Tortured and Wrongly Held at Guantanamo for 14 Years, Adbul Zahir Now Has Freedom, but No Justice

Before Barack Obama left office, he released 10 detainees from Guantánamo to Oman. Among them was Abdul Zahir, a 45-year-old man from Afghanistan. Zahir was detained at Guantánamo for 14 years, even though the US government later admitted that he was wrongfully held. He was mistaken for another man who shared his nickname, Abdul Bari. Zahir’s story exemplifies the cruelty of Guantánamo and the policies of indefinite detention and torture, which will, in all likelihood, continue with Trump as president.

Like every Guantánamo detainee, Zahir was tortured. His military defense lawyer, US Air Force Lt. Col. Sterling Thomas told Truthout that after Zahir’s capture, US forces “gave him the treatment that they thought every Brown person, every Muslim person they captured deserved — they tortured him.”

Thomas explained that Zahir suffered beatings, exposure to cold temperatures, cramped confinement, stress positions, hog-tying and sexual assault. “He would be kept in very small rooms with the air conditioning unit running full blast without proper clothing — so, a pair of shorts — and an iron bed,” Thomas said. Zahir “would be placed in interrogation rooms right under the air conditioner and they would make the room as cold as possible, with his hands tied to his waist, and then he would be tied into a fetal position on the floor in that very cold room.” In addition, Zahir “spent a year in a room that he called ‘a cage for animals.’ And in that room, he had to eat, sleep, exercise and shower all in the same place. Including elimination of waste.”

This reality has always been clear to some people within the US government. One of them is Mark Fallon, a retired 30-year federal investigator who, from 2002 to 2004, headed the Pentagon’s Criminal Investigation Task Force (CITF), established to investigate cases that would be brought before a military commission. In the early days, Fallon said it was clear to him and CITF that most of the people arriving at Guantánamo were not the super-villain terrorists portrayed by the US government.

Fallon said CITF concluded “an overwhelming majority” of detainees had no intelligence or investigative value and should be released, while JTF-GTMO argued for further detention. However, it was JTF-GTMO’s assessments that caught the White House’s ear, while voices like Fallon’s were marginalized.

Revenge Versus Rapport: Interrogation, Terrorism and Torture

The media has frequently reported that the so called enhanced interrogation techniques were developed in the wake of 9/11. More specifically that they were reverse- engineered by psychological consultants Mitchell and Jes- sen1 (contracted by the CIA) from the SERE program—a training program to enable captured military personnel to survive, evade, resist (interrogations), and escape if cap- tured (see United States Army & Marine Corps, n.d.). Mitchell’s logic (McCoy, 2014) for the use of such strate- gies appears to have been the theory of learned helplessness (Seligman, 1975). However, the origin of specific strategies is complex and varied and such methods can be found further back in history (see Rejali’s, 2007, comprehensive review, Torture and Democracy). Rejali gives a historically exhaustive account of the various methods used to degrade and dehumanize detainees, highlighting the evolution of so-called white torture—torture that leaves no marks. In his nonpareil account of torture, he demonstrates how ineffec- tive it has been throughout history as a means of securing information, and that “strategic talk about torture in the face of terrorism turns out to have a deep undercurrent of blood- lust” (p. 535) as well as longer term negative social, polit- ical, and cultural influences.

There were a number of individuals who attempted to hold the high ground in response to the push toward torture. Mark Fallon (2015)—former Naval Criminal Investigative Service deputy assistant director and DOD al Qaeda task force commander—has been particularly vocal: “Torture is illegal, immoral, ineffective, and inconsistent with Ameri- can values” (p. 1, paragraph 2). However, knowing that torture does not work is not enough to stop the notion that it is better than doing nothing. To do that, you must present an alternative option that does work. David Petraeus, former commander of forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, hinted at a solution when he stated after his experience of overseeing some of the world’s largest detention centers that the best way for an interrogator to extract information from a de- tainee is “to become his best friend” (Clark, 2014).

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American Psychologist

A Humanitarian Approach To Syria: Views From An Expert And An Immigrant

While Trump touted an altruistic response, career national security professional Mark Fallon said the president’s motivation may extend beyond humanitarianism, and end up creating more harm than good.

“I am fearful, based on a pattern of behavior that I’ve seen out of President Trump in the past, that this appears to be an emotional reaction…he wanted to feel good that he did something that got him applause,” said Fallon, a former senior executive in the Department of Homeland Security.

In addition, the U.S. decision to bomb Syria failed to take into account the potential aftermath of such an action. Fallon said rather than firing missiles, the U.S. should continue “trying to figure out what to do with refugees.”

