Prisoner drawings demonstrate the vortex, coffin and drowning board. (Images: Abu Zubaydah)

Originally published on Red Portal

Exclusively, the British newspaper The Guardian released a detailed report on the torture, sexual and religious humiliation, and prolonged psychological terror that prisoners have suffered in US government custody since September 11, 2001. Read the original report here.

The first published report is called American Torturers: FBI and CIA Abuses at Dark Sites and Guantánamo and was written by law professors at Seton Hall University (New Jersey), Mark Denbeaux, and University of California (San Francisco) Psychiatric Clinic, Jess Ghannam. However, what makes the scholars’ work stand out is the powerful reinforcement of the drawings of Abu Zubaydah, a prisoner who has been in US custody for 21 years at Guantanamo prison camp in Cuba.

The 52-year-old Pakistani man is known as the “prisoner forever” because he has not been charged with any crime and given no prospect of release. The US initially claimed that he was a top Al Qaeda operative, but was forced to admit that he was not even a member of the terrorist group.

Like so many others, Zubaydah is used as a human guinea pig in the CIA’s torture program, and has produced the most comprehensive and detailed account yet of the brutal techniques he was subjected to. He did this through a series of 40 drawings that chronicle the torture he endured between 2002 and 2006. The images provide a unique and grim look at a period that the United States goes to great lengths to keep secret.

The drawings were sketched from memory in his cell at Guantánamo and sent to Denbeaux, who is one of his lawyers. “Abu Zubaydah is the poster child for America’s torture program,” said Denbeaux. “He was the first person to be tortured, having been authorized by the Department of Justice based on facts that the CIA knew to be false. His drawings are the ultimate repudiation of failure and the abuses of torture.”

Last week, a UN body called for his immediate release, concluding that his ongoing detention may be a crime against humanity. The report and drawings break the silence and darkness that can now contribute to liberation.

Videotapes of Zubaydah being tortured were filmed by the CIA but later destroyed in violation of a court order, while a 6,700-page Senate intelligence committee torture report remains secret nearly a decade after it was completed. However, the Senate is known to have concluded that the abuse of Zubaydah and other detainees failed to obtain any relevant new information. According to a 2014 summary of the Senate report, at least 119 individuals were victimized by the program.

The depictions are so accurately reproduced that the faces of CIA and FBI agents have been crossed out to protect their identities. The drawings reveal the extent to which the US government violated international law and even its own guidelines on what it euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation techniques”. The techniques described by the drawings are not even approved by the formal parameters of the Department of Defense.

The images show threats of anal rape, interrogations in which Zubaydah is naked in front of a sexily dressed interrogator, profanations of the Koran, beatings against a wall. There are also creative drowning techniques, in which he is trapped in a coffin filled with water for days, among his own waste, in permanent fear of drowning. There are whole days of senseless transport of chained prisoners, in diapers, naked in the cold.

Zubaydah calls the simultaneous use of several techniques used over a long period of time a “vortex”. In this case, the detainee suffers 24 hours a day of intense torture, for long weeks or months, involving pain, stress, hunger and cold. It consists of beatings in very cold weather, until fainting and violent awakening to start a new technique, and so on, until the use of all methods and the restart of the cycle.

According to the experts’ report, these violent attacks when directed at the detainee’s head and neck cause traumatic injuries to the brain and cervical spinal cord with chronic headaches, neck pain and difficulties moving the head. Traumatic brain injuries caused by repeated slaps, face slaps and blows to the head cause severe cognitive impairments. It can also result in a very painful tinnitus condition. Tinnitus is often combined with painful sensory sensitivity, and people are extremely disturbed by even low levels of sounds, light, smells, touch and taste. Thinking, speaking, writing and processing information becomes painful, difficult and sometimes impossible. In most cases, this suffering is unlikely to be alleviated with treatment.

The report concludes that the drawings “are not only powerful testimony to what the CIA and FBI did after 9/11, they are also the only evidence” following the destruction of the video records. The authors consider that these acts “are horrible and evil in themselves”. However, they consider that it could be even worse because it means that “the CIA has created new ways of inflicting severe physical trauma and, at the same time, exposing the detainee to psychological trauma”.

You can see the description of the drawings in the report (click here to read the full text). Some designs are identified as coffin box, drowning board, walling, hanging, confinement box, threat of rape, vortex, extreme cold, vertical box, prisoner transport, cavity search, freezing, rectal rehydration/rectal feeding, feeding forceful, buttock blows and threats of rape, threats with an electric drill, threat to desecrate the Holy Quran, stress positions, threat to harm sexual organs/genitals, threat of religious humiliation and blasphemy, non-lethal techniques.

Below, some of the drawings with extremely graphic and disturbing representations of the techniques:

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