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Thread: "20th Hijacker" Claims That Torture Made Him Lie

  1. #1
    Partridge Guest

    "20th Hijacker" Claims That Torture Made Him Lie

    Exclusive: "20th Hijacker" Claims That Torture Made Him Lie

    Mohammad al-Qahtani, held in Guantanamo and touted by the U.S. as a major informant, is taking it all back, his lawyer says. PLUS: for the first time, publishes a secret, 84-page record of his interrogation

    Of the roughly 500 detainees held at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, none is more notorious than Mohammad al-Qahtani, the so-called "20th hijacker." Only weeks before 9/11, he tried to enter the U.S. illegally in Orlando, Fla., while the plot's leader, Mohammad Atta, waited to pick him up in the airport parking lot. As the Pentagon has said, "Had al-Qahtani succeeded in entering the U.S., it is believed he would have been on United Airlines Flight 93, the only hijacked aircraft that had four hijackers instead of five [and the one that ended up crashing in a Pennsylvania field instead of striking the White House, its widely believed intended target]."

    Last June, TIME published excerpts from a highly classified, 84-page log minutely detailing al-Qahtani's interrogation at Guantanamo. Now, as an increasing number of detainees mount legal challenges to their incarceration, TIME is making the record of al-Qahtani's treatment available to the public in its entirety (except for some names which have been redacted) for the first time. Back in June 2005, the Pentagon insisted that al-Qahtani had provided vital intelligence, focusing on key al-Qaeda leaders and some 30 fellow prisoners at Guantanamo whom he identified as Osama bin Laden's bodyguards.

    Now, in an eyewitness account of al-Qahtani at Guantanamo, his recently appointed American lawyer tells TIME that al-Qahtani has repudiated all of his previous statements — claiming they were extracted under brutal torture. And that repudiation is sure to fuel the growing number of challenges in American courts from the detainees at Guantanamo whom al-Qahtani fingered.

    For most of his confinement at Guantanamo, al-Qahtani, like other "enemy combatants," has been in legal limbo, never charged with a crime, unrepresented by legal counsel and without any recourse to U.S. courts. But a source has told TIME that last year his father in Saudi Arabia approached the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based nonprofit organization, which has provided al-Qahtani with a lawyer.

    That lawyer, Gitanjali S. Gutierrez, a CCR staff attorney, has already filed a challege in federal court, in the District of Columbia, to al-Qahtani's detention. She has also visited him twice at Guantanamo, first in December 2005 and again in January of this year. After spending more than 30 hours talking with him through an interpreter, she told TIME that al-Qahtani today appears to be a broken man, fearful and at times disoriented — someone who has "painfully described how he could not endure the months of isolation, torture and abuse, during which he was nearly killed, before making false statements to please his interrogators."

    When al-Qahtani got off his plane in Orlando in August 2001, he was refused entry to the U.S., deported, and captured in Afghanistan only a few months after 9/11 — as Osama bin Laden fled his mountain sanctuary at Tora Bora. Al-Qahtani was then brought to Guantanamo where, according to the Pentagon, he admitted that he had been sent to the U.S. by Khaled Sheik Mohammed, architect of the 9/11 attacks, and that he had met Osama bin Laden on several occasions. Al-Qahtani also confirmed that he had received terrorist instruction at two al-Qaeda training camps and met with numerous senior al-Qaeda leaders.

    But from the standpoint of cases currently under review in U.S. federal courts, al-Qahtani's most significant disclosure was informing on some 30 fellow Guantanamo prisoners. The Pentagon quickly used his statements about those prisoners before special military tribunals to justify their indefinite detention as "enemy combatants."

    Lawyers for detainees fingered by al-Qahtani strenuously object to that evidence. And a growing number are challenging the government, claiming that al-Qahtani's information was extracted under torture and is, therefore, unreliable and inadmissible in court.

    But in a major case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to be argued on March 22 — a case that many observers believe will ultimately end up in front of the Supreme Court — the government is expected to argue that the reliability of statements like al-Qahtani's should not even be considered.

    Instead, government lawyers will seek to apply the Detainee Treatment Act, a controversial December 2005 law sponsored by Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, that would preclude extensive court review of Guantanamo detentions. The Detainee Treatment Act says that " habeas corpus — the right of prisoners to have their detention legally justified to a U.S. court — does not apply to Guantanamo prisoners except on appeal. Detainee lawyers argue that the provision clashes with a 2001 Supreme Court ruling that opened the federal courts to any detainee held by the United States anywhere in the world.

