‘It’s soul-crushing’: the shocking story of Guantánamo Bay’s ‘forever prisoner’

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FIn 2002 at “a black site” in Thailand, CIA officers warned headquarters that their interrogation techniques could result in the death of an inmate. If that happens, he will be cremated, leaving no trace. But if he survives, can the CIA assure that he will remain in isolation?

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It can be possible. Abu Zubaydah, the agency said in a cable, “will never be placed in a position where he has any significant contact with others” and “must remain incommunicado for the rest of his life”.

Guantanamo prisoner details torture for the first time: ‘I thought I was going to die’

so opens forever prisoner, An HBO documentary by Alex Gibney that tells the story of the first high-priced captive the CIA calls advanced interrogation techniques (EIT) and what the rest of the world knows from one simple, ugly word: torture.

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Nearly two decades after that inhuman cable, the CIA has proven to be as good as its word. Zubaydah, who was never charged with a crime or allowed to challenge his detention, has been jailed Guantanamo Bay Prison Camp, The election of Joe Biden has done nothing to signal his purge or end of status as a non-person.

“He faces the horrors that some people in Guantanamo face, perhaps the most existential terror of all, even beyond a prisoner who is sentenced to life imprisonment, Gibney says in an interview at the Washington Hotel, a mile from the White House. , “You really don’t know what your future holds.

“Your future is forever undefined. You don’t know if you’re ever going to quit or whether you’ll ever find an explanation for why you stay there and when we’re trying to portray tyrannical regimes.” We make movies.

“That’s Orwell. It’s not a forever face boot, but it’s a forever feeling of not knowing what’s going to happen to you or why. It’s soul crushing and psychological in some such powerful way.” To destabilize from where you just don’t know.”

Few would dispute that, after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, Zubaida was a person of interest (“He is not Hollywood innocent, as his lawyer would even say,” notes Gibney). . The Saudi-born Palestinian fought in Afghanistan. He got fake passports made, arranged travel for jihadis and had knowledge of terrorist plots. He used over 30 aliases and was seen as a master of disguise.

But when Zubeida was captured in Pakistan in March 2002 (she was shot while trying to escape), she was falsely portrayed as a high-level al-Qaeda operative rather than an independent facilitator. had gone. He was taken to a secret location in Thailand, where he was questioned by men on how to prevent another 9/11.

Gibney says: ,Abu Zubaydah was patient with the CIA torture program. That’s why his story is scrutinized as you learn how the rule of law has been upheld. How we walked down a road where we were more interested in hearing what we wanted to hear that tortured you rather than what the facts really were,

Zubaida adopted advanced interrogation techniques at the hands of CIA contractors, including 83 applications of waterboarding in one month alone. In an account He gave his lawyer in 2008, Zubaida recalled: “They kept pouring water and concentrating on my nose and my mouth until I really felt I was drowning and my chest was from a lack of oxygen. was about to explode.”

Abu Zubaydah, date and location unknown. Photograph: AP

They spent more than 11 days in a coffin-shaped box, and 29 hours in an even smaller box just 21 inches wide, 2.5 feet deep, and 2.5 feet high. The documentary includes images of the brutal treatment Zubaida had done to herself, as well as entries from her pre-capture and post-capture personal diaries.

America was deploying torture as a form of government policy for the first time in history—and it was wildly random. Gibney says: “The CIA would like to pretend this was a scientific program that was carefully calibrated by rigorous scientists. That’s not true at all. It was just instantaneous. ‘Let’s try 24 hour sleep deprivation. It is not working. How about 48 hours? How will it be 72 hours?’

“Well, your brain goes haywire after 72 hours of sleep deprivation and they could have asked one of their own experts, who used to say, in fact, your cognitive ability just vanishes at that point. So Why would you interrogate someone after getting 72 hours of sleep? It’s absurd. Apparently, when they were on the waterboard, they didn’t know how far to go.

“What scared me when I entered into the details of it was how careless and reckless and ad hoc this whole thing was. It was just shot from the hip. ‘Hey, let’s try a little nudity today. What about some cold water? Oh it’s not working. Let’s try to hang the old one from the wrist.

“Let’s put him in a box where he’ll defecate on his own for four or five days. That might work. Let’s play very loud music. What about some Red Hot Chili Peppers over and over again?’ This was a time when EITs were not officially legally sanctioned, so they are just improving their spitballing.

For Gibney, the case presents a clear demonstration that there are rules against torture because it is immoral and fails to present fact-based evidence.

“While making documentaries for many years, I keep getting the phrase ‘corruption noble cause.’ Once people think they are doing something for a noble cause, they find themselves starting to bend the rules. Granted, like putting a joint on a leg you can’t get any other way and then next thing you know, you’re killing people.

“I hope people start to understand that the notion of the end justifies the means is never a good idea because once you accept that, it means you’re basically doing your best.” allowing you to abide by the principles you claim to uphold.”

Camp 5 at a US Army prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Camp 5 at a US Army prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Photo: Thomas Watkins/AFP/Getty Images

He interviews James Mitchell, a retired Air Force psychologist and chief architect of the EIT, who expresses no remorse for what he sees as his patriotic duty.

Mitchell told the filmmaker: “If my boss tells me it’s legal, especially if the president approves it, I’m not going to go into specifics about what a guy in the basement is or some journalist. What about that, because they’re free to do business with me at any time, they think they can do a better job of protecting Americans.”

Gibney also sued the CIA for un-redacting former FBI agent Ali Soufan’s book, The Black Banners: How the Terror Derailed the War on Terror on 9/11, and Soufan about his time with Zubeida. Gained access to the inquiry notes of This enabled Sufan to speak more freely than before and shed new light on the matter.

Gibney reflects: “The reason [the torture] It was always that Abu Zubaydah was completely uncooperative. What stood out in Ali Soufan’s new interview with his interrogation notes was that within an hour or two of his interrogation, he gave them an ongoing conspiracy.

“He was funded by the Saudis in Israel and they helped stop that conspiracy. So knowing that you have to conclude that he was completely ally: he’s giving them an ongoing conspiracy that they can actually stop. But what the CIA concluded was just the opposite.,

Zubaida has been moved to Poland, Guantanamo Bay, Morocco, Lithuania, Afghanistan and back to Guantanamo Bay, where she has been kept since 2006. anywhere in CIA custody he lost his left eye, He wears a patch now.

Unable to speak to him directly, Gibney could only communicate through his lawyers. “On the one hand his lawyers call him a diva and say that he is a man of fiery intelligence, a dark sense of humour, but also someone who has suffered a deep stroke. He has a severe headache, He has nightmares of drowning, not surprisingly.,

Last week it emerged that Zubaida has petitioned a federal court for his release saying that the US wars with Afghanistan and al-Qaeda are over. A legal filing describing his treatment over the past 20 years as a “parade of horrors”.

For the time being, however, he remains in legal blurred territory, out of sight and out of mind, except when filmmakers like Gibney force America to re-face the stain on its moral authority. The director cast Zubaida as the origin story of America’s defining failure of intelligence and betrayal of its ideals.

“I hope this is a wake up call,” he says. “When you go through the things that he did through Abu Zubaydah and the way he did in such a ham fisted, reckless and frankly stupid fashion, I hope people say, ‘I can’t believe it. It has been that it actually happened and that we allowed it to happen’.

“Also, I hope the intellectual response will be that treating Guantanamo as a prison, as a place outside the law, is some kind of cruel joke and we have to shut it down because it’s not what we want to be.” Huh, He is in Gitmo not for what he did to us, but for what we did to him. That’s why he is being silenced.”

  • Forever Prisoner is now available on HBO and UK date to be announced

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