Bob Woodward has an interview in the Washington Post with the top U.S. official responsible for overseeing military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay. Susan J. Crawford confirms to Woodward that 20th hijacker Mohammed al-Qahtani wasn't put on trial because he was tortured.
She says after reviewing the classified reports and interrogation logs she concluded that he was definitely tortured. As a result, war crimes charges against al-Qahtani were dropped, although he remains in U.S. custody pending a decision by the incoming Obama administration on what to do with him.
Crawford, 61, said the combination of the interrogation techniques, their duration and the impact on Qahtani's health led to her conclusion. "The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent. ... You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him.
She goes on to list some of the specific techniques used against al-Qahtani:
"For 160 days his only contact was with the interrogators," said Crawford, who personally reviewed Qahtani's interrogation records and other military documents. "Forty-eight of 54 consecutive days of 18-to-20-hour interrogations. Standing naked in front of a female agent. Subject to strip searches. And insults to his mother and sister."
I actually downloaded the interrogation logs from Wikileaks and read them word for word. They were no doubt tough, but totally justified and not torture in my view. Even if it was torture, it doesn't matter because we had to get information out of him. We did in fact get the information out of him using these techniques, but Crawford decided she wouldn't allow it in court.
Crawford herself says even though he can't be tried in court because of the torture he's still a very dangerous man who no doubt intended to be a hijacker on 9/11.
"There's no doubt in my mind he would've been on one of those planes had he gained access to the country in August 2001," Crawford said of Qahtani, who remains detained at Guantanamo. "He's a muscle hijacker. ... He's a very dangerous man. What do you do with him now if you don't charge him and try him? I would be hesitant to say, 'Let him go.' "
I applaud the Bush administration for trying to do things the legal way and bring al-Qahtani back to Gitmo for a military tribunal, but in hindsight they should have done it differently. All high value detainees should have been taken to secret CIA facilities far from U.S. soil, interrogated vigorously, then simply shot. We could have said they died on the battlefield and no one would have been the wiser.