Guantánamo Judge Confirms Use of Torture

Thursday, January 15, 2009
Susan J. Crawford

Susan J. Crawford, Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ pick for convening authority of military commissions, has become the first senior Bush official to refer to the treatment of a Guantánamo prisoner as torture. Mohammed al-Qahtani of Saudi Arabia was denied entry to the U.S. one month before the September 11th attacks, allegedly on his way to meet the plot’s leader Mohamed Atta. While in U.S. custody, he was subjected to nearly 50 consecutive days of 18-hour interrogations, and was hospitalized twice for bradycardia, a condition involving a life-threateningly low heart rate of fewer than 60 beats per minute. Crawford, a Republican who considers Qahtani “a very dangerous man,” commented, “The techniques they used were all authorized [by then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld], but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent. . . . You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for….It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge,” and to refer to it as torture. Crawford has yet to express an opinion on the legality of waterboarding, which CIA director Michael Hayden admitted was used in the interrogation of plot mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. Although the Rumsfeld-authored Military Commissions Act permits “coercive” testimony in the military tribunal, Crawford believes that only interrogation evidence taken from FBI “clean teams” (interrogators not privy to confessions made under duress, and that, themselves, used legal methods) should be used. Qahtani has since recanted his confession and is pleading innocent.



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