Did The Obama Administration Torture?

Friedersdorf alleges that the way force-feeding is being administered at Gitmo may be tantamount to torture:

[I]f [Gitmo prisoner Imad Abdullah] Hassan has indeed spent much of the last 8 years being force fed using the method I am about to describe, then I believe he has been the victim of illegal torture. Here are some relevant details that the lawsuit alleges:

  • At Gitmo, they began to use tubes that were too big for Hassan’s nostrils.
  • Rather than leaving them in place, they would insert and remove them twice a day.
  • Prisoners were force-fed in what Hassan called “the Torture Chair.” Hands, legs, waist, shoulders and head were strapped down tightly. The men were also force-fed constipation drugs, causing them to defecate on themselves as they sat in the chair being fed. “People with hemorrhoids would leave blood on the chair and the linens would not always be changed before the next feeding.” They’d be strapped down amid the shit and blood for up to two hours at a time–though quicker wasn’t always better.
  • That’s because Gitmo staff started force-feeding much more liquid into the prisoners. Sometimes they sped up the process, leaving the amount of liquid constant. “If Mr. Hassan vomited on himself at any time during the procedure, what he terms ‘the atrocity’ would start all over again.” Severe gastric pain was common.
  • “Early on in this new and more abusive phase… authorities took Mr. Hassan and two others to another block so that others would see what was being done to them. This was obviously done as a deterrent to scare others into not hunger striking.”

At various times, these methods were combined with other forms of abuse, the lawsuit continues. “The air-conditioning was turned up and detainees were deprived of a blanket. This was particularly difficult for the hunger strikers, as they inevitably felt the cold more than someone who was eating.” Detainees on hunger strikes were also refused the right to participate in communal prayers, and the prison camp guards “would bang the cells all day and all night to prevent sleep.”

The problem here is that there is no indication that this inhumane treatment was designed to procure a confession or admission of some kind – and that’s key to defining it as torture. The technique is painful and humiliating enough to be used as part of a torture program but wasn’t in this case.