Two stories in the news today are closely linked, although I haven’t seen anyone draw the connection. The first concerns Binyam Mohammed, an al Qaeda terrorist who plotted to be part of the second wave of attacks on the United States following September 11. The Obama administration has now “returned” him to Great Britain, although he is an Ethiopian. Mohammed is being treated as something of a hero in the U.K. because he has alleged that he was tortured while in U.S. custody. Over the objections of the British government, a court ordered that details of Mohammed’s allegations about his treatment by the U.S. be disclosed. The issue is universally referred to as one of “torture” in the British newspapers. You can read the now-public information here; this is it, in its entirety:
[It was reported that a new series of interviews was conducted by the United States authorities prior to 17 May 2001 [sic, should be 2002] as part of a new strategy designed by an expert interviewer.
v) It was reported that at some stage during that further interview process by the United States authorities, BM had been intentionally subjected to continuous sleep deprivation. The effects of the sleep deprivation were carefully observed.
vi) It was reported that combined with the sleep deprivation, threats and inducements were made to him. His fears of being removed from United States custody and “disappearing” were played upon.
vii) It was reported that the stress brought about by these deliberate tactics was increased by him being shackled in his interviews.
viii) It was clear not only from the reports of the content of the interviews but also from the report that he was being kept under self-harm observation, that the interviews were having a marked effect upon him and causing him significant mental stress and suffering.
ix) We regret to have to conclude that the reports provide to the SyS made clear to anyone reading them that BM was being subjected to the treatment that we have described and the effect upon him of that intentional treatment.
x) The treatment reported, if had been administered on behalf of the United Kingdom, would clearly have been in breach of the undertakings given by the United Kingdom in 1972. Although it is not necessary for us to categorise the treatment reported, it could readily be contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities]”
So that’s it. Binyam Mohammed was subjected to sleep deprivation. He was shackled during interrogations and was threatened with being removed from the safety of American custody. He was not beaten, waterboarded, or subjected to bodily pain of any sort. As one who suffers from insomnia I can sympathize with the sleep-deprived, but this is not torture by any reasonable definition. If anything less pleasant than a weekend at a spa is considered torture, and therefore illegal, we may as well give up on interrogating terrorists.
There was, of course, a context for the interrogation of Binyam Mohammed. That context was the September 11 attacks. Mohammed traveled to Afghanistan in June 2001 to train at an al Qaeda camp. He was apprehended in April 2002 when about to fly to the United Kingdom, en route to the U.S. to bomb apartment buildings with Jose Padilla. At the time, memories of al Qaeda’s successful attacks, just seven months earlier, were fresh, and the U.S. government, and pretty much all Americans, were determined to prevent such attacks in the future.
Which brings us to the second story, the release, apparently via a Freedom of Information Act request, of aerial photographs of the collapse of the World Trade Center that were taken by the New York Police Department. It is hard to explain why these photos were never made public, just as it is hard to understand why the television networks have banned footage of the attacks and their aftermath from being shown. The stated rationale is that if people were reminded of what the Islamic terrorists did that day, they likely would become angry.
You can see the NYPD pictures here. This is a sample; click to enlarge:
On September 11, thousands of Americans experienced something far worse than sleep deprivation. They are sleeping still. And fire forced some of them to jump 100 stories to their deaths. Video of those victims exists, but by unanimous consent of the executives who control the liberal media, those videos are rarely or never seen.
With hindsight, it is remarkable how restrained the Bush administration’s response to the terrorist attacks was. At a time when our government knew that more attacks were planned, but had no idea what those attacks might be or who would launch them, our officials comported themselves honorably. Was it worthwhile to deprive a few would-be terrorists like Binyam Mohammed of a couple of nights of sleep and create an intimidating atmosphere so we could prevent attacks that could have been even more destructive than those of September 11? Are you kidding? The question answers itself. Only the fact that our government’s anti-terror efforts have been successful, so that many have forgotten how terrible a successful terrorist attack can be, allows allegations of “torture” by the likes of Binyam Mohammed to be taken seriously.
Andy McCarthy comments here.