Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Excerpts from Inside GITMO

Excerpts from Inside GITMO:
The True Story Behind the Myths of Guantanamo Bay

A thorough examination of Guantanamo Bay has been recently published in a book called Inside GITMO: The True Story Behind the Myths of Guantanamo Bay (HarperCollins 2009), by Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu. Among the revealing details contained in the book are the following. Page citations are given following each quote from the book.
  • Overview of the Detainee Population
● Estimates are that as many as 70,000 Talibans and al Qaeda fighters were captured … Of that rather vast number, a tiny one-tenth of 1 percent – fewer than 800 captured fighters – were deemed of such high intelligence value or posed such severe threat potential that they needed to be securely confined and thoroughly interrogated. P. 5.

● Among the detainee population are al Qaeda financial specialists, organizational experts, bomb-makers, and recruiters. Others are from the muscle side of the organization … P. 4.

● No one among the American guard force, past or present, doubts for a moment that if these ‘worst of the worst’ were released they would go right back to the battlefield. Some would make the battlefield right in the United States. Many of them have American connections. There are among the detainees population graduates from the University of Arizona, Purdue, LSU, and Emory Riddle. Quite a few are scions of wealthy or middle-class Middle Eastern families and have spent time in America or Europe. P. 98.

● In camp inspections, it was discovered that detainees were being trained [by other detainees] in bomb-making, weapons handling, and tactics, through the use of handcrafted expedient materials. Many of the more serious plots to kill guards emerged from the communal, medium-security blocks of Camp IV. P. 102.

● A detainee, not wishing to be part of an incident that could have gotten him killed, reported a plot that involved the use of homemade weapons to hijack a meal delivery truck that entered the Camp IV compound three times a day … Their plan called for them to kill guards, hijack the truck, use it to knock down fences to free more detainees, and stay in the area killing guards until they themselves were killed. P. 110.
  • What’s It Like Being a Military Prison Guard at Guantanamo Bay
● Ever wonder what it’s like to be a guard at Guantanamo Bay? They receive, on average, 450 assaults annually. Most of them involve being drenched with a noxious “cocktail”; others involve actual physical attack. Verbal assaults are so constant and commonplace that they are not even counted. More than half the assaults, approximately 250 a year, require some sort of medical attention … This number does not count the “cocktail” assaults, because as a matter of [standard operating procedure], every trooper who is hit with one must go to the medics … P. 177.

● [Detainees] throw spit, urine, feces, vomit, and semen at guards at every opportunity. They … tell guards that they will have their al Qaeda friends rape and murder their families … They claw under the guards’ protective masks, trying to gouge eyes and to rip and tear lips and ears. P. 121.

● “Please don’t use my name in your book,” one of the nurses … said. “I’m constantly threatened with death and rape. They tell me that they will give my name to their friends in America who will come and find me. I’m scared to death.” Her hands shook uncontrollably as she recounted story after story of abuse from the detainees. P. 163.

● “We will look you up on the Internet,” the detainees said [to military personnel]. “We will find you and slaughter you and your family in your homes at night. We will cut your throats like sheep.” P. 176.

● One Navy military policemen said “It is disturbing to know that the detainees’ highest priority is to do you harm when you’re working so hard to take care of them.” P. 169.

● Several detainees came from the battlefield with missing or injured limbs … At Guantanamo they received the best, most modern prosthetics, as good as our wounded soldiers get returning from combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. There is a documented instance of a released detainee – one who was judged by the Annual Review Board process to be “no longer a danger to the U.S.” – who had been fitted with a prosthetic leg during his Gitmo stay and was [later found] back on the battlefield fighting against American and coalition forces. P. 125.

● [A]ssaulting guards is common [in Camp V]. “Sometimes they’ll pretend to be friendly,” [one Sergeant First Class] said, “to try to get the guards to relax. Then they’ll toss a cup full of p*ss and sh*t at their faces or try to grab an arm and break it.” P. 126.

● A Navy senior chief … told stories of Camp I and the constant badgering of the guards, the vile names: “They call us sh*theads, n*ggers … Then they’ll ask the guard to bring them something. They have our kids running up and down waiting on them hand and foot like flight attendants on an airplane. We spend 90 percent of our time bringing them food, taking them to rec[reation] … And the guards take it all day long, day in and day out. My troops get hit with sh*t … They give more trouble to the blondes and the black females. I’ve gained a whole new respect for American troops watching these young people ... One of the games they like to play with the guards is to take the Styrofoam box their meal comes in, tear it into tiny pieces and throw it through the mesh … onto the deck. They did this every day to one of my guys, a black sailor. ‘Pick up the trash, n*gger! they’d yell after they threw it out. The place looked like a snowstorm. Day after day with this same guard. And he was great. He showed no emotion, just got the broom out and swept up. I have a lot of admiration for him.” Pp. 96-97.

