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Bush officials authorized torture of US citizen, lawyers say
John Byrne
Published: Friday January 30, 2009


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Attorneys for US citizen Jose Padilla -- who was convicted of material support for terrorist activities in 2007 -- say that high-level Bush Administration officials knew their client was being tortured during the time he was held an enemy combatant in a South Carolina brig, because of the command structure and that then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld employed in approving harsh interrogation tactics.

Rumsfeld approved the harsh interrogation techniques early in Bush's presidency. In Iraq, a cheat sheet titled "Interrogation Rules of Engagement," revealed that some of them required the Iraq commanding general's approval.

Among those requiring approval are tactics Padilla's mother and lawyer say he was the victim of: "Sleep adjustment," "Sleep management, "Sensory deprivation," "isolation lasting longer than thirty days" and "stress" positions." It wouldn't be a shock if military guards went beyond the traditional treatment of a US prisoner, given Rumsfeld's approved techniques and that Padilla was is legal limbo as an enemy combatant and eligible to be held for years without charge.

Padilla and his mother filed suit against the US government last year alleging a litany of harsh interrogation practices they said were tantamount to torture. His lawyer also says he was held in isolation for years while held at the South Carolina brig.

"They knew what was going on at the brig and they permitted it to continue," Tahlia Townsend, an attorney representing Padilla, told the Associated Press Thursday. "Defendants Rumsfeld and [Deputy Paul] Wolfowitz were routinely consulted on these kinds of questions."

The Justice Department is attempting to get the case dismissed. Padilla's suit alleges mistreatment and that Padilla's being held as an enemy combat was unconstitutional.

Dismissal might quietly shut the door on a troubled case that drew broad attention because the Bush Administration had deemed a US citizen an enemy combatant, the quasi-legal terminology used to hold suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay.

Padilla, a US citizen, was arrested in 2002 and accused of plotting with al-Qaida to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in a major U.S. city, but those charges were dropped. He was declared an enemy combatant after his arrest, and held at the brig from June 2002 until January 2006, again without charge.

In 2008, Padilla and his mother, Estela Lebron, filed a lawsuit accusing the government of mistreating and illegally detaining Padilla while he was held near Charleston, South Carolina. Padilla suffered "extreme isolation, sensory deprivation, severe physical pain, sleep deprivation, and profound disruption of his sense and personality, all well beyond the physical and mental discomfort that normally accompanies incarceration," according to the lawyers' claim. Such treatment bears the hallmarks of harsh interrogation techniques approved by then-Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and used by interrogators of other enemy combatants held at the US' Guantanamo Bay and Iraqi prisons.

In particular, they singled out then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and then Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.

Padilla has alleged he was shackled in painful "stress positions," a technique used at Guantanamo Bay that a bipartisan U.S. Senate panel ruled last year was the direct result of Bush administration detention policies, not individual guards or interrogators.

The original charge leveled at Padilla when he was arrested in 2002 was that he was part of a "dirty bomb" al Qaeda plot. By the time he was charged five years later, government lawyers had dropped the charge.

The following are excerpts from Padilla's 2006 motion (PDF link) which describe the claims of torture in more detail:

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A substantial quantum of torture endured by Mr. Padilla came at the hands of his interrogators. In an effort to disorient Mr. Padilla, his captors would deceive him about his location and who his interrogators actually were. Mr. Padilla was threatened with being forcibly removed from the United States to another country, including U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he was threatened his fate would be even worse than in the Naval Brig. He was threatened with being cut with a knife and having alcohol poured on the wounds. He was also threatened with imminent execution. He was hooded and forced to stand in stress positions for long durations of time. He was forced to endure exceedingly long interrogation sessions, without adequate sleep, wherein he would be confronted with false information, scenarios, and documents to further disorient him. Often
he had to endure multiple interrogators who would scream, shake, and otherwise assault Mr. Padilla. Additionally, Mr. Padilla was given drugs against his will, believed to be some form of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or phencyclidine (PCP), to act as a sort of truth serum during his interrogations.

....

It is worth noting that throughout his captivity, none of the restrictive and inhumane conditions visited upon Mr. Padilla were brought on by his behavior or by any actions on his part. There were no incidents of Mr. Padilla violating any regulation of the Naval Brig or taking any aggressive action towards any of his captors. Mr. Padilla has always been
peaceful and compliant with his captors. He was, and remains to the time of this filing, docile and resigned B a model detainee.

....

In sum, many of the conditions Mr. Padilla experienced were inhumane and caused him great physical and psychological pain and anguish. Other deprivations experienced by Mr. Padilla, taken in isolation, are merely cruel and some, merely petty. However, it is important to recognize that all of the deprivations and assaults recounted above were employed in concert in a calculated manner to cause him maximum anguish. It is also extremely important to note that the torturous acts visited upon Mr. Padilla were done over the course almost the entire three years and seven months of his captivity in the Naval Brig. For most of one thousand three hundred and seven days, Mr. Padilla was tortured by the United States government without cause or justification. Mr. Padilla=s treatment at the
hands of the United States government is shocking to even the most hardened conscience, and such outrageous conduct on the part of the government divests it of jurisdiction, under the Due Process clause of the Fifth Amendment, to prosecute Mr. Padilla in the instant matter.

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