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Context of 'January 22, 2003-May 8, 2003: Captain of Military Intelligence Interrogators at Scandal-Ridden Bagram Receives Bronze Star'

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A new interrogation unit arrives at the Bagram Collection Point (BCP), the improvised interrogation and holding facility at Bagram Air Force Base (see October 2001). The unit is headed by Lieutenant Carolyn Wood (see January 22, 2003-May 8, 2003), who leads a 13-man unit from the 525th Military Intelligence Brigade at Fort Bragg, NC. Wood’s unit is augmented by six Arabic-speaking reservists from the Utah National Guard. Many in the group, consolidated under Company A of the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, are counterintelligence specialists with no background in interrogation. Only two of the soldiers have ever questioned actual prisoners. The training they receive is ad hoc and minimal. The noncommissioned officer in charge of the interrogators, Staff Sergeant Steven Loring, will later tell investigators, “There was nothing that prepared us for running an interrogation operation” like the one at Bagram. Nor are the rules of engagement clear. The platoon uses the standard interrogations guide, Section 34-52 of the Army Fleld Manual, and an order from Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to treat prisoners “humanely” and, when possible, within the strictures of the Geneva Conventions. But when President Bush determines in February 2002 that the Conventions do not apply to Taliban and al-Qaeda captives (see February 7, 2002), the interrogators decide they “could deviate slightly from the rules,” in the words of Utah reservist Sergeant James Leahy. “There was the Geneva Conventions for enemy prisoners of war, but nothing for terrorists,” Leahy will tell Army investigators. And the detainees, senior intelligence officers say, are to be considered terrorists until proved otherwise. One group of soldiers is later dubbed “the Testosterone Gang”; they decorate their tent with a Confederate flag, spend large amounts of time bodybuilding, and quickly earn a reputation as some of the most brutal of the soldiers at Bagram. [New York Times, 5/20/2005]

Entity Tags: US Department of the Army, Carolyn A. Wood, Donald Rumsfeld, Steven Loring, George W. Bush, James Leahy

