Sleep Deprivation and the Treatment of Detainees

March 23, 2007 at 12:33 pm | Posted in Gitmo, Torture | 8 Comments

Y’all know I write about this frequently, but we have someone who just went through self-induced sleep deprivation in order to describe it to us. Read his account here and judge for yourself whether someone who has gone through four or five days of sleep deprivation is coherent enough to give you accurate and relevant information. Read his last entry:

ts 3pm, thurs. april 1

i haven not slept in 126 hrs

my mental aptitude is completely shot. words that come out of my mout are completely random ; nonsensicle. i have found a good way of keepng myself awake and active is wlaking around the neighbordhood. the fresh air, sun, and public environment somehow tells me brain it is not appropriate to fall asleep in the outdoor public setting, which somehow is relieving some of the severe urges to sleep. in addition to complete mental exauhstion, i am physically deprived. i cannot eat a thing, only takng in liquids. my appetite is completely gone, i havent eaten in 14-16 hours or so. time is beginning to drag, an percetion of it is slightly more difficult. my entire body is sore and the pain in my eyes is at a peak as im writing. the headache has gradually increased and is making is difficult to to stay much mawake more. in additon, i am developing a slight stomach ache that is more of a nuisance than anything. when all physical ailments are combined with complete mental emptyness this makes for an awful experience. i am certiain i am hearing audioty hallcunations – i hear a cat mewo despite thatfact thast i own no cats. i also hear a weird series of bleeps in different tones – i cannot find the sourceo f them. i snap in and out of an almost trancelike state wher i look at a random object an space out. ifeel delirious, a frien came over to check on me asi told him to, and he thought it was funny that my statements were halfbaked nonsensical jibberish. i no longer simply walk – it is more of a staggerlike lurchin g. my balance is also off. out of the corner of my eyes i believe im seeing visual disturbances an interruptions. no hallucinations – i imagin thos come muhc later – just ripples an slight distortions in my periphial. it may not even be a true hallucination, just delerium. i am so fatigued tha if sonmeone offered me to sprint around a track once for 100 grand, i most likely couldnt. when i fill my head with thoughts of going to sleep and curling up in bed under a blanket, i get a dumb smuile on my face. for all i know, it could be my brain releasing positive chemicals of some sort to will me into sleepng. i hope what i’m saying is makng sense. i have little attention span and my short term memory seems to to be weakened so i wrote thi update over about half an hour. i hav reached my goal an will stay up slightly longer to futrher explor auditory hallulcinations and see if the visuals increas. if not, im going to go to bed. i have a grin on my gesicht jsyt thinking about it,.

Now, read this account from the American Journal of Bioethics which wrote about one prisoners in Guantanamo Bay who was sleep deprived during a prolonged period:

Two government documents detail medical and psychological participation with the interrogation of Prisoner 063, Mohammed al-Qahtani, at Guantanamo Bay between November 23, 2002 and January 11, 2003 (Zagorin and Duffy 2005). The first is an 83-page interrogation log (ORCON 2003). The second is an Army investigation of complaints of mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, including Prisoner 063 (United States Army 2005, 13–21). The third and fourth are notes taken in relation to that Army investigation (CTD Fly Team 2006; GITMO Investigation 2004). The second set of these notes extensively describes medical collaboration with one or more interrogations but the record is so heavily redacted that it is not possible to determine which, if any, of this material described the interrogation of Prisoner 063 (GITMO Investigation 2004).

According to the Army investigation, the log covers a period in the middle of al-Qahtani’s interrogation that began in the summer of 2002 and continued into 2003. For eleven days, beginning November 23, al-Qahtani was interrogated for twenty hours each day by interrogators working in shifts. He was kept awake with music, yelling, loud white noise or brief opportunities to stand. He then was subjected to eighty hours of nearly continuous interrogation until what was intended to be a 24-hour “recuperation.” This recuperation was entirely occupied by a hospitalization for hypothermia that had resulted from deliberately abusive use of an air conditioner. Army investigators reported that al-Qahtani’s body temperature had been cooled to 95 to 97 degrees Fahrenheit (35 to 36.1 degrees Celsius) and that his heart rate had slowed to thirty-five beats per minute. While hospitalized, his electrolytes were corrected and an ultrasound did not find venous thrombosis as a cause for the swelling of his leg. The prisoner slept through most of the 42-hour hospitalization after which he was hooded, shackled, put on a litter and taken by ambulance to an interrogation room for twelve more days of interrogation, punctuated by a few brief naps. He was then allowed to sleep for four hours before being interrogated for ten more days, except for naps of up to an hour. He was allowed 12 hours of sleep on January 1, but for the next eleven days, the exhausted and increasingly non-communicative prisoner was only allowed naps of one to four hours as he was interrogated. The log ends with a discharge for another “sleep period.”

