By Lee Russ
Wednesday, August 03, 2005 at 09:19 AM
Slow leaking liquid is itself a form of torture, but this week we're seeing slow leaks about torture. Check out this story from the Washington Post, which continues the revelations about how we really have conducted our Iraqi interrogations.Excerpts from
Documents Tell of Brutal Improvisation by GIs
Interrogated General's Sleeping-Bag Death, CIA's Use of Secret Iraqi Squad Are Among Details
By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 3, 2005; A01
Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush was being stubborn with his American captors, and a series of intense beatings and creative interrogation tactics were not enough to break his will. On the morning of Nov. 26, 2003, a U.S. Army interrogator and a military guard grabbed a green sleeping bag, stuffed Mowhoush inside, wrapped him in an electrical cord, laid him on the floor and began to go to work. Again.
It was inside the sleeping bag that the 56-year-old detainee took his last breath through broken ribs, lying on the floor beneath a U.S. soldier in Interrogation Room 6 in the western Iraqi desert. Two days before, a secret CIA-sponsored group of Iraqi paramilitaries, working with Army interrogators, had beaten Mowhoush nearly senseless, using fists, a club and a rubber hose, according to classified documents.
The sleeping bag was the idea of a soldier who remembered how his older brother used to force him into one, and how scared and vulnerable it made him feel. Senior officers in charge of the facility near the Syrian border believed that such "claustrophobic techniques" were approved ways to gain information from detainees, part of what military regulations refer to as a "fear up" tactic, according to military court documents.
The circumstances that led up to Mowhoush's death paint a vivid example of how the pressure to produce intelligence for anti-terrorism efforts and the war in Iraq led U.S. military interrogators to improvise and develop abusive measures, not just at Abu Ghraib but in detention centers elsewhere in Iraq, in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Mowhoush's ordeal in Qaim, over 16 days in November 2003, also reflects U.S. government secrecy surrounding some abuse cases and gives a glimpse into a covert CIA unit that was set up to foment rebellion before the war and took part in some interrogations during the insurgency.
The sleeping-bag interrogation and beatings were taking place in Qaim about the same time that soldiers at Abu Ghraib, outside Baghdad, were using dogs to intimidate detainees, putting women's underwear on their heads, forcing them to strip in front of female soldiers and attaching at least one to a leash. It was a time when U.S. interrogators were coming up with their own tactics to get detainees to talk, many of which they considered logical interpretations of broad-brush categories in the Army Field Manual, with labels such as "fear up" or "pride and ego down" or "futility."
Determining the details of the general's demise has been difficult because the circumstances are listed as "classified" on his official autopsy, court records have been censored to hide the CIA's involvement in his questioning, and reporters have been removed from a Fort Carson courtroom when testimony relating to the CIA has surfaced.
Although Mowhoush's death certificate lists his cause of death as "asphyxia due to smothering and chest compression," the Dec. 2, 2003, autopsy, quoted in classified documents and released with redactions, showed that Mowhoush had "contusions and abrasions with pattern impressions" over much of his body, and six fractured ribs. Investigators believed a "long straight-edge instrument" was used on Mowhoush, as well as an "object like the end of an M-16" rifle.
Officials in Baghdad wrote an e-mail to interrogators in the field on Aug. 14, 2003, stating that the "gloves are coming off" and asking them to develop "wish lists" of tactics they would like to use.
An interrogator with the 66th Military Intelligence Company, who was assigned to work on Mowhoush, wrote back with suggestions in August, including the use of "close confinement quarters," sleep deprivation and using the fear of dogs, adding: "I firmly agree that the gloves need to come off."
When Army efforts produced nothing useful, detainees would be handed over to members of Operational Detachment Alpha 531, soldiers with the 5th Special Forces Group, the CIA or a combination of the three. "The personnel were dressed in civilian clothes and wore balaclavas to hide their identity," according to a Jan. 18, 2004, report for the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division.
If they did not get what they wanted, the interrogators would deliver the detainees to a small team of the CIA-sponsored Iraqi paramilitary squads, code-named Scorpions, according to a military source familiar with the operation. The Jan. 18 memo indicates that it was "likely that indigenous personnel in the employ of the CIA interrogated MG Mowhoush."
Sometimes, soldiers and intelligence officers used the mere existence of the paramilitary unit as a threat to induce detainees to talk, one Army soldier said in an interview. "Detainees knew that if they went to those people, bad things would happen," the soldier said. "It was used as a motivator to get them to talk. They didn't want to go with the masked men."
The Scorpions went by nicknames such as Alligator and Cobra. They were set up by the CIA before the war to conduct light sabotage. After the fall of Baghdad, they worked with their CIA handlers to infiltrate the insurgency and as interpreters, according to military investigative documents, defense officials, and former and current intelligence officials.
On Nov. 24, the CIA and one of its four-man Scorpion units interrogated Mowhoush, according to investigative records.
"OGA Brian and the four indig were interrogating an unknown detainee," according to a classified memo, using the slang "other government agency" for the CIA and "indig" for indigenous Iraqis.
"When he didn't answer or provided an answer that they didn't like, at first [redacted] would slap Mowhoush, and then after a few slaps, it turned into punches," Ryan testified. "And then from punches, it turned into [redacted] using a piece of hose."
"The indig were hitting the detainee with fists, a club and a length of rubber hose," according to classified investigative records.
Soldiers heard Mowhoush "being beaten with a hard object" and heard him "screaming" from down the hall, according to the Jan. 18, 2004, provost marshal's report. The report said four Army guards had to carry Mowhoush back to his cell.
Autopsy Shields CIA
The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology's standard "Autopsy Examination Report" of Mowhoush's death was manipulated to avoid references to the CIA. In contrast to the other autopsy reports of suspicious detainee deaths released by the Army, Mowhoush's name is redacted and under "Circumstances of Death," the form says: "This Iraqi [redacted] died while in U.S. custody. The details surrounding the circumstances at the time of death are classified."
William Cassara [attorney for a U.S. soldier] said: "The interrogation techniques were known and were approved of by the upper echelons of command of the 3rd ACR," Cassara said in a news conference. "They believed, and still do, that they were appropriate and proper."