JOHN KIRIAKOU: CIA Torture Finally Rebuked, By Military Jury

The sentencing hearing, and Khan’s two hours of graphic testimony, marked the first time that details of the C.I.A. torture program were laid bare in public.

Guantanamo Bay Prison. (Joint Task Force Guantánamo Bay/Flickr/cc)

‘A Stain on the Moral Fiber of America’

By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium News

The New York Times reported last week that a military jury at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo issued a sharp rebuke against the C.I.A.’s treatment of al-Qaeda prisoner Majid Khan, calling the Agency’s torture program “a stain on the moral fiber of America.”

The jury recommended that Khan receive a 26-year sentence, the shortest possible under the court’s rules. Seven of the eight jurors—all U.S. military officers—then hand-wrote a letter to the military judge urging clemency for Khan.

The sentencing hearing, and Khan’s two hours of graphic testimony, marked the first time that details of the C.I.A. torture program were laid bare in public.

Khan testified that during the course of his interrogations, after he was captured in Pakistan in 2003, he told the C.I.A. “literally everything” he knew. He was truthful with the information, but “the more I told them, the more they tortured me.” Khan said that his only alternative was to make up information about threats, anything to get his interrogators to stop torturing him. When the information then didn’t pan out, Khan was tortured yet again.

Camp 1 in Guantanamo Bay’s Camp Delta, 2005. (Kathleen T. Rhem. Wikimedia Commons)

Khan was born in Saudi Arabia to Pakistani parents and raised in suburban Baltimore, Maryland. After his mother died in 2001 and his father sent the family back to Pakistan for an extended visit, Khan’s relatives radicalized him and he formally joined al-Qaeda after the Sept. 11 attacks.

He was trained in the organization’s camps in southern Afghanistan and was made “operational” shortly thereafter. Khan confessed to delivering $50,000 from al-Qaeda to an associated extremist group in Indonesia that was used to finance the deadly 2003 bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta. Eleven people were killed and dozens more were injured.

Khan also admitted to working closely with Khalid Shaikh Muhammad, the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. Khan said that in one case he wore a suicide vest in a failed effort in 2002 to assassinate Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. The vest, however, failed to detonate. Musharraf never knew how close al-Qaeda had come to killing him.

Full Disclosure

When I served as chief of C.I.A. counterterrorist operations in Pakistan after the Sept. 11 attacks, one of my top priorities was to find and capture Majid Khan. We believed that he was particularly dangerous because he had spent almost his entire life in the United States, he spoke English like an American, his father and siblings were all American citizens, and we believed that al-Qaeda would use the handsome teenager to recruit other American citizens and green card holders into the group.

My team searched literally all over Pakistan for him, but he eluded us. Finally, in late 2003, my successor found and captured him in Karachi, Pakistan. Khan was immediately turned over to a C.I.A. rendition team, which took him first to the infamous Salt Pit torture center in Afghanistan and then to a series of secret C.I.A. prisons around the world. He finally arrived in Guantanamo in 2006, where he has remained ever since.

There was no doubt, at least in my mind, that Majid Khan was a very bad young man. He was a terrorist and a murderer, and he meant continued harm to Americans everywhere.

But he didn’t deserve—nobody deserved—the treatment that he received at the hands of the C.I.A. 

Hose in Rectum

Torture photos that emerged from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. (US Government photo.)

Khan testified before the tribunal that he was subjected to repeated rounds of waterboarding with ice water. In more than one case he nearly drowned and had to be revived. He was chained to an eye bolt in the ceiling of his cell so that he could not sit, kneel, lay or get comfortable for days at a time.

He was subjected to sleep deprivation for as long as 12 days. (The American Psychological Association has warned us that people begin losing their minds at seven days with no sleep. They begin dying of organ failure at nine days with no sleep.)

When he went on a hunger strike to protest his treatment, C.I.A. officers pureed his food and forced it up his rectum with a tube. On other occasions, C.I.A. officers forced a green garden hose up his rectum and turned on the water, causing incontinence and searing pain.

Prosecutors acknowledged Khan’s “rough treatment.” His attorney, a U.S. Army major, called what the C.I.A. did “heinous and vile acts of torture.”

In the end, despite Khan’s cooperation, despite the torture, despite his contrition, the military tribunal formally sentenced him to 26 years in prison. He would be eligible for release in 2038.

Khan had earlier negotiated a secret deal with the U.S. government, though. In exchange for his cooperation and testimony against other al-Qaeda suspects, including Khalid Shaikh Muhammad, he will be given a second, separate, sentence that will see him released sometime between February 2022 and 2025.

Majid Khan over the past 20 years has been denied his constitutional rights to face his accusers in a court of law and to be tried by a jury of his peers. He was beaten, tortured, and sexually assaulted mercilessly. He faced spending the rest of his life in a Caribbean hellhole with no access to the outside world, including to regular legal representation or to the Red Cross/Red Crescent. That worst-case scenario now won’t come to fruition.

Even more importantly, the C.I.A.’s crimes have been exposed in public. Finally. There are no redactions to the information like there were in the Executive Summary to the Senate Torture Report. There were no C.I.A. denials that the torture program even existed. The C.I.A.’s only statement in response to Khan’s revelations was, “The detention and interrogation program ended in 2009.”

At least now we can talk about it and not face the threat of an espionage charge. Now we can teach our children what our government did in their name.

