CIA’s Interrogation Probe: What it means for Pakistan?

“I was held at Bagram until February 2003. I saw two people killed there. I was stripped naked, kicked, beaten, and threatened with dogs. Interrogators would hold pictures of my wife and children, and ask me what I thought had happened to them, while a woman screamed near by. By the time I, left I was actually looking forward to going to Guantanamo Bay. It was a 36-hour journey to Guantanamo. I was hooded, shackled, ear-muffed and sedated. I was put into a cell at the maximum security Camp Echo. I remained there most of the time. I was in that cell 24 hours a day, except for 15 minutes out of it twice a week. Guantanamo was more a psychological ordeal. I was released in January 2005.” -Moazzam Begg an Ex-Guantanamo Bay detainee recalled his experience while speaking to Tim Reid of The Times.

Photo Courtesy- Telegraph
Photo Courtesy- Telegraph

Begg, a British citizen, was arrested from Pakistan and was imprisoned for three years without charge or trial. He was picked up by US intelligence officials in Pakistan in January 2002; they accused him of being a member of al-Qaeda, and called him the “Enemy Combatant”. A name that later became the title of his memoir recalling horrendous detail of his 3 years in US detention. Jane Kinninmont, of open democracy, describes him as a devastatingly reasonable, calm, and a highly articulate man. Over the years, Begg has become one of the few who were able to describe, at length, their experiences as a Gitmo detainee. Begg’s memoir discusses grave details about torture, physical and psychological abuse and most interestingly positive words about some of the US guards he met in Guantanamo. However, Begg is  one of the many arrested in Pakistan and sent over to Guantanamo. To be more precise I must quote the infamous disclosure by the Ex-President Musharraf Himself in his Memoir “In the line of Fire”:
“Many members of al-Qaeda fled Afghanistan and crossed the border into Pakistan,” he writes. “We have played cat and mouse with them . . . We have captured 689 and handed over 369 to the United States. We have earned bounties totalling millions of dollars. Those who habitually accuse us of ‘not doing enough’ in the war on terror should simply ask the CIA how much prize money it has paid to the government of Pakistan.”

Although in his book Musharraf conveniently dubbed those arrested as ‘Al-Qaeda’ members, many of them have been released without charge while many others still await charges. Thus the connection between Pakistan and Guantanamo is not an odd one. Begg’s memoirs opened doors to stories of many other detainees held in the notorious detention cell in Cuba. The heart wrenching stories of torture have raised grave concerns globally. Many across the world have questioned these treatments weighing them as staunch violations of Human rights. Most importantly, the American people have shown great concern over the severity of these torture tactics and have demanded public release of the interrogation memos of the CIA. Despite President Obama’s assurance to the CIA officers regarding prosecutions, the concerns of the American people and the world seems to linger on. Reuters reports that sleep deprivation, “insult slaps”, water dousing and “walling”, or slamming a detainee’s head against a wall, were techniques used by CIA interrogators to break high-value detainees, according to an agency memo. The memo goes on outlining that the the goal of interrogation is to create a state of learned helplessness and dependence conducive to the collection of intelligence. Further elaborating the memo the Washington Post stated that after removing the hood, the interrogator opens with a slap across the face — to get the detainees attention — followed by other slaps, the guidelines state. Next comes the head slamming, or “walling,” which can be tried once “to make a point,” or repeated repeatedly.

“Twenty or thirty times consecutively” is permissible, the guidelines say, “If the interrogator requires a more significant response to a question.” And if that fails, there are far harsher techniques to be tried.

Photo Courtesy- Reuters
Photo Courtesy- Reuters

This does not end here according to a memo, released under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Amnesty International USA and the American Civil Liberties Union.
“Certain interrogation techniques place the detainee in more physical and psychological stress and, therefore, are considered more effective tools”, these include waterboarding, electrocuting, fake executions and various other methods of psychological and physical torture. Moreover, the new released memo discloses detailed information of types of psychological torture. BBC reports that on various occasions Agents threatened to kill a key terror suspect’s children and sexually assault another’s mother. The US Justice Department is reported to be reopening a dozen prisoner abuse cases, for which John Durham has been appointed as a special US prosecutor for investigations.

Photo Courtesy-WorldRadio
Photo Courtesy-WorldRadio

For many of us the question is not only about prosecutions,the concern is way beyond that of prosecutions, it is mainly about the truth that should be made public. The detailed reports on abuse and torture and the assurance that the US is determined to mark an end to it, are of primary concern. The strong emphasis laid on the release of the memos is proof enough that the people demand a detailed answer. An investigation about how and to what extend were the tortures carried out and whether or not the authorities are serious about ‘changing their ways’ seems to be the demand.

