Interrogator: I didn't hurt Khadr

Discussion in 'Global Affairs' started by Mustafa al-Muhaajir, Mar 26, 2008.

  1. Interrogator: I didn't hurt Khadr

    Ex-U.S. soldier says he spent much of his time trying to understand and win the trust of young Canadian

    Michelle Shephard
    National Security Reporter

    A former U.S. soldier who spent weeks interrogating Omar Khadr says he wants to testify before a Guantanamo Bay court and rejects any accusations that he harshly treated the Canadian detainee.

    In the first interview he has given since leaving the army, Joshua Claus told the Toronto Star that he feels he has been unfairly portrayed concerning his work as an interrogator at the U.S. base in Bagram, Afghanistan.

    "They're trying to imply I'm beating or torturing everybody I ever talked to," Claus said by telephone yesterday. "I really don't care what people think of me. I know what I did and I know what I didn't do."

    Claus was identified during a Guantanamo hearing as Khadr's chief interrogator during the three months the Toronto teenager was imprisoned in Bagram.

    Khadr had been shot and captured in Afghanistan on July 27, 2002, following a firefight in which he's alleged to have thrown a grenade that fatally wounded Delta Force soldier Sgt. Christopher Speer.

    The prosecution is relying on damning statements Khadr made in Bagram, reportedly admitting his involvement, which his lawyers argue were gleaned under torture.

    Khadr faces five war crimes charges before a military commission including "murder in violation of the laws of war," for Speer's death. The Pentagon also alleges he conspired to kill U.S. forces in Afghanistan and provided support to Al Qaeda.

    Khadr's lawyers fought to get access to Claus at a Guantanamo hearing earlier this month after the prosecution had dropped him from a previous witness list.

    Navy Lt.-Cmdr. Bill Kuebler accused the prosecution of trying to hide Claus' identity because he had been involved in the interrogation of an Afghan detainee who died in U.S. custody.

    The December 2002 death of anAfghan taxi driver named Dilawar was ruled a homicide by military investigators and was the subject of a New York Times investigation and an Oscar-winning documentary called Taxi to the Darkside. Both the film and newspaper story portrayed an inexperienced unit of soldiers under tremendous pressure to get intelligence in Bagram.

    Claus was 21 at the time, and the assignment was his first deployment. But he said yesterday it was unfair to compare his interrogation of Khadr to that of Dilawar or the other detainees.

    "Omar was pretty much my first big case," Claus said, noting that they'd talk for six to eight hours a day. "With Omar I spent a lot of time trying to understand who he was and what I could say to him or do for him, whether it be to bring him extra food or get a letter out to his family ... I needed to talk to him and get him to trust me."

    He said he was trying to find a "symbiotic relationship" with Khadr, who was 15 at the time of his capture.

    In September 2005, Claus pleaded guilty to maltreatment and assault of Dilawar and was sentenced to five months in jail.

    The 2,000-page confidential army file on the investigation into the case, obtained by The New York Times, quotes another soldier saying that on the day Dilawar died, Claus stood behind him and twisted up the back of the hood that covered his head.

    "I had the impression that Josh was actually holding the detainee upright by pulling on the hood," he said. "I was furious at this point because I had seen Josh tighten the hood of another detainee the week before. This behaviour seemed completely gratuitous and unrelated to intelligence collection."

    "These two events are completely separate," Claus said yesterday, pointing out Khadr's interrogation was three months before Dilawar's, among other differences.

    He said he became "emotionally involved" with the Dilawar case and lost his temper, unlike Khadr's interrogation, which was controlled.

    Khadr's time at Bagram is key because the prosecution has relied on his interrogations in building the case against the Toronto-born detainee, who is now 21.

    "Toward the end of the firefight, the accused threw a grenade that killed Sergeant First Class Christopher Speer," notes the prosecution in a court submission last year, with a footnote to an "interview of accused Sept. 17, 2002."

    The court filing to Washington's Court of Military Commission Review continues: "When asked on September 17, 2002, why he helped the men construct the explosives the accused (Khadr) responded `to kill U.S. forces.'

    "The accused then related during the same interview that he had been told the U.S. wanted to go to war against Islam. And for that reason he assisted in the building and later deploying of the explosives, and later threw a grenade at the American."

