Rubber Band Nears its Breaking Point

91 pages of emails and documents produced through a FOIA request have shed new light on the treatment of two American citizens and a legal U.S. resident in military jails within the United States. The documents show that the men were treated the same way as prisoners at Guantanamo Bay: interrogated by the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency, repeatedly denied access to attorneys and mail from home, allowed no outside contact, deprived of natural light for months. Yaser Esam Hamdi, Jose Padilla, and Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri were designated as by the White House as “illegal enemy combatants,” and ordered to be held in military jails for years of interrogations without criminal charges, which would not have been allowed in civilian jails. In the documents, it’s striking that uniformed officers at the military jails grew increasingly uncomfortable and alarmed by orders to treat prisoners inhumanely. Here, “an officer was still raising alarms about Hamdi’s mental state after 14 months behind bars with no contact with lawyers, family or other prisoners.

“I told him the last thing that I wanted to have happen was to send him anywhere from here as a ‘basket case,’ of use to no one, to include himself,” the officer wrote in an e-mail to undisclosed government officials in June 2003. “I fear the rubber band is nearing its breaking point here and not totally confident I can keep his head in the game much longer.”

Experienced interrogators confirm that torture and other inhumane and abusive interview techniques are unlawful, ineffective and counterproductive. In June, HRF convened a meeting of interrogators from the military, CIA, and FBI, and they developed a set of principles to guide effective interrogation practices. Read them here.

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Published on October 8, 2009

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