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The Face of Torture

Posted on May 14, 2008

By Marie Cocco

    WASHINGTON—For weeks after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when images of twisted metal and smoldering debris still filled television screens and the wail of bagpipes at firefighters’ funerals sounded day after day, there was one face that seemed to embody the terror. It was that of Mohamed Atta, ringleader of the suicide hijackers, with his steely eyes and tight lips that appeared to reflect the evil within.

    Seven years later, if we were to seek a portrait that is emblematic of the way the United States has tried—and failed—to bring those responsible for the heinous plot to justice, we would have to produce a photograph of Mohammed al-Qahtani.

    If such a photo were made public, it would probably show a battered man with signs of diminished mental capacity, a man who authorities concede was so badly abused—those outside the Bush administration call his treatment torture—that he will not be tried by a military commission with other alleged plotters of the 9/11 attacks. The Pentagon has formally dropped charges in the case against Qahtani, conceding that most of the evidence it has came from Qahtani’s own coerced statements, made after abusive interrogations.

    “He’s in very poor condition mentally and I would say even physically,” says Gitanjali Gutierrez, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights who is representing Qahtani in other pending cases. She said she could not be more specific about his condition because the notes she took on her last visit with him at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have yet to be declassified.

    For years, military and law enforcement authorities have considered Qahtani a prime catch. He was dubbed the “20th hijacker” after it came to light—only after the attack—that he had been stopped by a suspicious immigration inspector at the Orlando, Fla., airport in August 2001 and refused admittance to the United States. Following the attacks, he was caught up in the international sweeps and brought to Guantanamo, where the Bush administration has held hundreds of men it suspects of terrorist ties—without trial or charge, and without showing evidence against them.


Square, Site wide

    No case that details Qahtani’s supposed role in the 9/11 plot ever has been presented. But the record of his abuse at the hands of American military interrogators is well known. The 84-page log of his interrogations, posted on the Center for Constitutional Rights’ Web site, reveals that he was deprived of sleep and kept in extreme isolation. He was subjected to forced nudity in front of female interrogators, forced to bark like a dog and dance with a mask on his face, held in stress positions for long periods and placed in tight restraints for months. The aggressive use of dogs against Qahtani and his “intense isolation” so troubled FBI agents in the fall of 2002 that a deputy assistant FBI director later complained to Army officials. “By late November, the detainee was evidencing behavior consistent with extreme psychological trauma (talking to nonexistent people, reporting hearing voices, crouching in a corner of the cell covered with a sheet for hours on end),” T.J. Harrington, the deputy assistant, wrote in a memo. Harrington wondered if the interrogation techniques had been approved by the Defense Department. 

    We now know, of course, that they were approved by the highest authorities, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. A series of legal memos written for the White House sought to justify them as well.

    We are months away from the seventh anniversary of the attacks that stunned humanity—and sent the United States on a path to two wars—without having brought to justice a single individual alleged to be directly implicated in the crimes. The cases of five others who are considered to be 9/11 “masterminds” (Qahtani was never put in that category) are only now moving forward in a military commission system that is being challenged on several legal fronts.

    As for Qahtani, he is still considered an “enemy combatant” and so can be held at Guantanamo under the Bush administration’s unique theory that it may hold whomever it wants for as long as it wants during the war on terror. American taxpayers pick up the bill for his care and that of about 270 other detainees still at the facility. It is a burden from which the next president may bring us relief, but not absolution for having condoned the unconscionable.
    Marie Cocco’s e-mail address is mariecocco(at)
    © 2008, Washington Post Writers Group

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Straticus's avatar

By Straticus, May 18, 2008 at 6:09 pm Link to this comment

I just saw a web stream film that’s a MUST SEE regarding the 9/11 treason. It’s thoughtful and provocative and well worth watching. Brew yourselves a pot of coffee, and set aside the 2 hours to watch it. The film is in 3 parts. The first systematically dissects the Jesus myth, so if you are a devout Christian, you might want to skip this part. The middle section is devoted to the WTC <cough> attack <cough>, and the final section is a WONDERFUL expose about the Federal Reserve. Here’s the link:

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By cyrena, May 17, 2008 at 9:19 pm Link to this comment

Thanks for the link Crimesofthestate.

You’re right of course. There is no evidence for any of it, including the actual airplanes themselves. No evidence of any one of them.

Meantime, I would quibble just a bit with the wording ‘bigger’ than (in relation to the 9/11 treason) since it’s difficult to put that in qualitative terms, but I get your point. I’d say that the 9/1 treason was what provided the jump off point for the destruction of humanity on a global level.

And yes, if we weren’t on to something powerful, they wouldn’t bother. Thing is, there’s no way to keep up this farce indefinitely, because it is too big for that.

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By Crimes of the State Blog, May 17, 2008 at 3:31 pm Link to this comment

I’d still like to see some actual proof that Atta got on the plane.  Why isn’t there one frame of video from Boston Logan airport?

Further, the FBI flat out refuses to respond to FOIAs as to how they determined the actual identities of the aircraft involved (serial numbers, etc.)

