"If we do things like this, if we beat people and
we neglect them and we try to use their religion against them, however
stupidly, I mean, in fact, we're debasing ourselves to the point in fact
in which we're losing something, that we should be trying to protect in
this war...As a professional soldier, and someone who dedicated his life
to the service of the United States, in fact, to think that United States
would stoop to such tactics as this, I find to be a disgraceful thing"
Army Col. Patrick Lang (ret.), former head of human intelligence
gathering at the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency.
From CBS TV New York
May 1, 2005
think the harm we are doing there far outweighs the good, and I believe
it's inconsistent with American values," says Saar. "In fact,
I think it's fair to say that it’s the moral antithesis of what we
want to stand for as a country."
Former Guantanamo Bay translator Sgt.
Erik Saar says that prisoner interrogations were staged for visiting VIPs.
'Sex-Up' Tactics At Gitmo?
The story that Sgt. Erik Saar, a soldier
who spent three months in the interrogation rooms at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba,
paints a picture of bizarre, even sadistic, treatment of detainees in the
American prison camp for CBS Correspondent Scott Pelley.
Experts in intelligence tell 60 Minutes that if what
Saar says is true, some soldiers at Guantanamo have undermined the war on
terror, bungling the interrogation of important prisoners.
60 Minutes also reveals previously secret emails
from FBI agents at Guantanamo that warn FBI headquarters that prisoners
are being tortured.
"I think the harm we are doing there far outweighs the
good, and I believe it's inconsistent with American values," says Saar.
"In fact, I think it's fair to say that it’s the moral antithesis
of what we want to stand for as a country."
Saar volunteered for Guantanamo Bay in 2002. He was a U.S.
Army linguist, an expert in Arabic, with a top-secret security clearance.
He was assigned to translate during interrogations. The prisoners, about
600 in all, were mostly from the battlefields of Afghanistan. And Saar couldn’t
wait to get at them after what the administration said: the men were "among
the most dangerous, best-trained, vicious killers on the face of the earth."
With that in mind, Saar went to work, but he was surprised
by what he found. How many prisoners did he think were the worst of the
worst – real terrorists?
"At best, I would say there were a few dozen," says
Saar. "A few dozen [out of 600]."
were the rest of the guys? "Some of them were conscripts who actually
were forced to fight for the Taliban, so actually had taken up arms against
us, but had little or no choice in the matter," says Saar. "Some
of them were individuals who were picked up by the Northern Alliance, and
we have no idea why they were there, and we didn't know exactly what their
connections were to terrorism."
However, when they got there, Saar and the rest of Guantanamo’s
intelligence personnel were told that the captives were not prisoners of
war, and therefore, were not protected by the Geneva Convention.
American soldiers escort a
Guantanamo Bay detainee
"Your training in intelligence had told you what about
the Geneva Conventions?" asks Pelley.
"That they were never to be violated," says Saar.
"As a matter of fact, the training for interrogators themselves, their
entire coursework falls under the umbrella of you never violate the Geneva
"If the rules of the Geneva Convention did not apply,
what rules did apply?" asks Pelley.
"I don't think anybody knew that," says Saar.
And so, Saar said, some U.S. military intelligence personnel
used cruelty, and even bizarre sexual tactics against the prisoners. Saar
has written a book, "Inside the Wire," about his experiences at
Guantanamo. Penguin Press will release it on Tuesday.
He told 60 Minutes about one interrogation in particular,
in which he translated for a female interrogator who was trying to break
a high-priority prisoner — a Saudi who had been in flight school in
the United States.
"As she stood in front of him, she slowly started to
unbutton her army blouse. She had on underneath the Army blouse a tight
brown Army T-shirt, touched her breasts, and said, 'Don't you like these
big American breasts?'" says Saar. "She wanted to create a barrier
between this detainee and his faith, and if she could somehow sexually entice
him, he would feel unclean in an Islamic way, he would not be able to pray
and go before his God and gain that strength, so the next day, maybe he
would be able to start cooperating, start talking to her."
But the prisoner wasn’t talking, so Saar said the interrogator
increased the pressure.
"She started to unbutton her pants and reached and put
her hands in her pants and then started to circle around the detainee. And
when she had her hands in her pants, apparently she used something to put
what appeared to be menstrual blood on her hand, but in fact was ink,"
"When she circled around the detainee, she pulled out
her hand, which was red, and said, 'I'm actually menstruating right now,
and I'm touching you. Does that please your God? Does that please Allah?'
And then he kind of got pent up and shied away from her, and she then took
the ink and wiped it on his face, and said, 'How do you like that?'"
Then, the interrogator sent the prisoner back to his cell
with a message.
"She said, 'Have fun trying to pray tonight while there's
no water in your cell,’ meaning that she was gonna have the water
turned off in his cell, so that he then could not go back and become ritually
clean. So he then therefore could not pray," says Saar.
"I know that the individual that we were talking that
night was a bad individual. Someone who I hope never -- I hope he’s
in captivity forever, I hope he never goes anywhere. But I felt awful that
night. I felt dirty and disgusting."
"What you have here is a Saudi training at an American
flight school, just like the 9/11 hijackers," says Pelley. "You
know, there are people at home watching this right now, saying, 'Hey, you've
got to do what you've got to do.'"
"I do understand that, and the fact is No. 1, it's ineffective,"
says Saar. "There are much better methods that were being employed
at Guantanamo Bay, that yielded the little bit of intelligence that we did
receive, and it wasn't methods like those."