He also questioned how many refugees we can expect other countries to accept.

“If we are supposed to be the global leader, [if] we are supposed to represent the mythical shining city on the hill, that we are expecting other nations to absorb some responsibility and some risk by accepting refugees…if we ourselves are deciding that we are not” is of concern, Fallon said.

“Thousands have been killed, children have been displaced,” Fallon said. “We are creating a global refugee crisis, what do you do with those people, 10 years from now, 20 years from now? Are you creating the very adversary you’re fearing, based on your actions?”

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CU Independent

CIA Documents Expose the Failed Torture Methods Used on Guantanamo’s Most Famous Detainee

Zubaydah is the first post-9/11 detainee to be waterboarded, and this is his first session. He coughs and vomits. The waterboarding lasts for over two hours, but he still insists he does not have any additional information beyond that which he already provided to the FBI. He is then put into the larger confinement box, where he spends the rest of the evening. The interrogation process resumes in the morning: more slapping, zero new information, and more time in the smaller box.

The records also highlight the methods of psychologist James Mitchell, a top architect of the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation program.” Though Mitchell had previously worked as an Air Force psychologist, the Senate “Torture Report” noted that he had no prior experience as an interrogator. Mitchell’s private contracting company had received over $80 million from the CIA by the time their contract was terminated in 2009. The contract was terminated because, as the CIA Inspector General put it, there was no reason to believe Mitchell’s interrogation techniques were effective or even safe.

AlterNet contacted interrogation expert Mark Fallon, an international security consultant who spent over 30 years as a special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and author of a new book detailing how the intelligence community enacted the torture program under the Bush administration. Fallon said prolonged sleep deprivation constitutes torture under the United Nations Convention Against Torture. Regarding its efficacy, Fallen stated that sleep deprivation “is counterproductive, if the aim is obtaining accurate and reliable information. The effects on a person’s cognitive capabilities is diminished and memory is corrupted.”

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Ex-detainees, Officials Say Torture Doesn’t Work

Former Guantanamo Bay detainees Mourad Benchellali and Nizar Sassi on Wednesday described their ordeals of ill-treatment and abuse at the facility as US President Donald Trump is asking for recommendations on whether torture works.
It was only a matter of weeks before Benchellali, a Frenchman detained first at Kandahar in Afghanistan, cracked and confessed to confess to being a member of the al-Qaida network.
The only problem, he said, was that it was a lie.
“Because I was afraid, because I hurt, and because I told myself, when this is all worked out, I’ll tell the truth.
But for now, better to tell them what they want to hear,” he said.

The words “concentration camp” flashed through Nizar Sassi’s mind when he found himself in a pile of naked men after being violated in front of a roomful of military physicians in Kandahar.Trump, who has pushed for tougher interrogation techniques, said he would consult with new Defence Secretary James Mattis and CIA director Mike Pompeo before authorizing any new policy.

Trump claimed he had asked top intelligence officials: “Does torture work? And the answer was ‘Yes, absolutely.'”
Even if it were, the answer is resoundingly negative, said Mark Fallon, who served as a U.S. counterterrorism investigator and tried to oppose the torture at Guantanamo when he learned about it during the administration of President George W. Bush.
“Torture is a very effective method to get somebody to say something you want them to say. It is not an effective method to get somebody to tell the truth or reliable information,” he said.
“Torture doesn’t work,” said Alberto Mora, the former General Counsel of the US Navy in the George W. Bush administration during 2001-2006.
“I’m afraid that (US) President (Donald) Trump has seen too many television shows and hasn’t spoken enough to interrogation professionals or military law enforcement professionals who understand that non-abusive relationship-based interrogation techniques are vastly more effective at producing truthful information faster than torture.”

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Sexual Violence: The US’s “Psychological” Weapon Against Terrorism

In the days following September 11, the United States was still reeling from the attacks on the World Trade Center. Almost everyone was terrified of another attack. In hopes of obtaining intelligence, the Bush administration developed methods of torture to “break” prisoners of the so-called war on terror. These men would be stripped of their humanity, beaten and waterboarded. Less well known is the fact that they were also systematically sexually humiliated and sexually assaulted.

The decision to use these techniques in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and other secret locations would forever change the face of the United States. It would open the door to the use of multiple forms of torture that would cause prisoners physical, psychological… and sexual trauma.

The Criminal Investigation Task Force (CITF) was created by the Department of Defense to investigate detainees in the War on Terror. Mark Fallon, the CITF’s deputy commander, was in Guantanamo to gather enough information on the detainees to try them.

