Inside the CIA's Notorious "Black Sites"

Discussion in 'Politics & Religion' started by TorontoTrader2, Dec 17, 2007.

  1. Why do they hate our freedoms?

    And how does this differ from a communist or nazi death camp?

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    Inside the CIA's Notorious "Black Sites"

    A Yemeni man never charged by the U.S. details 19 months of brutality and psychological torture -- the first in-depth, first-person account from inside the secret U.S. prisons. A Salon exclusive.

    By Mark Benjamin

    12/16/07 "Salon" --- - The CIA held Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah in several different cells when he was incarcerated in its network of secret prisons known as "black sites." But the small cells were all pretty similar, maybe 7 feet wide and 10 feet long. He was sometimes naked, and sometimes handcuffed for weeks at a time. In one cell his ankle was chained to a bolt in the floor. There was a small toilet. In another cell there was just a bucket. Video cameras recorded his every move. The lights always stayed on -- there was no day or night. A speaker blasted him with continuous white noise, or rap music, 24 hours a day.

    The guards wore black masks and black clothes. They would not utter a word as they extracted Bashmilah from his cell for interrogation -- one of his few interactions with other human beings during his entire 19 months of imprisonment. Nobody told him where he was, or if he would ever be freed.

    It was enough to drive anyone crazy. Bashmilah finally tried to slash his wrists with a small piece of metal, smearing the words "I am innocent" in blood on the walls of his cell. But the CIA patched him up.

    So Bashmilah stopped eating. But after his weight dropped to 90 pounds, he was dragged into an interrogation room, where they rammed a tube down his nose and into his stomach. Liquid was pumped in. The CIA would not let him die.

    On several occasions, when Bashmilah's state of mind deteriorated dangerously, the CIA also did something else: They placed him in the care of mental health professionals. Bashmilah believes these were trained psychologists or psychiatrists. "What they were trying to do was to give me a sort of uplifting and to assure me," Bashmilah said in a telephone interview, through an interpreter, speaking from his home country of Yemen. "One of the things they told me to do was to allow myself to cry, and to breathe."

    Last June, Salon reported on the CIA's use of psychologists to aid with the interrogation of terrorist suspects. But the role of mental health professionals working at CIA black sites is a previously unknown twist in the chilling, Kafkaesque story of the agency's secret overseas prisons.

    Little about the conditions of Bashmilah's incarceration has been made public until now. His detailed descriptions in an interview with Salon, and in newly filed court documents, provide the first in-depth, first-person account of captivity inside a CIA black site. Human rights advocates and lawyers have painstakingly pieced together his case, using Bashmilah's descriptions of his cells and his captors, and documents from the governments of Jordan and Yemen and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to verify his testimony. Flight records detailing the movement of CIA aircraft also confirm Bashmilah's account, tracing his path from the Middle East to Afghanistan and back again while in U.S. custody.

    Bashmilah's story also appears to show in clear terms that he was an innocent man. After 19 months of imprisonment and torment at the hands of the CIA, the agency released him with no explanation, just as he had been imprisoned in the first place. He faced no terrorism charges. He was given no lawyer. He saw no judge. He was simply released, his life shattered.

    "This really shows the human impact of this program and that lives are ruined by the CIA rendition program," said Margaret Satterthwaite, an attorney for Bashmilah and a professor at the New York University School of Law. "It is about psychological torture and the experience of being disappeared."

    Bashmilah, who at age 39 is now physically a free man, still suffers the mental consequences of prolonged detention and abuse. He is undergoing treatment for the damage done to him at the hands of the U.S. government. On Friday, Bashmilah laid out his story in a declaration to a U.S. district court as part of a civil suit brought by the ACLU against Jeppesen Dataplan Inc., a subsidiary of Boeing accused of facilitating secret CIA rendition flights.

    Bashmilah said in the phone interview that the psychological anguish inside a CIA black site is exacerbated by the unfathomable unknowns for the prisoners. While he figured out that he was being held by Americans, Bashmilah did not know for sure why, where he was, or whether he would ever see his family again. He said, "Every time I realize that there may be others who are still there where I suffered, I feel the same thing for those innocent people who just fell in a crack."

    It may seem bizarre for the agency to provide counseling to a prisoner while simultaneously cracking him mentally -- as if revealing a humanitarian aspect to a program otherwise calibrated to exploit systematic psychological abuse. But it could also be that mental healthcare professionals were enlisted to help bring back from the edge prisoners who seemed precariously damaged, whose frayed minds were no longer as pliable for interrogation. "My understanding is that the purpose of having psychiatrists there is that if the prisoner feels better, then he would be able to talk more to the interrogators," said Bashmilah.