● According to one male corpsmen, “I’ve done a tour in Afghanistan and two tours in Iraq. It’s much worse here … They throw stuff all the time. – feces, urine, semen, spit, and vomit are their specialties. They try to get it into our mouths and eyes ‘cause they know they can do some damage. Then they laugh at us.” P. 163.

● Secretly fashioned weapons intended for use in attacking guards … are confiscated regularly. When food or other items are passed through the bean hole in the cell doors, the detainees have grabbed at the wrists and arms of Americans feeding them and tried to slash their wrists or break their bones. On one occasion a female medic was asked to come close by a detainee that she had treated frequently in the past. When she asked him his problem, he indicated that it was private and he did not want to discuss it loudly. He asked her to lean over so he could whisper his problem to her. When she did, canting her head toward him, his hands darted through the bean hole, seized her face, and smashed it against the cell door several times before guards were able to break her free. The bones in her face were so badly shattered that she required multiple reconstructive surgeries to correct the damage. P. 176.

● Keep in mind that our soldiers – young men and young women – are absolutely forbidden from responding in kind. They are required to maintain absolute discipline and to follow humane operating procedures at all times, at risk of serious punishment. P. 176.

● Would any of us be willing to put up with such treatment, while being required to stand there and do nothing? I seriously doubt it. Further, to perform such intense duty for a pittance in compensation and benefits, while enduring the most scathing criticism from fellow Americans and much of the rest of the world, actually doubles and redoubles their stress. This is what American soldiers and sailors face every day when they come in to pull their 12-hour shifts at Guantanamo. P. 177.

● Incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder have been anecdotally reported from Guantanamo at an alarmingly high rate. In 2007, one African-American Navy lieutenant committed suicide after pulling a tour in Guantanamo. “I knew him well,” [one lieutenant] wrote me. “He was sensitive and dedicated. I’m convinced that the volume of racial and physical abuse he suffered at the hands of the detainees contributed materially to his depression.” P. 178.

● To add insult to injury, “The detainees receive a large amount of mail from the U.S.,” said [one colonel]. “Especially around the holidays the detainees get packages, cards, letters, and expressions of sympathy from thousands of Americans … It’s strange but true … Sometimes it looks like [the detainees] get more holiday mail than the [U.S.] troopers.” P. 209.
  • The Influence of Lawyers
● The October 2008 edition of the Center for Constitutional Rights Guantanamo Newsletter stated that CCR alone “coordinates the representation of detainees at Guantanamo Bay with a network of over 500 pro bono habeas counsel.” … At least 300 law schools, universities, and seminaries are shown on the “partial list” of participants at the Seton Hall Law “Guantanamo Teach-in” program. P. 191.

● “The hunger striking population will pick up when they know the time for attorney visits is getting close,” [one official] said. “That way they’ll look really awful when the attorneys are here – and some media is around. Once the lawyers leave then they’ll start eating again.” P. 185.

● What does all this result in? Detainees get foot rubs from American nurses. According to an Army major, detainees on hunger strikes “got to go to the air-conditioned hospital for a few hours … get a feeding, and have their feet rubbed … Hunger strikes lead to poor circulation in the extremities. So the nurses and female corpsmen rub their feet.” P. 186.

● According to another official, “If they can get the world thinking that we’re abusing them or harming them, they’ve won. They know how to play the public relations game and are doing a damn good job of it.” P. 185.

● “Not only will [the detainees] try to look bad, but sometimes a detainee will actually harm himself right before a lawyer visit and claim the guards beat him,” a Navy guard said. “One of these guys is notorious for it. He’ll run into the wall of his cell to bruise and skin up his face. Scratch himself with his fingernails, punch himself. The attorneys love it.” P. 185.

● “When we didn’t do what [the detainees] wanted,” one corpsmen said, “they would say that they were going to tell their brothers that we defaced the Koran and start an incident. So we gave them what they wanted.” P. 185.

● But while most habeas attorneys are undoubtedly motivated by idealism, there are questions as to whether they are actually helping their clients. [S]ome of the detainees, acting on advice of counsel, were actually hurting their cause. “They have been told ‘whatever you do, don’t talk to the Americans. Don’t tell them anything.’” … While a silent strategy might make sense in a criminal case, in several instances Guantanamo detainees who spoke freely were later adjudged by Annual Review Boards to be nonthreatening and no longer holding important intelligence information. Many were therefore recommended for transfer. By remaining incommunicado during interrogation, detainees who might otherwise have been released or transferred were manipulated by counsel advice into needlessly prolonging their confinement. P. 194.

