[Agence France-Presse | Wednesday, 8 October, 2008.]
Internal documents show the U.S. military exported the "brutal interrogation techniques" from Guantánamo prison and applied them to three terror suspects in U.S. jails, civil rights groups said Wednesday. The so-called "Guantánamo protocols" - sleep and sensory deprivation, prolonged isolation and death threats - have been applied to mainland prisons despite attempts by some military personnel to improve harsh conditions, the American Civil Liberties Union (A.C.L.U.) and the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Law Clinic at Yale Law School said in a statement.
The military documents, including regular emails between military officers, were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, and detail the detention and interrogation at naval prisons in Virginia and South Carolina. They focus on three "enemy combatants:" two U.S. citizens, Jose Padilla and Yaser Hamdi, and a legal resident, Ali al Marri. "Guantánamo was designed as a law-free zone, a place where the government could do whatever it wanted without having to worry about whether it was legal," said Jonathan Freiman, an attorney with the Lowenstein Clinic. "It didn't take long for that sort of lawlessness to be brought home to our own country. Who knows how much further America would have gone if the Supreme Court hadn't stepped in to stop incommunicado detentions in 2004," added Freiman.
According to the documents, some U.S. military officers expressed doubts about applying Guantánamo-style rules in mainland prisons, the rights groups said. Officers particularly expressed "grave concern" that the solitary confinement imposed on U.S. soil was more extreme than in Guantánamo, the civil rights groups said. "Navy officers also exhibited frustration with the Defense Department's unwillingness to provide the detainees with access to legal counsel or any information about their fates," it said.
Guantánamo prison was established in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks. "The application of Guantánamo protocols on U.S. soil is incredibly significant and indicates how far the administration has gone in terms of suspending the law," said Jonathan Hafetz, an attorney with the A.C.L.U.'s National Security Project. "The Bush administration has long argued that detainees held in Guantánamo are not entitled to any constitutional protections ... an argument the Supreme Court has recently rejected," he added. "But this is not even Guantánamo. We are talking about creating prisons beyond the law right here in America."
The A.C.L.U. noted that the documents detail conflict throughout the military's chain of command on applying the procedures on U.S. soil. "Though Navy personnel tried several times to improve the harsh conditions under which Hamdi, Padilla and al Marri were detained, senior Defense Department officials repeatedly denied the requests," said the A.C.L.U.
While in the U.S. prisons, Padilla and al Marri reported being subjected to the interrogation techniques used at Guantánamo Bay including "sleep deprivation, painful stress positions, prolonged isolation, extreme sensory deprivation, and threats of violence and death," it said. The trio were picked up in the wake of September 11 for associations with al Qaeda. Hamdi has since been handed over to Saudi Arabia, and Al Marri and Jose Padilla remain in prisons on the U.S. mainland. (Link.)