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Demonstrators outside the U.S. Department of Justice protesting the government's inhuman treatment of prisoners. (Photo: Justin Norman/cc/flickr)

Demonstrators outside the U.S. Department of Justice protesting the government's inhuman treatment of prisoners. (Photo: Justin Norman/cc/flickr)

Senate Torture Investigation Fails to Interview Key Torture Victims

Attorneys for detainees say that the U.S. government has 'no desire to credibly investigate or in any other way hold accountable' those who approved or conducted torture

Lauren McCauley

The soon-to-be-released Senate inquiry into CIA torture has failed to investigate the experience of those who felt that treatment first hand: Guantanamo's highest level detainees, according to Monday reporting by the Guardian's Spencer Ackerman, who spoke with attorneys for the imprisoned men.

"If you’re conducting a genuine inquiry of a program that tortured people, don’t you begin by talking to the people who were tortured?" David Nevin, who represents accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, told Ackerman. According to Nevin, his client along with accused al-Qaeda members Walid bin Attash, Abu Zubaydah, and suspected USS Cole bomber Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri were never approached by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), led by committee chairwoman Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), which is conducting the investigation on the CIA's abusive interrogation practices.

The report, a summary of which is due to be released in December, has faced myriad criticisms and setbacks, and is currently being reviewed by White House officials. Last week, Senate Democrats accused the Obama administration of siding with the CIA over the classification of pseudonyms for intelligence officers mentioned in the report. According to reports, some lawmakers, including lame-duck Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.), have threatened to bypass the executive branch's edits and read the report into record in the Senate floor.

"It’s apparent to me that the United States government has absolutely no desire to credibly investigate or in any other way hold accountable the people who tortured my client," Cheryl Bormann, a Chicago attorney who represents bin Attash, also told Ackerman.

The detainees who weren't consulted in the investigation all remain in government custody and have all shared "credible allegations" of torture which, according to Ackerman, were among the "harshest the CIA administered." He continues:

Mohammed, al-Nashiri and Zubaydah are the only three men the CIA has acknowledged waterboarding – Mohammed 183 times, and 83 times for al-Nashiri, who was also threatened with a gun and a power drill. At a secret prison in Poland, according to a leaked report from the International Committee of the Red Cross, agency officials would douse bin Attash with buckets of cold water and wrap his frigid body in plastic sheeting before interrogations. 

Outside of the aforementioned details, the United States has classified any discussion of the torture experienced by the detainees as Top Secret. As Nevin told Lebanon's Daily Star last week, Mohammed "has seen and felt and heard the torture. But his impressions, his recollections, his experiences, his mind is classified."

This summer, ten victims of CIA rendition and torture sent a letter (pdf) to the SSCI demanding that their names and stories, as those who were "swept up in the system," be included unredacted in the report. "We, some of the torture program's targets, have real stories, and families, and lives," they wrote. "Americans deserve to know who we are."


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