Report: Military used harsh methods on 9/11 terror suspect
Report: Military used harsh methods on 9-11 terror suspect
Posted on Tuesday, May 20, 2008 12:29 PM PT
By Jim Popkin, NBC News Senior Investigative Producer
A new report by the Justice Department Inspector General details many of the harsh and intentionally humiliating techniques that the U.S. military used against Mohammed Al-Qahtani, a Saudi detainee at the Guantanamo Bay military prison who many US officials believe was meant to be the 20th hijacker on September 11, 2001.
The 438-page IG report focuses on the FBI's involvement in detainee interrogations in Iraq and Afghanistan. But it also provides a window into the methods used by the Defense Department and the CIA on uncooperative detainees such as Al-Qahtani.
Quoting military records and reports, the Justice Department Inspector General said that a "special projects team" of the U.S. military interrogated Al-Qahtani between November 2002 and January 2003.
Their methods included:
--tying a dog leash to Al-Qahtani's chain, "walking him around the room and leading him through a series of dog tricks."
--"repeatedly pouring water on his head"
--"forced shaving for hygienic and psychological purposes"
--"stripping him naked in the presence of a female"
--"holding him down while a female interrogator straddled the detainee"
--"women's underwear placed over his head and bra placed over his clothing"
--"female interrogator massaging his back and neck region over his clothing"
--"describing his mother and sister to him as whores"
--"showing him pictures of scantily clothed women"
--"discussing his repressed homosexual tendencies in his presence"
--"male interrogator dancing with him"
--"telling him that people would tell other detainees that he got aroused when male guards searched him"
--"forced physical training"
--"instructing him to pray to idol shrine"
--"adjusting the air conditioning to make him uncomfortable"
The IG report notes that in December 2002, during this period of intense interrogation, Al-Qahtani was hospitalized "as a result of the DOD interrogations" for hypothermia or "low blood pressure along with low body core temperature." The IG writes that while FBI agents were aware that Al-Qahtani was being subjected to intense questioning by the military, "we have no evidence that the FBI or DOJ were aware that the specific techniques described above were used on Al-Qahtani" at that time.
Qahtani has often been referred to as the 20th hijacker because of evidence that he tried to enter the United States a few days before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and because he was in touch with the men who became the hijackers. Al-Qahtani flew to the Orlando airport from Europe in August 2001, but was barred from entry to the U.S. Investigators later determined that 9/11 ringleader Mohammad Atta had been waiting to pick him up at the airport. Qahtani was captured in Afghanistan in December 2001.
Just last week, the Pentagon official in charge of war crimes cases declined to permit a case against Al-Qahtani to proceed, dismissing charges against him. The official, Susan Crawford, whose title is Convening Authority, approved death penalty charges against five other detainees in the 2001 attacks, while declining to approve charges Al-Qahtani. Crawford provided no explanation.
Her decision said the charges against Mr. Qahtani were being dismissed “without prejudice.” Later, a spokesman for military prosecutors said the government could “reinitiate charges against him at any time.”
Qahtani's defense lawyers and officials familiar with the case have said it is unlikely that Qahtani will face new charges because he was subjected to such aggressive interrogation techniques. Many of the aggressive interrogation methods used on Al-Qahtani were previously disclosed in TIME, which obtained an 84-page secret interrogation log prepared by his U.S. military captors.