The United States government admitted on Monday that the torture of a Saudi man alleged to be part of the 9/11 plot was recorded on video, according to court documents procured by the Center for Constitutional Rights.
The tapes, allegedly showing the torture of Mohammed al Qahtani, 31, have long been kept under wraps, but a discovery motion for video of his interrogations led the court to acknowledge their existence and order their release.
“The videotapes the government is required to produce will reveal the time period at the end of three months of intensive solitary confinement and isolation that immediately preceded the implementation of the ‘First Special Interrogation Plan,’ a regime of systematic torture techniques approved by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for use against Mr. al Qahtani,” claimed a CCR media advisory.
Lawyers with the Center for Constitutional Rights have represented Qahtani since 2005. The accused 9/11 plotter has been a Guantanamo inmate since 2002.
According to Susan Crawford, convening authority at the Office of Military Commissions, “We tortured Qahtani.”
Crawford’s statements to The Washington Post in Jan. 2009 made her the first senior Bush administration official to publicly state that a detainee was tortured.
“His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case” for prosecution said Crawford.
She added that US military interrogators repeatedly subjected Qahtani to sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a “life-threatening condition.”
“The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent,” she said.
“This was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge” to call it torture.
“Military prosecutors said in November that they would seek to refile charges against Qahtani […] based on subsequent interrogations that did not employ harsh techniques,” noted The Washington Post. “But Crawford, who dismissed war crimes charges against him in May 2008, said in the interview that she would not allow the prosecution to go forward.
“After the intense scrutiny of the government’s torture and interrogation of Mr. al Qahtani, it is shocking that the government has hidden the existence of these tapes from the public for so many years,” said CCR Attorney Gitanjali S. Gutierrez. “The government’s interrogation of him has been the topic of multiple military, Justice Department and congressional investigations. These tapes should have been acknowledged long ago.”
“Mr. al Qahtani’s torture is already well-established, with a clear paper trail that leads all the way up the chain of command to the desk of Donald Rumsfeld,” said CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren. “The revelation of these tapes indicates the government carefully documented horrific evidence of torture and abuse at Guantánamo. The only question that remains is whether the people ultimately responsible for it will be held accountable for breaking the law and breaking faith with our system of justice.”
The judge’s order acknowledging the existence of the tapes and ordering their release may be read here (PDF link).