    In an affidavit released this month, Khadr claims he was sometimes brought to interrogations on a stretcher – still recovering from being shot twice in the back and extensive eye injuries. His lawyers argue his statements are unreliable because they were the product of "coercion or torture."

    Claus said yesterday he had not been contacted by the prosecution recently and did not know if he would be called to testify. He would also not comment on what he is doing now or disclose the location from where he was calling.

    The documents released last week note Claus was once offered immunity in order to testify about the Khadr case. He said yesterday he could not discuss the issue.
  2. A case built on lies

    A case built on lies

    Newly released documents show that Omar Khadr likely never killed anyone. So why isn't Ottawa doing anything to bring him home?

    Lt. Cmdr. William C. Kuebler and Rebecca S. Snyder, National Post Published: Wednesday, March 26, 2008

    An almost completely censored Aug. 31, 2002 memo from the RCMP in Islamabad to the Department of Foreign Affairs presumably contains all the Canadian government was told by the U.S. government about the circumstances of Omar Khadr's capture in Afghanistan a month before. The document -- one of many whose uncensored release is the subject of a case to be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada this week -- now resides under the same shroud of secrecy that later descended upon the true facts surrounding Omar 's near-fatal shooting and detention as a child soldier on an Afghan battlefield almost six years ago. In the place of truth, the U.S. government has allowed a myth to reign -- that Omar Khadr, the sole survivor of a four-hour aerial bombardment of a Khost compound, feigning injury, rose up and lobbed a hand grenade, killing Sgt. Speer, a U.S. Army "medic" who was searching for wounded combatants to treat. No part of this story is true. But the myth has largely sustained Canadian indifference to Omar's plight for almost six years.

    Over the past few weeks, the shroud has been pulled back, demolishing this myth and shedding the first light on the true facts surrounding Omar's capture. A confidential document inadvertently released in February shows that at least one other combatant was alive and fighting when the grenade that allegedly killed Sgt. Speer was thrown. A U.S. soldier then shot and killed that combatant. In contrast, Omar was sitting down, facing away from his attackers, leaning against brush, and suffering from wounds to his eyes and other parts of his body when he was shot in the back by a U.S. soldier, ostensibly because the Canadian teenager was "moving."

    This revelation could not be more important. It is, of course, far more likely that the other man, who does not appear to have been wounded during the bombing, -- the one fighting and later killed -- was responsible for throwing a hand grenade (if one was thrown) than a 15-year-old boy who had shrapnel in both of his eyes. This conclusion is consistent with a report, prepared the day after the battle by the on-scene commander, which says that the enemy combatant responsible for the U.S. soldier's death was "killed." Months later, the same commander "altered" this report to clear the way for Omar to be blamed for the death. In the new version, the responsible enemy combatant had merely been "engaged" (rather than killed) by U.S. forces. The commander backdated the new report to July 28, 2002, the date of the original report.

    We also now know that the "medic" was actually a U.S. Army soldier acting as a combatant, not a medic. He was one of the Special Forces soldiers assaulting the compound and trying to kill Omar. Recent evidence suggests that U.S. personnel were not treating the wounded (as the original story had it), but shooting the wounded in that compound -- providing them with a motive to lie about the actions of a boy found alive at the scene with at least two bullet holes in his back.

    We also now know that this critically wounded 15-year-old Canadian boy was taken directly from the battlefield to the U.S. detention facility at Bagram Airbase. Within days of regaining consciousness, and while lying on a stretcher in a tent hospital, U.S. military intelligence personnel began a process of frequent, coercive and often brutal interrogations. His interrogators belonged to the same intelligence unit implicated in numerous instances of detainee abuse at Bagram, including the deaths of two detainees. Indeed, Omar's main interrogator -- "Sergeant C" -- was courtmartialled for his role in the abuse of a detainee who died. Sgt. C refused to speak to prosecutors in Omar's case about his interrogations of Omar until he had been granted immunity from further prosecution.

