On a couple of occasions I have written about how we are conducting interrrogations and what the boundaries should or should not be. Here is a new article about some of the tactics at Gitmo.
“SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Female interrogators tried to break Muslim detainees at the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay by sexual touching, wearing a miniskirt and thong underwear and in one case smearing a Saudi man’s face with fake menstrual blood, according to an insider’s written account.”
Without details it sounds relatively tame, but there is more:
“A draft manuscript obtained by The Associated Press is classified as secret pending a Pentagon (news – web sites) review for a planned book that details ways the U.S. military used women as part of tougher physical and psychological interrogation tactics to get terror suspects to talk.”
Not that it matters, but I suspect that many people would be surprised to read that women are being included in these efforts.
A former soldier corroborated the authenticity of part of the draft that the AP received.
Army Sgt. Erik R. Saar, 29 who is neither Muslim nor of Arab descent, worked as an Arabic translator at the U.S. camp in eastern Cuba from December 2002 to June 2003.
“Saar said he witnessed about 20 interrogations and about three months after his arrival at the remote U.S. base he started noticing “disturbing” practices.
One female civilian contractor used a special outfit that included a miniskirt, thong underwear and a bra during late-night interrogations with prisoners, mostly Muslim men who consider it taboo to have close contact with women who aren’t their wives.
Beginning in April 2003, “there hung a short skirt and thong underwear on the hook on the back of the door” of one interrogation team’s office, he writes. “Later I learned that this outfit was used for interrogations by one of the female civilian contractors … on a team which conducted interrogations in the middle of the night on Saudi men who were refusing to talk.”
Some Guantanamo prisoners who have been released say they were tormented by “prostitutes.”
In another case, Saar describes a female military interrogator questioning an uncooperative 21-year-old Saudi detainee who allegedly had taken flying lessons in Arizona before the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Suspected Sept. 11 hijacker Hani Hanjour received pilot instruction for three months in 1996 and in December 1997 at a flight school in Scottsdale, Ariz.
“His female interrogator decided that she needed to turn up the heat,” Saar writes, saying she repeatedly asked the detainee who had sent him to Arizona, telling him he could “cooperate” or “have no hope whatsoever of ever leaving this place or talking to a lawyer.'”
The man closed his eyes and began to pray, Saar writes.
The female interrogator wanted to “break him,” Saar adds, describing how she removed her uniform top to expose a tight-fitting T-shirt and began taunting the detainee, touching her breasts, rubbing them against the prisoner’s back and commenting on his apparent erection.
The detainee looked up and spat in her face, the manuscript recounts.
The interrogator left the room to ask a Muslim linguist how she could break the prisoner’s reliance on God. The linguist told her to tell the detainee that she was menstruating, touch him, then make sure to turn off the water in his cell so he couldn’t wash.
Strict interpretation of Islamic law forbids physical contact with women other than a man’s wife or family, and with any menstruating women, who are considered unclean.
“The concept was to make the detainee feel that after talking to her he was unclean and was unable to go before his God in prayer and gain strength,” says the draft, stamped “Secret.”
The interrogator used ink from a red pen to fool the detainee, Saar writes.
“She then started to place her hands in her pants as she walked behind the detainee,” he says. “As she circled around him he could see that she was taking her hand out of her pants. When it became visible the detainee saw what appeared to be red blood on her hand. She said, ‘Who sent you to Arizona?’ He then glared at her with a piercing look of hatred.
“She then wiped the red ink on his face. He shouted at the top of his lungs, spat at her and lunged forward” â€” so fiercely that he broke loose from one ankle shackle.
“He began to cry like a baby,” the draft says, noting the interrogator left saying, “Have a fun night in your cell without any water to clean yourself.”
So I am at a bit of a crossroads here. I am not against trying to break these men. If they can provide us with information that will save lives it might be worth it. I say might because there are some lines that cannot be crossed without consequences. And we cannot always project what those consequences might be.
What happens to the person conducting the “session?” What impact does this have on their own humanity. What happens if we make a mistake? Once we open Pandora’s box we are in the thick of it, there is no going back.
But if we miss out on the opportunity to save lives, what then. How much is a person worth? A father, a mother, a sister or a brother.
If we could have prevented 911 by torturing someone for information would it have been worth it?