GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba -- One of the alleged Sept. 11 plotters suffered a head injury in CIA custody that caused memory loss and delusions, a Pentagon defense lawyer said in court Wednesday at a pre-trial hearing focusing on the U.N. Convention Against Torture.
The disclosure was the first public allegation of injury to the accused, Ammar al Baluchi, 36, the nephew of the alleged 9/11 mastermind and one of five captives facing trial — and the death penalty — perhaps late next year as conspirators in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
Attorney James Connell invoked two of Baluchi’s unclassified Guantánamo medical records in a bid to argue that not everything the captives say about their treatment at the CIA’s overseas prison network from 2002 to 2006 constitutes national security secrets.
At issue is the 9/11 defense attorneys’ challenge of a military commissions protective order that, the defenders say, oblige the attorneys to make sure the prisoners don’t tell foreign courts or human rights groups their memories of what the CIA did to them during the years before they were brought here in 2006.
It is widely know from a declassified investigative report that agents waterboarded Baluchi’s uncle, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, 183 times in March 2003. Less is known about what agents did to the other four defendants, and the lawyers argue that the U.S. government is violating the Convention Against Torture by defining the captives’ accounts of their treatment as classified.
“What is clear is that there is a right to complain,” said Connell. He echoed other defense lawyers’ arguments that, if the judge, Army Col. James Pohl, can’t authorize an outside torture complaint, he should dismiss the Sept. 11 case.
CIA spokesman Ned Price wouldn't comment on whether or how Baluchi was harmed in CIA custody “given the pending military commission proceedings.”
Connell invoked two medical reports from September and October in 2006 that report “suspected detainee maltreatment” dating back three or four years prior, one signed by a psychiatrist identified as Dr. 1 and another by a Navy medic called HM-6.
Baluchi, according to the psychiatrist’s notation, “reported auditory and visual hallucinations for 1-2 weeks with slow resolution reporting headaches/pain and intermediate memory problems.”
During a recess, Connell said he was unable to say anything else beyond what he was permitted to say inside the maximum security courtroom about the head injury his client suffered in CIA custody. The only possible public information about the treatment his client suffered, Connell said, was a scene showing a CIA prisoner named Ammar being beaten in the docudrama “ Zero Dark Thirty.”
Connell refused to respond to a direct question of whether Baluchi was subjected to an “Enhanced Interrogation Technique” called “Walling” that was approved for CIA use at the time of Baluchi’s capture in April 2003
A CIA inspector general’s report describing how the technique was used said an interrogator “quickly and firmly pushed” a detainee “into a flexible false wall so that his shoulder blades hit the wall. His head and neck are supported with a rolled hood or towel to help prevent whiplash.”