The Dossier: The Torture of Ali Al-Marri
All the uproar about the use of torture methods was over what happened in Guantanamo Bay. Most Americans don’t realise that it also happened in their own country in Charleston, South Carolina. More specifically, that this torture was carried out by a rogue agent of the FBI, as proven from the prison logs. Andy Savage, who represented Ali al-Marri
The Torture of Ali Al-Marri
A Guide to The Dossier
This collection of emails was obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Brennan Centre for Justice through the Freedom of Information Act in the US. The emails reveal communications between the commanding officer at the Charleston Naval Brig in South Carolina with unknown senior officers in charge of policy relating to the detention of enemy combatants on US soil. The emails mostly relate to the detention of Yaser Esam Hamdi, and specifically provide an insight into the severe impact of long term solitary incommunicado confinement. The emails also reveal that the standard operating procedures within the Charleston Naval Brig in terms of detainee treatment, were being directly designed by the authorities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Charleston Navel Brig SHU Logs
These logs provide a unique insight into the way detainees held as enemy combatants held at the Charleston Naval Brig, South Carolina, were monitored and had their activities recorded. Key within these logs, are the recorded messages by interrogators to the guards, who follow the instructions they are forced to carry out. The Electronic Brig Logs, General Log Ledgers and Pass Down Logs provide at times a minute by minute explanation of what is taking place against the enemy combatants, including the instructions that constitute torture under international law. The logs are significant, because for the first time they provide a glimpse of the very careful controlling of the torture deployed against the detainees.
The logs provide details about the actions taken against Ali al-Marri and the other men, but largely it is unknown who is interrogating him when he leaves for interrogation sessions. The SHU Visitation Log provides detailed dates, times and names of all those who were involved in meeting and interrogating Ali al-Marri. It is through this document in particular that CAGE was able to verify that the three interrogators logged into the prison on the day Ali al-Marri was ‘dry-boarded’ were the FBI agents Ali Soufan and Nicholas Zambeck, and the Department of Defense interrogator Lt Col Jose Ramos.
The visitation logs also identify a number of other FBI agents and external figures such as Russell Lawson. Currently, it is unknown who Russell Lawson is, but through both the logs and the visitation log, it is clear that he had a senior role in managing the torture of Ali al-Marri. In light of the litigation in the US against the psychologists who developed the torture programme, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, it is possible that Lawson played a similar role.
FOUO DIA Disclosed Documents
Among the most important documents that CAGE has released is a series of documents marked as ‘For Official Use Only’ that were obtained directly from our client Ali al-Marri. These documents were provided by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) to al-Marri’s defence team and the Judge Mihm during the sentencing period of the case. The documents specifically highlight how a systematic programme of abuse was initiated against al-Marri to coerce his compliance with the interrogators. The documents provided by the DIA also explicitly relate the type of torture carried out against al-Marri including threats against his family and forcing a cloth into his mouth while taping his head.
Statement of Andy Savage
CAGE provide the statement written by Andy J Savage III to the court in recounting the difficulties in representing his client, Ali al-Marri, and the various forms of abuse that al-Marri was forced to endure. The statement provides an important single narrative on the complex ways in which al-Marri was harmed during his time at the Charleston Naval Brig.
Photo of Ali al-Marri two days after his arrival at the Charleston Naval Brig, South Carolina.
Ali Al-Marri’s Cell
Photo of cell 119 where Ali al-Marri was detained for the majority of his time at the Charleston Naval Brig. The room consisted of a metal toilet and a metal rack to sleep on without access to a pillow and blanket for the majority of his time in detention. There was no access to a tap or any form of running water in the cell and the floor was made of concrete.
Charleston Naval Brig
Located in South Carolina, The Charleston Naval Brig is a detention facility that housed three enemy combatants on US soil. The facility describes itself in the following terms:
“The mission of Naval Consolidated Brig Charleston is to ensure the security, good order, discipline and safety of adjudged and pretrial prisoners; to retrain and restore the maximum number of personnel to honorable service; to prepare prisoners for return to civilian life as productive citizens; and when directed by superior authority, detain enemy combatants in accordance with guidance from the President via the Secretary of Defense.”
Interrogation of Ali Al-Marri
A screenshot of a security camera recording of Ali al-Marri in an interrogation room. The image shows al-Marri being placed through sensory deprivation and being short shackled.
Non-Contact Visit Room
When Ali al-Marri was finally permitted legal visits after over a year of being denied any access, they were conducted in this non-contact room where he would only be permitted to speak through a thick glass.
01 Cell Conditions
Dated 2 May 2004, the video shows Ali al-Marri still without a full-time mattress at this stage, ten months after his arrival at the Brig. The short video showing his activity over the course of day provides a glimpse into the conditions of confinement, including the pacing that Ali al-Marri was forced to do in order to keep some form of activity in his day. Al-Marri has explained that the only way to suffer lying on the metal rack or hard concrete floor was to pace until he would feel intense pain his feet.
02 Boredom and Blankets
Almost a year after arriving at the Brig, the video dated 29 May 2004 shows Ali al-Marri moving around his metal rack trying to find some semblance of comfort and even moving around the concrete floor to change his position. The video provide a clear view of the way in which solitary confinement has a deleterious impact on the psychology and physiology of a detainee, especially when considered over a thirteen year period of confinement.
03 Cold Air
Taken from a security camera recording on 1 June 2004, the video shows Ali al-Marri smacking his own head in frustration, removing his clothes, and stuffing his underwear somewhere that cannot be discerned from the video. When this video is understood in the context of the Electronic Brig Logs, it is clearly written that the interrogator Lt Col Jose Ramos moved al-Marri from his regular cell 119 to the cell 112 in order to use cold air to harm him. The logs then describe al-Marri stuff his underwear into the air-conditioning vent in order to reduce the harm of its effect. This was part of a carefully planned programme of torture carried out against al-Marri.
04 Medical Concerns
An unknown dated video shows Ali al-Marri complaining to a doctor of his medical concerns. He is not able to sit up for long period due to back pain that he has and the video also shows a small glimpse of his character and interaction with his captors.
05 Medical Recommendations
An unknown dated video shows a doctor confirming that Ali al-Marri should be given a mattress on a full-time basis as a specific medical treatment. Al-Marri’s beard has grown significantly since the period of interrogations and forced shaving, indicating that this video is perhaps at least two years into his detention at the Naval Brig.