    Realistically, psychiatrists in such a setting could do little about the prisoners' deeper suffering at the hands of the CIA. "They really had no authority to address these issues," Bashmilah said about his mental anguish. He said the doctors told him to "hope that one day you will prove your innocence or that you will one day return to your family." The psychiatrists also gave him some pills, likely tranquilizers. They analyzed his dreams. But there wasn't much else they could do. "They also gave me a Rubik's Cube so I could pass the time, and some jigsaw puzzles," Bashmilah recalled.
     
  2. The nightmare started for him back in fall 2003. Bashmilah had traveled to Jordan from Indonesia, where he was living with his wife and working in the clothing business. He and his wife went to Jordan to meet Bashmilah's mother, who had also traveled there. The family hoped to arrange for heart surgery for Bashmilah's mother at a hospital in Amman. But before leaving Indonesia, Bashmilah had lost his passport and had received a replacement. Upon arrival in Jordan, Jordanian officials questioned his lack of stamps in the new one, and they grew suspicious when Bashmilah admitted he had visited Afghanistan in 2000. Bashmilah was taken into custody by Jordanian authorities on Oct. 21, 2003. He would not reappear again until he stepped out of a CIA plane in Yemen on May 5, 2005.

    Bashmilah's apparent innocence was clearly lost on officials with Jordan's General Intelligence Department. After his arrest, the Jordanians brutally beat him, peppering him with questions about al-Qaida. He was forced to jog around in a yard until he collapsed. Officers hung him upside down with a leather strap and his hands tied. They beat the soles of his feet and his sides. They threatened to electrocute him with wires. The told him they would rape his wife and mother.

    It was too much. Bashmilah signed a confession multiple pages long, but he was disoriented and afraid even to read it. "I felt sure it included things I did not say," he wrote in his declaration to the court delivered Friday. "I was willing to sign a hundred sheets so long as they would end the interrogation."

    Bashmilah was turned over to the CIA in the early morning hours of Oct. 26, 2003. Jordanian officials delivered him to a "tall, heavy-set, balding white man wearing civilian clothes and dark sunglasses with small round lenses," he wrote in his declaration. He had no idea who his new captors were, or that he was about to begin 19 months of hell, in the custody of the U.S. government. And while he was seldom beaten physically while in U.S. custody, he describes a regime of imprisonment designed to inflict extreme psychological anguish.

    I asked Bashmilah which was worse: the physical beatings at the hands of the Jordanians, or the psychological abuse he faced from the CIA. "I consider that psychological torture I endured was worse than the physical torture," he responded. He called his imprisonment by the CIA "almost like being inside a tomb."

    "Whenever I saw a fly in my cell, I was filled with joy," he said. "Although I would wish for it to slip from under the door so it would not be imprisoned itself."

    After a short car ride to a building at the airport, Bashmilah's clothes were cut off by black-clad, masked guards wearing surgical gloves. He was beaten. One guard stuck his finger in Bashmilah's anus. He was dressed in a diaper, blue shirt and pants. Blindfolded and wearing earmuffs, he was then chained and hooded and strapped to a gurney in an airplane.

    Flight records show Bashmilah was flown to Kabul. (Records show the plane originally departed from Washington, before first stopping in Prague and Bucharest.) After landing, he was forced to lie down in a bumpy jeep for 15 minutes and led into a building. The blindfold was removed, and Bashmilah was examined by an American doctor.

    He was then placed in a windowless, freezing-cold cell, roughly 6.5 feet by 10 feet. There was a foam mattress, one blanket, and a bucket for a toilet that was emptied once a day. A bare light bulb stayed on constantly. A camera was mounted above a solid metal door. For the first month, loud rap and Arabic music was piped into his cell, 24 hours a day, through a hole opposite the door. His leg shackles were chained to the wall. The guards would not let him sleep, forcing Bashmilah to raise his hand every half hour to prove he was still awake.

    Cells were lined up next to each other with spaces in between. Higher above the low ceilings of the cells appeared to be another ceiling, as if the prison were inside an airplane hanger.

    After three months the routine became unbearable. Bashmilah unsuccessfully tried to hang himself with his blanket and slashed his wrists. He slammed his head against the wall in an effort to lose consciousness. He was held in three separate but similar cells during his detention in Kabul. At one point, the cell across from him was being used for interrogations. "While I myself was not beaten in the torture and interrogation room, after a while I began to hear the screams of detainees being tortured there," he wrote.

