“Mental Torture” Used against Guantanamo Prisoners, Claims Detainees

Saturday, June 04, 2016
(photo: John Moore, Getty Images)

By Tim Ryan, Courthouse News Service


GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (CN) — The highest-security prison camp at Guantanamo Bay has nothing that could make the noises and vibrations described by an accused plotter of the 9/11 attacks, a former commander of the camp testified Friday.


Testifying anonymously, the commander who left Camp 7 in May insisted that Ramzi bin al Shibh has not faced an "eight-year-long conspiracy" of harassment.


The testimony contradicts statements by alleged al-Qaida member Hassan Guleed in support of bin al Shibh's claims.


Guleed, who has been held at Guantanamo since 2006 without charge, said he has experienced the same noises and vibrations in the camp bin al Shibh routinely reports.


"We have mental torturing in the Camp 7," Guleed said Thursday in the courtroom.


The commander who testified today said these reports prompted an investigation that in part involved him sitting in a cell near bin al Shibh's for 40 minutes.


Investigators found no basis to the reports.


Years of complaints about noises and vibrations led military judge Col. James Pohl to issue an order this past November that directed the camp to stop disturbing bin al Shibh.


Bin al Shibh has said the noises and vibrations continued, however, leading to two days of witness testimony during this week's pretrial proceedings.


While bin al Shibh described the noises as banging on his roof and the fence behind his cell, Guleed said it sounds like a person banging on the roof with a hammer.


The former camp commander addressed the military commission Friday morning through a video feed from Kansas. He said his camp had followed the judge's order and never harassed bin al Shibh with noises and vibrations.


"We are aware of the judge's order and we are not shaking or vibrating your cell," the former camp commander said when asked how he trained his guard force to interact with bin al Shibh.


This sometimes angered bin al Shibh, the commander added, saying the detainee once told guards he had their personal information and could find their families.


Some sounds that the investigation into bin al Shibh's allegations did uncover included the closing of heavy, metal doors and the sound of a generator the camp keeps in case the power goes out in the facility, the former camp commander said.


The commander also would not blame bin al Shibh's experiences on work performed by maintenance crews on the camp's roof and the air conditioning units that sit on it.


But he did say the work could have caused "walking" and "banging" on the roof.


The commander said his inspection of electrical closets and other facilities on the block of cells also turned up no explanation for the disturbances.


Bin al Shibh's civilian attorney Jim Harrington meanwhile pressed the witness on cross-examination to admit that he has no background in engineering, no experience with electrical systems, and no knowledge of advanced computer code.


The former commander also admitted he had been briefed before he arrived at the camp that bin al Shibh's complaints were not credible.


A report from the Senate Select Committee on Investigations found that bin al Shibh suffered some of the CIA's harshest torture techniques.


The commander told Harrington he had not read the report when he took the job.


He said he also never looked into the charges against bin al Shibh and the four other men who stand accused of plotting the 9/11 terrorist attacks.


Harrington seemed to have learned a lesson from the harsh cross-examination of Guleed, as some of his questions mirrored those that contributed to yesterday's postponement of planned testimony from Abu Zubaydah, an alleged al-Qaida member who has not been seen in 14 years, despite the lack of charges against him.


During cross-examination Thursday, Ed Ryan, trial counsel for the government, asked Guleed if he was a member of al-Qaida and if America was his enemy.


After Guleed answered no to both questions, Ryan asked if Guleed's "version of Islamic law" allows him to lie to infidels.


Guleed told him it "depends."


Harrington hit the former camp commander with similar questions during his lengthy cross examination Friday.


"Major, do you consider Mr. bin al Shibh to be your enemy?" Harrington asked.


The former camp commander answered that he considers him "a detainee."


The former camp commander's video testimony was delayed for roughly an hour Friday morning after Harrington was late submitting forms he intended to use during his cross-examination for a security review.


Harrington said he planned to use the forms to refresh the former camp commander's memory, but never used them in the public portion of the testimony even though they were approved during an unscheduled break in court.


The testimony was scheduled to continue Friday afternoon in a hearing closed to the public to allow for the discussion of classified information.


The former camp commander declined to answer several questions during Friday morning's public hearing, saying he would be able to elaborate more in the closed session.


Bin al Shibh and the four other men who stand accused of plotting the 9/11 terrorist attacks face the death penalty if convicted before a military commission. Friday marked the end of a week of pretrial proceedings in their case, which is scheduled to pick back up in July.


To Learn More:

Former British Agent Claims UK Spy Agency Knew of Guantanamo Inmate Torture (Reuters)

Current Guantánamo Prisoner Publishes Book about his Experiences (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Federal Court Blocks Release of Possible Torture Video (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Guantánamo Military Lawyer Resigns; Talks of “Show Trial” Tainted by Torture (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

American Psychological Association Refuses to Charge Member Who Committed Torture at Guantánamo (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)

U.S. Used Sesame Street Music to Torture Guantánamo Prisoners (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

Is It Finally Time to Punish Pro-Torture Judge and Doctors? (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

Guantánamo Judge Confirms Use of Torture (AllGov)


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