But not any more:
A Federal District Court judge on Friday ordered the public disclosure of 28 classified military videotapes showing the forced cell extraction and forced feeding of a hunger-striking Guantánamo Bay detainee, rejecting the Obama administration’s arguments that making the videos public would endanger national security. The New York Times and 15 other news organizations had petitioned to unseal the videos. In a 28-page opinion, Judge Gladys Kessler of the United States Court for the District of Columbia cited the First Amendment in overriding the government’s arguments for keeping them secret, most of which, she said, were “unacceptably vague, speculative,” lacking specificity or “just plain implausible.”
In order to judge whether the government is engaged in a form of torture, it’s essential that we see what it is doing to prisoners. Words are not enough. If the photos from Abu Ghraib had never been released, we would have only the euphemisms of “long-time standing” or “stress positions” to understand the brutality and inhumanity involved. And we know why the CIA destroyed the video evidence of its brutal torture of José Padilla (an American citizen) or Khaled Sheikh Muhammed (one of the masterminds of 9/11). They would have shocked the conscience and made the reassurances of our highest officials that the United States has not committed offenses usually associated with dictatorships transparently false.
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.
There are claims that this agony was on display to deter others from hunger-striking. It seems to me particularly important for a president committed to ending torture to prove that he isn’t continuing it – even if it is for the sake of keeping someone alive. For my part, I see suicide by hunger strike to be a perfectly rational response to the Kafkaesque vortex these men are in – and a violation of their core human dignity to prevent them from seeking the only way out of their nightmare that Gitmo can give them.