    Questions surrounding the Detainee Treatment Act will also come before the Supreme Court on March 28, when lawyers for Salim Ahmad Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's alleged driver, challenge government attempts to put him on trial before a military commission. "The issue in this court case is critically important because if the government has its way, Guantanamo will be returned to a legal black hole," contends Eric M. Freedman, a professor of constitutional law at Hofstra University and legal consultant to detainees, though not al-Qahtani. "It would be an outrage if evidence being used to hold prisoners was extracted by unconscionable methods and that fact did not come to light in a court of law." For the Pentagon's part, a spokesperson told TIME that "it is longstanding Department of Defense policy to treat all detainees humanely." The painfully detailed interrogation log of al-Qahtani seems to make clear that at the very least that policy has not always been followed.

    Read the entire interrogation log

  2. #2
    Partridge Guest
    Guantanamo man tells of 'torture'

    A Kuwaiti man being held at Guantanamo Bay has told the BBC in a rare interview that the force-feeding of hunger strikers amounts to torture. Fawzi al-Odah said hunger strikers were strapped to a chair and force-fed through a tube three times a day.

    A senior US official denied the use of torture in Guantanamo Bay.

    Mr Odah's comments, relayed by his lawyer in answer to BBC questions, came as another inmate launched a legal challenge to the force-feeding policy.

    The case is being brought on behalf of Mohammed Bawazir, a Yemeni who has also been held there since 2002.

    The action is the first test for a new law explicitly outlawing torture of terrorism suspects, which President George W Bush signed in December.

    New testimony

    The BBC Today programme's Jon Manel submitted questions for Mr Odah to his lawyer, Tom Wilner, who has access to the camp.

    There was no opportunity for the BBC to challenge Mr Odah's responses.

    Mr Odah, who has been held at the base since 2002, was one of 84 inmates at Guantanamo who went on hunger strike in December. Just four are still refusing food. Speaking to the BBC, US state department official Colleen Graffey said all detainees were afforded regular status reviews and offered the opportunity to renounce violence.

    Through his lawyer, Mr Odah described his treatment during his hunger strike.

    "First they took my comfort items away from me. You know, my blanket, my towel, my long pants, then my shoes. I was put in isolation for 10 days.

    "They came in and read out an order. It said if you refuse to eat, we will put you on the chair [for force feeding]."

    He told how detainees were given "formulas" to force them to empty their bowels and were strapped to a metal chair three times a day, where a tube was inserted to administer food.

    "One guy, a Saudi, told me that he had once been tortured in Saudi Arabia and that this metal chair treatment was worse than any torture he had ever endured or could imagine," Mr Odah said.


    Mr Odah told the BBC that he felt like an old man despite being only 29.

    He described a regime where young military guards routinely beat detainees who caused problems. "If anything bad happens to the United States anywhere in the world, they immediately react to us and treat us badly, like animals," he said.

    "I'm always tired. I have pain in my kidneys. I have trouble breathing. I have pain in my heart and am short of breath. I have trouble urinating and having bowel movements.

    "Death in this situation is better than being alive and staying here without hope," Mr Odah added.

    The US has said it is holding Mr Odah because he is a dangerous "enemy combatant", who travelled through Afghanistan with the Taleban, fired AK-47 rifles while at an al-Qaeda training camp and fought against US and coalition forces.

    He dismissed the general allegations, branding them as "rubbish" and "absolutely untrue".

    However, he refused to elaborate, insisting he would only discuss the accusations against at a court hearing.

    New rules

    In Washington, lawyers for Mohammed Bawazir, who has now ended his hunger strike, said the force-feeding inflicted "unbearable pain" on detainees.

    The BBC's Justin Webb, in Washington, says the legal challenge may be a shot in the dark.

    Under the terms of the new law it is not even clear whether courts have the right to hear this case, he adds.

    The lawyers are arguing that the new anti-torture rules which Mr Bush signed in December outlaw this practice.

    The UN Human Rights Commission said recently that it regarded force-feeding at Guantanamo as a form of torture, a charge the US firmly has repeatedly denied.

    Bans cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of terror suspects
    Limits interrogation techniques to US Army standards
    CIA interrogators have same legal rights as military
    Proposed by US Republican Senator John McCain
    Initially opposed by White House

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaait a second. I thought Moussaoui was the "20th Hijacker"?
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  4. #4
    Partridge Guest
    and I thought it was Khalied Sheikh Mohammed!

