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New Charges of Guantanamo Torture

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THE PROGRESSIVE REVIEW - February 11, 2008
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New Charges of Guantanamo Torture
By Adam Zagorin
Time Magazine

In 2005, CIA officials ordered the destruction of video-
tapes depicting the harsh interrogation of prisoners in 
the agency's secret overseas prisons. CIA Director Michael 
Hayden admitted that in December 2007 amid a public debate 
over the use of "waterboarding" on detainees and whether 
or not the technique - which simulates drowning - 
constituted torture. At that time, Hayden said that only a 
few prisoners were ever subjected to "special interrogation 
techniques," which can include waterboarding, and that 
nothing was recorded on video after 2002. That claim is 
now coming under additional scrutiny, in part due to a 
classified briefing that will be delivered to the Senate 
Select Committee on Intelligence this Friday. Lawyers 
representing one current Guantanamo detainee tell TIME 
that they plan to present evidence that he was subjected 
to videotaped interrogation, in addition to unspecified 
"systematic torture" when he was held in secret CIA 
prisons. The lawyers, from the Center for Constitutional 
Rights, a New York-based legal non-profit with a long 
record of advocacy for prisoners at Guantanamo, note that 
their client has said the videotaping occurred after his 
arrest in 2003. 

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Majid Khan, 27, a former suburban Baltimore high school 
student, was first seized by authorities in Pakistan, where 
he said he was visiting his brother. Khan then spent more 
than three years in a secret overseas CIA "black site" 
before President Bush ordered his transfer to Guantanamo 
along with 13 other high-value detainees. Also transferred 
was alleged 9/11 mastermind Khaled Sheik Mohammed, who had 
allegedly ordered Khan to research attacks on American 
water reservoirs and gas stations. 

Khan's lawyers are armed with more than 500 pages of top-
secret notes taken during recent sessions with their client 
at Guantanamo; they will use the material to describe his 
interrogation and detention to the Intelligence Committee. 
Though details are highly classified, his lawyers claim 
that he and others were tortured and videotaped, charges 
that Hayden and other CIA officials deny. On Feb. 5, Hayden 
admitted to Congress that the CIA had used waterboarding 
on Khaled Sheik Mohammed and two others. The CIA continues 
to assert that it does not engage in torture. 

Rising to Hayden's defense, the White House this week made 
clear its view that waterboarding has saved American lives, 
is legal - and does not constitute torture, as critics 
insist. A spokesman for Bush said the President would 
authorize waterboarding for use on future terror suspects 
if certain standards are met, a spokesman said. Hayden 
himself banned the technique in 2006 for use in CIA 
interrogations, and the Pentagon and FBI have done 
likewise. 

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A White House spokesman said the CIA could use waterboard-
ing again if it had specific approval from the President. 
That authorization would depend on a variety of factors, 
such as the "belief that an attack might be imminent" the 
spokesman explained. "The President will listen to the 
considered judgment of the professionals in the intelli-
gence community and the judgment of the attorney general 
in terms of the legal consequences of employing a 
particular technique," he said. 

Khan is one of very few Guantanamo prisoners whose claim 
to U.S. residency has been legally established. He has 
close relatives in the Baltimore area who are American 
citizens; Khan's lawyers have appealed to members of 
Congress on his behalf, including Sen. Barbara Mikulski 
of Maryland, who sits on the Intelligence Committee. After 
years of isolation in prison, Khan was recently allowed to 
mix with at least one other prisoner at Guantanamo, Abu 
Zubaydah, a top alleged terrorist who, Hayden has said, 
was one of those prisoners to be waterboarded. 

Khan's lawyers have said their client has gone on a hunger 
strike to protest the conditions of his confinment, and 
appears pale and gaunt. In the course of meetings with 
counsel and the Red Cross, Khan also handed over neatly 
penned, handwritten letters. Several have been made public, 
after heavy redactions imposed by U.S. military censors. 
One of Khan's messages begins: "In this letter I am going 
to mention some of the things I have been through." Then 
the next 19 lines of text are blacked out. 

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But Khan's private declarations to his lawyers cannot be 
censored, and it is those that the Intelligence Committee 
will hear on Friday. His allegations come at a time when 
Congress is considering passage of a new intelligence bill 
that would effectively outlaw many of the CIA's interroga-
tion methods by forcing the Agency to use only those 
techniques permitted in the U.S. Army Field Manual. 

The bipartisan ban in the intelligence bill, put forward 
by Senators Dianne Feinstein of California and Chuck Hagel 
of Nebraska, still faces Republican opposition, while the 
intelligence bill as a whole could face a presidential 
veto because if it does not grant amnesty to telephone 
companies who participated in possibly illegal wiretapping 
of Americans, as requested by the Bush Administration. 

"The national debate over torture will end if this amend-
ment to place the CIA under the Army Field Manual becomes 
law," Senator Feinstein said. "At that point, all U.S. 
government interrogations - military and civilian - would 
be conducted under the same rules and regulations, and 
eight specific techniques, including waterboarding, would 
be prohibited." 

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