    While he was not beaten, Bashmilah was frequently interrogated. "During the entire period of my detention there, I was held in solitary confinement and saw no one other than my guards, interrogators and other prison personnel," he wrote in his declaration. One interrogator accused him of being involved in sending letters to a contact in England, though Bashmilah says he doesn't know anybody in that country. At other times he was shown pictures of people he also says he did not know.

    "This is a form of torture," he told me. "Especially when the person subjected to this has not done anything."

    In his declaration, Bashmilah made it clear that most of the prison officials spoke English with American accents. "The interrogators also frequently referred to reports coming from Washington," he wrote.

    After six months he was transferred, with no warning or explanation. On or around April 24, 2004, Bashmilah was pulled from his cell and placed in an interrogation room, where he was stripped naked. An American doctor with a disfigured hand examined him, jotting down distinctive marks on a paper diagram of the human body. Black-masked guards again put him in a diaper, cotton pants and shirt. He was blindfolded, shackled, hooded, forced to wear headphones, and stacked, lying down, in a jeep with other detainees. Then he remembers being forced up steps into a waiting airplane for a flight that lasted several hours, followed by several hours on the floor of a helicopter.

    Upon landing, he was forced into a vehicle for a short ride. Then, Bashmilah took several steps into another secret prison -- location unknown.

    He was forced into a room and stripped naked again. Photos were taken of all sides of his body. He was surrounded by about 15 people. "All of them except for the person taking photographs were dressed in the kind of black masks that robbers wear to hide their faces," Bashmilah wrote in the declaration.

    He was again examined by a doctor, who took notations on the diagram of the human body. (It was the same form from Afghanistan. Bashmilah saw his vaccination scar marked on the diagram.) The doctor looked in his eyes, ears, nose and throat.

    He was then thrown into a cold cell, left naked.

    It was another tiny cell, new or refurbished with a stainless steel sink and toilet. Until clothes arrived several days later, Bashmilah huddled in a blanket. In this cell there were two video cameras, one mounted above the door and the other in a wall. Also above the door was a speaker. White noise, like static, was pumped in constantly, day and night. He spent the first month in handcuffs. In this cell his ankle was attached to a 110-link chain attached to a bolt on the floor.

    The door had a small opening in the bottom through which food would appear: boiled rice, sliced meat and bread, triangles of cheese, boiled potato, slices of tomato and olives, served on a plastic plate.

    Guards wore black pants with pockets, long-sleeved black shirts, rubber gloves or black gloves, and masks that covered the head and neck. The masks had tinted yellow plastic over the eyes. "I never heard the guards speak to each other and they never spoke to me," Bashmilah wrote in his declaration.

    He was interrogated more. Bashmilah recalls an interrogator showing him a lecture by an Islamic scholar playing on a laptop. The interrogator wanted to know if Bashmilah knew who the man was, but he did not. It was in this facility that Bashmilah slashed his wrists, then went on his hunger strike, only to be force-fed through a tube forced down his nose.

    The CIA seems to have figured out that Bashmilah was not an al-Qaida operative sometime around September 2004, when he was moved to another, similar cell. But there was no more white noise. And while his ankles were shackled, he wasn't bolted to the floor with a chain. He was allowed to shower once a week. He was no longer interrogated and was mostly left alone.

    Bashmilah was given a list of books he could read. About a month before he was released, he was given access to an exercise hall for 15 minutes a week. And he saw mental healthcare professionals. "The psychiatrists asked me to talk about why I was so despairing, interpreted my dreams, asked me how I was sleeping and whether I had an appetite, and offered medications such as tranquilizers."

    On May 5, 2005, Bashmilah was cuffed, hooded and put on a plane to Yemen. Yemeni government documents say the flight lasted six or seven hours and confirm that he was transferred from the control of the U.S. government. He soon learned that his father had died in the fall of 2004, not knowing where his son had disappeared to, or even if he was alive.

    At the end of my interview with Bashmilah, I asked him if there was anything in particular he wanted people to know. "I would like for the American people to know that Islam is not an enemy to other nations," he said. "The American people should have a voice for holding accountable people who have hurt innocent people," he added. "And when there is a transgression against the American people, it should not be addressed by another transgression."

    -- By Mark Benjamin
     
  3. We don;t torture, we're a good godly christian nation! Our god approves of this!

    just following orders!