    I guess it's like 'bin laden's righthand man'!

  5. #5
    Partridge Guest
    U.S. Cites Exception in Torture Ban
    McCain Law May Not Apply to Cuba Prison

    Bush administration lawyers, fighting a claim of torture by a Guantanamo Bay detainee, yesterday argued that the new law that bans cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees in U.S. custody does not apply to people held at the military prison.

    In federal court yesterday and in legal filings, Justice Department lawyers contended that a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, cannot use legislation drafted by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to challenge treatment that the detainee's lawyers described as "systematic torture."

    Government lawyers have argued that another portion of that same law, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, removes general access to U.S. courts for all Guantanamo Bay captives. Therefore, they said, Mohammed Bawazir, a Yemeni national held since May 2002, cannot claim protection under the anti-torture provisions.

    Bawazir's attorneys contend that "extremely painful" new tactics used by the government to force-feed him and end his hunger strike amount to torture.

    U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler said in a hearing yesterday that she found allegations of aggressive U.S. military tactics used to break the detainee hunger strike "extremely disturbing" and possibly against U.S. and international law. But Justice Department lawyers argued that even if the tactics were considered in violation of McCain's language, detainees at Guantanamo would have no recourse to challenge them in court.

    In Bawazir's case, the government claims that it had to forcefully intervene in a hunger strike that was causing his weight to drop dangerously. In January, officials strapped Bawazir into a special chair, put a larger tube than they had previously used through his nose and kept him restrained for nearly two hours at a time to make sure he did not purge the food he was being given, the government and Bawazir's attorneys said.

    Richard Murphy Jr., Bawazir's attorney, said his client gave in to the new techniques and began eating solid food days after the first use of the restraint chair. Murphy said the military deliberately made the process painful and embarrassing, noting that Bawazir soiled himself because of the approach.

    Kessler said getting to the root of the allegations is an "urgent matter."

    "These allegations . . . describe disgusting treatment, that if proven, is treatment that is cruel, profoundly disturbing and violative of" U.S. and foreign treaties banning torture, Kessler told the government's lawyers. She said she needs more information, but made clear she is considering banning the use of larger nasal-gastric tubes and the restraint chair.

    In court filings, the Justice Department lawyers argued that language in the law written by Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) gives Guantanamo Bay detainees access to the courts only to appeal their enemy combatant status determinations and convictions by military commissions.

    "Unfortunately, I think the government's right; it's a correct reading of the law," said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "The law says you can't torture detainees at Guantanamo, but it also says you can't enforce that law in the courts."

    Thomas Wilner, a lawyer representing several detainees at Guantanamo, agreed that the law cannot be enforced. "This is what Guantanamo was about to begin with, a place to keep detainees out of the U.S. precisely so they can say they can't go to court," Wilner said.

    A spokeswoman for McCain's office did not respond to questions yesterday.

    Murphy told the judge the military's claims that it switched tactics to protect Bawazir should not be believed. He noted that on Jan. 11 -- days after the new law passed -- the Defense Department made the identical health determination for about 20 other detainees, all of whom had been engaged in the hunger strike.

    Guantanamo Bay officials deny that the tactics constitute torture. They wrote in sworn statements that they are necessary efforts to ensure detainee health. Maj. Gen. Jay W. Hood, the facility's commander, wrote that Bawazir's claims of abuse are "patently false."

    "In short, he is a trained al Qaida terrorist, who has been taught to claim torture, abuse, and medical mistreatment if captured," Hood wrote. He added that Bawazir allegedly went to Afghanistan to train for jihad and ultimately fought with the Taliban against U.S. troops.

    Navy Capt. Stephen G. Hooker, who runs the prison's detention hospital, noted that the hunger strike began on Aug. 8, reached a peak of 131 participants on Sept. 11, and dropped to 84 on Christmas Day. After use of the restraint chair began, only five captives continued not eating.

    Hooker wrote that he suspected Bawazir was purging his food after feedings. Bawazir weighed 130 pounds in late 2002, according to Hooker, but 97 pounds on the day he was first strapped to the chair. As of Sunday, his weight was back to 137 pounds, the government said.

    Kessler noted with irritation that Hood and Hooker made largely general claims about the group of detainees on the hunger strike in defending the switch to the new force-feeding procedures used on Bawazir.