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Habibullah.Habibullah. [Source: CBS]Mullah Habibullah, a 30-year-old Afghan from the southern province of Oruzgan, dies of complications related to “blunt force trauma” while in detention at the US base at Bagram. [Washington Post, 3/5/2003; BBC, 3/6/2003; Guardian, 3/7/2003; New York Times, 9/17/2004] Habibullah was captured by an Afghan warlord on November 28, 2002, and delivered to Bagram by the CIA on November 30. Habibullah is identified as the brother of a former Taliban commander, and later described as portly, well-groomed, and, in the words of American military police officer Major Bobby Atwell, “very confident.” [New York Times, 5/20/2005]
Injured When Delivered into US Custody - When Habibullah arrived at the US air base, he was reportedly already severely hurt. Despite his condition, according to one account, he was isolated “in a ‘safety’ position [stress position], with his arms shackled and tied to a beam in the ceiling.” He was left in that position for days, but regularly checked on. [Knight Ridder, 8/21/2004]
Targeted for Abuse - Though battered and ill, Habibullah’s defiance makes him a target for physical abuse, with the MPs and guards repeatedly attacking his legs. (Some guards will later claim Habibullah’s injuries were received when he tried to escape.) Most of the Americans will later describe Habibullah as insubordinate; one will recall being kneed in the groin by Habibullah after subjecting the prisoner to a rectal examination. Habibullah’s interrogations produce little of worth, in part because the MPs who interrogate him usually have no interpreters available. Sometimes the MPs demand that another prisoner translate for them; usually the interrogation sessions contain no more than physical restraints or beatings. [New York Times, 5/20/2005] At some point, Sgt. James P. Boland, a guard from the Army Reserve’s 377th MP Company from Cincinnati, allegedly watches as a subordinate beats Habibullah. [New York Times, 9/17/2004] The beating of Habibullah was likely witnessed by British detainee Moazzam Begg, who will later say he witnessed the death of “two fellow detainees at the hands of US military personnel” while at Bagram (see July 12, 2004). [Guardian, 10/1/2004; New York Times, 10/15/2004]
Complaints of Chest Pains Mocked - During his last interrogation session, on December 2, Habibullah spends the entirety of the session coughing and complaining of chest pains. His right leg is stiff and his right leg swollen. The interpreter for the session, Ebrahim Baerde, later recalls the interrogators “laughing and making fun of” Habibullah “because he was spitting up a lot of phlegm.” Habibullah is still defiant; when one interrogator asks if he wants to spend the rest of his life in handcuffs, Baerde will recall the prisoner retorting, “Yes, don’t they look good on me?” [New York Times, 5/20/2005]
Found Dead, Hanging from Shackles - On December 3, Habibullah is found dead, still hanging in his shackles. [Washington Post, 3/5/2003; BBC, 3/6/2003; Guardian, 3/7/2003; New York Times, 9/17/2004] Boland sees Habibullah hanging from the ceiling of his cell, suspended by two sets of handcuffs and a chain around his waist. His body is slumped forward and his tongue is protruding. Boland, along with Specialists Anthony Morden and Brian Cammack, enters the cell. Cammack puts a piece of bread in Habibullah’s mouth; another soldier puts an apple in Habibullah’s hand, and it falls to the floor. According to Cammack, Habibullah’s spit gets on Cammack’s chest. Later, Cammack will acknowledge, “I’m not sure he spit at me,” but now he screams, “Don’t ever spit on me again!” and knees Habibullah in the thigh “maybe a couple” of times. Habibullah makes no response; his body swings limply from the chains. Twenty minutes later, the guards unchain Habibullah and lay him on the floor. He has no pulse. Cammack, according to another guard, “appeared very distraught” and “was running about the room hysterically.” An MP is sent to wake a medic, who refuses to respond, telling the MP to call an ambulance instead. By the time a second medic arrives at the cell, Habibullah is laid spreadeagled on the floor, eyes and mouth open. “It looked like he had been dead for a while, and it looked like nobody cared,” the medic, Staff Sergeant Rodney Glass, will later recall. Atwell will later recall that Habibullah’s death “did not cause an enormous amount of concern ‘cause it appeared natural.” The autopsy, completed five days later, will show bruises and abrasions on Habibullah’s chest, arms, and head. The body has severe contusions on the calves, knees, and thighs, and the sole print of a boot is on his left calf. The death will be attributed to a blood clot, probably caused by the severe injuries to his legs, which traveled to his heart and blocked the blood flow to his lungs. [New York Times, 5/20/2005] His legs have been struck so forcefully, according to one death certificate, it complicated his coronary artery disease. Another certificate will say the beating led to a pulmonary embolism, which is a blockage of an artery in the lungs, often caused by a blood clot. [USA Today, 5/31/2004]
Commanding Officer Able to Hear Screams, Moans of Detainees - In charge of the military intelligence interrogators at Bagram at this time is Capt. Carolyn A. Wood. According to an anonymous intelligence officer, Wood should be aware of what is happening to prisoners at Bagram since interrogations take place close to her office. The intelligence officer will recall hearing screams and moans coming out from the interrogation and isolation rooms. [Knight Ridder, 8/21/2004]

Entity Tags: Carolyn A. Wood, Anthony Morden, Bobby Atwell, Brian Cammack, James P. Boland, Rodney Glass, Ebrahim Baerde, Mullah Habibullah, Moazzam Begg, Taliban

