Peoria Journal Star
December 15, 2006
Pentagon report notes concerns
Former BU student's detention may be unjust
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A Pentagon report, declassified last
year, expressed concern that conditions at the South Carolina brig
where a West Peoria man is being held as an "enemy combatant"
could be viewed as a violation of U.S. detention standards.
A summary of the 2004 report notes concern about isolation of
detainees at the Charleston, S.C., Naval Brig.
"Limited number and unique status of detainees in Charleston
precludes interaction with other detainees. Argument could be made
that this constitutes isolation," stated the report written by the
Navy's inspector general.
Extended solitary confine-ment can be considered inhumane
The summary also describes how one unidentified detainee at the
brig had his Quran, mattress and pillow removed and was fed cold,
prepackaged meals made for the U.S. military.
The report appears to confirm some of what attorneys for Ali
Saleh Kahlab al-Marri contended in a lawsuit filed last year
challenging the federal government's treatment of him. Al-Marri, a
Qatari national and a graduate student at Bradley University, was
arrested in Peoria in 2001 on charges of credit card fraud and
lying to the FBI, but was moved to the military brig in 2003 after
President Bush declared him an enemy combatant.
The lawsuit alleges his military jailers have subjected him to
inhumane treatment and asks a federal district court in South
Carolina to declare his rights have been violated.
"It confirms what we alleged. It seems to support our arguments
that this was done and this was part of a plan," said attorney
Jonathan Hafetz of the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York
University School of Law. "It's what we've been saying all along."
A Pentagon spokesman denied there is any policy condoning
"The Department of Defense policy is clear - we treat detainees
humanely," said Navy Cmdr. J. D. Gordon.
Al-Marri is in the Charleston Naval Brig awaiting an appeals
court ruling on whether he will be tried in a U.S. court or by a
military commission. The government alleges al-Marri was an al-Qaida
sleeper agent assigned to hack into the computer systems of U.S.
banks and disrupt the U.S. financial system. An FBI analysis of
his computer also found files on how to make hydrogen cyanide, a
potentially lethal toxin, the government contends.
He's been held in near-total isolation since he arrived there
in 2003. For the first 16 months, he was allowed no contact with
anyone but guards. Now, he has access to his attorneys and the
International Red Cross. He's had no contact with his wife and
five children, who have returned to Qatar.
"It's been very difficult," Hafetz said. "I think he's had
periods of time when he was in very bad shape, grave danger. And I
think, overall, it's really harmed his physical and mental
well-being. The notion of being locked up in these types of
conditions and isolation defines cruel treatment.
"It's important that all facts come to light. It's important
that it's public and that lawmakers are aware of what the
executive branch has done and how it's disregarded American values
The disclosure of the Pentagon report could have a more direct
impact on arguments made by lawyers for Jose Padilla, a U.S.
citizen and former Chicago street gang member also accused of
terrorism. Padilla's lawyers say he's incompetent to stand trial
because of torture while held in the South Carolina brig. Avi
Cover, an attorney with Human Rights First, a New York-based
advocacy group, said the Pentagon report "again puts the lie to
many of the government's protestations that there's nothing going
Most distressing, Cover said, is that the Navy inspector
general's report was one part of a larger investigation into
interrogation and detention operations worldwide. The larger
review, by Vice Adm. Albert T. Church III, was presented to
Congress in 2005.
"It means our government has not been candid with the people,
but also it doesn't seem as if they've been entirely candid with
Congress during the hearings," Cover said. "When you hold people
in secret for such a long period of time, abuses will occur."
However, the Pentagon spokesman said the Church report is more
than two years old and "has been thoroughly briefed to the
Congress and the media."
"There have been 12 major reviews conducted of detention
operations, none of which found there was any policy that condoned
abuse," Gordon said. "The reviews have resulted in numerous
recommendations, which have been implemented and have improved our
Dori Meinert can be reached at (202) 737-7686 or firstname.lastname@example.org.