With all of the hoopla this past week over the off-year elections, President Biden’s foreign trip, and the ongoing drama on Capitol Hill, there was very little discussion of the latest chapter in one of the most important and horrific stories of our time.
The New York Times reported A detainee was sentenced to a shocking sentencing hearing at GuantánamoBay. It was the first public account by a prisoner of the torture he endured at the hands U.S. officials. It is difficult to describe the horrific war crimes committed against this prisoner. Times’Carol Rosenberg, a reporter who has covered the story, GuantánamoLegal proceedings have been detailing the story of Majid Khan, a 41-year-old Pakistani citizen, for many years. He graduated from a Baltimore high-school and, as a lost youth, made a return trip to Pakistan in 2002 after his mother’s death. He was seduced by a terrorist organization. As he put it, “I went willingly to Al Qaeda. I was so stupid. They promised to ease my pain and cleanse me from my sins. They promised to redeem me, and I believed them.”
Khan was captured in 2003 by American forces and has been in legal limbo eversince, despite the fact that his cooperation was evident from the beginning. His testimony shows that the more he cooperated with the U.S., the more he was tortured. Khan, like many other victims of the U.S. torture system, was forced to fabricate stories to stop the torture. When his tales didn’t pan out, he was tortured some more.
The maze of national security restrictions placed on GuantánamoPrisoners trying to defend themselves (a nearly 20-year-long process) has made it difficult for them to speak about what happened. But apparently, (it isn’t clear from the reporting) Khan’s lawyers found a way for him to publicly detail the torture he endured without specifically accusing any individuals. He took the stand last week in open court and apologized for his actions, and offered forgiveness to his torturers. His horrified American sister and father, who are both citizens of the USA, watched as he described what happened.
Kahn described in detail the primitive conditions in which he was held: naked, with his hands chained above his head or shackled to the wall crouching “like a dog,” beaten and sleep-deprived to the point of hallucination. He was repeatedly waterboarded and almost drowned. And then there was the sexual and “medical” sadism, as Rosenberg reports:
[A]fter he refused to eat, his captors “infused” a purée of his lunch through his anus. The C.I.A. Rectal refeeding was what the C.I.A. It was called rape by Mr Khan.
The C.I.A. The C.I.A. pumped water up the rectums to quench prisoners who refused to drink. Mr. Khan said this was done to him with “green garden hoses.”
“They connected one end to the faucet, put the other in my rectum and they turned on the water,” he said, adding that he lost control of his bowels after those episodes and, to this day, has hemorrhoids.
He talked about his failed and sadistic responses and other acts of rebellion, including his hunger strikes. A feeding tube would be inserted into his throat and nose by the medics. He would try and eat it off, but he did not succeed in doing so. An officer used a shovel to force food into his stomach. This caused stomach cramps and diarrhea.
When CIA officers transferred Khan from one black site to another, they would insert an enema and then duct tape a diaper on him so he wouldn’t have to be taken to the bathroom.
Kahn was eventually convicted on four terrorist charges. He pleaded guilty to delivering $50,000 to Pakistan to an Al Qaeda associate in early 2003. This was connected to the bombing of a Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia. Kahn was already held at the time of the bombing. He also worked for Khalid Shaikh MohammedDuring his brief time with al Qaeda, he was involved in several failed plots.
At his trial, the lead prosecutor conceded that Kahn got “extremely rough” treatment but told the jury he was lucky to be alive when the victims of al Qaeda are not. Kahn’s lawyer said “Majid was raped at the hands of the U.S. government. He told them everything from the beginning.”
The sentence was handed down by a jury of eight military personnel. They gave him 26 year sentences, beginning with his 2012 guilty plea. In an unexpected twist, seven of the eight jurors wrote to the military commissions overseer asking him to grant Kahn mercy. They didn’t know about it a secret dealThe deal was reached earlier this year with Pentagon. The sentence could be completed early next year, but not later than February 2025, as Khan became a government cooperator after pleading guilty.
Some of the details of these monstrous tactics were known already due to the “executive summary” of the classified Senate Torture ReportThe Obama administration made sure that the information would remain secret from the public. You may recall that the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA were at each other’s throats over that project with the CIA issuing criminal referrals against Senate staffers and the committee accusing the CIA of penetrating its computers. (As it turned, the Inspector General found John Brennan, the then Director of CIA, proved that both were false. was forced to apologize?. The Senate passed the McCain-Feinstein Anti-Torture Amendment, banning “enhanced interrogation techniques” the Bush administration’s Soviet-style euphemism for torture. However, no one has been held responsible.
In 2018, Gina Haspel, who was involved in the CIA’s infamous destruction of CIA tapes that documented the practice and was personally involved in the torture of one terrorist suspect, became the head of the CIA under Donald Trump, the man who won the presidency in 2016 by declaring:
Would I approve waterboarding You bet your ass I would — in a heartbeat, And I would approve more than that. Don’t kid yourself, folks. It works. It works. Only a stupid person would say it doesn’t work.
Torture doesn’t work. And the use of it, as well as the cover-up by two administrations and the crude endorsement by a man who would be president, is one of the greatest moral stains on America’s reputation in its long history of moral stains. This one happened under our supervision.