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, War in Afghanistan

A sketch by MP Sergeant Thomas Curtis showing how Dilawar was chained to the ceiling of his cell. A sketch by MP Sergeant Thomas Curtis showing how Dilawar was chained to the ceiling of his cell. [Source: New York Times]Dilawar, a 22-year-old Afghan farmer and part-time taxi driver from the small village of Yakubi in eastern Afghanistan, is picked up by local authorities and turned over to US soldiers. Dilawar is described as a shy, uneducated man with a slight frame, rarely leaving the stone farmhouse he shares with his wife and family. He is captured while driving a used Toyota sedan that his family bought him to use as a taxi. He has three fares, men headed back towards his village, and is stopped by Afghan militiamen loyal to the guerrilla commander Jan Baz Khan. (Khan will later be taken into custody himself for allegedly attacking US targets and then turning over innocent villagers to US forces, accusing them of carrying out the attacks.) The militia confiscates a broken walkie-talkie from one of the passengers, and an electric stabilizer used to regulate current from a generator in the trunk of the Toyota (Dilawar’s family later says the stabilizer is not theirs; they have no electricity). All four men are turned over to American soldiers at Bagram Air Force Base as suspects in a recent rocket attack on the US base at Khost. They spend the first night handcuffed to the fence to deprive them of sleep. Dilawar is then examined by the base doctor, who pronounces him healthy.
Passengers Shipped to Guantanamo, Say Bagram Treatment Far Worse - Dilawar’s three passengers are eventually shipped to Guantanamo for a year, before being released without charge. The three will describe their ordeal at Bagram as far worse than their treatment at Guantanamo. All will claim to have been beaten, stripped in front of female guards, and subjected to repeated and harsh rectal exams. Abdul Rahim, a baker from Khost, will recall: “They did lots and lots of bad things to me [at Bagram]. I was shouting and crying, and no one was listening. When I was shouting, the soldiers were slamming my head against the desk.” Another of Dilawar’s passengers, Parkhudin, later recalls that Dilawar “could not breathe” in the black cloth hood pulled over his head.
Running Joke - Though Dilawar is shy and frail, he is quickly labeled “noncompliant.” One US military policeman, Specialist Corey Jones, reports that Dilawar spat on him and tried to kick him. Jones retaliated by giving him a number of “peroneal knee strikes” (see May 20, 2005). As Jones will later recall: “He screamed out, ‘Allah! Allah! Allah!’ and my first reaction was that he was crying out to his god. Everybody heard him cry out and thought it was funny. It became a kind of running joke, and people kept showing up to give this detainee a common peroneal strike just to hear him scream out ‘Allah.’ It went on over a 24-hour period, and I would think that it was over 100 strikes.” Several other guards will later admit to striking Dilawar. While most MPs deny any knowledge of Dilawar being injured by the physical assaults, Jones will remember seeing Dilawar’s legs when his orange drawstring pants fell off of him while he was shackled. “I saw the bruise because his pants kept falling down while he was in standing restraints,” Jones will later recall. “Over a certain time period, I noticed it was the size of a fist.” Dilawar’s repeated cries and pleas for his release do little besides annoy his captors.
Fourth Interrogation Marked by Beatings - Dilawar’s fourth interrogation, on December 8, turns sour. Lead interrogator Specialist Glendale Walls will contend that Dilawar is hostile and evasive. Sergeant Selena Salcedo, another interrogator, will say that Dilawar smiled, refused to answer questions, and refused to stay kneeling on the ground or in his ordered “chair-sitting” posture against the wall. But the interpreter present, Ahmad Ahmadzai, has a different recollection. According to Ahmadzai, Dilawar denies launching any rockets at the Americans. He is unable to hold his cuffed hands above him while kneeling, and Salcedo slaps them back up whenever they begin to droop. “Selena berated him for being weak and questioned him about being a man, which was very insulting because of his heritage,” Ahmadzai will tell investigators. Both Salcedo and Walls repeatedly slam Dilawar against the wall: “This went on for 10 or 15 minutes,” Ahmadzei will say. “He was so tired he couldn’t get up.” Salcedo begins stamping his foot, yanking his head by grabbing his beard, and kicking him in the groin. Ahmadzai will state: “About the first 10 minutes, I think, they were actually questioning him, after that it was pushing, shoving, kicking and shouting at him. There was no interrogation going on.” Salcedo orders the MPs to keep him chained to the ceiling of his cell until the next shift comes on. [Knight Ridder, 8/21/2004; New York Times, 5/20/2005]
Chained to the Ceiling - The next morning, Dilawar is still chained to his ceiling. He begins shouting during the morning, and is ignored until around noon, when MPs ask another interpreter, Ebrahim Baerde, to see if he can calm Dilawar. Baerde will tell investigators: “I told him, ‘Look, please, if you want to be able to sit down and be released from shackles, you just need to be quiet for one more hour.’ He told me that if he was in shackles another hour, he would die.” A half-hour later, Baerde returns to the cell to find Dilawar slumped in his chains. “He wanted me to get a doctor, and said that he needed ‘a shot,’” Baerde will recall. “He said that he didn’t feel good. He said that his legs were hurting.” Baerde tells a guard, who checks Dilawar’s circulation by pressing down on his fingernails. According to Baerde, the guard says: “He’s okay. He’s just trying to get out of his restraints.” [New York Times, 3/4/2003; Guardian, 3/7/2003; Independent, 3/7/2003; Knight Ridder, 8/21/2004; New York Times, 9/17/2004; New York Times, 5/20/2005]
Dead Days Later - Dilawar will be found dead in his cell days later (see December 10, 2002).

