Al Jazeera speaks to the former secret prisoners, including the family of a man who died from his torture in CIA custody
“Torture works, OK folks? I think we should go much stronger than waterboarding, that’s the way I feel. They’re chopping off heads. Believe me, we should go much stronger.”
Donald Trump, quoted in The Wall Street Journal, February 2016
In Search for the Dark Prison, a moving two-part Fault Lines documentary on Al Jazeera, Sebastian Walker speaks with the family of Gul Rahman, the only detainee known to have died in the CIA torture program.
Gul was detained in a huge raid in Islamabad in 2002, flown in a hood and shackles to Detention Site Cobalt, and then beaten and doused in cold water by CIA interrogators. On 19 November 2002, he was left chained to the floor of his cell, half-naked. In the morning, he was found dead. The CIA listed hypothermia as the likely cause of death.
Sebastian speaks to Gul’s mother, Morwary, at an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan – the first time the family has appeared on camera. “Our grief is the same every night; it has never changed,” she says. “The pain has consumed us like a fire, and no one noticed. He left us, we don’t even know how, and we don’t even have his dead body.”
No one from the CIA ever contacted the family about Gul’s death, let alone returned his body for a proper burial. Instead Sebastian is shown correspondence from US authorities denying that they held Gul, even after his death. Morwary only learnt of her son’s death a year ago, despite relatives continually approaching the authorities.
“Whether Muslim, non-Muslim or whatever, we are all humans,” says Gul’s brother Habib. “We feel what you would feel in this situation.”
Post 9/11, the CIA tortured 119 detainees from 20 countries, according to a heavily-redacted 2014 Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) report. 26 of these did not meet the CIA’s own standards for detention, according to the US government report.
The SSCI report revealed – for the first time – the names of the CIA’s torture victims. But nearly two years after President Obama admitted the USA tortured suspects in the aftermath of 9/11, the world has heard very little from these victims, dozens of whom were never charged with a crime and have now been released.
As attorney James Connell claims, “There was a coordinated campaign to silence the torture victims. The survivors of it have never had a voice in this process.”
Sudanese journalist Sami al-Haaj appears in Search for the Dark Prison and helped Fault Lines locate the detainees featured. Sami was arrested in 2001 while working as an Al Jazeera journalist in Pakistan, then detained for over six years in Guantanamo. After going on hunger strike, he was finally released without charge in 2008.
“While he was in Guantanamo, Sami realized he should continue his work as a journalist from the inside – he had exclusive access! So he interviewed many of the detainees and has kept in touch with many of them on their release,” says producer Singeli Agnew, singing his praises as “one of Al Jazeera’s best.”
With torture re-emerging as a US election issue, Search for the Dark Prison is essential viewing to understand what’s at stake. Stream the full documentary at http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/faultlines/ or watch part two on Al Jazeera English, premiering on 20 September 2016 at 2230 GMT.