But what if it turns out that these methods themselves have rendered known terrorists unprosecutable?
Mohammed al-Qahtani, detainee No. 063, was forced to wear a bra. He had a thong placed on his head. He was massaged by a female interrogator who straddled him like a lap dancer. He was told that his mother and sisters were whores. He was told that other detainees knew he was gay. He was forced to dance with a male interrogator. He was strip-searched in front of women. He was led on a leash and forced to perform dog tricks. He was doused with water. He was prevented from praying. He was forced to watch as an interrogator squatted over his Koran.
And what was the result of this abuse? In the end:
In interviews with MSNBC.com -- the first time they have spoken publicly -- former senior law enforcement agents described their attempts to stop the abusive interrogations. The agents of the Pentagon's Criminal Investigation Task Force, working to build legal cases against suspected terrorists, said they objected to coercive tactics used by a separate team of intelligence interrogators soon after Guantanamo's prison camp opened in early 2002. They ultimately carried their battle up to the office of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, who approved the more aggressive techniques to be used on al-Qahtani and others.
Although they believed the abusive techniques were probably illegal, the Pentagon cops said their objection was practical. They argued that abusive interrogations were not likely to produce truthful information, either for preventing more al-Qaida attacks or prosecuting terrorists.
And they described their disappointment when military prosecutors told them not to worry about making a criminal case against al-Qahtani, the suspected "20th hijacker" of Sept. 11, because what had been done to him would prevent him from ever being put on trial.
This story is HUGE, in my opinion. First, it means that even in the case of a man who American authorities had strong reason to believe was an actual threat (unlike the many Afghan peasants rounded up and thrown into Gitmo), we're unable to prosecute. Even with the emotional connection to the worst terrorist attack in this country's history, the scope of the damage done to this man makes it unlikely that he would be brought to justice in a normal American court. That should say something particularly chilling about our methods at Guantanamo.
Second, this story is hugely important because it suggests the responsibility for these human rights abuses and failed prosecutions (the two are clearly linked) falls directly at the feet of Donald Rumsfeld. The Pentagon has usually hidden behind the troops to claim that their abusive, humiliating interrogation strategies were developed at the behest of our well-trained intelligence professionals. This report suggests that's bullshit.
This is a long, and important article and I hope everyone reads it. I want to get this diary up so I'll wind it up here, but I'll continue posting excerpts and analysis in the comments.