Entity Tags: Ebrahim Baerde, Glendale Walls, Jan Baz Khan, Dilawar, Abdul Rahim, Ahmad Ahmadzai, Corey Jones, Selena Salcedo, Parkhudin

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, War in Afghanistan

In a front-page article, the Washington Post reports on the US intelligence program of rendition (see 1993) and reveals that US agents are using “stress and duress” techniques to interrogate captives detained in Afghanistan. Persons being held in the CIA interrogation center at Bagram Air Base who refuse to cooperate “are sometimes kept standing or kneeling for hours in black hoods or spray-painted goggles,…. held in awkward, painful positions and deprived of sleep with a 24-hour bombardment of lights’ subject to what are known as ‘stress and duress’ techniques,” the article says. [Washington Post, 12/26/2002; Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004] Each of the ten current national security officials who were interviewed for the article “defended the use of violence against captives as just and necessary.” [Washington Post, 12/26/2002] It quotes one official who reasons: “If you don’t violate someone’s human rights some of the time, you probably aren’t doing your job…. I don’t think we want to be promoting a view of zero tolerance on this.” [Washington Post, 12/26/2002; Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004] Likewise, another official acknowledges that “our guys may kick them around a little bit in the adrenaline of the immediate aftermath.” A different source comments, with reference to the medical services provided for captives, that “pain control [in wounded patients] is a very subjective thing.” [Washington Post, 12/26/2002] Finally, in a very explicit remark, one of the officials interviewed by the Post, who is described as being directly involved in the rendition of captives, explains the program’s logic: “We don’t kick the [expletive] out of them. We send them to other countries so they can kick the [expletive] out of them.” [Washington Post, 12/26/2002; Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004] After the report is published, Maj. Stephen Clutter, the deputy spokesman at Bagram, denies the allegations (see December 29, 2002), claiming that the Washington Post article was “false on several points, the first being that there is no CIA detention facility on Bagram.” He says, “The accusation of inhumane treatment is something that I can clearly refute. The things that they talked about, the inhumane conditions… are things that do not go on here.” [Agence France-Presse, 12/29/2002]

Entity Tags: Stephen Clutter

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Carolyn Wood.Carolyn Wood. [Source: CBC]On January 22, 2003, Capt. Carolyn A. Wood receives a Bronze Star for “exceptional meritorious service” as the head of military intelligence interrogators at Bagram. She and her small platoon of 15 interrogators from the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion returned from Afghanistan to their base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina earlier in the month. On May 8, 2003, Wood receives her second Bronze Star. [Knight Ridder, 8/21/2004] Wood was previously in charge of the US air base at Bagram, where detainees have alleged torture and where at least two detainees died as a result of physical abuse (see November 30-December 3, 2002) (see December 26, 2002) (see December 5-9, 2002). Wood and her battalion will be redeployed to Iraq and handle interrogations at the Abu Ghraib prison while abuses go on there (see July 15, 2003). She will implement nearly the same interrogation rules used in Bagram (see July 15, 2003).

