Despite warnings, officials used 43 months of severe isolation to force Jose Padilla to tell all he knew about Al Qaeda
They wanted to break his will. He was a US citizen, and he had a right against forced self-incrimination. That's a constitutional guarantee, right? Not once President Bush declared him an enemy combatant. Poof! Gone.
After a month of questioning by the FBI in New York under the rules of the criminal justice system, he still wouldn't talk about his alleged involvement in a plot to detonate a "dirty bomb" in the US. So they shipped him off to North Carolina and kept him in isolation. How isolated? He was the only only detainee in the entire security wing of the prison.
His stay at Hotel Nutball didn't exactly reek of creature comforts:
The purpose...was to eliminate the possibility of human contact. No voices in the hallway. No conversations with other prisoners. No tapping out messages on the walls. No ability to maintain a sense of human connection, a sense of place or time.In essence, experts say, the US government was trying to break Padilla's silence by plunging him into a mental twilight zone.
...Padilla's cell measured nine feet by seven feet. The windows were covered over. There was a toilet and sink. The steel bunk was missing its mattress.
He had no pillow. No sheet. No clock. No calendar. No radio. No television. No telephone calls. No visitors. Even Padilla's lawyer was prevented from seeing him for nearly two years.
For significant periods of time the Muslim convert was denied any reading material, including the Koran. The mirror on the wall was confiscated. Meals were slid through a slot in the door. The light in his cell was always on.
And this is how they treat someone who hasn't been convicted yet. It's enough to make a guy feel...tortured.
Extreme isolation, in concert with other coercive techniques, can literally drive a person insane, these experts say. And that makes it a potential instrument of torture, they add.This technique wasn't supposed to be used for longer than 30 days. At least, not without Rummy's approval.
By April 2003, Padilla had already spent 10 months in isolation at the brig. Ultimately, he was housed in the same cell, alone in his wing, for three years and seven months, according to court documents."We don't do torture." --President Bush, August 9, 2007