Zero Impunity met with Fallon — 27 years as a NCIS Special Agent followed by 2 years as a senior executive in the Dept. of Homeland Security — on October 19, 2016. Fallon, a retiree with laughing eyes, is still haunted by the time he spent at Guantanamo. He was one of only a handful of high-ranking officials with whom Zero Impunity met. Zero Impunity also met with Alberto Mora, former General Counsel of the Navy, who also tried to sound the alarm, as well as Steven Kleinman, a career military intelligence officer at the Department of Defense, who was blacklisted after he criticized brutal interrogation methods in 2003. who tried to sound the alarm about what was happening in Guantanamo, to denounce these “shameful and deplorable” acts.

Fallon is known for his extensive experience as an interrogator while serving as a special agent. This man of austere appearance spent years blending into criminal networks, disguising himself at times as a drug dealer, an elephant poacher and an arms trafficker. Fallon began investigating Al Qaeda in the 1990s, so it was logical for the American authorities to call on him when they decided to set up an intelligence service on the prisoners detained in Guantanamo.

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Zero Impunity

Focal Point: Inside America’s dark prison

TRT World traveled to Guantanamo to find out whether President Trump’s plan to fill the controversial prison with “bad dudes” will help or harm the US so-called ‘war on terror’.

Mark was interviewed in this TRT World story on Guantanamo, along with other former US government officials and former Guantanamo detainee Nazir Stassi.

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TRT World

If Trump wants waterboarding, this could be why

Throughout his campaign and in the weeks following his victory, President-elect Donald Trump has made it clear that the question of whether America should torture suspected terrorists in its custody could – and should – be rekindled.

Upon taking the oath of office eight years ago, President Obama banned waterboarding as a form of torture. Mr. Trump has said repeatedly that he would like to bring it back, along with techniques that are “much stronger” and “so much worse.”

“Don’t tell me it doesn’t work – torture works,” Trump told the Sun City retirement community in South Carolina last February. “Believe me, it works. OK, folks?”

A 2014 ABC NEWS/Washington Post poll found that 58 percent say that torture of suspected terrorists is sometimes or often justified, and 19 percent say that it can be justified, albeit rarely. One fifth rule it out entirely.

“There was so much false and fabricated information coming out of these interrogations – though I hesitate to call them interrogations because it discredits professional interrogators – that we wasted time and resources, and the threat level kept going up and up because of fabricated information,” says Mark Fallon, an interrogator and former deputy assistant director for counterterrorism at the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

“People died in CIA custody – we killed people. Atrocities were committed,” Fallon says. “We need to talk about that.”

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Christian Science Monitor

Trump’s impending executive order heralds ‘dangerous’ return to torture, official warns

Senior advisors to the FBI-led team that interrogates terrorist suspects has blasted an impending executive order from Donald Trump as a dangerous and ignorant potential return to torture.

Opposition was quickly coalescing to an executive order the US president was expected to issue that would create a pathway to restoring the detention of terrorism suspects at facilities known as “black sites”, formally ending Barack Obama’s thwarted order to close the Guantánamo Bay wartime prison. This would also remove limitations on coercive interrogation techniques set by a longstanding army field manual intended to ensure humane military interrogations, which is mostly compliant with the Geneva Conventions.

Senator John McCain, a torture survivor and co-author of a 2015 law barring the security agencies from using interrogation techniques that surpass the prohibitions in the army field manual, pledged defiance over a return to torture.

Fallon, the former Guantánamo investigative official, said the call for surpassing the torture prohibitions was not coming from interrogators.  “It’s against what practitioners are calling for. What President Trump needs to recognize is that interrogations professionals are not looking for additional techniques, they’re looking for the science to aid existing techniques,” he said.

Hours after the supposed draft order leaked, representatives of the CIA and the Pentagon distanced themselves from the unfolding political fracas.

“At this time, the US army has not made any requests to review Army Field Manual 2-22.3,” a spokesman told the Guardian, using the formal designation for the interrogations field manual. Similarly, CIA sources leaked to Yahoo News that Pompeo was blindsided by the draft of the order.

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The Guardian

Trump claims torture works but experts warn of its “potentially existential” costs

Donald Trump has used his first TV interview as president to say he believes torture “absolutely” works and that the US should “fight fire with fire.”

Speaking to ABC News, Trump said he would defer to the defence secretary, James Mattis, and CIA director, Mike Pompeo, to determine what can and cannot be done legally to combat the spread of terrorism.

But asked about the efficacy of tactics such as waterboarding, Trump said: “absolutely I feel it works.”

Mark and Steven Kleinman, who succeeded Mark as the Chair of the High Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG) Research Committee warned against and weakening of the prohibitions against torture.