Entity Tags: Carolyn A. Wood

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, War in Afghanistan

The 519th Military Intelligence Battalion produces a memo laying down new “Interrogation Rules of Engagement” (IROE), for use in its new mission in Iraq. [US Department of the Army, 3/9/2004] The person apparently mostly responsible for writing the memo is Cpt. Carolyn A. Wood, formerly in charge of military intelligence interrogators at Bagram, which serves as the main screening area in Afghanistan. [Guardian, 6/23/2004] Col. Billy Buckner, the chief public affairs officer at Fort Bragg, home to the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, later says that Wood brought the interrogations rules used at Bagram with her to Iraq. [Associated Press, 5/24/2004] But the rules are also adapted and made somewhat less aggressive. “Those rules were modified,” according to Buckner, “to make sure the right restraints were in place.” [Guardian, 6/23/2004] The modifications nevertheless fall outside normal military doctrine. According to a classified portion of the later Fay report (see August 25, 2004), the memo allows the “use of stress positions during fear-up harsh interrogation approaches, as well as presence of military working dogs, yelling, loud music,… light control,” sleep management, and isolation. [New York Review of Books, 10/7/2004] The memo is adopted from interrogation procedures known as “Battlefield Interrogation Team and Facility Policy,” in use by a secretive unit called Joint Task Force (JTF) 121 , that is active in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The 519th Military Intelligence Battalion worked in close cooperation with Special Operations Forces like JTF-121 during its tour in Afghanistan, and “at some point,” according to the Fay report, it “came to possess the JTF-121 interrogation policy.” [New York Times, 8/27/2004] Cpt. Wood adopts the JTF-121 policy “almost verbatim.” [New York Times, 8/27/2004] Like the highest US command in Iraq, the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion apparently believes the standard Army Field Manual is an insufficient guideline for interrogations. Interrogation techniques falling outside the scope of standard military doctrine have already been devised at the Pentagon, but only for use in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. These “non-doctrinal approaches, techniques, and practices,” according to Gen. George R. Fay, nevertheless, become “confused at Abu Ghraib.” [US Department of the Army, 3/9/2004] JTF-121 consists of CIA officials and Special Operations troops, including soldiers from the Army’s Delta Force and Navy Seals. The unit is later alleged to have been instrumental in the capture of Saddam Hussein. [New York Times, 5/17/2004]

