Politics

C.I.A. Violently Lower Off 9/11 Suspect When He Tried to Speak About Assaults

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In his first month in U.S. custody, the person accused of planning the Sept. 11, 2001, assaults confessed to the crime throughout questioning and wished to maintain speaking about it, in keeping with the psychologist who interrogated him.

However the C.I.A. wished him to debate Al Qaeda’s future plans, not the assaults that had horrified America a yr and a half earlier, Dr. James E. Mitchell, the psychologist, mentioned. So when the prisoner, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, talked about Sept. 11, they might slam him, bare, right into a wall.

It was March 2003. That month, interrogators would waterboard Mr. Mohammed 183 instances at a secret abroad C.I.A. jail within the mistaken perception, Dr. Mitchell mentioned, {that a} nuclear assault in the US was imminent. However Mr. Mohammed nonetheless was not saying what his captors wished to listen to.

“We walled him,” Dr. Mitchell mentioned on Monday, explaining that he and his colleagues had rammed their prisoner backward right into a wall, to punish him as a result of they feared he was speaking about 9/11 to distract them from one other looming crime.

The concept Mr. Mohammed was punished for speaking about that subject in his first month of U.S. detention is new to the proceedings. Dr. Mitchell has been testifying in pretrial hearings within the dying penalty circumstances at Guantánamo Bay since 2020 and by no means talked about it earlier than.

But it surely aligns with a prosecution argument that the C.I.A. was not in search of confessions for a future trial when it brutally interrogated captives who have been held incommunicado within the secret prisons, often known as black websites, from 2002 till they have been transferred to Guantánamo in 2006.

As Dr. Mitchell and the prosecutors inform it, the company was in search of “actionable intelligence” that could possibly be used for a army or company mission — not a prosecution.

The federal government considers the excellence between interrogating to collect intelligence slightly than to construct a case to be essential.

In 2007, Mr. Mohammed once more bragged about his position within the assaults when he was introduced earlier than F.B.I. brokers at Guantánamo Bay, in keeping with prosecutors. They need to use that confession — to “clear groups” that didn’t use or threaten violence — as key trial proof.

It is going to be as much as the army decide to resolve whether or not the 2007 confession was voluntary. However the decide additionally should resolve whether or not earlier statements obtained from Mr. Mohammed by way of torture knowledgeable the F.B.I. interrogations, which may make the confession inadmissible.

Dr. Mitchell testified that Mr. Mohammed had been questioned as much as thrice a day virtually each day for 3 years within the C.I.A. jail community earlier than his switch to Guantánamo. The questions arrived in categorized cables from C.I.A. headquarters. However some questions initially got here from F.B.I. brokers and analysts who have been constructing an eventual case for prosecution, in keeping with authorities paperwork and pretrial testimony.

Dr. Mitchell’s testimony additionally put a highlight on the usage of “walling” within the black websites.

If accomplished proper, he has mentioned, it shouldn’t trigger any everlasting harm. The “enhanced interrogation method” was designed for an Air Pressure program that skilled American pilots to withstand enemy interrogations. Then, a trainee confronted a mock interrogator, who slammed his shoulder blades, not his head, right into a wall product of plywood and burlap, to “disorient” him.

However C.I.A. prisoners skilled it otherwise.

They’ve mentioned their heads have been slammed in opposition to concrete partitions. Their attorneys blame walling for mind accidents which were detected in some detainees.

These being walled have been seen because the enemy — terrorism suspects who have been held bare, hooded and systematically disadvantaged of sleep. They have been being “conditioned,” in Dr. Mitchell’s wording, to surrender Al Qaeda secrets and techniques about sleeper cells, future plots and the right way to discover Osama bin Laden.

In 2020, Dr. Mitchell testified that three interrogators took turns walling Mr. Mohammed in order that they might not develop into drained and make a mistake. Dr. Mitchell wrote in his 2016 memoirs that he and his crew used walling together with sleep deprivation as a part of “a gradual conditioning course of” after, in Dr. Mitchell’s evaluation, waterboarding didn’t elicit the specified response from Mr. Mohammed.

One among his interrogator companions, Dr. John Bruce Jessen, put a rolled-up towel that was held along with duct tape across the bare prisoner’s neck and pulled him ahead. Mr. Mohammed refused to “assist us cease operations inside the US,” he wrote, so Dr. Jessen “bounces him off the walling wall a number of instances.”

In 2022, Dr. Jessen testified in a distinct case {that a} towel was wanted as a result of the prisoner was at most sporting a diaper. There was no strategy to seize maintain of him.

Dr. Mitchell has described the rolled-up towel as each “a security collar” and a instrument to situation prisoners. After the brutality ended, he mentioned, an interrogator may convey only a towel to a debriefing session to remind a prisoner of “the onerous instances,” code within the black websites for brutal interrogations.

In time, Dr. Mitchell mentioned, the prisoners have been so cooperative {that a} towel was now not wanted.

In different accounts of the C.I.A.’s reward and punishment system, interrogators generally gave a unadorned prisoner who cooperated a towel to cowl his genitals throughout questioning.

Dr. Mitchell mentioned that the walling and waterboarding ended a month into Mr. Mohammed’s detention however that he continued answering questions for his subsequent 1,250 days within the black websites, the place prisoners solely had contact with C.I.A. workers.

Prisoners deemed much less cooperative bought a “upkeep go to” from Dr. Mitchell or Dr. Jessen, who reminded them that displeasing Washington may end in extra “enhanced interrogations,” though that by no means occurred, he mentioned. As an alternative, “facilities,” together with mattresses, clothes and Qurans, could possibly be given or taken away.

In time, Dr. Mitchell mentioned, Mr. Mohammed’s conditioning to be afraid if he didn’t reply to questions diminished, and he answered inquiries to hold facilities or get new ones.

Regardless of Dr. Mitchell’s testimony about institutional disinterest, someone within the black websites captured what Mr. Mohammed had mentioned concerning the Sept. 11 assaults. This week, Mr. Mohammed’s protection attorneys confirmed the decide C.I.A. cables from March 2003 with details about the plot that was attributed to Mr. Mohammed and that had been circulated within the intelligence group, together with to the F.B.I.