[Marxism] The crime against Jose Padilla is finally on trial in Miami courtroom -- torturers exposed

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Tue Feb 27 17:16:01 MST 2007

Lookout by Naomi Klein

A Trial for Thousands Denied Trial
[from the March 12, 2007 issue]

Something remarkable is going on in a Miami courtroom. The cruel methods US
interrogators have used since September 11 to "break" prisoners are finally
being put on trial. 

This was not supposed to happen. The Bush Administration's plan was to put
José Padilla on trial for allegedly being part of a network linked to
international terrorists. But Padilla's lawyers are arguing that he is not
fit to stand trial because he has been driven insane by the government. 

Arrested in May 2002 at Chicago's O'Hare airport, Padilla, a Brooklyn-born
former gang member, was classified as an "enemy combatant" and taken to a
Navy prison in Charleston, South Carolina. He was kept in a 9-by-7-foot cell
with no natural light, no clock and no calendar. Whenever Padilla left the
cell, he was shackled and suited in heavy goggles and headphones. Padilla
was kept under these conditions for 1,307 days. He was forbidden contact
with anyone but his interrogators, who punctured the extreme sensory
deprivation with sensory overload, blasting him with harsh lights and
pounding sounds. Padilla also says he was injected with a "truth serum," a
substance his lawyers believe was LSD or PCP. 

According to his lawyers and two mental health specialists who examined him,
Padilla has been so shattered that he lacks the ability to assist in his own
defense. He is convinced that his lawyers are "part of a continuing
interrogation program" and sees his captors as protectors. In order to prove
that "the extended torture visited upon Mr. Padilla has left him damaged,"
his lawyers want to tell the court what happened during those years in the
Navy brig. The prosecution strenuously objects, maintaining that "Padilla is
competent," that his treatment is irrelevant. 

US District Judge Marcia Cooke disagrees. "It's not like Mr. Padilla was
living in a box. He was at a place. Things happened to him at that place."
The judge has ordered several prison employees to testify at the hearings on
Padilla's mental state, which begin February 22. They will be asked how a
man alleged to have engaged in elaborate antigovernment plots now acts, in
the words of brig staff, "like a piece of furniture." 

It's difficult to overstate the significance of these hearings. The
techniques used to break Padilla have been standard operating procedure at
Guantánamo Bay since the first prisoners arrived five years ago. They wore
blackout goggles and sound-blocking headphones and were placed in extended
isolation, interrupted by strobe lights and heavy metal music. These same
practices have been documented in dozens of cases of CIA "extraordinary
rendition" as well as in prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Many have suffered the same symptoms as Padilla. According to James Yee,
former Army Muslim chaplain at Guantánamo, there is an entire section of the
prison called Delta Block for detainees who have been reduced to a
delusional state. "They would respond to me in a childlike voice, talking
complete nonsense. Many of them would loudly sing childish songs, repeating
the song over and over." All of Delta Block was on twenty-four-hour suicide

Human Rights Watch has exposed a US-run detention facility near Kabul known
as the "prison of darkness"--tiny pitch-black cells, strange blaring sounds.
"Plenty lost their minds," one former inmate recalled. "I could hear people
knocking their heads against the walls and the doors." 

These standard mind-breaking techniques have never faced scrutiny in a US
court because the prisoners in the jails are foreigners and have been
stripped of the right of habeas corpus--a denial that, scandalously, was
just upheld by a federal appeals court in Washington, DC. There is only one
reason Padilla's case is different: He is a US citizen. The Administration
did not originally intend to bring Padilla to trial, but when his status as
an enemy combatant faced a Supreme Court challenge, the Administration
abruptly changed course, charging Padilla and transferring him to civilian
custody. That makes Padilla's case unique: He is the only victim of the
post-9/11 legal netherworld to face an ordinary US trial. 

Now that Padilla's mental state is the central issue in the case, the
government prosecutors have a problem. The CIA and the military have known
since the early 1960s that extreme sensory deprivation and sensory overload
cause personality disintegration--that's the whole point. "The deprivation
of stimuli induces regression by depriving the subject's mind of contact
with an outer world and thus forcing it in upon itself. At the same time,
the calculated provision of stimuli during interrogation tends to make the
regressed subject view the interrogator as a father-figure." That comes from
Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation, a 1963 declassified CIA manual for
interrogating "resistant sources." 

The manual was based on the findings of the agency's notorious MK Ultra
program, which in the 1950s funneled about $25 million to scientists to
research "unusual techniques of interrogation." One of the psychiatrists who
received CIA funding was the infamous Ewen Cameron of Montreal's McGill
University. Cameron subjected hundreds of psychiatric patients to large
doses of electroshock and total sensory isolation and drugged them with LSD
and PCP. In 1960 Cameron gave a lecture at the Brooks Airforce Base in Texas
in which he stated that sensory deprivation "produces the primary symptoms
of schizophrenia." 

There is no need to go so far back to prove that the US military knew full
well that it was driving Padilla mad. The Army's field manual, reissued just
last year, states, "Sensory deprivation may result in extreme anxiety,
hallucinations, bizarre thoughts, depression, and anti-social behavior," as
well as "significant psychological distress." 

If these techniques drove Padilla insane, that means the US government has
been deliberately driving hundreds, possibly thousands, of prisoners insane
around the world. What is on trial in Florida is not one man's mental state.
It is the whole system of US psychological torture. 

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