What Happened in Those CIA Black Sites?

Since the day Pres. Bush publicly acknowledged the fact of these sites, that has been the question no one could answer.

That has now changed. Mark Danner, who teaches journalism at UC Berkeley and at Bard College and has authored a book on the Bush administration’s torture regime, has obtained documentation of direct testimony from 14 prisoners who were transferred from the secret interrogation centers to Guantanamo in the fall of 2006. This is testimony that was given directly by the detainees to International Red Cross staffers shortly after Bush announced their transfer to Gitmo, but has not been made public before now.

Danner has an op-ed in the New York Times and a longer article at the New York Review of Books. So far, Hilzoy is the only blogger who has commented on either the op-ed or the article:

Mark Danner has acquired a copy of the ICRC’s interviews with the fourteen “high-value” detainees who were transferred from CIA black sites to Guantanamo, and he has written about it in the NYT and (a longer version; unless noted, quotes are from this piece) in the New York Review of Books. It’s horrifying. Danner quotes George W. Bush saying: “The United States does not torture. It’s against our laws, and it’s against our values. I have not authorized it — and I will not authorize it.”

And yet, somehow, he did. From a man who had lost a leg, and who was forced to stand for two weeks, “apart [from] two or three times when I was allowed to lie down”:

“After some time being held in this position my stump began to hurt so I removed my artificial leg to relieve the pain. Of course my good leg then began to ache and soon started to give way so that I was left hanging with all my weight on my wrists. I shouted for help but at first nobody came. Finally, after about one hour a guard came and my artificial leg was given back to me and I was again placed in the standing position with my hands above my head. After that the interrogators sometimes deliberately removed my artificial leg in order to add extra stress to the position….”

This seems to have been pretty common:

“I was kept for one month in the cell in a standing position with my hands cuffed and shackled above my head and my feet cuffed and shackled to a point in the floor. Of course during this month I fell asleep on some occasions while still being held in this position. This resulted in all my weight being applied to the handcuffs around my wrist resulting in open and bleeding wounds. [Scars consistent with this allegation were visible on both wrists as well as on both ankles.] Both my feet became very swollen after one month of almost continual standing.”

But Donald Rumsfeld stands at his desk for eight hours a day, so I don’t know what these people are complaining about.

A number of detainees report some variant on this:

“Also on a daily basis during the first two weeks a collar was looped around my neck and then used to slam me against the walls of the interrogation room. It was also placed around my neck when being taken out of my cell for interrogation and was used to lead me along the corridor. It was also used to slam me against the walls of the corridor during such movements.”


“I was taken out of my cell and one of the interrogators wrapped a towel around my neck, they then used it to swing me around and smash me repeatedly against the hard walls of the room.”

There’s lots more, all of it appalling.

The first sentence of the NYRB piece is a wake-up call to Congress and the White House: If we as a nation do not hold legally accountable those who designed, oversaw, and gave legal cover to this reign of terror, it will happen again — and this time all of us will be responsible.

4 Responses to “What Happened in Those CIA Black Sites?”

  1. Kilo says:

    I’ve already read the source articles here.
    Why I clicked your blog entry was I misread the title as “what happened TO those black sites”

    That plus a rewording of your opening line to read “Since the day Obama took office…” might make something worth reading while we wait for the next Obama administration official, senator, etc to make a visit to Gitmo as though it’s anything other than the pretty, public shopfront for something much, much larger and completely ignored.

  2. Chief says:

    I would change or amend the ending,

    If we as a nation do not hold legally accountable those who designed, oversaw, and gave legal cover to this reign of terror, it will happen again”

    To be

    Or the next time it will be happening to us.

  3. Sai Grafio says:

    We act like torture is a new phenonomen when torture is applied domestically in the form of police tazers; employing 50, 000 volts is torture in my mind and when the person dies it should be labelled a homicide. In some instances police chases involve hittinghe suspect with the police criuiser. Prods, tasers and stun guns should be outlawed. Police often use “clean beating” that leave no marks by usings phone books, rubber hoses, suspension (including the strappado) Torture has its historical roots in England and in the settling of America in the form of mob lynchings, bagging, bull whipping, drawn and quartered, dunking, tar & feathered, scalping, etc. Torture was employied in S. Africa in the form of necklacing. The problem is why are we having a debate about torture because it is ellegal and why isn’t the debate about who broke laws and international covenants regarding torture.

  4. Sai Grafio says:

    Why is the debate about torture which is illegal and not about those who broke the law regading our international covenants.


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