If that is not torture, then we’ve gone past the point of no return on dehumanizing, we are past feeling. This is evil stuff.

The report continues:

The next day, interrogators told the prisoner that he would not be allowed to pray if he would not drink water. Neither a medic nor a physician could insert a standard intravenous catheter, so a physician inserted a “temporary shunt” to allow an intravenous infusion. The restrained prisoner asked to go the bathroom and was given a urinal instead. Thirty minutes later, he was given “three and one-half bags of IV [sic]” and he urinated twice in his pants. The next day, the physician came to the interrogation room and checked the restrained prisoner’s swollen extremities and the shunt. The shunt was removed and a soldier told al-Qahtani that he could pray on the floor where he had urinated.

Is this really a professional interrogation? What’s the point of this kind of crap? The next section highlights the psychological treatment this prisoner received:

In October 2002, before the time covered by the log, Army investigators found that dogs were brought to the interrogation room to growl, bark and bare their teeth at al-Qahtani. The investigators noted that a BSCT psychologist witnessed the use of the dog, Zeus, during at least one such instance, an incident deemed properly authorized to “exploit individual phobias.” FBI agents, however, objected to the use of dogs and withdrew from at least one session in which dogs were used.

Major L., a psychologist who chaired the BSCT at Guantanamo, was noted to be present at the start of the interrogation log. On November 27, he suggested putting the prisoner in a swivel chair to prevent him from fixing his eyes on one spot and thereby avoiding the guards. On December 11, al-Qahtani asked to be allowed to sleep in a room other than the one in which he was being fed and interrogated. The log notes that “BSCT” advised the interrogators that the prisoner was simply trying to gain control and sympathy. (my note: because of course, your intent in this interrogation is to dehumanize the man)

Many psychological “approaches” or “themes” were repetitively used. These included: “Failure/Worthless,” “Al Qaeda Falling Apart,” “Pride Down,” “Ego Down,” “Futility,” “Guilt/Sin Theme (with Evidence/Circumstantial Evidence,” etc. Al-Qahtani was shown videotapes entitled “Taliban Bodies” and “Die Terrorist Die.” Some scripts aimed at his Islamic identity bore names such as “Good Muslim,” “Bad Muslim,” “Judgment Day,” “God’s Mission” and “Muslim in America.” Al-Qahtani was called “unclean” and “Mo” [for Mohammed]. He was lectured on the true meaning of the Koran, instruction that especially enraged him when done by female soldiers. He was not told, despite asking, that some of the interrogation took place during Ramadan, a time when Moslems have special obligations. He was not allowed to honor prayer times. The Koran was intentionally and disrespectfully placed on a television (an authorized control measure) and a guard “unintentionally” squatted over it while harshly addressing the prisoner.

Transgressions against Islamic and Arab mores for sexual modesty were employed. The prisoner was forced to wear photographs of “sexy females” and to study sets of such photographs to identify whether various pictures of bikini-clad women were of the same or a different person. He was told that his mother and sister were whores. He was forced to wear a bra, and a woman’s thong was put on his head. He was dressed as a woman and compelled to dance with a male interrogator. He was told that he had homosexual tendencies and that other prisoners knew this. Although continuously monitored, interrogators repeatedly strip-searched him as a “control measure.”(my note: again, the dehumanization aspect) On at least one occasion, he was forced to stand naked with women soldiers present. Female interrogators seductively touched the prisoner under the authorized use of approaches called “Invasion of Personal Space” and “Futility.” On one occasion, a female interrogator straddled the prisoner as he was held down on the floor.

