Just In Time for the Gonzales Debate

From Holden:

More video surfaces detailing detainee abuse at GITMO.

Videotapes of riot squads subduing troublesome terror suspects at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay show the guards punching some detainees, tying one to a gurney for questioning and forcing a dozen to strip from the waist down, according to a secret report. One squad was all-female, traumatizing some Muslim prisoners.

Although the report cited several cases of physical force, reviewers said they found no evidence of systemic detainee abuse, according to the six-page summary dated June 19, 2004. An official familiar with the report authenticated it, speaking to AP on condition of anonymity. AP also reviewed an unclassified log of the videotape footage.

The tapes raised questions about mistreatment and misconduct, however, said the investigators, who suggested some clips needed more scrutiny to rule out abuse. The military has cited 10 substantiated cases of abuse at Guantanamo, and announced Tuesday an extension would be granted for an investigation to interview of witnesses in the United States and abroad.

One such clip the investigators flagged was from Feb. 17, 2004. It showed “one or more” team members punching a detainee “on an area of his body that seemingly would be inconsistent with striking a pressure point,” which is a sanctioned tactic for subduing prisoners.

In five other clips showing detainees who appeared to have been punched by team members, the investigators said: “The punching was in line with accepted law enforcement practice of striking the pressure point on the back of the thigh to temporarily distract the detainee.”

In other “questionable” cases, reviewers said a video showed a guard kneeing a detainee in the head, while another showed a team securing a detainee to a gurney for an interrogation.

A separate clip captured a platoon leader taunting a detainee with pepper spray and repeatedly spraying him before letting the reaction team enter the cell, reviewers wrote.

Investigators also noted about a dozen cases where detainees were stripped from the waist down and taken to the “Romeo block,” of the camp. No female guards were involved, they said.

Romeo block is a camp section where prisoners were often left naked for days, according to two former detainees, Britons Shafiq Rasul and Asif Iqbal, who were released last year.

[snip]

In one video clip of the reaction teams, the memo says, “A detainee appears to be genuinely traumatized by a female escort securing the detainee’s leg irons. In another video, inexplicably an all-female IRF team forcibly extracts a detainee from his cell.”

While stating that female troops have a right to serve as equals alongside their male counterparts, investigators warned the all-female team could create the perception that the gender of the squad was taken into consideration for the Muslim population.

“By forming an all-female IRF team for use with one detainee we potentially undercut our position that we do not distinguish between male and female soldiers. Clearly, the soldiers’ gender did play a role in forming the all-female IRF team,” the memo says.

The memo suggests that military “personnel showing the IRF videos outside of (Defense Department) channels should be prepared with talking points to refute or diminish the charge that we use women (against) the detainees’ culture or religion.”

[snip]

Prisoners released from Guantanamo have accused the extraction teams of abuse and one former U.S. National Guardsmen received brain damage after posing undercover as a rowdy detainee and being beaten by teammates.

“The obvious problem with our armed forces is their inability to comply with international law,” said Arsalan T. Iftikhar, national legal director for the Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. “Many of us thought that the Abu Ghraib scandal in Iraq (news – web sites) was going to shake us into awakening but it seems like the things we keep learning about Guantanamo indicate there was, in fact, systematic abuse.”

Joe Navarro, a former FBI (news – web sites) interrogator who has taught questioning methods and is familiar with Guantanamo, said treating prisoners poorly makes them more stubborn and unwilling to talk.

“The military has been cavalier in their attitudes toward these individuals to the point that it has been detrimental to the overall mission,” Navarro told AP.