Apologies if this has already been diaried, but the NY Times just put out a story a story saying that a top official in the Pentagon's Military Commissions apparatus, which was set up to try detainees being held at Gitmo, claims that at least one detainee, Mohammed al-Qahtani, has been tortured by the US while in custody--i.e. that his mistreatment meets even the Bush administration's definition of torture--and that he can therefore not be tried, because the evidence against him is tainted and inadmissable.

Although prior internal investigations found that he had not been tortured, the one that she conducted determined that he was, in fact, tortured, which clearly represents a major new development in the ongoing opposition to Gitmo and the Bush torture regime. What we have all long known--or had very, very good reason to believe--has now been verified by a top Bush official, in the final days of the administration, as as debate swirls as to whether we should hold those who tortured, and approved of and ordered the use of torture, should be investigated, indicted and prosecuted.

Detainee Was Tortured, a Bush Official Confirms
Published: January 14, 2009

The senior Pentagon official in the Bush administration’s system for prosecuting detainees said in a published interview that she had concluded that interrogators had tortured a Guantánamo detainee who has sometimes been described as "the 20th hijacker" in the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The public record of the Guantánamo interrogation of the detainee, Mohammed al-Qahtani, has long included what officials labeled abusive techniques, including exposure to extreme temperatures and isolation, but the Pentagon has resisted acknowledging that his treatment rose to the level of torture.

But the official, Susan J. Crawford, told Bob Woodward of The Washington Post that she had concluded that his treatment amounted to torture when she reviewed military charges against him last year. In May she decided that the case could not be referred for trial but provided no explanation at the time.

"His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case" for prosecution, Ms. Crawford was quoted as saying in an article published in The Post on Wednesday.

Ms. Crawford, the convening authority of military commissions, had never given an interview on Guantánamo. She is an appointee of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and a retired military judge who was Pentagon inspector general when Dick Cheney was secretary of defense.

Ms. Crawford said she drew her conclusions from a combination of techniques that she said had a "medical impact."

It doesn't get any clearer than this. At least one detainee has been OFFICIALLY found to have been tortured by people working for the Bush administration, which is not only a crime in itself, but has made it impossible to try that detainee, and anyone else who will have been found to have been tortured or otherwise mistreated, because the evidence against them will have been too tainted to be admissible. They have not only broken the law in at least two very serious ways (torture, lying about torture), but have arguably made the US LESS safe in the process.

Way to go there, Georgie!

Update: H/T to The Wife of Bath for reminding me to mention that the source of this NYT article was this Bob Woodward article in the Washington Post, which has a lot more on this story.

Also, I want to add a few more thoughts. First, one has to wonder whether his torturing will be dealt with legally and properly, and how high up it'll go. Will this be another "a few bad apples", or can, and will, this be traced higher up in the chain of command? No way to tell until Obama takes over and any decisions are made as to how to handle this.

And second, I find it interesting that this would happen a week before Obama takes over, especially in light of the recent coordinated push by establishment figures and pundits to convince him to one, not persue investigations and prosecutions of possible Bush administration crimes, and two, not release detainees even if the cases against them don't support holding and trying them. Perhaps it's just a coincidence, but it comes at an odd time and does put Obama into the position of having to decide fairly quickly how to deal with this, and with similar cases. I hope that he does the right thing.

Originally posted to kovie on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 10:37 PM PST.


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