By Paul Koring
Terrifying threats of dying from multiple gang rape “by four big black guys” who would catch little Afghan boys in the shower of a U.S. prison, was used by interrogators at Bagram to scare detainees into confessing, Omar Khadr’s lead interrogator admitted today.
“It was a factious story that we made up” because we knew “Afghans were terrified of rape,” the interrogator said.
He said Mr. Khadr, was - like other detainees - routinely trussed up in a cage “in one of the worst places on Earth.” (Bagram Air Base)
The story sometimes involve hulking “neo Nazis”, sometimes “big black guys” but we told detainees that even through they were inmates there were still “patriots who were upset and and mad over the 9-11 attacks.” The story sometimes ended with the Afghan boy dying from repeated penetrations from gang rape, Interrogator 1 said.
It also emerged that war crimes prosecutors offered the testifying former interrogator - who was later convicted of beating and assaulting detainees at Bagram - an immunity deal although it wasn’t established in court if the deal was for testimony against Omar Khadr.
Interrogator 1 said he was the lead interrogator for Omar Khadr and interrogated him at Bagram prison in Afghanistan more than two dozen times in the weeks after the severely-injured 15-year-old was captured in a firefight during which an American solider was killed.
Mr. Khadr faces a war crimes trial on murder and terrorism charges under the Bush-era military commissions revised by and still in use by President Barack Obama’s administration.
Interrogator 1, who cannot be further identified during his testimony, was described by other witnesses as a former military interrogator who was subsequently court-martialed for detainee abuse at Bagram.
Military Judge Patrick Parrish made clear in court Thursday that he was fully aware of the court martial and its outcome. Proceedings are under way at the U.S. naval base leased from Cuba at Guantanamo Bay.
Interrogator 1 told the pre-trial hearings that he had no recollection of the prosecution offer of immunity from further prosecution. He also testified that he had no recollection of a subsequent application, initiated by the tribunal’s prosecutor, for clemency on his behalf.
Interrogator 1 testified that during his interrogations of Mr. Khadr included screaming at him, ``cussing him because I knew he didn’t like it.’’
At their first interrogation session on Aug 12, 2002, Mr. Khadr was still handcuffed to the stretcher ``because he was severely injured in a battle with U.S. soldiers,’’ Interrogator 1 said.
Earlier, another military interrogator nicknamed Monster said he felt sorry for the Canadian teenager and occasionally brought him books and treats. He said Mr. Khadr, was - like other detainees - routinely trussed up in a cage “in one of the worst places on Earth.”
Former specialist Damien Corsetti was testifying via video link to a pretrial hearing in the war-crimes trial of Mr. Khadr, now 23, on charges of terrorism and murder in the killing of a U.S. Special Forces soldier during a firefight in eastern Afghanistan in July of 2002.
“We could do basically anything to scare the prisoners,'' Mr. Corsetti said, adding that detainees were often chained in stress positions in cages and that constant screaming and yelling filled the Bagram prison. He also said beating prisoners was banned but they could be threatened with nightmarish scenarios like clandestine transfer to Israel or Egypt where they would disappear.
Mr. Corsetti was the first defence witness called at the hearing.
“More than anything, he looked beat up,'' Mr. Corsetti said. “He was a 15-year-old kid with three holes in his body, a bunch of shrapnel in his face.'' Bagram guards and interrogators dubbed him Buckshot Bob.
Mr. Corsetti said he sometimes took pity on the English-speaking teenager, occasionally chatting with him about fast cars.
He was never one of Mr. Khadr's interrogators.
Mr. Corsetti later faced multiple charges of detainee abuse but was acquitted. He now describes himself as a disabled veteran being treated for post-traumatic-stress disorder.
Defence lawyers are seeking to have Mr. Khadr's confessions at Bagram and Guantanamo kept out of the trial, claiming interrogators coerced them from a tortured and abused child soldier.
The prosecution contends Mr. Khadr was an unlawful combatant who freely and voluntarily confessed to killing Sergeant Christopher Speer with a grenade and boasted of building roadside bombs, being an al-Qaeda fighter and seeking to kill as many Jews and Americans as possible.
Meanwhile, it emerged that information extracted by Canadian spies who interrogated Mr. Khadr in Guantanamo may be used against him, despite Ottawa's belated efforts to have it suppressed.
The Obama administration has rejected Ottawa's request to suppress information that Canadian Security and Intelligence Service agents and Foreign Affairs officials elicited from Mr. Khadr during interrogations in 2003 and 2004.
Nathan Whitling, one of Mr. Khadr's Canadian lawyers who argued his case before Canada's Supreme Court, said the “U.S. refusal of Canada's request confirms its status as an outlaw among the community of nations.''
After the Canadian Supreme Court ruling that successive Canadian governments had failed to safeguard Mr. Khadr's rights, the Harper government – in a formal diplomatic note – pleaded with the Obama administration to block use of the information furnished by the Canadian agents to their U.S. counterparts.
In its written response, the U.S. government declined, saying it was up to the military judge to decide what evidence he allowed.
However, it's not clear from Justice Minister Rob Nicholson's letter whether he believes the Obama administration's changes to the Bush-era military tribunals still operating at Guantanamo makes them legal.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court found the conditions of Mr. Khadr’s imprisonment at Guantanamo when he was interrogated by CSIS agents “constituted a clear violation of Canada’s international human rights obligations.”