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    Former US interrogator recounts torture cases

    By Juan Cole

    12/16/07 "ICH' -- -- The USG Open Source Center translates an interview in the Spanish newspaper El Mundo with Damien Corsetti, a former private in the US army who served as an interrogator and was charged with crimes. He says he witnessed torture but did not commit it himself. He also says that most of the individuals he interrogated had nothing to do with al-Qaeda or the Taliban. Many of the practices Corsetti says he witnessed are already illegal. Others would be banned by a new bill passed by the House of Representatives, which George W. Bush has threatened to veto. The bill would place the Central Intelligence Agency under the same rules as obtain for the US military and would disallow waterboarding, mock executions, and sexual humiliation. I repeat, Bush has pledged to veto this legislation.

    'Former US interrogator recounts torture cases in Afghanistan and Iraq
    El Mundo (Internet Version-WWW)
    Monday, December 10, 2007 . . .
    Document Type: OSC Translated Text . .

    Former US interrogator recounts torture cases in Afghanistan and Iraq

    Discharged US army private Damien Corsetti has described the "morally unacceptable" cases of physical and psychological torture he says he witnessed as an interrogator at the prisons of Bagram in Afghanistan and Abu-Ghurayb in Iraq. Speaking in an interview with a Spanish paper, he said the vast majority of the individuals he questioned in the course of his duties "had nothing to do with either the Taleban or Al-Qa'idah" and that while he never took part in acts of abuse, many were tortured "to make them suffer, not to get information out of them". The following is the text of the report on the interview with Corsetti published by the Spanish popular liberal newspaper El Mundo website on 10 December; subheading as published:

    Fairfax (Virginia): Damien Corsetti looks at me with his small eyes and says: "Look, they leave us alone in this room, they give me a roll of duct tape to tie you to the chair, I turn off the light and in five hours you sign a piece of paper for me saying that you're Usamah Bin-Ladin".

    It is a Thursday night. Damien Corsetti - who, according to The New York Times was nicknamed "The King of Torture" and "The Monster" by his colleagues at Bagram prison, in Afghanistan - is sitting down having a glass of wine in a French restaurant in Fairfax, on the outskirts of Washington. Four days ago, this US private arrived on the outskirts of Washington from North Carolina, where he had been living since September 2006, when he was discharged from the army following a trial in which he was found not guilty of the charges of dereliction of duty, maltreatment, assault and performing indecent acts with prisoners at Bagram.

    Now, Corsetti - who was also under investigation in the Abu-Ghurayb torture case - only wants to put his life "in order". It is a difficult task. Because first he will have to forget the torture to which he says he was a witness in Afghanistan of prisoners such as Al-Qa'idah leader Omar al-Faruq. "The cries, the smells, the sounds are with me. They are things that stay with you forever", he recalls.

    Corsetti arrived in Afghanistan on 29 July 2002. He was a military intelligence soldier, not an interrogator. "But the army needed reliable interrogators, because most interrogators do not meet security requirements. They are not reliable. So we arrived there". A five-hour course in Afghanistan and, at 22, Corsetti began trying to extract information from the prisoners in the jail - prisoners who, in his opinion, "in 98 per cent of cases had nothing to do with either the Taleban or Al-Qa'idah".

    That is how Corsetti found himself interrogating prisoners at the jail. Many of them were people who had nothing to do with (George W.) Bush's war on terror, like his first prisoner, whose name he still remembers: Khan Zara. "He was a peasant and grew opium. But he was there three months until he told us. Do you know how I found out. Because of his hands. His hands were full of calluses. Those are not the hands of a terrorist".

    Other prisoners include a farmer who had put mines on his land to kill his neighbour, with who he had a long-standing family dispute, and an Afghan who had bombs in his house to fish in the river. They were people like Dilawar, a taxi driver detained in 2002 who had nothing to do with the Taleban and who died after four days of beatings from US soldiers.

    Because Bagram is a very tough prison. "Each prisoner has in his cell a carpet measuring 1.2 m by 2.5 m. And they spend 23 hours a day sat on it, in silence. If they speak, they are chained to the ceiling for 20 minutes and black visors are put on them so they can't see and protectors are put on their ears so they can't hear. They are taken down to the basement once a week, in groups of five or six, to shower them. It's done to drive them crazy. I almost went crazy", recalls Corsetti. Apart from those normal cells, in the basement of the prison there are six isolation cells, plus two rooms for who the former soldier describes as "special guests".

