A U.S.-educated captive at Guantánamo who has pleaded guilty to being an al-Qaida money courier has told his attorneys he was twice waterboarded by CIA agents, something not previously disclosed, according to his lawyers in a release Tuesday of once-censored torture allegations.
The attorneys for Majid Khan, 35, a 1999 Maryland high school graduate who is awaiting sentencing next year at Guantánamo, that he spent much of his 2003-06 CIA captivity in solitary confinement. The first year was spent in “total darkness,” he said.through much of the first year, denied sunlight.
Khan made the disclosures to his attorneys in private conversations, published accounts of which previously had been heavily redacted by the CIA. But the conversations were recently vetted anew under new rules for declassification in place after the release of portions of a Senate committee investigation into the CIA's secret overseas interrogation of suspected terrorists. Under the new rules, portions of Khan's statements were deemed acceptable for public release, and the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City released them Tuesday.
The center also called for the dismissal of CIA Director John Brennan. The CIA had no immediate comment.
“As layers of secrecy have been peeled away throughout the Obama administration, we see more and more evidence of CIA savagery and treachery,” Khan’s CCR attorney, J. Wells Dixon, said in a statement that also urged the Justice Department to reopen its criminal investigation of the CIA program. “ There must be greater transparency and accountability for what happened.”
Khan, whose family lives in suburban Baltimore, has been held since 2006 at a secret prison at Guantánamo, called Camp 7. In February 2012 he pleaded guilty to war crimes for joining al Qaida after the 9/11 attacks and moving $50,000 used to fund a 2003 terrorist bombing of a Marriott hotel in Southeast Asia. He also agreed to testify against others at war court proceeding, something that has not yet happened.
The world first learned some of the lurid details of Khan’s CIA detention in December when the Senate Intelligence Committee released 524 partially redacted pages of its 6,700-page “Torture Report” on the CIA black site program. It recounted how the CIA “rectally infused” a pureed “food tray” of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts, and raisins into Khan in what was described as a quasi-medical procedure because the captive was on a hunger strike.
Dixon on Tuesday called it sexual assault and said, based on interviews with Khan that were previously sealed as Top Secret, he also had “his ‘private parts’ touched while he was hung naked from the ceiling.”
The public portion of the Senate report does not include Khan among those captives who were waterboarded by the agency. The Senate report does describe agents putting him in a tub where he was doused with ice water.
Dixon said Khan first described that episode to his lawyers as far back as October 2007, a year after his arrival at Guantánamo, in a level of greater detail that made clear that agents were waterboarding Khan in May and July 2003. Pakistani security officials had captured him in March and handed over to the CIA two months later.
“An interrogator forced Khan's head under the water until he thought he would drown,” the account released Tuesday said. “The interrogator would pull Khan's head out of the water to demand answers to questions, and then force his head back under the water, repeatedly. Water and ice were also poured from a bucket onto Khan's mouth and nose when his head was not submerged.”
Khan also claimed to his attorneys that medical doctors participated in his torture beyond the use of “rectal rehydration” in response to his hunger strike.
At one point during his CIA custody, the CCR account said, “a physician came to examine him” and “Khan begged for help.”
“In response, the physician instructed the guards to take Khan back into the interrogation room with the metal bar and hang him,” it added. “Khan remained hanging there for another 24 hours before being interrogated again and forced to write his own ‘confession’ while being filmed naked if he wanted some rest. He was finally placed in a cell, where he remained numb and immobile for several days.”