Dec. 22, 2004 – For months, detainees currently and formerly held at the US prison camp at GuantÃ¡namo Bay, Cuba have been telling of torturous and abusive conditions at the facility. Now, internal FBI emails and other documents obtained by human rights organizations and released to the press Monday provide more insight into the militaryâ€™s treatment of the detainees.
Taken together, the emails, which are heavily redacted by censors, begin to paint a picture of the FBIâ€™s internal discussion about abuses agents witnessed while working along side military personnel and private contractors.
"I am responding to your request for feedback on aggressive treatment and improper interview techniques used on detainees at GTMO," reads one email the sender and receiver of which is blanked out. "I did observe treatment that was not only aggressive, but personally very upsetting, although I can't say that this treatment was perpetrated by Bureau employees. It seemed that these techniques were being employed by the military, government contract employees and [redacted]."
The FBI agents who wrote the emails all insist that no Bureau personnel were involved in any of the abuses they witnessed. Several described hearing or seeing loud music, yelling, or strobe lights, but say they did not know if anything was specifically being done to detainees. Many express frustration with tactics used by other agencies, and describe them as "counterproductive" and outside approved FBI interrogation techniques.
One agent described seeing a "detainee sitting on the floor of the interview room with an Israeli flag draped around him, loud music played and a strobe light flashing." The agent said he left the room immediately after seeing this, and writes, "I understood prior to deployment to GTMO [GuantÃ¡namo], that such techniques were not allowed, nor approved by FBI policy. While at GTMO no such techniques were ever conducted to my knowledge by any of the CITF [FBI Criminal Investigation Task Force] personnel assigned at GTMO."
That same June 30, 2004 email describes a meeting of the FBI Task Force in which FBI investigators "discussed how some of DHS [Defense Human Intelligence Service] tactics had been counterproductive in building rapport with detainees who were being interviewed by CITF members."
This is a common theme throughout several of the documents. Another memo dated July 13, 2004 from an individual with the FBIâ€™s Critical Incident Response Group addressed simply to "Inspection" states: "There were many comments made by investigators during my tenure at GTMO that every time the FBI established a rapport with a detainee, the military would step in the detainee would stop being cooperative. The military did not stop the interviews while they were in progress but routinely took control of the detainees when the interview was completed. The next time that detainee was interviews, his level of cooperation was diminished."
Also among the released documents is a May 2004 translated interview of a GuantÃ¡namo detainee. "[Redacted] stated he had been beaten unconscious approximately three or four weeks ago when he was still at Camp X-Ray," reads the document. "According to [redacted] an unknown number of guards entered his cell unprovoked and started spitting and cursing at him. The guards called him a "son of a bitch" and a "bastard," then told him he was crazy.
"[Redacted] rolled onto his stomach to protect himself, [redacted] stated a soldier named [redacted] jumped on his back and started beating him in the face. [Redacted] then choked him until he passed out. [Redacted] stated that [redacted] was beating him because [redacted] is a Muslim, and [redacted] is Christian. [Redacted] indicated there was a female guard named [redacted] who was also beating him and grabbed his head and beat it into the cell floor."
Also included in the group of emails released Monday are several concerning what seems to be a Defense Department practice of impersonating FBI agents while interrogating detainees and employing "torture techniques." Through their emails, FBI agents discuss the potential implications of the impersonations.
"These tactics have produced no intelligence of a threat neutralization nature to date and CITF believes that techniques have destroyed any chance of prosecuting this detainee," wrote one agent. "If this detainee is ever released or his story made public in any way, DOD interrogators will not be held accountable because these torture techniques were done [by] the â€˜FBIâ€™ interrogators. The FBI will [be] left holding the bag before the public."
The documents released Monday represent only a portion of those obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Constitutional Rights and a number of other human and civil rights groups who filed a join Freedom of Information Act request for all documents related to detainees held by the US government outside the US. Earlier this year, the ACLU and other groups won a court order to attain the documentsâ€™ release after the government failed to comply with the FOIA requests in a timely manner.