    "I know it's a sad day when a federal judge has to ask a DOJ attorney this, but I'm asking you -- why should I believe them?" Kessler asked Justice Department attorney Terry Henry.

    Henry said he would attempt to gather more information from the officials but said there was no legal basis for the court to intervene. Bawazir's weight is back to normal, his health is "robust" and he is no longer on a hunger strike, Henry said.

  6. #6
    Partridge Guest
    'War on terror' trials could allow evidence obtained through torture

    US military officers, breaking with domestic and international legal precedent, said that "war on terror" military tribunals at the Guantanamo naval base could allow evidence obtained through torture.

    The US military officer presiding over the trial of an alleged aide to Osama bin Laden said he was not ready to rule out such evidence.

    The officer, who wields power similar to a judge, was asked by the defense lawyer representing Ali Hamza Ahmad al-Bahlul, a Yemeni accused of plotting terror attacks for bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network, if he was ready to exclude all evidence secured through torture.

    After a long pause, Colonel Peter Brownback declined to commit to a blanket ban on evidence obtained as a result of torture.

    "What you and I mean by torture could be different," Brownback told defense lawyer Major Tom Fleener.

    He said "a red-hot needle in the eye" constitutes torture but was not ready to commit to a prohibition in advance of the trial. "My personal belief is that torture is not good," he added.

    But he said it would depend on the circumstances and how the prosecution presented the evidence.

    Bahlul's lawyer, who has the right to question the tribunal chief to verify his client will receive impartial treatment, said he asked the question because he alleged his client had been tortured while in detention.

    "I believe Mr al-Bahlul was tortured," Fleener said.

    He added that "it's going to be an issue" in the trial.

    Brownback did say that how evidence was obtained would be a factor in whether to admit such evidence and how to evaluate it.

    After the hearing, US officers confirmed that the rules written for the newly created military tribunals, or commissions, left the question open. The rules also allow for hearsay evidence and other exceptions to standard US and international legal norms.

    Asked about evidence secured through coercion, a spokeswoman for the military tribunals said the issue would be addressed by the officers presiding over each trial.

    "I can't speculate on what a presiding officer is going to do in any situation," Major Jane Boomer told a news conference.

    Defense lawyers, human rights groups and European governments have accused the United States of abusing and torturing detainees held at the "war on terror" prison at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba.

    Brownback's comments are sure to reinforce concerns about how the US government treats and prosecutes detainees held as part of the "war on terror."

    The US military has denied systematic torture has been employed and insisted that any isolated abuses have been punished.

    Of some 500 detainees held at Guantanamo for more than four years, Bahlul is one of 10 detainees formally charged by US military tribunals.

    Addressing the tribunal in a courteous, articulate manner, Bahlul said earlier he could not receive a fair trial if he was represented by a US citizen.

    Bahlul said the impact of the September 11 attacks, which he said had left a "deep psychological scar," meant that no US lawyer would be able to argue effectively on his behalf.

    It would be "impossible for the counsel to push aside his feelings as an American," said Bahlul, speaking through an interpreter.

    He renewed his request to be allowed to represent himself, though tribunal rules require that he accept a US lawyer, and asked for an attorney from his native country.

    He sought to clarify earlier comments that he was a member of Al-Qaeda, saying that he did not have anything to do with the attacks of September 11, 2001.

    "I had no connection to the events of September 11," he said.

    Prosecutors allege he served as a propaganda specialist and bodyguard for bin Laden in Afghanistan before he was captured in 2001 and transferred to the controversial US-run detention camp at the Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base in Cuba.

    The presiding officer rejected Bahlul's request, saying he could have a foreign citizen as a legal adviser but that the tribunal rules barred him from representing himself.

    After several hours, Bahlul chose not to return to the hearing following a recess.

    The presiding officer said he would not order Bahlul to be forcibly taken to the tribunal if he refused to attend the hearing when it resumed on Thursday.

    Fleener, the defense lawyer assigned to Bahlul, said it was "absurd" that Bahlul could not argue his own case. He cited US domestic and military law as well as the Nuremberg war crimes trials, which he said allowed for self-representation or for citizens of the same nationality to serve as defense lawyers.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Remember... dubya fought tooth and nail for his "exception" to the rules.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  8. #8
    EminemsRevenge Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Gold9472
    Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaait a second. I thought Moussaoui was the "20th Hijacker"?
    Wan't that motherfucker the fifth Beatle???

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