An official from the Bush administration is speaking out about torture at Guantanamo Bay.
Susan J. Crawford said that the treatment of a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the 9/11 attacks was egregious. Some of the "interrogation techniques" used on Mohammed al-Qahtani included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold.
"We tortured [Mohammed] al-Qahtan," Crawford told the Washington Post, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. "His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case" for prosecution.
Al-Qahtani was one of six men charged by the military in February 2008 with murder and war crimes for their alleged roles in the 2001 attacks. But in May, Crawford decided to dismiss the charges against al-Qahtani, who was being held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
His Pentagon-appointed attorney, Army Lt. Col. Bryan Broyles, suggested at the time that his client's harsh interrogation, authorized by the defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld, could have influenced the decision.
"In any instance in which the United States wishes to impose the death penalty, my opinion is that such a case requires clean hands on the part of the U.S.," Broyles told The Associated Press in May.
U.S. authorities had acknowledged that al-Qahtani was subjected to waterboarding by CIA interrogators and that he was treated harshly at Guantanamo.
Crawford told Woodward: "The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent. ... You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge" to call it torture, she said.