Photo Courtesy- Reuters
Photo Courtesy- Reuters

So when the world asks if it is time that Americans should stop questioning their response to 9/11 the answer from our part of the world (being the first hand ally of the United States) is a blatant ‘No’. In fact, this is the time to introspect, to ask questions, to explain and to act on. I believe that the truth must be revealed. We have all heard stories of the horrendous torture, its time to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. Especially in Pakistan, where anti American sentiments continue to be on the rise. If truth is told and prosecutions are sought, a lot will change. It will reflect that the US is serious about strengthening its ties with the Muslim world in particular and is seriously concerned about its global image.
This could be a significant step forward towards the Muslim world ,which currently feel ‘threatens’ by the existence of such techniques, provided that these could (and have) lead to innocent people admitting to crime under torture.

As we proudly claim to be the first hand ally of the United States , we deem it our right to know just how far has the US gone to get the ‘desired confessions’.As a Pakistani I consider this my right to know details regarding the abuse done. A natural right considering that many Pakistani nationals and foreign nationals arrested from within Pakistan are still detained in Gitmo. With President Obama in the White House, America promised a change not only in America but also on the global front, its time we witness that in action and not in mere words.

NOTE: You can find a turbulated list Pakistani’s being held in Guantanamo- Courtesy Wikipedia


14 thoughts on “CIA’s Interrogation Probe: What it means for Pakistan?

  1. At least these reports come out,what has happened to so many here in Pakistan? no reports,nothing.

    The same,if not worse happens with suspects here,i hope we can change too.

  2. The release of the report, despite being under FOI, showed how much we really didn’t know about US torture. Its release is a massive step forward, and shows how deep the “ends justify means” rot went during the post 9/11 years – right down to the agents at the front line.

    I still remain uncomfortable about prosecutions, and I think they’re going to miss the real culprits here. Although they are saying they will prosecute only those who went beyond their training, the lassiez-faire attitude towards this kind of the behaviour came from the top. It was the Bush administration which engineered the legal theory that anything done to an “enemy combatent” lay outside of the restrictions of the Geneva Convention in a tourture-friendly Make Believe Land. Attempts to claim water-boarding (which actually seems pretty damn quiant compared to saying I’ll abuse your mum) wasn’t a form of torture shows they knew it was going on and didn’t care.

    If we’re going to get the bastards, we should try the Bush Administration.

    That’s never going to happen.

  3. The basic theme touched upon in this blog is about justice and the way things should be done in a civilized society. Although I have no soft corners for these highly publicized crusaders of Islam, I do believe in fair play. Believe me living in west as Muslim, these terrorists have done more harm to Islam than anyone else in history. Their stupidity, brutality, ignorance, and barbarism is haunting us all yet civilized societies should behave in civilized way as Gandhi said ‘any eye for eye will make the whole world blind’. I admit the US can bring some justification for torturing the culprits but what about the innocents who were held for year behind bars in unidentified areas for a crime that they hadn’t committed. Obama, who came on a promise of change brought these atrocities to surface however, it is also high time to expose the role played by nations as Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and others in these violations. You cannot hide a truth, you can only suppress it for a while but with time things reveal on their due course. Remember as Henri Amiel once said ‘truth is not only violated by falsehood; it may be equally outraged by silence’.

  4. Well written post as always – it was unnerving reading about the torture procedures of the CIA. I wonder if Afia Siddiqui was also one of the ‘terrorists’ handed over for money. Seeing how much the USA co-operated with Musharraf and then turned on him, I agree with Aly that hypocrisy is its middle name. I doubt that the US is concerned about its image in the Muslim world, they’re too busy ‘saving’ Iraq and Afghanistan (read: letting Aghan women become sex slaves). As for Palestine, Obama’s Cairo speech has been largely ignored, Netanyhu continues with increasing settlements and I honestly think if the US was concerned, they would’ve used harsher measures like embargoes (like they did with Iran.) At the end, I think Obama’s going to be like any other American president, he’ll do whats best for his country not for the rest of the world. But I could be wrong and I hope I am ^^

  5. @ Aly: There’s lot that the United States Government has done post 9/11, we all (along with the US itself) know of these mistakes that has cost people lives. But the thing is journalist and citizens of the same country have helped bring this issue to the global front. The people there are concerned, the media is covering it. Lets hope some action happens too!
    @ Faisal and Naveen :Thankyou so much for your comments, indeed we all need the promised change and want this inhumanity to stop. Justice for all I say.

  6. Great post, Sana. You’re right in saying the world (particularly the third/postcolonial world) has high expectations of Barack Obama. I also agree that the world is still waiting for something to change.

  7. Absolutely brilliant post sana, there are hundreds of people missing and although obama promised revelations he has till yet been unwilling to release footage, pics and info on these nefarious practices going on in prisons like bagram, Guantanamo etc.

  8. Yet another example of the hypocrisy that is so apparent in EVERYTHING the United States does. Champion of Human Rights, protests over mishandling of protestors in Iran Elections, blah blah blah…. But at the end of the day it is just total BS. Similarly USA (the only country to ever explode a nuclear weapon and the one with the pargest inventory of nukes) wants other countries to de-weaponize. The United Nations and the International Court of Justice should be utilized for bringing this ROGUE nation to justice. Or better yet let’s just arrest a few of them Yanks and give them a taste of their own medicine.


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