“I think on the left wing of the Democratic party, there are some people who believe that we really tortured”
Dick Cheney, January 2009
Since November, this site has been republishing the interrogation log of Mohammed Al-Qahtani, Guantanamo Bay’s Detainee 063. Today, January the 11th, it reached the end of the log.
The log is not, however, a full account of Al-Qahtani’s time at Guantanamo. The camp remains open, and Al-Qahtani continues to be held there – the last entry of the log is not the end. And the first entry is not the beginning.
“#63’s behavior has changed significantly”
On 23 November 2002 at 02:25, when Al-Qahtani was being bolted to the floor in his interrogation booth at Camp X-Ray, he had been in American custody for almost a year. In December 2001 he was captured in Afghanistan; in July 2002, after his fingerprints linked him to a pre 9-11 attempt to enter the US, he was marked as a prospect for more aggressive interrogation.
If we want some detail of the months between that and the beginning of the log, there is this, from a draft interrogation plan for Detainee 063, dated 22 November 2002:
#63’s behavior has changed significantly during his three months of isolation. He spends much of his day covered by a sheet, either crouched in the comer of his cell or hunched on his knees on top of his bed… His cell has no exterior windows, and because it is continuously lit, he is prevented from orientating himself as to time of day. Recently, he was observed by a hidden video camera having conversations with non-existent people.
A report by an FBI agent describes seeing in either “September or October … a canine … used in an aggressive manner to intimidate detainee __ after he had been subjected to intense isolation for over three months.” According to this report:
By late November, the detainee was evidencing behavior consistent with extreme psychological trauma (talking to non-existent people, reporting hearing voices, crouching in the corner of a cell covered with a sheet for hours on end).
And the draft interrogation plan records that Detainee 063 “reported hearing unusual sounds which he believes are evil spirits, including Satan.” The authors of the plan leave open the possibility that he may be feigning the hallucinations but don’t doubt that Al-Qahtani is “hungry for human interaction”.
(For more information on the draft plan and FBI report, and links to the documents themselves, see this Stephen Soldz article.)
“The detainee bent over and bit the IV tube completely in two.”
In a cell clinging to his blanket, the lights always on, with no windows or way to know the time, having been denied human contact for months, at the tail end of his senses, secretly observed talking to people who aren’t there: this is the state of Al-Qahtani when his hood is removed in the interrogation booth on November 23.
This is his state before the log begins, before it records: Detainee states he’s on hunger strike, asks to pray and is refused, The Detainee began to cry, agreed to drink water in return for being allowed to pray, Medical personnel checked vital signs.
Before Detainee was informed that we would not let him die, wrap was put on detainee’s feet to combat the swelling, The detainee bent over and bit the IV tube completely in two, (SGT R) is such a kind-hearted guy, he’ll let detainee sit down, but detainee will stand again if he falls asleep, Detainee was on the verge of breaking, his feet have swollen due to excess fluid, Detainee goes to bathroom and is walked around to stay awake, introduced detainee to the victims of 9/11, Detainee’s feet appear more swollen than yesterday, Control said “Have you earned prayer? I know you have a lot to ask forgiveness for, but I already told you that you have to earn it.”
These all so far from the first week of the log, and still before “My shame causes me to look at the floor” was written on the floor in the interrogation booth, Detainee replied “I don’t know” when asked the question “What is a normal life?”, approaches employed were Pride and Ego down, Fear Up Harsh, and Invasion of Space by a Female, told that we would not allow him to die, He said that he would like to marry someday, Tried to stand him up to keep him awake but was unable to stay awake, “invasion of personal space” approach, “futility” and “pride and ego down” approaches and Lead taped picture of 3 year old victim over detainees heart and Lead compares Pearl Harbor to 9-11, asks detainee how bad he thinks the sessions will get and I was forehead to forehead with the detainee and he stated that he would rather be beaten with an electrical wire than to have me constantly in his personal space. Also, he stated that he would rather die at my hands than to be subjected to my invasion of his personal space. He stated that this is unbearable to him, my being in his personal space and Rules included “drink water or wear it” and on for the rest of the fifty days of the log, for all the twenty–hour days, for the untired interrogators in shifts, for all the accumulated small pressures pushing together against a man’s mind, a mind that had already clung to a blanket and hungered for human contact and imagined voices.
Al-Qahtani, Detainee 063, suffered this accumulation, the combined effect of small brutalities that Donald Rumsfeld failed to imagine when he authorised a list of seemingly innocuous interrogation techniques (including “mild, non-injurious physical contact”), signed it flippantly “However, I stand for 8–10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?”
You may still want to check the reading list, and if you want to contact me please do: email@example.com. The site will remain up, and if the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay remains open this coming November as it seems likely it will, the site will again republish the log in real time.