60 Minutes talked to three interrogators who were at Guantanamo
at the same time that Saar was there. And they told us the sexual tactics
were well known, and even had a name they called it the “sex-up”
Did it work?
"It did not work, and from what I later learned, the
detainee remained uncooperative," says Saar. "It's impossible
to try to build a connection and establish trust. We were now relying solely
on fear to get the detainee to cooperate, and I think that's an enormous
mistake. I think many of the FBI agents on the base felt as though that
was a mistake also."
The FBI does its own questioning of prisoners at Guantanamo,
and those agents have been writing emails, classified secret, to FBI headquarters.
They detail abuse by military interrogators. The agents wrote of finding
prisoners “chained hand and foot in a fetal position” for up
to 24 hours at a time, and of prisoners who had “urinated or defecated
Another FBI document says an interrogator grabbed a detainee’s
thumbs and “bent them backwards” and “grabbed his genitals.”
One FBI agent reported that he saw a detainee had been “gagged with
duct tape that covered much of his head.” The interrogator explained
that the prisoner had been “chanting the Koran and would not stop.”
60 Minutes ran the emails and Saar’s story past one
of the nation’s most experienced military intelligence experts.
"Unimaginable to me, I just can not imagine what people
think they were doing," says Army Col. Patrick Lang,
who was head of human intelligence gathering at the Pentagon’s Defense
Lang, who’s now retired, wrote the Arabic and Middle-East
studies curricula for West Point. "I mean, what is this?" asks
Lang. "A scene from Dante's Inferno? I mean, what level of hell are
we on to? Imagine that we could do such things to people? This is just absolutely
60 Minutes asked Lang to review some of the written statements
of prisoners who claim to have been beaten.
"If people were really beaten and kicked and knocked
around, and their heads beaten against the floor, and had, you know, deprived
of treatment for broken bones and teeth resulting from this," says
Lang. "If these things really happened in fact, to me, that's a lot
more serious than this silliness with having these girls go in and rub themselves
all over these prisoners."
"There is a lot of discussion about precisely what the
word "torture" means," says Pelley. "You've been at
the top of defense military intelligence. Based on what you've seen and
heard, is all of this torture?"
"I think that a lot of this behavior which has been allowed
is so far outside the pale, that I think that it would have to be considered
to be something not allowed in international law or U.S. military law,"
But is it torture? "Yeah," says Lang. "I think
And one of the FBI agents at Guantanamo thought so, too. He
warned FBI headquarters the military was using “torture techniques.”
The FBI emails were uncovered and declassified in a lawsuit by the American
Civil Liberties Union. The head of the ACLU, Anthony Romero,
says that the FBI agents were worried that military interrogators were ruining
any chance of getting reliable intelligence.
"Here you have the FBI and its own behavioral assessment
unit raising serious questions about the effectiveness or the utility of
information gotten under torture techniques," says Romero.
"When the FBI agents are writing about these techniques,
they're asking their bosses in Washington for what?" asks Pelley. "What’s
the point of these memos?"
"They're asking sometimes for guidance," says Romero.
"FBI agents were being instructed not to be a part of interrogations
where they thought torture and abuse was taking place. So what's curious
is here you have the Department of Defense undertaking some of the interrogation
techniques. And FBI agents sitting on the sidelines because their own leadership
thought it would be inappropriate for them to be involved in these interrogations."
Based on the FBI emails, and Saar’s story, the Pentagon’s
southern command is now investigating whether prisoners have been tortured
or subjected to sexual tactics at Guantanamo Bay.
If all this was well known on the base, how could it have
been kept largely under wraps for three years, especially when congressmen
and senators often inspected the camp? Well, Saar said it may be in part
because those inspections were rigged to fool the visiting VIPs.
"Interrogations were set up so the VIPs could come and
witness an interrogation, and in fact the interrogation would be a mock
interrogation, basically," says Saar.
"They would find a detainee that they knew to have been
cooperative. They would ask the interrogator to go back over the same information
that they reviewed on whatever date they had previously interrogated the
detainee," says Saar. "And they would sit across a table and talk
as though you and I are talking, and this was a fictitious world that they
would create for these VIP visits, because in fact, it's not what generally
took place in Guantanamo Bay."
Saar says, "They staged the interrogations."
60 Minutes asked the Army to comment on Saar’s story,
or provide someone to talk about Guantanamo Bay. The Army declined.
But last year, Vice Admiral Albert Church was ordered to inspect
U.S. military detention centers worldwide, and he praised Guantanamo Bay’s
military police and interrogators, writing that Guantanamo has: “…
an effective model that greatly enhances intelligence collection and does
not lead to detainee abuse. . .”
He also wrote: “ . . . It is a model that should be
considered for use in other interrogation operations in the global war on
Still, Lang said the picture of Guantanamo Bay’s operation
painted by Saar and the FBI memos is unrecognizable to him.
"If we do things like this, if we beat people and we
neglect them and we try to use their religion against them, however stupidly,
I mean, in fact, we're debasing ourselves to the point in fact in which
we're losing something, that we should be trying to protect in this war,"
"You told us earlier that you were ashamed to hear about
these tactics," says Pelley.
"I was," says Lang. "As a professional soldier,
and someone who dedicated his life to the service of the United States,
in fact, to think that United States would stoop to such tactics as this,
I find to be a disgraceful thing."
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