    But Bagram has an underworld in which the CIA tortures the leaders of Al-Qa'idah. "One day I went to an interrogation session and as soon as I arrived I knew that it was not a normal case. There were civilians, among them a doctor and a psychiatrist. The prisoner was called Omar al-Faruq, an Al-Qa'idah leader in Asia who had been brought to the prison by one of those agencies", recalls Corsetti. "I don't want to go into details because it could be very negative for my country, but he was brutally beaten - daily. And tortured by other methods. He was a bad man, but he didn't deserve that". Al-Faruq escaped from Bagram in action which, according to some, was tolerated by the USA and was killed in April 2006 by the British in the Iraqi city of Basra.

    Corsetti says that he never took part in the torture. "My sole job was to sit there and make sure the prisoner didn't die. But there were several times when I thought they were about to die, when they were interrogated by those people who have no name and who work for no-one in particular. It's incredible what a human being can take". A resistance similar to that of the memory of those torture sessions. Because Corsetti, a veteran of two wars, says: "I have seen people die in combat. I shot at people. That is not as bad as seeing someone tortured. Al-Faruq looked at me while they tortured him and I have that look in my head. And the cries, the smells, the sounds, they are with me all the time. It is something I can't take in. The cries of the prisoners calling for their relatives, their mother. I remember one who called for God, for Allah, all the time. I have those cries here, inside my head".
     
  4. In Abu-Ghurayb and Bagram they were tortured to make them suffer, not to get information out of them". And the fact is that at times the torture had no other goal that "to punish them for being terrorists. They tortured them and didn't ask them anything". That is the case of the practice known as "the submarine": to simulate the drowning of the prisoner. "They have them hooded and they pour water on them. That makes it very difficult to breath. I think you can't die with the submarine. I certainly never saw anyone die. However, they do cough like crazy because they are totally submerged in water and that gets on their lungs. Perhaps what it can give you is serious pneumonia". The civilians who took part in the interrogations used the submarine whenever they wanted. They gave it to them for five or 10 minutes and didn't ask anything".

    Other torture included using extreme cold and heat. "I remember one of my prisoners trembling with cold. His teeth wouldn't stop chattering. I put a blanket on him and then another, and another, and his teeth never stopped chattering, never stopped. You could see that man was going to die of hypothermia. But the doctors are there so that they don't die, so as to be able to torture them one more day". At other times, "they put them under blinding lights that worked mechanically, giving out flashes".

    "They are going to kill your children"

    An important subject was that of psychological torture, administered by psychiatrists. "They tell them they are going to kill their children, rape their wives. And you see on their faces, in their eyes, the terror that that causes them. Because, of course, we know all about those people. We know the names of their children, where they live - we show them satellite photos of their houses. It is worse than any torture. That is not morally acceptable under any circumstances. Not even with the worst terrorist in the world", says Corsetti, before adding: "Sometimes, we put one of our women (female US military personnel) in burqas and we made them walk through the interrogation rooms and we told them: 'That is your wife'. And the prisoner believed it. Why wouldn't they! We had those people going without sleep for a whole week. After two or three days with no sleep, you believe anything. In fact, it was a problem. The interpreters couldn't understand what they were saying. The prisoners were having hallucinations. Because, of course, this is not like if you or me go three days without sleep when we're partying. I've gone five days without sleep when I've been partying. But this is different. You're in a cell where they let you sleep only a quarter of an hour every now and then. With no contact with the outside world. Without seeing sunlight. Like that, a days seems like a week. Your mental capacity is destroyed".

    In the opinion of Corsetti, the only thing his experience as an interrogator taught him "is that torture doesn't work. One thing is losing your temper and punching a prisoner, another is to commit these acts of brutality. In Bagram we managed to find out about an Al-Qa'idah plan to blow up dozens of oil tankers across the world. We smashed the plot so well that they only managed to attack one, the French oil tanker Limburgh, in Yemen in October 2002. And we managed to get a guy to tell us without laying a finger on him".

    (Description of Source: Madrid El Mundo (Internet Version-WWW) in Spanish -- independent national daily)
     
  5. Hey TT2, aside from your civil liberties being trampled on a daily basis by The Man i.e. having vans and minidrones following you everywhere you go and you being picked up by the domestic arm of Blackwater and waterboarded because you're an idiot, is there anything you like about living in the West? Or is Toronto just a great big communist or nazi death camp, a cesspool of capitalist oppression that will, someday, be brought into the warm healing embrace of the coming Caliphate?
     
  6. I only read your first post. Too long man. Only stupid people would believe those guys are in there cause they are terrorists. They are only lab rats, this whole guantanamo project is similar to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MK-ULTRA
    don't worry, guantanamo is america in the future.