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Guantánamo Prisoner Said He Was Waterboarded; Agents Omitted It From Memo

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba – A detainee accused of plotting Al Qaeda’s 2000 bombing of the USS Cole warship told federal interrogators years later that he had been waterboarded by the CIA, an interpreter testified Thursday. But that detail was omitted from the official record of the interrogations that prosecutors want to use as evidence that he confessed during his death penalty trial.

The hearings are about whether the military judge will accept a 34-page memo written by officers who interrogated the detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, for three days in Guantanamo Bay in early 2007. The report of the interrogation is regarded as critical proof. Defense lawyers say it is tainted with torture and want it excluded.

“He was talking about waterboarding,” said John J. Elkaliouby, who worked for the FBI as an Arabic linguist from 1994 to 2015. ”

Elkaliouby was called as a witness to the prosecution to describe the mood and atmosphere of the interrogation, which he said was friendly, calm and “to the delight of Mr Nashiri”, who was handcuffed by the ankles. The officers served tea and pastries and the inmate offered that he had been tortured.

The linguist threw the revelation as a surprise. “I honestly didn’t expect that.”

This week’s testimony expanded on the stories that emerged in the September 11 case of how military prosecutors built death penalty cases against men tortured while detained in secret detention in CIA-run overseas prisons, then sent to Guantánamo Bay in 2006. transferred for trial by order of President George W. Bush.

The CIA had a covert role at Guantánamo in the detention and interrogation of the men by FBI and Navy law enforcement officers, including collecting the records of interrogations, Mr Elkaliouby said. The CIA demanded that the interrogators write their reports of what they learned on the agencies’ computers, which were classified.

Before the interrogations began in early 2007, federal agents were instructed to omit allegations of torture and abuse from what were popularly referred to as “clean team memos” — and instead write a separate report.

Defense attorneys have said they received copies of those separate bills among classified documents that prosecutors handed over to them at this stage of the preliminary investigation. But it is impossible to know how the defendants made the allegations, because there are no recordings or transcripts of those interrogations.

Seventeen American sailors were killed in the suicide bombing of the Cole during a refueling stop in Aden, Yemen, on October 12, 2000. Although Mr Nashiri was captured two years later and handed over to US custody, he was not charged until 2011. The case has been in pre-trial hearings for more than a decade, as defense attorneys have struggled to obtain information about his torture and use it to disqualify evidence.

They have also argued that Mr. Nashiri, who is now 57 and diagnosed by US military doctors as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, emerged from CIA detention in a state of “learned helplessness”, essentially trained to deal with his American captors. telling them what he believed they wanted to hear.

He was waterboarded in Thailand in 2002 by psychologists working as CIA contractors and was subjected to rectal abuse and threatened with a drill and gun during interrogations conducted by CIA agents. For a time in late 2003 and early 2004, he was hidden in Guantanamo Bay at a CIA black site near prison facilities, but out of the reach of lawyers and the International Red Cross.

That spot is known as Camp Echo 2, and it was where Nashiri was held in 2004 and then in 2007 for the interrogations that prosecutors consider central to their case.

Earlier Thursday, Bernard E. DeLury Jr., a retired Navy Reserve captain who is now a New Jersey senior court, testified before prosecutors that on March 14, 2007, Mr. Nashiri was “alert,” “present,” and not under distress. during a hearing to review his status as an enemy combatant.

Judge DeLury presided over the two-hour Combatant Status Review Tribunal, or CSRT, during which he said he had “no doubt in my mind” that the prisoner’s participation was conscious and voluntary.

The trial banned prisoners from having a lawyer, but Mr Nashiri was assigned a naval officer to act as a “personal representative”, speaking on his behalf and helping him respond to the charges the military said were sufficient to detain him as, essentially, a prisoner of war in the war on terror.

An attorney, Captain Brian L. Mizer of the Navy, asked Judge DeLury if he knew that Mr. Nashiri had told his representative, known in court as Lieutenant Commander X, that he was “afraid that he would be executed and put in jail.” pieces cut on his CSRT”

Judge DeLury replied, “Had he told me that, I certainly would have looked into that with him.”

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