The world is busy expressing outrage and disbelief after revelations by the US Senate that the CIA used brutal torture methods against prisoners, allegedly to prevent further attacks on the USA in the wake of September 11.
In reality everything that’s been admitted in the CIA torture report has already been described by us, the victims of America – whether free or still imprisoned – in excruciating detail to our lawyers, to the media, academics, politicians and even to the police, from the day we were released. The greatest revelation to me at least is that this report was released at all.
As an exercise in openness at least it appears there has been some progress. While it must be noted that the report only details abuses carried out by CIA agents (without mentioning the US military or FBI), there has been far more transparency compared to the countries that were co-opted into the CIA torture programme. In fact, these countries' complicity is even more sinister, considering 25 of them were from Europe. Yet none have made similar confessions. Britain’s complicit role in US torture, and the outsourcing of terror suspects to dictatorships in Libya, Egypt and Syria remains woefully unreported, and that was main reason I visited these countries following the so-called Arab spring.
Maybe the leaders of the 54 countries which facilitated the torture can’t remember that the Bush administration was committing these crimes on their soil, with their intelligence agencies, with their permission and full cooperation. But those of us who were the recipients of ‘American justice’ can never forget.
Inside the US military detention facility in Bagram, Afghanistan, in 2002, CIA and FBI agents had me hog-tied (with my hands shackled from behind to my ankles) while they waved pictures of my children in front of me. As they punched and kicked me while I heard the sounds of a woman screaming which I was led to believe was my wife being tortured in the next cell they asked: “what do you think is going to happen to your family?”
Then, the CIA officer said that he’d decided to send me to Egypt or Syria. An interrogator told me that he genuinely feared for me because they’d already sent several people to both countries. One of them was Ibn al-Shiekh al-Libi, upon whose false tortured testimony the invasion of Iraq was based. He’d been sat where I was sitting I was told and questioned by the same CIA agent. I was terrified (yes, the effects of torture cause terror). I agreed to sign a confession that I was a member of Al-Qaeda – and anything else. I was looking forward to Guantanamo after this.
CIA torture report: The 10 most harrowing stories
CIA torture report: The 10 most harrowing stories
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1. Of the 119 CIA detainees, 26 should not have been apprehended. Among them was Abu Hudhaifa, who was “subjected to ice water baths and 66 hours of standing sleep deprivation” before the CIA discovered that he was probably “not the person he was believed to be.”
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2. President Bush received his first briefing on enhanced interrogation techniques in 2006, about four years after the programme started. According to CIA records, Bush expressed discomfort with an image of a detainee “chained to the ceiling, clothed in a diaper.”
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3. The CIA used rectal feeding and rectal rehydration on at least five detainees. Even though detainee Majid Khan was cooperating with feedings, for example, the CIA subjected him to “involuntary rectal feeding and rectal hydration” and would puree his lunch tray, which was then “rectally infused.”
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4. CIA interrogators threatened to harm the family members of at least three detainees. In one case, a detainee was told that his mother's throat would be cut.
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5. The CIA apprehended two foreigners working for a “partner government” allied with the agency. They were subjected to sleep deprivation and dietary manipulation. The two detainees were trying to give the CIA information on possible future al-Qaeda attacks. It took them months to get released.
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6. Abu Zubaida, the CIA's first detainee, spent 266 hours in a coffin-size confinement box. Zubaida, who was born Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, often “cried, begged, pleaded, and whimpered” and was told that the only way he would leave the facility was in the coffin-shaped box.
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7. When Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times, tried to breathe during the procedure, interrogators held his lips and poured water over his mouth.
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8. The Senate committee found a photo of what looked like a well-used waterboarding station at a site where there was no reported use of the technique. The CIA could not explain the presence of the waterboard.
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9. Of the at least 26 detainees who were wrongfully held, one was “intellectually challenged.” Interrogators taped this detainee crying and used it as leverage against one of his relatives.
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CIA officers would “strip a detainee naked, shackle him in the standing position for up to 72 hours, and douse [him] repeatedly with cold water.”
It’s not just our broken bodies that tell the torture tale. The truth itself has been tortured. It seems until this report was aired the world convinced itself, or worse still, didn’t care that "enemy combatants" were prisoners of war, "extraordinary rendition" was kidnap and abduction, "enhanced interrogation techniques" was torture, "rectal hydration" was anal rape, "mock executions" and "Russian roulette" was attempted murder, "rightful detention’"was false imprisonment and "waterboarding’"was simulated drowning. (tortura del agua, or torture of the water, was first used during the Spanish Inquisition. Japanese soldiers who practiced it on US prisoners of war in WWII were convicted for war crimes). All of these things and more were done to the "detainees".
It doesn’t take a legal expert to explain the unlawful nature of these crimes. In both civilian and military courts people are prosecuted for them all the time. If our police or lawyers tried to say they were legal we wouldn’t believe them for a second.
The attorney general is the most senior legal adviser to a government. In the US he is the head of the department of justice and the top law enforcement government officer. He tells the president what is and isn’t illegal. In 2002, US Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez’s office officially advised the Whitehouse that if the violence used in interrogations isn’t “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death,” then it's not torture. This redefinition was passed on to the CIA. After Obama came to office he officially stopped the use of torture but quickly offered immunity to CIA operatives who had committed these crimes. But they had destroyed evidence of some of the worst torture well in advance.
For those who argue the case for torture I say this: an illegal war was launched directly based on torture evidence. That war brought al-Qaeda into Iraq, a place where it had never operated. After more shocking torture was carried out in Iraqi prisons like Abu Ghraib, Camp Bucca and others and were Guantanamoised by US army General Miller, further retaliations and brutality followed.
In 2006 the Islamic State of Iraq, the forerunner to Isis, was born. Seventeen of its top commanders were imprisoned by the US in Iraq. President Obama blocked the publication of hundreds of images of abuse carried out by US soldiers in Iraq for fear it would endanger soldiers’ lives. But it was too late. These prisoners had already been brutalised by the occupation – images or not. Dressed in yellow and orange jumpsuits, just like us in Guantanamo, the brutalisation took effect. Years later they took their ruthless revenge on innocent aid workers and reporters, because they were Britons and Americans. The cycle of torture and terror was complete. But no one in power could see it.Reuse content