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act—a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.



19 comments for “JOHN KIRIAKOU: CIA Torture Finally Rebuked, By Military Jury

  1. November 9, 2021 at 17:54

    CIA= Criminal Interrogation Agency.

  2. robert e williamson jr
    November 9, 2021 at 11:28

    Thank you John for the update. Still it is very unnerving for to me to see that the military may have made a decision based on some semblance of justice, especially when the SCOTUS seems to be all in with the nationalist / fascist running CIA.

    The CIA can claim the practice ended in 2009 but I don’t believe them, not until somebody on their side pays some retribution for what they have done in the name of the US.

    More importantly they do not have my trust or that of many other Americans. The CIA reminds me of the U.S. dollar, both seem to be running on borrowed time.

    But what do I know?

    Thanks CN

  3. John Kiriakou
    November 8, 2021 at 21:50

    Thank you so much, everybody for your support. We have to keep up the fight!

  4. November 8, 2021 at 17:08

    Guantanamo was where American Gym Boys and Cissies could prove their Manhoods by bashing Chained Up Prisoners.

  5. November 8, 2021 at 15:03

    Thank you, John. You’re one of my heroes.

  6. Jean Maria Arrigo
    November 8, 2021 at 14:41

    Thank you for offering us a strong hand up from dregs of perfidy and setting us onto a course of decency as human beings and restitution as Americans

  7. Debbie in CO
    November 8, 2021 at 11:21

    Thank you John Kiriakou. Am still waiting for you to have your own podcast. Maybe you could contact Unlimited Hangout???

  8. Guy
    November 8, 2021 at 10:33

    People are still being tortured .It is just that it has morphed into a psychological program of the highest order .Witness how society
    has been divided and continues to be .

  9. November 8, 2021 at 10:24

    Thanks John for the excellent article about the horrific US torture..and thanks for your speaking the truth on the US waterboarding torture…and outrageous that you, NOT the torturers went to prison!!!

  10. Nathan Mulcahy
    November 8, 2021 at 09:11

    America (aka United States of America) is dead – some would say, for a long time already.

    Rest of the world, especially outside the propagandized and hypnotized west, know that already.

  11. Anonymotron
    November 8, 2021 at 01:07

    A story over 2 years in the making

  12. Alexander
    November 7, 2021 at 16:54

    Surely this is sufficient grounds to put George Dubya and Dick “Darth
    Vader” Cheney on trial for war crimes already.

  13. Jeff Harrison
    November 7, 2021 at 11:59

    “The detention and interrogation program ended in 2009.”
    So they claim. Don’t believe a single word the US government says until they prove it.

  14. Dfnslblty
    November 7, 2021 at 10:25

    Thankyou for this report, and for your continued writing.

  15. evelync
    November 7, 2021 at 09:01

    Thank you John Kiriakou for confronting our awareness with the inhumanity practiced in our name with our tax dollars by people who “work” for our secretive unaccountable rogue agencies.

    It’s shocking that Senator Feinstein who (along with Jay Rockefeller before her as Jones’ prior boss) tasked staffer Daniel Jones with the investigative work of the institutionalized torture program, has not been in the forefront questioning the militarization of U.S. foreign policy for profit. The connection is undeniable.

    Time line of the Torture Report according to this Time article on the making of the movie “The Report”
    hxxps://time DOT com/5725001/the-report-movie-true-story/

  16. Henry Smith
    November 7, 2021 at 08:26

    Let’s all beat our chests and gnash our teeth and pretend things have changed.
    Until the USA stops with its exceptionalism myth and starts treating the rest of the world with respect and understanding they will always be a target for the peoples they abuse. Time the USA grew up !

    • evelync
      November 8, 2021 at 11:08

      Yes, Henry Smith, the “exceptionalism” delusion is demeaning because we’re treated like children. And most of us know it.

      Do immigrants who live in the non exceptional countries (every country except ours) suddenly get anointed with “exceptional” when they hit the shores? is it before or after going through customs?

      When someone as intelligent, supposedly, as Barack Obama who surely is more aware of reality than this but allows himself to be intimidated into “affirming” the “exceptionalism” one has to worry about what/who behind the scenes pressures a so-called “constitutional scholar” to buckle to this absurdity – afraid, as president, to admit that we’re human like everyone else…..

      And if it’s our institutions that are “exceptional” – they run the gamut from propaganda to truth telling from war makers to peace advocates and so on…

      In the end, if we don’t change course onto a sustainable, stabilizing path all that’s left when we sink into the sunset of climate disruption and/or nuclear war, all that will be left of us will be the shadows of our exceptional mythology…not much comfort there…

  17. November 7, 2021 at 06:33

    I so applaud John Kiriakou’s continued courage and dedication to exposing the real truth of the CIA’s torture program, despite the Agency’s sending him to prison for two years for previously publicly confirming this atrocity.

    Thank you, dear John . . . .

  18. James Simpson
    November 7, 2021 at 03:29

    “A Stain on the Moral Fiber of America”? Hardly. The USA is a deeply-militarised society whose ruling class is responsible for many millions of unnecessary deaths since 1945 in the goal of enriching itself. Torture is a relatively minor part of that programme, compared to dropping napalm on the poor and assaulting nations with sanctions that kill by the thousand. The USA’s morality since its founding has been filthy.

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