● In point of fact … the detainee population has been reduced by more than 50 percent. [Multiple review of each detainee’s case] have taken place for years. The Military Commissions would have taken place also on a more widespread level if habeas attorneys had not frozen all movement by the commissions with endless filings and suits. P. 195.

● [Attorneys also relay news items to detainees.] Events like … bombings in Madrid and London, and Islamic riots in France and Holland tend to make the “hot news” circuit within the camp. So do Supreme Court decisions, American elections (the election of November 2006, in which the Democrats won both houses of Congress, was praised as a “great victory for Islam” by the detainees), and other major events. P. 199.

● Regarding the interrogation techniques applied to the terrorist Qahtani,] “It was [only] at that time [when the severe techniques were employed] that Qahtani broke down and started talking. He told interrogators that he worked for al Qaeda and his leader was Osama bin Laden. His reveltations were startling and continued for several months. At one point, according to an interrogator, he was led into a room with walls plastered with photos of scores of Arab men. “He walked around the room,” said the interrogator, “and one-by-one, with no hesitation, picked out all 19 of the 9/11 hijackers and called out their names.” By that spring … Qahtani was providing significant amounts of intelligence. He helped the United States understanding the process by which terrorist operatives are recruited and logistics flow to support their operations. He elaborated on planning aspects of the 9/11 terrorist attack, and clarified convicted terrorist Jose Padilla’s and Richard Reid’s relationship with al Qaeda … Qahtani outlined infiltration routes and explained methods used by al Qaeda to cross international boundaries undetected. He related techniques Osama bin Laden used to evade capture by U.S. forces … He also provided detailed information about 30 of Osama bin Landen’s personal bodyguards, also held at Guantanamo, many of whom had successfully maintained a cover story of their innocence until then. This was clearly extraordinarily valuable, actionable intelligence ... In October 2005, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) … filed a habeas petition on behald of Qahtani. That December, Qahtani was visited by a CCR attorney at Guantanamo. He ceased talking to interrogators … Pp. 36-37.
  • The Results of Continued Interrogations at Guantanamo Bay
● “After years of questioning … the [interrogation] sessions continue to yield useful information,” [said one official]. P. 212.

● So what kind of information can someone held in Guantanamo that long possess? “Some of it is surprisingly good stuff,” [said one official] … It turns out that cells have been busted up – particularly in Europe and the United States – as well as money trails cut and terrorist activities stymied by information coming out of Guantanamo’s interrogation booths. In the multiple-aircraft hijacking planned from the United Kingdom in summer 2006, many of the plotters had already been identified by intelligence sources in Guantanamo as possible terrorists and placed on watch lists by British intelligence. P. 211.

● [As a result of raids conducted based on information obtained at Guantanamo], [p]olice seized computers, cell phones, large sums of money, counterfeit identity documents, and literature espousing jihad” [said one official]. The terrorists arrested came from Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Palestine, Morocco, Bulgaria, and Germany. P. 211.

● Unquestionably, intelligence information gleaned in Guantanamo has been used by law enforcement agencies in the United States to unearth and arrest terrorist cells. The Lackawana Six, the Cleveland sleeper group, and several others were intercepted in large part as a result of information obtained in Guantanamo interrogations. P. 213.
  • The Negative Intelligence Consequences of Moving Detainees Into American Prisons
● [Moving these detainees into American jails will harm American security because it would preclude such interrogations and the gathering of even more intelligence information.] Of what use is it, other than as retribution for criminal acts, to keep [terrorists] John Walker Lindh, Zacarias Moussaoui, Sami al Arian, Jose Padilla, and scores of others in U.S. penitentiaries? Under the criminal justice system, once a culprit is sentenced, questioning ceases – actually long before he is even brought to trial. Yet the value of what these terrorists hold in their heads far outweighs any imagined advantage to keeping them in U.S. prisons merely doing time … It would be far more useful to see Padilla, Moussaoui, Arian, and the rest talking to trained interrogators in Gitmo rather than watching cable TV, proselytizing radical Islam, and lifting weights in American jails. P. 220.
  • Overview
● [I]t is still possible, in the greater scheme of things related to the security of the United States and our allies, that Guantanamo will be recognized for what it has in fact become: the single greatest repository of human intelligence (HUMINT) in the war on terror, the single greatest accumulation of terrorism-related information, and the world’s best, most humane, and most efficient interrogation facility. P. 230.

● Vigorous and prolonged investigations covering more than 24,000 interrogation sessions inside Guantanamo over a three-year period revealed a total of three violations, an amazingly low number considering the pressure-cooker atmosphere faced by detainees and military personnel alike, as well as the early inexperience of military interrogators operating under [initially] incomplete and unclear rules. P. xxvi.