US Torture Report Just Tip of the Iceberg, Says Gitmo Lawyer

The worst details of the CIA’s torture program still have not seen the light of day, a lawyer representing a Guantanamo Bay prisoner said Wednesday.

“The Senate report released on Tuesday is the sanitized tip of a 6000 page iceberg revealing acts of unspeakable horror, depravity, dishonesty, and an overall shocking breach of our core values and beliefs,” said defense attorney Walter Ruiz who has refered to the CIA progam as “war crimes.”

The now public – abeit heavily redacted – 600 page summary of the Senate’s report revealed the CIA’s torture program was far more extensive than previously thought, but garnered no useful information on terrorism.

Read more about the Senate report on CIA torture here.

While the summary has sparked a wave of public outcry, Ruiz told teleSUR he believes the rest of the report aught to be published. Although he expressed hope the full scale of CIA torture will one day be made public, Ruiz conceded he is “not optimistic.”

“If the Senate fight to release a redacted summary is any indication – Senator (Jay) Rockefeller called it the toughest fight of his career – this promises to be a brutal fight since according to Senator (Dianne) Feinstein, the 6000 page report includes many more details,” he said.

Even if the full report is never released to the wider public, Ruiz called for it to be made available to lawyers such as himself defending Guantanamo Bay detainees.

“While I do not know if that 6000 page report will ever be released to the American public, it should at the very least be provided to us in the discovery process so that we can adequately defend (Mustafa) Hawsawi, who is facing the death penalty,” he explained.

Hawsawi: Three Years Disappeared

Currently held in Guantanamo Bay, Mustafa Hawsawi has been accused of financing the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and providing media support to al Qaeda. He currently faces capital charges.

The Saudi national was captured in Pakistan by local security forces in 2003, but was handed over to U.S. authorities sometime later. However, his detention was kept secret until 2006, when he was moved to Guantanamo Bay.

Until now, Hawsawi’s location between 2003 and 2006 has been a closely guarded secret, though human rights groups have suggested he was probably held in U.S. black sites, possibly in Poland and Lithuania, or Afghanistan’s notorious Salt Pit – where numerous CIA captives were tortured.

A brief mention of Hawsawi in the CIA report appears to confirm he was indeed detained at the Salt Pit for a period in 2003, and in Lithuania at some point, but it’s unclear for how long.

The Pit

Another man detained at the Salt Pit was alleged senior al Qaeda member Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was captured alongside Hawsawi. While Hawsawi’s location for his first three years of detention remains a closely guarded secret, the Senate report indicates Mohammed was almost immediately thrown in the Salt Pit after the pair were captured in Pakistan.

Within two days Mohammed was subjected to forced rectal feeding, and went on to be waterboarded at least 183 times. The Senate report described the waterboardings as evolving into a “series of near drownings.”

Hawsawi is mentioned just a handful of times in the report.

The report stated that in April 2003, he may have been subjected to treatment “indistinguishable” from waterboarding at least twice. In vivid detail the report stated interrogators, who subjected Hawsawi to the “CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques” on April 6, heard him screaming out for God.

At the time, this treatment was referred to as “dousing,” though one email from an interrogator raised concerns seemingly indicating a blurring of the lines with waterboarding.

“I have real problems with putting one of them on the water board for ‘dousing.’ Putting him in a head down attitude and pouring water around his chest and face is just too close to the water board, and if it is continued may lead to problems for us,” the email stated.

The torture may not have ended when Hawsawi was moved from the Salt Pit.

Later in the report, Hawsawi briefly cropped up in Detention Site Violet – the code name for the CIA’s black site in Lithuania. Earlier this year an investigation was launched by Lithuanian prosecutors into allegations he was illegally moved across the border, following a complaint by the human rights group REDRESS and the Human Rights Monitoring Institute.

In the joint complaint to Lithuanian authorities, they alleged Hawsawi was tortured at Violet.

While the Senate report does not mention Hawsawi being tortured in Lithuania, it does state he and four other detainees needed hospitalization at one point for “acute ailments.” However, due a dispute over fears of “media reports,” the group was not hospitalized in the country, despite seemingly needing emergency medical care.

“The CIA was forced to seek assistance from three third-party countries,” the report stated. “Ultimately, the CIA paid (REDACTED) more than $(REDACTED) million for the treatment.”

When asked by teleSUR if Hawsawi may have suffered other forms of torture, Ruiz responded, “unfortunately I cannot go beyond what has been de-classified in the report to provide more specific information.”

He explained, “ironically, Hawsawi is still prohibited from relating any of the details of his torture because his thoughts and experiences have been deemed classified by the CIA.”

Pre-Existing Conditions

“What I can tell you is that prior to CIA custody, Mr Hawsawi had no pre-existing history of medical problems such as are related in the Senate report,” he stated.

One of Hawsawi’s other short appearances in the report is a brief comment related to rectal examinations conducted by CIA personnel. The report stated there were allegations these exams involved excessive use of force.

“CIA records indicate that one of the detainees, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, was later diagnosed with chronic hemorrhoids, an anal fissure, and symptomatic rectal prolapse,” the report stated.

In court appearances, Hawsawi reportedly sits on a cushion, and Ruiz has previously stated the man has never been given the medical care he needs.

“As you know the Convention Against Torture – which is part of our law – requires rehabilitation of torture victims,” he stated.

Ruiz has previously argued Hawsawi’s condition has made court appearances more difficult, but that is not the reason he may never get a fair trial. According to the lawyer, Guantanamo Bay’s military commission is a “degradation of due process.”

“Military commissions are designed for the explicit purpose of killing while fostering the illusion of justice,” he stated.

First published by teleSUR English here.

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