Assuming some “Al Qaeda” operatives, who were under surveillance yet allowed to carry out the attacks by FBI, CIA and the white house, were the actual perps, treason still occurred.  The air defenses were interfered with during the attacks, and our valiant “commander in chief” refused to fulfill his duties to protect America. 

One of their pathetic excuses about the lack of interceptions is that it wouldn’t have mattered anyway because the re was no “shoot down authorization” from Bush (who was too busy reading My Pet Goat).  That explains Bush’s actions pretty clearly.

The ridiculous idea that he was “incompetent” rather than complicit, strains credulity.  He was personally moved out of his hotel in Genoa Italy because of this exact scenario.  His hotel in Florida that morning had anti-aircraft missiles on the roof!

The gullibility of so many is sickening.

70 facts about 9/11 that no self-styled “debunker” has ever had a response to:


9/11 treason is bigger than torture, bigger than Iraq, bigger than Afghanistan.  In a way it intersects all those issues, and yet remains the only hope for overthrowing the current fascist regime.  only by learning the truth of 9/11 will the American people assert themselves and reclaim their nation.  That is why the very concept of learning the truth is ATTACKED regularly in the corporate media and even the controlled “alternative” media.  If we weren’t onto something powerful, they wouldn’t bother.

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Purple Girl's avatar

By Purple Girl, May 15, 2008 at 9:28 am Link to this comment

They sit in boardrooms and the halls of Congress and WH- past & present!
Granted the attackers on 9/11 killed many AmericaNs but their targets were NOT US!
This BS Propaganda has infuriated me since the first time it slithered out of Bushes mouth!
Those Targets were the Brick & Mortar of the MIC, who are responsible for putting our citizens in Harms way because of their Greed, Business practices and disreagrd for Human life-except their own!
beleive it or not there are still plenty of Americans who remeber the ‘70’s when we realized we were in grave danger if we continued to involve ourselves in the affairs o fth Middle East. We are the ones who knew Exactly what caused those Attacks- but we were Ridiculed. We tried to stop boots being put down in Afghanistan - we know our History, we understand the consequences and the Middle Eastern Tenacity- HISTORY!!!Sociology, Anthropolgy.We shuddered and Screamed again about Iraq- we were called ‘Unamerican’, We have Cried about our Rights and Freedoms being systematically taken away by our own Gov’t- we are called ‘sympathizers’.
the Highjackers killed themselves, AQ could never doen what has befallen US since 9/11.
Teh Blood of 9/11 and since drips from the ‘Public officials’ and Corps who have continued for 30+ yrs to do business with ‘Royal’ Regimes who have Used US as their scapegoats to placate their people anger over oppression! The ones who should be held respsonsible for the Reckless endangerment of Our Citizens are still sitting in those Board Rooms, On WallStreet, and in Gov’t !AQ is the Symptom Not the insideous Disease which has brough our Nation to it’s knees!

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By cyrena, May 15, 2008 at 1:13 am Link to this comment

•  “…without having brought to justice a single individual alleged to be directly implicated in the crimes.”..

At least Marie writes more carefully this time, and conscientiously employs the word ‘alleged’. Because, that’s all ANY of the ‘evidence’ against any of these guys is. Just like there’s no evidence that 19 highjackers from the Middle East had anything to do with 9/11.

Matter of fact, the only reason we know that 19 alleged highjackers from al-Qaeda were responsible, is because that’s what the Dick Bush regime told us the same day it happened. There’s never been any proof of that. It allegedly all burned up. (at least WE’VE never seen any of it)

•  “The cases of five others who are considered to be 9/11 “masterminds” (Qahtani was never put in that category) are only now moving forward in a military commission system that is being challenged on several legal fronts.”

That’s because the same things happened to them. If we listen to KSM after the torturers finished with him, we find out he’s confessed to everything under the sun. Now he may or may not be an al-Qaeda ‘terrorist’ or ‘mastermind’. But even if he was, he still couldn’t possibly do all the stuff he confessed to. He’d have to be in 5 different countries, doing 11 different things, all on the same day.

And that brings me to wondering about Qahtani. If he was supposedly NOT permitted into the US in time to participate in the 9/11 horror, how did they just happen to ‘catch him up’ in the later sweep? They were ‘sweeping’ Afghanistan and Pakistan. (along with all of those renditions from other secret places). So, where did they find him, after he wasn’t admitted at Orlando? What, just lucky coincidence that the same guy who allegedly tried to enter the US in Orlando wound up being picked up in a sweep back in the South Asian ‘hood, along with at least 1000 others that were ‘captured’ there? That is just too bizarre, but maybe I should check it out more myself. Maybe he was rendered from somewhere. (of course they all were if we wanna be technical about it).

Meantime, she’s right about one thing this time…NONE of the perpetrators have been tried or convicted. Matter of fact, if ya ask me, none of them have even been identified and/or arrested. Or rendered, or captured. They’re all going about their business creating more terror.

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