    As all this information becomes known, the Canadian government's indifference to the plight of Canadian citizen Omar Khadr becomes increasingly unjustifiable -- especially if, as appears to be the case, Canada was misled by the U.S. government about Omar's role in the 2002 fire-fight. If the Canadian government is willing to intervene to protect the rights of Canadian citizens such as Brenda Martin, it cannot explain its continuing indifference to Omar Khadr as motivated by anything other than political expediency and a willingness to hide behind the unpopularity of the Khadr family.

    But if everything the U.S. government says about Omar's father and family is true, then Omar -- a child when taken from Canada to the Middle East and sent into combat by his father as a child soldier in Afghanistan -- is a victim of choices made for him by others. Punishing Omar for their sins is the very height of injustice.

    It is time to bring Omar home to face justice under Canadian law, and not merely abandon him to a process that not only treats a 15-year-old boy the same as an adult, but also treats Canadians as worth less than Americans by giving a Canadian fewer protections and rights than a U.S. citizen would receive.

    As for concerns about the safety of Canadians, the picture painted of this young man by the U.S. government is false. It is based on deception and exaggeration. Omar is not a dangerous "terrorist." He is a polite, cordial and decent young man, with no other desire than to return to Canada, get an education, a job, and get on with his life as best he can. Moreover, there are means available, under Canadian law, to prosecute Omar and/or to place appropriate restrictions on Omar's liberty and to ensure his participation in an appropriate rehabilitation program.

    Exploited and abused the whole of his young life, Omar deserves a chance -- not a second chance, but a first one.

    -Lt. Cmdr. William C. Kuebler and Rebecca S. Snyder are U.S. Department of Defence attorneys assigned to the Office of Military Commissions. The views expressed are their own and do not constitute an official position of the U.S. government.
  3. Canada court to hear Guantanamo detainee's case

    Canada court to hear Guantanamo detainee's case

    OTTAWA, Canada (AP) -- Canada's Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday about the legality of the detention of a Canadian detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, an event that essentially puts the U.S. military war-crimes trial system on trial in a foreign jurisdiction.

    Omar Khadr's attorneys are arguing that interviews with the terrorism suspect by Canadian intelligence officials at Guantanamo violate Canada's bill of rights because U.S. practices at Guantanamo are at odds with international human rights law.

    The court is to decide whether the Canadian government should release details about his interviews with Canadian officials in 2003 and 2004 so that the lawyers can provide a full defense against U.S. charges.

    Khadr is charged with killing a U.S. soldier in a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan when he was 15.

    The Supreme Court ruled last week that Khadr's attorneys could raise the legality of his detention and forthcoming trial in Guantanamo when they make their arguments that the interviews should be released.

    Khadr's attorneys are hoping the Supreme Court comments on the U.S. military base when they rule.
    Don't Miss

    * Military to let Guantanamo detainees use phones
    * U.S. attorney general visits Guantanamo Bay

    "Canada is going to have to consider whether the U.S. is beyond the rule of law," said Dennis Edney, a Khadr attorney.

    The lawyers cite violations of juvenile justice rules set out by the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, noting that Khadr was a teenager when he was captured. They also point to international agreements on civil and political rights and the treatment of prisoners.

    Canada's Justice Department, in its brief to the court, dismissed the efforts by Khadr's attorneys as a "fishing expedition in relation to the most sensitive of government-held information."

    Khadr is expected to be among the first detainees to face a U.S. war-crimes trial since the World War II era.

    He has been held since October 2002 at Guantanamo Bay and faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted on charges that include murder, conspiracy and supporting terrorism. The U.S. military said it plans to charge about 80 detainees at Guantanamo, but so far none of the cases has gone to trial.

    Khadr has received little sympathy in Canada, where his family has been called the "First Family of Terrorism."

    Khadr is the son of an alleged al Qaeda financier. One of Khadr's brothers, Abdurahman Khadr, has acknowledged that their Egyptian-born father, Ahmed Said Khadr, and some of his brothers fought for al Qaeda and had stayed with Osama bin Laden.

    One brother, Abdullah Khadr, is being held in Canada on a U.S. extradition warrant, accused of supplying weapons to al Qaeda.

    The elder Khadr was killed in Pakistan in 2003 when a Pakistani military helicopter shelled the house where he was staying with some senior al Qaeda operatives.

Share This Page