Other degrading techniques were logged. His head and beard were shaved to show the dominance of the interrogators. He was made to stand for the United States national anthem. His situation was compared unfavorably to that of banana rats in the camp. He was leashed (a detail omitted in the log but recorded by investigators) (my note: I wonder why this detail was omitted from the log…hmmmm) and made to “stay, come, and bark to elevate his social status up to a dog.” He was told to bark like a happy dog at photographs of 9/11 victims and growl at pictures of terrorists. Some psychological routines referred to the 9/11 attacks. He was shown pictures of the attacks, and photographs of victims were affixed to his body. The interrogators held one exorcism (and threatened another) to purge evil Jinns that the disoriented, sleep deprived prisoner claimed were controlling his emotions. The interrogators quizzed him on passages from a book entitled, “What makes a Terrorist and Why?,” that asserted that people joined terrorist groups for a sense of belonging and that terrorists must dehumanize their victims as a way to avoid feelings of guilt at their crimes.

The dehumanization aspect is key here. They are trying to breakdown his humanity, so all that is left, supposedly, is an automaton who can recite back anything the interrogator wants. Alas, it doesn’t work that way.

The article concludes with the following:

Defense Department officials defend this interrogation as conducted according to a “very detailed plan” by “trained professionals in a controlled environment, with active supervision and oversight” (Department of Defense 2005). They allege that al-Qahtani was the twentieth hijacker who provided valuable intelligence about Al Qaeda operations and 9/11 planning, and that he identified “about 30” bin Laden bodyguards held at Guantanamo. No trials are known to have resulted from this information, however, and al-Qahtani professes to be a broken man who gave false information under pressure (Zagorin 2006).

International law squarely prohibits this kind of interrogation. The Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War states,

Persons . . . placed hors de combat by . . . detention shall in all circumstances be treated humanely … To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever . . . (c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment; … No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind (Geneva Convention 1949).

Similarly, the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture defines “torture” as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, … at the instigation of . . . a public official” (United Nations General Assembly 1984). Although the United States Supreme Court upheld the Geneva Convention in its Hamdan decision (Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 124 S. Ct. 2633 [2004]), the recently enacted Military Commissions Act denies prisoners the right to invoke the Geneva provisions (Military Commissions Act of 2006).

And there is the reason why I keep bringing this up. The Military Commissions Act, passed last year, legalizes these actions, makes them legally acceptable in America. Oh how I wish more Americans can see just how evil this stuff is. This is not effective, it comes back to haunt us, and discredits our claim to the rule of law and justice.

The right way, the just way is to treat bad people well, treat them with the respect we would want to be treated. Why, do you ask? Because, their actions and their words on their own are enough to prove them guilty. The moment we do them harm, the moment we start abusing them, even in the lightest degree, the focus changes, from them to us. The light begins to shine on our transgressions instead of focusing solely on theirs. This is exactly what has happened. Instead of talking about the bad guys and their crimes, we are having to justify to the world our own actions. This is bad. It is bad for one, that they are right. Our actions are criminal. Secondly, it is bad because the focus is no longer on our enemies.

We must change, NOW!


Time magazine has more details about the Interrogation of Detainee 063. Their account isn’t as chilling as the medical account in the American Journal of Bioethics, but still worth the read.

And this article from MSNBC about the “20th hijacker” is also worth the read.


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

  1. Dan, have you written to your Congressional Reps about torture?

    You should if you haven’t.

  2. Who is my Congressional Representative? On the Senate it is the slimy Arlen Specter who slips and slides to pretend he’s good, but in the end sides with the administration on everything. I will contact Senator Casey about this. I did contact both Santorum and Specter last fall when the Military Commissions Act was being debated. Santorum didn’t reply back but with ads for his campaign. Specter’s office replied back the first time but after that ignored me. I told him after the second time he ignored me that I would do what I could in 2008 to make sure he lost his seat.

    I haven’t contacted Paul Kanjorski, my House Rep.

  3. How many times did you write Sen. Specter’s office last fall?

  4. Four times.

  5. Your government at work.

    Hey, they’re all jus’ tryin’ to keep us safe in our beds and warm at night, y’know?

  6. Right Mark,

    Why should we be concerned, after all they’re just a bunch of evil terrorists. As long as we sleep soundly at night.

    The irony is that Christian conservatives think this way.

  7. Why should we be concerned, after all they’re just a bunch of evil terrorists.

    Yup. Why, they’re hardly even human.

    (Did I say “hardly”? I think I was supposed to say “not”.)

  8. […] Hippocratic Oath went out the window long ago for many doctors. Take a look for example at the detailed logs kept at Guantanamo Bay Camp X-ray as detailed in the American Journal of Bioethics. Doctors, complicit in the torture of human […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at
Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: