Black Holes and Mock Burial

The other day, I posted on black holes in Bagram and Somalia. This important story, describes the plight of Tanzanian fisherman Suleiman Abdallah, who was kidnapped and sold for bounty in Mogadishu then rendered to three different American prisons, ultimately to Bagram, before he was freed five years later.

In addition to the portraying yet another innocent disappeared into our prison system, the story provides a few important details.

In fact, Suleiman was thousands of kilometers from his familiar Indian Ocean reefs, in an underground prison in central Afghanistan.

“It was pitch black, with constant noise and not enough food,” he recalled. His American interrogators would pour freezing cold water on him and beat him, saying, “We know you are a sea man, but here we have more water than out there in the sea. It never stops raining here.” Suleiman also describes being hung from the ceiling in the “strappado position,” slung in chains so that his toes just touched the floor. He also says American interrogators would take the ablution jug (used by Muslims for ritual cleansing before prayer), and stick its long spout up his rectum.

[snip]

The litany of abuses described by Suleiman included severe beatings, prolonged solitary confinement, forced nakedness and humiliation, sexual assault, being locked naked in a coffin and forced to lie on a wet mat, naked and handcuffed, and then rolled up like a corpse. It was extremely tough. There were times when both of us clinicians, and the patient, broke down in tears.” [my emphasis]

While Clare Gutteridge doesn’t say it, the underground prison in Afghanistan sounds like the Salt Pit (Cage Prisoners says it was a different prison, but that he was then transferred to the Salt Pit). He was transferred to the relatively better Bagram in mid-2003.

In any case, that means the prisons in Afghanistan were using dousing after it may have contributed to Gul Rahman’s death the previous year, and after the CIA IG investigation into torture started.

Then there’s the mock burial–the only treatment John Yoo ever deemed torture. While Abdallah’s torturers might call the coffin “small box confinement,” between that and the funeral shroud, the intent of the treatment seems fairly clear.

And remember: top Bush officials had reason to know this treatment would elicit false confessions. It sounds like CIA and FBI interrogators learned fairly early on Abdallah was not who they had thought he was (they originally believed he had a role in the 1998 Embassy bombings).

Were we using the methods that even John Yoo found to be illegal to invent some justification for kidnapping Abdallah?

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

9 replies
  1. ondelette says:

    The two stories have nothing to do with each other, other than the country names. An associative paragraph that creates the impression of hidden connections where there are none is a deliberate falsification.

  2. klynn says:

    Wow. This was difficult content to read. I look forward to Jason Leopold and Jeff Kaye stopping by with comments.

    I will need to share this with son-of-klynn.

  3. ondelette says:

    And speaking of Somalia and abductions, 4 humanitarian workers from Norwegian Refugee Council were abducted from Dadaab refugee camp by gunmen believed to be from al Shabab yesterday. They are believed to be being held in Somalia, in addition to two MSF workers abducted last Fall. These are from Norway, Canada, Pakistan and the Philippines, the MSF workers were from Spain. But we won’t call it a black hole, we won’t actually call it anything, or even talk about it at all. We’ll just call an executive order banning helping al Shabab with money or guns wrong. And call someone who calls us on it a “troll”.

    These are facts. You’re insinuation that your article on Bosaso had anything to do with an abduction in Mogadishu many years ago is an unproven insinuation. Maybe you should learn the difference between the two.

  4. emptywheel says:

    @ondelette: 1) What person is believed to have received a bounty for Abdallah?

    2) According to cageprisoners, what was the path via which Abdallah was rendered?

    Right. He has nothing to do with Somalia, our work with warlords there, or, potentially, Bosaso itself.

    And yes, I’m aware that humanitarian workers were abducted–though it was 5 if you include the Kenyan. It just so happens you and I disagree on whether our CT tactics in the Horn help or hurt.

    That–all of that–is a disagreement.

  5. greengiant says:

    Wonder how many layers of carve outs and subcontractors before you get to a bona fide U.S. government employee. The attractiveness of the out sourcing is that the responsibility gets lost?

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The USA has, of course, given this fisherman an abject apology and compensated him profusely for his torture and loss of liberty. Right. Only Canadians and Brits are so stupid as to admit governmental wrongdoing. Zut! Even the French do it once a century or so so. Mr. Obama? He’d rather force mandatory universal health care on the FIRE boys than consider such an option.

  7. Jeff Kaye says:

    I documented use of water dousing, including a form of such water torture I called “extreme water dousing”, as it exceeded the description of such torture as used by the CIA, e.g. dousing with high pressure hoses and after application of pepper spray.

    The cases I looked at we’re at Guantanamo mostly, and took place in 2003 and 2004, and possibly thereafter. They were written up in a two-part series at Truthout last summer. Link to the second of these articles.

    So yes, water dousing was used after Gul Rahman’s death and subsequent “investigation” of that murder by torture.

    I’ve come to believe the kidnappings, torture, etc. of individuals like Abdallah was to create the illusion of a much greater and more defined jihadist movement than actually existed. The proof of this worldwide jihad movement was in the number of plots and captured (or now, with drone attacks, killed) “terrorists.”

    I’m not saying terrorism doesn’t exist, or that fundamentalist Islamists haven’t in some cases turned to terrorism aimed against the West. What I am saying is that this has been manipulated by US and other Western intelligence agencies (incl. military intel) to create a bogeyman much grater than the actual sum of its parts. The most immediate victims are the al Masris, the Abdallahs, the Dilawars, the Aamers, etc., who were used as pawns to create this version of an opponent that in many respects did not exist, or had itself been built up by Western governments (as was true of the Afghan muhajadeen themselves during the years of the Soviet occupation, and even before that).

  8. joanneleon says:

    @Jeff Kaye: Those last two paragraphs are very interesting. It just fills in some of the colors between the lines/dots connected, a bigger picture perspective, suggesting why torture was so important to some of our officials, knowing, from the beginning, that they had a long war to sell.

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