Methods of Interrogation at a US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay Cuba Deemed as Torture
Torture is defined as anguish of the body or mind, and is looked down upon in many cultures – so why do the people of the United States allow it to happen at a U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba? The methods of interrogation used at this detention camp are inhumane and the people administering and practicing them should cease these tactics and seek a new way of attaining information from detainees.
The Pentagon claims that there are approximately five hundred forty-nine detainees being held at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, which is down almost one hundred forty from the middle of last year. (BBC 1) The detainees are suspected enemy combatants and al Qaeda supporters or members who have been transported to the base to be held for questioning and to maintain national safety, but the trials of these detainees have been denied due to responses from court rulings brought on by protests from the prisoners. (NY Times 2) The detainees are said to be held in 1.8 meter by 2.4-meter cells with no natural light for twenty-two hours a day. The prisoners are given very little to occupy themselves with in that time-span – normally a book and the Koran but nothing else. They have two hours of recreational time in which they are put into cages alone and are not allowed physical interaction of any sort with other prisoners, mental stimulation, or physical exercise. These confinement methods have reportedly caused prisoners to see and hear things, and some of the accused now suffer from anxiety and depression. (HRW 1) Many accounts of torture as a means to get information from the prisoners have leaked into the media and made Guantánamo Bay a hot topic of controversy.
Some of the torture tactics used at the detention camp are water boarding, sexual enticement, and chaining prisoners up for hours at a time without food and water, and leaving them to defecate and urinate on themselves. One interrogation in particular, in which a soldier translated for a female interrogator who was trying to get a high-priority prisoner to talk — a Saudi who had been in flight school in the United States – stands out as extremely inhumane and wrong on many levels. As she stood in front of him, she slowly started to unbutton her Army blouse. She had on underneath the Army blouse a tight brown Army T-shirt, touched her breasts, and said, 'Don't you like these big American breasts?' says Saar. She wanted to create a barrier between this detainee and his faith, and if she could somehow sexually entice him, he would feel unclean in an Islamic way, he would not be able to pray and go before his God and gain that strength, so the next day, maybe he would be able to start cooperating, start talking to her. But the prisoner wasn’t talking, so Saar said the interrogator increased the pressure. She started to unbutton her pants and reached and put her hands in her pants and then started to circle around the detainee. And when she had her hands in her pants, apparently she used something to put what appeared to be menstrual blood on her hand, but in fact was ink, says Saar. When she circled around the detainee, she pulled out her hand, which was red, and said, 'I'm actually menstruating right now, and I'm touching you. Does that please your God? Does that please Allah?' And then he kind of got pent up and shied away from her, and she then took the ink and wiped it on his face, and said, 'How do you like that?'
The solider that translated for the interrogator believes that these sexual methods of attaining information don’t work and that there are other tactics being used at Guantánamo Bay that are far more useful and which will yield more information through cooperation, instead of demoralization, humiliation, and destruction of faith. (CBS 60 Minutes 1-2) Another source states that force-feeding is used to extract information from the prisoners that go on hunger strikes. At Guantánamo Bay, a prisoner is considered on a hunger strike when they have refused nine meals in a row. The force-feeding is commenced when a prisoner has fasted for twenty-one days, or weighs eighty-five percent of their weight upon arrival at the camp, at which time, “guards and medical staff strap a captive into a chair, Velcro his head to a metal restraint, then tether a tube into the man's stomach through his nose to pump in liquid nourishment twice a day." (therawstory) The technique of water boarding is one of the most controversial methods being discussed today. Water boarding occurs when a prisoner is held in place at a downward incline and their face is covered with cellophane wrap or burlap; water is poured into the breathing passages, resulting in the victim feeling like they are ‘drowning’, and causing them to believe they are about to die. Water boarding can cause long-lasting psychological stress, permanent lung damage, brain damage, or possibly death. (Wikipedia) The White House has made the statement that water boarding is legal and does not constitute torture, and may be used again on a suspect if “an attack might be imminent…the President will listen to the considered judgment of the professionals in the intelligence community and the judgment of the attorney general in terms of the legal consequences of employing a particular technique." (TIME 2) The torture and isolation used on these individuals have led some to attempt suicide, but psychiatrists and psychiatric help have been denied to many of the prisoners. (HRW 1) The detainees undergoing this torture are not considered prisoners of war, and therefore are not protected by the Geneva Conventions.
Using torture to get information from prisoners is “destructive of security, which in part depends on intelligence. Torture produces dysfunctional intelligence since the suspect is being forced to give only the answers the interrogators want.” Many detainees agree to everything the interrogators want in order to get out of the camp in a much shorter amount of time. (CommonDreams 2) In the course of the detention camp being used as confinement for suspected terrorists, there have been one hundred eighty tribunals, but decisions have been reached in only ninety-six of those cases. According to the Pentagon, these tribunals satisfy the call for due process as set forth by the Declaration of Independence. Officials say that it would not make sense to release detainees after the tribunals and trials if the war on terrorism was ongoing, incase the suspects were planning another attack, and any prisoners found guilty of war crimes would inevitably have to serve our their sentences whether or not the war was declared over. (BBC 4) The interrogation tactics are degrading to both the interrogators and the detainees and should cease to be used. Many reforms have been promised, such as phone calls to family members, increased recreational time, videoconferencing, and congregating with other detainees, but none have been put into action. A lone forty prisoners have been able to make a phone calls under these new reforms, which isn’t enough. (HRW 2) The treatment of the detainees has tainted the American idea of morality and some believe it to be the “moral antithesis of what we want to stand for as a country."(CBS 60 Minutes 1) The use of torture as a means to extract information as evidence should be completely outlawed, and yet, our courts are allowing evidence attained through this inhumane manner to stand firm in cases and trials. (CommonDreams 2) In October 2008, President elect Obama said that he plans to shut down the detention camp, but the committee working on closing the camp is “stuck” over what to do with the detainees left there. The committee says that they would have to evaluate the remaining prisoners and review the existing cases, which could take quite a while in the long run. (CNN 2)
If torture tactics continue to be used to Guantánamo Bay, and are overlooked by government officials as a reasonable means of extracting information as evidence, what will happen in the court rulings against these men – many of which are forced to fight against the United States, and have no choice in the matter. One soldier who witnessed the torture tactics said, "as a professional soldier, and someone who dedicated his life to the service of the United States, in fact, to think that United States would stoop to such tactics as this, I find to be a disgraceful thing." (CBS 60 Minutes 2)