Trial Judge Destroys Guantánamo’s Military Commissions, Rules That “Clean Team” Interrogations Cannot Undo the Effects of Torture

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, photographed before his capture, and his trial judge in the military commissions at Guantánamo, Col. Lanny J. Acosta Jr.

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I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

In an extraordinary 50-page ruling in Guantánamo’s military commissions, Col. Lanny J. Acosta Jr., the judge in the case of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi national of Yemeni descent, who is accused of masterminding the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in 2000, in which 17 US sailors died, has refused to allow prosecutors to use self-incriminating statements that al-Nashiri made to a so-called “clean team” of three agents from the FBI, the NCIS and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations on January 31 and February 1 and 2, 2007, five months after he was brought to Guantánamo, having spent nearly four years in CIA “black sites,” where he was subjected to horrendous torture.

At the heart of Col. Acosta’s measured and devastating opinion is an appalled recognition that the extent of al-Nashiri’s torture, and its location with a system designed to break him and to make him entirely dependent on the whims of his interrogators to prevent further torture, made it impossible for him to have delivered any kind of uncoerced self-incriminating statement to the “clean team” who interviewed him in 2007.

To establish this compelling conclusion, Col. Acosta painstakingly pieces together a narrative of al-Nashiri’s torture that tells this brutal story in more agonizing and forensic detail than any previous account has done, drawing largely on the accounts of al-Nashiri’s torture in the revelatory 500-page unclassified summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report about the CIA torture program — technically, the Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation (RDI) program — which was released in December 2014, on the testimony of numerous experts called by the defense team in hearings between July 2022 and June 2023, and on the testimony of James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, two staff psychologists from the US Air Force SERE school, who were recruited to direct the torture program on the ground.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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