GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba — To get teen terror suspect Omar Khadr to cooperate, a former U.S. Army interrogator testified Thursday, he told the wounded Canadian a “fictitious” tale of an Afghan youth who was gang-raped in an American prison and died.
“We’d tell him about this Afghan gets sent to an American prison and there’s a bunch of big black guys and big Nazis,” said the former interrogator who was since convicted of detainee abuse and was identified in court only as Interrogator No. 1.
Under Pentagon ground rules, reporters covering the hearing are not allowed to include the interrogator’s real name in their dispatches from Guantanamo. Canadian newspapers have published the name, however, and his testimony in other cases is available at the McClatchyDC.com website and elsewhere.
Interrogator No. 1 also gave an on-the-record interview with The Toronto Star in 2008 and his name was widely published in accounts of his court martial in September 2005.
The interrogators told Khadr that the Afghan – “a poor little kid … away from home, kind of isolated” – had been sent to the U.S. prison away because the interrogators were disappointed with his truthfulness, Interrogator No. 1 said. When patriotic American prisoners discovered the Afghan was a Muslim, praying five times a day, they raped him in their rage over the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Interrogator No. 1 said Khadr, who was 15 and badly wounded at the time, was told.
Khadr’s attorneys called Interrogator No. 1 to bolster Khadr’s claim that he was abused while in U.S. custody and their motion before a military judge that any confessions he made during his captivity should be considered coerced and not admissible.
Khadr, now 23, had specifically claimed in an affidavit outlining abuse that he was threatened with rape. On Tuesday, a medic identified as Mr. M testified that he once found Khadr chained by his arms to the door of his cage-like cell, hooded and in tears. That too tracked allegations included in Khadr’s affadavit.
According to court testimony, Interrogator No. 1 was attached to the 519 MP Battalion, which guarded prisoners at Bagram air base in Afghanistan in 2002. Three years later, Interrogator No. 1 pleaded guilty to three acts of detainee abuse on another captive at Bagram in December 2002.
Interrogator No. 1 said he questioned Khadr as many as 25 times over 100 hours before the teen was sent to Guantanamo for more interrogations.
According to earlier testimony, Interrogator 1 questioned Khadr the first time on a stretcher while he was still under sedation on July 29, 2002, hours after the 15-year-old was released from an U.S. Army combat hospital and life-saving surgery. He denied under questioning from defense counsel Barry Coburn that he ever threatened Khadr directly with rape.
Instead, he said, a group of U.S. interrogators dreamed up the “fictitious” Afghan rape story to utilize authorized “Love of Freedom” and “Fear Up” techniques designed to break particularly uncooperative prisoners. “It’s never about the detainee,” Interrogator No. 1 said, explaining how he used it. “It’s to make the individual … afraid of American prisons.”
U.S. troops captured Khadr two weeks before his first formal interrogation, near dead and shot twice through the back during a Special Forces raid on a suspected al Qaida stronghold near Khost, Afghanistan.
Another former interrogator, who was acquitted by a court martial of detainee abuse charges, testified Wednesday that Khadr was first questioned just two days after he was wounded at the field hospital at Bagram. That interrogator, Damien Corsetti, said Khadr was tethered to a heart monitor. Soldiers held a tin of chewing tobacco to his gaping chest wound and saw that it could fit inside.
Defense attorneys argue that the military mistreated Khadr and created a coercive environment that should disqualify the truthfulness and reliability of his later confessions that he threw a hand grenade that killed U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, 28.
Prosecutors defend the youth’s treatment and say he subsequently boasted voluntarily, and truthfully, to FBI agents conducting a criminal terror trial investigation that he threw the grenade and also planted land mines in Afghanistan meant to kill American soldiers and earn him $1,500 a head.
Veteran prosecutor Jeff Groharing, now a Justice Department attorney who got the case as a Marine major, sought on follow-up questioning to make clear that Interrogator No 1 was gleaning information from the Canadian for “actionable intelligence” in the Afghanistan combat zone – not for a future criminal prosecution.
Interrogator No. 1 said he wanted to know about the location of weapons and mines to assist the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan. His intelligence reports at the time noted that Khadr had thrown a grenade that killed a fellow U.S. soldier but Interrogator 1 said he wasn’t seeking a confession.
He also said that he didn’t think the rape tale made Khadr any more cooperative or truthful and that he only started spilling al-Qaida secrets after U.S. troops went back to the scene of his capture in Khost, Afghanistan, and recovered a video of showing a young Khadr being taught how to assemble Soviet anti-tank mines.
