On Sept. 11, 2001, Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Couch’s friend died co-piloting the second plane to hit the World Trade Center. Soon after, Couch became one of the first military prosecutors assigned to the U.S. military base at Guantánamo Bay to prosecute men alleged to have carried out the terrorist plot. Couch talked to Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales of Democracy Now! about the experience.
Stuart Couch recalls his first trip to Guantánamo, and what he found.
"I was waiting to watch the interrogation of one of the detainees who had been assigned to me to prosecute his case. This was a detainee that was particularly cooperative and involved in some very serious activities in the Gulf region. As I was waiting in a room next to his interrogation room, I heard some loud heavy metal rock music playing down the—down the hallway. I went down to investigate. I thought it was a couple of guards that were off duty and didn’t realize that we were getting ready to conduct the interview. So I walked down the hallway, and as I reached the room where the source of the music was coming out, the door was cracked. And I looked into the room, and I could—all I could see was a strobe light flashing. The rest of the lights in the room were out, but from the flashes of the strobe light, I could see a detainee in orange sitting on the—seated on the floor and shackled, hand to feet, and rocking back and forth."
"There were two civilians who asked me, you know, what was I doing. And I said, "I’m Lieutenant Colonel Couch. You need to turn that down. What’s going on here?" And they just basically told me to move along, and shut the door in my face. There was a judge advocate reservist with me, and I said, "Did you see that?" And his immediate response: "Well, yes. That’s approved." And so, that was my first inclination that there was—of evidence of coerced interrogations going on at Guantánamo."
Couch ultimately would refuse to prosecute the detainee, Mohamedou Ould Slahi.
"It became clear that what had been done to Slahi amounted to torture," Couch says. "Specifically, he had been subjected to a mock execution. He had sensory deprivation. He had environmental manipulation; that is, cell is too cold, or the cell is too hot. ... He was presented with a ruse that the United States had taken custody of his mother and his brother and that they were being brought to Guantánamo." Couch says he concluded Slahi’s treatment amounted to illegal torture. "I came to the conclusion we had knowingly set him up for mental suffering in order for him to provide information," Couch said. "We might very well have a significant problem with the body of evidence that we were able to present as to his guilt."
Full transcript below the fold.