FBI mail outlines abuses at terror prison.
FBI agents at the Guantánamo Bay terror prison saw detainees chained to the floor in ice-cold or super-hot cells and left for hours in their own feces -- among harsh interrogation techniques that caused one prisoner to rip his hair from his head -- documents released Monday show.
The agents' eyewitness accounts are the first by U.S. officials confirming Guantánamo prisoners' complaints of sleep deprivation and the use of extreme temperatures, strobe lights and loud music. The accounts are contained in e-mails sent to FBI headquarters and meant to distance the bureau from the behavior, which the military has long denied.
An example: Alleged al Qaeda accountant Ibrahim al Qosi of Sudan claimed in a civil lawsuit last month that prisoners were subjected to mind-numbing music and humiliated by being wrapped in an Israeli flag -- an allegation that military spokesmen flatly denied at the time.
''We have no evidence to suggest that this ever happened here,'' Navy Cmdr. Robert Mulac, a Guantánamo spokesman, said on Nov. 6. ``We do not treat the detainees inhumanely or with disdain or humiliation.''
Yet four months earlier, an FBI agent wrote in one of the e-mails, made available Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union, that he had seen an almost identical event at the prison.
''I saw another detainee sitting on the floor of the interview room with an Israeli flag draped around him, loud music being played and a strobe light flashing,'' the agent wrote in a July 30 e-mail.
Federal officials blocked out the names of both detainees and the agents in the e-mails, the latest public release of documents obtained by the ACLU under a Freedom of Information lawsuit.
The agents' e-mails, which do not include dates of the alleged abuses, followed an FBI-wide e-mail soliciting eyewitness accounts after the disclosure of abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. FBI agents have rotated through the base in Cuba since the prison opened in January 2002 and have taken part in interviews with at least 747 prisoners.
In their e-mails, the agents make clear that they did not take part in any abuses but had spotted the abuses during other interrogations conducted by the military.
In August, a Boston-based agent described tactics that were ``not only aggressive, but personally very upsetting.''
``On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position on the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more.''
The agent also described military police manipulating the temperatures in detainees' cells. One was kept in air conditioning so frigid ``the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold.''
''When I asked the MPs what was going on, I was told that interrogators from the day prior had ordered this treatment,'' the agent wrote.
On another occasion, the same agent saw an ''almost unconscious'' prisoner in a room where the temperature was ''probably well over 100 degrees'' -- and a pile of his hair on the floor.
The detainee ``had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night.''
At a different time, the agent said ``not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.''
Pentagon spokesmen have long asserted that the 550 or so al Qaeda and Taliban suspects from 42 nations at Guantánamo Bay are held in humane conditions and according to the spirit of the Geneva Conventions. When guards or interrogators have misbehaved, the military claims, they have been punished.
No previous mention.
Yet none of the abuses described by FBI agents were among the 10 cases of relatively minor mistreatment that the military has acknowledged at Guantánamo in the nearly three years of the prison's existence.
''The methods that the Defense Department has adopted are illegal, immoral and counterproductive,'' said ACLU staff attorney Jameel Jaffer.
The FBI e-mails also reflect divisions between the bureau and Pentagon over how some of the interrogations were carried out.
An agent protested to his superiors in a December 2003 message that Defense Department interrogators pretended to be FBI agents and used torture. The details of the alleged torture were excised when the e-mail was released.
'If this detainee is ever released, or his story made public in any way, DOD interrogators will not be held accountable because these torture techniques were done by `FBI' interrogators,'' the writer complained. ``The FBI will [be] left holding the bag before the public.''
The Pentagon-FBI debate over interrogation tactics began in the prison's first year. An e-mail dated Dec. 9, 2002 -- 11 months after the first prisoners arrived -- describes an evolution of directives on interrogations.
One FBI agent described a DOD lawyer's directive this way:``Basically, it appears that the lawyer worked hard to write a legal justification for the type of interviews they (the Army) want to conduct here.''
Documents issued Monday included a June 25 FBI report from Sacramento quoting an informant saying soldiers in Iraq subjected prisoners to ``strangulation, beatings, placement of lit cigarettes into a detainees ear openings and unauthorized interrogations.''
The heavily excised report gave no indication of the claims' credibility.
[Source: By Carol Rosenberg, Miami Herald, US, 21dec04]
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