Interrogation Tactics

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 (newsweb 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” — 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?

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  1. tamouzrocks January 28, 2005 at 7:01 pm

    Considering the reports from Sully and elsewhere of beatings, rapings, and actual deaths at the hands of interrogators, why is this bad? This report is of what we should be doing: using psychological discombobulation to produce information. Otherwise, what’s the alternative? Beatings, rapings and murder? (Which we are doing, and I am outraged, much more than I am at these techniques reported here).

  2. Z January 28, 2005 at 2:22 pm

    Graner was actually from a little town called Uniontown here in western PA – in fact, our office is in charge of that area, so there was a lot of coverage.

    I think Graner was the government’s scapegoat. Bush got embarassed. Bush had to have a fall guy. Charles Graner fell. I was struck by how he refused to say he was sorry or regretted what he did even as he was led away in cuffs for a 10 year sentence and then disgrace.

    What role did his superiors play? Why haven’t they been prosecuted as he was under their command? Didn’t they KNOW what their staff was up to? I mean, this wasn’t an isolated incident…it went on for a while. Probably still does.

    But Graner was sacrified by the Administration…and because of the way that Admin is run, well, we say it’s over so it has to be over, right?

    The rest of the questions will never be answered but the biggie…what IS the military chain of command and where exactly DOES the buck stop is probably the most deeply buried.

  3. Anonymous January 28, 2005 at 8:46 am

    I wonder the same thing. People who do interrogations should be mentally prepared for what they have to do. It probably involves knowing exactly why you are doing it. To me, it would be knowing that these people don’t fear death, and actually want to die for their cause. It is a great honor for them. They probably are not extremely phased by beatings and other such interrogation methods. They have to find creative ways to break their will. This leads me to believe that Graner was not in fact operating on his own, but was either told directly to do what he did, or told to find creative ways to break their will. If their religion is that important to them, using it against them seems to be a strong leveraging point.

    As horrible as it is, these are the same people who make video tapes of cutting off the heads of people they consider inferior. So, I find it hard to have sympathy for them. We may do bizarre and cruel things to break them, and make them tell us how to stop the next American victim of their attacks, but at least they live… perhaps one day they will realize we have been more lenient than they would have been had the situation been reversed.

    I am not sure, it’s a hard question. It’s easy if you assume every person we interrogate is a murderous, beheading terrorist. But undoubtedly some innocent people get caught up in it. So that is what makes it more difficult. But such is war… there can never be war without innocent casualties, especially not when the enemy hides behind innocents, and uses our own compassion and sense of justice against us.

    Perhaps it’s like the “we do not deal with terrorists” line. We don’t cave to their demands today, even though it may cost a life, because down the road, it will cost many more if they think they have a chance of being successful at their game. Perhaps innocent people will be hurt today, but in the long run it will save lives, because the tactic of using civilians for human shields will fail. Just some ramblings…

  4. Jack's Shack January 28, 2005 at 7:44 am

    Because they have no limits, does it therefore necessitate we don’t either? If we have limits, are we being taken advantage of by a clever and vicious foe?I am not sure, I wonder about this. If we don’t take the gloves off are we hurting ourselves and if we do, are we hurting ourselves. I am not sure, I go back and forth about this.

  5. Z January 28, 2005 at 2:24 am

    What about the Geneva Convention? I realize it doesn’t mean diddly to our foes in the Arab world but does that mean we disregard it when we deal with them as well? Does that mean we accept that they disregard it and therefore that’s okay? Because they have no limits, does it therefore necessitate we don’t either? If we have limits, are we being taken advantage of by a clever and vicious foe?

    I don’t know.

    Does anyone? (Well, besides W because, let’s face it, he does know everything and even if he didn’t, Jesus would surely whisper it into the mic attached to the amplifier attached to his back, right? RIGHT????)

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