Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bush Administration Official Will Not Prosecute Case Tainted By Torture

"We tortured [Mohammed al-Qahtani," Susan J. Crawford (left; photo h/t Liberaland) told Bob Woodward of the Washington Post. As a result, this retired judge, whose job is to decide whether to bring Guantanamo detainees to trial, decided to drop war crimes charges against the prisoner and not prosecute. Crawford is a Bush administration official and lifelong Republican.

Qahtani was denied entry to the United States and allegedly would have been the 20th hijacker on September 11th. Captured in Afghanistan, he was transported to Guantanamo in January 2002. Crawford decided that the evidence was so tainted and Qahtani so abused that a trial was no longer viable.

So not only is the information received through torture tainted, since it may be offered in order to stop the pain, but it also can end efforts to prosecute an individual who may have intended to harm the United States.

Even though George Bush and Dick Cheney would not consider the techniques used against Qahtani to be torture, Crawford found that the "combination of the interrogation techniques, their duration and the impact on Qahtani's health led to her conclusion":

"The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent. . . . You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge" to call it torture.

The techniques included "...sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a 'life-threatening condition.' " Crawford elaborated:

"For 160 days his only contact was with the interrogators. Forty-eight of 54 consecutive days of 18-to-20-hour interrogations. Standing naked in front of a female agent. Subject to strip searches..."

At one point he was threatened with a military working dog named Zeus, according to a military report. Qahtani "was forced to wear a woman's bra and had a thong placed on his head during the course of his interrogation" and "was told that his mother and sister were whores." With a leash tied to his chains, he was led around the room "and forced to perform a series of dog tricks," the report shows.

The interrogation, portions of which have been previously described by other news organizations, including The Washington Post, was so intense that Qahtani had to be hospitalized twice at Guantanamo with bradycardia, a condition in which the heart rate falls below 60 beats a minute and which in extreme cases can lead to heart failure and death. At one point Qahtani's heart rate dropped to 35 beats per minute, the record shows.

Crawford came to some sobering conclusions:

Torture impedes the pursuit of justice: "...there still has to be a line that we should not cross. And unfortunately what this has done, I think, has tainted everything going forward.... You don't allow [coerced testimony] in a regular court."

Torture endangers our men and women in uniform: "If we tolerate this and allow it, then how can we object when our servicemen and women, or others in foreign service, are captured and subjected to the same techniques? How can we complain? Where is our moral authority to complain? Well, we may have lost it."

Torture has caused enormous harm to the reputation of the United States and its military judicial system: "There's an assumption out there that everybody was tortured. And everybody wasn't tortured. But unfortunately perception is reality... Certainly in the public's mind, or politically speaking, and certainly in the international community" [the system may be forever tainted.] It may be too late."

Torture and President Bush: "I think he hurt his own effort. . . . I think someone should acknowledge that mistakes were made and that they hurt the effort and take responsibility for it...I think the buck stops in the Oval Office."

Far from taking responsibility, Bush and Cheney remain unrepentant advocates of torture. Now that the Bush administration is passing from the scene, it's time to restore American values–starting with President-elect Obama's plans to close Guantanamo.

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