In the war on terror, in the words of one historian, the C.I.A. “didn’t just bring back the old psychological techniques—they perfected them.”
The United States Government is once again going forward with plans to use military tribunals to try prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay, prisoners who were allegedly subject to torture interrogation techniques.
The three suspects who are now listed as being prepared for trial are Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Ahmed al-Darbi, and Obaydullah. The Obama administration has consistently sought to try these and similar cases in the United States, in civil courts, where rules of evidence and testimony are stronger, and where, many believe, verdicts, because of the stronger rules will be more fair and just. Hearsay evidence is allowed in military tribunals; the tribunals are ordinarily used in cases where time is of the essence, as in battlefield situations.
Last month the American Congress blocked the efforts of the administration in these issues. The prisoners, because of new legislation, cannot be transferred to Illinois for trial in civil courts. Now, in concert with an executive order creating a parole board-review system it appears more expedient to go forward with the tribunals. This would at least bring the cases of nearly 50 detainees to trial, where otherwise the detainees would continue being indefinitely held. Under the new plan, charges will be brought within weeks.
Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, is a 46 year old Saudi Arabian citizen accused of planning the 2000 bombing of the American destroyer Cole in Yemen. He was captured in October of 2002, and has been held at Guantánamo Bay, in Cuba, for fifty-two months. He is one of three al Qaeda prisoners who are confirmed by the CIA as having been subject while in confinement to waterboarding.
A second suspect, Ahmed al-Darbi, is charged with plotting to attack oil tankers on the Straits of Hormuz, a waterway near the north coast of Iran, and the south coast of the United Arab Emirates, and near the Gulf of Oman, and the Persian Gulf.
Al-Darbi has written extensively about his time in captivity. During his first two weeks he writes, he was kept in complete isolation. He recalls that he was from the onset forced to kneel through the night with his hands cuffed over his head, so he was not allowed to sleep. He was on some occasions forced to lean against a wall for hours, hands shackled behind his back, his feet positioned so that all his weight rested on his forehead. It was not possible he says, to sleep in that position. They would ask him about Osama bin Laden, and bin Laden’s whereabouts. During those first two weeks he was hit when he started to fall asleep and he was not permitted he says, to pray.