Entity Tags: Troy Armstrong, George R. Fay, Saddam Hussein, Carolyn A. Wood

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

The New York Times obtains a copy of a classified file of the Army criminal investigation into a number of detainee deaths at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. The report focuses on two Afghan detainees, Mullah Habibullah (see October 2004 and November 30-December 3, 2002) and a taxi driver known as Dilawar (see December 10, 2002), both of whom were in essence tortured to death; other detainees are also covered in the report. The Army report follows up on the official inquiry conducted in late 2004 (see October 2004).
Torture to Extract Information, Punish Detainees, and Alleviate Boredom - The Times writes: “Like a narrative counterpart to the digital images from Abu Ghraib, the Bagram file depicts young, poorly trained soldiers in repeated incidents of abuse. The harsh treatment, which has resulted in criminal charges against seven soldiers, went well beyond the two deaths. In some instances, testimony shows, it was directed or carried out by interrogators to extract information. In others, it was punishment meted out by military police guards. Sometimes, the torment seems to have been driven by little more than boredom or cruelty, or both.” One female interrogator has what a colleague in a sworn statement calls a taste for humiliation; that interrogator is described as having stood on the neck of one prostrate detainee, and having kicked another detainee in the genitals. Another statement tells of a shackled prisoner being forced to kiss the boots of his interrogators. A third tells of a detainee forced to pick plastic bottle caps out of a drum mixed with excrement and water. Overall, the Army report concludes that many of the tactics used by interrogators and guards amounts to criminal assault. Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita says: “What we have learned through the course of all these investigations is that there were people who clearly violated anyone’s standard for humane treatment. We’re finding some cases that were not close calls.” Seven soldiers, all interrogators and guards of low rank, have been charged with crimes ranging from dereliction of duty to maiming and involuntary manslaughter; two others received reprimands, and 15 others named in the original report were cited as bearing probable criminal responsibility in the deaths. One of the interrogators charged with assaulting Dilawar, Sergeant Selena Salcedo, says: “The whole situation is unfair. It’s all going to come out when everything is said and done.”
Many Interrogators Redeployed to Iraq; Bagram Tactics Used at Abu Ghraib - The Army criminal investigation was conducted slowly. During the course of the investigation, many of the Bagram interrogators, including their operations officer, Captain Carolyn Wood, were redeployed to Iraq (see Mid-March 2003). Wood took charge of interrogations at Abu Ghraib prison and, according to Army inquiries, began using tactics “remarkably similar” to those employed at Bagram (see July 15, 2003 and (Early August 2003)). She received the Bronze Star for her actions (see January 22, 2003-May 8, 2003).
Serious Disparities between Investigative Results and Personnel Statements - In the aftermaths of the deaths, military officials made a number of unsupported claims. The deaths of both Dilawar and Habibullah were originally listed as due to natural causes even as military coroners ruled the deaths homicides. The American commander in Afghanistan at the time, Lieutenant General Daniel McNeill, said that he had no indication that the deaths were caused by abuses carried out by US soldiers; the methods used in the detainees’ interrogations were, McNeill said, “in accordance with what is generally accepted as interrogation techniques.”
Poorly Trained Interrogators - The report focuses on one group of poorly trained interrogators from the Army’s 519th Military Intelligence Brigade (see July 2002). After Bush’s decree that terror suspects have no rights under Geneva, the interrogators began pushing the envelope of acceptable interrogation techniques. They began employing “stress positions” that cause pain and suffering but not, presumably, actual injury. They began experimenting with longer and longer periods of sleep deprivation. One of the more popular methods is called in military jargon “Fear Up Harsh,” or as one soldier called it, “the screaming technique.” The technique is based on verbally and physically intimidating detainees, and often degenerates into screaming and throwing furniture. The noncommissioned officer in charge of the interrogators, Staff Sergeant Steven Loring, sometimes tried to curb his interrogators’ excesses, but, contradictorily, often refused to countenance “soft” interrogation techniques, and gave some of the most aggressive interrogators wide latitude. Sergeant James Leahy recalled, “We sometimes developed a rapport with detainees, and Sergeant Loring would sit us down and remind us that these were evil people and talk about 9/11 and they weren’t our friends and could not be trusted.” One of Loring’s favorites was Specialist Damien Corsetti, nicknamed “Monster,” a tall, bearded interrogator Loring jokingly nicknamed “the King of Torture.” One Saudi detainee told Army investigators that during one session, Corsetti pulled out his penis, shoved it in the Saudi’s face, and threatened to rape him. (The earlier investigation found cause to charge Corsetti with assault, maltreatment of a prisoner, and indecent acts; no charges were filed. Corsetti was fined and demoted for brutalizing a female prisoner at Abu Ghraib.) By August 2002, the 519th interrogators, joined by a group of reservists from a military police company, were routinely beating their prisoners, and particularly favored the “common peroneal strike,” a potentially disabling blow to the side of the leg just above the knee. The MPs later said that they never knew such physical brutality was not part of Army interrogation practices. “That was kind of like an accepted thing; you could knee somebody in the leg,” one of the MPs, Sergeant Thomas Curtis, later told investigators.
'Timmy' - Specialist Jeremy Callaway told investigators of one Afghan prisoner with apparently severe emotional and mental problems. The detainee would eat his own feces and mutilate himself with concertina wire. He quickly became a favorite target for some of the MPs, who would repeatedly knee him in the legs and, at least once, chained him with his arms straight up in the air. The MPs nicknamed him “Timmy” after an emotionally disturbed child in the “South Park” animated television show. According to Callaway, one of the guards who beat the prisoner also taught him to screech like the cartoon character. Eventually, “Timmy” was sent home. [New York Times, 5/20/2005]

Entity Tags: US Department of the Army, Jeremy Callaway, James Leahy, Dilawar, Daniel K. McNeill, Damien Corsetti, Carolyn A. Wood, Lawrence Di Rita, Mullah Habibullah, New York Times, Steven Loring, US Department of Defense, Selena Salcedo, Thomas Curtis

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

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