In his extensive “exclusive” interview with Charlie Rose on PBS Monday, Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff — who co-authored the controversial May 9 Periscope item on the Koran — told Rose that he found no corroborating evidence in any of the FBI memoranda he had researched.

The ACLU just released a “smoking gun”:

New documents released by the FBI include previously undisclosed interviews in which prisoners at Guantánamo complain that guards have mistreated the Koran, the American Civil Liberties Union said today. In one 2002 summary, an FBI interrogator notes a prisoner’s allegation that guards flushed a Koran down the toilet.

The disclosure comes on the heels of controversy over a Newsweek report saying that government investigators had corroborated an almost identical incident. Newsweek ultimately retracted its story because a confidential government source could not be confirmed.

Cross-posted at DailyKos. Besides corroborating Isikoff’s anonymous “high ranking” source, the newly released FBI documents reveal further abuses:

The press release details the FBI’s documentation of abuses involving the Koran:

According to the FBI documents, a detainee interviewed in August 2002 said that guards had flushed the Koran in the toilet. Others reported the Koran being kicked, withheld as punishment, and thrown on the floor, and said they were mocked during prayers.

In the documents released today, one detainee informs his FBI interviewers that using the Koran “as a reprisal or as an incentive for cooperation has failed,” and that the only result would be “the damage caused to the reputation of the United States once what had occurred was released to the world.” While another detainee acknowledged that there might be “a legitimate need to search the book for hidden items,” he objected to the abusive manner in which the searches were conducted.

“The United States government’s own documents show that it has known of numerous allegations of Koran desecration for a significant period of time,” said Amrit Singh, an attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Its failure to address these allegations in a timely manner raises grave questions regarding the extent to which such desecration was authorized by high-ranking U.S. officials in the first place.”

The newly obtained documents, says the ACLU, exposes these additional abuses at what Isikoff told Charlie Rose is a “black hole” — a black hole in terms of justice, due process, judicial oversight, access to attorneys, and even the basic right of detainees to know what they are charged with:

  • Beatings. On August 23, 2002, a detainee told an interviewer of being “kicked in the stomach and back by several individuals” after being turned over to U.S. authorities. On one occasion during prayer time, a soldier placed his foot on [his] head and sat on his head.” Another interviewer was told on August 28, 2002 of a detainee being “kicked violently in the jaw” after he tripped and fell while handcuffed.
  • Planned Suicides. Several detainees spoke of suicidal thoughts while in custody. In December 2002, one reported that “40-50 detainees intended to commit suicide after Ramadan ended because they were tired of being detained with no prospect of being released and they were tired of being mistreated by guards.”
  • Hunger Strikes. An interviewer noted that the “mental condition of the detainees is to the point where the detainees are participating in a hunger strike. [They] are upset with the way they are treated by the guards.” One man had not eaten in six days or changed his clothes and “insisted on being charged with a crime or released.”
  • Sexual Assaults. In April 2003, a detainee told interviewers that a female guard fondled his genitals while male guards held him down. She told him that she was having her menstrual period and “she wiped blood from her body on his face and head.” (A similar incident is described in a recently released book by former Guantánamo interrogator Erik Saar.)

The ACLU press release concludes:

The FBI released the documents last week in response to a federal court order that directed the FBI and other government agencies to comply with a request under the Freedom of Information Act filed by the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace. The New York Civil Liberties Union is co-counsel in the case.

To date, more than 35,000 pages of government documents have been released in response to the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The ACLU has been posting these documents online at The documents released this week are online.

Tomorrow, the ACLU will return to court to argue that Defense Department and CIA are unlawfully withholding documents concerning abuse and torture of prisoners.

The FOIA lawsuit is being handled by Lawrence Lustberg and Megan Lewis of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione, P.C. Other attorneys in the case are Singh, Jameel Jaffer, and Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU; Arthur N. Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the NYCLU; and Barbara Olshansky of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

NOTE: The court appearance on Thursday is to secure the release of yet more documents:

The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union will appear before federal Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein to argue for the release of documents concerning the abuse and torture of prisoners held by the United States at military bases and other detention facilities overseas, including Guantánamo Bay. The hearing relates to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the ACLU and other public interest organizations in October 2003.

At the hearing, the ACLU will argue that the CIA has improperly withheld memoranda relating interrogation methods and a Presidential directive authorizing the CIA to set up secret detention centers in other countries. Although the documents have been referenced in media reports, the CIA has refused even to confirm or deny that the documents exist.

The ACLU will also argue that the Defense Department has improperly withheld photographs that depict the abuse of prisoners and documents containing Defense Department discussions pertaining to concerns raised by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

I’ve long argued that we need to see all of the photographs because photographs are what speak most directly, simply and powerfully to the American people, perhaps enough to increase the number of Americans railing against these horrific abuses.


For essential background on the desecration of the Koran and the Newsweek controversy, I urge you to read an investigative report by Martin Longman (BooMan) and me:

These Are Dark Times: Newsweek & the Koran.

For that report, we contacted and interviewed attorneys and human rights activists. One attorney, who said that his clients are kept completely separate and thus cannot compare stories, told Martin the following:

He replied, “Yes, two detainees told me completely independently that they had witnessed a Qur’an being thrown in the toilet. Another told me that he had witnessed a Qur’an being stomped on. And another told me he had witnessed a Qur’an being urinated on.”

He continued, “Most disturbances, like hunger strikes, have been over religious issues, like non-Muslims handling the Koran.” I asked how the guards were supposed to supply Qur’ans to the detainees without handling them? He told me that the Muslim chaplains could provide this service, but there were fewer and fewer chaplains available.

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