A U.S. military officer warned the Pentagon that an American detainee was being driven insane by months of isolation and sensory deprivation in a military brig, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
While prisoners' treatment at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in Afghanistan and Iraq has long drawn human rights complaints and court scrutiny, the documents shed light on how two U.S. citizens and a legal U.S. resident were treated in military jails in the U.S.
The Bush administration ordered the men held in military jails as “enemy combatants” for years without criminal charges, which would not have been allowed in civilian jails.
The men were interrogated by the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency, denied access to attorneys and mail from home and contact with anyone other than guards and interrogators. They were deprived of natural light for months and for years were forbidden even minor distractions, such as a soccer ball or a dictionary.
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“I will continue to do what I can to help this individual maintain his sanity, but in my opinion we're working with borrowed time,” an unidentified Navy brig official wrote of prisoner Yaser Esam Hamdi in 2002.
Yale Law School's Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic received the documents through a Freedom of Information Act request filed by attorneys representing another detainee, Jose Padilla. The clinic and the American Civil Liberties Union said the papers were evidence that the Bush administration violated the 5th Amendment's protections against cruel treatment. The military was ordered to treat the U.S. prisoners the same way prisoners at Guantanamo were treated, according to the documents.
But the Guantanamo jail was created to avoid allowing detainees constitutional rights. Administration lawyers contended the Constitution did not apply outside the country.
The documents produced by U.S. Fleet Forces Command detail daily decisions on the treatment of Hamdi and Padilla, then U.S. citizens, and Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a legal resident.