10th anniversary, January 11, when it poured with rain, but our spirit was strong.
This third set concludes the photos of my trip, taken in San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley during a one-day visit to the Bay Area, and in Chicago during another brief visit (my first ever to the Windy City), before flying back to New York, and 24 hours in Brooklyn preceding the long flight home. Read the rest of this entry »
Over the last few years, my friends and colleagues Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye have been doing some excellent work for Truthout exposing the Bush administration’s torture program, and human experimentation at Guantánamo, and last week they produced another excellent article for Truthout, examining the significance of a recently released US military training manual for the development of George W. Bush’s torture program.
The development of Bush’s torture program was triggered by the capture of the alleged “high-value detainee” Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan in March 2002, and formalized when John Yoo, a lawyer in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, wrote two memos — the “torture memos” — signed by his boss, Jay Bybee, on August 1, 2002, which purported to redefine torture so that it could be used by the CIA, and approved the use of ten torture techniques on Abu Zubaydah, including waterboarding, an ancient torture technique and a form of controlled drowning.
As Jason and Jeff explain, the manual “was prepared by the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) and used by instructors in the JPRA’s Survival Evasion Resistance Escape (SERE) courses to teach US military personnel how to withstand brutal interrogation techniques if captured by the enemy during wartime.” It has long been known that the Bush administration actively sought the advice of JPRA operatives — including James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen — who proposed reverse engineering the torture techniques taught in US military schools to enable captured personnel to resist torture if captured, and using them in real-life situations with captured “terror suspects.” Read the rest of this entry »
Three weeks ago, my colleague Jeffrey Kaye, a full-time psychologist in California who also manages to find time to pursue a second career as a blogger producing important work on America’s torture program, wrote an article for Truthout about the use of water torture at Guantánamo, which pulled together information that was previously available, but scattered around a number of different sources, and which, I’m delighted to note, secured a wide audience online, also attracting interest in the mainstream media.
As a follow-up, Jeff recently wrote another article for Truthout, providing further examples of the use of water as a torture technique, not only in Guantánamo, but also in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to mark my return to work after two weeks away in Greece, I’m cross-posting his latest article as my own follow-up, because I cross-posted his earlier article just before my departure for Athens and Agistri, and I hope that making both articles available here will ensure that they reach new readers who have not yet come across Jeff’s work.
There have been a number of cases of detainees held by the Department of Defense (DoD) who have been subjected to water torture, including some that come very close to waterboarding, according to an investigation by Truthout. The prisoners have been held in a number of settings, from Afghanistan and Iraq to Guantánamo Bay.
In a number of settings, DoD spokespeople in the past — most notably former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld — have denied the use of waterboarding by DoD personnel. But as examples of DoD water torture have multiplied, it appears government denials about “waterboarding” were overly legalistic, and that behind them, DoD personnel were hiding torture involving similar methods of choking, suffocation or near-drowning by water. Read the rest of this entry »
For Truthout, my colleague Jeffrey Kaye, who is a full-time psychologist but somehow manages also to pursue a second career as a blogger, has just written an article about the use of water torture at Guantánamo (and elsewhere in the “War on Terror”), which has been securing excellent coverage online.
I’m delighted to discover that people remain interested in the Bush administration’s use of torture, and questions of accountability that have been brushed under the carpet by President Obama, not just because terrible crimes have been committed and no one has been held accountable, but also because the topic of America’s torture program has generally slipped off the media’s radar (as has that other abiding topic of interest of mine, Guantánamo, and the 171 prisoners still held).
Jeff has done a great job in pulling together examples of prisoners who were subjected not to waterboarding, but to other forms of torture using water that the Bush administration largely managed to avoid mentioning or being asked to justify, including Murat Kurnaz, who discussed having his head held under water in his book, Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantánamo, first published in 2007, Mohammed al-Qahtani, the most notorious torture victim at Guantánamo, and others — the Mauritanian Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who was, notoriously, “broken” by torture at Guantánamo, and who had water poured over him to “enforce control” and “keep [him] awake,” the British resident Omar Deghayes, the Algerian Djamel Ameziane (still held, despite being cleared for release many years ago), and Mustafa Ait Idr, an Algerian living in Bosnia-Herzegovina, released in 2008 after winning his habeas petition, whose torture using water I mentioned in The Guantánamo Files, and in my article, After 7 Years, Judge Orders Release of Guantánamo Kidnap Victims. Also of interest are examples from Iraq, which have also not been publicized widely. Read the rest of this entry »
Last Tuesday, Human Rights Watch released a new 107-page report, “Getting Away with Torture: The Bush Administration and Mistreatment of Detainees,” which is important, even though it is depressingly familiar to those of us who have been calling for accountability for the torturers of the Bush administration ever since evidence of their crimes became apparent — first with the Abu Ghraib scandal in April 2004, and, soon after, through the leaked memo seeking to redefine torture so that it could be used by the CIA, the first of two now notorious “torture memos” written by Justice Department lawyer John Yoo, signed by Jay S. Bybee, his boss in the Office of legal Counsel, and dated August 1, 2002, which was leaked in the summer of 2004.
Seven years is a long time to wait for something — anything — resembling justice, and, of course, the Obama administration has been a thorough disappointment, allowing the damning conclusions of an ethics investigation into Yoo and Bybee’s shameful betrayal of the principles of the OLC (which is obliged to provide impartial legal advice to the Executive branch) to be whitewashed, raising “state secrets” as a blanket shield for any attempt to ask questions in court about the Bush administration’s torture program, and, most recently, deciding that just two cases of torture that exceeded the rules bent so cynically by John Yoo, and which led to the murder of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, would lead to possible prosecutions. Read the rest of this entry »
Back in January 2010, law professor and Harper’s columnist Scott Horton had a fascinating and alarming article published in Harper’s Magazine (it was online in January, and in the March print edition), entitled, “The Guantánamo ‘Suicides’: A Camp Delta Sergeant Blows the Whistle,” a devastating analysis of three supposed suicides at Guantánamo on the night of June 9, 2006. The official report into the deaths had been previously condemned by researchers at the Seton Hall Law School, who had concluded that it contained more holes than verifiable content, but Horton’s exposé ratcheted up the interest, as it drew on the testimony of a number of military personnel who were not only present on the night in question, but were manning the watch towers, which, of course, provide a unique overview of life in Guantánamo and the coming and going of prisoners and military personnel.
I won’t run through the whole article here — and its suggestion that the men were killed, either by accident or design, and probably during torture sessions in “Camp No,” a separate facility outside the main perimeter fence — as I recommend anyone who has not read it to do so (and also to read my own commentary on it, and my follow-up here), but I will say that, having spoken to the lead soldier responsible for questioning the official story, Staff Sgt. Joe Hickman, I was convinced that he had no reason to fabricate a story that could only damage his career, and was particularly impressed by the description of how “he could not forget what he had seen at Guantánamo. When Barack Obama became president, [he] decided to act. ‘I thought that with a new administration and new ideas I could actually come forward,’ he said. ‘It was haunting me.’” And as he told me last year, he felt “physically sick” after holding onto his story for three years. Read the rest of this entry »
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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