Khadr, wearing the white uniform of a cooperative captive, watched the proceedings intently. Interrogator No. 1, in blue jeans and sporting a pony tail, testified by video hookup from Arizona. on a video monitor. Source
Reporters banned from Trial
— Three Canadian journalists are being barred from Guantanamo Bay, where they have been covering pre-trial war-crimes hearings for Omar Khadr, the Pentagon said Thursday.
The reporters for the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, and Canwest News Service breached a ban on identifying a witness, according to the Pentagon.
“Your reporters published the name of a witness whose identity was protected in court,” a letter handed to the journalists stated.
“As a result of these violations, these individual reporters are barred from returning to cover future military commissions proceedings.”
For the past eight days, Khadr’s defence lawyers have been trying to establish the Canadian was tortured into making incriminating statements.
Among the witnesses was a former interrogator at Bagram prison in Afghanistan, where Khadr was taken after his capture in July, 2002.
The man testified Thursday to scaring Khadr by telling the badly wounded 15-year-old a “fictitious” story of an Afghan boy in U.S. custody who was gang-raped and died.
The Pentagon wanted him identified only as Interrogator No. 1 and forbade reporting his name, which has been widely available through his previous prosecution and conviction for detainee abuse.
He has also previously given an interview to the Star.
Toronto Star reporter Michelle Shephard, who has written a book on Khadr and his family, called the decision “ridiculous.”
The paper’s editor, Michael Cooke, denounced the ban.
“This is grossly unfair,” Cooke said. “The Star will object to this decision.”
Also barred were the Globe and Mail’s Washington correspondent, Paul Koring, and Canwest’s Steven Edwards.
Canwest vice-president Scott Anderson said from Ottawa he had not yet had a chance to talk about the issue with Edwards.
“It’s critical that we find out what happened here,” Anderson said.
“Obviously there was some misunderstanding on one side or another.”
Globe foreign editor, Stephen Northfield, said the paper “would appeal this decision.”
The New York-based American Civil Liberties Union condemned the Pentagon’s ruling as “absurd” and “nonsensical,” saying it would discourage reporting on the internationally condemned military commissions.
“No legitimate government interest is served by suppressing information that is already well known,” said Jameel Jaffer, the union’s deputy legal director.
“We strongly urge the Defence Department to reconsider its rash, draconian and unconstitutional decision to bar these four reporters from future tribunals.”
Carol Rosenberg, a reporter from the American newspaper, the Miami Herald, who has extensive experience covering the commissions, was also told she may not return.
Rosenberg declined to discuss the situation, referring calls to the Herald’s managing editor, who did not immediately return a call for comment.
The ban does not extend to the media outlets, only to the reporters involved.
However, media organizations themselves could be barred should there be “future violations,” the letter warns.
The letter also states the reporters can appeal the decision to the deputy assistant secretary of defence for media operations.
The hearings have wrapped up — it was not immediately clear when they will resume — and the media on the U.S. naval base were all expected to leave Friday.
Khadr’s trial — he is accused of throwing a grenade that killed an American soldier and blinded another — had been due to start in July.
UN official calls for release of former child combatant from Guantanamo
5 May 2010 – A United Nations envoy today reiterated her call for the immediate release of the last child soldier still being held in Guantanamo Bay, voicing concern that his case has been brought to trial under a United States military commission and that he has been charged with war crimes.
Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen, was arrested in Afghanistan in 2002 when he was 15 years old. He has been in US custody for the last seven years, having spent much of his time in solitary confinement.
Radhika Coomaraswamy, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, called on the Governments of Canada and the US to respect the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and release Mr. Khadr into Canadian custody.
The Optional Protocol aims to increase the protection of children during armed conflicts. It requires that all States parties “take all feasible measures” to ensure that members of their armed forces under the age of 18 do not take a direct part in hostilities, and reminds nations that children under 18 are entitled to special protection and so any voluntary recruitment under the age of 18 must include sufficient safeguards.
Ms. Coomaraswamy today urged Canada and the US to treat Mr. Khadr as a child soldier and undertake efforts to rehabilitate him.
“Like other children abused by armed groups around the world who are repatriated to their home communities and undergo re-education for their reintegration, Omar should be given the same protections afforded these children,” she emphasized.
“Trying young people for war crimes with regard to acts committed when they are minors could create a dangerous international precedent,” the official warned. Source